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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!

Pesto Salmon is good mood food

Mood Food – Eating for Happiness

The mood food you need for happiness is natural, not man-made. Sure, there are lots of commercial comfort foods. Certainly, chocolate bars and pasta are among them. But while these may bring a surge of dopamine and endorphins, foods that stabilize your mood overall are anti-inflammatory and label-less.

Your Gut Talks to Your Brain

In his landmark book melding neuroscience with gut microbiome research, Emeran Mayer clearly established that the vagus nerve is not the only way the mind and gut communicate. The microbes themselves send signals to the brain about the status of your physiological health. Disturbances in the gut send alarms to the brain that something is wrong. Any sort of trauma, crisis, toxicity, infection, or imbalance will be relayed to the mind. In short, anything that makes your microbes happy helps make you happy. But that which inflames and dysregulates can make you anxious or depressed. Thus, the best mood food is that which feeds those necessary “gut-bugs” and is anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.

Fish Oil and Produce are Good Mood Foods

Vegetable cooking oils – including soy, safflower, corn, cottonseed, and canola – are inflammatory, according to Dr. Cate Shanahan’s research. But swinging the body’s balance in favor of Omega 3 fish oils has the opposite effect. Including 8 ounces of fatty fish in your diet each week is a good recommendation for anti-inflammatory mood food.

Beyond that, your beneficial gut microbes depend on fiber and polyphenols to feed them. In other words, eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables. It’s not enough to watch macronutrient ratios: carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. You must also provide plenty of plant foods, rich in phytonutrients. When you fill half your plate with produce, you crowd out the high-sugar foods that are so pro-inflammatory and so damaging to a healthy microbial balance. An easy way to do this is to eat sheet pan meals that provide healthy amino acids for your neurotransmitters and an abundance of vegetables for an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant effect.

Light and Oxygen are Nutrients, Too

What you put on your plate is your secondary food. Primary food brings you health in a more primal way. It may include exercise, relationships, and spirituality. Sunlight and fresh air are primary foods because they nourish you without you actually eating them. This time of year, when depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder are high, your time outside is probably at its yearly low. You might consider a daily walk or an afternoon on the ski slopes as mood food. Snowshoeing is certainly mood-boosting for me!

If you can’t get outside, there are still practices you can engage in to nourish yourself through the winter months:

  • Diaphragmatic breathing – Taking time for a few deep inhales and long exhales before each meal and at bedtime is a good way to oxygenate your cells. Also, it calms your gut microbes by putting you in parasympathetic nervous system mode. The gut-brain axis becomes stressed when you spend too much time taking shallow breaths.
  • Light Therapy – In the absence of actual sunlight, a 10,000 lux LED light used for 20 minutes upon waking can help combat the winter blues.

Don’t Forget Sleep

A team at Michigan University studied medical student interns for their sleep quality and resulting moods. They found that those who had variable sleep schedules were more likely to score higher on standardized depression symptom questionnaires, and to have lower daily mood ratings. In addition, those who regularly stayed up late, or got the fewest hours of sleep, also scored higher on depression symptoms and lower on daily mood.

Sleep is the time when the body heals from the daily stresses of the day. A shortage of sleep contributes to greater oxidative stress on the gut-brain axis. Sleep is perhaps one of your most-critical primary foods.

A Recipe for Good Mood Food

  • 2 salmon fillets
  • 1 cup packed basil leaves
  • 2 Tablespoons pine nuts, walnuts, pecans, or sunflower seeds
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons grated parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Put salmon, skin side down, on a baking sheet and brush with a little olive oil.  Place in a pre-heated 350-degree oven for 10-12 minutes, until the fish is no longer translucent and flakes easily. While the fish is cooking, combine the remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor. With the machine on, add water one tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached. Put the pesto on top of the fish and serve with a side of steamed, roasted, or grilled vegetables.

 

Tidings of comfort and joy

Comfort and Joy

Comfort and joy may be hard to find amid the stress of holiday shopping, wrapping, and baking. So, that’s the very reason you should engage this Christmas in behaviors that bring satisfaction and happiness. There are dozens of brief actions – besides gorging on seasonal treats – that can make you happy without turning to destructive eating habits.

Comfort and Joy are Vital

Feeling comfort and joy isn’t just a good idea. It’s health promoting! Surely, you recognize that a build-up of stress can cause disease. Additionally, health practitioners accept that negative emotion causes imbalance and dysregulation. So, of course, the opposite is veritable: stress-reduction can instigate healing. Calming behaviors bring harmony & balance.  Likewise, joy brings healing, connection and a sense of well-being.

But how do you grasp this sense of well-being in the hectic flurry of Christmas preparations? By using your senses. Of course, you know that tasting can bring comfort and joy. That can be a problem during the holiday season when so many rich dishes and treats abound. However, the other four senses can be just as beneficial in helping your feel satisfied and happy.

Seeing Can Dissipate Stress

It only takes a moment to look – really look – for gifts around us that generate gratitude and pleasure. Take time for some of these habits that engender comfort and joy:

  • stargazing
  • watching the clouds
  • immersing yourself in the forest
  • surrounding yourself with the sights in a meadow
  • staring at pond ripples & reflections
  • birdwatching
  • fire-gazing
  • watching a sunrise
  • admiring a sunset
  • sunbathing
  • looking at your favorite photos
  • remembering good images in your mind
  • watching the rain
  • gazing at the ocean or mountains
  • looking at Christmas lights

Listen for Sounds of Comfort and Joy

Just as looking helps you bust through stress and appreciate the goodness of life, hearing also brings you to gratitude in the present moment. Here is my list of aural actions for comfort and joy. What favorites can you add to the list?

  • playing baby laughter sound bites
  • listening to bird songs
  • hearing ocean or creek sounds
  • turning on your favorite music
  • listening to the breeze
  • singing
  • laughing
  • giving compliments
  • hearing the rain on the roof
  • talking to people
  • praying
  • humming
  • following a guided meditation
  • listening to binaural beats
  • hearing crickets chirping

Smell Your Way Out of Stress

Christmas just might be your favorite time of year to enjoy your favorite scents, such as fresh-cut pines or cookies baking. Truly, smells that you experience in childhood during happy events become forever imprinted on your mind. You only need catch a whiff of a certain scent to be transported back to a joyous time. So, why not intentionally put your nose into something delicious. It’s sure you relieve your stress for a moment. Here are some ideas:

  • smelling autumn leaves
  • smelling the roses
  • diffusing aromatherapy oils
  • breathing in conifer scents
  • smelling rain
  • smelling wet earth
  • drinking lemon-infused water
  • enjoying a cup of herbal tea
  • inhaling the smell of dark chocolate shavings
  • enjoying scents in a candle shop
  • simmering potpourri

Find Comfort and Joy Through Touch

Whether you are feeling the plush of a new shirt or blanket around your arms, or tiptoeing across the carpet on Christmas morning, touch is comforting! When you make yourself aware of the sensations you are feeling, you can experience joy. Take these suggestions as starters and add your own!

  • dancing
  • strolling
  • bending and stretching with yoga
  • playing with clay
  • ice skating
  • roller skating
  • biking
  • rebounding
  • box breathing
  • getting some massage therapy
  • having acupuncture
  • tumbling
  • soaking in an epsom salt bath
  • walking barefoot on the grass
  • snuggling with a pet
  • writing a thank you note
  • smiling
  • forgiving
  • volunteering
  • hugging
  • gardening
  • nurturing friendships
  • drawing a picture of your favorite junk food – it can be just as satisfying as eating it!
  • finger painting
  • engaging in random acts of kindness
  • putting together a puzzle

Enjoy the Season!

Now you have 65 ways to find comfort and joy this Christmas! May you connect with loved ones, feel peace, and thrive in health!

 

 

Balanced Blood Sugars to Hack Holiday Weight Gain

Balanced blood sugars are the key to hormone stability. If your blood sugars are unstable, your hormones will follow suit. But why is that important? Stable hormones – thyroid, insulin, cortisol, and estrogen – are necessary for maintaining normal weight. Whether you like it or not, you do not control your weight. Your hormones do. Hormones are chemical messengers that tell your body how to feel and how to respond to your world. In short, it’s those messengers that decide whether you should store fat or burn it.

It follows then, that if you want to avoid holiday weight gain, you must balance your blood sugars. But that doesn’t need to be as hard as it sounds. My tips are easy to incorporate into your busy schedule and mesh well with social events. Most of them only take awareness and a commitment to make a good choice.

1. Eat A Savory Breakfast

Balanced blood sugars begin with breakfast. Set a steady, not an erratic, metabolism for the day by choosing savory over sweet. Savory foods, such as eggs and sausage, are loaded with proteins and healthy fats. These macronutrients give you a low, slow burn. Insulin, cortisol, estrogen, and estrogen are not then skewed by inappropriate blood sugar levels.

Balanced blood sugars have a flat narrow range

On the other hand, a sweet meal sets you up for food cravings later. Sweet breakfasts are usually baked goods and/or fruit juices. These high-glycemic foods burn hot and fast, then leave you in ashes. That opens you up for snacking temptations when you hit rock bottom. High-carbohydrate snacks perpetuate the cycle. Your roller-coaster blood sugars destabilize your hormones and set you up for weight gain.

Imbalanced blood sugars have a steep range

2. Move Vigorously Before your Meal

When you use your muscles before a meal, you leave them hungry. The glucose from your meal goes to replenish them instead of staying in the blood stream or going into storage. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to hit the gym. Even walking has a beneficial effect on blood sugars. So, why not park a little farther from your destination and walk the remainder of the way? Likewise, take the stairs instead of the elevator if your event is not on a ground floor. HIIT routines (High Intensity Interval Training) take very little time but provide great stabilization to blood sugars. You can quickly fit in a 5-minute HIIT such as this one before getting ready for your party.

3. Move Vigorously After your Meal

Similarly, moving after your meal shunts glucose to the muscles. This keeps blood sugars from rising as dramatically. Researchers studying older adults with pre-diabetes found that 15 minutes of easy-to-moderate exercise after every meal curbed risky blood sugar spikes all day. So, invite your friends and family to stroll with you. Or better yet, how about dancing?

4. Start with Vegetables

appetizer with vegetables

The higher the fiber content of a food, the slower it digests. This means your body converts it to glucose less rapidly. Eating high-fiber foods, such as asparagus, mushrooms, artichokes, and Brussels sprouts for an appetizer will provide the necessary fiber to slow down a blood sugar surge from a special meal. If the special occasion is potluck, you can bring a simple dish like this to help keep your blood sugars stable.

5. Swig Some Apple Cider Vinegar

While apple cider vinegar is best known in media for reducing heartburn, it also positively impacts blood sugars. Several studies have shown that it can improve insulin sensitivity and reduce blood sugars. Although the most common way to take vinegar is in a 1:8 ratio in water, it also works well as a salad dressing. Since starting your meal with vegetables is a good idea, adding a simple vinegar and oil dressing may just enhance the effect.

Easy Oil and Vinegar Dressing

6. Save the Carbs for Last

Fiber isn’t the only thing that will reduce a blood sugar spike. Fat and protein, much slower to digest than carbohydrates, also ensure that your meal isn’t converted to glucose too quickly. Test subjects who wore continuous glucose monitors discovered a surprising truth. When eating the same foods, but in a different order, their blood sugar levels were lowest when they started with meat and vegetables. In this study, they consumed rice with their meal. The greatest blood sugar responses occurred when they ate the rice first.

7. Eat Whole, Not Processed Carbs

The higher the amount of glucose in a set volume of food, the more it will tend to imbalance your blood sugars. It’s simply a matter of concentration. Less concentrated forms of glucose will have a lower impact and be less destabilizing. The act of processing foods tends to concentrate the amount of carbohydrate in them. Why? Because often the fiber is removed. Some examples include fruit to fruit juice, whole grain to white flour, and fresh fruit to dried fruit. The following graphic from The Glucose Goddess demonstrates this principle.

Eat whole fruit to balance blood sugars

8. No Naked Carbs

Since it is becoming apparent that carbohydrates add kindling to the metabolic fire and interfere with a balanced burn, it follows that you should be wary of eating carbohydrates by themselves. When you are at the holiday potluck, look for food combinations that pair protein and natural fats with carbohydrate. To decrease the temptation to eat sugary desserts and high-carbohydrate side dishes, eat a smart snack before you go. These are simple snacks, such as carrot sticks, grape tomatoes, or apples paired with a sugar-stabilizing fat.

9. Prioritize Protein

Statistics estimate that roughly 70% of the modern diet comes from refined carbohydrates. It’s easy to crave and indulge in these foods that don’t create balanced blood sugars. But if carbohydrates are high, doesn’t that mean by default that protein intake is lower? As discussed above, protein helps maintain balanced blood sugars. This, in turn, protects hormone balance. However, there’s another reason to prioritize protein. It’s what hormones are made of! If your protein consumption is too low, you won’t be able to make enough thyroid hormone to keep your metabolism from being sluggish. Make sure your holiday plate is at least 1/4 protein. If half of your plate is vegetable, that necessarily restricts refined carbohydrates without counting calories or dieting.

10. Fuel with Fat

Fats are satiating. They keep you from being hungry two hours after you eat. Also, they insure balanced blood sugars. If your gall bladder is in good health, you should be able to eat 2-3 natural fats per meal. Then, you will not only eat less frequently, you will consume a smaller quantity of food because fats are filling. Natural fats include olives, avocadoes, nuts, seeds, egg yolks, coconut meat and coconut milk, butter and cream. You can learn how to choose the right kinds of fats here.

Because getting the right kinds of fats is foundational to good health, work with a functional nutritional therapist if you are not able to tolerate fats in your diet.

 

 

 

Food sensitivity test

Do I Need a Food Sensitivity Test?

Food sensitivity tests are popular now. It seems everyone is reacting to gluten, dairy, nuts, or something else. You might need a food sensitivity test if you have unexplained symptoms that are NOT in your GI tract. But if your primary complaints are digestive in nature, it’s smart to check out other options first.

But first, what is a sensitivity?

A food sensitivity is NOT an allergy or an intolerance. It is the most difficult of these 3 reactions to detect. Let me illuminate.

  • An intolerance is not an immune reaction. You simply don’t have the enzymes necessary to digest a particular type of food. There is no associated inflammation. All distress will be in the digestive tract: gas, bloating, diarrhea or constipation, stomach cramps or pain, and reflux or heartburn. Using supplemental enzymes will solve the problem. For example, lactose-intolerance means you don’t have lactase to break down milk sugar. Taking Lactaid will fix the issue.
  • An allergy provokes an immune response on the mucous membranes guarding entry to the body. So, you will often have inflammation, fluid leakage, and constriction of nasal passages, lungs, or throat. Since the skin is also an entry point into the body, your response may manifest as a rash or hives. The reaction only takes a molecule of the antigen and happens within minutes. Very likely, if you have an allergy, you know it!
  • A food sensitivity is also an inflammation-provoking immune reaction. But your body makes a different kind of antibody with this reaction than it does with an allergy. The inflammation may take up to three days to appear, and may impact any body system. For instance, you might feel moody, get a headache, have joint pain, or being overwhelmingly fatigued. Having a little bit of your trigger food may not set you off. But when you eat it again, gives you a marked response.

What are some typical symptoms of food sensitivity?

Here are what I would consider the top 12 indicators of a food sensitivity:

  1. Headache or migraine
  2. Brain fog, inability to focus
  3. Skin conditions such as eczema or adult acne
  4. Strong fatigue, unexplained low energy
  5. Mood swings, especially when they tend toward depression, anxiety, anger, irritability, or weepiness
  6. Weight gain not attributable to a poor diet, medications, or hormone imbalance
  7. Post-nasal drip and/or sinus congestion (especially common with a sensitivity to the proteins in milk)
  8. Achy joints or arthritic symptoms (pain & swelling in the join) – often apparent with grains in the diet
  9. Tight or sore muscles that don’t respond to massage, acupuncture, magnesium therapy, or other relaxing techniques
  10. Canker sores
  11. Heart racing or shortness of breath, especially after eating or when at rest
  12. GI pain, nausea or reflux – only in some cases. There may be no digestive distress at all!

What foods commonly trigger sensitivities?

The list of likely antigens for sensitivities is different from the list of typical food allergens. While fish, dairy, eggs, nuts and wheat appear on both lists, a catalog of food sensitivities holds some unusual foods, too. Frequently, individuals have sensitivities to oranges, pineapple, or other citrus fruits. Corn and non-gluten-containing grains may also appear on the food sensitivity index. Nightshade vegetables, such as tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplant may be prevalent, too. Both plant and animal proteins triggers sensitivities, including kidney beans, peas, all forms of soy, beef, and pork. But perhaps most surprising are yeast and the cola nut – the flavoring in your beverage.

When NOT to take a food sensitivity test

If your symptoms do not correlate well with the list above, try exploring these other cheaper options.

To begin with, keep a food and symptom journal to see if you notice some patterns. Do you feel worse after a high-fat meal? Late at night or first thing in the morning? Or when you eat out? Depending on what you find, you may try one of the following strategies:

With lots of reflux in the absence of other GI symptoms, remove those foods that weaken or relax your lower esophageal sphincter (caffeine, alcohol, chocolate, mint, citrus, spicy foods, fatty foods, and cooked tomatoes). Then strategically test each one without any other change to the rest of your diet to find out which one(s) brings distress.

However, if you are more prone to a problem at the other end (diarrhea), refer to your food journal to see if fats could be triggering you. Fats are a likely culprit if you have had gall bladder attacks or cholecystectomy. Since cheese and cream are high fat foods, these may bring symptoms that drinking milk or eating low-fat yogurt don’t.

More hacks to solve digestive distress

When raw foods, such as broccoli or salad, cause you a lot of bloat within an hour or two of eating, start with digestive enzymes, taken mid-meal. Notice whether you tolerate cheese better than milk. If so, try Lactaid because milk is higher in the milk sugar lactase.

If you wake up with a headache after a night of take-out (especially Chinese food), you may be reacting to the MSG. Just make sure to order MSG-free food. But if headaches persist despite MSG removal, go easy on cultured and cured cheeses and meats, which are high in tyramine. The amino acid tyramine may trigger head pain, especially migraines.

You may have negative emotional associations with certain foods. This is especially true if your primary symptom is nausea or vomiting. While removing that food is an obvious solution, you may also want to seek counselling to recondition your response.

Finally, if eating causes heart palpitations, start with caffeine removal first, then move onto other items in your food journal that seem to correspond with your symptoms.

How do I take a food sensitivity test?

Food sensitivities are measured by IgG antibodies in the blood. A food sensitivity test that measures IgG plus complement (an immune complex) will be less prone to false positives. This is because it will show foods that actually provoke inflammation. Therefore, start with one of these tests, if possible.

The kit includes instructions, a finger pricker, a blood spot paper for your blood sample, and a bio-hazard envelope in which to mail your sample. Simply follow the instructions in the kit, then sit back to await your results within 10-14 days. When you order your food sensitivity test from me, I will discuss your results with you and give you recommendations for managing your diet.

 

Man in need of heartburn help

Heartburn Relief

You might need heartburn relief if you have pain in your chest after a meal, have sour burps that contain food or liquid, have a lingering bitter taste in your mouth, or feel like there’s a lump in your throat. An estimated 15 million Americans seek heartburn relief daily! But before you pop a pill, consider these strategies.

Remove Foods Known to Weaken your Sphincter

Above your stomach and below your esophagus is a muscle called the Lower Esophageal Sphincter or LES. Keeping it toned is important for heartburn relief. If you went jogging with a bag of gold, you would want to make sure that you had a tight drawstring to prevent the coins from escaping. Similarly, you want your LES to remain closed when your churning stomach is filled with food. Your throat is not coated with an acid-resistant lining like your stomach is.  So contact with stomach contents hurts!

Studies have shown that the following foods relax the LES. Then it does not remain securely shut.

Chart of foods to avoid for heartburn relief

The most common acidic food to bother Americans is cooked tomatoes (e.g. tomato sauce or tomato paste).

Don’t Overfill the Washer

Just like a washing machine, your stomach needs to be able to agitate freely. If you stuff it to the brim, it’s most likely going to slosh some of the contents where they don’t belong. Sometimes more is less. In this case, effective digestion means stopping when you are satisfied. Because if digestion doesn’t occur efficiently, gas and pressure will build up. Your body is elegantly designed to blow the LES in a case like this instead of letting the inadequately-liquified food move into the small intestines, where if would create further digestive distress.

Chew on This

Did you know that there are digestive enzymes in your saliva? The more you chew your food, the less your stomach has to. Further, the mechanical action of your teeth helps convert food to a fluid form for absorption. Food that has been very well chewed is less likely to spend long periods in the stomach. That means it is less likely to go sour and gas off, putting undue pressure on your LES.

Try this experiment: Start with a bite of food half the size or your normal bite and chew until the food is the consistency of applesauce or pudding. Do your notice a flavor change? Many foods, especially carbohydrates, will increase in sweetness the more you chew.

Augment Digestive Secretions

Breaking down proteins and dissolving minerals so that you can absorb them into your bloodstream requires more, not less, stomach acid. When the pH of your stomach is similar to a battery, the digestive process runs smoothly, as designed. But as a culture, many things we do curtail the stomach acid production. You can support more effective digestion for heartburn relief by practicing the following techniques consistently.

  • Stay hydrated. Stomach acid is, after all, a fluid. The body cannot make fluids out of thin air. Since your body is eloquently intelligent, it will prioritize blood manufacture over stomach acid synthesis. That make sense, because blood is more critical in the short run to your survival.
  • Engage in regular practices to dissipate stress throughout the day. You cannot be in two nervous system modes simultaneously. Rest-and-digest simply is not compatible with fight-or-flight. If you are uptight, deadline-focused, task-oriented, and performance-driven, your body will divert resources away from digestion on purpose! You must breathe deeply, be present, and calm yourself if you hope to have adequate digestive secretions.
  • Don’t dilute your meals. Sure, it’s fine to have a sip of water with your food. But don’t depend on your beverage to moisten your food and wash it down. That’s what saliva is for! It is best to drink most of your water between meals. If your food seems too dry, chew it more!

Use Caution with Commercial Heartburn Relief

You’re not likely to find a long-term solution to a chronic heartburn problem by buying an over-the-counter product. After all, heartburn is not a deficiency of Prilosec! There are several issues with reducing your stomach acid regularly for a chronic reflux problem.

First, as mentioned above, you require good acidity to break down, or denature, proteins. Imagine that you have a big ball of yarn that you need to snip into little pieces. It would make sense for you to unravel the ball before trying to cut it.  Preparing proteins for your use works similarly. First, your body has to unravel, or denature, the strand. Then it breaks that strand into amino acids that can be used to build bones and muscles, make blood cells, create antibodies, or synthesize hormones. Denaturing occurs in a high acid environment.

Second, you need adequate stomach acid to absorb vitamin B12. This vitamin is important to sustain your energy, boost your mood, prevent memory loss, and maintain heart health. The cells that release stomach acid also release Intrinsic Factor, an essential component that binds to B12 so that you can absorb it. Suppress stomach acid and you suppress Intrinsic Factor.

Third, “it takes a lot of acid to dissolve a rock.” Minerals just are not bioavailable to you in a low-acid environment. The calcium for bones & teeth, potassium for heart health, magnesium for anxiety, iron for red blood cells, and zinc for immunity require that you not block stomach acid long-term.

Finally, bile and enzyme secretion depend on high acidity. Good digestion isn’t just about the stomach. You also need enzymes from the pancreas and brush border of the intestines, and bile from the liver. But these are triggered by a very acid pH when the stomach dumps its contents into the duodenum.

So, using a product that you have seen advertised may bring short-term symptomatic heartburn relief, but may create further health problems downstream.

Still Need Help?

Sometimes there are food sensitivities, anatomical abnormalities, or nutrient deficiencies at play that prevent you from getting heartburn relief. I have tools to do the detective work, so you can get the the bottom of your problem. Reach out today if you want a more detailed work up to figure out your unique triggers.

January Lecture: Help! I'm Hangry!

Stop Being Hangry 5 Ways

Want to stop being hangry? Do you feel like a dragon when you get hungry. Help is here for the snarky creature you become. Your irritability happens because your blood sugars drop too far. But that doesn’t mean you should grab a candy bar or eat every 2-3 hours. On the contrary, fueling yourself with well-spaced traditional meals may be more effective to help you stop being hangry.

Eat a Balanced Breakfast

When you break your fast is not as important as how your break your fast. It is true that eating sooner than later definitely brings relief if you want to stop being hangry. But having a balance of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins for your first meal of the day weighs in more heavily to maintain your blood sugar balance. Your mocha and muffin actually exacerbate your grouchy crankiness. They drive your blood sugars abnormally high and set you up for an even greater crash. This starts of cycle of alternating highs and lows for the day.

So, for breakfast, consider a combination carbs, fats, and proteins to keep you running smoothing for hours. For example, you might try one of these combinations:

  • Oats, protein powder, and chia seeds, with (nut) butter, cream, or coconut milk
  • Whole grain sprouted toast with ham, swiss, and poached egg
  • Cottage cheese, strawberries, hemp seed & pistachios on whole grain toast
  • Scrambled egg, black beans, cheese and salsa in a corn tortilla
  • Fried egg, smoked salmon & avocado on a sweet potato half
  • Greek yogurt, ricotta, lemon zest, almonds, berries, and chia seeds
  • Sausage patty, pineapple ring, and cheese in a lettuce wrap

Stop Being Hangry with Smart Snacking

When the hunger dragon strikes, your urge might be to snarf a bag of cookies or chips. However, combining an unrefined fat (such as nuts or seeds) with a slow-burning carbohydrate (such as a vegetable) will stabilize your blood sugars and keep you fueled longer. Therefore, wise combinations of whole foods stop you from being hangry. Here are some suggestions:

  • Strawberries & pistachios
  • Pico de gallo & boiled egg
  • Baby carrots & hummus
  • Celery & sunflower seed butter
  • Snap peas & tahini
  • Mandarin oranges & guacamole
  • Cherry tomatoes & olives
  • Banana & walnuts
  • Whole grain cracker & smoked salmon
  • Blueberries & Greek yogurt (Fage Total)
  • Dates & goat cheese

Count Quality as Much as Quantity

Many people think they must eat a low-carbohydrate diet in order to stop being hangry. Rather than reducing your carbohydrates, consider changing the type of carbohydrates you eat. Grab a handful of berries instead of a glass of juice in the morning. Build your pasta with squash or sweet potato instead of noodles. Choose a whole fruit instead of pastries when you want something sweet. Maximize your vegetable intake. Avoid sugary, sweetened beverages, products made with refined flour, and commercial snack foods. Instead, choose plant foods in their natural form that don’t come with a nutrition label: whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits, and especially vegetables.

Don’t Skimp on Natural Fats

You may have been taught to eat a low-fat diet. Unfortunately, to satiate your hunger, you have tried to fill up on crackers, chips, sodas, and other processed foods. These are like kindling on your metabolic fire. They flare up in a burst of energy, then fade away quickly into ashes. On the other hand, fats are like logs. They burn long and slow. That doesn’t mean you should eat fries and fry sauce to stop being hangry. Nature’s foods are naturally balanced with fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Milk, eggs, meat, nuts, and seeds all have fats that work in harmony with your body. So capitalize on foods such as olives, avocados, butter, pastured and wild-caught meats, and other traditional foods to keep your blood sugars balanced.

Lower Your Stress to Stop Being Hangry

Did you know that stress can wreak more havoc on blood sugars than a poor diet? When you are under pressure, you need a ready source of energy to fight your dragons. Of course, this sets up cravings for fast fuel: empty carbohydrates. So, if you want to stop being hangry, you might need to take a few deep breaths and get back in control of your stress.

watermelon & lemon are foods that cool

Foods That Cool

Foods that cool the body are more vital in the summer than foods that keep the kitchen cool. Just as you need coolant in your car to drive across the desert mid-day, you must also have “coolant” in your body to keep from overheating. Below are three tips to for finding and eating foods that cool the body in the heat.

Don’t Put a Match in the Tank

While it is true that you probably don’t feel like cooking when the temperatures outside skyrocket, running through the drive-up window for a meal may be even worse. We could compare that meal to a match inside your car’s gas tank.

Fast foods and processed foods have two strikes against them. First, they are inflammatory – they create more fire in your body. Partly this is because they alter the microbes in your gut. Dr. Edwin McDonald of the University of Chicago Department of Medicine suggests that you avoid foods you couldn’t make at home, such as corn chips.

Second, processed foods are dehydrating. Did you know that most products made with flour have a moisture content of less than 10%? Therefore, they rob your body of water in order to digest them. When you become dehydrated, you have more difficulty regulating your temperature and staying cool enough. In this post about fast foods that don’t rot, Serious Eats posits that it is the dryness of certain fast food burgers that inhibits mold growth.

By contrast, foods that cool have high water content and are anti-inflammatory. But just eating a cooling food here or there will not do the trick. Cooling foods must be part of a long-term lifestyle.

Start with Coolant

To regulate its temperature, your body’s primary need is for water. But perhaps drinking plain water is boring or unsatisfying to you. Do you like fizz and flavor? I suggest that you grab sparkling water if you like carbonation, add an herbal tea bag for flavor (and electrolytes), and sprinkle in some powdered glycine (an amino acid) if you you need a sweetener.  But you don’t just have to drink your water. You can slurp it, crunch it, and swap it!

  • Slurp your water: Bone broths are very hydrating. Not only are they mostly water, they also contain many electrolytes to help you hold onto your hydration. There’s no sense in gulping down lots of fluids, just to end up urinating them off. If a tall mug of broth sounds unappetizing for your summer picnic, consider a broth-based cold soup, such as this refreshing gazpacho.
  • Crunch your water: High water content foods, such as melons, leafy greens, and cucumbers are perfect for slaking your thirst and hydrating your body. As a bonus, they require no cooking! An entree such as this roasted peach and arugula salad might be just perfect for a hot summer evening. Another tip is to blend frozen watermelon into your beverage. Pink lemonade, anyone?
  • Swap your water: Exchange flour products for vegetables. For example, you can replace commercial chips with thin-sliced jicama, and trade out conventional noodles for spiralized vegetables, which are much more hydrating and much less inflammatory. A great weeknight dinner could be butternut squash pasta smothered in pesto and topped with rotisserie chicken.

Remember Foods That Cool

Yes, melons and cucumbers are hydrating. But other foods can help cool the body, too.

  • Anti-inflammatory foods will take down some of your fire: Pineapple and papaya have proteolytic enzymes that help “digest” inflammation. Why not sip a pineapple-cucumber-basil smoothie and get the best of both anti-inflammatory and hydrating foods?
  • Foods with cooling properties quell your heat from the inside out: Mint has a reputation for being able to lower body heat. I like these suggestions from blogger Elizabeth Rider to add more mint to your repertoire.
  • Citrus fruits help break down fats that warm the body: Especially use lemons and limes abundantly. Mix fresh-squeezed lemon juice with olive oil for an easy salad dressing, stir some orange zest into your morning oatmeal, blend limes into your morning smoothie, sip a lemon-ginger tea with your meal, or juice limes into marinades for grilled meats. My favorite use is to squeeze the juice of 1 lime into a fruity sorbet made from 1 avocado and 1 cup of ripe frozen berries.
  • High-electrolyte foods retain the water that keeps you cool: coconut water is particularly high in electrolytes. I like to add a splash of coconut water to my water bottle, or blend it into a smoothie.
chicken basted with a summertime marinade

Summertime Marinades & Sauces

Summertime marinades and sauces add flavor without heating up the kitchen! Grill, stir-fry or pressure cook your meat and vegetables without sacrificing taste. Add versatility by using the same meat, but a different sauce, or the same sauce, but a different meat.

Summertime Marinade and Sauce Templates

Choose one of the combinations below. Make a few tablespoons if you are eating by yourself, or a few cups if you are feeding a crowd!

  • Pure maple syrup & dijon mustard (in equal parts)
  • Soy sauce & honey (in equal parts). Spike with grated ginger and minced garlic
  • Orange juice concentrate & olive oil in equal parts. Season with nutmeg & allspice
  • Coconut milk with curry paste to your taste preference. Add depth with fish sauce & extra chili flakes
  • Olive oil and lime juice in a 2:1 ratio, flavored with taco seasoning 
  • Chili sauce and soy sauce in 2:1 ratio
  • Pesto – just that. Dilute w/ olive oil or chicken broth if needed
  • Honey & lime in 2:1 a ratio. Spice up with chipotle and/or cilantro

Ideas for Using Your Summertime Marinades and Sauces

Pick one, two, or all three methods!

  1. Whisk up one of the summertime marinades or sauces in a ziplock bag. Add your meat, and let sit in the refrigerator for a couple hours at least, or even better overnight.
  2. Baste one of the summertime marinades or sauces over your meat and vegetables while they are cooking.
  3. Drizzle one of the summertime marinades or sauces over your meal when you are ready to serve.

Note: if you find your recipe makes a product that is too thin, add a little cornstarch (perhaps a tablespoon) to it and simmer it in a saucepan on the stove just until slightly thickened.

These Summertime Marinades and Sauces Work for Any Type of Protein

Whether you are prefer vegan protein – such as tempeh, tofu, or plant-based patties – or whether you love animal protein, these recipes perk up any entree! Use them with fish, shellfish, pork, chicken, beef, or wild game. You can even serve them with meatless meal, such as oven-roasted vegetables, or rice & bean dishes.

Fruity low-sugar lemonade as a thirst quencher

Thirst Quenchers For Sweat and Sun

Thirst quenchers are what you need when the heat’s on! We have some easy, refreshing thirst quenchers free of added sugar, high fructose corn syrup, or artificial flavors and colors. They will help you hydrate for sunny and sweaty days.

Why Not Drink Soda and Sports Drinks as Thirst Quenchers?

We all love soda. It’s sweet, cheap, and convenient. But Irina Todorov, a Wellness and Preventative Medicine Physician with the Cleveland Clinic, points out that our number one killer, heart disease, is highly associated with sugary beverages. “The more regular soda cans per day we drink, the more likely we are to die from heart disease,” says Dr. Todorov.

So, what about diet soda as a thirst quencher? Truthfully, it’s just as bad. Penn Medicine reports that zero-calorie sodas actually cause more weight gain than regular soda, and increase your risk for diabetes and stroke by as much as 50%.

As for electrolyte-containing sports drinks, their sugar concentration can actually block your efforts to hydrate, according to this study. 

What’s a Thirsty Soul to Do?

Tomato and cucumber can be hydrating

Since your body is primarily made up of water, the obvious way to slake your thirst is to drink water. US News reports that if you are resting, you need to drink half your body weight in ounces. But exercise and extra weight can increase that baseline requirement, as explained in this article. Therefore, you may need 12 glasses or more per day, instead of the 6-8 you’re consuming.

However, plain water is just not as tasty or exciting as other thirst quenchers on the market, right? Don’t worry, there are many ways to get water without actually drinking it!

  • Puree a seedless watermelon, and pour the liquid into popsicle molds to freeze. Then you can suck your hydration!
  • Drink cucumber juice, spiked with fresh, crushed mint leaves. Cucumbers are 90% water and have a much lower sugar content than fruits. (As stated above, sugar can inhibit hydration.) The mint increases flavor appeal and has a cooling quality.
  • Slurp a broth-based soup, such as this tasty summer gazpacho. Bone broth is high in electrolytes. Therefore you are less likely to urinate off its water content. Electrolytes help you retain water for cellular hydration.
  • Swap out some of your carbs for vegetables. Since highly processed foods are less than 10% water, and yet vegetables are upwards of 80% water, you can hydrate by making some simple sustitutions. Snack on carrots, not crackers. Use spiralized vegetables, such as squash or zucchini, in place of pasta. Satisfy your cravings with sweet, juicy grapes instead of cookies. Crunch on celery instead of chips.
  • Eat more salads. Lettuce, spinach, and cabbage are among the top water-containing vegetables.
  • Sip coconut water. High in electrolytes, coconut water also has higher water content than fruit juices. It is healthier than most sports drinks, because it contains no added sugars and no artificial flavors or colors.

But I Want Fizzy Thirst Quenchers!

Mineral water as a thirst quencher

That’s easy, too! Flavor a bottle of sparkling mineral water, such as Gerolsteiner or Pellegrino, with a splash of citrus juice for a Hollywood spritzer. Or try my favorite technique: drop a fruit-flavored herbal tea bag into the mineral water and let it cold-infuse. If your beverage is not sweet enough, you can add powdered glycine, a sweet-tasting amino acid.

Even simpler, just buy a bottle of kombucha. It’s not only a good thirst quencher, it’s probiotic profile is good for your gut, too.

But if you’re still craving a true soda, you can drink stevia-sweetened Zevia, then dilute it over time with sparkling water.

Celebration Beverages

special occasion watermelon lemonade

For that evening social, the birthday party, the family reunion, or the date at the pool, you can still hydrate in a healthy way.

Strawberry Milkshake for 2

Romantic and refreshing

  • 1/2 pound strawberries
  • 1 c. coconut milk
  • 2 Tb. coconut butter
  • 2 Tb. collagen power or plant-based protein powder
  • 8 ice cubes

Blend until creamy. Pour into glasses and serve with straws.

Pink Lemonade

Low-sugar and appealing

  • 1/2 c. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 c. honey
  • 1 3/4 c. water, divided
  • 1 1/2 c. frozen fruit, such as watermelon or raspberries

Combine the lemon juice, honey, and 1/4 cup of the water in a small saucepan and warm slightly until honey dissolves. Blend with remaining water (ice cold) and frozen fruit. Strain if desired. Makes 1 quart.