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Are Artificial Sweeteners Okay?

Since sugar isn’t helping you get healthier, can you replace it with a non-calorie sweetener? Let’s look at the pros and cons:

Benefits

Artificial sweeteners, known by such names as Sweet One, NutraSweet, Equal, Sweet ‘n Low, Sugar Twin, Splenda and Truvia, do have one marked advantage over white sugar: they don’t add calories to your diet.

For Diabetes control, they are also purportedly acceptable because they are not carbohydrate, so they can’t spike blood sugars.

Possible Detrimental Affects

The controversy that has been raging for more than 50 years is whether they are actually safe in the quantities that they are being consumed. There is also the question of whether users actually reduce their caloric intake or whether they compensate for the reduced calories by eating more of something else. There is concern that artificial sweeteners retrain the tastebuds to require even sweeter foods, thus causing addictions. Finally, some of these artificial sweeteners are suspected of creating impaired glucose tolerance, which is considered to be a pre-diabetic state.

Beyond The Tip of the Iceberg

Perhaps the question to ask is not whether artificial sweeteners are acceptable, but why you need any sweetener at all. Sure, a treat is nice. But do you have to eat something man-made and refined in order to fill that desire? Can you satiate your craving with a natural food?

If you can’t answer affirmatively to that last question, then it’s time to ask, “What imbalance is driving your sugar-tooth?”

  • Cravings can be caused by emotional or social cues. In that case, feed your human need for connection rather than your stomach.
  • Hunger for sweets can be a sign of deficiency. Are you running on an empty tank? Would a nutrient-dense meal or snack, a drink of water, an increase in protein, a mineral supplement, or a boost of essential fatty acids fill the need better?
  • Food sensitivities trigger the release of histamines and endorphins, giving you a rush. You then want more of the triggering food because of your chemical reaction to it. Avoidance and finding enjoyable activities is a better answer than continuing to indulge.
  • “Yeasties and beasties” in your gut live on simple sugars. If you have an overgrowth, you might interpret their signals as hunger. The answer isn’t to eat, but to starve them out with whole foods that feed your probiotics instead.

The next time you are reaching for either sugar or Sugar Twin, ask yourself what would help you feel more whole, alive, and balanced. Need help working through those cravings? We now offer in-home classes to change your reliance on sweeteners.

 

Sweetheart Pancakes for Valentines Day

Want to show your love through cooking? Your dear ones will cherish these adorable pancakes that won’t put them on a sugar roller coaster all day. They may be showered with candy at work and school, but at least you’ll know you sent them out the door on the right foot.

Ingredients

1 c. flour of your choice (but not coconut flour)

2 Tb. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1/2 c. mashed cooked beets

4 Tb. coconut oil, melted

2 c. coconut milk

Greek yogurt and raspberries for serving

Instructions

Combine dry ingredients. Mix in eggs, beets, and coconut oil. Slowly stir in coconut milk until batter is smooth. Bake on a 325 degree griddle until bubbly on top and browned on the bottom. Flip and cook 2-3 minutes more, until golden brown and set. Serve with yogurt and raspberries on top. Makes about 16 small pancakes.

You Might Be Insulin Resistant If…

My sis used to say, “First you grow up, then you grow out, then you grow funny things.” Neither of us knew back then that the changes we were noticing about human bodies as they age were in fact because of epidemic blood sugar imbalances caused by the standard American diet.

What is Insulin Resistance and why is it harmful?

Remember when you were a child and you were told over and over again to do your chores? The more you were asked, the more you tuned out your mother’s voice. Eventually, it caught up to you though, because your dad would come home and give you an unpleasant consequence.

Something similar happens inside your body. Insulin is the mother hen, trying to get sugar (glucose) cleaned up from the blood stream when there’s too much of it strewn around. Insulin asks all the cells to use some for immediate energy, or in the case of muscle and liver cells, to store it. After a while, it’s as if the cells get tired of hearing from insulin, so they don’t respond any more.

This is dangerous, because glucose builds up in the blood, leading to serious medical conditions.

What symptoms might you notice if you are becoming insulin resistant?

  • Growing more irritable, especially between meals
  • Growing hungrier, less able to be satiated
  • Growing more dependent on carbs to satisfy cravings
  • Growing increasingly tired
  • Growing a greater number of large pores on the face
  • Growing excess hair on face and arms (females)
  • Growing small, soft skin protrusions (skin tags)
  • Growing heavier around the middle
  • Growing more confused, unable to think clearly or remember all that you used to
  • Growing larger over all, with an inability to shed the weight
  • Growing discomfort because of water retention, especially around the ankles
  • Growing dark, velvety patches of skin in the folds and creases of the body, as if you haven’t washed there

acanthosis nigricans – darkened areas of skin

What signs might a health practitioner detect if you are insulin resistant?

  • High number of fat cells within the liver (Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver)
  • High fasting blood sugar, fasting glucose, and/or A1C test
  • High number of cysts on enlarged ovaries (Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome)
  • High amount of uric acid deposited in the joints (gout)
  • High blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides
  • High likelihood of irregular or ceased menstruation

What is the first thing you should do if you are concerned about insulin resistance?

My sis used to also say is that it’s better to keep up than to catch up. If you don’t allow the junk to accumulate, you don’t need a crew of clutter-busters to set things to rights. So you’ve got to drastically cut those foods that are dumping glucose in the bloodstream. Then you won’t need the insulin surge to correct it.

For one day, calculate your macronutrient ratios.

  1. Using food labels or nutritiondata.self.com for foods without a label, record all the grams of carbohydrate, fat, and protein that you eat in a 24-hour period.
  2. Multiply the total grams of carbohydrate by 4 to get the number of carb calories you ate. Do the same for protein. For fat calories, multiply by 9.
  3. Total your calories for the day by adding carb calories, protein calories and fat calories together.
  4. Now for the ratios. Divide the carb calories by the total calories. Do the same for protein calories and fat calories. For example, if I ate 1000 calories from carbohydrates and my total calories for the day was 1800, I would compute 1000/1800. The answer is .55, so 55% of my calories came from carbs.

On the next day, limit yourself to a maximum of 40% of your calories from carbohydrate, since that is what converts to glucose. You will have to very attentive to eating healthy protein and fat – from unrefined, natural sources. Aim to get most of your carbohydrates from vegetables.

Insulin resistance takes time to correct. You may need the help of a practitioner to recommend sugar-regulating supplements and organ support until you can get your metabolism normalized. You may also need to tweak those macronutrient ratios to a percentage that’s right for your body. Contact me for a quiz you can take to determine if you have the right macronutrient ratio for your individual physiology.

It’s Not About The Pasta!

After a recent speaking engagement where I confessed my prior carb addiction, I had a gentleman ask me, “Did you just eat lots of pasta, or something?”

I think noodles are universally equated with carb-loading – maybe a kickback from high school training days when the coach said you had to eat spaghetti the night before an event so you would have plenty of fuel for the race.

But what really constitutes carb loading?

Does it just mean lots of bread and pasta? I was carb-loading when I:

  • added 3 fruits to the morning smoothie.
  • fixed whole wheat waffles and pancakes to provide a “healthy” start to the day.
  • poured a bowl of cereal and put skim milk on it.
  • cooked a vegetarian dinner of beans and rice.
  • ate my vegetables without butter to avoid “clogging my arteries.”
  • baked cake with applesauce to stay on a low-fat diet.
  • had a sandwich and a piece of fruit for lunch, with a cookie or chips as a treat.
  • drank juice with my breakfast.

Carbohydrates include all fruits, all sweeteners, all legumes, and all grains.

Carbohydrates are not bad!

Honey is a whole food, as are lentils, oranges, and oats. I believe in real food.

The problem is two-fold:

First, we eat carbohydrates alone, without the moderating effect of fats and proteins to slow their rush into the bloodstream. Imagine trying to sit on a 3-legged stool like this:

We need balance!

Second, we eat carbohydrates refined – with many of the nutrients removed.

A beet is sweet. Of it’s 7.8 grams, 5.5 grams of that is sugar. That’s why beets are used to manufacture sugar. But the intact whole beet also contains the Vitamin A, folate, and magnesium needed to metabolize the sugar. It has fiber to slow the entry of glucose into the bloodstream. Strip those away, and you have an emergency to lower your blood sugar. Plus, your body goes into a deficit to process the sugar molecules.

So What’s a Body to Do?

  • Substitute an avocado for some of the fruits in the smoothie, then add collagen powder. Use full-fat greek yogurt in place of milk or water.
  • Try almond or coconut flour in place of half the whole grain flour in your pancake recipe. Add chia seeds and top with coconut cream.
  • Skip the cold cereal. Cook steel cut oats in a crock-pot overnight and serve with butter and nuts.
  • Add a heaping scoop of unrefined red palm oil to your bean dishes, along with a pinch or five of dried crayfish, like the Africans do.
  • Dress your vegetables with butter, olive oil, or even homemade mayonnnaise.
  • Use coconut oil in your baked goods, and sweeten with beets, dates or bananas. Mix in sour cream to make cake moist, and beaten egg whites for a fluffy product that adds protein.
  • Bag the sandwich and enjoy soups simmered with bone broth, assorted vegetables, and the protein of your choice. Boil a batch on your day off and portion into smaller container for easy grab-and-go.
  • Complement any meal with crudites, cottage cheese, and a dash of seasoning.
  • Instead of cookies, blend  avocado and fresh fruit for a quick pudding or avocado and frozen fruit for a flavorful ice cream.
  • Drink water. Eat food. Fruit is food, not beverage.

Is it Time to Kiss Sugar Good-bye?

How do you know when your love affair with sweets is betraying you? Check your answers in these 3 categories:

Food Addictions

  1. Are there any foods you feel you just couldn’t give up?
  2. Do you frequently experience rashes, congestion, wheezing, itchiness, or other allergic symptoms?
  3. Do you feel withdrawal symptoms if you try to cut back amounts of favorite foods?
  4. Do you have compulsions to eat, even when you’re not hungry?
  5. Do you experience guilt over your eating behaviors?

Blood Sugar Instability

  1. Do you feel tired after eating?
  2. Is that spare tire around your middle growing, or resistant to weight-loss efforts?
  3. Do you crave carbs?
  4. Do you have high triglycerides or low HDL cholesterol?
  5. Do you have experience irritability, shakiness, the jitters, or headache with fasting or skipped meals?

System Toxicity

  • Do you have a general feeling of malaise?
  • Do you have frequent or chronic sinus infections?
  • Do you regularly experience digestive complaints, such as bloating, gas, reflux, or irritable bowel?
  • Do you have unexplained joint or muscle pain?
  • Are you plagued by moodiness, brain fog, or memory issues?

 

If you answered yes to more than 3 questions, your body may be telling your it’s on sugar overload. It may be warning you of imminent pre-diabetes, heart disease, immune dysfunction, hormone imbalance, and other chronic health challenges that can be reversed with simple dietary changes. I can help you feel free again. Breaking a sugar addiction isn’t so much about will power as it is about physiology. Nutritional Therapy can show you the path to change your life.

Superfood Snack for the New Year

Here’s a treat that will treat you! With 3 superfoods to supercharge your energy and boost your immune system, these power balls have enough protein and healthy fat to keep your blood sugars from surging.

Goji berries are purported to improve immunity and fight cancer, help stabilize blood sugars, detoxify the liver, boost your mood and increase fertility. But that’s not all. They are loaded with trace minerals.

Hemp hearts have a complete profile of essential amino acids (think protein) and have a perfect ratio of Omega 3 fatty acids to Omega 6 fatty acids.

Cacao powder is not only a mighty anti-oxidant, it is also high in iron and magnesium.

Keep a batch of these Hemp-Cacao Bombs in the freezer for those blood sugar emergencies when you need a boost now.

Ingredients

1/4 c. dried goji berries, processed to a gritty meal

1/2 c. chopped nuts

1/4 c. hemp hearts

1/2 c. chopped pitted dates

1/4 tsp. sea salt

1 tsp. vanilla

2 Tb. 100% cacao powder

1/8 c. unsweetened coconut flakes + 1/8 c. hemp hearts

Instructions

In a food processor, process the berry meal, nuts, 1/4 c. hemp hearts, dates, salt, vanilla and cacao until the mass becomes uniform, sticky, and forms a lump.

Roll into 1″ balls and roll in the mixed coconut flakes and hemp hearts. Keep refrigerated or frozen.

 

You Might Be Diabetic If…

If you were standing in a room with 9 other people, chances are that one of them would be diabetic. Two, maybe even three of them would be pre-diabetic. The tragedy is that most people don’t know their blood sugars are unstable until damage has been done and a doctor puts them on medication. But luckily, Type II diabetes can usually be remediated with diet and lifestyle changes. Check these warning signs of diabetes:

You might be diabetic if…

  • You know the whereabouts of every public restroom in town.
  • You feel as parched as sage brush.
  • You’re patting yourself on the back for losing weight (when you haven’t done anything).
  • Carb cravings hound you like a stalker.
  • You sometimes feel as shaky as seismograph.
  • You prefer sleep to sex.
  • You could win an audition for Oscar the Grouch.
  • You just scheduled your optician to check your vision.
  • That tingly feeling in your hands and feet isn’t love.
  • You’ve had a Urinary Tract Infection or a yeast infection more times than you’ve seen a movie this year.

If any of these fit, you should request an A1C, also called HbA1c, blood test from a doctor.* This test gives information about your average levels of blood sugar over the past 3 months. A score between 5.7 and 6.4 is considered pre-diabetic. Anything higher than 6.5 signifies diabetes.

If you are concerned about your blood sugars, and are ready to make changes, I can work with you to reduce your A1C reading. ReStart Classes are also helpful.

*Some walk-in labs allow you to order your own lab tests without a doctor’s requisition. There are also drugstore kits available to test your own levels at home.

 

Creamy Oyster Stew

Classic chowder with oysters, broth, and cream is not only a New Years’ tradition and warm comfort food in the chilly depths of winter, it is packed with sugar-stabilizing nutrients! Oysters contain lots of B vitamins, chromium, and zinc, all of which are beneficial for healthy blood sugars. A homemade broth adds the amino acid L-glutamine, necessary for your liver to convert excess sugars to storage, then release them again when your energy slumps.

Additionally, the cream controls your uptake of sugars into your bloodstream, creating an even burn, instead of rocketing and plummeting blood sugars. Our recipe uses cassava root (also known as yucca) in place of flour or potatoes to give it body, cutting the glycemic index to half of what a conventional recipe ontains.

You can’t go wrong with this easy, nutrient-dense recipe. It’s even budget-friendly!

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 lb. cassava/yucca root*

3 cups bone broth

2 cans (8 oz.) oysters

1 cup cream (may use coconut cream if dairy intolerant)

2 Tb. red wine vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

dash of red pepper flakes, optional

 

Instructions

In a heavy-bottomed pot, sautee onion and garlic in butter until translucent. Meanwhile, pare the skin from the cassava and cut into 1″ cubes. Add the cassava and broth to the pot. Simmer 15-20 minutes, until cassava is very soft. With an immersion blender, blend until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and heat through.

*found with specialty produce at the grocery store – usually with a waxed coating to keep it fresh. Generally imported from South America.

Find more recipes to support healthy blood sugars here.

 

 

 

Make Your Own Bone Broth

Having the indispensible skill of making broth from bones, water and vegetables will save you money while sustaining you with necessary minerals and amino acids – more bio-available in this form than from a supplement. The benefits of bone broth are too extensive to list here, but check out this great infographic!

Ingredients

Soup bones, oxtail, knuckle bones, marrow bones, ribs, wings, fish bones, or carcass from roasted poultry

Water – enough to cover bones

Vinegar – 1 Tb. for every quart of water

2 carrots for every 2 lbs. of bones

2 celery stalks for every 2 lbs. of bones

1 onion for every 2 lbs. of bones

1 sprig of thyme for every 2 lbs. for bones

Instructions

In a stock pot, add water and vinegar to bones and let sit for 1 hour to begin dissolving the minerals out of the bones.

Turn the heat to medium-high and add the thyme and chopped vegetables. As soon as the water begins to reach a boil, skim off any scum that rises to the top, reduce heat to low and cover.

Cook at just barely a ripple for 2 hours if cooking fish bones, 4 hours for poultry bones, or 8 hours for beef or pork bones.

Strain. Pour into quart jars and refrigerate until needed.

Combine everything in a slow cooker and set to low if you prefer! Or put in a pressure cooker and process: 20 minutes for fish bones; 40 minutes for chicken bones; 60 minutes for beef bones.

How To Use Your Broth

You can drink it by the mugful each day, but if that seems unappetizing to you, substitute bone broth in any recipe using liquid. Here are some ideas:

  • Moisten mashed potatoes using broth in place of part or all of the milk.
  • Add to refried beans for a more savory flavor.
  • Simmer rice, quinoa, or other grains  in broth instead of water to add protein to the recipe.
  • Create gravies and white sauces by cooking roux (butter and flour) and herbs with broth alone or broth plus milk.
  • Use as a base for soups instead of bouillon cubes and water.
  • Combine with tomato paste for a nutrient-dense tomato sauce.

Merry Christmas and Healthy New Year

I’ll be signing off until after the New Year begins. May you have a joyous holiday. Remember these 6 tips to keep your holidays merry and your new year healthy:

  1. Limit sugar and refined vegetable oils. No other combination of foods is quite as inflammatory, making you susceptible to disease. But if you make choices from the edges of the store (produce department, butcher block, and dairy case), you’ll be avoiding refined and processed foods. So keep it simple, and keep it whole.
  2. Go to be early. Treat yourself to an extra hour of sleep and pamper your immunity by giving your body extra restorative time. You’ll still make it to work on time in the morning, without the stress of snoozing your alarm. Though it is a tempation in these dark winter evenings to let electric light replace sunlight, your circadian rhythm will thank you if you do not use night time to be productive.
  3. Be mindful. Holiday stress can take us all into cerebral ruminations. But stay connected with your body;  delight in all the season has to offer. Find joy in the sights, sounds, smells, and sensations of the holidays. Be present and cherish your relationships. Emotional wellness is every bit as powerful as physiological wellness.
  4. Eat DIY meals: the more you cook at home, the more you are able to limit excess carbs, processed foods, unnatural fats, artificial ingredients and preservatives, and set your portion sizes. The health benefits in the long run far outweight any temporary convenience in the moment.
  5. Move often: New research is showing that even marathoners who sit long hours for work have increased risk of disease. Those who stay active throughout the day have a brighter outlook than those who attend the gym for an hour, according to Chris Kresser in his book, Unconventional Medicine.
  6. Remember to take probiotics. Of course, naturally fermented food is the best option for keeping your gut healthy, but even popping probiotic supplements can help maintain your vitamin production, digestion, and even mood throughout the winter.