The Sugar Conundrum: Let's Talk Sugar

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Doughnuts, soda, chocolate chip cookies, pecan pie, creamy puddings, cakes, candies…oh the joy of sugar!

We all love to indulge in a sweet treat, and these days treats are not at all rare in the Standard American Diet.  We eat sugar waaaaay to often.  100 years ago, sweets were truly a treat, and were consumed rarely or on special occasions.  Generally, these treats were sweetened with raw honey, or real maple syrup…...the good stuff.

Nowadays, our sugar fix comes from highly refined sugar.  This highly processed sugar is in virtually every packaged food in the grocery store, and probably lurking in all of your cupboards.

It can also fly under the radar by other names - high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, maltodextrin, maltose…just to name a few.

Here is a scary example:

A 12-ounce can of regular Coke contains 39 grams of total sugar, which is about 9 1/3 teaspoons of sugar.  If you’re reading the ingredients list though, you won’t see sugar clearly listed.  Coke in the United States is made with high fructose corn syrup as a lower-cost sugar alternative.  High fructose corn syrup is actually the second ingredient in Coke, behind carbonated water.

Consuming just 4 teaspoons of sugar a day has been linked to numerous diseases and imbalances in the body.   Here are just a few:

  • Lowers ability of enzymes to function

  • Impairs structure of DNA

  • Raises adrenaline levels in children

  • Suppresses the immune system

  • Causes hormonal imbalance (hello pms, menopause, night sweats, cramps, irritability and mood swings!)

  • Contributes to a weakened defense against bacterial infection

  • Causes free radical formation in the blood stream

  • Increases fasting levels of glucose in the blood

  • Candidiasis (yeast infections)

  • Over-stresses the pancreas, causing damage

These are just 10 of the 124 known diseases and imbalances connected with sugar.  Yikes!

Not only do we need to worry about processed sugar, but we also need to be watchful of artificial sweeteners; Aspartame, sucralose, cyclamate, acesulfame potassium…these are definite NO-NO’S!

The fact that they are called ARTIFICIAL says it all. Do we really want to expose your body to these unnatural chemicals? NO WAY!

These artificial substances are known neurotoxins.  What this means is that they can actually alter brain chemistry and specifically act on nerve cells.  Avoid these at all costs.  Even though we may be consuming small amounts of these artificial substances, consuming them on a daily basis, day after day, adds up to quite a bit over the years!

To sweeten a cup of hot tea or a smoothie, try a few drops of stevia in liquid form.  I also love using maple syrup and raw honey as sugar alternatives.

Of course, the best sweet fix of all is FRUIT!  Fruit is nature’s candy.  Aside from being sweet, fruit is loaded fiber, vitamins, antioxidants and lots of supportive nutrients.  So ditch the sugar, and eat more fruit to fix your sweet tooth.

Sign up for my 5-Day Sugar Free Challenge

Starting this MONDAY!

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Try this straightforward and supportive online program and watch your sugar cravings wither away in only 5 days. 

Complete with daily emails and guided support every step of the way. 

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Tips For A Healthier Thyroid

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The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in your neck that releases hormones. Thyroid hormones help your body regulate a few things - not a big deal - just the metabolism of ALL cells. And this is critical for maintaining a healthy body weight and having the energy to live your life.

(Yes, your thyroid IS a big deal!)

It’s estimated that at least 3.7% of US adults have an underactive thyroid.

When you don’t have enough thyroid hormone, it’s called hypothyroidism. This can result in the slowing down of your metabolism and cause difficulty losing weight; and even weight gain. Some of the other symptoms can include fatigue, forgetfulness, dry hair and skin, constipation, muscle cramping, and feeling cold.

An underactive thyroid can be diagnosed from a blood test from your health professional.

How does the thyroid become underactive?

There are many reasons why your thyroid may become underactive. The most common is autoimmunity, where the immune cells attack other cells in the body. In this case, the cells of the thyroid gland.

It can also be the result of low levels of iodine, which is an essential mineral. Combining that with high levels of goitrogens (food substances that inhibit iodine from getting into thyroid) and you can be at risk for an iodine deficiency.

NOTE: Iodine-deficiency is not very common in the developed world, so supplements are likely not necessary, and may exacerbate certain thyroid issues. Check with your healthcare professional before taking supplements, and always read the label.

Nutrition and Lifestyle Tips For Healthier Thyroid:

Iodine - Iodine is naturally found in fish and seafood. Other foods that contain iodine are navy beans, potatoes, and eggs. Sometimes levels of natural iodine depend on the amount of iodine in the soil. Iodine is also added (i.e., fortified) to some foods.

Seaweeds—like kelp, dulse, and nori—are packed full of iodine for your body to transform into hormones. They also usually contain a lot of other beneficial nutrients, like calcium, potassium, and Vitamins A through E, so the stuff is truly the superfood you’re missing out on.

NOTE:: During pregnancy and breastfeeding iodine requirements increase by up to 60%, so pay attention to eat enough iodine-containing foods.

Selenium - There is evidence that selenium (another essential mineral) can support the thyroid. A recent review of several clinical studies showed that there is not enough evidence to recommend selenium supplements to people with certain thyroid conditions. Because of this, it’s best to stick with selenium-rich foods like Brazil nuts, mushrooms, meat, and fish.

1-2 Brazil Nuts packs enough selenium to meet your recommended daily allowance.

Protein - One of the common symptoms of thyroid issues is the inability to lose weight. If this is the case, one thing you can eat more of is protein. Protein has a "thermogenic effect" because your body has to spend energy metabolizing protein; this means that protein has a metabolism raising effect.

Reduce goitrogens - Goitrogens are plant-estrogens that prevent the iodine in your blood from getting into your thyroid where it's needed to make thyroid hormones. Goitrogens themselves are not that powerful, unless they're eaten excessively, or are combined with a diet already low in iodine. They are found in "cruciferous" foods such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and kale. Goitrogens can be deactivated by cooking the foods they're found in. Because these cruciferous vegetables are very nutritious, you may choose to cook them instead of eliminating them altogether.

Go Gluten-free - There is evidence of a link between underactive thyroid and gluten sensitivity. There may be a "cross-reactivity" where the immune cells that are sensitized to gluten can attack the thyroid cells by mistake; this is essentially how autoimmunity works and can affect more than just your thyroid. You might request getting tested for celiac disease if you are experiencing thyroid issues.

Avoid Triclosan - Triclosan is a common ingredient in many soaps and body washes, but it may have an adverse effect on your thyroid. A study published in Aquatic Toxicology in 2006 showed that even minor exposure to the chemical can affect how your thyroid releases hormones. Luckily, In December of 2017, the FDA issued a ruling banning over-the-counter products containing triclosan.

Take Up Yoga - A study in Yoga Mimamsa found that doing certain yoga poses can help your thyroid hormone release functions. During your next routine, try incorporating poses like boat pose, bridge, and king pigeon pose. These poses help to open up throat circulation and improve energy flow around the thyroid.

Lifestyle upgrades - Weight gain and difficulty losing weight are very common when it comes to thyroid issues. To maintain a healthy weight, it’s important to get enough regular exercise, enough quality sleep, and reduce stress.

Conclusion

If you have concerns about your thyroid, then ask to be tested. That along with testing for celiac disease can help to confirm your best plan to move forward in good health.

Foods to support your thyroid include iodine- and selenium-containing foods, cooked cruciferous foods, and gluten-free foods. Don't forget to eat enough protein to help boost your metabolism. Also, consider reducing the amount of raw cruciferous foods you eat.

Supplementing with iodine or selenium should be done with a health professional’s advice.

And regular exercise, quality sleep, and stress-reduction are all part of the holistic approach to supporting your thyroid.

References:

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-thyroid

https://www.dietvsdisease.org/the-best-diet-for-an-underactive-thyroid/

http://www.who.int/elena/titles/iodine_pregnancy/en/

https://www.dietvsdisease.org/meal-plan-for-hypothyroidism-and-weight-loss/

https://www.dietvsdisease.org/meal-plan-for-hypothyroidism-and-weight-loss-week-2

Superfood Smoothie

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I’m Starting my day off right this morning with this Superfood Smoothie.

Superfoods like Maca Root and Ashwagandha are dense with nutrients and have powerful health benefits.

Maca Root has been shown to promote hormone balance, reduce menopausal symptoms, boost energy, and increase stamina in athletes.

Ashwagandha is best know for its ability to reduce stress and inflammation.

Lisa’s Superfood Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup almond milk

  • 1 tablespoon almond butter

  • 1 banana

  • 2 tablespoons vanilla protein powder (optional)

  • 1 teaspon Maca

  • 1 teaspoon Ashwagandha

  • dash of cinnamon

  • ice

Combine all ingredients in a blender to combine.

What is Leaky Gut?

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Leaky gut, also known as increased intestinal permeability, is a digestive condition in which bacteria and toxins are able to "leak" through the intestinal wall.

"Leaky gut" is a popular topic in the health and wellness world these days. It's been suggested that it might be the cause of many symptoms and conditions that seem to be all-too-common. Allergies, intolerances, joint pain, bloating, digestive issues and even autoimmune diseases to name a few.

But what is leaky gut, and how can you tell if you have it? We’ll dig into the details below.

What is a leaky gut?

Simply put, your “gut” (a.k.a. “intestinal tract”) is a tube that makes up part of your digestive system. It’s not as simple as a hose or pipe; it’s an amazing tube made of live cells tightly bound together. Your gut helps your body absorb fluids and nutrients, digests your food, and houses billions of friendly gut microbes.

It's also selective to what it allows past its barrier. Your intestinal tract purposefully keeps some things from being absorbed, so they pass right on through to the other end to be eliminated as waste. You don't want to absorb many harmful microbes or toxins into your body, right?

FACT: About 70-80% of our immune system is housed around our gut, so it’s ready for foreign invaders.

Absorption of fluids and nutrients happens when they're allowed through this cellular tube into the circulation. And this is great! As long as what's being absorbed are fluids and nutrients. The blood and lymph then carry the nutrients to your liver, and then around to the rest of your body; this is so that all your cells, all the way to your toenails, get the nutrition they need to be healthy and grow.

How does a gut become “leaky?”

The gut can become leaky if the cells get damaged, or if the bonds that hold the cells together get damaged. Leaky gut can be caused or worsened by a number of diet and lifestyle factors. Dietary factors like too much sugar or alcohol or even eating things that you're intolerant to can all contribute to leaky gut.

Lifestyle factors like stress, lack of sleep, infections, and some medications can also be culprits in this area. Sometimes, if the balance of gut microbes inside the gut is thrown off, this can also contribute to a leaky gut.

Any contributing factors that alter the balance in your gut may cause our gut to become "permeable" or leak. At this point incompletely digested nutrients, microbes (infectious or friendly), toxins, or waste products can more easily get into our bodies.

Scientifically speaking, a “leaky gut” is known as “intestinal permeability.” This means that our intestines are permeable and allow things through that they normally would keep out. They “leak.” As you can imagine, this is not a good thing.

What are the symptoms of a leaky gut?

Because so much of your immune system is around your gut, the immune cells quickly recognize a “foreign invader” and start their response. This is normal and good if the gut is working properly and not allowing too many things to “leak” in.

But when that happens too much, and the immune system starts responding, the notorious inflammation starts. Once the immune system starts responding it can look like allergies, food intolerances, and even autoimmune diseases.

Because the first place affected is the gut, there are a number of symptoms right there. Things such as abdominal pain, bloating, gas, nausea, vomiting, heartburn, constipation or diarrhea. Not to mention that if foods, even healthy foods, aren't properly digested, their nutrients aren't properly absorbed. Poor absorption can lead to lack of essential vitamins and minerals for the optimal health of every cell in your body.

Some of the symptoms can also occur on the skin. Acne, dry skin, itchiness, rashes, eczema, and hives can all be symptoms related to leaky gut. Even rosacea and psoriasis can be linked here due to their autoimmune component.

It’s possible that even some neurological symptoms are linked with leaky gut. For example, brain fog, fatigue, headaches, inability to sleep, and general moodiness can also be related.

Finally, a number of chronic inflammatory diseases are thought to be linked with a leaky gut. Things like Crohn's, colitis, celiac disease, IBS, and MS. Even things like heart disease and stroke are possibilities.

What to eat for leaky gut

The general recommendation is to stop eating inflammatory foods and eat more gut-soothing foods.

Incorporating a gut-soothing diet means cutting out grains, legumes, and dairy. Add to that list, food additives, alcohol, and refined sugars.

In their place, add in more green leafy and cruciferous veggies. These are full of nutrients and contain fibre to help feed your friendly gut microbes. You also want to add more sources of vitamin D which can come from fish and egg yolks, and also from the sun. Eat more probiotic foods like sauerkraut, dairy-free yogurt, and kombucha (fermented tea). Make sure you're getting enough essential omega-3 fats found in seafood and seaweed. Finally, make sure you're getting some coconut oil and bone broth. Coconut oil has special fats called MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides), and bone broth has essential amino acids.

Conclusion

Leaky gut, or "intestinal permeability" can happen when your gut gets damaged due to too much sugar and alcohol, or eating foods you're intolerant to. It can also be from stress, lack of sleep, or imbalance in your friendly gut microbes. The symptoms of leaky gut are vast - spanning from digestive woes to skin conditions, even to autoimmune conditions.

It's important to cut out problem foods and drinks and add in more gut-soothing things like green leafy vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, and probiotic foods. It's also important to ensure you're getting enough omega-3 fats, vitamin D, and amino acids.

Recipe (gut soothing): Slow-Cooked Chicken Broth

Serves 6-8

  • 1 whole chicken, cooked, bones with or without meat

  • 3 carrots, chopped

  • 2 celery, chopped

  • 1 parsnip, chopped

  • 1 onion, chopped

  • 4 bay leaves

  • 4 tbsp apple cider vinegar

  • Herbs and spices as desired: 1 bunch of parsley, 1 tablespoon or more of sea salt, 1 teaspoon peppercorns, additional herbs or spices to taste. I also add 2 cloves of garlic for the last 30 minutes of cooking.

  • 2 handfuls spinach

Instructions

1 - Place chicken bones, and meat if using, into a slow cooker.

2 - Add chopped vegetables, vinegar, and herbs/spices.

3 - Cover with hot water (about 2 litres/8 cups).

4 - Cook 8 h on medium or overnight on low.

5 - Add spinach and garlic 30 minutes before serving.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can strain it before serving, or serve it with the cooked vegetables as soup.

References:

https://www.thepaleomom.com/what-is-leaky-gut-and-how-can-it-cause/

https://www.thepaleomom.com/what-should-you-eat-to-heal-leaky-gut/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-nutrition-gut-health

http://www.healthline.com/nutrition/is-leaky-gut-real#section3

https://www.dietvsdisease.org/leaky-gut-syndrome/

http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/837168

http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/531603

 

Turmeric: Is It Really A Miracle Spice?

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Turmeric - Is it Really a Miracle Spice?

Turmeric is a rhizome that grows under the ground like ginger. It has a rich, bright orange color and is used in many foods. Originally used in Southeast Asia, it’s a vital component for traditional curries. You can find dried powdered turmeric in the spice aisle of just about any grocery store. Sometimes they carry the fresh rhizome too (it looks like ginger root, but smaller and orange).

Turmeric contains an amazing anti-inflammatory, antioxidant compound called "curcumin.” The amount of this bioactive compound is around 3-7% by weight of turmeric. Curcumin has been studied like crazy for its health benefits. Many of these studies test curcumin at up to 100x more than that of a traditional diet that includes turmeric.

Health benefits of curcumin

There are dozens of clinical studies using curcumin extract (which is way more concentrated than ground turmeric).

Curcumin is an anti-inflammatory compound. It fights inflammation at the molecular level. Some studies even show it can work as well as certain anti-inflammatory medications (but without the side effects).

Curcumin is an antioxidant compound. It can neutralize free radicals before they wreak havoc on our biomolecules. Curcumin also boosts our natural antioxidant enzymes.

These two functions of reducing inflammation and oxidation have amazing health benefits. Chronic inflammation plays a major role in so many conditions. Including heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome, dementia, mood disorders, arthritis pain, etc.

Curcumin has other amazing functions too:

● Boosts our levels of "Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor" (like a natural growth hormone for your brain) which is great for brain health.

● Improves “endothelial” function” (the inner lining of our blood vessels) which is great for heart health.

● Reduces growth of cancer cells by reducing angiogenesis (growth of new blood vessels in tumors), metastasis ( the spread of cancer), and even contributes to the death of cancer cells.

How to get the most out of your turmeric

Curcumin is not easily absorbed by your gut. For one thing, it’s fat soluble. So, as with fat-soluble nutrients (like vitamins A, D, E, and K), you can increase absorption by eating it with a fat-containing meal.

The second trick to get the most out of your turmeric is eating it with pepper. Interestingly, a compound in black pepper (piperine) enhances absorption of curcumin, by a whopping 2,000%!

If you want the health benefits of curcumin, you need to get a larger dose of than just eating some turmeric; this is where supplements come in.

Before you take a curcumin supplement, take caution if you:

● Are pregnant

● Are taking anti-platelet medications or blood thinners

● Have gallstones or a bile duct obstruction

● Have stomach ulcers or excess stomach acid
Always read the label before taking a new supplement.

Conclusion

Turmeric is a delicious spice, and it’s “active ingredient” curcumin is a great health-booster.

Curcumin has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties which are great to bust chronic inflammation. It also has other amazing health benefits, like brain- and heart-boosting properties, and even cancer-fighting properties.

Curcumin supplements can be great for your health, but they're not for everyone. Check the label or speak with your practitioner before taking it.

Try my version of “golden milk,” and let me know how you like it in the comments below.


Recipe: Golden Milk with Turmeric

Serves 2

  • 2 cup almond/cashew/coconut milk

  • 1 ½ tsp turmeric, ground

  • ¼ tsp cinnamon, ground

  • ¼ tsp ginger, ground

  • pinch of black pepper

  • 1 tsp honey

Instructions

Blend all ingredients together in a high speed blender until smooth.

Warm over medium heat, whisking frequently. Heat until hot, but not boiling.

Pour into a mug & enjoy!


The Scoop On Multi-Vitamins

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Multivitamins are exactly what they sound like: multiple vitamins. They're supplements that contain several different vitamins in each one. They can also contain minerals and other ingredients like amino acids or fatty acids. And because there are multiple ingredients, there usually provide a very low dose of each ingredient.

There are 13 vitamins and at least 16 minerals that are essential to health. You need certain amounts of all of these nutrients for optimal health. In fact, nutrient deficiencies can impact immunity, reproduction, growth, hormone balance and many other important processes in your body.

You may have heard or read on the internet that if you follow a "balanced diet," you'll definitely get enough vitamins and minerals. But the truth is, many people in the US are nutrient deficient.

Do multivitamins work?

So, what exactly do we know about the health benefits of multivitamins?

Here’s a quick summary of the science:

● Multivitamin use is linked with improved moods. Interestingly, if someone has nutrient deficiencies, they may have mood imbalances. So, if the multivitamin addresses an underlying deficiency, this makes sense.

● In terms of memory and cognitive performance (ability to think), there seems to be an improvement in people who regularly take multivitamins.

● In terms of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, there seems to be a slight improvement.

● In terms of heart disease, the results are mixed. There may be an increase, or a decrease, or no effect on risk of heart attacks.

● In terms of cancer, there is a slightly reduced risk of certain cancers in men.

● In terms of mortality (death), there doesn't seem to be a clear increase or decrease in mortality rates for people who take multivitamins.

So the evidence is clear that multivitamins aren’t a magical “good health and vitality pills” They’re not guaranteed to improve your mental or physical health, or help you live longer; but, they do have some health benefits.

Are multivitamins safe?

Just about every study that looked to see if multivitamins were health-promoting, also looked at side effects. They have consistently shown that multivitamins are very safe.

Super high doses of some nutrients can be harmful, but multivitamins are safe for most people. Unless you have a knowledgeable practitioner advise otherwise, you want to stick to the dose on the label.

However, it is not uncommon for some supplements to have been tested and found to contain different ingredients than what's on the label. Sometimes they contain ingredients that are not good for your healthy.

Always check labels and avoid products with the following ingredients:

  • Magnesium Stearate

  • Artificial Coloring or Flavoring (especially in children's viramins!)

  • Titanium Dioxide

  • Magnesium Silicate

  • Anything in a propyl or ethyl group

  • GMO’s

Choosing supplements that are from reputable companies is so important. When shopping for supplements, there are a few things you can keep an eye out for to help ensure that your supplements are free of synthetic additives.

Here are some things you can do:

  • Research ingredients that are banned in Europe, since they have stricter food regulation laws there.

  • Buy non-GMO, organic and vegan where possible or necessary.

  • Buy pure whenever possible – bulk powders, pure liquids and capsules (rather than tablets) are less likely to contain harmful ingredients.

  • Have a conversation! Any solid business – whether it’s the supplier or the actual manufacturer – should be happy to answer your questions.

  • Be extra careful when buying “cheap” products online – if something is unusually inexpensive, it probably means it just has less of the actual substance in the package to begin with.

Conclusion

Multivitamins are not a short cut to optimal health. There is limited evidence that they improve health for most people. But there are some benefits.

Since they contain low doses of many different nutrients, they're also safe (as long as you are taking a high quality product.)

Of course, taking a multivitamin is not going to overcome the negative effects of a poor diet. I always recommend eating a balanced diet of whole foods with lots of nutrients coming from complex carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Check out my Superfood Salad recipe below! It is chockful of nutritional goodness!

Recipe: Lisa’s Superfood Salad

Serves 2

  • 2 handfuls of dark greens (e.g. kale, spinach, arugula, etc.)

  • ½ cucumber, chopped

  • 1 avocado, chopped

  • 1 bell pepper, chopped

  • 1 carrot, grated

  • 2 handfuls grape tomatoes

  • 1 handful fresh blueberries

  • 2 Tbls hemp seeds

  • 2 Tbls sunflower seeds

  • 2 Tbls pepitas

Salad Dressing:

  • 3 tbsp cider vinegar

  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard

  • 2 tsp honey or maple syrup

  • 1 dash salt

  • 2 dashes black pepper

  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Instructions:

Make the dressing by whisking together the vinegar, mustard, honey/maple syrup, salt, and pepper. Slowly drizzle in olive oil while whisking to emulsify. Pour over salad before serving.

Top with salmon, shrimp, chicken or beef for added protein

Serve & enjoy!

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/do-multivitamins-work/

http://thewellnessbusinesshub.com/yes-nutrient-deficiencies-heres-proof-can/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0022955/

 

Chef Katie's Butternut Squash And Leek Soup

Photo by Cala on Unsplash

When the temperature drops and it begins to get darker earlier, our bodies start to crave warm comfort food. It makes sense then that a hearty soup is such a satisfying meal in the fall, as it soothes both the body and the mind. With fall comes a bounty of produce, like butternut squash, that make the perfect soup ingredients.


Why I Love This:

Butternut squash is a virtual storehouse of nutrients. Unlike summer squash (zucchini, crooknecks, pattypans), winter squash has had a lot more time to develop and pump itself full of vitamins and minerals throughout its lengthy life on the stem. We’re talking oodles more vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene), vitamin C, manganese, potassium, and even some extra dietary fiber thrown in.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil

  • 1 cup leeks, chopped (wash carefully)

  • 1 carrot, diced

  • 1 celery stalk, diced

  • 1 small clove garlic, minced

  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into cubes (frozen cubes works well here)

  • 32 oz vegetable stock

  • 1 tsp garlic powder

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1/4 tsp pepper

  • 1 tsp dried dill

  • microgreens, goat cheese, or pumpkin seeds to garnish

In a saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the leeks to the saucepan and saute for 6-7 minutes. Add the carrots and celery and saute for 8-10 additional minutes until soft. Add the garlic and saute for another minute or so being careful not to burn the garlic.   Add the butternut squash, stock, garlic powder, salt, pepper and the dried dill. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to slightly cool. Puree all the soup ingredients in a blender. Serve and top with the microgreens, goat cheese or pumpkin seeds,

How To Improve Your Gut Health

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Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut.”

And while this may sound like an over simplification, more and more research shows that our gut (digestive system) has a bigger role in many diseases than we used to think. And we're not just talking about heartburn, constipation, diarrhea, IBS, IBD, etc. We're talking about all kinds of issues like allergies, pain, mood disorders, and nutrient deficiencies.

There are a lot of reasons for this. Our gut is the portal to the outside world. It's here where we take in disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and parasites. We also take in nutrients (and toxins) through our gut. The nutrients we ingest and absorb are the building blocks of every single part of our body. We're just learning the connections between our gut and other areas of our body, like our brain (have you heard of "the gut-brain axis"). Not just our gut per se; but, its friendly resident microbes too. These guys also have newly discovered roles in our gut health and overall health.

So, let's talk about the roles that our gut and our gut microbes play in our overall health. Then I'll give you tips to improve your gut health naturally.

Our gut’s role in our overall health

Our gut’s main role is as a barrier. To let things in that should get in, and to keep things out that should stay out. Think of “absorption” of nutrients as things we want to let in; and “elimination” of waste as things we want to pass right through and out.

This seemingly simple role is super-complex! And it can break down in so many places.

For one thing, our guts can "leak." Yes, like a long tube with holes in it, it can allow things to get into our bloodstream/bodies that can wreak havoc (bacteria, undigested food, and toxins). You name it, whatever you put into your mouth can be absorbed by your gut and get into your bloodstream, even if it's not supposed to. And when your gut wall gets irritated, it can "leak." When this happens, you get inflammation, which is a starting point for many diseases that don't seem linked to the gut but have a sneaky connection there.

FUN FACT: About 70% of our immune system lives in and around our gut.

A healthy gut is not a leaky gut. It maintains its barrier and shuttles things through to be eliminated. Maintaining a healthy gut barrier is the first pillar of gut health.

The second main part of your gut are the billions of friendly health-promoting microbes. Gut microbes help us digest and absorb nutrients. They fight off disease-causing microbes, make some vitamins for us, and have all kinds of other health benefits, like mental health benefits, reducing inflammation, and stabilizing blood sugar.

So, keeping your gut microbes happy is the second pillar of gut health!

How to improve gut health

There are a lot of natural ways to improve gut health. Let’s start with what to stop. It’s always best to eliminate the cause, so let’s stop giving our guts junk to deal with. How about eliminating added sugars, processed foods, and alcohol? Try that for a few weeks, and you may be amazed at how much better your body (and gut) feels.

You may also want to eliminate other gut irritants. Dairy and grains contain common compounds known to irritate some people’s guts. Sometimes you only need to eliminate them for a few weeks to see if it makes a difference for your health.

By eating nutrient-dense foods, we allow ample macro- and micro-nutrients into our gut to maximize the chance for absorption. These nutrients help our bodies build and repair our gut, and every other body part as well. Some of the most nutrient-dense foods include dark leafy greens, colourful fruits and veggies, liver, and fish.

The second pillar of gut health is our microbes. By ingesting probiotic-rich foods and drinks, we can help to replenish our gut microbes. These are found in fermented foods like kombucha, kefir, miso, sauerkraut, and kimchi. Make these a part of your daily diet.

Whole foods are full of gut-friendly fiber. Not eating enough fiber increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity. Fiber plays lots of roles in our gut, including whisking away some of those pesky bad bacteria and toxins so they can be eliminated. Fiber also helps to feed our friendly resident microbes that help us absorb and digest our food better. What foods have a lot of fiber? Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and even cacao.

And don’t forget the uber-important lifestyle factors like getting enough sleep, stressing less, and getting the right amount (and intensity) of exercise for you. It’s easy to forget some of the simple, but key links there are between what we do with our bodies and how well they function.

Conclusion

The function of your gut is key to your overall health. There are two pillars of gut health: maintaining a good barrier and maintaining healthy gut microbes.

The main ways to improve both of these naturally is by eating nutrient-dense whole foods. Foods filled with nutrition, probiotics, and fiber. And eliminating common gut irritants like added sugar, processed foods, and alcohol.

Recipe (Probiotic-rich): Fermented Carrots

For best results you will need Fermenting Jars  or "fermenting weights", to keep the carrots submerged in the brine.

Serves 12

  • 1 L warm water
  • 4 tsp salt
  • 4 carrots, medium, peeled, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed (optional)
     

Instructions:

Make a brine by dissolving the salt in water.

Place carrots into a clean canning jar, packing them in tight. Make sure to leave about 1 inch of head space at the top.

Fill the jar with brine, making sure to cover the carrots completely. Weigh the carrots down to make sure they don't float (you can order fermenting jars on the link above, or use a "fermenting weight")

Close the jar and let it sit at room temperature for 1-4 days. The longer it sits, the more the flavor will develop. Feel free to open and taste.

Serve & enjoy as a side dish or snack

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/does-all-disease-begin-in-the-gut/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-nutrition-gut-health

http://neurotrition.ca/blog/your-gut-bugs-what-they-eat-and-7-ways-feed-them

 

10 Best Foods For Beautiful Skin

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When it comes to healthy skin, what you eat really matters. In addition to staying hydrated, using safe skincare products and wearing sunscreen, make sure you get plenty of these foods in your diet for glowing, healthy skin.

1. Sauerkraut

Probiotics do more than just heal your gut, they boost the production of ceramides (healthy fats in skin) and aid recovery from exposure to UV rays.

2. Blueberries

Among berries, these have some of the highest amounts of antioxidants, giving protection against free-radical damage from pollution and the sun. Keep a stash of frozen blueberries in your freezer so they're ready to go into a smoothie.

3. Walnuts

A high concentration of vitamin E (a powerful antioxidant) helps skin stay smooth and plump. Sprinkle chopped walnuts on lunchtime salads or your morning cereal.  See recipe for walnut vinaigrette below.

4. Honey

Natural sweeteners are much better for skin than refined sugar or artificial sweetners. The latter can also cause hormonal imbalances, leading to inflammation. Honey is an especially sweet choice because it's antibacterial and anti-inflammatory.

5. Kale

Simply put, the darker the green, the better. Kale is packed with vitamins (A, B, C and K) and beta carotene, which increases cell turnover, tightens and detoxifies. Make a kale salad, saute it with garlic or roast it to make kale chips.

6. Avocado

Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation. They also help create a strong, protective skin barrier. Use avocado on toast or make a guacamole for a dip with crudité.

7. Citrus fruits

Anything with vitamin C is very beneficial to the skin It reduces dark spots, helps with collagen production and brightens overall skin tone.

8. Pumpkin

The enzymes smooth out imperfections to deliver a luminous and the seeds are a good source of zinc. Add canned pumpkin to a smoothie or oatmeal for an instant dose of this healthy food.

9. Cacao

Chocolate for your skin? Yes, really, as long as it's dark (70 percent cacao or higher). The polyphenols repair damaged skin and restore elasticity.

10. Green tea

It's loaded with antioxidants, which protect from free radicals that can damage the skin

Beauty Recipe:  Walnut Vinaigrette

Beauty Tip: Make a superfood salad with a base of green leafy veggies every day.  Add kale leaves, avocado, pumpkin seeds, blueberries  and a healthy drizzle of this walnut vinaigrette to "beautify" your salad!

Ingredients:

  • 1⁄4 cup raisins
  • 1⁄4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1⁄2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (I like Grey Poupon)
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon thyme
  • 1⁄4 cup walnuts, chopped

Place all ingredients in a high speed blender or food processor.

 

Portion Control

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People are often surprised that I don’t normally recommend calorie counting to my clients.

It's not because I think it doesn’t work (it does) or that calories don’t matter (they most definitely do).

It’s just that I don’t think most people need or want to use use math or take measurements every time they sit down to eat a meal.

That’s why I teach my private clients this simple method of measuring portion sizes of protein, carbs and fat. . Here is a handy guide to help you stay on track.  Note: I put vegetables into their own category even though they are technically carbohydrates.

  • Vegetables = 2 fist sized portions
  • Carbohydrates = 1 cupped hand serving for women, 2 cupped hand servings for men
  • Protein = 1 palm sized serving for women (3-4ounces), 1-2 palm sized serving for men (6-7 ounces)
  • Fat = 2 thumb sized portions
Source:  Precision Nutrition

Source:  Precision Nutrition

An Example:

Here is an example of a simple meal with the correct serving sizes for men and women:

Protein + Veggie + Carb + Healthy Fat

For women, the meal might look like:

  • Protein = 1 palm sized serving of fish.
  • Veg = 1 fist-sized serving of broccoli + 1 fist sized portion dark green leafy salad
  • Carb = 1 cupped hand serving of brown rice.
  • Fat = 1 thumb-sized serving of olive oil + 1 thumb-sized sprinkle of sunflower seeds on the salad

For men, the meal might look like:

  • Protein = 1-2 palm-sized servings of grilled chicken.
  • Veg = 2 fist-sized servings of broccoli.
  • Carb = 2 cupped-hand servings of brown rice.
  • Fat = 2 thumb-sized servings of avocado.

Remember:  This is just a starting point!

The great thing about this system is that it is simple and easy to use. Using your own hand to determine portions will help you "eyeball" serving sizes and keep your calories and nutrients in balance.

Activity Level:

Depending on your activity levels, you may find that the basic starting point is either too little or too much food.

I suggest that you try this approach consistently for a week and see how it goes. Keep track of how hungry you feel and take note of any changes in weight or how your clothes fit.

If it works well, great! If you feel too hungry, try increasing one or two of your portions in some of your meals. If you feel stuffed or aren’t losing weight (if that’s what you desire) then try decreasing one or two of your portions in some of your meals.

One of the best skills you can learn is to listen to your body.  Experiment and see what works for you. 

People who insist that they need to be  told EXACTLY what to eat, down to the smallest of details, are typically the people who do not have much long-term success. They’re either “on” or “off” their rigid plan. 

On the other hand, people who are flexible enough to create a meal plan that fits their unique lifestyle are more likely to make changes that eventually bring them long-term success.

Resource:

https://www.precisionnutrition.com/calorie-control-guide

 

How Can I Get Enough Vitamin D

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How Can I Get Enough Vitamin D?

When we think of "vitamins," we know they're super-important for health. 

But vitamin D is special.

It's difficult to get enough vitamin D; vitamin D is, therefore, a very common deficiency.

So, let's talk about how much of this critical fat-soluble vitamin we need, and how you can get enough. The three ways to vitamin D are exposure to the sun, consuming vitamin D containing food, and through supplements.

Why is vitamin D important, and how much do we need?

Vitamin D helps us absorb calcium from our food and acts like a hormone to help us build strong bones. Vitamin D can also help with immune function, cellular growth, and help to prevent mood imbalances such as depression and seasonal affective disorder.

Not getting enough vitamin D can lead to bone diseases like osteomalacia. Inadequate vitamin D can also increase your risk of heart disease, autoimmune diseases, certain cancers, and even death. The "official" minimum amount of vitamin D to strive for each day is merely 400-600 IU. Many experts think that this is not nearly enough for optimal health.

To ensure you get adequate amounts of vitamin D, you can implement any combination of the three vitamin D sources mentioned above on a weekly basis.

How can I get enough vitamin D from the sun?

Your skin makes vitamin D when it's exposed to the sun; that's why it's referred to as the "sunshine vitamin."How much vitamin D your skin makes depends on many things. Location, season, clouds, clothing, all affect the amount of vitamin D your skin can produce from the sun. One standard recommendation is to get about 20 minutes of sun exposure between 10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. to the face, arms, legs, or back. This should be done without sunscreen, at least twice a week.Of course, we should always avoid sunburns and of course in some locations (and seasons of the year) it's not easy to get sun exposure.  So, how can we get enough vitamin D in other ways?


How can I get enough vitamin D from food?


Vitamin D is naturally found in fatty fish, liver, and egg yolks. Some mushrooms make vitamin D when they're exposed to the sun.

Some foods are "fortified" (which means vitamin D has been added) with vitamin D. These include milk, some orange juices, breakfast cereals, and yogurt. It will say on the label how much vitamin D has been added per serving.

Because vitamin D is fat-soluble, you can increase absorption of it from your food if you eat it with some fat (healthy fat, of course).Between sun exposure and food, it still may be difficult to get even the minimum of 400 IU of vitamin D each day; this is why vitamin D supplements are quite popular.

How can I get enough vitamin D from supplements?

Taking a supplement or take some cod liver oil (which also contains vitamin A) is an easy way to ensure that you get the minimum amount of vitamin D, plus a bit extra.

But before you take vitamin D containing supplements, make sure you check that it won't interact with other supplements or medications you may be taking. Always read labels, and ask a healthcare professional for advice.

Do not take more than the suggested dosage on the label of any vitamin D supplement, except under medical care.

The maximum amount recommended (for the general population) is 4,000 IU/day. Too much vitamin D can raise your blood levels of calcium (to an unsafe level), and this can affect your heart and kidneys, but overdosing is rare.

The best thing, if you're concerned, is to ask your healthcare professional to do a blood test and make a recommendation about how much vitamin in supplement form is right for you. You may need to take a higher dose for a short period of time to get your levels up to a healthy range. 

You can order my favorite supplement here:  VITAMIN D3
 

Conclusion:

Vitamin D is an essential fat-soluble vitamin which; many people have a hard time maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D.  There are three ways to get enough vitamin D: sun exposure, through certain foods, and in supplements.

I've given you some ideas how you can get the minimum 400-600 IU or vitamin D daily.

If you're concerned, it's best to request a blood test that tests your vitamin D levels to be sure what's right for you. Always take supplements as directed.

Recipe: Super-Simple Grilled Salmon

Serves 4

  • 4 wild salmon fillets
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp dried parsley
  • 1/4 tsp. dried dill
  • 4 tbsp olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400. Place parchment paper on a baking sheet and place fish on top, skin-side down. Surround with a single layer of asparagus.

Sprinkle the fish and asparagus with sea salt, pepper, parsley, and dill. Drizzle with olive oil.

Bake for 20-30 minutes until fish flakes easily with a fork.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Serve with a side of rice or quinoa.

 

The Blood Sugar Roller Coaster

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Blood sugar levels play an important role in how we feel and if we will be at risk of developing certain chronic problems such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

Blood sugar is the measure of the amount of sugar in your blood. You need the right balance of sugar in your blood to fuel your brain and muscles.

The thing is, it can fluctuate. A lot.

This fluctuation is the natural balance between things that increase it; and things that decrease it. When you eat food with sugars or starches ("carbs"), then your digestive system absorbs sugar into your blood. When carbs are ingested and broken down into simple sugars, your body keeps blood sugar levels stable by secreting insulin. Insulin allows excess sugar to get it out of your bloodstream and into your muscle cells and other tissues for energy

Why keep my blood sugar stable?

Your body wants your blood sugar to be at an optimal level. It should be high enough, so you're not light-headed, fatigued, and irritable. It should be low enough that your body isn't scrambling to remove excess from the blood.

When blood sugar is too low, this is referred to as "hypoglycemia."

When blood sugar is too high, it is referred to as hyperglycemia.  Prolonged periods of elevated blood sugar levels (chronic hyperglycemia) can lead to "insulin resistance."

Insulin resistance is when your cells are just so bored of the excess insulin that they start ignoring (resisting) it, and that keeps your blood sugar levels too high.

Insulin resistance and chronic hyperglycemia can eventually lead to diabetes.

So let’s look at how you can optimize your food and lifestyle to keep your blood sugar stable.

Food for stable blood sugar

The simplest thing to do to balance your blood sugar is to reduce the number of refined sugars and starches you eat.  To do this, you can start by dumping sweet drinks and having smaller portions of dessert.

Eating more fiber is helpful too. Fiber helps to slow down the amount of sugar absorbed from your meal; it reduces the "spike" in your blood sugar level.  Fiber is found in plant-based foods (as long as they are eaten in their natural state, processing foods removed fiber).  Eating nuts, seeds, and whole fruits and veggies (not juiced) is a great way to increase your fiber intake.

NOTE: Cinnamon has been shown to help cells increase insulin sensitivity. Not to mention it’s a delicious spice that can be used in place of sugar. (HINT: It’s in the recipe below)

Lifestyle for stable blood sugar

Exercise also helps to improve your insulin sensitivity; this means that your cells don't ignore insulin's call to get excess sugar out of the blood.  Not to mention, when you exercise, your muscles are using up that sugar they absorbed from your blood. But you already knew that exercise is healthy, didn't you?

Would you believe that stress affects your blood sugar levels? Yup! Stress hormones increase your blood sugar levels. If you think about the "fight or flight" stress response, what fuel do your brain and muscles need to "fight" or "flee"? Sugar! When you are stressed signals are sent to release stored forms of sugar back into the bloodstream, increasing blood sugar levels.  So, try to reduce the stress you're under and manage it more effectively. Simple tips are meditation, deep breathing, or gentle movement.

Sleep goes hand-in-hand with stress. When you don't get enough quality sleep, you tend to release stress hormones, have a higher appetite, and even get sugar cravings. Sleep is crucial, often overlooked, factor when it comes to keeping your blood sugar stable. Make sleep more of a priority - it will do your blood sugar (and the rest of your physical and mental health) good.

Conclusion

Your body is on a constant 24-hour quest to keep your blood sugar stable. The body has mechanisms in place to do this, but those mechanisms can get tired (resistant).  Long-term blood sugar issues can spell trouble.

There are many nutrition and lifestyle approaches you can take to help keep your blood sugar stable. Minimizing excessive carbs, and eating more fiber, exercising, reducing stress, and improving sleep are all key to having stable blood sugar (and overall good health).

Recipe (blood sugar balancing): Cinnamon Apples

Serves 4

  • 2 apples, chopped

  • 1 tbsp coconut oil

  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon

  • ⅛ tsp sea salt

  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract

Place chopped apples into a small saucepan with 2 tbsp water. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally. After about 5 minutes the apples will become slightly soft, and water will be absorbed.

Add 1 tbsp coconut oil. Stir apples and oil together.

Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring every minute or so.

Add cinnamon, salt, and vanilla. Stir well.

Cook for another few minutes, stirring until the apples reach your desired softness!
Serve and enjoy!


Tip: Keeping the peel on increases the fiber, which is even better for stabilizing your blood sugar

The Best Pre and Post Workout Snacks

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What to eat before and after a workout – this is a question that I  get asked a lot!  

Good pre and post workout nutrition is key for optimal performance during exercise and for providing your body with the fuel to repair and strengthen muscles after a workout. Proper nutrition also ensures that you are getting in all of the essential nutrients that your body needs for overall health, energy and injury prevention.

Your pre workout snack should provide:

  • Carbs: energy from carbohydrates so you don’t run out of steam
  • Satiety: so you aren’t starving mid workout
  • Digestibility: easy digestibility so nothing lingers in your stomach and causes problems
  • H2O: hydration to keep your muscles, joints and cells working optimally

For Intense workouts, your post workout snack should provide:

  •  H2O: water is very important for your overall energy and maintaining electrolyte balance
  • Protein: helps to restore your hard worked muscle tissue
  • Carbs: help to replete glycogen losses, and the energy you store in your muscles

My Favorite Pre Workout Snacks

  • 1 slice whole grain toast, ½ a small avocado mashed & sprinkle of salt
  • In the blender:  1 cup coconut water with 2 tablespoons cacao powder 2 tablespoons hemp seeds and a small banana. 
  • Chia pudding: combine 1 ½ cups almond milk  + mixed with 5 tablespoons chia seeds and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.  Serve with a sprinkle of unsweetened coconut and berries
  • Take 1 cup mixed fruits (oranges, grapefruit, berries, melon or whatever is fresh and in season) and top with 1 tablespoons ground flax seeds.
  • Oatmeal, topped with berries

My Favorite Post Workout Snacks

  • 4 ounces full fat plain coconut yogurt or cottage cheese, berries, sprinkle of walnuts
  • Protein drink or green smoothie
  • Trail mix with almonds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, 1 tablespoon dried unsweetened coconut, a tablespoon of raisins
  • 1 slice whole grain toast, 1 tablespoon almond butter, 1 boiled egg, deli turkey, or 1 tablespoon hummus
  • Lettuce turkey wrap.  Sliced deli turkey wrapped in butter lettuce.

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Is A Spring Cleanse Right For You?

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I’ve gotten a lot of questions about cleansing and detoxing throughout the years; What are the benefits?  How does it work?  Is it healthy?

Here is the scoop:

Toxins enter our bodies every day through food, water, air, cleaning products, soap and skin care products just to name a few. Everything you eat, drink, and absorb into your body (through your skin) is broken down by your liver, purified in the kidneys, and eliminated through your digestive system and skin (with sweat).

If this miraculous cleansing system becomes sluggish and over worked, our bodies can not break down and utilize all of the powerful vitamins, minerals and nutrients we need to feel amazing, optimize energy levels, and maintain a youthful, radiant glow!

I do not promote juice-only fasts.  However, I do see the value of a Whole Foods Cleanse - Giving the digestive system a break by eliminating foods that cause inflammation in the body.

In other words, the goal of a Whole Foods Cleanse is not a week of starvation! The goal is to simply clean up the diet and eat as well as possible, (bye-bye lattes for a few days!)  It is a powerful kick start towards positive and lasting change for your health and your body.

Here are the parameters:

No gluten, dairy, soy, alcohol, processed foods, added sugar, while cleansing.  Reduce coffee to run cup a day.

While this may sound like a lot to let go of at first glance, the results will be worth it; The lightness and energy you’ve been longing for, weight loss, glowing skin and finally experiencing what it feels like to live in a clean body.

Benefits of a Whole Foods Cleanse include:

  • Aid in the elimination of toxins from your body
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Recognize and overcome sugar cravings
  • Restore good bacteria in your gut
  • Kick start weight loss
  • Restore your body’s natural energy levels

The greatest thing about a Whole Foods Cleanse is the ability to enjoy nutritious meals, soups, juices and smoothies while not starving the body or giving up food completely.

 

If you are interested in a guided, supported cleanse this spring.....Check out my 10 Day Total Body Reset Detox. 

Menu plans, recipes, shopping list and health coaching from me are included!

May 14-24.  Click here for all the details:

10 Day Total Body Reset

 

 

Cannellini Pea and Mint Soup – Deliciously Ella

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This soup from one of my favorite cookbooks, Deliciously Ella, will be entering my regular recipe rotation as it’s fresh and light taste is perfect for summer! It calls only 4 ingredients and is extremely easy to make. Healthy, tasty and easy – it’s everything I love in a dish!

INGREDIENTS

  • 5 1/2 cups peas
  • 4 cups veggie stock
  • 1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 12 sprigs of fresh mint
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

Add peas and veggie stock to a large pot and bring to a boil, then take off of heat

Add rinsed cannellini beans and mint leaves

Blend contents until soup is smooth

Add salt and pepper to taste

Serve hot or cold

Why I love this:  Peas contain a wide variety of vitamins and minerals including vitamins C and K, and several B vitamins, plus manganese, phosphorus, and protein. This makes them an excellent anti-inflammatory food.  Mint contains an antioxidant called rosmarinic acid, which can relieve seasonal allergy symptoms, the menthol it contains is a natural decongestant, and it can also soothe an upset stomach.

3 Tips For Kicking Your Sugar Habit

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I know the thought of quitting sugar can be scary. But I promise, it’s not as daunting as it sounds.

In fact, my 5 Day Sugar Free Challenge is designed to gently ease you into a sugar-free life. By filling your diet up with delicious veggies, fats and proteins, we gradually help break your sugar addiction so you can get back to what your body truly needs to feel it’s best.

Ready to (gently) kickstart your sugar-free life? These three tips are so easy to incorporate that you won’t even know you’re detoxing.

1. Eat Real, Whole Food.

When you stop eating sugar you start eating real, whole foods just like our grandparents did. When you eliminate sugar, you’re eliminating processed food. Cutting out the crap from your diet gives you a total body reset.

Many packaged foods are full of hidden sugars.  Simple changes like focusing on fresh produce, avoiding store-bought sauces and making your lunch can lead to big results.

2. Eat your fruit, don’t drink it.

Avoiding juiced fruits is a small but significant step towards quitting sugar for good.

Liquid sugar, even from an apparently healthy source, can overload your body's natural detoxification system. The liver stores excess fructose that it can’t break down in the form of triglycerides, which can lead to insulin resistance.

Drink water or green tea during the day. I usually recommend 60-80 ounces of water and 1-2 cups of green tea daily.

Eat 2-3 pieces of whole fruit for an easy way to reduce your daily sugar intake without even really trying.

4. Rethink breakfast.

Cereals may promise to get your day off to a healthy start, but many popular brands contain up way to much sugar. (Check the label)

Start your mornings with veggies (spinach, kale, mushrooms) with a side of protein like eggs and add some fat like a 1-2 tablespoons of walnuts or sliced avocado.

My Supercharged Avocado Toast totally hits the mark!

Supercharged Avocado Toast

Ingredients:

  •  1 Avocado
  • 1 Cup White Navy Beans (cooked)
  • ¼ Lemon (juiced)
  • 1/4 tsp Sea Salt
  • 4 slices Whole Grain, Organic Bread
  • 1/4 cup Hemp Seeds

Directions:

In a bowl, mash the avocado, white beans, lemon juice and sea salt together with a fork. Continue to mash until you get a guacamole-like consistency.

Divide the avocado bean mixture onto the toast. Sprinkle with hemp seeds and enjoy!

Hope you love it as much I do.

Yours in health, 
Lisa C.

Don't forget to check out my 5 day sugar-free challenge starting Monday.

Broccoli Pesto Quinoa - 101 Cookbooks

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Recipe from 101 Cookbooks

Ingredients

  •     1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  •     2 cups water
  •     5 cups fresh broccoli, cut into small florets (about 2 good size broccoli crowns)
  •     4 garlic cloves
  •     ⅔ cup freshly grated parmesan, divided
  •     ⅔ cup sliced or slivered almonds, toasted, divided
  •     ½ teaspoon salt
  •     Juice from one fresh lemon, about 2 tablespoons
  •     ¼ cup olive oil
  •     ¼ cup heavy cream
  •     Optional toppings: chopped basil, red chile oil (recipe below), sliced avocado

TIP: To make this dish vegan, substitute the heavy cream with coconut milk. For the parmesan, you can use Parma, or add about ¼ cup sesame seeds in place of the parmesan.

Instructions

1. In a medium saucepan, heat the quinoa with 2 cups water until boiling. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until all the water is absorbed and quinoa fluffs up, about 15 minutes. Set aside.

2. Heat a large pot of water to boiling and add the broccoli. Cook just until broccoli starts to soften and is bright green. About 90 seconds. Drain broccoli and rinse with cold water to stop broccoli from continuing to cook. Set aside.

3. To make the broccoli pesto:  puree 2 cups of the blanced broccoli, garlic, ⅓ cup of the almonds, 1/3 cup of the parmesan, salt and lemon juice in a food processor. Drizzle in the olive oil and cream and pulse until nearly smooth.

4. Just before serving, toss the quinoa and remaining broccoli florets with the broccoli pesto. Taste and dd more lemon juice or salt if desired. Add the remaining ⅓ cup parmesan cheese.

5. Spoon mixture onto serving platter or plates. Add toppings. I recommend sliced avocado and liberal amounts of the red chile oil.

6. Red Chile Oil: Heat ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil in a small saucepan until heated, but not so hot that it smokes. Turn off the heat and stir in 1½ teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes. Set aside and let cool. This is good prepared the day before and kept in refrigerator overnight. Bring back to room temp

Coffee - Good Or Bad?

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Coffee - Who can drink it and who should avoid it?

Coffee is one of those things - you either love it or hate it. (Do you love the taste, or if it’s just a reason to drink sugar and cream.)

Not to mention the headlines that say coffee is great, and the next day you should avoid it!

There is actual science behind why different people react differently to it. It's a matter of your genetics and how much coffee you're used to drinking.

NOTE:  Coffee contains between 50-400 mg of caffeine/cup, averaging around 100 mg/cup. Coffee is one of the most popular ways to consume this stimulant. But… a cup of coffee contains a lot of things over and above the caffeine. Not just water, but antioxidants, and hundreds of other compounds. These are the reasons drinking a cup of coffee is not the same as taking a caffeine pill. And decaffeinated coffee has a lot less caffeine; but, it still contains some.

Let's look at caffeine metabolism, its effects on the mind and body, and whether coffee drinkers have higher or lower risks of disease. Then I’ll give you some things to consider when deciding if coffee is for you or not.

Caffeine metabolism

Not all people metabolize caffeine at the same speed. How fast you metabolize caffeine will impact how you’re affected by the caffeine. In fact, caffeine metabolism can be up to 40x faster in some people than others.

About half of us are “slow” metabolizers of caffeine. We can get jitters, heart palpitations, and feel "wired" for up to 9 hours after having a coffee. The other half is "fast" metabolizers of caffeine. They get energy and increased alertness and are back to normal a few hours later.

This is part of the reason those headlines contradict each other so much - because we’re all different!

The effects of coffee (and caffeine) on the mind and body

NOTE: Most studies look at caffeinated coffee, not decaf.

The effects of coffee (and caffeine) on the mind and body also differ between people; this is partly from the metabolism I mentioned. But it also has to do with your body’s amazing ability to adapt (read: become more tolerant) to long-term caffeine use. Many people who start drinking coffee feel the effects a lot more than people who have coffee every day.

Here’s a list of these effects (that usually decrease with long-term use):

●      Stimulates the brain

●      Boosts metabolism

●      Boosts energy and exercise performance

●      Increases your stress hormone cortisol

●      Dehydrates

So, while some of these effects are good and some aren’t, you need to see how they affect you and decide if it’s worth it or not.

Coffee and health risks

There are a ton of studies on the health effects of coffee, and whether coffee drinkers are more or less likely to get certain conditions.

Here’s a quick summary of what coffee can lead to:

●      Caffeine addiction and withdrawal symptoms (e.g. a headache, fatigue, irritability)

●      Increased sleep disruption

●      Lower risk of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's

●      Lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes

●      Lower risk of certain liver diseases

●      Lower risk of death (“all cause mortality")

●      Mixed reviews on whether it lowers risks of cancer and heart disease

Many of the health benefits exist even for decaf coffee (except the caffeine addiction and sleep issues).

NOTE: What’s super-important to note here is that coffee intake is just one of many, many factors that can affect your risks for these diseases. Please never think regular coffee intake is the one thing that can help you overcome these risks. You are health-conscious and know that eating a nutrient-rich whole foods diet, reducing stress, and getting enough sleep and exercise are all critical things to consider for your disease risk. It’s not just about the coffee.

Should you drink coffee or not?

There are a few things to consider when deciding whether you should drink coffee. No one food or drink will make or break your long-term health.

Caffeinated coffee is not recommended for:

●      People with arrhythmias (e.g. irregular heartbeat)

●      People who often feel anxious

●      People who have trouble sleeping

●      People who are pregnant

●      Children and teens

If none of these apply, then monitor how your body reacts when you have coffee. Does it:

●      Give you the jitters?

●      Increase anxious feelings?

●      Affect your sleep?

●      Give you heart palpitations?

●      Affect your digestion (e.g. heartburn, etc.)?

●      Give you a reason to drink a lot of sugar and cream?

Depending on how your body reacts, decide whether these reactions are worth it to you. If you’re not sure, I recommend cutting back to 1 cup or eliminating for 3 days.  Notice if you feel a difference in your symptoms.

Recipe (Latte): Pumpkin Spice Latte

Serves 1

  • 3 tbsp coconut milk
  • 1 ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon)
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin puree
  • ½ tsp maple syrup (optional)
  • 1 cup coffee (decaf if preferred)

Instructions

Add all ingredients to blender and blend until creamy.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can use tea instead of milk if you prefer.

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/coffee-good-or-bad/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-coffee

http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/a-wake-up-call-on-coffee

http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/can-your-coffee-habit-help-you-live-longer-201601068938

How To Improve Gut Health

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How to Improve Gut Health

 Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut.”

And while this may not be 100% true for every disease in every person, more and more research shows that our gut (digestive system) has a bigger role in many diseases than we used to think. And we're not just talking about heartburn, constipation, diarrhea, IBS, IBD, etc. We're talking about all kinds of issues like allergies, pain, mood disorders, and nutrient deficiencies.

There are a lot of reasons for this. Our gut is the portal to the outside world. It's here where we take in disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and parasites. We also take in nutrients (and toxins) through our gut. The nutrients we ingest and absorb are the building blocks of every single part of our body. We're just learning the connections between our gut and other areas of our body, like our brain (have you heard of "the gut-brain axis"). Not just our gut per se; but, its friendly resident microbes too. These guys also have newly discovered roles in our gut health and overall health.

So, let's talk about the roles that our gut and our gut microbes play in our overall health. Then I'll give you tips to improve your gut health naturally.

Our gut’s role in our overall health

Our gut’s main role is as a barrier. To let things in that should get in, and to keep things out that should stay out. Think of “absorption” of nutrients as things we want to let in; and “elimination” of waste as things we want to pass right through and out.

This seemingly simple role is super-complex! And it can break down in so many places.

For one thing, our guts can "leak." Yes, like a long tube with holes in it, it can allow things to get into our bloodstream/bodies that can wreak havoc (bacteria, undigested food, and toxins). You name it, whatever you put into your mouth can be absorbed by your gut and get into your bloodstream, even if it's not supposed to. And when your gut wall gets irritated, it can "leak." When this happens, you get inflammation, which is a starting point for many diseases that don't seem linked to the gut but have a sneaky connection there.

FUN FACT: About 70% of our immune system lives in and around our gut.

A healthy gut is not a leaky gut. It maintains its barrier and shuttles things through to be eliminated. Maintaining a healthy gut barrier is the first pillar of gut health.

The second main part of your gut are the billions of friendly health-promoting microbes. Gut microbes help us digest and absorb nutrients. They fight off disease-causing microbes, make some vitamins for us, and have all kinds of other health benefits, like mental health benefits, reducing inflammation, and stabilizing blood sugar.

So, keeping your gut microbes happy is the second pillar of gut health!

How to improve gut health

There are a lot of natural ways to improve gut health. Let’s start with what to stop. It’s always best to eliminate the cause, so let’s stop giving our guts junk to deal with. How about eliminating added sugars, processed foods, and alcohol? Try that for a few weeks, and you may be amazed at how much better your body (and gut) feels.

You may also want to eliminate other gut irritants. Dairy and grains contain common compounds known to irritate some people’s guts. Sometimes you only need to eliminate them for a few weeks to see if it makes a difference for your health.

By eating nutrient-dense foods, we allow ample macro- and micro-nutrients into our gut to maximize the chance for absorption. These nutrients help our bodies build and repair our gut, and every other body part as well. Some of the most nutrient-dense foods include dark leafy greens, colorful fruits and veggies, liver, and fish.

The second pillar of gut health is our microbes. By ingesting probiotic-rich foods and drinks, we can help to replenish our gut microbes. These are found in fermented foods like kombucha, kefir, miso, sauerkraut, and kimchi. Make these a part of your daily diet.

Whole foods are full of gut-friendly fiber. Not eating enough fiber increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity. Fiber plays lots of roles in our gut, including whisking away some of those pesky bad bacteria and toxins so they can be eliminated. Fiber also helps to feed our friendly resident microbes that help us absorb and digest our food better. What foods have a lot of fiber? Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and even cacao.

And don’t forget the uber-important lifestyle factors like getting enough sleep, stressing less, and getting the right amount (and intensity) of exercise for you. It’s easy to forget some of the simple, but key links there are between what we do with our bodies and how well they function.

Conclusion

The function of your gut is key to your overall health. There are two pillars of gut health: maintaining a good barrier and maintaining healthy gut microbes.

The main ways to improve both of these naturally is by eating nutrient-dense whole foods. Foods filled with nutrition, probiotics, and fiber. And eliminating common gut irritants like added sugar, processed foods, and alcohol.

Recipe (Probiotic-rich): Fermented Carrots

Serves 12

  • 1 L warm water
  • 4 tsp salt
  • 4 carrots, medium, peeled, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed (optional)

Instructions:

Make a brine by dissolving the salt in water.

Place carrots into a clean canning jar, packing them in tight. Make sure to leave about 1 inch of head space at the top.

Fill the jar with brine, making sure to cover the carrots completely. Weigh the carrots down to make sure they don't float (you can use a "fermenting weight").

Close the jar and let it sit at room temperature for 1-4 days. The longer it sits, the more the flavor will develop. Feel free to open and taste.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Use this as a side dish, or even a snack.

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/does-all-disease-begin-in-the-gut/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-nutrition-gut-health

http://neurotrition.ca/blog/your-gut-bugs-what-they-eat-and-7-ways-feed-them

 

Metabolism 101

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What is Metabolism?

This word “metabolism” is thrown around a lot these days.

You know that if yours is too slow you might gain weight.  But what exactly does this all mean?

Well technically “metabolism” is the word to describe all of the biochemical reactions in your body.  It's how you take in nutrients and oxygen and use them to fuel everything you do.

Your body has an incredible ability to grow, heal, and generally stay alive.  And without this amazing biochemistry you would not be possible.

Metabolism includes how the cells in your body:

●      Allow activities you can control (e.g. physical activity etc.).

●      Allow activities you can't control (e.g. heart beat, wound healing, processing of nutrients & toxins, etc.).

●      Allow storage of excess energy for later.

So when you put all of these processes together into your metabolism you can imagine that these processes can work too quickly, too slowly, or just right.

Which brings us to the “metabolic rate”. 

Metabolic rate

This is how fast your metabolism works and is measured in calories (yup, those calories!).

The calories you eat can go to one of three places:

●      Work (i.e. exercise and other activity).

●      Heat (i.e. from all those biochemical reactions).

●      Storage (i.e. extra leftover “unburned” calories stored as fat).

As you can imagine the more calories you burn as work or creating heat the easier it is to lose weight and keep it off because there will be fewer “leftover” calories to store for later.

There are a couple of different ways to measure metabolic rate.  One is the “resting metabolic rate” (RMR) which is how much energy your body uses when you're not being physically active.

The other is the “total daily energy expenditure” (TDEE) which measures both the resting metabolic rate as well as the energy used for “work” (e.g. exercise) throughout a 24-hour period.

What affects your metabolic rate?

In a nutshell: a lot!

The first thing you may think of is your thyroid.  This gland at the front of your throat releases hormones to tell your body to “speed up” your metabolism.  Of course, the more thyroid hormone there is the faster things will work and the more calories you'll burn.

But that's not the only thing that affects your metabolic rate.

How big you are counts too! 

Larger people have higher metabolic rates; but your body composition is crucial! 

As you can imagine muscles that actively move and do work need more energy than fat does.  So the more lean muscle mass you have the more energy your body will burn and the higher your metabolic rate will be.  Even when you're not working out.

This is exactly why weight training is often recommended as a part of a weight loss program.  Because you want muscles to be burning those calories for you. 

The thing is, when people lose weight their metabolic rate often slows down which you don't want to happen.  So you definitely want to offset that with more muscle mass.

Aerobic exercise also temporarily increases your metabolic rate.  Your muscles are burning fuel to move so they're doing “work”.

The type of food you eat also affects your metabolic rate!

Your body actually burns calories to absorb, digest, and metabolize your food.  This is called the “thermic effect of food” (TEF).

You can use it to your advantage when you understand how your body metabolizes foods differently. 

Fats, for example increase your TEF by 0-3%; carbs increase it by 5-10%, and protein increases it by 15-30%.  By trading some of your fat or carbs for lean protein you can slightly increase your metabolic rate.

Another bonus of protein is that your muscles need it to grow.  By working them out and feeding them what they need they will help you to lose weight and keep it off.

And don't forget the mind-body connection.  There is plenty of research that shows the influence that things like stress and sleep have on the metabolic rate.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to metabolism and how so many different things can work to increase (or decrease) your metabolic rate.

Recipe (Lean Protein): Lemon Herb Roasted Chicken Breasts

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 lemons, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon thyme
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 4 chicken breasts (boneless, skinless)
  • dash salt & pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive old

Preheat oven to 425F.  Layer ½ of the lemon slices on the bottom of a baking dish.  Sprinkle with ½ of the herbs and ½ of the sliced garlic.

Place the chicken breasts on top and sprinkle salt & pepper.  Place remaining lemon, herbs and garlic on top of the chicken.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Cover with a lid or foil.

Bake for 45 minutes until chicken is cooked through.  If you want the chicken to be a bit more “roasty” then remove the lid/foil and broil for another few minutes (watching carefully not to burn it).

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can add a leftover sliced chicken breast to your salad for lunch the next day!

References:

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-energy-balance

https://authoritynutrition.com/10-ways-to-boost-metabolism/