Archive for the ‘Nutrition’ Category

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Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Why so Essential?

Monday, October 19th, 2015

As integrated medical care providers, we are often asked by patients how to optimize their health through what we like to call “food as medicine”. One of the most common questions we get is “What are essential fatty acids and why are they so important for optimal health? “

Essential fatty acids are also know as healthy fats, and they are necessary components for our health. We need healthy fats in our diet to support proper cell function, reduce inflammation, increase heart health, help to control insulin and blood glucose levels, support positive mood and behavior, and more.

Popular culture, fad diets and modern media have turned “fat” into the enemy, proclaiming it is the reason obesity is on the rise in the US, and blaming heart disease (almost entirely) on it.

Oddly enough, we now know that  intake of “good fat” not only does NOT cause obesity (as compared to processed sugar and carbohydrate intake), it is key to helping heart heath!

“Good fat” or “healthy fat” are essential fats like omega-3 fatty acid and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).  There is great evidence to support omega-3 fatty acids help lower triglycerides, inflammation, reduced risk of sudden heart failure, decrease the risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure, AND improve joint stiffness and immune system function in people with rheumatoid arthritis. Healthy fats may also improve insulin resistance, and further research is showing potential anti-cancer properties.

Why does fat have such a bad reputation?

It is important to note that not all fats are created equally. Two of the most valuable types of fat for the human body are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, like omega-3 fatty acid and CLA. Other types of fats, such as saturated and trans fats, are less valuable for health and should be eaten more sparingly or eliminated. These fats are linked to diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

Which foods contain healthy fats?

Many of the healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acid and CLA cannot be made in the body, hence why we call them essential fatty acids and why we must eat adequate amounts in our diet to meet our daily needs.

These are some of the most nutrient dense healthy fat sources:

  • Monounsaturated fats- hazelnuts, avocado, olive oil, peanuts
  • CLA- grass-fed beef, grass-fed milks, grass-fed cheese
  • Omega-3 fatty acid- salmon, tuna, walnuts, flaxseed

Eating a diet rich in these healthy fats can be extremely beneficial to your health. Do not forget though that an excess of any food (and most other things in life too!) can be detrimental to the body’s natural equilibrium, so make sure you are eating a balanced diet rich in all food groups.

For more information on how and how much ‘good fat’ to integrate into your diet from our Integrated medical team, schedule a visit today at 503-287-4970

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“Where did this egg come from?” How to source eggs 101

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

The other day one of our patients here at the clinic said to me “how do I know what is actually good for me to be eating – I mean, what’s the difference between a pastured egg and a cage-free one? And, is organic really important….and is an organic chicken better than a free-range one? And, how can I understand grain-finishing on my beef…I’M SO CONFUSED!”

Fair enough.  Some Portlanders might scoff and say “duh” to some of these questions – but they’re valid questions for so many who are awakening to the understanding that it really does matter where your food comes from and what it’s been eating before you eat it – including your vegetables!  (Pesticides and fertilizers become part of what you’re ingesting just as much corn becomes part of the cow.)

So – in response to her request – here is a brief overview of how to source eggs and understand the difference when shopping.

I think that eggs should be kept in the meat department as they are not a dairy product!  I suppose because they’re sold next to the milk and yogurt they’ve become related in some way – but they truly are not the same category.

When buying eggs – the fresher the better. (That goes for almost anything really – except perhaps wine…). A nutritious egg will have a good tough shell around it, will stand up tall when you break it out of it’s shell and will have a deeply yellowish orange yolk.

Pastured vs. cage free: Choose eggs that are from pastured hens.  The difference between a “pastured” hen and a “cage-free” hen comes down to a matter of choice.  Cage-free hens are allowed outside for a certain amount of time each day – I’ve heard as small amount of time as five minutes per day is considered cage-free by USDA standards.

A pastured hen is one that exercises free will in it’s coming and going.  It’s allowed to run around the farm doing it’s thing of eating bugs, picking things out of manure piles, pulling worms out of the ground and ingesting all the good things that make their eggs so nutrient dense.

Commercial operations are normally not the setting for this roaming activity as they are highly regulated, production oriented facilities.  The poly-cultural farm setting is ideal – buying from a local farm that you know and trust.  However, we live in a great area and there are several egg producers that are raising hens in a pastured setting while creating economic strength for their industry.  A local operation that does a good job is Champoeg Farm where you can read all about how their birds are raised and housed on their informative website.

 

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Snacks or Treats? Heading Back to the After School Dilemma

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

School is just about to start up again and one of the questions I hear often is “what’s a good and easy after school snack I can feed my children?”

Good question.

First off, let’s define what a “snack” is…. dictionary.com words it as;

a small portion of food or drink or a light meal, especially one eaten between regular meals.

Now, let’s look at what a “treat” is….

entertainment, food, drink, etc., given by way of compliment or as an expression of friendly regard.

The reason I’m looking at the distinction between these terms is that we’ve gotten caught up in serving “treats” as “snacks” these days and believe it or not – too  much of a good thing is no longer a good thing!  Even if we’re talking grain-free, nut flour based, date sweetened, raw, organic, dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free, corn-free, etc., etc., etc….  Getting our kids hooked on these paleo-blessed treats will land them in a similar space as eating any snack foods.  Under nourished and full of cravings.

A good after school snack should consist of the same healthy ingredients a proper meal would deliver – good fat, protein and carbohydrate from vegetables or fruit.  Sourcing is just as important here so always buy fresh, organic, grass-fed and whole foods.  One of the best ways to avoid bad snacking is to just not keep bad snacks in the house!  Fresh fruit, pre-prepared veggies, lunch meats, nuts & seeds, and the occasional grain-free muffin are essentials for a kid’s grab-and-go lifestyle!  The following are some examples of tasty and nutritious snacks:

Sliced apple with nut butter
Celery stalks with nut butter and dried fruit (the old “ants on a log” idea)
Avocado with a spoon!
Pickles
Salmon Jerky
Roasted veggies – beets, carrots, butternut squash cubes make wonderful sweet snacks
Dried fruit
Plain yogurt with berries and a squeeze of raw honey or maple syrup
Kefir “milkshakes” – blended with frozen berries
Hummus and cucumber slices
Olives

 

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Healthy Eating on the Road

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

It’s that time of year again – holidays at the airport, in the hotel, out of the car and the hardest place of all – in other people’s homes!  Well meaning to be sure – but it’s a common lament that “Aunt Harriet” just doesn’t understand gluten intolerance and is crushed that you won’t partake of her 30 year old recipe for Christmas morning sticky buns.  And neither will your children.  Oy.  Eating while traveling – especially for those who need or want to follow specific diets – can be a challenge.  Here are my top tips for staying on track, not offending others, and feeling satisfied while outside of your comfort zone.

Tip #1 – Prepare, prepare, prepare!  Make lists, check them twice – determine which foods are naughty or nice…. ok, I’ll stop there.  But the point is that if you don’t decide ahead of time what to take with you then you’ll be at the mercy of what’s available.  Believe me – I’ve been a victim of the gas station grab & go myself – should it be the Planter’s peanuts roasted in soybean oil? Or, the packaged popcorn made with canola?  Choosing the lesser of two evils is good – but may be unnecessary with the proper planning and packing.  Which leads us to our second tip.

Tip #2 – Choose foods that are appropriate for the type of  traveling you’re doing.  If you’re flying, don’t pack a yogurt that’s apt to get warm and explode in your bag once you reach the 30,000 foot cruising altitude.  However – if you’re not dairy intolerant 😉 –  it may be a good choice if you’re car traveling and have a cooler to keep it fresh.  My favorite airplane foods include raw nuts, dried fruit, olives, hard cheese, rice crackers, avocados and other low glycemic fruits.  I also love the convenience of the nut butters in blister packs that can be used to spread on a few apple slices or just simply eat right out of the package!

Tip #3 – Stick to whole foods when possible.  Our last tip gave some ideas on foods to take along and as you can see – besides the rice crackers – most of them are are natures grab & go’s. I remember a client mentioning to me how tired he was of having to read labels and when I suggested that he buy food without labels his astonished response was “do they make those?”  🙂  Nature does!

Tip #4 – Does it smell?  Be kind to those around you….being enclosed in an airplane when someone starts to peel a boiled egg is certain to cause heads to turn.  Some foods have a higher sulfur content and will definitely leave your seat mates unhappy when you open that snap ware – broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, garlic, onion, potato salad,  hard boiled or deviled eggs are some of the main culprits .  Don’t forget some cheeses like gruyere and swiss are pretty pungent.  And, tuna fish? Save it for home.  Better choices are carrots, celery, radishes, apples, pears, berries and dehydrated snacks.  Even oranges can be bothersome in a closed arena.

Tip #5 – Forgot to prepare?  Plans gone awry?  Relax.  Missing a meal now and again – or even having to make choices between the lesser of two evils will not kill you.  It takes at least 3 weeks for starvation to even begin – and hunger is a long way off from starving.  For those with serious health issues such as celiac disease or anaphylaxis toward certain foods – this blog is not for you.  Preparation is essential.  For the rest of us – remember that what we’re really trying to do is reduce chronic abuse on ourselves by eating on the fly.  A little forethought can make for a very merry, non-bloated holiday travel.  Oh – and don’t forget to drink plenty of good ol’ water!

 

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Macaroni and cheese…but isn’t it supposed to glow in the dark?

Friday, March 8th, 2013

Watching the news this morning there was a clip about on an Internet video that’s gone viral featuring two moms who are speaking out against the artificial food coloring added to a popular brand of boxed macaroni and cheese that gives it that fluorescent glow…  Good for them!  Let’s bring some attention to this subject of food additives and the abundant use of them in manufactured food items.

But did you know that there are more than 3,000 food additives — including preservatives, flavorings, colors and other ingredients — that are added to our foods?  Most are so harmful they’re not even allowed in other countries!

Some of the most common to watch for include:

  • Preservatives: sodium benzoate, sodium nitrite, potassium sorbate, BHA, BHT
  • Sweeteners and artificial sweeteners: fructose, high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame potassium
  • Artificial colors: any
  • Artificial flavors: any
  • Flavor enhancers: monosodium glutamate (MSG), hydrolyzed soy protein, autolyzed yeast extract (the product, MSG, has about 40 different names making it easy for food manufacturers to print “No MSG added” on product labels though a variation may be included.)

Yesterday on AM Northwest I gave quick spiel on the most common culprits to avoid in your diet.  Here’s a summary:

What to Avoid:

1)   Diet sodas full of fake sweeteners including;  aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose .  There are so many better choices out there now – I even saw a sparkling coconut water!  If you need something sweet – stick with fresh juice diluted with mineral water, or a beverage sweetened with stevia.

2)   High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) – this by-product of the corn surplus has been linked to obesity, brain damage – even lower IQ’s!  So common in  cookies, sodas and especially condiments.  Read those labels!

3)   Vegetable oils that have been heated over and over again in the manufacturing of  chips, crackers, cereals and even “healthy” granola.  Not only does the heating process turn them into a toxic substance but most vegetable oils are also genetically-modified  (GMOs), including canola, soy, and corn oils.   Use healthy fats like grass-fed butter, coconut oil, ghee and even beef tallow for cooking.  Also include extra-virgin olive oil (evoo), hemp oil, walnut oil and cold-pressed safflower oil for cold prep like salad dressings.

4)   Carrageenan – an additive often added as an emulsifier to foods like nut milks and lunch meats, is derived from seaweed.  Carageenan itself  is not actually the problem – it’s the “processing” of it that alters it’s chemical structure turning it into a substance called “polygeenan” which can cause gastrointestinal upset and colon cancer.  Best to avoid using products that include this ingredient.

5) And finally, refined salt.  Added to just about everything these days the refining process removes the trace minerals present in sea and earth salts.  The sodium content may be the same in both refined and unrefined salts – but the  difference is in the flavor.  The intensity of sea salt often means adding much less to your foods.

The bottom line is this – if you want to avoid food additives then you need to eat fresh, whole, living foods prepared in your own kitchen where you have some control over what goes into them.  I think it’s great that these moms are bringing attention to this issue of the food color additives….but the bigger question is “why are they eating macaroni and cheese from a box anyway??”  😉

 

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What’s for Breakfast? Thinking Outside the (Cereal) Box

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Many people are challenged by or simply not excited about breakfast. They may feel limited with their choices, not have enough prep time or generally think it’s not that important. Even if we have the best intentions, we often turn to our quick standbys like cereal and milk or toast and jam to fuel us till lunch. As a culture, we tend to be uninspired about this first, yet very important, meal of the day.

Soup: Not just for lunch and dinner!

My first goal here is to get people to see beyond bread or cereal and start to embrace that you can eat ANYTHING for breakfast. Leftovers from dinner? Sure! Hot soup? Why not! Of course, I also strive to encourage thinking ahead so you can be prepared for making this meal score some hearty nutritional points.

First consider what people around the world are eating.

I have found that exploring different cultures is one of the most effective ways to bring new eating ideas into my repertoire. It may seem strange to eat beans and rice for breakfast, but certainly not if you were traveling in Costa Rica or Mexico. Enjoying salad first thing in the morning looked odd until I lived in Israel for six months and fell in love with the typical Israeli breakfast of multiple yummy salads. In the cold winter months, it makes more sense to me to enjoy a Japanese hot soup or Chinese congee for breakfast than a cold cereal.

You don’t have to adhere to the global breakfast idea to eat healthfully, either. The idea is to expand our horizons so we feel we have more options and can pack more nutrition into our day. I find that young children will eat anything for breakfast as long as you make the food seem breakfast-worthy. (I name things “Early Bird Soup,” “Breakfast Stir-fry,” “Morning Miso”… you get the picture.)

Sure, “Western breakfast food” can be healthy.

Organic yogurt with sprouted raw granola, nuts and fruit is a stellar way to start the day. A porridge with slow-cooked oats topped with some superfoods is simply fantastic.  Eggs and veggies are, of course, a perfect combination. A fruit parfait with cashew cream is to die for (recipe below). A hearty almond-flour waffle with fruit compote will certainly do the trick. A healthy smoothie is always a great idea. Perhaps we can start by recreating what we feel comfortable with as appropriate breakfast foods. I have some ideas and recipes below.

Well, what about my boxed “whole grain” cereal?

Let’s first talk about what a whole grain actually is. Whole grains are grains in their unprocessed form, meaning they haven’t been beaten, pulverized, polished, bleached or stripped of their nutrients. When a grain is still whole (unrefined), it is loaded with fiber, B vitamins, vitamin E, zinc, magnesium and some protein. When grains have been refined, the bran and germ are often removed, leaving behind mostly starch.

Warning: Porridge this good may come with requests for seconds.

Boxed breakfast cereals unfortunately don’t count as whole grains. High pressure and heat destroy most of the nutrients previously available in the grains listed on the box (so frustrating, I know!). Sally Fallon, health pioneer and author of Nourishing Traditions, suggests: “For a new generation of hardy children, we must return to the breakfast cereals of our ancestors — soaked gruels and porridges.”

I hear ya, Sally.

Gotta love a good ol’ porridge.

Porridge is one of the mainstay wintertime breakfasts in our house. I love that it’s warm and nutritionally balanced, and I can prepare most of it the night before. Porridge can be oatmeal, yes, but it also can be made with rice, quinoa or any combination of grains you like. Porridge is a perfect way to use cooked leftover grains from the days before. The point of the recipe below is to use what you have and play around with the ingredients endlessly for different flavors.

The Kitchen-Sink Breakfast Porridge

Start with a grain and milk then add anything you fancy!

Ingredients:

Something grainy– Steel cut oats or other grains (rice, quinoa, couscous, millet, amaranth). Leftovers are divine here.

Something milky– I suggest canned coconut milk or hemp milk here for ultimate nutritional punch, but you can use whatever you like.

Something fruity– Fresh or dried fruit. Dried fruit ideas- raisins, cranberries, currants, apricots, figs, dates, shredded coconut (ideally unsweetened and unsulphured)

Something sweet– Maple syrup, raw honey, coconut sugar, date sugar, Jerusalem artichoke syrup, jam, fruit compote

Something nutty– Nut butter (e.g., almond butter) or whole nuts chopped into desired consistency: brazil nuts, almonds, walnuts, pecans (We grind brazil nuts in a coffee grinder and keep in a jar for easy sprinkling.)

Something seedy– Sesame, sunflower, hemp, flax seeds

Directions:

If using uncooked grain: Rinse first, then soak overnight in boiling water. This makes the grain easier to digest and cuts the cooking time by 75%.

If using already cooked grain, you are ready to go.

Put desired amount of grain in saucepan (about ½-1 cup per person) and top with liquid till grain is covered by ~½ inch of liquid. For liquid, you can use your desired milk or a combo of milk and water. When I use canned coconut milk, I may cut it with about ¼ part water.

Stir so the liquid gets to the bottom. Cook, covered, on low-medium heat until grain is soft and hot. Stir a few times so it doesn’t stick. Add more liquid if it’s drying out.

Now, have fun topping it with anything and everything you desire!

Note: I will often set this up the night before since I can think more clearly when the house is quiet. You can pre-soak the grain right in the saucepan and have your toppings ready to go. Our kids love this breakfast! (Probably because they get to scoop their own toppings). We keep the toppings in jars in the fridge so it’s really simple to pull them all out and throw them back in the fridge when we are done. I usually add maple syrup slowly, then taste it to check the sweetness level. Add more milk at the end for people who like a soupy porridge or to quickly cool it for hungry mouths.

Cashew Cream Recipe

This cream is somethin’ special. Every time I make it, people beg me to send them the recipe. I use it for dessert with fresh sliced apples and strawberries or to spread on muffins. It works well mixed in yogurt or layered with granola and fruit for the most decadent breakfast parfait ever. It is high in healthy fat and protein, so it packs some real nutritional muscle. And did I mention it’s delicious?

Irresistible breakfast idea: Cashew Cream Parfait

1½ C raw cashews
5 dates, pits removed
1 C fresh orange juice
1 t vanilla or almond extract
3 pinches cardamom
1 big pinch cinnamon
2 pinches sea salt

Equipment: Blender

• Soak the cashews and pitted dates in the orange juice for at least 30 minutes. (If pressed for time, soak the dates in hot water for 5 minutes, discard soaking water, and get movin’)
• Add the rest of the ingredients.
• Blend until creamy. This may give your blender a little workout, so you will probably need to involve your spatula a bit. If more liquid is necessary to get things going, feel free to add a tablespoon or two of orange juice, water, or milk of your choice.

Make in advance and enjoy for a few days!!  For breakfast, serve with fresh sliced fruit or layer in a cup with granola and fruit.

Other points, tips and ideas for a healthy breakfast!

~Leftovers can be breakfast!

One of my favorite breakfast ideas is to take leftover stir-fry or Thai food (perhaps not the soup) and mix with eggs. If I have an extra second, I may spruce it up with a handful of chopped broccoli or greens. A stir-fry/Thai scramble is absolutely delicious and is the easiest thing ever.

Another idea: Beans and rice makes a great base for a Costa Rican breakfast. I will warm the beans and rice and serve with fresh avocado and fruit (or I will mix the two~ mango or banana guacamole is delish!). Great with or without corn tortillas.

Or simply: soup from the days before! We eat soup for breakfast pretty often. Doesn’t a warm and hearty soup sound like a great way to start the day?

~Plan ahead

If you have some time to plan ahead, you will thank yourself later. You can make frittata batter (eggs and sautéed veggies), pour into a muffin pan and bake till firm. After baking, store in freezer; then it’s ready to be heated for a quick and easy breakfast when you want it. (Thanks to Dana Drutz, my dear friend and collaborator on the Nourish Me book, for this genius idea!)

~You can’t go wrong with smoothies

Smoothies for breakfast – YUM!

Smoothies are the easiest meal in the world. Fast, efficient… just a great way to get lots of nutrients into the whole family! They are fun to make and give everyone a chance to let their creativity in the kitchen shine. I encourage you not to measure; just start going for it. Fruit, yogurt, protein powder, juice, avocado, silken tofu, nut butters, even spinach all go well, so just start throwing things in your blender!  The goal is to make sure there are good fats and protein represented, not just the sweet stuff.

Here is an example of a standard in our house to feed 3-4 of us:

1.5 C vanilla hemp milk
2 scoops Nourish Me powder
2 frozen bananas (peel first before you freeze)
A few handfuls frozen blueberries
Big spoonful almond butter
½ C water
(I may add spinach, spirulina, maca, or a number of strange things hanging around the house!)

Quick and Easy Breakfast Ideas

Here are some other quick and easy ideas:

Mana bread topped with almond butter, apple butter and hemp seeds. (Mana bread is something really special. It’s in the fridge or freezer at the healthy market. You can eat it warm or straight from the fridge.).

If cereal and milk is the choice for the day, don’t feel guilty. Perhaps try to make the toppings count. Choose a nutritionally powerful milk like hemp or coconut milk and sprinkle on hemp seeds, coconut flakes, ground nuts and/or chia seeds. It only takes a few seconds to make plain cereal and milk really shine.

And for the days that a scone on the run or a sip of coffee will be the way you start your day—just enjoy it!

 

 

 

 

 

Images courtesy Xivivax, SweetonVeg & Achichi, Flickr

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Kick that cold with a few kitchen staples

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

‘Tis the season for runny noses, sore throats, headaches, coughing, and brain fog.  Yay!!

Before you race to Walgreens, peek in your kitchen for some traditional Chinese herbs, masquerading as common foods.  You’d be surprised by the number of “regular” foods and spices that are used in Chinese herbal medicine.  I had an adorable Chinese Nutrition teacher who taught me countless therapeutic uses for foods found in most American pantries.  Her recipes, though effective, made me giggle because the amount indicated for each ingredient was always “the proper amount”.  Apparently the ancient Chinese kept it loose.

The recipe I’ve used and recommended the most is a simple, 3 ingredient tea to help bolster your immune system and calm your cold symptoms.  I’ve added in what I consider to be the proper amounts, but feel free to play with it.  It goes as follow:

Cold-Kicker Tea
Ginger (root) – 1-2 tbsp
Garlic – 0.5-2 tbsp
Scallions/Green Onions – 1-2 tbsp

All fresh & finely chopped
Bring to a boil in a pan or steep in a cup to make tea

I’m rather lazy about it, and simply put everything into a cup and add boiling water, just  like I would for any old teabag.  Though the ingredients are all quite pungent, the tea is surprisingly soothing and mild.  It reminds me of a miso soup…warm-flavored and nourishing.  I promise, you will not have fiery dragon breath …unless you go bananas with the garlic.  I always re-steep the same ingredients once or twice, and then eat the chunks when I’ve finished the tea.  Mmmmm.  If chunks aren’t your thing, simply re-boil/re-steep them a time or two, to extract ALL of their medicinal properties before chucking them.

This tea can be used to prevent illness when those around you are sniffling away, or brewed in the midst of a cold to alleviate symptoms and speed recovery.  I drink it throughout the cold season, and have been known to put down 5+ cups/day.  I’d recommend at least 2 cups/day if you suspect a cold coming on.   And to further entice you into brewing up some hot garlic lovin’, here are a few of the ingredients’  healing properties.

Ginger –  Strengthens the immune system, treat colds and flu, stops cough and moves phlegm from the lungs, warms the core, soothes upset stomach and treats vomiting, and reduces toxicity from food or ingested medicine

Garlic –  Antibacterial, antimicrobial, opens the sinuses, supports immune function, eases aches and pains, and stimulates digestion

Scallions –  Reduce sinus congestion, vent rashes, calm the stomach, and boost immune function

If you’re experiencing a sore throat, make sure to add in a warm salt water gargle every few hours.  This will break up the mucous that’s clinging to the back of your throat, and soothe the ache naturally.

And don’t forget that acupuncture has been proven invaluable when tackling cold and flu symptoms.  Getting a treatment at the first sign of a cold will often ward off the bug entirely, and acupuncture during a cold or flu will stimulate your body’s natural healing response and quell your symptoms.

 

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Vegetables Galore: Only Slight Deception Required

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

Your eyes meet your plate. Pupils dilate to accommodate a cornucopia of impossibly bright colors. Freshly steamed vegetables explode with oranges, greens, reds; a masterpiece that only Mother Nature could create. Your salivary glands prepare to devour a medley of beta carotenes, antioxidants, phytochemicals and fiber. Your cells hum in excitement for the vitality they will soon glean and use for healing and growth. Your teeth crunch, stomach delights and brain basks in nutrients that they long for every day.

Have I convinced you that you should eat more vegetables? Great. Now here are some easy ways to get everyone in the family basking in those nutrients, perhaps without even knowing it.

1) Chop Chop Chop

100% Dippable, 100% Delicious

When my husband makes dinner and is feeling motivated to get lots of veggies into our boys, he starts chopping like crazy. When vegetables are chopped up very well they seem to just melt into the background of a dish. We add finely chopped vegetables to eggs, pasta sauce, rice dishes, savory pancakes and basically anywhere we can put them. Just saute up onions, garlic and tons of chopped veggies and they are ready to go just about everywhere!

2) Let Thy Vegetable Be Thy Vehicle

Most people love to dip things. Consider using vegetables instead of chips or bread to carry your favorite dippables like hummus, black bean dip, salsa, salad dressing, nut butters, tuna salad, egg salad and more. If you put out a bunch of fresh vegetables in bite sized pieces with something fun to dip them in, you may find everyone standing around eating a saladʼs worth of raw vegetables without even noticing. I like to put out fresh veggies and dip when the kids start to swarm around looking hungry while we are
finishing up dinner prep. Venture beyond carrots and celery into jicama, broccoli stems (with tough skin peeled), kohlrabi, young beets sliced thinly and sugar snap peas.

Some vegetables can hold quite a lot of good stuff, such as romaine lettuce, cabbage leaves and the inside of a whole pepper. A seaweed nori wrap is an excellent carrier for just about anything — and is portable to boot.

3) OK, Hide Them If You Must

I am not really in to hiding vegetables since my goal is to teach kids all about veggies, however I admit, sometimes I just have to sneak them in. My method of deception – using the blender!

Many people are amazed to learn that you can throw a huge handful of spinach or kale into a smoothie and it goes totally unnoticed. (Itʼs amazing, really). Vegetable soups can be scooped into the blender, pulverized and then added right back to the pot (or you can use an immersion blender – a positively awesome invention!). If you’re feeling really sneaky you can add smooshed carrots to mac nʼ cheese or spinach to brownies. 🙂

5) A Vegetable by Any Other Name is Still a Vegetable

Sometimes vegetables can act like something else all together. Here are some fun examples:

Cali-Mash – Use cauliflower instead of potatoes for a creamy “mashed potato” experience.

Green Chips – Baked kale chips are a favorite snack of many kids. Simply strip the kale into pieces, toss in olive oil and salt and bake for about 20 minutes. The little ones will devour a whole head of kale before your eyes!

Fiesta Pasta – I just named this one last night since we made it with a mexican enchilada sauce, but any sauce will do. This is a genius one- you use raw zucchini, shaved into long strips with a peeler and voila, you have zucchini noodles! They can be eaten raw or slightly cooked with your sauce of choice. Our kids slurp them all up just like their beloved pasta.

 

 

Image courtesy NorwichNuts

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Check out this great cookbook!

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

I love books – and I’ll confess, cookbooks are a particular obsession of mine.  It’s one indulgence I have that my husband never seems to have a problem with!  In fact, next to bicycling – food is a shared passion in our marriage and the kitchen is a hub of activity in our home.

I think that one way to become a cook – or become a better cook! – is to read cookbooks.  I get so inspired and excited when I come across something new – a blending of tastes I hadn’t tried, a shortcut in preparation, a simple little flair to add to the presentation of a dish….it’s all available for you to adapt and modify.  I spend a few minutes everytime I’m shopping at my natural foods store to peruse the book shelf, flipping through colorful pictures and getting a quick feel of what the author is offering.  Often I find that cookbooks can be a lot like buying a CD – one or two good songs, or recipes, and the rest I can do without.  Especially in the arena of “allergy-free” cooking – the recipes frequently disappoint in flavor and ingredients.

Recently, I came across a book on the shelf that I got pretty excited about – it’s called “Clean Start” by Terry Walters, the author of “Clean Food.”  This new book has 100 recipes that really will inspire you to “eat clean and live well.”  The book itself is lovely to look at, gorgeous photos and a unique cover design – the recipes are a single one per page (I love that) – and each one is simple, delicious and completely do-able for the reluctant chef.  She encourages farm-fresh, local and seasonal – and offers easy, uncomplicated advice on how to get started with a “clean” pantry and a “clean kitchen.”  The best part of all – each recipe is dairy, egg and gluten free!   Heaven!

Check it out – I bought my copy at New Seasons Market.  You can always take a few minutes out of your shopping time to peruse their bookshelf and get some great ideas.

To health!

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Nutrition Mission: Improve your Health through Food

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

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When you hear the word “nutrition,” what comes to mind for you? The FDA food pyramid?  A bottle of vitamin and mineral pills?  Your mother telling you can’t leave the table until you’ve eaten all your spinach?  Commonly, when we think of nutrition we think “borrrrring!”  We think of the foods we should be eating rather than the foods we are eating.

Nutrition is not about our diet.  While our diet plays a very important role in our nutrition – it is more about the interaction of the food we eat with our unique physiology.  So, when we think of a healthy diet it is important to remember that there is no public policy that can dictate what a perfect diet is – simply because we are all individuals.  What is important is finding what the perfect diet is for you.

It is not always easy to make the connection between what you eat and how you feel.  We are very adept in this country at shutting up our symptoms – if we have a headache we take a couple of aspirin, a body ache has us reaching for a bottle of ibuprofen.  Acid reflux or GERD is soothed with antacids – and even our red, itchy dry eyes are treated with fake tears!  Symptoms are no longer considered to be the body’s way of communicating  – they’re conditions that must be relieved so that we can ignore them a while longer.

The problem with ignoring a symptom, however, is that it doesn’t go away – it just gets louder and more demanding.  Treating your symptoms is a temporary, though sometimes necessary fix – but if you want to achieve optimal health and vitality you have to get to the root cause of the problem. This often begins with our food.

If a food is not nourishing your body then it is creating a stress.  For example, an egg is considered a very healthy food – in fact, it has been called the “perfect” food.  It contains everything to begin a life with.  However, if your particular physiology reacts to egg as an allergen then it is far from a healthy food for you.  Symptoms of fatigue, gas, bloating, achiness, headache, etc. have been reported from people who are sensitive to egg protein, but if you are not looking for the connection you might easily attribute these symptoms to something entirely different.  The key is in finding the foods that create “chronic” stress in the body and eliminate them from your diet.  In so doing – you are relieving your body of dealing with unnecessary and unseen stress that can eventually lead to disease.

The other component to the nutrition question is how well your digestive system is working.   We need to have sufficient stomach acid to break down protein, adequate salivary and pancreatic enzymes to process carbohydrates and healthy amounts of smooth flowing bile to emulsify fat for absorption.  If any of these systems are compromised or out of balance we will experience problems such as acid reflux, bloating, gas, undigested food in the stool and malnutrition, to name a few. If any of these symptoms sound familiar then you should probably take heed. Most of us have experienced digestive disorders at one time or another – what we are concerned with are the chronic issues that lead to problems.

The following is a list of things that you can do to improve your nutrition:

• Digestion starts before we even eat.  Spending time with our food in the preparation, cooking, seasoning, smelling and tasting all combine to get the body ready to receive nourishment.  The brain plays a key role in proper digestion.

• In school we were taught that digestion is a “north to south” process.  If you have something going on in the southern region of your body – it most likely started farther up the line.  One of the best things you can do to aid proper digestion is chew your food.  Make a conscious effort to chew each bite at least 20 times – it’s not easy!  Many of us eat on the run – short lunches and hurried meals throughout the day so we get used to “wolfing” down our food in large un-chewed quantities.  Becoming more mindful of the chewing process benefits us in so many ways.

• Relax and enjoy meal time.  There’s wisdom in traditions and saying grace is no exception.  Close your eyes, take a deep breath and feel gratitude for the food, your healthy body and even the people you may be eating with.  This puts your body in the receiving mode and allows you to get the most nutrition from your effort.

• I’m a big fan of the food writer Michael Pollan, author of Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food and Botany of Desire.  I like when he says “It’s no longer what we eat – it’s what we eat, eats.”  Think about that for a minute.   His point is that making healthy food choices goes deeper than just choosing the so-called “healthy” food over the “unhealthy” food.  We need to consider where that food came from, how it was produced or raised, cultivated, fed and harvested.  What fertilizers/pesticides may have been used.  How the animal was fed and treated.  This all contributes to the nutritional content and quality of your food.

• Take the steps to find out what your perfect diet is.  We put most, if not all of our patients here at the clinic through the Elimination Diet. This is where we take all of the most common allergens out of the diet for period of time and then systematically re-introduce them to discover symptoms associated with each food.  The purpose is to definitively know which foods are nourishing for your body, which foods are not – and what it feels like for you.

• Keep your digestive system as healthy as you can.  You can create the perfect diet– but  if you’re not digesting properly it won’t do you much good.  Pay attention to your symptoms of bloating, brain fog, headaches and body aches.  Follow some routines to give yourself better health such as a liver cleanse a couple of times a year, a good exercise program to help your body release toxins and burn up stored energy and one of the best things of all – learn to cook!

 

Image courtesy Bethd821

 

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Guidelines for Healthy Eating: Nature Cures HealthChat Podcast

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

Listen to: the HealthChat on Healthy Eating, in honor of National Nutrition Month.

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Avoiding the Holiday Binge

Saturday, December 18th, 2010

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Years ago there was a popular commercial on television selling a well-known fizzy tablet designed to aid an over-acid stomach condition. Often there was portrayed an over-weight, middle-aged man in a tee shirt, scruffy faced and disheveled, lamenting over his exploit of over-eating. “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing” was his sighing cry while his unsympathetic wife answered in a monotone “Believe it Harry.” It got a lot of laughs and was very effective advertising most likely because it was so relatable!

Over eating is a problem – and not always for the most obvious reason which is too many calories. The physiological effect on the body when we over eat is something to take heed of. Our digestive system is designed to process food into absorbable sized molecules so that the body can use these nutrients for energy, healing, restoration and balance. When we over eat we place such an enormous burden on this system that often many foods pass under processed from the stomach into the small intestine where all kinds of bad can happen!

Think of the small intestine as similar to that children’s toy that has several differently shaped pieces that must be matched up to the cut outs in a lid over a bucket. The child has to fit the shape to the cut out in order to solve the puzzle and fill the bucket. In a similar way – our food particles must be broken down to the right particle size in order to pass through the hair-like tubes that line the small intestine. Food particles of the right size will then be absorbed and utilized by the body. Food particles of the wrong size will stay in the intestine – fermenting and putrefying – causing bloating, gas and discomfort.

If this condition becomes chronic further dysfunction can occur including “leaky gut syndrome” where selectivity on what passes through is lost and the lining becomes “leaky.” This allows inappropriately sized proteins and fats to pass through which then overwhelm the immune system – which leads to more problems including allergies, impaired immune function and other imbalances.

There are a number of other physiological reasons for not over-eating including triggering over production of insulin, burdening the stomach (especially if your stomach acid is low – which is the more common condition with a high carb, western diet), and over eating non-enzymatic, processed foods. Any and all of these are causes for digestive upset and poor absorption of nutrients – leaving us over fed and under nourished!

To avoid this holiday eating pitfall and keep a very merry gut – here are some tips to keep in mind while sitting down to the dinner table (or lingering about the buffet table).

Relax, breathe and take it easy. Digestion happens in the parasympathetic state. There’s a reason we’d say “grace” before eating – it gave us time to get our bodies ready for food and our brains calmed down enough to allow digestion to take place.

Portion control. You really don’t have to “eat the whole thing.” Using smaller plates helps with this – no more super-sized dishware!

Chew slowly and completely. You should try to chew each bit at least 20 times. Try it – it’s not so easy and you’ll realize how little you actually chew if you start counting! It’s a great awareness exercise.

Make sure you have enough stomach acid. If you’re burping and uncomfortable after eating it may be that you are not producing sufficient stomach acid. If this is a common condition for you then it is important to address this with your health practitioner.

If you feel that your digestion is not quite right – or you are experiencing any issues with some of the condition listed above – we invite you to come into the clinic to discuss the proper protocol to help you regain your digestive balance.

Call us for a free consult or come on in and talk with your doctor – a happy gut is the key to wellness!

 

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Soaking your grains, nuts and seeds

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

If you’ve been to one of our nutrition classes, then you probably know a thing or two about soaking and sprouting. It’s one of the ways we like to show people that it’s not hard to eat well, it just takes a bit of planning.

Maybe right about now you’re thinking, “time? Who has any more of that?”

But we assure you, it won’t hurt that much. Though to help you along, we’ll explain the big benefits of soaking your grains, nuts and seeds.

Those foods contain an element called phytic acid, which fortifies the hulls or shells of raw nuts, seeds, and grains. Phytic acid is nature’s way of providing mildew resistance, allowing the grain to reach maturity and re-germinate instead of rotting due to rain and moisture. Our bodies cannot absorb phytic acid, so our bodies just expel the grains that contain it.

Not only that, but phytic acid can bind to minerals, proteins, and starch — making it difficult for you to absorb these elements.

It is possible to remove the phytic acid, however, by giving your grains a good soak. We recommend soaking your rice, whole grains, nuts, and seeds for at least eight hours before using them. For added health benefits, you can also allow your grains to sprout before consuming them.

If you have more questions about phytic acid or how to eat more balanced, healthy meals, contact us at (503) 287-4970 to set up an appointment.

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Acai: Hype or Health?

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

We’re examining superfoods again here at Nature Cures Clinic.

Today we’re taking a look at the massive marketing campaign that’s surrounding one little Brazilian berry, acai.

When it comes to foods that contain high levels of antioxidants, acai is the popular new kid on the block. Lab studies show the fruit to contain high levels of antioxidants — which are thought to protect against cell damage, and in turn heart disease, neurological disorders, and a number of cancers. In one clinical trial, consuming acai increased the blood antioxidant levels in a group of healthy volunteers.

That’s one study that we know about — but from the wealth of claims about acai on the internet, you might believe there’s been a lot more research done.
Among the claims: acai will miraculously help you lose weight, cleanse your colon, and enhance your sexual desire. All claims that have not been verified by a reputable source.

And not only that — there’s the danger of falling prey to a “free trial scam.” When you search “acai” on the web, you will be directed to a dozen or more sites offering a free trial for the “acai berry weight loss” products. Numerous people have complained about being charged hundreds of dollars for this supposed “free trial,” and there are now lawsuits against the makers of the products in several states.

So should the overzealous marketing of some unscrupulous businesspeople make you shy away from eating acai?

Let’s get back to the basics. Acai is still a fruit, and no matter the overblown claims, putting more fruits and vegetables in your diet is hardly ever a bad thing. It is always a good idea to stock up on antioxidants. To ensure you’re buying acai with the most nutritional value, make sure you are buying 100% pure acai and not a product mixed with other ingredients. Also, the acai you eat should be from pulp, not the acai seed.

If you have questions about antioxidants, or need help developing a nutrition plan, the practitioners at Nature Cures Clinic are ready to help, give us a call today: 503-287-4970

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Naturopathic Views on Diet and Nutrition

Friday, August 22nd, 2008

Listen to Diet and Nutrition Podcast

Dr. Greg explain how our nutrition and diet affects things like inflammation, which has been linked to almost every chronic disease.  They will also discuss how you can eat in a way that will promote optimal digestion, an important component of a healthy body.

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