HEALTHY HOLIDAY GIFT CHOCOLATES: 3 EASY INGREDIENTS

I’m squeezing in one more blog article before the holiday season, in case you are like me, and love to give food as HOLIDAY GIFTS. Chocolate is always a holiday favourite, and it’s possible for it to be healthy too! So here is a recipe that is easy to make, that you can package up to give away, or that you can finish off a special meal with. You can feel great about gifting this healthy version!

 I tucked freeze dried strawberries or pineapple into a few of these chocolates! Candied ginger is also a nice treat to find inside.

I tucked freeze dried strawberries or pineapple into a few of these chocolates! Candied ginger is also a nice treat to find inside.

This recipe uses 3 ingredients: raw cacao paste, raw cocoa butter, and yacon syrup. Cacao paste is the least processed form of the cocoa bean next to the bean itself (which you can purchase as whole beans or cacao nibs). It is rich in magnesium, potassium, iron and other minerals, and is a good source of polyphenols, which have antioxidant activity (1). Cocoa butter is the fat extracted from the cocoa bean. Yacon syrup is made from yacon root, which is a root vegetable grown in South America. The syrup’s sweetness is derived from fructooligosaccharides (FOS), which is a prebiotic that feeds beneficial bacteria in the gut. We can’t digest these carbohydrates, so they stay in our gut and are used by our bacteria instead. Since we can’t digest FOS, there are no sugars that enter the blood stream, making this a possible option for people with diabetes (2). FOS would not be suitable for someone with IBS or SIBO as it can aggravate symptoms in individuals with these conditions. Caution should be used for anyone with digestive symptoms such as bloating, cramping or abdominal pain. I’m including a variation for those who don’t tolerate FOS.

REASONS TO GIFT CHOCOLATE

If the taste of chocolate isn’t enough to tempt you, there are also numerous health benefits that can result from consuming chocolate, including reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, support for the immune system, cancer protection, and as already mentioned, there are antioxidant benefits (3).

Yacon chocolates.jpg

RECIPE

140g raw cacao paste
140g raw cocoa butter
1/2-2/3 cup yacon syrup (depending on how sweet you like it)

DIRECTIONS

Place cacao paste and cocoa butter over a double boiler, and melt.  Once melted, remove the top section and mix in the syrup.  Spoon the liquid mixture into candy molds, and place into the refrigerator or freezer until hard.  It only takes about 10 minutes in the freezer.  Once it has solidified, remove pieces from the molds, and put them into a container, or gift bag.

Candy molds can be found at Amazon or various stores such as Michael’s. The variety of shapes you can find is amazing! You can customize your chocolate shapes to fit the person you are gifting to. This recipe should fill 4 trays.

VARIATION

You can replace the syrup with honey. This version is just as tasty, but the honey doesn’t emulsify into the mixture as well as yacon syrup, so you’ll need to keep stirring the mixture as it goes into the molds, and the chocolates need to be kept refrigerated. I make this a lot, and love it, but for gift giving it’s nice not to have to refrigerate the chocolates.

Add the 3 ingredients to your shopping list, and put “chocolate making” on your list of things to do! If you don’t have candy molds, the easiest thing to do is order them online, or make a chocolate bark instead by adding your favourite nuts, seeds or dried fruit, and pouring the mixture onto a baking sheet lined with a silicon mat.

What’s your favourite way to use chocolate?

Happy, Healthy Eating and Gifting!
Best Wishes for the Holidays!
Tracey

CALGARY'S BEST JUICE CLEANSES

Ever done a juice cleanse?   Or maybe thought about it?  Holiday season is already here!  Maybe after indulging in too much holiday merriment your gut could use a bit of a rest, and your body a bit of cleansing.  I’m going to give you the scoop on Calgary’s best Juice Cleanses, and help you decide which one is the right choice for you.

Usually the goal of a cleanse is to support liver detoxification, give the digestive system a rest, and to help bring inflammation down in the body.  The first few days can be a bit rough, but then you start to feel better and see positive changes in your body.   A few people shouldn't cleanse.  If you have diabetes, are pregnant or are breastfeeding, then a cleanse is not for you right now.  If you are on pharmaceuticals, you should discuss with your doctor to find out if it's a good idea.

In the past I’ve done 3-5 day juice cleanses using juicers I have in my kitchen, but the problem is that cleaning them is a lot of work.  Recently that has been a significant deterrent to juicing, because my schedule has gotten busier leaving me with little time to clean a juicer.

Amazingly it had never occurred to me that I could buy my juices, until recently when I met a woman who had just completed 30 days of juicing.  She runs her own business and has kids, but managed the 30-day cleanse successfully because she could order her juices.

So I decided to try a 21-day cleanse where I would sample the best cleanses that Calgary had to offer.  My criteria were that the juices had to be organic, cold-pressed and unpasteurized.  I found 4 places that met these criteria and the cleansing began.  I’m presenting the cleanses in the order I tried them.

The Juice Shop

 The Juice Shop's Liver Cleanse

The Juice Shop's Liver Cleanse

The best thing about The Juice Shop is that it has a menu of cleanses to choose from.  Not only do you have the option to choose from the menu, but you can have a cleanse completely customized to be unique to you.  The Juice Shop was the only company to actually screen me, and make sure I was suitable for a juice cleanse.  I tried both their liver and skin cleanses.   They are about to launch bone broth in their line of products.

Length of cleanse:  Options include anything from 1-5 days.
Delivery: available.  Price varies depending on distance of delivery.
Customize option:  Yes.  Best customization available of the cleanses I tried.
Flexible start date: Yes.
# of cleanses: 14 different cleanses on the menu, plus the ability to customize further.
Provides instructions:  Detailed pre and post cleanse instructions are emailed out once screened.
Ingredients/nutritional info on bottle:  Ingredients are on the label, but no nutritional label.
# of bottles:  Varies depending on the cleanse.  4-6 bottles per day.  Some cleanses come with a "shot", which is added to hot water.  Shots include Immune Shot, Candida Shot, Flu Shot...
Cost:  Starting at $40 per day up to $60 per day.
Order to drinking juices:  Juices are labelled in the order they should be consumed.

JUSU bar

 JUSU bar's Easy Cleanse

JUSU bar's Easy Cleanse

The best thing about JUSU bar is that it has multiple locations throughout the city, so if you want to pick up your cleanse, then you can choose the location closest to you.  Since it is a store with branches in various cities, it is well branded and packaged.  On the down side, staff may not be very knowledgable at these locations, but I was able to get my questions answered through email.

Length of cleanse: 1 or 3 day options
Delivery:  available
Customize option:  Similar juices can be swapped out if an allergy or sensitivity exists.
Flexible start date:  Tuesday or Saturday afternoons.
# of cleanses: 2.  An Easy and a Deep Cleanse.
Provides instructions:  Available on the website.
Ingredients/nutritional info on bottle:  Ingredients and nutritional label on each bottle.
# of bottles:  6 bottles per day.
Cost:  $60 for 1 day cleanse and $165 for 3 day cleanse.
Order to drinking juices:  Juices are labelled in the order they should be consumed.

Wild & Raw Bava Juice

 Wild and Raw's Bava Juice

Wild and Raw's Bava Juice

The best thing about Wild and Raw is the depth of flavour in their juices.  They pride themselves on their use of Superfoods.  The bottles are beautiful, which might have some appeal to gourmands or someone who can reuse them.  You have the option of adding bone broth to your cleanse.

Length of cleanse: 1 or 3 day options.
Delivery:  included in the price, but pickup is an option.
Customize option:  Can be customized if allergies or sensitivities exist.  There is an option to add bone broth to the cleanse.
Flexible start date:  Yes.
# of cleanses: 2.  Basic Cleanse and Deep Cleanse
Provides instructions:  Detailed instructions on what to expect during the cleanse, and post cleanse are emailed.
Ingredients/nutritional info on bottle:  Neither is on the bottle.
# of bottles: 4 large bottles, plus an elixir to add to water between juices
Cost:  $120 for 1 day and $333 for 3 days
Order to drinking juices:  Indicated in instructions

Juice Because

Juice Because.JPG

The best thing about Juice Because is that you can take the glass bottles back and get store credit.  If you are concerned about your environmental foot print, then this is the best option.  You can also save some money using their Cleanse with a Friend option.  You have the option of adding bone broth to your cleanse.  I have to admit that I was disappointed with the flavours of these juices, and to see agave in one of their juices.  Agave is a high-fructose sweetener that is not gut-healthy.

Length of cleanse: 1 or 3 day options.
Delivery:  Available
Customize option:  Similar juices can be swapped out if an allergy or sensitivity exists.  There is an option to add bone broth to the cleanse.
Flexible start date:  Tuesday or Saturday start days.
# of cleanses: 2.  Cleanse I (and JB Cleanse 9.0 which I'm not covering in this article)
Provides instructions:  Brochure provided in the box with pre and post cleanse instructions.
Ingredients/nutritional info on bottle:  Ingredients and nutritional label on each bottle.
# of bottles: 6 bottles per day.
Cost:  $65 for 1 day and $190 for 3 day cleanse.  There is a discount if you cleanse with a friend.
Order to drinking juices:  Juices are labelled in the order they should be consumed.

Which one do I choose?

Determining factors for whether I'll use any of these cleanses again are taste and convenience.  The Juice Shop, JUSU bar, and Wild and Raw all have my vote for great juices in the flavour department.  Convenience for me means grabbing the juices I need and throwing them into my backpack to take to work.  This was very difficult to do with the glass bottles from Juice Because, and Wild and Raw.  They are very heavy, and if I had more than one in my bag I had to be careful they didn't bang against one another.  If you are doing your cleanse at home, then this isn't an issue, but if you need to carry juices with you, then it could become a problem.  When looking at both taste and convenience The Juice Shop and JUSU bar worked best for me.

If you are brand new to juice cleanses, then the Easy Cleanse from JUSU bar, the Beginner's Cleanse from The Juice Shop, or Cleanse I from Juice Because are your best choices.  JUSU bar and Juice Because only have two delivery/pick up dates, so if you need more flexibility, then The Juice Shop offers that.  

Moderate cleanses would include Wild and Raw's Basic Cleanse, JUSU bar's Deep Cleanse, and The Juice Shop's Intermediate Cleanse.

If you already lead a healthy lifestyle that includes an organic, whole foods diet, and you want to do a more intense cleanse, then The Juice Shop's Advance Cleanse, or their Liver Cleanse, or Wild and Raw's Deep Cleanse are your best choices.

If you want to add bone broth, then you can choose Wild and Raw, or Juice Because, and The Juice Shop is anticipating having their broth out soon too.  Of course you can also add your own broth, which is what I did for most of my 19 days.  Why would you add broth?  Amino acids are needed for phase 2 of liver detoxification, and broth will provide you with the specific amino acids you need to also nourish the gut lining.  It offers all of that without requiring digestion, so still let's your digestive system rest.

If you need customization, then Calgary's local shops offer the best choices.  The Juice Shop, Wild and Raw, and Juice Because have knowledgable staff that you can talk to.  JUSU bar allows you to swap similar juices, which may or may not be easy depending on your food sensitivities.  The Juice Shop comes out on top for customization, with Wild and Raw being the next choice.

If flavour is your biggest determining factor, then here are some considerations.  Wild and Raw had the richest depth of flavour in their juices.  JUSU bar includes a chocolate almond milk, so if you have a bit of a chocolate addiction then this has you covered.  The Juice Shop has the greatest variety of juice blends, which is especially nice for longer cleanses.

Lastly, if cost is the biggest determining factor, then JUSU bar or Juice Because's Cleanse with a Friend are the best choices.

I hope all those criteria help you decide which cleanse is right for you.  With the holidays right around the corner, think about adding a Juice Cleanse to your holiday wish list, or pre-order a cleanse for yourself or a loved one.

Winter Cleansing Tip

Coming off a cleanse requires a slow reintroduction to solid foods.  In the winter months the best way to transition back to whole foods is to eat a lot of blended soups made with meat stock or bone broth.  These will help warm you while adding foods in a way that are easy to digest.  Gradually make your soups chunkier and heartier.  The longer you have cleansed, the longer this transition period will be.

Click on one of the websites for juice cleanses above, and place your order for a January cleanse.  Do it for yourself or a loved one.  What are you hoping a cleanse will do for you?

Happy, Healthy Cleansing!
Tracey

 

 

 

SECRET INGREDIENT! LOOK CLOSELY!

Have a look at these amazing Paleo, gut-healthy tacos!  What do you see?
a dollop of cultured cream
mango salsa
fried onions and peppers
guacamole
shredded beef tongue
lettuce

Did you read those ingredient right?  Yes, it's really TONGUE!

If you are a client of mine, or have seen some of my past blog articles, you'll know just how healthy organ meats and offal are.  I regularly eat liver and other offal, and sneak it into my kids' diet in meat loaf and other ground meat dishes.  Despite my passion for liver and other organ meat,  it took me a while to actually venture into buying beef tongue.  I ate it as a kid, and have memories of enjoying it with mustard.  When I queried my mom, she said it was smoked tongue that we used to eat.  I have never seen smoked tongue at the health food stores (you won't find tongue at your local grocer), but had noticed that beef tongue had been in the freezer of the health food store I shop at.

I finally mustered up the courage to buy one and bring it home.  It sat in the freezer for a few weeks before I finally decided on a way to prepare it.

Since I love slow cooking with my crock-pot, I decided to thaw the tongue and give the crock-pot a try. I seasoned it with Himalayan salt, threw it in the pot with a bit of water, and let it cook on low heat for about 8 hours.  Once it was done I placed in on a cutting board and quartered it.  Quartering it allowed me to easily pull the skin off - trust me, the skin doesn't look appetizing.  Then I used two forks and pulled the meat apart (imagine pulled pork).  I seasoned it with Homemade Taco Seasoning.  That's all.  Add the remaining taco toppings to your favourite soft taco (lettuce, coconut wrap, sheet of nori seaweed...) and you have delicious TONGUE TACOS!  

Have you tried tongue?  What's your favourite way to eat liver or other offal?  If you have any other tongue recipes you like, please share.

Happy, Healthy Eating!
Tracey

WHERE VEGETARIAN AND PALEO MEET

A couple of months ago my 15 year old daughter, Anya, decided to become a vegetarian.  This is a reasonably common decision for teenage girls during a developmental period when their empathy grows, and they make the decision to stop eating meat for ethical reasons.  

If you've been following my blog for a while, then you know that I support a Paleo or Ancestral way of eating that is especially focused on restoring gut health.  I had to go through my own health crisis and journey to reach where I am at today, and that journey included being vegetarian for 10 years.  While I was a vegetarian, my health declined even as the quality of my food increased.  I spent several days completely bedridden each month with extreme nausea and fatigue, and I suffered from Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Disorder that at times left me vomiting and exhausted after exposure to perfumes or chemicals that off-gassed.  Finally an alternative practitioner told me I had to start eating meat again, and that was the turning point in regaining my health.  That was long before I became a nutritional consultant and started researching the gut microbiome and intestinal permeability (leaky gut).  Once I understood how inflammatory grains and legumes were in the gut there was no turning back.  I am not 100% free of my chemical sensitivities, but the nausea and fatigue are long gone, and the hay fever that I've suffered from since I was a child is also gone.

So you can probably imagine my reaction when my daughter stopped eating meat.  I should mention that like me, she also suffers from chemical sensitivities and hay fever.  We have spend many hours discussing leaky gut, and how being a vegetarian will make it worse, but at 15 years of age she doesn't have a frame of reference to really understand what it means to be in poor health.  At this stage, the life of an animal is more important to her than her own health.

When I realized she had stopped eating meat we had a discussion about what a good vegetarian diet looks like to ensure she is getting complete proteins (all the amino acids the human body needs to repair and grow).  I told her that legumes, and nuts and seeds needed to be part of her diet.  I emphasized how often people just take meat out of their diet without understanding the need to replace the nutrients that meat provides.

The next step was to inspire Anya with great vegetarian recipes that were still nutrient dense.  Sadly there seem to be very few good vegetarian cookbooks.  I think I have signed out every cookbook the Calgary Library offers, and have been dismayed by most of them.  Entree recipes typically rely on pasta or bread with vegetables.  Rarely are there recipes that ensure adequate protein combinations.

WHERE VEGETARIAN AND PALEO MEET

One of the biggest dilemmas has been finding meal ideas that everyone can eat, but luckily there are a few sources of complete protein that fit into both a vegetarian and a Paleo diet.  These ideas can be great to take to dinner parties or social events where you don't know the dietary needs of people.

Vegetables and Fruit
Luckily all vegetables and fruit can be eaten on both diets with the exception of potatoes.  Some people on a Paleo diet can eat potatoes, but from a gut-healthy perspective they are too high in carbs, and people with autoimmune conditions can react to them.  It's very easy to find a wide variety of vegetable dishes including salads, stir-fries, roasted vegetables and soups.

Fats
Avocado oil, olive oil and coconut oil are all plant based fats that are great for both vegetarians and Paleo eaters alike.  Use coconut oil for cooking.  Olive oil should only be used for salads or drizzled over dishes - never cooked with.

Protein Sources
Hemp Seeds - these offer complete proteins and can be used in a variety of ways including making hemp seed milk.
Chia Seeds - these great little seeds also offer complete protein, as well as omega 3 fatty acids.  
Spirulina - an algae that contains complete protein.  Can be added to smoothies.
Other nuts and seeds - not complete proteins, but a great source of fats, and flours and butters can be used for baking.
Eggs - a nutrient powerhouse and a complete protein.  They are incredibly versatile for those people who tolerate them.
Raw or Cultured Dairy - raw milk is difficult to get in Alberta.  I suggest everyone avoid pasteurized milk.  Cultured dairy includes yogurt, kefir and aged, lactose-free cheeses, which all offer complete proteins.  Dairy isn't tolerate well by many people, and lactose should always be avoided when restoring gut health.

NOTE:  If you are in the early stages of an autoimmune protocol, then none of these sources of protein are good options - stick to animal proteins.

MEAL IDEAS

Cooking for the whole family has been challenging over the last couple of months, but we have found some great favourites that everyone can eat.

 I don't need to sweeten my hemp seed porridge when I add seasonal fruit, but my daughter likes hers sweetened.

I don't need to sweeten my hemp seed porridge when I add seasonal fruit, but my daughter likes hers sweetened.

Frittatas - eggs and a collection of a variety of vegetables.  An easy and simple idea for any meal.  Try mushrooms, spinach and black olives.  Cheese can be added for those who tolerate it.
Smoothies - leafy greens, fruit, MCT oil and water or a milk alternative.
Hemp & Chia Seed Porridge - served with fruit this dish makes a hearty breakfast.   Try this recipe.  For a gut-healthy version use honey as the sweetener.
Vegetable Fritters - grate up a variety of root vegetables or zucchini, and mix them up with eggs.  Form into patties and bake or fry.  Great to freeze or grab on the go.
Almond flour or coconut baking - muffins, cakes, and breads can all be made with a variety of Paleo flours and eggs.  My current favourite are Blueberry Lemon Muffins.
Nut & Vegetable Patties - These add variety to the Vegetable Fritters we make.  Try this recipe.

Are you living in a household with a variety of dietary needs?  What are your strategies to simplify meal preparation?  

Happy, Healthy Eating!
Tracey
PS:  Do you want more relevant information about gut health?  Check me out on FaceBook.

FAT BOMB LATTES - A GREAT WAY TO START THE DAY

As I write this, I'm about a week into a ketogenic diet (I'll explain why in next week's blog).  I'm doing a modified or low-ketogenic version of the diet, because it allows me to keep the nutrient density high in terms of micronutrients like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other phytochemicals.  Historically a ketogenic diet has been used to manage epilepsy, but now studies are revealing a significant reduction in symptoms of Alzheimer's (on a modified ketogenic diet), and David Perlmutter recently discussed promising new research showing a reduction in Parkinson's symptoms (watch here).  The use of a ketogenic diet or a modified version of the diet has significant implications for neurological conditions.

Here's a brief outline of what my meals look like:

Water with electrolytes:  I drink a huge glass of warm water with some added electrolytes when I wake up.  The added electrolytes help me transition into a ketogenic diet without common side effects.  I also drink this between meals.  I like to use ConcenTrace, a liquid ionic mineral supplement.  I won't always need to add electrolytes - it's just to help get my body through the transition of using glucose, to using ketones as my primary fuel source.

Fat Bomb Latte:  I drink a large Fat Bomb Latte an hour or two after waking. (see recipe below)

Lunch:  A combination of 3 cups of vegetables like leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts...) or other low-carb vegetables, like celery, cucumber, asparagus, or zucchini.  Grass-fed animal protein like a chicken drumstick, a hamburger patty, a couple of eggs or any other meat (I love liver, so often have it at lunch).  Then I add a few tablespoons of fat that include MCT or coconut oil.  My current favourite is asparagus (which is seasonal right now) drenched in grass-fed butter.

Dinner:  Very similar to lunch except that I have a carb-up, which means that I have a small serving of a carb-rich vegetable like beets, carrots or winter squash, or some berries.  These foods provide a small amount of carbs, but also allow me to get a variety of nutrients and antioxidants that might otherwise be lacking in a ketogenic diet.  An evening carb-up can also help mitigate some of the side effects that some people experience on a ketogenic diet, and many people find they sleep better with the addition of a carb-up.

MCT Oil:  Since I am doing a modified or low-ketogenic diet I make sure to include some medium-chain triglyceride oil (MCT oil) with each meal.  MCTs are able to enhance ketone production.  MCT oil is easily absorbed and doesn't require bile or pancreatic enzymes, so anyone suffering from digestive issues or compromised digestion can still absorb MCTs.  Once absorbed, these fatty acids easily cross into cell mitochondria where they are metabolized and form ketones.  The best food sources of ketones are coconut and palm oils.  Grass-fed butter also has some MCTs but lower amounts than the coconut and palm oils.  You can also purchase a supplemental version of MCT oil, which is what I use in my Fat Bomb Lattes.

The two main meals above don't look that different from a gut-healthy, Paleo diet except that they are higher in fat.  The main difference is that I've replaced breakfast with a Fat Bomb Latte.  It's possible to skip breakfast completely, so that you have a longer fasting period (through the night and later into the day), but I like to spread my fat consumption out a bit, and it's nice to start the morning with a hot, comforting drink.  If you are familiar with Dave Asprey's Bulletproof coffee (coffee with grass-fed butter and MCT oil), then these lattes are a bit like that.

Fat Bomb Latte.JPG

SPICED FAT BOMB LATTE

I love cacao butter, because it provides a rich creaminess that has the flavour of white chocolate, so this latte recipe uses cacao butter.  

2 cups almond or coconut milk
2-3 tbsp raw cacao butter (approximate)
1 tbsp MCT oil
2 teaspoons Spice Blend such as Smooth-y-Golden Milk Spice Blend or Sweet Delight Spice Blend
1 scoop of collagen powder (about 1 1/2 tbsp)
1-2 teaspoons of monk fruit (low-carb sweetener)

Put the almond or coconut milk, raw cacao butter and spice blend into a small saucepan and heat until the cacao butter has melted.  Pour the mixture into a high-speed blender and add the remaining ingredients.  Blend on high speed until the mixture is frothy.  Pour into a large mug and enjoy.  The monk fruit is optional, but I find adding it helps bring the flavour of the spices out.

What is your favourite fat bomb drink?
Add cacao butter, and MCT or coconut oil to your shopping list.  Buy or make your own Spice Blend.  Start experimenting, and then let me know if you come up with a good recipe.

Happy, Healthy Eating!
Tracey

 

GREEN GOODNESS ON ST. PATTY'S DAY

With St. Patrick's Day falling on a Friday this year, you can bet that a lot of green beer will be consumed.  If green beer isn't your thing, or if you need some beneficial green foods to balance out the effects of that green beer, then I've got you covered.  I've also got a great green food that will go perfectly with that green beer.

Peach & Peashoot Smoothie

2 large peaches or 2 cups frozen peaches
2 cups pea shoots
2 cups water
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon coconut oil or MCT oil (optional)

Blend all the ingredients in a high-speed blender (such as a Vitamix or Nutri-bullet).  Drink this before heading to the bar, or the next morning.

Cream of Cucumber Soup
(Raw Food Made Easy for 1 or 2 people by Jennifer Cornbleet)

1 ½ cups chopped romaine lettuce
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
½ cup water
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon crushed garlic
½ avocado, chopped
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced fresh herbs (dill, mint, tarragon, cilantro) or one teaspoon dried

Put the lettuce, cucumber, water, lemon juice, garlic, and salt in a blender and process on medium speed until smooth.  Add the avocado and oil and process until smooth.  Add the herbs and process just to mix.  Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator, this soup will keep for 2 days.

Throw this into a mason jar and have it for lunch on Friday.

Guacamole Cheat

2-3 ripe avocados
sugar-free salsa
fresh lime juice (optional)

I have to admit I hate chopping food, so this cheat lets me avoid chopping.  Mash up the ripe avocados, mix in salsa to taste (and squeeze in some lime juice if using) and you are done.  Avocados are incredibly nutrient dense, and have healthy fats.  I like to eat mine with flax seed crackers, but it's so good I'll eat it with a spoon.

Happy, Healthy Eating!
Tracey
(PS - beer isn't really part of a gut healthy diet, so if you are going to indulge try to at least get a gluten-free beer.)

 

LOSING HAIR? 3 STEPS TO STOPPING HAIR LOSS

 Is a brush full of hair familiar?  Do you feel like handfuls of hair come out when you wash your hair?

Is a brush full of hair familiar?  Do you feel like handfuls of hair come out when you wash your hair?

Are you suffering from hair loss?  Do you wish you had a bit more hair on your head?

Hair loss can be traumatic for people, especially for woman.  Most people tend to associate hair loss with aging, so it can be particularly difficult for people to deal with when it begins early in life.  On the surface, hair loss seems like an aesthetic concern, but it can be indicative of deeper underlying health issues.

HEALTH ISSUE ASSOCIATED WITH HAIR LOSS

Nutrient deficiencies are one of the areas that has been researched in the area of hair loss.  Some commonly seen deficiencies include having low levels of iron, vitamin D, biotin (vitamin B7) and vitamin C.  One study found a correlation between low iron and vitamin D levels in relation to female hair loss (Source).

Androgenic alopecia, also known as male and female pattern baldness, results from high levels of dihydrotestosterone (DHT).  DHT is converted from testosterone, and then binds to cell receptors on hair follicles, which results in the follicles shrinking.  Regardless of whether you are male or female, DHT can be problematic for your hair follicles.  In men it typically shows up as a receding hairline and follows male baldness patterns, but in women it shows up differently.  In women androgenic alopecia can cause either thinning or patterns that resemble male baldness.  Hormonal health is dependent on a balance of hormones, not necessarily on the amount of one or two hormones.  This means that levels of DHT can be low, but still contribute to hair loss if other hormones aren't balanced with the amount of DHT present.  Control of DHT levels is largely regulated by the amounts of testosterone and other hormones present in the body.

Low thyroid function, also known as hypothyroidism, can be another hormonal reason for hair loss.  When thyroid hormones are low it is not uncommon to have thinning hair.  Stress plays a significant role in reducing thyroid function, as does low levels of selenium in the body.  Gut health plays a role as well, as organisms in your gut are responsible for converted about 20% of T4 to T3, the active form of the hormone.  Other indications that you might have a low thyroid condition include fatigue, weight gain, dry skin and hair, and cold hands and feet.

STEPS TO REVERSE HAIR LOSS

1.  Eat a Nutrient Dense Diet

Ensuring you are getting nutrients associated with reduced hair loss is an important first step.  Foods rich in iron include liver, beef, lamb, and nuts and seeds, with pumpkin seeds coming out on top.  Vitamin D is difficult to get from food sources, but some good sources are cod liver oil, oily fish such as trout and salmon, mushrooms and egg yolk.  Exposing your skin to sunlight is one of the best sources of ensuring we get vitamin D, though you want to ensure you don't burn.  High levels of vitamin C can be found in bell peppers, broccoli, dark leafy greens, citrus fruit and berries.  To find biotin, look to eggs, nuts, liver, meat and oily fish.
Luckily some of these foods have more than one of the nutrients you need.  Make sure you regularly consume liver, meat, oily fish, nuts and seeds and a variety of vegetables and fruit.
You can also add a good quality multivitamin that includes a B Complex to ensure that deficiencies get corrected.

2.  Block DHT

Drink green tea.  Green tea contains EGCG, which has been shown to be protective against the effects of DHT (Source).  If you are a coffee drinker, try replacing your coffee with green tea.
Consume pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oil.  Pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oil block the effects of DHT (Source).  Not only will these help block DHT, but they are rich in iron, as well as zinc.  Try a salad with a dressing made with pumpkin seed oil, or sprinkle seeds on salads, soups or just eat on them on their own.

3.  Get your hormones tested

If dietary changes in the first two steps aren't working, then visit your naturopathic or functional doctor to get hormone testing done.  Both of these types of doctors are well equipped to look at how well your hormones are balanced.  For a comprehensive look you should consider testing for sex hormones, thyroid hormones, and even cortisol (stress hormone).  A variety of treatment options will be available to you.  For a look at some herbal options click here.

Further reading:  

Happy, Healthy Eating!

Tracey

5 MATHEMATICAL MEALS TO SIMPLIFY YOUR LIFE

Love or hate math?

I always liked math when I was in high school, but have little application for it now.  I liked that it had rules that needed to be applied, and as long as you followed the rules you got the right answer.

But you don't need to like math for mathematical meals to make sense.  Making meals can sometimes be challenging, but by applying some simple math concepts you can have a framework to start creating meals from.  The basic concept to creating meals is to have some simple formulas or equations to follow.  Once you find an equation that works for you, then you can use it as a starting point for meal creation.  If you are like me and have a vague shopping list with general items like "vegetables", or "meat", then these equations can also be helpful when you are grocery shopping because it can provide a rough framework for quantities of items to buy.

 Peaches with pea shoots is one of my favourites.

Peaches with pea shoots is one of my favourites.

Here are my top 5 Mathematical Meals

SMOOTHIE
2 cups greens + 2 cups berries + 1 tbsp coconut or MCT oil = smoothie

SALAD
dark leafy greens + grated or chopped colourful veggies + olive oil/apple cider vinegar = salad

EGG DISH
I love eggs and am grateful that I tolerate them, because I know many people don't.  They provide a quick, nutrient dense meal that is fast to create.  Here's my favourite egg equation.
2-3 eggs fried in animal fat + 2-3 cups leafy greens drizzled in olive oil + cultured vegetables = egg dish

 My animal protein in these Squash Pizzas comes from an aged cheese.

My animal protein in these Squash Pizzas comes from an aged cheese.

SOUP
3 cups chopped vegetables + 1 cup ground meat + enough homemade meat stock to cover ingredients = soup

DINNER
pasture raised meat + vegetables roasted in animal fat + salad = dinner

Basic Starter Formula

Not all of my equations follow this formula, but this is my starting point for any meal.

3/4 vegetables or fruit + 1/4 protein + fat = gut-healthy, paleo meal

These formulas are simple, which is why they work.  Meals don't have to be complicated to provide you with the nutrients you need and the variety you crave.  Finding equations that work for you might take a couple of tries, but they can take a lot of the stress out of meal preparation.  Once you have a formula you like you can plug any foods into the equation.  Just like in math where following the rules gives you the right answer, following meal equations will result in wholesome, satisfying meals.

Which mathematical meal do you want to try?
What are some equations that have worked for you?

Happy, Healthy Cooking!
Tracey

CREATINE - A BRAIN BUILDING SUPPLEMENT

Did you know that creatine can help your brain? Creatine is best known as a body building supplement, but taking this amino acid can also have huge implications for brain health.  Creatine is used in the body for energy production, and the highest concentrations are found in muscles and the brain.  Since it is highest in the muscles, it makes sense that body builders use creatine to support recovery from intense exercise and to build muscle mass.  It can be an important supplement for many brain conditions too.

Research has been done looking at creatine supplementation for a wide variety of neurological conditions, including Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, multiple sclerosis and muscular dystrophy.  Much of the research has been done on mouse models, but one practitioner who translated those mouse model dosages to human doses is Terry Wahls, MD.  Dr Wahls is best known for The Wahls Protocol, which she developed to reverse her multiple sclerosis.  In the initial stages of experimenting on herself, she started taking creatine along with other supplements including carnitine and CoQ10.  It is important to note, she did this under medical supervision.  As her protocol evolved she moved towards food sources of these nutrients.  Two of the best sources of these nutrients are liver and heart.

Who Should Consider Creatine Supplementation?

Food sources will always be better utilized by the body, so if you have any kind of neurological condition then consider adding liver or heart to your diet.  Pasture-raised versions of these can be found at health food stores, or you can talk to local farmers about sources.  Don't like liver or heart?  I hide them in meat loaf at a ratio of 3 parts ground meat to 1 part ground liver or heart.  You can also put the liver into a blender and liquify it and mix it into soups.

In acute stages of a disease, or where muscle wasting or muscle function is a concern, therapeutic supplementation might also be beneficial.  If you absolutely can't stomach the idea of consuming organ meats, then supplementation can offer an alternative.

If you think creatine supplementation might be of benefit to you then consult your doctor.  If you have any kidney problems, then this supplement may not be appropriate for you.  Any type of therapeutic supplementation should be medically supervised, whether it's with your GP or an ND.

Creatine Deficiency

Our bodies produce creatine from other amino acids, but there are genetic conditions that hinder the body's ability to use creatine.  These conditions are called cerebral creatine deficiency syndromes, and there are several different conditions that fall under this category: guanidinoacetate methyltranferase (GAMT) deficiency, and l-arginine:glycine amidinotransferase (AGAT) deficiency, and creatine transporter (CRTR) deficiency.

Who Do These Conditions Affect?

Since these disorders are genetic, a diagnosis can be made at any age, but males tend to be affected more due to the fact that it is an x-linked disorder.  These disorders primarily affect the brain including mild to severe cognitive impairment, and speech delays.  People with diagnosis such as autism, ADHD or developmental coordination disorder may have a creatine deficiency syndrome.  Other symptoms can include seizures, slow growth, and delayed motor skills.  A small number of individuals will also have microcephaly,  and/or unusual heart rhythms.

What Do I Do If I Suspect A Creatine Deficiency Syndrome?

If your child or loved one has the symptoms above then it might be worth exploring a creatine deficiency syndrome.  Talk to your doctor to see if it has already been ruled out, and if not, then a urine test can be done to measure creatine levels.  If levels are high, then it means that the body hasn't been able to use the creatine, and is excreting it instead.  If urine tests come back high, then the next step will likely be genetic testing.  Once a creatine deficiency syndrome is confirmed, then a supplement protocol will be suggested.  Supplementation may or may not be beneficial for individuals with these diagnosis, and it is not yet understood why some people benefit and others don't.

Creatine as a Brain Building Supplement

If you suffer from a neurological condition, then getting more creatine into your body is an important dietary step.  Adding liver and/or heart to your meals might just be what your brain craves.  Or talk to your doc about supplementing.

If a creatine deficiency syndrome is present, then testing might provide you with some answers to why symptoms are occurring. 

Start adding liver or heart to your diet today.  A homemade liver pate is hard to resist.  http://paleoleap.com/simple-and-delicious-liver-pate-recipes/

Have you ever supplemented with creatine?  What was your experience?

Happy, Healthy Eating!

Tracey

 

 

MACA DRINK RECIPES

Maca is a root vegetable that is cultivated in Peru, where it grows at high altitudes in the Andes.  I can be yellow, red or black in colour and has a slightly sweet flavor.  Maca is considered to be a Superfood because of its high nutritional profile.  It is high in fiber, protein and minerals.  It is best known for its ability to balance hormones, which makes it a great choice for PMS or fertility problems in women, and for increasing sperm production in men.  It can also help balance blood sugars, and help the body cope with stress.

I’ve created some recipes to help you find tasty ways to add maca into your day.  In addition to these recipes adding 1 teaspoon of maca to a smoothie is easy to do.

 BASIC HOT MACA DRINK

 Ingredients

1 cup almond or coconut milk (carrageenan-free)
1 tsp maca powder
¼ tsp vanilla powder
1-2 tsp honey (optional)

Directions

Heat the milk over medium heat in a saucepan.  Whisk in the maca and vanilla powders, and heat until foam starts to appear.  Pour into a cup and add honey.

 

HOT MACAO

This drink is a great coffee replacement, or is good for chocolate lovers.

 Ingredients

1 cup water
2 tsp raw cacao powder
1 tsp maca powder
1/8tsp vanilla powder
1-2 tsp honey (optional)
almond or coconut milk to taste

Directions

Put cacao, maca and vanilla powders into a mug.  Boil water and pour over the mixture, mixing well.  Add honey and nut or coconut milk if desired.

 

MACA CHAI

I love a huge cup of hot milky chai, so was excited to be able to create a maca version.  The quantities here reflect my love, so feel free to cut the recipe in half.  Heating the spices in the milk helps bring out their flavors.

 

Ingredients

2 cups almond or coconut milk
2 tsp maca powder
¼ tsp Sri Lankan or Cassia cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cardamom
¼ tsp ground cloves
2-4 tsp honey

Directions

Use a blender or hand-held blender to mix the spices and maca into the milk.  Heat in a saucepan over medium heat until frothy. Add honey to taste. 

I HOPE YOU ENJOY THESE AS MUCH AS I DO.  IF YOU PLAN TO DRINK THEM DAILY, THEN MAKE BULK QUANTITIES AND STORE THE MIXTURE IN A GLASS JAR

 

For this bulk batch of the Hot Macao I used:

2 cups of cacao
1 cup of maca
3 tbsp of vanilla powder

Once it’s mixed, you can scoop out a heaping spoonful to add to boiling water.  The benefit of bulk is that you can adjust to your own taste easily and it’s convenient!

These recipes are easy and tasty, so add some maca to your shopping list today.

How else have you tried maca?  What has been your experience with maca?

Happy, Healthy Drinking!

Tracey

 

WHEN FRESH IS NOT BEST

With regular frequency I am asked the question "is it okay to use frozen?"  This question comes up when I am sitting with a client and we are coming up with meal ideas that the client likes and that include the recommendations I have made.  When that question gets asked, the look on the person's face is usually a mixture of guilt and hope.  Guilt, because that person is using frozen already, and hope because they desperately want me to answer "yes" for convenience sake.  I always answer with a resounding YES!  Fresh isn't always best.  That statement is especially true for Northern climates, where the local growing season is short, and reliance on imports is heavy for much of the year.

HARVESTING

When produce is shipped to distant locations, it is picked before it is ripe.  Doing so allows for the fruit to continue to ripen during transit, so that it doesn't go bad before reaching its destination.  The problem with picking vegetables and fruit before it has ripened is that it hasn't reached its full nutrient potential or flavour.  Frozen produce also loses some nutritional value in the freezing process, but it has been picked at peak ripeness.  Nutritional value is likely comparable but the advantage of the frozen product is that because it was allowed to ripen naturally, it is much more flavourful, so you end up with sweet fruit and vegetables that are full of flavour.  

TRANSPORTING

Add the fact that further nutritional value is lost during transport, and imported produce just doesn't measure up when compared to locally grown and picked.  Have you ever purchased bananas that just didn't ever ripen?  Or strawberries that looked big and beautiful, but had no flavour?  Or tomatoes that were beautiful and round on the outside, but mealy and flavourless on the inside?  When that happens it's because these foods were picked much too early to withstand long transport times.

 Here's what I have in my freezer today:  a combination of store bought along with peaches, apricots and bananas that I froze myself.

Here's what I have in my freezer today:  a combination of store bought along with peaches, apricots and bananas that I froze myself.

FROZEN

In contrast, frozen fruits and vegetables have been picked at peak ripeness and are frozen soon afterwards ensuring the best flavours and nutritional content.  A great example of fresh picked and frozen is Stahlbush Island Farms.  You can also freeze your own fruits and vegetables if you have the time and inclination, though there are some techniques, so don't just bring large quantities home and immediately freeze them.  

Fruit needs to be washed, pitted and is best laid out to freeze on baking sheets.  Once frozen it can be packed into air-tight containers or bags and kept in the freezer until needed.  I typically don't freeze vegetables except for in soups and stews, but according to the Joy of Cooking bell peppers can be frozen after washing and seed removal.  Otherwise vegetables need to be blanched or cooked for good freezing results.  It's less work than canning, but if you have your own garden, or have the time to freeze it can save you money and leave you with great produce through the winter months.  Take the time to make sure you are freezing your vegetables correctly.

SHOPPING

So next time you are shopping have a look at where your fruits and vegetables are coming from.  If the label has a far off country on it, then it might be worth considering frozen.  And sometimes it's just better to wait until that food is seasonal.  It's definitely worth the wait to go a few months without tomatoes or asparagus, and enjoy them at their best.

Frozen berries and other fruit are great for smoothies, gut-health/Paleo muffins and other gut-healthy/Paleo desserts.  Frozen vegetables are great for soups and stews, and can be stir-fried.  You can always use a combination of fresh and frozen as well.

What are your favourites?  Do you have recipes that work well with frozen fruits or veg?  I'd love to hear from you.

Happy, Healthy Eating Fresh or Frozen!

Tracey

 

GARDEN SMOOTHIES

This time of year is my favourite time for green smoothies, because the greens come from my garden.  But you don't have to have a garden to enjoy green smoothies.  

Green smoothies have the benefit of getting large amounts of vegetables and fruit into your body in a way that is fast and easy to consume.  Additionally there are some really tasty combinations so that you get a variety flavours, and nutrients from a diverse number of plants.  If you are sick of salads, then smoothies offer another option for getting your leafy greens.  Smoothies also provide a portable, quick meal.  When I have clients scheduled back-to-back, or when I know I'm only going to have 15-20 minutes to eat, then I always pack a smoothie for my lunch.

Smoothie.jpg

FORMULA

I have a pretty simple formula for my smoothies:
50% fruit + 50% greens + fat + liquid = smoothie

This formula is not meant as a rule, but as a guideline to get you started.  It doesn't work for all combinations (see my Strawberry-Mint Smoothie below), but is a useful starting point if you are new to smoothies, or if you want to start branching out and creating your own smoothies.

Other people like to add protein, but from a gut-healthy perspective there aren't a lot of options when it comes to protein additions.  The only protein supplement I encourage people to use is a grass-fed collagen supplement such as Vital Proteins or Bulletproof - these are the two brands available in Calgary's stores.  Adding nut or seed butters primarily adds fat.

FRUIT

Frozen fruit is a great option for smoothies.  If you like a cold, thick smoothie then you can throw the frozen fruit right into your high-speed blender.  I don't like drinking cold things, so I let my frozen fruit thaw overnight before using it.

Fresh fruit works better with some smoothies than others.  I don't like using fresh strawberries - I just find the frozen ones are sweeter.  Fresh fruit is best used in season when it is ripe and juicy.  If you have a large freezer then, buying in bulk at summer markets allows you to save money by buying amazing fresh fruit and freezing it.  Talk to market vendors to see if they offer seconds.  Seconds are the fruit that doesn't look perfect or maybe has a bit of bruising.  You can get some good deals this way if don't mind taking a bit of time to prepare and freeze your fruit.  To freeze fruit, lay pieces out on baking sheets to freeze.  Once frozen you can package it into serving sized bags or containers for storage in your freezer.

GREENS

There are so many leafy greens available on the market now.  If you are new to smoothies, then start with romaine lettuce.  Spinach and baby kale are great.  Many people don't like large kale leaves as they become very fibrous and can be hard on the digestive system.  One of my favourite greens are pea or sunflower shoots, which are very easy to digest and packed with nutrients.  Other greens include collards, dandelion, chard and a variety of herbs.  Dandelion is very bitter, so be prepared for that if you are trying it out.  Greens like arugula and some micro greens have a peppery flavour that doesn't lend itself well to smoothies. The one green I haven't liked in smoothies is beet greens, but if you have a good beet green smoothie, then let me know.  

FAT

Fat added to smoothies has several benefits.  Fats help to utilize the fat-soluble vitamins in the greens. Healthy fats are incredibly important to overall health, especially for hormone production, brain health, and heart health.  Good options for smoothies include avocado, nut or seed butters, full-fat coconut milk, and coconut or MCT oil.

LIQUID

There are a variety of liquids you can add to smoothies.  I usually just add water to mine because it's quick and easy, but full-fat canned coconut milk (carrageenan-free) is great because it also has healthy fats, so you are getting a two-in-one ingredient (fat + liquid).  Coconut water is another option.  I don't recommend using juices, because they raise blood sugar levels.  

TOOLS

You can have the freshest, best quality ingredients, but if you don't have a good blender, you won't get a good smoothie.  Getting a creamy, smooth consistency requires a high-speed blender.    A Vitamix is the best blender I've used, and if you talk to anyone who owns one, they will  likely tell you the same thing.  It can emulsify any ingredients into a beautiful smoothie.  Cost can be a factor though, so for people who can't afford a Vitamix I recommend a NutriBullet.  These blenders are much smaller, and not quite as powerful, but are a great option.  If you are making smoothies for your family, then the size of the Vitamin is definitely an advantage.  We have a Vitamix in our kitchen, and my husband has a NutriBullet at his office - both are great tools.

MY GARDEN FAVOURITES

STRAWBERRY-MINT SMOOTHIE
Apple mint has a mild flavour and the leaves aren't as fibrous as some other mints.  It can be found at some health food stores and farmer's markets, so keep your eyes open for it.  An alternative would be a Mojito mint.  If you have a garden, consider planting it for next year.
2 cups frozen strawberries + 2 large stalks of apple mint + MCT oil + water to desired consistency

Just yesterday I tried Apple mint with peaches and it was AMAZING!

BLUEBERRY-PARSLEY SMOOTHIE
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries + 1-2 cups parsley + full-fat coconut milk + piece of fresh ginger (optional) 

PEACH-KALE SMOOTHIE
2-3 fresh peaches or 2 cups frozen peaches + 2 cups baby kale + 1 avocado + water to desired consistency

KID-FRIENDLY SMOOTHIE
This smoothie doesn't require liquid because the watermelon and lettuce provide enough.  If your child has never had a green smoothie before, then start with a small amount of lettuce and slowly build up over time.  MCT oil has no taste, so is a good way to sneak these in to your child's diet.  This smoothie can also be poured into popsicle molds to make a healthy popsicle.  Use your child's favourite fruits if these don't look appealing.
1 banana and 1 slice from a large watermelon + 2 cups lettuce + MCT oil

Do you have a favourite smoothie you'd like to share?

This is the first post I've done that includes recipes.  Do you want to see more gut-healthy recipe posts?

Further Reading:  The Green Smoothie Revolution by Victoria Boutenko is full of smoothie recipes that utilize every possible leafy green known to man.  

Happy, Healthy Eating!

Tracey

 

MEDICAL ERROR THIRD LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH

Have you seen the news about medical error being the third leading cause of death in the US?  Think about that for a minute!  One of the leading causes of death in the US is from doctor error.  How does that knowledge make you feel about your doctors?  Do a quick on-line search if you haven’t seen the news.  The article was published in the BMJ, and news articles have been published all over the place.

This news is scary for patients, and it’s scary for doctors.  If you are a patient (and most of us have been, currently are, or will be in the foreseeable future) then trust in your doctor might be severely compromised knowing this information.  If you are a doctor then this information is harsh, and likely wounding at the core of what made you become a doctor.  Doctors typically have a calling to help and to heal, but imagine how you would feel with this information.

So why am I posting this blog?  If you read my blog, then you are likely already using a nutritional approach for your own wellness, or are interested in using a nutritional approach.  FOOD IS MEDICINE!  And what’s even better news is that good quality food can’t do harm and it can’t cause death (unless maybe you choke on it).  A nutrient-dense diet the is customized for your health condition has no risks.

Doctors have a vital and important role in our society, but they are also overworked, rely on pharmaceuticals that have risks associated with them, and they are also human, and as humans we all make mistakes sometimes. 

So how do we move forward with this new information?

1.     You are your strongest advocate.  Question your doctor and make sure that the recommendations made are right for you.  Don’t be afraid to say no to recommended treatment and tell your doctor you want time to think about it.

2.     Do your own research.  If you are reading my blog, you are educating yourself.  Keep it up!  Dig deeper!

3.     Change doctors.  If you feel that your doctor isn’t listening to you, or isn’t responding to your concerns, then find another doctor who will.  There are a lot of good doctors out there.  Ask friends and family for recommendations.

4.     If you are in a life-threatening situation, trust the doctor!  If something has taken you to the emergency room, then this is not the time to question the doctor’s decisions.

I’d like to hear your thoughts and concerns.  What are you thinking after hearing this information?

 

SPRING CLEANING FOR YOUR KITCHEN CUPBOARDS

 Feel free to scrutinize my cupboard.  It reflects a family that is half Paleo/GAPS, half whole foods, and 100% tea lovers

Feel free to scrutinize my cupboard.  It reflects a family that is half Paleo/GAPS, half whole foods, and 100% tea lovers

Whether or not spring beckons you to start cleaning, consider a spring-cleaning of your kitchen and pantry.  Take this month to consciously look at what is in your kitchen cupboards and make a move to get rid of processed foods and to restock with whole foods. 

Processed foods are detrimental to our health in several ways.  Refined grains (anything made with flour, even whole grain flours) rapidly affect blood sugar levels, and the fats and oils used in processed foods are heat damaged causing free radical damage in our bodies. Additionally, many processed foods are loaded with sugar and sodium.  Labels on processed foods can be very misleading as well.  A package can claim to be trans fat free, but often companies intentionally make their serving sizes small enough that they don’t have to claim the trans fats on their nutritional labels.  The term “natural” is not regulated, so having it on a package doesn’t really mean anything.

Deciding to get rid of processed foods can be a daunting task.  Here are some tips to help you get started:

1)   Skip breakfast cereals:  these are made from highly processed grains, and the sugar content is high.  Packages make claims like high fiber or high protein, but check the label for sugar!  Instead make or buy a nut and seed based granola that is sweetened with honey (like JK Gourmet).  Serve with almond or coconut milk or over fresh fruit.  On cold days, dump frozen berries into a pot and stew over low heat.  Add a dollop of your favorite fat.  Remove from heat, add a tablespoon of chia seeds, cover and let sit for several minutes before serving.

2)   Clear out the crackers:  full of refined, heat damaged fats, refined grains and sodium, crackers offer very low nutritional value.  If it’s the crunch you like, then replace crackers with raw nuts and seeds, kale chips or seaweed snacks. Flax seed crackers are an excellent replacement.  These can be found at some health food stores and farmer’s markets, or can be made at home.

3)   Ban bars:  granola bars, energy bars and breakfast bars are loaded with sugars.  While these are convenient to grab when you are rushed or on the go, you aren’t doing yourself any favors by consuming them.  Even the healthier versions of bars are full of sugars, though they may use agave syrup or other sweeteners in place of sugar and high fructose corn syrup.  If you need some bars on hand for emergencies, then look for ones that have whole nuts or seeds, use dates, other dried fruit or coconut as sweeteners and that have an ingredient list that you understand.  Another option is to make your own trail mix and package it into small bags or containers.  Try raw pumpkin seeds, cacao nibs and goji berries for a trail mix that is packed with nutrients and anti-oxidants.

If you decide it’s time to purge some of these items from your kitchen, then consider donating unopened items to a food bank or other organization.  If you think there are some packaged foods you can’t live without, then see if you can find a version that has no more than 5 ingredients.  Fewer ingredients is usually an indication of less processing.

These tips will hopefully provide you with a good starting point.  While your cupboards most likely contain the bulk of your processed foods, you may want to keep going and see if your fridge and freezer could also use a spring-cleaning.

Happy, Healthy Eating (and Cleaning)

Tracey

 

IS FOOD STILL FOOD?

When you walk into a grocery store you are confronted with a vast array of food choices.  But how much of what is in the stores can still be considered food?  Food can be defined as any nutritious substance that people or animals eat or drink in order to maintain life and growth.  Some definitions talk about carbohydrates, fats, and proteins along with vitamins and minerals, but I think the 2 phrases “nutritious substance” and “maintain life and growth”, say a lot.

Using that definition, you can walk through any grocery store, pick up an item and ask yourself “Will this nourish me?”, and “Is this necessary for life and growth?”  I’m assuming that most people reading this are adults, so you could eliminate the word “growth” in the second question, unless you are looking to grow horizontally (I’m assuming most of you aren’t.)

With those two questions, it’s very easy to walk into the produce section of any store and answer yes.  Vegetables and fruit nourish us and are necessary for life due to their vitamin, mineral and phytonutrient content.  Move into the meat and fish section, and again you can answer yes to those questions.  Meat, fish, and eggs offer us excellent sources of protein and fat-soluble vitamins.  My preference is always free-range and pasture-raised versions of these foods, but look for antibiotic-free and hormone-free options if you don’t have free-range or pasture raised available to you. 

Keep walking through the store, and other items start to become more vague.  You’ve already got produce and meat in your cart.  These are the most nutrient-dense foods available in the store.  Walk through the bread section.  Unfortunately, compared to the foods in your cart, even the multi-grain breads don’t stack up nutritionally.  And they definitely aren’t needed to maintain life.  Now move into the aisles where the packaged foods are.  Unless you are walking through a health food store there is very little in those aisles that is needed to maintain life or that can be called a nutritious substance.  Look on the nutritional label on the back!  Don’t be fooled by what you see there.  The vitamins listed there are often synthetic vitamins that have been added to the product.  Synthetic vitamins can’t be used by the body in the same way that those occurring naturally in food can, so those numbers don’t give you an accurate picture.  Now look through the ingredient list.  How many words do you recognize as being food.  I’m always a bit shocked looking at ingredient lists.

If you are lucky, you’ll stumble across a few items that meet the criteria to be considered food.  You might find some raw nuts, a natural almond butter, some raw honey or maybe a soup or stew that was made locally.

One really easy way to help you determine if your food is still food is to ask yourself, “Could I hunt this or go out into nature and gather it?”  Step into the shoes of your distant ancestors (no, they wouldn’t actually have had shoes) and look around to see what nature has provided us: fish, game, eggs, greens, berries, root vegetables, nuts and seeds, and seasonal fruit.  Now that’s REAL FOOD!

Happy, Healthy Eating!

Tracey

 

LOVE or HATE LIVER?

Did your mom ever put a plate of liver in front of you as a kid and make you eat it?  A lot of people share this experience with me, and then go on to say that they were traumatized by the experience.  Then there is a small handful of people, like myself, who love liver.  It is a treat for me to be able to prepare it for myself, because the rest of my family doesn't like it.

As usual, mom knows best.  Your mom had good intentions in making you eat your liver.  Liver is the most nutrient-dense food that exists.  It is loaded with iron, phosphorous and potassium, and is full of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.  In fact it is one of the few food sources of vitamins D and K.  Additionally it is also high in folic acid and B12.  In traditional hunter-gatherer cultures the liver was often cut out and given to the person who had made the kill.  It was highly valued and recognized for it's nutritional value.  

Pasture-raised and free-range animals will have a much higher nutrient level that conventionally raised animals, so if you can afford to, then check out your local farmer's market or health food store for these options.

Sometimes people express concern about eating liver, because it is our detoxification organ, and people are worried they will be getting a lot of toxins if they eat it.  Here's what you need to know about the liver:  yes, it is our organ of detoxification, but it metabolizes the toxins, it doesn't store them.  The liver's job is to make toxins safe for our body to be able to excrete them.  Toxins get stored in fat, where they can do the least harm.

So, if you are one of those people who was traumatized by eating liver, what should you do?  How about liver pate?  Usually when I mention pate to people, their eyes light up.  Mmm!  Or you can do what I do with my kids, and put liver into your food processor or blender and then add it to meatloaf or other ground meat dishes.  I do this regularly with meat loaf at a ratio of 1 part liver to 3 parts ground meat.  My meat loaf then gets topped with bacon before going into the oven, because who can resist bacon?

Happy, Healthy Eating!

Tracey