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Holiday Treats That Won’t Let You Down

Nobody likes to feel left out at a holiday party. And certainly no one wants to be sick for Christmas. So how can you have your cake and eat it, too? How can you enjoy social warmth and celebrate festive food without indulging your sweet tooth and weakening your immunity? I’ve scoured the internet to find whole food dessert recipes for that won’t trigger a sugar rush and subsequent crash! Here’s my winning  line-up of TEN remarkable desserts:

Spiced English Pear Trifle from Autoimmune Wellness

 

Pumpkin Cheesecake Squares from Rachel’s Nourishing Kitchen

 

Key Lime Pie from Pretty Pies

 

Chocolate Beetroot Cake from the Nourished Psychologist

with Chocolate Avocado Icing from Chocolate Covered Katie

 

batch_carob cup cranberry fig ice cream pro

Mini Carob Cups with Cranberry Ice Cream from Autoimmune Wellness

 

Sweet Potato Pie Pudding from Blissful Basil

 

Chewy Ginger Molasses Cookie from Gourmande in the Kitchen

 

Coconut Milk Eggnog from Wellness Mama

 

Chocolate Turtles from Meghan Telpner

 

Easy Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge from Bakerita

 

a low-sugar Christmas meal

Safely Steer Through the Season’s Eating

Willpower and the holidays don’t mix. You’ll make it up in January, you tell yourself. But you know you’re going to hate how you feel all month – heavy, stagnant, and bloated. Well, it doesn’t have to be that way. Remember these key words, all starting with S.

Sleep: You eat to keep going, especially sweet foods that give you instant energy. So being well-rested is the first step to avoid over-indulging this holiday season.

Snack: Rather than skipping a meal and saving up the calories for the party tonight, eat your meals as you normally would, especially breakfast. People who skip breakfast tend to eat heavier later in the day. So eat balanced and stabilize your blood sugars from the start of the day. Then select a smart snack right before the big event so that your appetite is reduced and you can make wiser choices about the holiday fare.

Supply: Offer to bring a dish to that dinner party you’ve been invited to. When you control the ingredients, you can insure they’re calorie light and  nutrient dense.

Select: Be picky about what you eat. Avoid fillers, like rolls. Use the buffet spread as an opportunity to go for the healthiest options. Give yourself permission to NOT clean your plate at the catered event. Stick to the basics: some protein, plenty of vegetables, a bit of complex carbohydrate.

Slow down: You will eat less if you take time between each bite and don’t line up for seconds before your satiety receptors have had time to register your fullness. Wait 10 minutes between courses.

Savor: Be mindful of the tastes, fragrances, and textures. Chew thoroughly, and allow yourself to be satiated without gobbling.

Sit: You should never eat on the run any time of year. But especially during this season, be present with your companions and remember that the gathering is more about the purpose and the people than the food.

Small Sizes: Try using a salad plate instead of a dinner plate. Special occasion food is often very rich. It takes very little to fill your nutritional requirement, so there is no need to super-size your servings.

Sip: Beverages often contain a lot of empty calories. It is smart to take only tiny doses of the drinks. For actual thirst, use plain water.

Skate, ski, stride, shovel, or sled: Staying active throughout the month will help keep your metabolism from becoming sluggish. Take the stairs whenever possible, and fit in 2 or 3 walking sessions of 10 minutes each throughout the day.

Substitute: Instead of making those goodies for the neighbors that you will snitch from, consider more wholesome food options: a soup mix in a jar, a dry rub packet, herbal teas, giardiniera, or granola.

Smile: Last of all, ditch the guilt, and simply feel all the love, gratitude, and cheer that surrounds you.

 

 

How to Stay Well This Holiday

Aside from washing your hands and getting enough sleep, make these two dietary changes to bolster your immunity this Christmas:

1. Avoid Carb-Loading:
  • Refined carbohydrates rob your body’s store of vitamins and minerals in order to digest them, so you actually go into debt with each mouthful. Zinc deficiency, and insufficient amount of Vitamins C and E may hinder your immunity.
  • Sugar decreases the responsiveness of the white bloods that gobble up invading germs – at least for a couple of hours. So if you are nibbling on treats throughout the day, this could effectively take your immunity down a notch or two. Eat more fruits and vegetables instead, to provide antioxidant vitamins C and E. Snack on pumpkins seeds, and increase your meat intake to insure you are getting adequates amounts of zinc.
  •  Eating sugar steals B vitamins from your reserves and thus cripples your liver’s ability to detoxify your body.
  • Blood sugar dysregulation occurs in the absence of healthy. This in turn creates a free radical build-up, which puts the body into a catabolic (breaking down) state, rather than anabolic (building up)state.
  • A diet chronically high in too many carbs and not enough fats eventually leads to insulin resistance. Insulin Resistance blocks the anti-inflammatory PG1 pathway, leading to inflammation and disease.
  • A person with insulin resistance also has mineral resistance because insulin helps carry the minerals into the cells. Since zinc is needed to for healthy immunity, a person with mineral resistance is immune compromised.

Eat Natural, Unrefined Fats:

  • Omega 3’s are involved in the anti-inflammatory response. Inflammation is a well-known symptom of infectious diseases.
  • Fatty acids are used to construct the cell membranes of every cell in the body, including white blood cells. In a low-fat diet or diet composed of modern refined oils, the cell membranes cannot be constructed properly. Since that membrane is what allows the cell to communicate and interface with other cells, a poorly constructed white blood cell cannot do its job!
  • White blood cells also require adequate protein to be manufactured. Healthy fats and proteins often come together. (In nature, meat, dairy, and eggs are a combination of fats and proteins.) A low-fat diet usually means too many carbs and not enough proteins.
 

Stamina Snacks

Can’t get through the day without eating every 2-3 hours? Need a pick-me-up between meals? Optimally, the digestive system should rest for 4-5 hours between eating. The drive to fuel frequently in order to keep energy up can be a red flag for blood sugar dysregulation and may indicate an imbalance of macronutrients.

Nevertheless, there are those times when having compact, shelf-stable food in a purse or backpack, can save you from shakiness, irritability, faintness, or an emerging headache. If you’re going to reach for something, make sure it’s nutrient dense, with a proportionate ratio of carbs, fats, and proteins. Grabbing a snack bar or candy bar with something like 36 grams of carbohydrate will only aggravate the energy bursts followed by bouts of weariness.

These stamina snacks offer you some wholesome, real food nutrition, with plenty of minerals, vitamins, fiber, protein, Omega 3’s, and antioxidants. They contain selenium for the thyroid, zinc for immunity, copper for the genitals, calcium and magnesium for healthy muscle contraction, Vitamin E to scavenge free radicals, and a host of B vitamins to support detoxification. Plus they make up quick as a wink!

Ingredients

1 c. chia seeds

1 c. sesame seeds

1 c. pumpkin seeds

1 c. sunflower seeds

1/2 c. sliced almonds

1/4 c. honey, warmed

2 c. water

2 Tb. dry rub seasoning (or use 1 tsp. each of sea salt, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and chili powder plus 1/2 tsp. each pepper and cumin)

Method

  • Combine everything in a large mixing bowl. Let stand 5 minutes (while chia seeds absorb water and create a “slurry”).
  • Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Spray paper with cooking spray.
  • Divide the mixture between the two trays. Place another sprayed parchment (sprayed side down) on top of each tray.
  • Pressing on the top parchment with your hands, spread and smooth the mixture until it evenly fills the tray.
  • Bake for 25 minutes. Carefully flip the sheet of cracker mixture over, remove the top parchment, and bake another 25 minutes.
  • If not crisped and brown, bake 5-10 minutes more. Cut with a pizza cutter.

Is Intermittent Fasting Right For You?

You are what you eat…no, when you eat…er, how you eat! With so much eating advice out there, what is the best approach?

There are as many right answers as there are individuals. There is no one-size-fits-all diet. We’re all unique, right down to our physiology. What plan you should adopt depends on your goals and your body’s needs. That’s why having a nutritional therapist as an advocate can be a blessing.

You might want to try Intermittent Fasting if you have high blood sugars and are insulin resistant.

If insulin is high, you are going to store fat, not burn it. Insulin rises after a meal. It rises dramatically after a high-carb meal because it has to escort all that glucose into the cells for energy. When you are insulin-resistant, the cells won’t accept either the messenger or its package and blood sugars remain too high.

Intermittent Fasting works because insulin can’t spike if you don’t eat, and your cells can become re-sensitized to insulin. In the meantime, you are able to burn off some of those fat stores while insulin levels are reduced.

Red flags for insulin resistance include:

  • feeling tired after a meal.
  • needing sweets or a stimulant after a meal.
  • weight gain.
  • memory loss.
  • slow healing.
  • premature aging.
  • thyroid hormone imbalances.

You might want to avoid Intermittent Fasting if you are hypoglycemic.

You have to have a certain level of glucose in your blood in order to function. The brain’s primary fuel is glucose, and” if the brain ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” So a hormone called glucagon works in opposition to insulin to keep blood sugars from dropping too low. The ideal blood glucose level is between 70-90 mg/dL before a meal.

A hypoglycemic drops much lower than that. Getting glucose to the brain becomes an emergency, so cortisol steps in to help glucagon raise your blood sugars back to at least 70 mg/dL. When this happens repeatedly, cortisol actually increases insulin resistance! Fasting in this condition will make matters worse, because cortisol will be produced to keep you from having a sugar emergency, and you may actually aggravate your insulin resistance.

Red flags for hypoglycemia include:

  • feeling jittery, shaky, or light-headed before a meal.
  • irritability if a meal is missed.
  • chronic snacking or need to eat every 2-3 hours.
  • fluctuating energy (wired & tired syndrome).
  • easily upset or nervous.
  • constant cravings for sweets.

You might want to avoid Intermittent Fasting if you have Adrenal Fatigue.

Adrenal fatigue is a condition that develops from chronic cortisol output. It doesn’t matter whether the cortisol is stimulated by emotional stress (think bosses, deadlines,  rocky relationships, worry, etc.) or by physiological stress (such as food sensitivities, chronic infections, or high-carb eating). As addressed above, fasting in this state is only going to provoke greater cortisol output.

Red flags for Adrenal Fatigue include:

  • feeling tired when you wake up, even after a sufficient number of hours.
  • not being able to fall asleep or stay asleep, or having poor quality sleep.
  • inability to cope well with normal stress.
  • unable to recover quickly after exercise, or not able to tolerate exercise.
  • having an afternoon energy crash.

Are there alternatives to Intermittent Fasting?

You might consider eating different food all the time, instead of going without food intermittently. You could swap everything that contains flour or sugar for vegetables with butter on them. Sound drastic? Well, Intermittent Fasting is drastic, too.  If insulin is a problem, then analyze your fat-carb-protein ratios. There has been much focus on balancing carbs and proteins, but proper fat levels are not always addressed.

You could try Eating Rhythms, a system of eating nutrient dense food at roughly 5 hour intervals, designed to normalize blood sugar levels. Under this system, you have a no-carb breakfast (such as avocado and egg), then refrain from snacking until lunch, when you have a healthy protein with some complex carbohydrates and natural, unrefined fat (perhaps a steak salad with oil and vinegar dressing). Don’t eat anything more until dinner, when you again have protein and unrefined carbs, along with healthy fat (maybe fish, cooked vegetables, and butter). Then you do not eat again until breakfast, going a full 12 hours or more with no food overnight.

How do you know it is working?

You will know you are succeeding at controlling your insulin levels not just by your waistline, but by the way you feel satiated after a meal, have sustained energy throughout the day, think clearly and maintain focus, don’t need to snack between meals, no longer crave sweets, have plenty of stamina for your work-out, and experience level moods.

Busy Brain?

You might feel that your mind is following a million threads as you flit between tasks without strong focus. Perhaps you toss and turn for hours before falling asleep, or stir after just a few hours of slumber and lie there exhausted but wide awake. Some call it monkey brain. Your legs twitch, you fidget and feel jittery. You’re wired but tired.

If you’ve tried yoga and meditation, but you’re still wound up, you might be interested to know that Busy Brain can be a result of physiological deficits, not just poor discipline.

Phosphatidylserine Relieves Busy Brain

Phosphatidylserine, abbreviated PS, is part amino acid and part fatty acid. It’s a substance used to build the membranes of all the cells in your body. It is especially important in brain function. Because it enhances glucose metabolism and orchestrates cortisol balance, it is your friend for stronger focus, better sleep, and downregulating impulsivity.

While your body can make PS, you depend largely on food to get the raw materials for its manufacture. If you don’t get enough Omega 3 in your diet, you will be compromised in creating this phospholipid that uses fatty acids for its structure. Additionally, the process of assembling PS requires lots of B vitamins. With all the stress you are faced with, and the sugar you eat to keep going when you’re ready to bonk during the day, your stores of B vitamins have been robbed already. If your gut health is compromised, the probiotics that create B vitamins in your digestive tract are likely diminished, leaving you even less able to furnish these critical vitamins.

Eat Fish and Sauerkraut

Supplementing with PS is a temporary solution. While it may address symptoms, it doesn’t really fix the root deficiencies. Of course, it’s imperative that you get a handle on your stress and bust your sugar habit so that the nutrients you need aren’t diverted to these unnecessary distractions. But there are some modifications you can make to your diet, too. The easiest way to get more Omega 3 into your diet is to eat fatty fish (salmon, herring, and halibut) and fish products several times per week, including the traditional remedy, cod liver oil.

Boosting B vitamins the traditional way involves eating probiotic foods. After all, which is more efficient in the long run: having a vitamin factory inside of you, or continually buying that B Stress Complex from now until you reside in an assisted living center?

Sauerkraut is one of the easiest fermented vegetables to make. Here’s a basic recipe:

Basic Kraut Ingredients

1 head of cabbage

1-2 Tb. Unrefined salt

1-2 cups optional ingredients: apples, carrots, beets

1-2 tsp. optional flavorings: crushed garlic, cumin seed, caraway seed, cilantro, red pepper flakes

Basic Kraut Instructions

Finely chop or grate the cabbage (and other optional ingredients) into a large stainless, glass, or plastic bowl. Sprinkle with salt and any additional flavorings. Toss well. Let rest at room temperature until juices are drawn from cabbage, about an hour. Stir vigorously, tamping the cabbage and releasing more juices..

Press firmly into a quart jar, until the cabbage is 2 inches from the top and covered with liquid. Pour any additional liquid from the bowl into the jar to finish filling the jar. It is important that the cabbage remain covered with juices during the fermenting process. Put the lid on, but not too tightly. You want gases to escape. Leave at room temperature for two weeks. Now tighten the lid and transfer to the refrigerator. Enjoy a portion every day. Stores 6 months.

 

Something bugging your hormones?

Did you ever think that your low thyroid, plummeting libido, insulin resistance and estrogen dominance could be related to an overgrowth of “gut bugs”? It might seem like a stretch, but let’s follow the train back to the station.

Hormone Trouble Means Blood Sugar Instability

Hormones, of course, aren’t limited to testosterone and estrogen. You have hormones to stimulate or curb appetite, rev up or slow down metabolism, spark or curtail growth, ignite or dampen stress, and even wake you up or put you to sleep. Many of these hormones are fat-soluble. But even those that aren’t still need essential fatty acids for their construction. So a low-fat diet means trouble for hormones. The truth is that in almost every instance of hormone imbalance, the body is burning sugars not fats. Let me put that another way: if your hormones are bonkers, so are your blood sugars! When there’s a deficiency of essential fatty acids, there’s usually a surplus of sugars.

Blood Sugar Imbalance Can Indicate High Cortisol Levels

Sure, you could be eating too many carbs (dietary cause), or not digesting and absorbing the natural fats that you do eat (physiological cause). But in today’s world, there’s often a chemical cause of high blood sugars: stress! That’s right, your stress  hormone, cortisol, raises blood sugars! It was designed that way to give you the energy to fight or flee in an emergency. So, chances are that if your hormones are cock-eyed, you also have a fair amount of stress in your life driving blood sugars up on a consistent basis.

Not All Stress is Emotional

In the world of nutritional therapy, anything that throws your body out of kilter is a stress because it requires energy to re-establish equilibrium, or homeostasis – meaning stability of the body. Very common triggers in your gut for increased physiological stress and cortisol output are:

  • food sensitivities.
  • toxins.
  • an overgrowth of yeast, bacteria, or parasites, or in other words, gut bugs.

Because the American diet is low on pre-biotic and probiotic foods, and because most of us have had several rounds of anti-biotics that kill beneficial microbes as well as the disease organism they’re targeting, and because we have so many emotional triggers that shut down blood flow and oxygen to the digestive system, it is almost universal to have a gut full of opportunistic pathogens, draining your energy and causing your body to respond in alarm as it tries to maintain homeostasis.

Treat the Cause

Suppose you have leptin resistance, meaning your cells don’t respond to the hormone to eat less and burn more. You could try to address the leptin sensitivity itself. But as long as your cortisol output is still high, any treatment you adopt is going to be short-lived. And if cortisol is high because your gut bugs are out of control, the only lasting solution is to address the bugs themselves.

It is wise to work with a nutritional therapist, who can follow clues to determine what is contributing to your blood sugar imbalance. A Nutritional Therapy Practitioner can test supplements against your body to find out which ones work and which ones don’t, so you avoid wasting money on treatments that aren’t helpful. Just remember that the hormone issue is really the tip of the iceberg. For true healing, you have to investigate underlying causes.

Ginger Cookies are Big Fat Treat #3

These Ginger Cookies are a Snap!

Who doesn’t love a good cookie? Especially one that is fragrant, warm, and chewy! This gingersnap takes advantage of the earthy spices we seem to crave during autumn. Made without refined sugar and rich in natural fats with a touch of protein, these cookies pair well with fall fruits, such as apples and pears.  Make ’em and bake ’em in under 30 minutes. (You will need a food processor for mixing.)

Gingersnaps

Ingredients

2 c. raw walnuts or pecans

1 c. dried dates (pitted) or figs

1/4 c. molasses

4 Tb. arrowroot or tapioca starch

1/2 tsp. ginger

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. cloves

1/4 tsp. salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Process nuts and dates until they form a smooth paste. Add remaining ingredients and pulse to combine. Form 1″ balls. Place on a greased, sprayed, or parchment-lined baking sheet. Flatten with the palm of your hand. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Makes about 18.

Thanks, Snickers!

My Ex has brilliantly described you! “When you’re hungry, you’re not you!” You’re…

 

 careless

confused

crazy

a troublemaker

dramatic

sleepy

befuddled

a klutz

sarcastic

snarky

a knucklehead

a hot mess


Mars got one thing right: that correlation between mood and hunger. It’s real and it’s a trap! The worse you feel, the more you feed the addiction and the deeper you go into blood sugar dysregulation. Your highs get higher and your lows get lower. Like physiological manic-depression, pretty soon you’re hypoglycemic and insulin resistant!

The Mars campaign, by the way, very accurately describes the tell-tale signs of hypoglycemia. But giving a hypoglycemic a sugar rush is like giving an alcoholic another drink just to avoid the eventual hang-over. Sooner or later, it’s gonna hit!

That’s why suggesting the candy bar as a practical solution is downright dangerous!

So I divorced Snickers. Ok, I admit, it was adoring and lustful love for years. But Snickers failed me. Now I’ve walked away. I’m never going back. I’m not sorry. I’ve never felt better!

Yes, I am sweet-talking you – er, rather sweet lecturing you. Your food has more impact on your well being that you realize. You could be diabetic and not even know it. Estimates are that one-third of our population is already pre-diabetic. Ninety percent of the pre-diabetics have no idea their health is at a crisis point.

And the solution is so easy! It takes no medications, no doctor visits, no surgery, no office procedures. It’s as simple as avoiding refined sugar and carbohydrates and eating a balanced diet. Here are some simple guidelines for you:

  1. For every handful of carbohydrate that you eat, grab a thumb-size portion of natural fat, and eat a palm-size portion of protein.
  2. Remember that fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, seeds and sweeteners are all carbohydrates. Carbohydrate goes far beyond bread, pasta, chips, and crackers.
  3. Avoid processed, man-made fats, including soy, canola, cottonseed, and corn oils. Stick to the traditional fats that have been used for centuries.
  4. Be picky about your protein. Avoid products treated with anti-biotics, growth hormones, and steroids. As much as possible, eat food that has been raised on its natural diet, not a commercialized product.
  5. Consume more vegetables! Yes, they are carbohydrate, but they are so low in calories, high in fiber, rich in minerals and full of vitamins, that you can have an almost unlimited amount.

 

Is Your Palate Balanced?

 

Your miraculous body has a built-in detector for the nutrients it needs. Your tongue is a sensitive instrument for discerning the variety of foods that each cell demands. By tuning in to the signals your tongue picks up,  you can satisfy your need for a wide array of nutrients.

From the time you were a tiny baby, you have been attuned to sweetness. When the tongue senses a sweet taste, the mind feels comforted and calm, no doubt associated in the infant brain with warm milk, parental contact, and sleep. Nature provided sweet receptors on the tongue for growth and to prevent tissues from drying out. Sweet foods are “builders” that add flesh. It is not bad to enjoy sweet unless the sensory input is unmitigated by other flavors. When a sweet palate over-rides the taste for other important foods, your moist mucus becomes a ready breeding ground for infection. Then sluggishness and weight gain set in.

The counterbalance to sweet is bitter. You may not appreciate the bite of bitter foods if you were not raised on them. But bitterness helps reduce stored weight, is tonic to the liver, stimulates the removal of toxins and waste through the production of bile, and supports digestion. In fact, literally hundreds of points in the gut are turned on when the tongue tastes bitterness, as if that organ were a gong, signalling the body that it’s time to secrete all the digestive fluids.

Most bitters are herbs and include dark leaves such as dandelion, arugula, watercress, and parsley. Some notable exceptions are extra dark chocolate, juniper berry, and caraway seed. When bitter herbs are served at the beginning of a meal, as salad, or at the end of a meal, as tea, they assure timely movement of the food through the large and small intestines.

Like bitter, the perception of sour is most useful to digestion. It, too, stimulates the stomach and liver. Additionally it can relieve gas and increase metabolism. Some of the most beneficial sour foods are the ferments – that class of foods with multiplied digestive enzyme capacity due to its probiotic activity. A true ferment has live cultures, and does NOT include heat-processed canned products, such as sauerkraut and pickles, but it does include fresh krauts, and cultured dairy products such as yogurt and kefir. Take care that these are not artificially sweetened, over-riding the positive effect of sourness.

The purpose of saltiness is to alert your body to mineral content, especially the necessary electrolytes, calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium. chloride, and phosphate. A little salt can stimulate the appetite, but over-used, leads to excessive water retention in your body. Instead of indulging in processed snack foods, like chips or pretzels, you can satisfy your cravings for the salty taste by sprinkling a dash of fish sauce or soy sauce on your food, using smoked meats, brining your meat before cooking, or putting a pinch of sea salt in your water.

A little-known but vital flavor is umami, which loosely interpreted means “meaty.” Your brilliant tongue discerns this flavor to help you identify protein foods – those rich in amino acids. Your pre-disposition for craving these building blocks of the body can lead you to indulge in man-made products that contain MSG, but no substantial protein component, such as condensed soups and soup mixes, or the myriad of potato chip varieties on the market.  Traditional societies gratified their protein detector with bone broth, crayfish, and fish sauce added to recipes.

Two other flavors of note are pungent (or spicy) and astringent, which tend to balance each other, the first warming the body, and the latter cooling it. Your tongue notices spicy foods to allure you to substances that will increase circulation, and trigger sweating for cleansing purposes. Pungent foods include peppers, horseradish, and wasabi.

When too much moisture exists from excessive sweet intake, the tongue can notify you of astringent foods that have drying properties. Some of the most notable astringent foods are cranberry, green apple, and pomegranate.

If your palate is unnaturally conditioned toward only sweet and salty, you may be lacking vital nutrients to keep your body balanced. Try experimenting with new foods that have strange and exciting flavors. Challenge yourself to include 4 or 5  of these 7 tastes in each meal. Ethnic food is an excellent way to broaden your palate, as most societies have a deep food culture that intuitively incorporates the full spectrum of flavors.