All posts by Jaime Askew

SuperSimpleSchoolLunches

Super Simple School Lunches

By | Portfolio | No Comments

Social media is filled with images of school lunches containing a variety of foods. It’s usually something like a sandwich, a fruit, a vegetable, a homemade muffin, and a little “treat.”

Now I’m not against all the foods I listed above, but I don’t think all of them are necessary. In fact, they may even be wasteful.

Let me explain….

Today kids have 20–30 minutes for lunch while at school. This includes the time it takes to get to the lunchroom, sit down, settle down, open and unpack their lunch, eat, clean-up and lineup for what’s next. This means they have an average of 10 minutes (if that) to actually eat.

So…if you want your kid to eat a healthy lunch (and not waste food), packing a large variety of food is not the best approach. Especially if there are several containers and packages that your child must open.

And in many cases, your child may eat the “treat” and homemade muffin, and then run out of time to eat the healthier stuff.

Therefore, I recommend keeping school lunches super simple. Less stress for you AND your child. Because some children, especially picky eaters, get overwhelmed with too many options and an abundance of food in front of them

Think about what you would serve at home for lunch. A sandwich with a piece of fruit. Or a bowl of pasta with a veggie.

At most, all you need to pack is TWO THINGS. A main dish and a fruit or veggie. That’s it! And in some cases, one thing is all you need.

Before I share some specific examples of what to pack, here are a few tips to keep in mind when packing school lunches:

  1. Use containers that are easy to open. If your child has trouble, he or she will need to waste time trying to track someone down to help. I recommend using a two compartment bento box of sorts. I have personally been using the same ECOlunchbox since 2013.
  2. Save new foods for home snacks and meals. If you pack something your child isn’t familiar with, there is a good chance he or she won’t eat it. Therefore, stick to foods you know your child will eat.
  3. Don’t forget utensils! Again, if you forget the utensils, your child will need to spend precious time searching for them.
  4. Use an ice pack. This will ensure the food stays at a safe temperature until lunchtime.
  5. If you’re packing a hot lunch, Thermos brand containers work great to keep food warm. These containers are also great for liquid cold foods, such as yogurt.
  6. Ask your child not to dump the food he or she doesn’t eat. This will allow you see what’s working and what’s not. To (calmly) talk to your child about it. Are you packing too much or too little? If you notice there is something that your child never eats, maybe you should save that food for home.
  7. Avoid packing foods that are difficult to chew. For example, celery can be difficult to chew for some children (including my son). So, I stopped packing it in his lunch and only serve it at home when he has more time to eat. Whole nuts can also be hard for kids to chew. However, chopping them into smaller pieces often makes it easier.
  8. Pack foods that are easy for your child to get into his or her mouth. For instance, some younger kids may struggle with utensils. If this is the case, finger foods are probably best. I use these adorable metal picks for my son’s lunch. They are fun and easy to use.
  9. Pack foods that are ready to eat. While I love the idea of “building your own” sandwich or tacos, most kids just don’t have the time. Chopping and slicing meats, fruits, and veggies are also essential. Your child doesn’t have time to cut up his or her steak.
  10. Pack water to drink. It’s the healthiest option. Plus, it will save you money. I recommend using reusable stainless steel water bottles. I have personally been using the Thermos brand FUNtainers since 2011.
  11. Create a weekly lunch calendar and get your child’s input. He or she will then know what to expect. Many children, especially picky eaters, don’t like to be surprised when it comes to food.
  12. KEEP IT SIMPLE! 

So…what do super simple school lunches look like?

Most often it’s a main dish with a fruit or veggie on the side. But some main dishes are enough.

Consider the following main dishes that don’t necessarily need anything extra:

  • Soup, stew, or chilli (e.g. chicken vegetable, split pea, beef stew, black bean soup)
  • Yogurt parfaits – full fat plain Greek yogurt with berries and a little raw honey. Chopped nuts, seeds, and/or granola are also nice additions.
  • Overnight oats – these can be prepared overnight and include fruits, nuts, and seeds for a complete lunch
  • Salad with protein (e.g. chicken Caesar salad)
  • Pasta with a veggie and protein (e.g. broccoli and chicken or broccoli and meat sauce)
  • Bean or meat and veggie burritos
  • Quinoa veggie bowl
  • Bean salad with veggies

Now for some two item lunch ideas, use the chart below. Pick one item from each column. Mix and match to find combinations your child will eat. And consider getting your child’s input.

Also, I can’t emphasize enough that leftovers work great. I would never cook my son a piece of chicken or a pork chop in the morning just to pack in his lunch. If it’s in his lunch, it’s because we had it for dinner the night before or earlier in the week.

Leftovers can also be used to make new meals. For example, roasted chicken can be used to make chicken salad.

And, as your child grows, simply pack larger portions.

Main Dishes

Veggie or Fruit

Egg salad Carrot sticks or slices
Tuna or salmon salad Red pepper slices
Hard boiled eggs Berries
Chicken salad Apple slices
Chicken Orange slices
Pork chop Banana
Steak Celery sticks
Sandwich or wrap* Melon cubes
Shrimp Pineapple cubes
Salmon (or other fish) Pomegranate seeds
Meatballs Fermented pickles
Lentil pasta Cucumber slices
Beans with cheese Avocado slices
Fajita or taco meat Cherries
Deviled eggs Grapes
Homemade granola (with nuts or seeds) Pear slices
Ham and cheese cubes Diced mango
Lasagna Sugar snap peas
Pulled pork or chicken Coleslaw
Hummus and pita Potato salad
Mac and cheese Cherry tomatoes
Cottage cheese Applesauce


There are endless possibilities for sandwiches and wraps. However, most commercial brands of bread contain main unnecessary ingredients, including sugar.

My favorite brand of bread is Berlin Bakery. They make a whole grain spelt bread and a sourdough spelt bread that contain only the necessary ingredients.

Homemade bread is also great if you have the time. Sprouted bread is the next best but still check the ingredient list.

Some sandwich ideas include:

  • Uncured deli meats and cheese
  • Smoked salmon and cream cheese
  • Peanut or sunbutter with raw honey
  • Hummus and avocado (tomato and/or cucumber also work)
  • BLT (bacon, lettuce and tomato)
  • Egg salad
  • Chicken salad
  • Tuna or salmon salad

To Sum It Up…

The idea is to KEEP IT SUPER SIMPLE. Save the fancy stuff for the weekends when you have more time. And when your kids have more time to eat and enjoy your fun creations.

Keeping it simple will save you time, money, and your sanity. And most importantly, your child will eat a healthy lunch.

Adrenal Health

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

adrenal glandsYour adrenal glands are found just above your kidneys, and they secrete reproductive hormones as well as stress hormones. Needless to say, they play an important role in how your body responds to stress.

When faced with danger (real or perceived), a series of events takes place internally to ensure you have the energy and clarity needed to deal with the situation at hand. This response to any stressor starts in the brain and activates the HPA axis.

What is the HPA Axis?

HPA axis stands for hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis. The hypothalamus is a structure within the brain. When there is a perceived threat, the hypothalamus first sends a signal to the adrenal glands to release epinephrine (also known as adrenaline).

Epinephrine makes the heart beat faster to pump more blood and nutrients to vital organs. It also causes rapid breathing to supply more oxygen to the brain and increase alertness. In addition, epinephrine raises blood glucose levels to facilitate energy production.

After the initial burst of epinephrine, the hypothalamus releases a hormone known as corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH). This hormone triggers the pituitary gland to release adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which signals the adrenal glands to release cortisol.

Hypothalamus

Cortisol keeps the body fueled with energy and on high alert. During this time, all other bodily functions are halted. Once the threat has passed, the body resumes normal functioning.

It’s important to understand that this stress response is normal and essential for survival. It evolved to protect humans from life-threatening circumstances. However, the HPA axis wasn’t designed to handle constant threats. And unfortunately, chronic stress is far too common in our modern society.

As a result, the HPA axis may become dysfunctional. This may cause either abnormally high or low cortisol levels in the body.

Symptoms Related to HPA Axis Dysfunction

HPA axis dysfunction can lead to a variety of physical and mental symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Lethargy
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Brain fog
  • Poor memory
  • Insomnia
  • Frequent illnesses
  • Thyroid dysfunction
  • Blood sugar imbalances
  • Infertility
  • Allergies
  • Dry or itchy skin
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Food cravings
  • Heart palpitations
  • Muscle and joint pain

Adrenal Fatigue

Adrenal fatigue is typically described as having low cortisol levels along with several of the symptoms above. And it’s believed to be caused primarily by chronic stress.

Therefore, one key factor to adrenal health is reducing and managing stress. However, it’s important to recognize there are many potential sources of stress.

Potential Sources of Stress

Psychological stress is almost always a factor involved in HPA axis dysfunction. Sources of psychological stress often include:

  • Unhealthy relationships
  • Poor work-life balance
  • Family responsibilities
  • Finances
  • Health status
  • Significant life events (i.e., divorce, relocation, career change)
  • Poor self-image
  • Social pressure

However, several other external and internal stressors may also be at play, which include:

  • Digestive dysfunction
  • Imbalanced gut bacteria
  • Environmental toxins
  • Food allergies, sensitivities, and intolerances
  • Chronically low or high blood sugar
  • Physical injury or trauma
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Nutritional deficiencies

Unfortunately, adrenal fatigue is quite common. And HPA axis dysfunction is linked to all other systems in the body as well as many other serious health conditions, including autoimmune disease, diabetes, mental illness, and heart disease.

There is also evidence that HPA axis dysfunction during pregnancy can affect fetal development. Therefore, your adrenal and HPA axis health is not something to be ignored.

 

References:

Guilliams, T. G. (n.d.). The Role of Stress and the HPA Axis in Chronic Disease Management. Point Institute.

Guilliams, T. G., & Edwards, L. (2010). Chronic Stress and the HPA Axis: Clinical Assessment and Therapeutic Considerations (2nd ed., Vol. 9, Rep.). Point Institute.

Herman, J. P., McKlveen, J. M., Ghosal, S., Kopp, B., Wulsin, A., Makinson, R., … Myers, B. (2016). Regulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical stress response. Comprehensive Physiology, 6(2), 603–621. http://doi.org/10.1002/cphy.c150015

Xiong, F., & Zhang, L. (2013). Role of the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis in Developmental Programming of Health and Disease. Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology, 34(1), 27–46. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.yfrne.2012.11.002

Good Carbs versus Bad Carbs

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

Carbs (a.k.a. carbohydrates) often get a bad rap in the nutrition world. But the idea that carbs are universally “bad” is a gross oversimplification.

Carbohydrates are macronutrients found in plant-based foods. In general, they are broken down into glucose once consumed. The glucose is then used by cells to generate energy. And our bodies use this energy to move, grow, repair cells, digest food, circulate blood, etc. Essentially, all biological processes require energy.

Thus, carbohydrates provide a source of fuel. However, not all carbs are created equal.

Carbs can be broken down into two main categories: refined and unrefined.

Refined Carbohydrates

The main sources of refined carbohydrates include white flour products (i.e., bread, pasta, cereals) and sweeteners.

One of the biggest problems with these foods is the refining process, which strips “whole” foods (i.e., wheat berries and sugar cane) of most of their nutrients.

Thus, these “simple” carbs are metabolized into glucose quickly. There is no fiber or protein to slow down their absorption into the bloodstream. As a result, this leads to spikes in blood sugar and insulin.

Refined carbohydrates are the main ingredient in processed foods. In fact, it is estimated that up to 74% of all packaged foods contain added sweeteners. And, an excess of refined carbohydrates has been associated with many serious health conditions including type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.

Thus, we think it’s safe to say that refined carbohydrates are “bad” and their consumption should be limited.

Unrefined Carbohydrates

On the other hand, unrefined carbs are digested more slowly because they still contain fiber and protein. In addition, they naturally contain health-promoting vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.

Thus, unrefined carbohydrates are a healthy component of a well-balanced diet. They help to sustain energy levels and prevent blood sugar and insulin spikes.

The best sources of these “good” carbs include:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Whole grains (i.e., quinoa, brown rice, millet)
  • Bean and lentils

And we can’t neglect to mention the benefit from fiber these carbs contain. This natural source of fiber found only in these plant-based foods helps to maintain healthy cholesterol levels, supports bowel health and detoxification, and feeds the good bacteria in your gut among other things.

To Sum it Up…

In general, refined carbohydrates found in processed foods do more harm than good. And because of their lack of nutrients, they’re also easy to overeat.

On the other hand, unrefined carbohydrates are packed with nutrients and offer many health benefits. And this is why you’re sure to find a healthy dose of “good” carbs in our Pure Plates meals.

Pure Plates: Our Nutrition Philosophy

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

The food we eat affects every aspect of our health and well being, including our energy, mood, behavior, weight, sleep, immunity, and more! When we eat, we’re either boosting wellness or promoting disease.

At Pure Plates, we believe it’s important to eat foods that truly nourish our bodies as opposed to foods that burden our systems. Therefore, we’re committed to using the cleanest, nutrient dense foods available.

Food Is Fuel

Our whole food ingredients supply your body with fuel as well as all the vitamins and minerals needed to convert that fuel into energy. And with a good balance of proteins, healthy fats, and carbohydrates, your energy is sure to last.

On the other hand, processed and fast foods provide limited nutrition and only short bursts of energy.

Food Is Medicine

Our whole food ingredients offer an abundance of nutrients needed to prevent and heal from disease. This includes potent antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents, which also delay the aging process.

On the other hand, processed and fast foods contain a variety of harmful ingredients and food additives that are capable of causing inflammation and disease as well as accelerating the aging process.

Food Should Be Chemical Free

From antibiotic and hormone free meats to organic produce to health promoting olive and coconut oil, we’ve got you covered! We also go the extra mile to avoid the most common food allergens, including gluten, dairy, and soy.

Food Should Taste Amazing

Our meals are loaded with nutrients as well as bursting with flavor. No baked chicken and steamed veggies in our kitchen! We use a variety of herbs, spices, and sauces to create healthy, mouth watering meals.

Food Brings Families Together

Eating meals with loved ones provides a wonderful opportunity to connect and share experiences. It strengthens bonds and offers a sense of belonging. Family meals also help foster healthy eating habits and lead to special family traditions.

Healthy Food Is Our Passion

We don’t believe in sacrificing health for convenience, which is why we created Pure Plates. We’re committed to providing convenient and nourishing meals that taste delicious.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

Overview and Symptoms

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a disease defined by severe, unrelenting, and unexplained fatigue lasting for six months or more. It affects over one million Americans. And women are twice as likely than men to be diagnosed.

Some report the onset of chronic fatigue feels like the flu. However, the symptoms never go away.

Those affected may also experience the following:

  • digestive dysfunction
  • joint and/or muscle pain
  • inability to focus
  • poor memory
  • chills and/or night sweats
  • exercise intolerance
  • swollen lymph nodes

It’s important to note that the level of fatigue often experienced can be disabling. Some are unable to work or even socialize with friends and family.

In addition, conventional medicine is not well-equipped to diagnose or treat chronic fatigue syndrome. As a result, people are often told that they need more sleep or that the problem is in their head.

Therefore, emotional well-being is often a big concern. And people often suffer from:

  • Guilt and shame
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Suicidal thoughts

Leading Cause of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

According to current research, mitochondrial dysfunction is the main culprit behind the fatigue in chronic fatigue syndrome.

Mitochondria are cellular components mainly responsible for converting energy from the food we eat (i.e., glucose) into a form of energy our bodies can use (a.k.a. ATP). However, our mitochondria have many other functions, including:

  • Storing calcium ions necessary for blood clotting, muscle contraction, and cellular fluid balance
  • Making iron used by red blood cells to transport oxygen throughout the body
  • Initial production site for the synthesis of steroid hormones (i.e., cortisol, estrogen, and testosterone)

Mitochondria also have the capacity to initiate cell death by halting energy production, creating harmful free radicals, and/or secreting deadly proteins. This process was most likely designed to protect the body from unnecessary or abnormal cells.

However, we now know that mitochondrial dysfunctional may also be brought on by chronic stress and inflammation. And the symptoms associated with mitochondrial dysfunction cause further stress and inflammation. Thus, it’s a vicious cycle!

Sources of Stress & Inflammation

In one way or another, stress leads to inflammation in the body. For example, there is evidence suggesting an overactive immune system may be at play with chronic fatigue syndrome. And an overactive immune system is stressful and inflammatory. In addition, there is a stressor that is causing the immune system to overact. Therefore, treatment must involve reducing all sources of stress and bringing the body back into balance.

Sources of psychological stress often include:

  • Unhealthy relationships
  • Poor work-life balance
  • Family responsibilities
  • Finances
  • Health status
  • Significant life events (i.e., divorce, relocation, career change)
  • Poor self-image
  • Social pressure

However, there are also physical sources of the stress that must be considered, which include:

  • Digestive dysfunction
  • Imbalanced gut bacteria
  • Environmental toxins
  • Food allergies, sensitivities, and intolerances
  • Chronically low or high blood sugar
  • Physical injury or trauma
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Poor diet and nutrition deficiencies

Functional Medicine Approach to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Unlike conventional medicine, I won’t suggest taking pills to improve your sleep or medications to treat depression. Because then we’d just be treating the symptoms. And the underlying problem would still be there.

Therefore, if we determine chronic fatigue syndrome is troubling you, we’ll work closely together to identify and reduce all possible sources of stress discussed above.

The healing process will then involve personalized dietary and lifestyle changes as well as specific nutrients to support healthy mitochondrial function and reduce inflammation.

Conventional medicine may have you believe that chronic fatigue syndrome is a death sentence. But I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be that way. While it’s not something that can be cured overnight, reversing this disease and regaining your health is possible.

References

Bland, J. (2015). The disease delusion: conquering the causes of chronic illness for a healthier, longer, and happier life. New York: HarperWave, an imprint of HarperCollins.

Booth, N. E., et al. (2012). Mitochondrial dysfunction and the pathophysiology of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS).International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Medicine5(3), 208-220.

Myhill, S., Booth, N. E., & McLaren-Howard, J. (2009). Chronic fatigue syndrome and mitochondrial dysfunction. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, 2(1), 1–16.

Morris, G., et al. (2015). Central pathways causing fatigue in neuro-inflammatory and autoimmune illnesses. BMC Medicine,13(1), 28. doi:10.1186/s12916-014-0259-2

Morris, G., et al. (2014). Oxidative and Nitrosative Stress and Immune-Inflammatory Pathways in Patients with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME)/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). Current Neuropharmacology, 12(2), 168–185. doi:10.2174/1570159X11666131120224653

Morris, G., et al. (2015). The many roads to mitochondrial dysfunction in neuroimmune and neuropsychiatric disorders. BMC Medicine,13(1). doi:10.1186/s12916-015-0310-y

Why is Nutrition SO Important- (6)

Heart Health

By | Portfolio, Uncategorized | No Comments

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. It claims approximately one million lives each year.

And despite a booming cholesterol-lowering statin drug industry, rates of heart disease keep increasing. In fact, experts predict it will be the number one cause of death worldwide by 2020.

This is because conventional medicine focuses mostly on cholesterol as the major risk for heart disease. Therefore, statins are far too frequently prescribed to reduce cholesterol levels. And statins do effectively lower cholesterol. But that’s it.

Statins relieve a symptom (high cholesterol), but they don’t address the underlying risk factors that can lead to heart disease.

The truth is diet and lifestyle play a critical role in the development of cardiovascular disease even when a genetic predisposition exists. Therefore, we must address these factors to end the heart disease epidemic.

How Heart Disease Begins

We now know heart disease begins with damage to a single cell lining of the arteries, known as the endothelium, that pump blood to the heart. When the integrity of the endothelium is compromised, fat cells, oxidized LDL cholesterol, immune cells, cellular debris, and calcium begin to build-up within the coronary arteries.

This “sticky” substance is often referred to as plaque. If the plaque grows large enough, it starts to restrict blood flow to the heart. Another complication occurs when the plaque ruptures. The body instantly forms a blood clot (thrombosis), which further blocks the flow of blood and prevents the heart from efficiently and effectively receiving critical nutrients as well as oxygen. This often leads to a heart attack or in some cases sudden death

In some cases, a heart attack is the first sign of heart disease. And sometimes individuals have no symptoms before a heart attack occurs. Others may experience the following symptoms:

  • Abnormal heart beat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fluid in lungs
  • Dizziness
  • Angina (chest pain)
  • Swollen feet and ankles
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety

Leading Cause of Heart Disease

We also now know that inflammation and oxidative stress are the leading causes of endothelium damage, which leads to the development of heart disease.

In fact, LDL-cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol) is not all bad. It is only dangerous once it becomes oxidized. The process of oxidation makes it sticky and more likely to adhere to the arterial wall.

To make matters worse, once plaque begins to accumulate in the arteries, it causes further inflammation, oxidative stress, and other conditions such as high blood pressure and vascular autoimmunity.

Comprehensive List of Risk Factors

Inflammation and oxidative stress most often result from a nutrient deficient diet high in trans-fatty acids and refined grains and sugars. Other factors that cause and/or worsen inflammation and oxidative stress include:

  • Lack of exercise
  • Poor sleep
  • Obesity and visceral fat
  • Diabetes
  • High insulin levels
  • High blood sugar
  • Insulin resistance
  • High triglycerides and/or cholesterol
  • Elevated homocysteine levels
  • High blood pressure
  • Chronic stress
  • Heavy metal exposure
  • Environmental toxins
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Chronic infections
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Inflammatory diseases

Genetic Risk Factors

While inflammation and oxidative stress are at the top of the list, it is important to note there are also genetic factors involved in the progression of heart disease. Genetic predispositions associated with heart disease include:

  • Family history of early heart disease
  • Male-pattern baldness
  • Diagonal earlobe crease and hairy earlobes
  • Short stature (men < 5’5” | women < 5’)
  • Tall (men > 6’ | women > 5’8”)

However, it’s extremely important to understand that various individual factors can and do influence your genetics. This is known as epigenetics, which means you have the power to defy your DNA. And a healthy diet and lifestyle can prevent the expression of your “disease” genes.

Additional Risk Factors to Consider

Other unique risk factors include:

  • Defective heart muscle and/or function
  • Age (55 in men | 60 in women)
  • Gender (males are at higher risk until a woman hits menopause)
  • Osteoporosis at menopause
  • High levels of estradiol (form of estrogen) in men
  • Hormonal deficiencies
  • Kidney disease

Why Conventional Treatment Isn’t Working

As you can see, there are many risk factors associated with heart disease. Not just cholesterol or high blood pressure. And this is why administering medications to lower cholesterol and/or blood pressure will not reduce your risk of developing heart disease.

In fact, research has even shown cholesterol-lowering statin drugs can actually accelerate the progression of heart disease. While there are several ways in which this happens, two specific mechanisms include the depletion of CoQ10 and the inhibition of vitamin K2 synthesis. And these are two nutrients essential to optimal heart health.

The Functional Medicine Approach to Preventing Heart Disease

Heart disease is 100% preventable. However, it requires identifying and addressing all sources of inflammation and oxidative stress (the underlying causes).

Dietary support should rely heavily on anti-inflammatory and antioxidant foods. Therefore, I always recommend a nutrient-dense whole food diet rich in a rainbow of fruits and vegetables, high-quality proteins and fats, nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices. In addition, targeted nutrient support may be necessary.

Stress management, restful sleep, and exercise are also critical lifestyle factors to arterial and heart health.

My goal as a functional medicine doctor is to help you identify your individual risk factors as well as create a personalized diet and lifestyle plan to prevent heart disease as well as achieve vibrant health.

References

Bowden, J., Sinatra, S. T., & Rawlings, D. (2015). The great cholesterol myth: why lowering your cholesterol won’t prevent heart disease – and the statin-free plan that will. Beverly, MA: Fair Winds Press.

Houston, M. (2012). What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Heart Disease. New York, NY: Grand Central Life & Style.

Hyman, M. (2012). The Blood Sugar Solution. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.

Rath, M. (2003). Why Animals Don’t Get Heart Disease…But People Do! Fremont, CA: MR Publishing, Inc.

Okuyama, H., Langsjoen, P. H., Hamazaki, T., Ogushi, Y., Hama, R., Kobayashi, T., & Uchino, H. (2015). Statins stimulate atherosclerosis and heart failure: pharmacological mechanisms. Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology,8(2), 189-199. doi:10.1586/17512433.2015.1011125

Petursson, H., Sigurdsson, J. A., Bengtsson, C., Nilsen, T. I. L., & Getz, L. (2012). Is the use of cholesterol in mortality risk algorithms in clinical guidelines valid? Ten years prospective data from the Norwegian HUNT 2 study. Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice18(1), 159–168. Doi:10.1111/j.1365-2753.2011.01767.x

Could You Have Scurvy (even though you’re not a pirate)?

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

INGREDIENTS- (5)

What is Scurvy?

Scurvy is a disease caused by a vitamin C (ascorbic acid) deficiency.

Without vitamin C, the body is unable to synthesize collagen necessary for wound healing and healthy skin, bones, teeth, joints, and blood vessels.

Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant that effectively fights free radicals and prevents oxidative stress throughout the body.

In addition, it plays a critical role in adrenal and thyroid function.

Scurvy Symptoms

If you’re not eating fresh fruits and vegetables regularly, then you’re likely at risk of developing scurvy. This should be your first clue.

Other early warning signs and symptoms include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Muscle spasms, cramping or pain
  • Brain fog
  • Diarrhea
  • Weakness
  • Fever
  • Bruising
  • Wounds that won’t heal
  • Bleeding or swollen gums
  • Tooth decay or tooth loss
  • Weight loss
  • Coiled hair
  • Skin rashes or red spots
  • High blood pressure
  • Depression

Resurgence of Scurvy

In the 18th century, scurvy caused the teeth of sailors to fall out due to a lack of vitamin C in their diet aboard ship. However, it appears scurvy isn’t just a disease of the past.

Based on data collected between 2003 and 2004, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found 6 to 8% of the general population had a vitamin C deficiency severe enough to qualify as a scurvy diagnosis.

Between 2009 and 2014, almost 25% of patients admitted to a hospital in Springfield, Massachusetts with unexplained symptoms were diagnosed with a vitamin C deficiency.

In the United Kingdom, the rate of scurvy-related hospital admissions increased by 27% between 2009 and 2014.

And a researcher at a Diabetes Center in Australia documented more than a dozen cases in recent years as well.

Why is Scurvy Making a Comeback?

This resurgence is surprising to doctors and health officials because the amount of vitamin C needed to prevent scurvy is relatively low. For example, one large orange or one bowl of strawberries a day provides enough vitamin C to do the trick.

But the sad truth is that more and more people don’t regularly eat fresh fruits and vegetables. Or, if they eat these foods at all, they are either from a package or overcooked, which almost entirely diminishes the vitamin C content.

Other modern day factors may also deplete the body of vitamin C, which includes:

  • Chronic stress
  • Environmental toxins
  • Illness
  • Injury
  • Synthetic hormones and birth control pills
  • Steroid medications
  • Diuretics
  • Aspirin

It’s also worth noting that a well-functioning digestive system is necessary to properly digest and absorb vitamin C (and all other nutrients) from food. Thus, with the rise of gastrointestinal diseases and dysfunction, this could also be a contributing factor.

Best Sources of Vitamin C

Uncooked, fresh fruits and veggies are the best sources of vitamin C. Those you can enjoy raw with the highest vitamin C content include:

  • Papaya
  • Bell peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Strawberries
  • Pineapple
  • Oranges
  • Kiwi
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cauliflower
  • Kale
  • Cabbage
  • Grapefruit
  • Raspberries
  • Tomatoes

In Conclusion…

Scurvy, a condition caused by a severe vitamin C deficiency, is making a comeback around the world mostly in part to our modern way of life. This means your risk may be real even though you’re not an 18th-century pirate.

Therefore, it’s important to consume fresh vitamin C rich fruits and vegetables every day to prevent a vitamin C deficiency and the development of scurvy.

References

National Institutes of Health – Vitamin C Fact Sheet for Professionals

Pelton, R. (2001). Drug-induced nutrient depletion handbook. Hudson, OH: Lexi-Comp.

Scurvy makes surprise return in Australia. (2016, November 29).

Scurvy Is a Serious Public Health Problem. (2015, November 20).

The World’s Healthiest Foods – Vitamin C

Myth Busted! Eating Fat Doesn’t Make You Fat

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

dreamstime_m_34358297

Dietary fat is making a comeback in the health and nutrition world. And science has confirmed why fat should have never been demonized in the first place.

In fact, this article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association provides evidence that the sugar industry paid researchers to perform studies to downplay the link between sugar consumption and heart disease. In addition, they made us believe fat was the enemy.

Health Benefits of Fat

Our bodies can’t make fat. Thus, it must come from our food. And fat is an essential component to the health of every cell in your body as well as many biological processes.

Let’s take a closer look at the key roles of fat…

  • Each cell membrane is made of a layer of fat. Thus, healthy fat consumption promotes optimal cell membrane function, which includes obtaining nutrients, eliminating toxins, and communication.
  • Fat-soluble vitamins, including A, D, E, and K, require the presence of fat for absorption. Thus, if you’re eating a salad without a healthy source of fat, you’re not benefiting from all the vitamin A and K in those leafy greens.
  • Your brain consists of mostly fat. Therefore, it requires a steady stream of fat particles for optimal performance as well as development. This means that low-fat diets can actually negatively impact your mood, behavior, and memory among other cognitive functions.
  • Hormones such as estrogen and testosterone are made with fat. Thus, low-fat diets can lead to infertility as well as other hormonal imbalances. These imbalances often cause dysfunction, which ultimately leads to disease if left untreated.
  • Fat provides a layer of protection for your organs as well as insulation for your nerve cells.
  • Your metabolism and body temperature are regulated by fat.
  • In the absence of carbohydrates, fat can be used as a source of fuel to produce energy.

Why Eating Fat Doesn’t Make You Fat

Now that we’ve established that fat is an essential component of a well-balanced diet, it’s also important to understand that eating fat won’t make you fat. Despite what we’ve been led to believe for so many years.

For example, the fat in an avocado doesn’t instantly accumulate in your fat cells. Just like eating protein doesn’t automatically give you big muscles.

Research has shown that eating fat is highly satiating. It also slows down the digestive process and triggers appetite-suppressing hormones. Thus, you’re more likely to stop eating when your body has what it needs. And you’re less likely to snack in between meals.

However, unhealthy fats found in heavily processed foods don’t offer the same benefits. Especially because they’re typically combined with refined carbohydrates.

This explains why it’s easy to overeat chips, but the chances of you overindulging on raw nuts are slim.

It also leads to the next key point, which is all calories are not created equal.

Let’s take a closer look at the nutrition facts of non-fat yogurt and avocado to further illustrate this point.

One serving of non-fat yogurt typically offers the following:

  • 0 grams of fat
  • 10 grams of sugar
  • 5 grams of protein
  • 90 calories
  • Synthetic sources of vitamin A & D
  • Added flavors, colors, and preservatives

And if you’re eating this yogurt as a snack, most likely it’s not very filling. You’ll probably eat two servings or grab something else with it or soon after.

On the other hand, a half of an avocado contains:

  • 14 grams of fat
  • Less than 1 gram of sugar
  • 2 grams of protein
  • 160 calories
  • 6.5 grams of fiber
  • Natural vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients

Based on these facts, an avocado will always be the healthier choice. First, it is much more filling than a cup of non-fat yogurt. Thus, you’ll probably eat less in the long run. And, the extra nutrients provide your body with much more than energy.

These nutrients are necessary for proper hormone function, digestive health, gene expression, brain health, immune function, and a healthy gut microbiome among other things. And these factors all impact your metabolism and your body’s ability to burn fat.

Further, research has shown that those following a low-carb, high-fat diet burn more calories daily than those eating a high-carb, low-fat diet.

Therefore, if you’re avoiding fat in an effort to eat fewer calories and lose weight, you might want to rethink your strategy.

In addition to the above, eating less fat often means consuming more carbs.

For instance, if you opt for non-fat yogurt as opposed to an avocado, you may be consuming fewer calories, but your refined sugar intake is much higher.

And sugar releases insulin, which ushers glucose into your cells and stores any excess as fat. Therefore, an overconsumption of sugar and other refined carbs is one of the key contributing factors to gaining fat.

Sources of Healthy Fats

It’s important to understand not all fats are created equal. It’s always best to stick to whole food sources of fat, such as:

  • Avocado and avocado oil
  • Olives and olive oil
  • Raw or sprouted nuts and seeds
  • Coconut and coconut oil
  • Whole eggs
  • Grass-fed butter and ghee

Unhealthy fats to be avoided include:

  • Heavily processed vegetable oils (canola, corn, and soy)
  • Trans fat (hydrogenated oils)

For maximum health and fat burning benefits, it’s also recommended to balance your healthy fats with other whole foods (as opposed to processed foods). These include fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes, and healthy animal proteins.

In Conclusion…

Dietary fat is an essential nutrient to achieve and maintain optimal health. And despite popular belief, eating egg yolks and smothering your sweet potato with butter will not spontaneously put fat on your body.

However, not all fats are created equal. Therefore, stick to fats from whole foods as opposed to heavily processed and refined fats and oils.

References

Ebbeling, C. B., et al. (2012). Effects of Dietary Composition During Weight Loss Maintenance: A Controlled Feeding Study. JAMA : The Journal of the American Medical Association, 307(24), 2627–2634. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.6607

Hall, K., et al. (2015). Calorie for Calorie, Dietary Fat Restriction Results in More Body Fat Loss than Carbohydrate Restriction in People with Obesity. Cell Metabolism,22(3), 427-436. doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2015.07.021

Hyman, M. (2016). Eat fat, get thin: why the fat we eat is the key to sustained weight loss and vibrant health. New York: Little, Brown and Company.

Montmayeur, J., & Coutre, J. L. (2010). Fat detection taste, texture, and post ingestive effects. Boca Raton: CRC Press/Taylor & Francis.

Sherman, H., et al. (2012). Timed high-fat diet resets circadian metabolism and prevents obesity. The FASEB Journal,26(8), 3493-3502. doi:10.1096/fj.12-208868

Diverticulitis 101: Overview & Natural Interventions

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

What is Diverticulitis?

In some individuals, small bulging sacs known as “diverticula” form along the lining of the colon. When this occurs, it is referred to as diverticulosis. This condition is often asymptomatic.

However, diverticulitis is a condition that occurs if these sacs in the colon become infected or inflamed. When this occurs, noticeable symptoms arise.

diverticulitis

Symptoms

The pressure on the colonic wall increases due to the inflammation and enlargement of the diverticula sacs. This pressure causes severe pain and cramping. Other possible symptoms include:

  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Fever
  • Increased white blood cell count
  • Abdominal tenderness
  • Nausea
  • Change in bowel habits

And while constipation may be a symptom, it may also be a contributing factor.

Contributing Factors

One or a combination of the following often triggers diverticular disease:

  • Structural irregularities in the colon wall
  • Dysfunctional intestinal mobility (i.e., constipation)
  • Dietary fiber deficiencies

The risk of developing diverticulitis increases with age. Other risk factors include:

  • Obesity
  • Lack of exercise
  • Long-term pharmaceutical drug use (i.e., anti-inflammatories and opioids)
  • Smoking

Prevalence

The prevalence of diverticulitis is high, especially in developed countries with Westernized diets that lack dietary fiber.

In the United States, it is estimated that 10% of the population over 40 are affected. In Finland, the rates of diverticulitis have increased by 50% over the last 20 years.

Treatment

If an infection is present, antibiotics may be necessary. And difficult recurring cases may even require surgery.

However, early stages of diverticulitis may often be addressed with diet and lifestyle changes as opposed to medical intervention. Thus, it’s important to know the symptoms discussed above.

Dietary Interventions

Western diets are loaded with sugar, unhealthy fats, and heavily processed foods. And these processed foods lack dietary fiber, a key contributing factor to the development of diverticulitis.

Thus, consuming less processed foods and more dietary fiber from whole foods (i.e., fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes) is essential for prevention as well as the healing process.

However, bombarding a delicate system with loads of fiber is not recommended. Instead, it’s often suggested to start with easy to digest foods, such as:

  • Bone broth
  • Fresh fruit and vegetable juices
  • Pureed fruits and vegetables
  • Pureed vegetable soups
  • Smoothies

Once symptoms ease, small amounts of natural sources of fiber may be added to the diet. It is then recommended to gradually increase your consumption of fiber.

Once healed, a well-balanced whole foods diet is important to maintain optimal colon health.

It’s also worth noting that eating slowly and thoroughly chewing food improves the digestive process as well as the absorption of health-promoting nutrients.

Botanical Support

Demulcent herbs are known for their ability to soothe and heal inflamed mucous membranes within the digestive tract. They contain mucilage that forms a gel-like substance that coats the lining of the intestines when consumed. This cool and soothing gel helps to protect the mucous membranes and reduces inflammation. While there are many options to choose from, a few of the most common demulcent herbs used to soothe and heal the intestinal tract include:

  • Aloe
  • Marshmallow Root
  • Slippery Elm
  • Licorice Root

Turmeric is also a powerful anti-inflammatory herb. Fresh or dried turmeric powder can be added to smoothies and juices.

Curcumin (the main active ingredient in turmeric) supplements are also available. However, curcumin alone isn’t very effective because its bioavailability is low. Therefore, look for supplements that also include bioperine (an extract of black pepper fruit), which helps to increase the bioavailability of curcumin.

Fiber Supplements

Fiber supplements may also be helpful. However, as previously mentioned, it’s important to start slow.

Psyllium husk is a whole food option that provides a mixture of both soluble and insoluble fiber. It comes in a powder form, which can easily be added to smoothies. Organic and 100% pure psyllium husk is recommended to reduce chances of further irritation.

Lifestyle Changes

While diet is essential to preventing and healing from diverticulitis, lifestyle habits also play a significant role. Quality sleep, stress management, and exercise are all equally important.

In fact, this study suggests physical activity along with a high-fiber diet is an effective approach to preventing symptomatic diverticular disease.

In Conclusion

Diverticulitis is a painful disease caused by inflamed and/or infected diverticula sacs within the colon. It’s especially common in developed countries with Western diets lacking dietary fiber.

A well-balanced, high-fiber whole foods diet along with adequate sleep, stress management, and exercise are key factors in the prevention of diverticulitis as well as the healing process.

References

Aldoori, W. H., Giovannucci, E. L., Rimm, E. B., Ascherio, A., Stampfer, M. J., Colditz, G. A., … Willett, W. C. (1995). Prospective study of physical activity and the risk of symptomatic diverticular disease in men. Gut36(2), 276–282.

Crowe, F. L., Balkwill, A., Cairns, B. J., Appleby, P. N., Green, J., Reeves, G. K., … Beral, V. (2014). Source of dietary fibre and diverticular disease incidence: a prospective study of UK women. Gut63(9), 1450–1456. http://doi.org/10.1136/gutjnl-2013-304644

Matrana, M. R., & Margolin, D. A. (2009). Epidemiology and Pathophysiology of Diverticular Disease. Clinics in Colon and Rectal Surgery22(3), 141–146. http://doi.org/10.1055/s-0029-1236157

Strate, L. L., Liu, Y. L., Syngal, S., Aldoori, W. H., & Giovannucci, E. L. (2008). Nut, corn and popcorn consumption and the incidence of diverticular disease. JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association300(8), 907–914. http://doi.org/10.1001/jama.300.8.907