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LDL myths and truths

LDL Myths and Truths

LDL myths abound, but what are the LDL truths you need to know? First let’s discuss what this substance is.

What is LDL?

The first LDL myth is that it is a type of cholesterol. LDL, or low-density lipoprotein, is actually a carrier of cholesterol. Physicians use it as way of estimating cholesterol in the body because it represents the total cholesterol being transported from the liver to the rest of the body.

Here is the truth: LDL is essential to health because it is the one resource to deliver cholesterol to tissues for healing and repair. Cholesterol, as part of your immune system, becomes a kind of internal scab wherever there is tissue damage.

But cholesterol not only repairs tissue. It helps create the outer membrane of every cell in the body. Cholesterol is also the raw material for sex hormones.

Your body makes cholesterol in the liver abundantly! (Diet only accounts for 25% or less of your total cholesterol.) But if your LDL is too low, you cannot get that cholesterol to the cells for membrane synthesis or repair. Also, without LDL to move cholesterol from the liver to your gonads, you could not generate sex hormones.

What is LDL’s significance?

If LDL is so vital, then why do doctors become concerned when it rises? LDL is like water on a fire. If your LDL is high, it may be indicator of great oxidative damage in your body. Ask yourself this. Who needs more water: a person cooking dinner, or a person whose house is burning down?

So, LDL is a red flag. But there is an assumption (LDL myth #2) that the higher your LDL, the greater your risk of cardiovascular disease. In reality, research shows that total amount of LDL does not correlate well with incidence of cardiovascular disease. What seems to matter more is the type of LDL particles, rather than the overall number.

LDL is like a bag of apples. You want a sack of big, healthy apples, not a sack of little, insidious crab apples. The truth is that small, dense LDL – like crab apples – can be included in arterial plaque. This is known as pattern B LDL. It is more atherogenic, meaning it tends to promote fatty plaques in the arteries. Light & fluffy LDL, called pattern A, is less atherogenic because it is too large to be incorporated into arterial plaques.

Cardio IQ is one test that can evaluate the particle size of your LDL.

It is fiction that LDL is the only marker to be concerned about when it comes to heart health (LDL myth #3). LDL typically only becomes a red flag when your arteries are inflamed and attracting an immune response. Conditions that raise this flag include pre-diabetes, diabetes, chronic simmering infections, and toxicity.

Looking beyond LDL myths to other factors

HDLs (high-density lipoproteins) & triglycerides are extremely important disease markers, especially among women. In fact, if you are female, the more your triglyceride to HDL ratio rises above 2:1, the greater your cardiovascular disease risk. Besides that, high triglyceride to HDL ratios tend to correlate with Pattern B (small and dense) LDL’s.

HDLs are protective against atherosclerosis and are optimal at 65-85 mg/dL for women. Low levels may be an independent risk factor for atherosclerosis.

You can increase your HDLs with exercise, omega 3 fatty acids, and a low-carb diet. On the other hand, high-sugar intake, a high-carb diet, trans-fats, high fructose corn syrup, and smoking decrease HDLs.

If your doctor is concerned about plaque deposits, ask what damage your body might be trying to repair. What conditions might be causing enough oxidative damage that LDL is being transported at a higher rate?

Why LDL may be elevated

You might suppose that your LDLs are high because you have too much fat in your diet (LDL myth #4). There are actually several primary reasons why LDLs rise, particularly in women. These are:

• High blood sugars. Since high blood sugars create oxidize blood vessels, it is not surprising that LDLs increase to bring cholesterol to patch up these sites. This is why high LDLs can be a red flag for pre-diabetes and diabetes. So, the reality is that sugar, not fat, has a greater impact on blood lipids.

• Hypothyroidism. Elevated LDL where there is poor thyroid function is common, especially in women. Studies consistently demonstrate elevated levels of total cholesterol and LDL in individuals with hypothyroidism according to this review. If your triglycerides are low, but your LDL is high, you can suspect hypothyroidism is at play.

• Chronic stress. First of all, stress can increase blood sugars more than food can. By this mechanism, stress can increase LDLs. But there’s more. Stress also increases cortisol. Since cholesterol rises with cortisol, it makes sense that more LDL would be needed to transport that cholesterol. Finally, stress promotes hypothyroidism. So, stress increases LDL via low thyroid function.

• Estrogen dominance: Estrogen causes hypersecretion of cholesterol into bile. Since your body recycles 95% of its bile, this means you have higher serum levels of total cholesterol and cholesterol-transporting LDL.

Treating the truth, not the LDL myth

Here is another LDL myth: If you have high LDL, you should always be prescribed a statin.

The obvious answer to elevated LDLs is to address the root issue (blood sugars, hypothyroidism, chronic stress, etc.). It is true that statins reduce LDL cholesterol, but they are toxic to your cellular energy factories, the mitochondria. Statins are capable of preventing you from making coQ10, vital to energy production.

If you need help keeping LDL in check while you work on root causes, you can take a supplement that helps bind LDL away from bile in the GI tract before it gets recycled. One such supplement is CholestePure Plus II, a non-soy blend of phytosterols with berberine for healthy lipid function.

As always, work with a qualified practitioner to address your root causes.

Selenium and zinc are essential thyroid nutrients

Essential Thyroid Nutrients

You need essential thyroid nutrients like a car needs gas in order to run. Selenium, zinc, iron, iodine, tyrosine, and Vitamin A are crucial to thyroid health.

Your Thyroid Drives Your Physical Functioning

Your thyroid is like a car. Because it drives every function in your body, you will get the most mileage out of your body if you have a “sporty” model.

The thyroid is like a sports car

But what if you have one that doesn’t accelerate well and won’t keep up with the flow of life?

The thyroid can function poorly like an old car

Then your digestion is sluggish, your detoxification is torpid, your thinking is lackluster, healing bogs down, weight loss is lethargic, and so on.

Essential Thyroid Nutrients to Fuel Your Tank

Just because you have a car, it doesn’t mean that it is driving anywhere at all! In order for your car to go anywhere, it has to have gas.

Now, the gas in the tank is called T4 hormone. Gas, or T4 hormone, has to be manufactured. Just as crude oil is required to make gasoline, iodine and tyrosine are required to made T4 hormone. Your body can’t invent them. So, you extract have to them from the food you eat, just as oil is extracted from reserves by drilling.

A great source of iodine is kelp flakes. The easiest way to use kelp is to mix it 50/50 with your Himalayan pink salt or Redmond Real Salt in your shaker. Tyrosine comes from animal products. Good sources are beef steak, pork chop, salmon, and chicken breast.

Turning Potential Energy into Kinetic Energy

So, now you’ve got gas in the tank. But still, the car won’t go if you’re not pressing on the gas pedal. You have to have some kind of action to power the engine. T3 thyroid hormone is what presses the gas pedal.

Essential thyroid nutrients to convert T4 to T3 are iron, zinc, Vitamin A and selenium. Your best source for iron and vitamin A is liver! For selenium, Brazil nuts are an excellent source, and for zinc, seafood and pumpkin seeds are supreme.

Please note that it doesn’t do any good to keep pouring gas in the tank (taking T4 hormone, usually in the form of prescription levothyroxine) if the tank is already full. Overflowing gas does not make the car move better. First, you need to address why the gas pedal is not working. Mineral deficiencies are common.

Another Essential Thyroid Nutrient

Regardless of how much potential there is to race down the freeway, the car simply will not get you there if you’re pressing on the brake instead. Reverse T3 hormone is like a brake pedal. It keeps the gas from doing its work.

Stress is a brake pedal. No matter how many nutrients eat, too much physiological or psychological stress just slows the car down!

If you want your thyroid to work, you have to prioritize essential primary nutrients such as sleeping 8-9 hours, deep breathing at mealtimes, meditating morning and night, laughing often and deeply, and finding joy every day through some form of play.

Food Inspiration for Essential Thyroid Nutrients

The next time you make pesto, use Brazil nuts instead of pine nuts to help supply selenium to your thyroid. When you brown some ground beef, mix in some pureed or grated liver to supply iron and Vitamin A.

Believe it or not, you can even add liver to muffins! Here is a delightfully delicious muffin recipe designed for skeptics of organ meat. You won’t be able to detect the liver, and you will love the sweet blueberry flavor!

 

Mystery Muffins

Sweet and delicious, you would never guess they contain thyroid-nourishing chicken livers!
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time40 mins
Course: Breakfast
Keyword: banana, blueberries, oat flour
Servings: 12
Author: Adapted from Healing Family Eats

Ingredients

  • 6 oz. fresh chicken livers
  • 1 large ripe banana
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup oat flour
  • 1 Tb. arrowroot, tapioca, or corn starch
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners.
  • Blend the liver and banana in a high-powered blender or food processor until smooth.
  • Add the oil, syrup, and eggs and process again until smooth.
  • Transfer batter to a bowl and mix in the flour, starch, salt, baking soda and cinnamon.
  • Fold in the blueberries.
  • Scoop the batter into the muffin tin, filling 2/3 full.
  • Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, until the muffins are lightly brown on top. Place on a cooling rack to cool.

Notes

Makes one dozen.
The thyroid is the heart of the endocrine system

Thyroid Matters

Your thyroid matters! Sluggish digestion, lethargic immunity, stagnant detoxification, languid metabolism, lackluster moods, and torpid libido are all related to reduced thyroid function. This brief primer covers thyroid matters ranging from symptoms and lab testing to diet do’s and don’ts.

Why thyroid matters

Beyond regulating your energy and weight, your thyroid is an early indicator for deteriorating health – a sort of canary in a coal mine. Because this small gland is so sensitive to stress, toxins, and nutrient-poor food, it tends to begin lagging before other disease is detected.

Further, as much as 90% of thyroid dysfunction is due to autoimmunity. Left unchecked, it provides a pathway to other autoimmune conditions. Thyroid disease is therefore considered a gateway to further disease.

Tell-tale thyroid symptoms of low thyroid

Most people understand that weight gain and tiredness can be signs of hypothyroidism. You might even be aware that loss of the outer third of your eyebrow is another symptom of this condition. But did you know that feeling cold all over most of the time also may indicate low thyroid function? Other symptoms may include:

  • Blaise emotions
  • Chronic constipation
  • Thinning hair
  • Morning headaches that wear off as the day goes on
  • Stiffness or all-over achiness
  • Foggy brain
  • Brittle nails and dry skin

What lab tests do and don’t tell you

The typical TSH test will tell you if your brain is stimulating your thyroid to make more thyroxine, also known as T4. In other words, does your brain perceive that you need more thyroid action? According to WebMD, a TSH higher than 4 mU/L is considered insufficient. Medline Plus says a TSH of 5 µU/mL indicates deficiency. Let’s take that a step further. To be optimal, your TSH probably needs to be closer to 2.5 mU/L.

Unfortunately, your brain may be satisfied with the amount of thyroid hormone long before other organs, such as your liver. Not only that, a TSH test does NOT tell you how much of that T4 is unbound, or free for use in the body. Nor will it tell you how much thyroxine you are actually converting to the active form of the hormone, known as T3, or triiodothyronine.

Further, a TSH test doesn’t measure how much T3 is being inactivated into Reverse T3, or whether you are making antibodies to your thyroid tissue. Thyroid antibodies are a clue to autoimmune thyroiditis.

To get all these measures, you need a full thyroid panel.

Foods that help or hurt

Creating thyroid hormone requires ample protein. Therefore, a high-carb diet can be detrimental. Beyond that, you need minerals to serve as “spark plugs” in the process of thyroid hormone synthesis. Critical minerals include iron, iodine, zinc, and selenium. A diet low in processed foods will serve you best here. Select nutrient-dense organ meats and seafood to optimize zinc, iodine, and iron. For selenium, you can try regular daily intake of a few Brazil nuts.

But that’s not all. Vitamins are critical, too, especially fully formed Vitamin A, or retinol. Although plant foods are rich in the beta carotene form of Vitamin A, organ meats and egg yolks are much better choices for retinol.

Because bromine, fluoride, and chlorine fill the thyroid’s iodine receptors, avoid baked goods with wheat flour, which is often “brominated”. Drink spring or filtered water that hasn’t been treated fluoridated or chlorinated.

Avoid soy unless it’s in a fermented form, such as miso, and also avoid high amounts of raw cruciferous vegetables. These foods or goitrogenic, meaning they can decrease the production or activation of thyroid hormone.

More thyroid matters

If you feel this primer describes your struggles, contact me to discuss how I can help you.
Being in nature - a primary rule for better health

10 Rules for Better Health

What are your rules for better health? Do they include calorie counting? Or going to the gym? Or eating a salad every day for lunch? Do you eat a low-fat diet, limit your sodium intake and practice intermittent fasting? Perhaps you stress over emotional eating and fight cravings, so you deprive yourself through willpower.

While these tools may help you in the short term, my rules for lasting, vibrant health start with getting enough primary food – nourishment for the soul. Then I focus on secondary food – what you put on your plate.

In my view, the #1 rule for better health is balance. This includes mental, emotional, physical and spiritual well-being. Then, I have 10 more rules to help you achieve that balance.

Two Crucial Rules for Better Health Through Primary Foods

  1. Breathe. Deeply. With gratitude. The air you breathe and the thoughts you think have a much more significant impact on your health than the food you eat. Why? Because they are more pervasive. Your nervous system is always eavesdropping on your thoughts – so you can’t hide your stress! By regulating steady, deep inhales and long exhales, you reset your nervous system. Practicing gratitude improves both physical and mental health.
  2. Drink heavy draughts of beauty, grace, joy… and pure water each day. Humans simply do not thrive in isolation. Covid taught us that. Connection is like life-giving water to us. Connect with art, music and nature. Connect with humans and animals. Connect with the divine. And don’t forget to stay hydrated. (Caffeinated beverages and fruit juices don’t count)

Two More Essential Ways to Get Your Primary Foods

  1. Go to bed with the sun. Greet the new day with sunlight in your eyes. Sleep is perhaps the most under-rated instrument of better health. A fundamental way to improve the quality of your sleep is to sync your sleep with the natural light and dark cycles of the earth. Scientists have found that light to the eyes in the morning is key in regulating your circadian rhythms.
  2. Move more than you sit. Be in nature more than you eat. Many of us think that exercise is something we do during a work-out at the gym. I propose that exercise is continuity of movement throughout the day, especially outside. The outdoors is where we find light, fresh air, and contact with other life forms. Weed or water a flower garden. Swing or splash in a stream. Go to a playground or do yoga in the back yard. Plant a tree. Jump in the leaves. Catch a snowflake on your tongue. These are just a few of the ideas from this blog.

A Vital Rule for Better Health Through Eating

Eat earth’s food. Not man’s food.

As much as possible, eat real, whole foods in their natural state. Not stripped through processing. Not adulterated with additives. Eat them as nature designed them, fresh, and without nutrition labels. For animal products, this means grass-fed, pastured, wild-caught, and organic.

Our biggest food enemies are industrial seed oils (corn, cottonseed, canola, soy, and safflower), high fructose corn syrup, and non-caloric sweeteners. These are man-made and toxic. Butter and olive oil, honey and pure maple syrup are earth’s foods.

More Rules about Eating

  1. Make half your plate vegetables. Serve them with salt, fat & acid (lemon, vinegar, tomato, etc.) to help absorb their nutrients. While it is necessary to be aware of the amount of protein, fat, and carbohydrate in the diet, micronutrients matter! Vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants come from plants. Fruit is good, too, but most of us don’t need added fruit sugars. It is imperative for gut health to eat the compounds that give vegetables their color. Eat at least one serving of dark leafy greens every day and a sulfur-containing vegetable, such as an onion, mushroom, or cruciferous vegetable.
  2. Front-load your meals. Eating 70% of your calories in the first 2/3 of your day helps regulate your circadian rhythm for better sleep. When you eat your dinner 3 hours before bedtime, you burn instead of store most of those nutrients. It is important to have plenty of protein and fat in your first meal of the day to help stabilize blood sugars.
  3. Feed your microbiome. You are eating for two, er rather, two trillion or more! At least two pounds of your weight is your gut bugs. They help digest your food, manufacture vitamins, regulate inflammation, and even affect your mood. The happier they are, the happier you are. Eating probiotic-rich food (yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, and other traditionally pickled vegetables) helps support your native colonies. But that’s not enough. You need fibrous food, known as prebiotics, to keep them vibrant. These include onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, jicama, apples, chicory, and other plant foods.

The Last Two Rules for Better Health

  1. Spare the meat. By this, I don’t mean skimp on your protein! But by all means incorporate other sources of amino acids. This includes organs and bones. Every cup of bone broth you use in cooking provides roughly 10 grams of amino acids that you don’t have to digest by eating beef, chicken, pork, or fish. Dairy products, legumes, nuts and seeds also provide important protein.
  2. Balance your macros. It’s not wise to focus your diet on just one of the three macronutrients: carbohydrate, fat, or protein. We need them all. If your diet is either 80% protein, or 80% refined carbohydrates, take another look at how you can better balance it.
woman consulting with functional practitioner

A Functional Approach to Autoimmunity

The functional approach to autoimmunity could reduce the number and intensities of your flares. Further, it might stall the development of new autoimmune diseases. The functional approach goes beyond only treating the symptoms of your disease. Its primary goal is to find and reverse the imbalances that cause autoimmunity in the first place.

How Did I Get Autoimmunity?

The current research points to 4 common causes that crop up repeatedly. These seem create a perfect storm for disease in most cases of autoimmunity.

First, there is a genetic or familial predisposition. In other words, there is a tendency toward factors such as poor detoxification, higher sensitivity to allergens, greater inflammatory response, or more exaggerated stress reactions. This vulnerability might be from inherited genes or from family culture.

Second, you develop enhanced intestinal permeability. Everyone has a “porous” digestive system that lets nutrients into the bloodstream while keeping dangerous substances out. Those with autoimmunity just have “bigger holes in their strainer.”

Third, the immune system becomes weak or dysregulated. Since the immune system is a nutrient hog, it becomes feebler when it doesn’t have enough micronutrients to keep it buff. Then, enhanced intestinal permeability overexposes the whole body to things that should stay in the gut. So, the immune system gets hypervigilant. It stops tolerating what it should tolerate.

Finally, a trigger starts the cascade. The trigger can be anything inflammatory – toxins, trauma, infection, allergens, stress. These aggressively activate the immune system. Now, the body attacks itself. It does so because unwanted molecules (from the gut) are embedded in your tissue. Or because your tissue looks like the threat that crossed out of the gut into your bloodstream.

Why Do I Have More Than 1 Autoimmune Disease?

When you take the functional approach to autoimmunity, you understand that your disease isn’t so much about your thyroid or skin, or colon. It’s about a pervasive environment in your body. That environment could allow your immune system to attack any organ or tissue. If the conditions above go unaddressed, the environment is ripe for more autoimmunity of any kind. Thus, once you develop a single autoimmunity, you are more susceptible to another.

How Does the Functional Approach to Autoimmunity Differ from the Conventional Approach?

Functional practitioners take to heart the words of Dr. Alesio Fasano that the autoimmune process can be arrested. How? By preventing the interplay between your genes and your triggers. You stop this interplay by re-establishing barrier function. That is, you close the gate between your gut and the rest of your body.

Your practitioner may rely on medication to provide rapid relief from runaway inflammation. But he doesn’t stop there. He will take steps to keep inflammation from happening in the first place, rather than trying to quell it after the fact. He will also fortify your immune system with nutrients. Additionally, he will work with you to remove or reduce triggers.

Where Do I Begin?

The functional approach to autoimmunity is actually simpler than it sounds. Maximize the raw materials for thriving health. Minimize factors that are destructive to your health, including toxins, trauma, stress, allergen, and infections. Prioritize an environment for healing. That’s it! Your body does the rest.

You can start today with lifestyle choices within your control.

  • Maximize hydration and oxygenation. Drink clean, pure water and take deep, long breaths. Eat nutrient-dense whole food to maximize vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, proteins and essential fatty acids. Maintain positive beliefs.
  • Minimize stress and automatic negative thoughts. Minimize doubts and fears. Take care to limit exposure to toxins through cleaning products and personal hygiene products.
  • Prioritize sleep, recreation and movement. Seek joy, laughter, connection and mindfulness daily. Nurture wholesome relationships. Spend time in nature.

Then, begin working with a functional practitioner to assess where your unique imbalances lie. Contact me if you’d like a free discovery call to find out how I can help you regain your health.

toddler taking tiny steps up a staircase

Tiny Steps to Decrease Your Stress

You only need to take tiny steps to decrease your stress! So, don’t stress about de-stressing! Dissipating a build-up of frustration and pressure doesn’t take an hour of yoga, or a vacation to the Bahamas. It only takes 30 to 90 seconds when you use rituals that you can ingrain into your routines every day.

Pick behaviors that you can do in the time it takes you to sing the alphabet song. Make them actions that you can easily do on the spur of the moment. Then attach them to something that is already part of your daily life, such as eating, grooming, or driving.

Decrease your stress with tiny steps, literally

You might typically blow off some pressure by going for a run or hitting the gym. But what if you could take small exercise snacks throughout the day, each being less than 100 steps? The opportunity to expand your lungs and walk away from a demanding situation could be all you need to re-set your nervous system. Here are some suggestions:

  • Do push-ups during TV commercials.
  • Run a flight of stairs or two before a meal.
  • Rebound for two minutes at the top of each hour.
  • Squat while you brush your teeth or use the toilet.
  • Walk around the block when you collect your mail.
  • Race a family member to the corner.
  • Do press-ups against the counter while you wait for the kettle to boil or the microwave to beep.

Tiny bites to decrease your stress

Eating on the run is physiologically stressful. You keep your body in fight-or-flight, and don’t allow it to switch into rest-and-digest when you grab and dash with your meals. But you can take tiny steps in your eating hygiene that will change your stress, at least at mealtimes. Try these ideas:

  • Use toddler utensils to remind yourself to take smaller bites and chew more thoroughly.
  • Deeply inhale the fragrances of the meals before you take a bite, then breathe out through a straw to encourage a slow exhale.
  • Set the table and spread a napkin in your lap to encourage yourself to sit at a table. This distracts you from eating mindlessly in front of the TV or snarfing snacks while you drive.
  • Use a small mug for your beverage so that you don’t dilute your meal and add unnecessary calories.
  • Verbalize appreciation or reflect on your good fortune every time you sip your beverage.

Practice instant stress hacks throughout your day

Stress hacks either change your breathing to activate your parasympathetic nervous system, stimulate your vagus nerve, release oxytocin, or downregulate stress hormones. If you do them consistently, you can proactively keep your stress level from rising out of control.

Scribble post-it notes to remind you to engage in one or several of these hacks regularly:

  • Stretch into 2 or 3 sun salutations when your feet hit the floor in the morning.
  • Listen to binaural beats while you get ready for the day.
  • Sing in the shower.
  • Blow your breath out fully every time your wash your face or your hands.
  • Hum while your drive.
  • Gargle long and loud every time you take a bathroom break.
  • Take 3 deep breaths every time you reach for your water bottle.
  • Massage your occipital ridge when you face conflict.
  • Give a 20-second hug when you meet a cherished friend or companion.
  • Suck on an l-theanine lozenge while you work on reports or presentations.
  • Practice a 1-minute meditation at the end of your workday.
  • Snuggle with a pet after dinner.
  • Write a 2-minute “gratitude dump” in your journal after your put on your pajamas.

If the idea of tiny steps to decrease your stress resonates with you, check out my post, Change Your Diet with Micro Habits. To learn more about small changes guaranteed to improve your lifestyle, read Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg.

 

apple & banana to change your diet

Change Your Diet with Micro Habits

To change your diet may seem intimidating. Perhaps you know you need to eat better, but you don’t have time to cook. Or maybe you have food sensitivities and crave the foods you react to. It’s possible you believe that the whole idea of planning, shopping, and controlling intake is utterly overwhelming.

No problem! Micro habits are attainable because they are easy, usually something you can do in the next 30 seconds. Not only that, but micro-habits help you change your diet because your motivation to accomplish them is going to be much higher than it would be for something that’s causing you stress. Micro habits fit into your schedule seamlessly. You can remember to accomplish them because you attach them to something you are already doing.

Start with hydration

You probably read that heading and had a nagging feeling of guilt. You know you are supposed to drink more water. It doesn’t taste good, or you forget, or you’re simply addicted to your caffeine. That’s okay! Keep your routine for now and add some micro habits.  Here are six suggestions you can implement immediately to galvanize your ability to change your diet.

  • Drink a glass of lemon water first thing in the morning while your coffee brews. You can even set it out on your nightstand or your kitchen counter the night before, so you don’t forget.
  • Fill several water bottles to carry with you throughout your day. Do this when you feed the dogs/cats/kids in the morning. You can even drop in an herbal tea bag to cold infuse so that your water has some flavor.
  • Supercharge your water glass or water bottle with a sugar-free powdered electrolyte mix, such as Ultima Replenisher or LMNT.
  • Sip from your water bottle every time you enter or exit a building.
  • Grab a drink every time you use the restroom.
  • Request herbal tea or water instead of soda or coffee at restaurant and convenience stores.

Change your beverages before your change your diet

I believe that before the industrial age, people mostly drank water, except for a morning coffee or an afternoon tea. To the detriment of our health, many of us now only drink soda, or rely on multiple cups – or even pots – of coffee to keep going throughout the day. Then we need a nightcap in order to calm down at night. Micro-habits to the rescue! You can frontload your diet changes by taking tiny steps that keep the ritual but change the nutrition of your beverages.

Downregulate your coffee intake with any of these swaps:

  • Swiss water process de-caffeinated coffee. Also called the Water-Only process, this method uses water no chemicals to remove the caffeine from coffee beans. As a result, you don’t get harmful chemical residues for your body to detoxify, and the product tastes better.
  • Organic matcha. Much less caffeinated that straight coffee, a matcha latte with milk, stevia, vanilla & cinnamon might be satisfying to you in the morning.
  • Green tea. Served with honey, this serves as an afternoon pick-me-up that contains a small amount of caffeine along with l-theanine to increase focus and calm your nervous system.
  • Sip a coffee alternative. Many brands have been developed to support the coffee habit without the caffeine. A few of these are Dandy Blend, MUD/WTR, Rasa, Four Sigmatic, and Harmonic Arts Elixirs.

You can wean yourself from soda by switching to Zevia first. Later, you can try kombucha or mineral water before graduating to plain water.

To reduce your alcohol intake, search the internet for mocktail recipes to enjoy, or try virgin Wilderton, distilled from botanicals and 100% alcohol free.

Change your dietary habits with substitutions

Unfortunately, many of us want results yesterday. So, we try to make big changes all at once. When we don’t implement them perfectly, we get frustrated, lose our motivation and give up.

The beauty of a micro habit is that it allows you to make a small movement that doesn’t disrupt your rhythm. Soon, you are able to take on even more healthy changes to your diet. Like the tortoise who beat the hare, you reach your goal by slow and steady progress rather than intermittent spurts.

Below are some trades you can make to increase the nutrient density of your food.

  • Olive oil or coconut oil for vegetable oil (canola, corn, soy, safflower, cottonseed).
  • Rutabaga for potato (try it mashed or air-fried).
  • Cassava crackers for potato chips
  • Organ-based seaasoning for table salt
  • Zoodles (zucchini spirals) or Miracle Noodles for pasta
  • Grilled chicken for fried chicken

Additionally, you can boost your meals by slipping in extra protein, natural fat, or vegetables. Sneak in some of these:

  • Avocado, coconut milk, or flax seeds in your smoothie
  • Collagen in your yogurt, juice, oatmeal, salad dressing, or tea
  • Bits of frozen spinach or kale in your soup, marinara, pizza, scrambled egg, or rice
  • Simple sauces on your vegetables to make them taste better.

If you like the idea of micro habits, check out my post on Tiny Steps to Decrease Your Stress. To learn more about small changes guaranteed to improve your lifestyle, read Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg.

 

 

Green vegetable smoothie for detox vs. cleanse

Detox vs. Cleanse

Spring is a time to freshen up your health and your lifestyle. Here we compare a detox vs. a cleanse. Are they the same? What is the purpose of each? How long do you engage in them? What foods are appropriate to each? Who should oversee your protocol? What outcomes can you expect?

 Detox vs. Cleanse Basics

A cleanse focuses on what you are bringing into the body, whereas a detox removes harmful elements from the body. The cleanse increases your nutrition, while the detox decreases your toxicity. You can participate in a cleanse even if you feel weak. But you should only detox from a place of strength. Neither program is a lifestyle. The cleanse doesn’t provide for long-term tissue-building needs. The detox requires heavy respites in between cycles to repair tissues. A detox can be combined with a cleanse.

Cleanse Considerations

Tailored to fatigued, sick, depressed, overweight, inflamed and hurting individuals with chronic pain, a cleanse is an opportunity to ditch poor eating habits. When comparing a detox vs. a cleanse, think of a cleanse as an increase in nutrient-dense foods, chock full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals. It is not a way of life, but rather a seasonal opportunity to restart your health. You can undertake a cleanse for a few days or for a couple of weeks. No special medical supervision is required as long as you stay hydrated, supply plant-based protein to your meals, don’t restrict calories or skip meals, and have an end date within 14 days. NOTE #1: Only drinking fruit- or vegetable-based beverages in place of meals is NOT recommended.

During a cleanse, you will remove processed and refined foods and stimulants such as coffee, sweeteners, and chocolate. Many cleanses prohibit animal foods and grains during the protocol because they are difficult to digest or highly antigenic. Therefore, you can view a cleanse as a short-term foray into a whole-food vegetarian-type meal plan. Many people lose weight during a cleanse. Most report a reduction in nagging, chronic symptoms, such as sinus congestion, edema, headaches, digestive distress, joint pain, and tiredness. NOTE #2: If you are not accustomed to lots of fruits and vegetables in your diet, you will probably want to take supplemental digestive enzymes with your meals, such as Enzymedica’s Digest Basic, to avoid excessive gas and bloat.

Detox Considerations

A detox extracts such damaging elements as heavy metals, molds, pesticides & insecticides, and POP’s (persistent organic pollutants). A critical differentiation between detox vs. cleanse is that unhealthy individuals should NOT engage in a detox. Pulling stored toxins out of cells creates inflammation. If all of your elimination paths are not functioning optimally, the toxins can recirculate, making you sick. Elimination paths include bowel movements, urination, breath, and sweat. Good bile function is a critical part of moving toxins from the GI tract into the stool for excretion. Check with a practitioner if you no longer have a gall bladder, have had gallstones or gall bladder attacks, or experience stomach upset with greasy foods.

A detox can last for a couple of days or a couple of weeks, depending on how you feel. If your symptoms worsen, you should take a break and let your body process what has been liberated before you mobilize any more toxins. You should work with a practitioner who can oversee your detox protocol and tailor it to your specific needs and reactions. In the analysis of detox vs. cleanse, the detox is more than just a diet plan; it involves a chelating agent to bind toxins for removal. Food eaten during a detox should be nutritive, avoid empty calories, and not contain additional toxins. For example, you would want to avoid fish containing mercury residues and shop for organic produce.

Individuals usually detox in cycles with a few weeks in between for healing. A cleanse diet is acceptable during detox cycles as long as you get sufficient protein. (It takes a lot of amino acids to activate all those detox enzymes.) Symptoms that might be relieved through detox include chronic malaise, toxin-mediated hypertension, fine tremor, and immune dysregulation.

Sample 7-Day Cleanse Plan

A template provides a framework for meals so you don’t have to figure out what to each day. Once or twice a day, you will have a “smoothie” containing a plant-based protein with supplemental vitamins and minerals, such as Metagenics’ UltraMeal. This helps insure you are meeting your nutritional needs.  In addition, focus on homemade salads, soups, stir-fries, and vegetable sheet pans meals. Boxed or canned prepared meals have too many additives to be considered part of a cleanse, so plan and shop before you start. You may want to set aside a couple of hours to prepare food in advance.

Here is a suggested meal plan:

  • Breakfast: smoothie and vegetable bake
  • Lunch: salad and soup
  • Dinner: Stir-fry and smoothie

Cleanse Breakfasts

Keeping it simple, but still providing abundant nutrition, the following meal ideas allow for personalization and batch cooking so your time in the kitchen is minimized. Prepare large amounts of each recipe where possible so that you only cook once and eat several times.

Smoothie Ideas:

  • Creamy & Nutty – chocolate protein powder, coconut milk, 1-2 Tb. almond butter, vanilla
  • Tropical – mixed berry protein powder, 1/2 banana, 1 c. mango, coconut milk
  • Gorgeously Green – chocolate or mixed berry protein powder, cored green apple, 1/2 cucumber, 1 c. darky leafy greens (such as spinach or kale), almond milk
  • Very Berry – mixed berry protein powder, 1 c. mixed berries, almond or coconut milk

Vegetable Bake Suggestions:

  • Roasted Roots – any combination of cubed or sliced beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, rutabaga, turnips, or parsnips with onion, olive oil, thyme, and red wine vinegar
  • Mediterranean – any combination of sliced zucchini, eggplant, bell pepper, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, fennel bulb, green beans, or cherry tomatoes with garlic, onion, basil, oregano, rosemary, olive oil and balsamic vinegar
  • Exclusively Cruciferous – any combination broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, or kohlrabi with garlic, olive oil, and brown mustard seeds.

Lunches on Your Cleanse

Salad Inspiration:

  • Spring Combo – mixed greens, alfalfa or clover sprouts (or even broccoli sprouts), bell pepper, chopped apple or pear, cucumber, green onion, grated carrot with olive oil and apple cider vinegar
  • Italian – mixed greens, olives, bell peppers, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, Italian seasoning, olive oil and balsamic vinegar
  • Super Slaw – grated red or green cabbage, grated kohlrabi, and/or grated chayote squash, apples, olive oil, lime juice, cumin seeds, cilantro leaves
  • South of the Border – shredded cabbage, mixed greens, bell pepper, green onion, mango, cilantro, sunflower seeds, avocado slices, lime or lemon juice

Soup Ideas:

  • Very Veggie – any combination of cabbage, tomatoes, celery, carrots, green beans, cauliflower, okra, potatoes or sweet potatoes, winter squash, zucchini, turnips, rutabaga, spinach, or kale with broth, onion, garlic, and Italian seasoning (basil, oregano, thyme, marjoram)
  • Lentil – brown lentils, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and kale or spinach with onion, garlic, broth, coconut milk and curry powder
  • Chili – black and/or pinto beans with celery, carrots, bell pepper, crushed tomatoes, tomato juice, onion, garlic, oregano, cumin, and chili powder

Cleanse Dinners

Stir-Fry Suggestions:

  • Asian – bok choy, mung bean sprouts, snow peas, mushrooms, water chestnuts, napa cabbage, green onions with coconut milk, ginger, garlic, lemongrass, lime juice, and red pepper
  • Quick & Easy – carrots, broccoli florets, snap peas, bell pepper, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, sesame seed
  • Mediterranean – eggplant, bell peppers, mushrooms, spinach, garlic, onion, red pepper flakes, olive oil, basil
  • Crunchy Crucifers – broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and or Brussels sprouts with sesame oil, ginger, garlic and onion
  • Mexican – jicama, chayote squash, corn, black beans, jalapeno, onion, garlic, cumin, lime, avocado oil, cilantro

Lifestyle Habits: Detox vs. Cleanse

For both detoxes and cleanses, hydration is paramount. Drink plenty of clean, pure water. If you need a little flavor, add a squeeze of lemon or lime, or steep an herbal tea in your water.

Whether or not you plan to detox with your cleanse, it’s probably a good idea to incorporate a substance that binds toxins so that they don’t recirculate. Pectin-containing fruits (apples and pears) are considered binders, as are both soluble and insoluble fiber found in most plant foods. Beyond that, supplements containing activated charcoal and/or Bentonite clay can be beneficial. Bio-Botanical Research has one such binder called GI Detox. For your convenience, you may order this binder, along with protein powders and digestive enzymes from my supplement portal if you’d like.

When you are engaged in a cleanse, engage in moderate exercise and make the time to get 8 hours of sleep each night. During a detox, be aware that exercise liberates more toxins, so you may want to take it easy to avoid overwhelming your system. Sweating with sauna is a good way to excrete toxins. Be sure to get plenty of rest!

fresh vegetables

Make Vegetables Taste Good

You know vegetables are good for you, but you don’t enjoy them. So, you have come here. Relax! You can make your vegetables taste good without extensive culinary skills. Nor do you need more than a few minutes. The ingredients are readily available in most grocery stores. Further, it only requires a couple of condiments in most cases. Vegetables not only can taste good, but they can also be an enjoyable part of a healthy food plan.

Buying Vegetables

To make vegetables taste good, buy them fresh! The longer they sit in a truck, on a shelf, or in a refrigerator, the more flavor they will lose. So, when possible, buy locally from a farmer’s market or from a CSA (community-shared agriculture) organization. You can identify markets in your area by putting in your zip code at LocalHarvest.org

Another tip is to find out what day your grocery store receives produce shipments and shop on that day. Always look for bright colors and avoid yellowed, browned or wilted produce. Keep your eye out for products that are in season in your climate and have been grown in your state. For example, in Idaho, strawberries peak in June. If I’m buying strawberries in December, certainly they have been shipped from Mexico, spending more than a week in transport.

Cooking Vegetables

Less is more when it comes to making cooked vegetables taste good. Although frozen vegetables may cost less and do offer prompt harvest-to-freezer freshness, they often are soggy and mushy when cooked. So, less handling between the farm and you will yield more satisfaction in taste.

Water is an important factor. Less water generally results in a tastier product. So, steam instead of boil; roast or sauté instead of microwaving. Low and slow may be fine for pot roasts, but quick and hot is better for fresh produce. If you have time to grill, that is a delicious option. For no-fuss indoor grilling, check out Ninja Grills.

Less time under heat preserves the flavor, too. Don’t cook them until they can be mashed – unless they are potatoes. Vegetables are best when they can be poked with a fork but retain a slight crunch. I like to roast vegetables on a sheet pan in a 425° oven with a drizzle of cooking fat just until tender-crisp. Also, stir-frying them in a skillet preheated to medium-high with some cooking oil works well. If you do add them to soups, chop them fine so that you don’t get big, soggy pieces. Add lots of seasoning to your soup to enhance the end result.

Make Vegetables Taste Good

Now, dress them up! Nobody expects you to eat them plain. Like a woman, they present themselves best when they are made up. Here are some simple ideas you can stir together while your vegetables are on the heat.

  • Teriyaki flavor: Combine equal parts soy sauce and pineapple juice concentrate. Drizzle over vegetables and garnish with grated ginger root.
  • Tai: Whisk a spoonful of curry paste into a small bowl of coconut milk. For depth, add a dash of fish sauce and a shake of chili flakes. Dunk your vegetables.
  • Mexican: Mix 2 parts honey with 1 part lime juice. Spice with chipotle powder and chopped cilantro.
  • French: Sprinkle herbs de Provence into cream. Pour over finished vegetables.
  • Italian: Dilute pesto sauce with some chicken broth and toss with vegetables.
  • Grill mix: Shake together in a jar 4 tsp. salt; 2 tsp. each of paprika, sugar, parsley flakes, onion powder, and garlic powder; and 1 tsp. each of celery seed, chili powder, turmeric, oregano, and basil. Sprinkle over any vegetable or add to soups. For a larger batch, use a tablespoon instead of a teaspoon.
  • Mediterranean: Blend 1/3 cup each olive oil & tahini; 1 tablespoon each soy sauce & honey; 3 tablespoons lemon juice; and 1/2 tsp. each garlic powder and salt. Spoon over vegetables.
  • For cruciferous & Sulphur-containing vegetables (such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, & artichokes): Stir together 1 part Dijon mustard and 1 part pure maple syrup. Dribble onto vegetables.
  • For sauteed greens (spinach, chard, kale, arugula): splash with balsamic vinegar, then drizzle on a little honey.
  • For raw salads: Whisk 2 parts olive oil with 1 part lemon juice. Add herbs if desired (garlic, chives, parsley, basil, dill, cilantro, etc.)

Expand Your Repertoire

If you don’t typically eat any vegetables besides corn, peas, and beans, here are some fun ways to add more vegetables to your diet.

  • At the grocery store, try to buy 1 vegetable in each color of the rainbow for the week.
  • Choose a vegetable that you have never eaten before, and Google recipes for it. Pro tip: for nearly any vegetable (except lettuce and avocado), it can likely be washed, chopped, tossed with olive oil + salt, and baked at 350ºF until you can pierce it with a fork.
  • Consider making a vegetable soup, stir fry, or salad that has at least 6 types of vegetables in it to get great variety in one sitting. Good vegetables for all of these dishes include onions (red and white), garlic, carrots, celery, bell peppers, cabbage (red and green), string beans, zucchini, tomatoes, cauliflower, sturdy leafy greens (e.g. kale, spinach, arugula, chard), and cooked winter squash.
  • Consider having a dip alongside chopped vegetables for a snack – guacamole, hummus, and black bean dip are some favorites.
  • Toss some chopped herbs onto your dishes for added flavor. These are especially abundant in the summer months. Consider fresh herbs such as parsley, cilantro, basil, mint, dill, oregano, and chives. Great herbs to throw into a soup or roasting meat include sage, thyme, bay leaves (remove after cooking), and rosemary. Garlic and ginger are other excellent, easy to find additions, both raw and cooked.

25+ Healthy Breakfast Ideas

A healthy breakfast provides not only appropriate carbs, fats, and proteins, but essential micronutrients, too. When you eat a healthy breakfast, you feel energized for the day; your mood is stable, and you maintain a sense of satiety. Whether you eat when you first wake up, or practice intermittent fasting, your breakfast sets your blood sugars for the rest of the day. When you eat may not be nearly as important as what you eat.

Here are some suggestions for every lifestyle, so you can eat what you enjoy, knowing you are getting the nutrient density you need.

Eggs

basket of brown eggs

Fried, boiled, poached, scrambled – you have so many options for such a simple food! Don’t limit yourself to the same recipe every day. Variety is the spice of life!

  • Frittata: like an omelet, only easier. Stir in veggies & herbs, then bake.
  • Eggo-cado: Crack egg into the hollow of a halved avocado; bake until set.
  • Pizza with egg “crust”: top an omelet with olives, mushrooms, tomatoes, spinach, Canadian bacon, & Italian seasoning.
  • Taco eggs: scramble eggs with taco meat, avocado, salsa, cheese.
  • Curried eggs: Slice hard-boiled eggs into coconut milk with curry paste and sautéed bok choy, pea pods, and mushrooms.
  • Indian eggs: poach eggs in cooked tomatoes, coriander, cumin, turmeric and ginger.
  • Eggs in a nest: Sautee fresh greens. Crack eggs over the top. Cook gently until set.
  • Fishermen’s eggs: Fry fish in an oven-proof skillet. Add vegetables. Crack eggs over the top. Transfer to the oven and bake until eggs are set.

Smoothies

4 smoothies on a tray

Refreshing, quick, and delicious, smoothies are a favorite with moms and kids. But to make sure they provide a healthy breakfast, be sure to follow these rules:
1. Include 8-12 grams per serving of a healthy fat: avocado, almond butter, coconut milk, coconut oil, flax seed oil, or hemp seeds.
2. Add some protein. You can choose a quality animal or plant-based protein powder without added ingredients. Aim to get 20 grams of protein per serving.
3. Limit yourself to 1 cup of low-sugar fruits, such as berries, kiwi or apples.
4. Add fresh leafy greens if you like.

Here are some creative combinations to consider:

  • Spiced pumpkin with real cream or coconut cream
  • Strawberry almond coconut
  • Cocoa-almond (with almond milk and almond butter)
  • Acai cherry chocolate avocado
  • Green Pina Colada with spinach, coconut and pineapple

Healthy Breakfast Meats

a tray of healthy breakfast meats

Sausage and bacon may be obvious breakfast choices, but have you considered duck, fish, or even flank steak? These suggestions may help you brainstorm your own combinations.

  • Kielbasa Skillet with sweet potatoes and kale. (use nitrite-free sausage).
  • Sausage & cabbage: Sautee cabbage and apples in butter, maple syrup and nutmeg. Stir in ground turkey and sausage seasonings.
  • Sausage stack-up: Homemade sausage patty and pineapple rings topped with cheese. Good with bell peppers and tomatoes
  • Smoked salmon and cream cheese on whole grain sourdough toast. Garnish with sprouts and arugula
  • Duck hash: toss fried sweet potatoes with diced duck breast, chives, and purple onion. Serve with poached eggs and wilted greens.
  • Carne Asada: Stir-fried flank steak, jalapenos, new potatoes or pinto beans, cherry tomatoes, onion and garlic – with or without eggs & salsa.
  • Canadian Bacon Cups: Line muffin tins with Canadian bacon. Fill cups with any omelet ingredients (eggs, a variety of vegetables) Bake until set.
  • Sardine Toast: Multi-grain bread, sardines, tomato, onion, parsley, spinach, mozzarella, Italian seasoning.

Dairy-based Meals

yogurt parfait with nuts and berries

If you have no appetite for meat in the morning, consider these dairy options, which are high in protein and low in sugars.

  • Parfait: plain full-fat Greek yogurt, a little fruit, a variety of nuts and seeds (hemp, chia, flax, pumpkin, sunflower). For a bonus, layer with cooked steel-cut oats.
  • Cottage Cheese, fresh basil, cherry tomatoes, and cucumber slices. 
  • Pancakes: Ricotta or cottage cheese blended with raw eggs, then baked on griddle. Try a savory vegetable topping, such as mushrooms & herbs.
  • Purple smoothie: Full-fat cottage cheese, blueberries, almond milk.
  • Banana Nut Smoothie: Greek yogurt, almond butter, banana.

Pancakes & Waffles

waffles with a side of bacon

It might seem criminal to outlaw warm, golden cakes, fresh off the griddle as a morning starter. So, to avoid an insulin surge in the morning, follow these guidelines for the occasional pancake or waffle breakfast.

  • Substitute almond or coconut flour for the usual high-glycemic, all-purpose or gluten-free flour.
  • Limit your portion and add a side of meat or eggs.
  • Top with coconut milk, Greek yogurt, ricotta, or cottage cheese instead of syrup or jam.
  • Consider adding protein powder to your batter and to your syrup.
  • Stir in grated or pureed vegetables.
  • Incorporate nuts, nut butters, and seeds as toppings or fillers.
  • Sandwich between slices of ham and fried egg.

Healthy Breakfast Cereals

a bowl of muesli

What’s more American than a bowl of cold cereal to start your day? Unfortunately, that’s a quick trip to a blood sugar roller coaster. Try these options instead.

  • Brown rice porridge (congee) served with shredded chicken, avocado, peanuts, and kimchi 
  • Mung bean and Basmati rice porridge (kitchari) cooked in bone broth with ghee or coconut milk, ginger, cumin, turmeric, fennel, and coriander. Garnish with cilantro and serve with mixed vegetables on the side. 
  • Buttered oatmeal: Jazz up this traditional hot cereal bowl with a pat of real butter, a spoonful of chia seeds or hemp hearts, and some protein powder. Serve with nuts and sweeten with coconut flakes. Also good with link sausage.
  • “No-oatmeal”: pumpkin and sunflower seeds tossed with walnuts, flax seeds, coconut flakes, and cinnamon; served in creamy coconut milk. You can buy grain-free granola if you don’t want to make it. 
  • Quinoa, millet, amaranth, or buckwheat porridge, served with Greek yogurt and a side of bacon. Make it savory with parmesan cheese in place of yogurt and the addition of wilted greens. I also like buckwheat porridge with avocado and tomato.

More Healthy Breakfast Ideas

5-Star Breakfast with protein, fat, fiber, and antioxidants.

 

Perhaps cooking is a problem for you – you don’t have the time or the desire. Check out this post on how to prep a nutrient-dense breakfast in a hurry. If you’re looking for specific recipes, here are some of my favorites. When you need something adventurous to get you out of the doldrums, try breakfast soup!