BECAUSE AN ANTI-INFLAMMATORY DIET JUST ISN'T GOOD ENOUGH

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There is a lot written about anti-inflammatory diets, and there is a ton of research looking at the anti-inflammatory effects of foods and supplements.  Fish oil and tumeric are examples of supplements that have been extensively researched.  Take a minute and google 'anti-inflammatory diet', or 'top anti-inflammatory foods', and you'll see just how much information is out there.  Dietary approaches that are anti-inflammatory emphasize vegetables, fruit, healthy fats such as olive oil and the omega-3 oils found in fish, and nuts and seeds.  At the same time they eliminate foods that contribute to inflammation such as refined grains, sugars, and deep-fried foods.  The Mediterranean Diet is a good example of a well researched anti-inflammatory diet.

People can experience some great benefits when they make changes to their existing food choices that include more anti-inflammatory foods.  There is a dilemma with this approach though.  The problem is that an anti-inflammatory diet just manages inflammation.  It does not address why there is inflammation in the first place.  It can be a bit like trying to put out a fire that is still being fed fuel at the same time.  Imagine a fire that is being sprayed with water, while at the same time gasoline is also being continually added.  A similar thing can happen in your body.  You can be feeding it anti-inflammatory foods, but if the inflammation is still being fuelled, then the inflammation might diminish, but will never go away.  If you have an ongoing health condition, then this is likely the case.

WHAT IS FUELLING MY INFLAMMATION?

All chronic health conditions have an inflammatory component.  Whether you have a skin condition, a brain condition, an autoimmune condition, heart disease, digestive struggles or any other ongoing health issues, inflammation will be part of that condition.  Inflammation is a normal part of your body's healing cascade.  It is a part of your immune system's response to fix whatever is wrong in your body.  When a health problem becomes chronic, you need to ask yourself "what's fuelling my inflammation?"

HOW DO I FIGURE OUT WHERE MY INFLAMMATION IS COMING FROM?

To understand what is fuelling your fire, it is important to start digging into possible contributing factors.  Here are some steps you can take to help determine where your inflammation is starting.

1.  Visit your family doctor and request some blood work.  Good markers of inflammation include:
- CRP (C-reactive protein) - this test is a good indicator of overall inflammation
- Fasting insulin and Hemoglobin A1C - these tests will provide a good picture of blood sugar imbalances, which can help you determine if this imbalance is fuelling your fire

2.  Visit a naturopathic or functional doctor.  There are some private lab tests that will help you figure out where your inflammation is stemming from.
- Urine Element Analysis - this test identifies heavy metal toxicity.  Heavy metals can include mercury, aluminum, cadmium, arsenic, lead, and thallium.  If you have worked with any of these substances in your job, if you wear lipstick (many contain lead), if you eat a lot of predatory fish such as tuna, shark or swordfish or if you have received vaccinations, then you may have accumulated some of these metals in your body.  These can be inflammatory, and your doctor can help support safe removal of these from your body.
- Environmental Toxicity - in addition to heavy metals, we are constantly being exposed to other toxins through the air we breathe, the body care products we use, the cleaning products we use, the pesticides and herbicides that are sprayed on our food etc.  As with heavy metals, these can accumulate in some individuals and contribute to inflammation.
- Food sensitivity testing (IgG and IgA) - these tests measure whether or not certain foods are causing an immune reaction.  Any immune reaction involves inflammation.  If you are reacting to foods, then there is something deeper going on, so you'll still need to go one step further to figure out the origins of your inflammation, such as testing for leaky gut.
- Leaky gut - there are a variety of tests available to test if your intestines are permeable.  Intestinal permeability (or leaky gut) allows a variety of molecules (including food molecules that trigger an IgG response) to leak through the intestinal barrier into your body.  When this happens your immune system reacts, resulting in inflammation.
- Comprehensive Stool Analysis - this test gives you a general picture of what is going on with your gut microbiome.  Your microbiome plays a large role in modulating and regulating your immune system, so if something shows up with this test (an overgrowth or an insufficiency) it can directly or indirectly impact inflammation.  Food sensitivities can result when your microbiome is imbalanced.  This test can also help determine if you have a parasitic infection.
- Organic Acids Test (OATS) - sometimes metabolic products resulting from your body's own processes, or those produced by your gut microbiome can contribute to inflammation.  This test will show you if some of your metabolites are outside of the normal range.  I find this test useful when you have had some of the other tests done, and have addressed those aspects of your inflammation, but are still struggling with ongoing inflammation.
- Infections - infections can be bacterial, fungal, parasitic or viral.  Acute infections are easy to identify, but low-grade chronic infections can be harder to figure out, and might be fuelling your inflammation.  The kind of testing you do will be based on a doctor's evaluation, but might include the amount and type of antibodies found in your blood, white blood cell counts, or testing for something specific like H. pylori.  It's important to work with your doctor to figure out if any type of infection is present.

A DIET THAT ADDRESSES INFLAMMATION

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There are dietary approaches that address the root causes of your inflammation.  A Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), The Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) Diet, and Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) are all designed to address leaky gut, and feed your microbiome in a way that supports beneficial species and starves out pathogenic ones.  An AIP diet also addresses many of the most common food sensitivities, but SCD and GAPS can also be customized to address these. All three of these protocols can be considered Paleo or ancestral types of diets that are gut-healthy.

Once you have explored possible sources of toxicity or low-grade infection, then the option exists to pursue various treatment options through your naturopathic or functional doctor, and you can support those treatments with dietary recommendations specific to your area of concern.

If you are eating a lot of anti-inflammatory foods, then keep up the good work!  You are already  well on your way!  

 If you are still struggling with your symptoms, then maybe its time to start digging a bit deeper, and ask yourself where your inflammation is coming from.  Start by scheduling an appointment with your family doctor.

What is fuelling your fire?

Happy, Healthy Eating!
Tracey
PS - I'll be taking a break for the summer, so you won't see a blog article until the fall.

 

 

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

HORRAY! PRIMAL KITCHEN HAS MADE IT TO CALGARY

I'm a bit late it sharing this news, so I apologize for that.  I don't often promote or endorse a product unless I know it strictly complies to a gut-healthy diet, and the quality is good.

Primal Kitchen mayonnaise has long been a favourite of mine.  It is the only mayo on the market that I know of that is 100% grain free (using a non-grain derived vinegar), and it uses only avocado oil (a healthy fat).  Additionally it is sugar free, soy and canola free and dairy free.  Every time my husband would travel to the States for business, I would ask him to pick up several jars of Primal Kitchen mayonnaise to bring back, but now he doesn't need to do that anymore!  Prior to discovering it, I made my own mayo at home, which was amazing too, but it takes time to make, and I didn't always have the time.  Sound familiar?

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For the last couple of months Primal Kitchen mayonnaise and salad dressings have been in most of the health food stores in Calgary, so next time you are shopping have a look to see if it's on the shelf of your local store.

If you don't tolerate eggs, then these products aren't suitable for you.  But if you do, go out and grab some!  Dip grilled shrimp into it, mix it with cultured pickles (like Bubbies brand) for a quick tartar sauce to go with fish,  add some garlic to it for a mouth watering aioli, spread it over your bunless burger, or use it in salad dressings.  

 The salad dressings have some thickening agents in them like tapioca starch and cream of tartar, so these won't be suitable for everyone, especially if you are in the early stages of your gut-health recovery.

The salad dressings have some thickening agents in them like tapioca starch and cream of tartar, so these won't be suitable for everyone, especially if you are in the early stages of your gut-health recovery.

On a similar note, I continue to be an advocate for you in getting more gut-healthy products on store shelves.  I communicate with local businesses about the need for these products, but change is happening slowly, so I'm starting to explore other options.

I recently placed my first order with Vitacost in the States.  There are some great products available in the States that haven't made their way into the Canadian market yet, but Vitacost will ship to Canada, and it's free over $100.  My order is on its way, and will be here very soon.  I've ordered a variety of grab-and-go items that fit a Paleo, gut-healthy lifestyle.  I'll be sharing these items with you on Facebook as I try out each one.  If you aren't already following me on Facebook, but want to find out about the foods I'll be trying, just click on the link.

What condiments do you miss, or not have time to make?  Ketchup? BBQ sauce?
Add Primal Kitchen mayo to your shopping list!

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.

YOU'LL LOVE COOL CUCUMBER SOUP ON HOT SUMMER DAYS

Cold soups don't have a lot of appeal most days of the year, especially living in Canada, but on those days where it's sweltering hot, nothing beats a cold soup.  In Calgary, we had some of those sweltering days last week, and a few more are expected in the coming days, so cold soup will be a welcome treat.  The best part is that Cucumber Soup only requires a blender to prepare, so in addition to being a tasty, cool meal, it is incredibly easy to make.

I have a simple Basic Cucumber Soup recipe, and then you can choose from any of the following variations, or create your own.  These recipes are gut-healthy, Paleo, and can easily be adapted to a Keto diet, by adding more olive oil.  Serves 4.

Have you made a cold soup before?  Has soup making ever been this easy?

Happy, Healthy Eating!
Tracey

 

Basic Cuke Soup

2 English cucumbers, chopped
1 ripe avocado, pitted, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 small clove of garlic
1 teaspoon sea salt or Himalayan salt

Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend until creamy.  Add water if needed to create a thinner consistency.

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Herb & Lemon Soup

Juice from a lemon
Handful each of fresh dill, and oregano (or your favourite fresh herbs)

Add these two ingredients into the basic soup and blend on high-speed until the herbs are chopped.  If you like an intense lemon flavour, add the zest from the lemon a well.

Green Curry Soup

Juice from 3 limes
3 handfuls fresh mint
1 heaping tablespoon green curry paste
dash of your favourite hot sauce (optional)

Add the first 3 ingredients into the basic soup and blend on high-speed until the herbs are chopped. Sprinkle in a bit of hot sauce to taste.

Sweet Green Goddess

3 pears, chopped and seeded
3 handfuls fresh mint

Add these two ingredients into the basic soup and blend on high-speed until the herbs are chopped.  The pears might seem like an unusual addition for soup, but they make this soup very refreshing on a hot day.

PALEO TORTILLA CHIPS! - I'M IN HEAVEN

I don't normally write about a specific product, but I was so excited by these chips during a recent trip I took last week to San Diego that I had to share.

Sometimes being on a Paleo, gut-healthy diet is tough.  You can only eat at higher-end restaurants (which I'm not really complaining about, but it does limit your options), you often have to ask for substitutions when eating out, and you inevitably need to spend some time in your own kitchen (which is great if you like to cook, not so great if you don't like to cook).  One of my biggest frustrations is finding great products when I travel to the States, but not being able to get them locally.  I've written about this before.

So there I was perusing the aisles of Whole Foods in San Diego, and getting some Primal Kitchens Mayo, and some Epic bars - there were even amazing Paleo choices at their cafeteria style buffet where I loaded up a container for lunch one day - when I saw Grain Free Tortilla Chips.  I immediately grabbed a couple of bags and threw them into our cart.  These chips are produced by Siete, which is a family owned company that started supporting Veronica, a family member suffering from multiple autoimmune conditions, by creating grain-free tortillas and chips.  These are AMAZING!  In fact I would go so far as to say that these are better than any tortilla chip I've ever eaten.  Made from cassava flour, avocado oil, coconut flour, ground chia seed and sea salt, these chips rival the best with their crunch and flavour.

So next time you are visiting the States, leave room in your suitcase for a few bags of tortilla chips.  I even brought a bag back for my young son, who has the most sensitive of guts, and he LOVES them, and hasn't had any tummy troubles.  He was pretty excited to be able to eat a chip again.  I won't lie - I went through 4 bags in the 5 days we were on our trip.  Probably not the healthiest thing to do (still a processed food), but like I said sometimes eating this way is tough, and it was an indulgence that I didn't feel guilty about.

Want to see more products like this on local store shelves?
Talk to the customer service staff at your local health food store and inquire.  If there is enough demand, they'll start bringing in more products.  I'm trying to set up a meeting with SPUD to see if they are willing to carry more Paleo goods.
You are your strongest advocate, so if you want to see more Paleo products on store shelves, then let the store you shop at know.

Happy, Healthy Eating (and Shopping)!

Tracey

TIGERNUT TROUBLES

Do you ever buy something at the grocery store not really knowing what you are going to do with it?  I've done this with Tigernut butter, Tigernut flour and Tigernuts.  Once I get home, I start searching for recipes online, and then start trying different things out.  The trouble is that I haven't found anything I like that uses Tigernuts.

 Soaked Tigernuts over raspberries.

Soaked Tigernuts over raspberries.

Tigernuts aren't actually a nut.  They are a small tuber, just like potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams and cassava.  They have a sweet nutty taste, and can be a great alternative to nuts for people who have allergies or sensitivities to nuts, or who are on an autoimmune protocol.  Tigernuts are high in fibre, and are a good source of monounsaturated fats.  There are many claims that they are also high in resistant starches, but I haven't seen research supporting that claim.  Other raw tubers are high in resistant starches though, so it would make sense that this one is as well. Tigernuts are dehydrated to make them shelf-stable, and the end result looks a bit like a tiny dried wild mountain fig.  These little tubers have been embraced by the Paleo and Autoimmune communities.  I suspect that they are not SCD or GAPS compliant, due to the fact that other tubers aren't allowed on these protocols, and the high fibre content could be irritating to the gut lining.

 AIP Eat More Bars

AIP Eat More Bars

MY TROUBLES

I keep trying to find a recipe I like.  Here's my experience to date:
1.  Flour:  I tried a variety of pancake recipes, but they all seemed gooey on the inside and burnt on the outside.
2.  Whole:  I tried using the dried Tigernuts the same way I would use nuts.  I made AIP Eat More Bars, which are a sweet treat, but I find the Tigernuts to be too hard and fibrous to be enjoyable.  Then I decided to try soaking them, and put them over a bowl of berries - still too hard and fibrous to be enjoyable.  
3.  Tigernut Milk:  I haven't actually tried making this, because I know from past experience (and a bit of research to confirm) how labour intensive milks are to make, and then you have the pulp to deal with.  Dehydrated pulp makes a mediocre flour that is gritty.
4.  Tigernut Spread:  This is very similar to any other nut butter.  To date it's my favourite way to eat Tigernuts.  It's good on celery sticks or for dipping fruit into.

Have you had similar troubles with finding a way to enjoy a food?  Kale?  Liver?
Do you have a Tigernut recipe that you really enjoy?  If you do, please share!

Happy, Healthy Eating!
Tracey

EASTER SCONES

These scones incorporate the traditional flavours of a Hot Cross Bun, but in a gut-healthy version.  Made with almond flour, these scones have healthy fats and are packed with minerals.  

Ingredients:
3 cups almond flour
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda (aluminum free)
1 tsp. Cassia/Sri Lankan cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
3 eggs
¼ cup honey
½ cup currants or raisins
Zest from one orange

Directions:
Place the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl and stir together.
Add beaten eggs and honey to the dry mixture
Add currants and zest and mix well.
Drop roughly ¼ cup sized spoonfuls onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.
Makes 1 dozen scones. Serve these fresh from the oven with butter.

What's your favourite Easter treat?
Do a quick on-line search to see if you can find a Paleo, gut-healthy version.

Happy, Healthy Easter!
Tracey

 

 

 

 

MY 2 FAVOURITE WAYS TO EAT RESISTANT STARCHES

Ever heard of resistant starches?  Not many people have, but they can be an important part of a gut-healthy diet.  Most people can benefit from adding some resistant starches to their diet.

Resistant starch is starch that doesn't digest in the small intestine.  It is resistant to digestion.  Since it doesn't digest in the small intestine, it continues along the GI tract to the large intestine where it has beneficial effects.  In the large intestine, the resistant starch provides a food source for the beneficial species of the microbiome.  When these species metabolize the starches a very important end-product results - short chain fatty acids.  Butyrate is one of those short chain fatty acids, and it is the preferred fuel for the cells lining the large intestine.   So by eating resistant starch you end up with two important things:  a happy microbiome and happy intestinal cells.

 Plantain Pancakes:  these are simple and tasty whether they are made with or without eggs!

Plantain Pancakes:  these are simple and tasty whether they are made with or without eggs!

GUT-HEALTHY RESISTANT STARCHES

Raw potatoes
Cooked and cooled potatoes
Potato and tapioca starch
Green bananas
Plantains
Cooked, cold white rice

MY FAVOURITES

The problem with some of the resistant starch sources, is that they aren't very yummy.  I don't know about you, but raw potatoes or green bananas aren't among the foods I like to eat.  Potato and tapioca starch can be used in some gut-healthy, Paleo baking (once the baked item has cooled), and some people mix unmodified potato starch into a glass of water, but there are much tastier ways to get resistant starches.  Here are my two favourites:

Plantain Pancakes

2 plantains
1 egg (optional)
coconut oil, ghee or butter for frying

Blend the plantains and the egg in a blender or food processor until creamy.  If you can't eat eggs, then omit the egg and just puree the plantain.  Heat oil in a ceramic or cast-iron frying pan over medium heat. Place a heaping tablespoon of puree  in the pan and spread into a 3-4 inch circle using the back of a spoon.  Cook until both sides are golden brown.  Easiest pancake ever.  These are great with nut butter, and leftovers are easy to pack for snacks or lunches. Makes 10-12 pancakes.

Potato Salad

2 pounds cubed, steamed or roasted potatoes that have been refrigerated
2 tablespoons Primal Kitchen Mayo
2 tablespoons chopped dill pickles or Bubbies Kosher Dill Relish
chopped green onion for garnish (optional)
season with sea salt and ground pepper to taste

 Potato Salad:  a summertime favorite

Potato Salad:  a summertime favorite

Everyone has their own way of making potato salad, so go ahead and follow your favourite way.  I love Primal Kitchen Mayo, because it is the only commercially produced mayo I've found that conforms to a gut-healthy, Paleo diet.  Unfortunately it's a bit tricky to get - I have my husband get it whenever he travels to the States on business.  Using Bubbies Relish is another shortcut I like to use to cut down on preparation time.  It's available in local health food stores.
With BBQ season around the corner, potato salad is a nice addition to whatever you are throwing on the grill.  Potatoes are not normally part of a gut-healthy protocol, but eaten cold they are great.

WHO SHOULDN'T EAT RESISTANT STARCHES?

If you suffer from IBS then eating resistant starches may aggravate your condition, so use caution and avoid them if they contribute to symptoms.

So add some resistant starch sources to your grocery list, whether it's plantains or potatoes.

Do you have a recipe that uses resistant starches that you like?

Happy Healthy Eating!
Tracey




 

PALEO ON THE GO

Ever made a dash out the door without your Paleo grub and not been able to find good food?  Ever been in an airport searching for something Paleo to eat?  Ever wonder how to survive a gut-healthy, Paleo style of eating on the go?

I just returned from a ski trip to Idaho, and it was a reminder of how far behind the Canadian market is in supplying Paleo foods that are easy and convenient.  I was in a small town called Ketchum, and was pleasantly surprised to be able to get Paleo granola, and crackers at its local grocery store.   It was so nice to be able to buy these without making a special trip.  I had anticipated having to travel into a larger town that had a health food store.  It was such a relief not to have to do that.

Sometimes it's frustrating and time consuming to manage a Paleo, gut-healthy diet, but here are a few things I do to make it easier:

1.  Jugo Juice - a kale smoothie from Jugo Juice is a great on-the-go option.  On this trip I was thrilled to enter the new terminal at the Calgary airport and find a Jugo Juice open in the early morning hours.  I don't like cold drinks, so I ask them to make it without ice.  It's still cold, but not brain-freeze cold.  If you have a juice or smoothie bar near your work or home that uses fresh, organic ingredients, even better.

2.  Paleo baking - having some almond or coconut flour muffins made and in your freezer is a great on-the-go snack to have handy.  Whether you didn't have time for breakfast, need an instant lunch to pack, or just need a snack to can take along with you, muffins will have you covered.  I like to make unsweetened varieties that can be made into a sandwich.  Baked goods are never an issue going through customs at airports, so for this trip my carry-on bag was full of muffins to supply us with breakfast on the plane.

3.  Seaweed Snax - the package says 'Strangely Addictive!', and indeed they are.  If you miss the crunch of a potato chip, or like a salty, crispy snack, then Seaweed Snax are a good option.  Seaweed is a great source of trace minerals, and I like that this brand uses olive oil.  These get gobbled up in our household in packed school lunches and as snacks.

Take some time this weekend to make a batch of Paleo muffins.  
What is your favourite grab-and-go Paleo food?

Happy, Healthy Eating!
Tracey

 

 

5 SIMPLE TIPS FOR A TRADITIONAL CHRISTMAS DINNER WITH A GUT-HEALTHY TWIST

Wondering how to prepare for a traditional Christmas dinner while still supporting your gut?  Feeling a bit overwhelmed at the idea of a Paleo Christmas?

Don't worry.  It's much easier than you think.  Here are a few simple ideas to ensure you have a delicious, traditional meal that no one will even know is Paleo and gut-healthy.

Keep the Turkey and Ham
You won't need to change anything here.  Whether your traditional meal involves turkey or ham, you can keep it.  Look for pasture raised animals, and if you plan on ham, then make sure it is traditionally cured and doesn't contain nitrates. 

Add a Vegetable Gravy
Yum!  If you have never tried this, it's worth it.  Just puree chicken stock with well cooked vegetables.  Easy, delicious, and a super way to add vegetables to Christmas Dinner.  My favourite is a Cauliflower Gravy by The Paleo Mom

Replace Mashed Potatoes
There are a few different things that work well to replace mashed potatoes.  Mashed cauliflower is a classic Paleo replacement, but if you are already using the Cauliflower Gravy, then you'll likely want to try something else.  Mashed butternut squash or mashed kohlrabi are two of my favourites.  Cut these into cubes and steam them, or whole squash can be roasted instead.  Once cooked, add a full-fat canned coconut milk, or a nut milk and butter/ghee and mash or puree until you reach the desired consistency.  Season with a bit of Himalayan or sea salt.  

Stuffing
Stuffing looks a bit different when it's gut-healthy, but that doesn't mean flavour gets compromised.  There are so many different recipes out there, that I can't even choose one to recommend.  Do a search for paleo stuffing recipes to find one you like.  To make it gut-healthy replace sweet potato with squash, and if there is maple syrup, then use honey instead.  My mouth is watering just thinking about stuffing.  I've eaten stuffing on it's own as a meal, so go ahead and make extra.

Traditional Baking Reworked
I grew up with a German mom, and Christmas in our household revolved around traditional German baking.  Breakfast on Christmas day included stollen, which is a loaf that is full of nuts, dried fruit and candied citrus peel.  After Christmas dinner, a variety of 13 different kinds of cookies and 3 kinds of fruit bread were laid out.  While I have never been able to match the quantity of baking my mom accomplished (I have no idea how she did it), I have been able to convert my favourites into gut-healthy versions.  My stollen and fruit bread is made with almond flour, and I use date sugar or date paste instead of sugar, since honey burns easily and these two items take a long time to bake.  My favourite cookies have also been converted.

What is your favourite traditional dessert?  Do an online search by typing the name of your recipe and adding Paleo to your search title.  Chances are good you'll find something.  If not, you can experiment on your own.  That's what I did - I can't guarantee your success, but it has worked very well for me, and I get to have the flavours I associate with the holidays in a way that supports my gut-health.

Do you have a gut-healthy holiday favourite?
Which of these simple tips will you try this holiday season?

Happy, Healthy Holiday Eating!
Tracey

 

HOLIDAY GIFT IDEAS FOR THAT PALEO, GUT-HEALTHY PERSON ON YOUR LIST

Looking for a gift idea for that person in your life who is working hard to improve their health.  Or maybe you are that person, and would like to give your loved ones a few hints to help them make a gift choice that will support you towards wellness.

BOOKS

Eat Fat, Get Thin Cookbook - Bestselling author Mark Hyman M.D. follows his latest book Eat Fat, Get Thin with a cookbook.  Mark has coined the term Pegan diet (Paleo + Vegan), which refers to a diet that is high in plant foods, and where meat is viewed as a condiment rather than the main part of the meal.  His latest book obviously focuses on the health benefits of eating healthy fats, so if you are looking for ways to include those healthy fats into great recipes, then this book is for you.

Against All Grain Celebrations - Danielle Walker has come out with another cookbook where she chronologically lays out beautiful recipes for holidays throughout the year.  Menu plan ideas are included, and the recipes are visually stunning, making them a perfect way to celebrate special days.  She has also included a section for birthday celebrations.  If you enjoy time in the kitchen, making special meals, then this is a good choice.

FOOD

Kombucha Starter Kit - Kombucha is all the rage right now.  It's tasty, effervescent, and teaming with beneficial organisms for your gut.  Kits are available to get you started and you'll need a scoby (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast).  You can order a scoby online, grow your own from a store-bought unflavoured kombucha or see if anyone you know has a scoby they can give you.  A starter kit can be a great gift for someone who is already a kombucha enthusiast, or for someone who likes experimenting in the kitchen.

Chocolate - In our home there is always a bit of chocolate in stockings and the kids still love checking the advent calendar each day until Christmas.  There aren't a lot of options when it comes to gut healthy chocolate, but Heavenly Organics has melt-in-your-mouth patties with a creamy honey-chocolate filling.  Individually wrapped, or in packages of 3, these make great stocking stuffers, or can be a treat for yourself and friends at social gatherings.  Check out Heavenly Organics.

Smooth-y-Golden Milk Spice Blend - This spice blend can be added to your favourite milk alternative and heated to create a hot drink that not only satisfies your taste buds, but the golden tumeric has many health properties, including soothing the gut.  It can be sweetened with honey, and makes a great drink for any cold, wintery day, or while enjoying time in front of the fireplace.  This blend is created by Spice Sanctuary.

Honey - Did you know there are hundreds of different honeys?  Types are categorized by their source, and their colour, flavour and aroma differ significantly.  Much of the honey on store shelves is clover honey.  Surprise someone with a bold, dark buckwheat honey, or a pale orange blossom honey.  Visit your local health food store or farmers market to find a variety of distinct, unpasteurized local honey.

BODY CARE

Routine Deodorant - Maybe deodorant seems like an odd gift, but when you think of reducing a loved one's exposure to chemicals it makes sense.  Routine is made locally in Calgary and it does a fantastic job of reducing body odour without any of the crazy chemicals.  It comes in a variety of subtle scents for both men and women, as well as unscented (my favourite) and a couple of varieties for those with extra-sensitive skin.  It's sold in many locations throughout Calgary, and is a great stocking stuffer.

Hand Made Soaps - Many health food stores and farmer's markets sell a variety of hand-made soaps.  These come in a unique assortments of scents and are made with an assortment of natural ingredients.  It's nice to wash with soap that has an ingredient list that you could actually eat.  Another good stocking stuffer, or small gift idea.  

Hopefully these ideas will help you with your holiday gift giving, or inspire a few more ideas.

Happy Healthy Shopping and Giving!

Tracey

 

CALGARY'S BEST PALEO BURGERS

Love a good burger?  Burgers are associated with summer BBQs, eating out with friends, and are a tasty, quick meal both at home and when out.

Do you miss being able to eat a burger on your Paleo, gut-healthy diet?  The good news is that you don't need to miss them.

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY ABOUT BURGERS

A home-cooked burger made from pasture-raised meat is a great nutrient-dense food to consume.  That's the good part.  The bun isn't going to support your journey to better health.  That's the bad part.  Burgers prepared in restaurants often contain a variety of fillers that can compromise your health efforts and often make you feel worse.  That's the ugly part.

But this doesn't mean you can't find and enjoy a good burger.  

CALGARY'S BEST PALEO BURGERS

Here are 4 great burgers that I've found in Calgary.  

 Silver Sage is the easiest to eat with your hands.  You can see my burger and avocado peaking out of the large lettuce wrap.

Silver Sage is the easiest to eat with your hands.  You can see my burger and avocado peaking out of the large lettuce wrap.

1.  Silver Sage in the Calgary Farmers' Market.  
Silver Sage offers a variety of toppings that conform to a Paleo, gut-healthy diet.  I like to get tomato and avocado, and there are some lactose free cheeses if you tolerate dairy.  They couldn't confirm that the bacon they used was gluten-free, and they do grill their buns on the same grill, so if you have a severe gluten sensitivity then be cautious.  Request a lettuce wrap instead of a bun, and you will be served your burger wrapped up in a checkered paper wrap for easy eating - just fold the wrap down as you go.

2.  Flippin' Burgers
Located in Kensington, this small location only does burgers and fries.  The burgers are flame grilled.  There are some great add-on ingredients that are Paleo and gut-healthy.  I haven't asked about their bacon, so if you are there ask, and let me know.  I request a lettuce wrap, and the burger gets served on a lettuce leaf and accompanied by a large cutting knife, so you can eat it with cutlery.  Depending on my mood I'll either use fork and knife, or wrap it up in the lettuce and eat it with my hands.  Buns are grilled on the same grill, so again be cautious if you have a severe gluten sensitivity.

 Burger 320 is usually served on a wooden board, but I did take away.  I splurged on bacon here, but don't know if it's gluten-free.

Burger 320 is usually served on a wooden board, but I did take away.  I splurged on bacon here, but don't know if it's gluten-free.

3.  Burger 320
Burger 320 has a Bridgeland location and a Kensington location.  They use only flank in their burgers.  No lettuce here, but they have a side of arugula, so I ask for my burger to be served on a bed of it.  Definitely need a fork and knife.  I like to get brie on my burger here, so if you tolerate dairy it's a nice non-traditional topping.  They also have a garlic aioli, which I suspect isn't totally Paleo, but I cheat a little bit here.  Again, buns get grilled on the same surface as burgers.

4.  Dairy Lane Cafe
Located on 19th Street in Hillhurst, this is a great place to eat to support local farmers.  Dairy Lane sources ingredients locally.  This is probably my favourite place, because I can also get a salad with my burger.  The salad is where I cheat a little bit.  I have no idea what the dressing is made of.  Sometimes they also have a lamb burger on the menu, so if you like lamb, keep your eyes open for it.  I just ask for the burger to be served on lettuce instead of the bun.

 At Dairy Lane I love being able to enjoy a burger with a salad.

At Dairy Lane I love being able to enjoy a burger with a salad.

All of these locations have the traditional toppings like ketchup, mustard, and pickles.  I typically avoid these due to the sugar content and other ingredients that can compromise my efforts towards better health.  Regardless of where you eat, make sure to let the staff know you don't want a bun.  One time I stated I only wanted the patty, and the burger arrived with the bun and none of the sides.  Communicating what you want needs to be done clearly.

If you are avoiding gluten you will always need to take extra precautions and communicate with staff.  

Do you have a favourite burger place?  Talk to the staff about what's in the burger.  Basically you just want meat and some simple seasonings.
Do you have a great gut-healthy burger place to love that I've missed?  Let me know what it is.

Happy, Healthy Eating!

Tracey

 

 

 

 

VEGETARIAN VS PALEO WARS

What is the best kind of diet for optimal health?  For several decades there has been a large vegetarian movement, but more recently the Paleo movement has been gaining momentum.  These two movements have some significant differences, yet there are strong advocates for both sides.  So how is a person to know which way of eating is the best?  

Before looking at each type of approach, it's important to note that there are ideal versions of both of these dietary approaches, and that both of them can also be done poorly.  I'll be addressing the best of both of these, which includes organic, whole foods choices.  Ideally neither  way of eating should include processed foods, or the addition of chemicals or additives.

VEGETARIAN DIET

One of the main reasons that vegetarian diets are popular is for the ethical considerations.  Many vegetarians choose to eat this way to avoid unnecessary suffering to animals, and to support farming practices that are sustainable and do the least amount of damage to our planet.  Another reason is to achieve optimal health.  A vegetarian diet eliminates meat, and a vegan diet goes one step further and eliminates all animal products including dairy, eggs and honey.  Food sources include vegetables, fruit, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, plant-based sweeteners and fats, and dairy and eggs for those that choose to consume them.  Pescetarians include fish and seafood, but otherwise adhere to vegetarian principles.

There are many well-known advocates for eating a vegetarian diet, including Dr. Dean Ornish, Brendan Brazier (co-founder of Vega), Dr. Joel Furhman, T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Neil Barnard.  There are also many athletes that have followed a vegetarian diet throughout their successful athletic careers.  Athletes place huge demands on their bodies, so the fact that they are able to accomplish what they do on a well thought-out vegetarian diet speaks well of this type of diet.

PALEO DIET

Many people turn to a Paleo diet to improve their health.  These individuals may have tried a vegetarian diet in the past, but many have not.  Food sources include pasture-raised meats, wild fish, eggs, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, fats, minimally processed sweeteners such as honey or maple syrup, and some people include fermented dairy in their diets.

Advocates for this type of diet include Dr. Loren Cordain, Robb Wolf, Dr. Terry Wahls (the Wahls Protocol), Dr. David Perlmutter, Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride (GAPS diet), Chris Kresser and Sarah Ballantyne.

COMMON GROUND

Here are some common aspects of good quality vegetarian and Paleo diets:
- they are plant-strong.  A common misconception about a Paleo way of eating is that it includes large quantities of meat.  Both diets when done well, involve large quantities of vegetables.
- nuts, seeds and fruit consumption.  Both diets allow for moderate amounts of these foods.
- fats.  Both diets can include coconut fat, avocado oil, olive oil and nut or seed oils.  Paleo diets allow animal fats from pasture-raised animals as well.
- minimal use of added sweeteners.  Whether coconut sugar, maple syrup or honey are used, any good quality diet keeps added sweeteners to a minimum, and focuses on sweeteners that still have some nutritional value.
- ferments.  Fermented foods such as cultured vegetables, kombucha, and kvass are great additions to either type of diet.  For some vegetarian and Paleo dieters, fermented dairy such as kefir, yogurt and aged-cheeses are added as well.

HOW TO CHOOSE

I should start by saying that I am on the Paleo side of this debate, so I have my personal bias.  I was a vegetarian for 10 years, believing that it was the best choice for my body.  I went through periods of veganism during that time as well.  Despite the fact that I continued to improve the quality of the food I was consuming, and continued to seek help from a variety of health practitioners during those 10 years, my health continued to decline.  Finally I saw a doctor who told me to start eating meat again, and who recognized that my gut health was compromised.  Reintroducing meat was the beginning of my recovery.  Before reintroducing meat I was spending several days in bed each month with extreme fatigue and nausea.  I had severe seasonal allergies, eczema and multiple chemical sensitivities that were very debilitating at times.  Paleo changed all that for me.  

As a practitioner I also work exclusively with Paleo-type diets including  SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet), GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) and AIP (autoimmune protocols).  Why?  Because any condition that has leaky gut as a contributing factor (including neurological and autoimmune conditions) requires this type of approach.  A vegetarian diet will not repair leaky gut!  Grains and legumes, which make up a significant part of a vegetarian diet are problematic for the gut in two ways:  
1.  They are rich in lectins, which can be problematic for a damaged gut.  
2. They are high in carbohydrates.  When the intestinal wall is damaged, it can't produce the enzymes needed to complete carbohydrate digestion, and when carbohydrates aren't completely digested, they continue to feed the state of dysbiosis that exists in the gut.

If you are a vegetarian in optimal health, then keep it up.  Continue on your path, making sure to choose organic, whole foods, and to include legumes, nuts and seeds in your diet.

If you suffer from a neurological condition, autoimmune condition, IBS, allergies, asthma, eczema or any other chronic health condition, then Paleo is likely the best choice for you.  If you have tested positive for leaky gut, then a Paleo diet is definitely for you.

Not sure yet?  Try each one for yourself.  Spend a month on each and see how your body reacts.  Monitor your bowel movements, sleep patterns, mood and energy, and pay particular attention to symptoms of your health condition.  I'm still on my journey of recovery, but seasonal allergies are gone, and eczema and chemical sensitivities continue to improve.  Better yet, all those days where I couldn't get out of bed are long gone.  I've tried both dietary approaches, and know that Paleo works best for me.

Besides my personal experience, as a nutritionist I've gone digging and done my research.  When I read the books promoting vegetarian diets, I find all kinds of flaws in research and the way it is interpreted.  Researching dietary approaches is difficult and expensive, so good research is hard to find.  Most of the research I look at is not actually about any specific kind of diet, but rather looks at how foods are supporting our bodies at a metabolic level.  When we look at how food is digested and absorbed, and how it is utilized by the body, then I can't help but support a Paleo way of eating.

What approach works for you?  
Does anyone know why Paleo is capitalized?  It seems to be used this way in all the literature, so I am following the trend.

Happy, Healthy Eating!

Tracey

 

 

THYROID HEALTH: THE IODINE CONTROVERSY

Iodine is a mineral that is a component of our thyroid hormones.  If you have a look at the image of the molecular structure of a thyroid hormone you’ll see that several iodine atoms are needed (I) on each molecule (see image below).  Deficiency can cause serious problems like goiter or cretinism.  Iodine deficiency affects large numbers of people globally, especially in in-land populations where food sources are rare, and soil is iodine-depleted.  Our bodies are unable to make iodine, so it is considered an essential nutrient that needs to be acquired through diet.

No Iodine

So if it’s so important, then why is there any controversy?  It turns out that if you are one of the people suffering from Hashimoto’s, then taking iodine can be very problematic.  Some practitioners will suggest that seaweeds or other foods with iodine should not be consumed.  But this is where things get confusing, because for every practitioner who says you shouldn’t consume iodine there is another one who says you should.

Iodine can be the trigger for Hashimoto’s because it can reduce the activity of an enzyme called thyroid peroxidase (TPO).  TPO is needed for thyroid hormone production (Source).  Restricting iodine has been shown to be beneficial for Hashimoto’s (Source). 

But what about those people who say iodine is beneficial for Hashimoto’s.  They are right too! 

Iodine + Selenium

Just looking at iodine doesn’t give us a complete picture of what is happening with Hashimoto’s.  Selenium also has a significant role in thyroid health, and when it is deficient thyroid function can be impaired (Source).  Selenium is needed to convert T4 to T3 (the active form of the hormone) and it also helps to regulate the immune response seen in Hashimoto’s (Source). 

The combination of low selenium with high iodine is the problem.  For people who have good selenium levels, iodine supplementation can be beneficial.  For those who have deficient selenium, iodine can be problematic on its own.

It’s important to know your iodine and selenium levels if you are struggling with Hashimoto’s.  Deficiency in these important nutrients could be a contributing factor to your condition.  Or maybe you have high iodine levels, and supplementing with selenium is the missing puzzle piece.

If you have Hashimoto’s, it's important to be on a Paleo-AIP (autoimmune protocol) diet.  Equally important is figuring out your iodine and selenium levels.  Knowing these levels will help you determine if seaweeds and other iodine rich foods should or should not be part of your diet.  The controversy is there for a reason, and you need to find out which route will benefit your health.  I would suggest you go visit a naturopathic or functional doctor who can test both your iodine and selenium levels and develop a supplement protocol that is right for you. 

Happy, Healthy Eating,

Tracey

 

Further Reading:

https://chriskresser.com/iodine-for-hypothyroidism-like-gasoline-on-a-fire/

http://hypothyroidmom.com/a-different-view-on-a-common-autoimmune-disease-hashimotos-thyroiditis/#fn-8438-23

HIGH FAT FOR A HEALTHY HEART

Have you heard the news that fats are good for us?  Maybe you’ve even heard that saturated fats are good for us.  It’s true.  After decades of being told that we should be eating a low-fat diet, research is proving that low fat is detrimental to our health.  It’s bad for our brains, it’s bad for our hearts and it’s bad for hormone related conditions, but today I’m going to focus on the heart.

We’ve all heard about HDL (the good cholesterol) and LDL (the bad cholesterol).  Doctors look at blood levels of these as indicators of heart health.  In a healthy individual we typically see high HDL and low LDL.   High LDL is seen as being problematic.  But it turns out that not all LDL is bad.  There are different types of LDL particles:  large and buoyant, or small and dense.  It’s the small, dense particles that are the ones that put you at risk for heart disease.  It’s possible to have high LDL levels, and have low risk for heart disease if they happen to be the large particles, and conversely you can have low LDL levels, but if they happen to be small particles then you may be at risk for heart disease.  Just looking at total LDL is NOT a good indicator.  We can thank researcher Ronald Kraus for unraveling the complexity of LDL.

Diet and LDL

With the knowledge that we want high HDL, high large LDL and low small LDL, it’s important to look at how we can accomplish this through diet. In addition to changing how we view LDL, Kraus looked at how different diets affect different LDL particles.  Kraus demonstrated that when people eat a high carbohydrate, low fat diet, it correlates with small, dense LDL, which is the marker that increases your risk of heart disease. In contrast, a low carbohydrate diet increases HDL and large LDL particles and decreases small LDL particles.  That is exactly what you want!  (Source

The idea that saturated fats contribute to heart disease doesn’t hold up against the research. (Source)  It’s time to accept that fats aren’t artery clogging!

The Fat-Carbohydrate Relationship

When we take fats out of our diet, we tend to replace them with carbohydrates.  Carbohydrates are found in vegetables, fruit, grains, legumes and of course sugars. People need a feeling of satiety when they eat (or else they don’t stop eating).  Consuming protein makes us feel full and then fat makes that feeling last.  When proteins and fats are not consumed, then people eat more grains and legumes to get that feeling of satiety. In processed foods, more sugars typically get added as fats are removed.  Low-fat yogurts are an example where when fat is taken out, more sugar is added in. 

If you eat a whole-foods diet, you might be asking yourself, “What’s the problem with eating more grains, legumes or fruits and vegetables?”   After all, isn’t this what we’ve been told is a healthy diet?  As we’ve just seen with HDL and LDL, it’s not necessarily a healthy diet if we want a healthy heart.  But let’s look at some other factors involved in fat consumption and heart health.

 Gut Health = Heart Health.

The health of your gut also has significant implications for the health of your heart.  Living inside our guts are trillions of organisms collectively known as the microbiome.  Just like humans have wastes that we excrete through our feces, urine and sweat, the organisms in our guts have metabolic byproducts (or waste products) known as metabolites.  Different species produce different metabolites.  Let’s look at a group of organisms known as Gram-negative bacteria.  These organisms are lumped together based on a staining procedure used for viewing under a microscope. Gram-negative bacteria produce a metabolite called lipopolysaccharides (LPS).  LPS normally isn’t a problem.  However it becomes a problem when you have intestinal permeability (leaky gut).  Leaky gut allows LPS to leak through the barrier of the small intestine.  Just outside that barrier is our gut associated lymphatic tissue (GALT).  An easy way to understand GALT is to think of it as the largest part of our immune system.  It makes up 80% of our immune system, and all of it is imbedded in the tissue of our digestive system.  So when LPS leaks out, it comes into contact with our immune system where it binds onto immune cell receptors.  When this happens, it initiates a whole sequence of metabolic changes that lead to inflammation and heart disease. 

Diet and Gut Health

 So by now it shouldn’t come as any surprise that a low carbohydrate, high fat diet is also the best diet to restore the health of the intestinal barrier.  The GAPS diet is one of the best diets to repair intestinal health, and its founder Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride strongly advocates the use of saturated animal fats as part of a nutritional approach to heal the gut.

Nutritional Approach to Heart Health

If heart health is to be addressed using a nutritional approach, it needs to specifically address small LDL particles and intestinal permeability.  Knowing that a low carbohydrate, high fat diet is beneficial for both of these aspects of heart health leads us to protocols that have these two features.  Ancestral and GAPS diets are good places to start.  These diets include animal proteins such as meat, fish and eggs, vegetables, seasonal fruit, raw nuts and seeds and of course fats.  For people who tolerate dairy, these diets can also include high-fat, fermented dairy items such as yogurt, kefir, cultured cream, and cheeses.

Fat Sources

Great sources of healthy fats include:
Avocado
Coconut milk (full-fat), coconut butter, coconut oil
Raw nuts and seeds, and butters made from them
Grass fed and finished meats
Eggs from organic, free-range poultry
Wild fish
Butter, cream, yogurt, kefir and cheese from pasture-raised animals (if dairy is tolerated)
Olive oil

Further Reading:

The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz
Eat Fat Get Thin by Mark Hyman MD or order the Fat Summit http://fatsummit.com
The Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride


Happy, Healthy Eating!

Tracey

 

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