Education

Wait! Spinach is A Carb?

Yes, baby, spinach and carrots and bananas and plums are all carbohydrates. Did you think they were proteins? They certainly aren’t fats!

I know it’s confusing at times. People say those leafy greens (you know, spinach and kale and collard) have a lot of protein. Well, compared to white cane sugar, they sure do! Sugar is pure carbohydrate, 100%. But nature’s foods aren’t so simple. Real foods come from plants and animals which are made up of cells. The building blocks of cells are proteins, so whole foods inevitably have some protein. Fats are present in the semi-permeable membrane surrounding the cell, allowing both water-soluble and fat-soluble nutrients to pass into the cell and wastes to be transferred out.

In reality, therefore, whole foods contain a tiny bit of all three macronutrients: carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. When we assign a category to a food, it’s because that food has heaps more of one macronutrient than any other. Back to spinach. While it is primarily carb, 30% of its calories do come from protein. That’s a lot more than, say, a potato, which is only 7% protein, calorically.

But a whole cup of spinach is only about 7 calories – and only 2 of those calories come from protein. It would take literally mountains of spinach, baby, to make your hair and nails and muscles and skin and cartilage, and even your red blood cells and hormones. That’s why we can’t count it as a protein. It serves as carbohydrate because it is primarily a source of energy. When your tummy digests it, all those bright green leaves are converted into glucose to keep you crawling and cooing.

My point is that you can’t think of carbs as just pasta and potatoes. Yes, chips and crackers and croissants are carbohydrates, but so are all of the fruits and veggies and legumes and seeds. And remember Pooh Bear and his honey pot? Yeah, that’s how his belly got so round. Even milk is between 30 and 56% carbohydrate by calorie, depending on its fat content. That makes it taste sweet to you. (Only one-fifth of the calories in milk come from protein!)

So…I won’t EVER endorse a smoothie with skim milk and 3 or 4 fruits in it. It’s just too much of a sugar-rush for your precious body! I don’t care if you add spinach to make it healthy – it’s still an insulin tornado.  I only want you to be vibrant and have vitality! And don’t tell me you use almond milk – it’s worse! For every 16 grams of carbohydrate (64 calories), there is only 1 gram of protein (4 calories).*

The bottom line is you can be a carb-loader if you eat lots of fresh produce and never even touch refined sugar, or grains either, for that matter. When I say you need to balance your plate, please understand that I’m serious about adding healthy fats and animal proteins to your diet. Believe me, I’m trying to save you from insulin resistance before it’s too late. Here’s my rule of thumb: For every “handful” of carbohydrate, eat a thumb-size portion of natural, unrefined fat and a palm-size serving of protein. You have too much of life ahead of you to feel fatigued and fat, or to experience fitful sleep and flat moods.

If you’re already there, suffering from that 2 p.m. coma every day, I can help! Contact me.

*May vary from brand to brand.

 

My Wish

If I could rub a magic lamp, my desire for you would be a soda-free life. Pop is the nemesis of stable blood sugars.

Do you have

  • constant fatigue?
  • weight gain?
  • foggy memory?
  • auto-immunity?
  • low thyroid?
  • high blood pressure?
  • depression?
  • anxiety?
  • hypoglycemia?
  • Insulin resistance?
  • difficulty sleeping?

These are all tell-tale signs of imbalanced blood sugars, and while other factors definitely contribute to this state, soda is one of the first places I start looking when there are issues.

If you want energy but love your Mountain Dew, need to lose weight but won’t give up Pepsi, feel moody but have to have a Big Gulp, go find your own genie, because my powers can’t get past your beverage.

3 Ways to Ascertain Your Blood Sugar Levels and 5 Ways to Moderate Them

I run into a lot of people who don’t believe they have a blood sugar problem. It comes as a shock when the doc tells them they are hypoglycemic, insulin resistant, or worse yet, diabetic. These are hard conditions to correct once they have actualized. But they are easy to prevent!

You can know your risk without having to schedule a doctor visit. Start with this quiz:

  1. If I skip a meal:
    1. no big deal.
    2. I have a headache.
    3. I’m “HANGRY!”
  2. I have to eat:
    1. 2-3 times a day.
    2. 3-4 times a day.
    3. 5-6 times a day.
  3. My energy:
    1. is pretty consistent.
    2. varies from day to day.
    3. is like a roller coaster.
  4. After meals, I experience:
    1. no change in energy.
    2. relief.
    3. sleepiness.
  5. Between meals, I have:
    1. no specific cravings.
    2. afternoon cravings (for stimulants).
    3. LOTS of cravings!
  6. I sleep:
    1. very well.
    2. poorly; I wake and can’t get back to sleep.
    3. with difficulty; I can’t fall asleep.
  7. I awaken:
    1. refreshed.
    2. not feeling rested.
    3. in a fog; I can’t get going.
  8. During endurance exercise:
    1. I have great stamina and reserves.
    2. I need a stimulant.
    3. I hit a wall and crash.

Circle your answers and total your score. The higher your result, the greater your risk of blood sugar diseases.

But suppose the “tire looks flat, but you need a tire gauge to be sure.” That’s easy, too. You can test your blood sugar levels at home and order a simple lab test to check your cumulative blood sugar levels over a 3-month period.

Home “finger-prick” glucose meters are available at local drug stores. Some popular brands of these glucose monitors are One Touch, ReliOn, Accu-Chek, FreeStyle and Contour Next. Just put a drop of blood on a test strip, and within seconds, you’ll have a reading. There is cause for concern if you are higher than 95 when fasting or higher than 120 two hours after a meal.

An A1C is a blood test that measures your blood-sugar levels over the past quarter rather than just at the current moment. You can order this test for less than the cost of a visit to the doctor’s office. Go to www.ultawellness.com and search A1C. Select a lab near you, print the requisition, and drop in at your convenience for the blood draw. The confidential results are emailed back to you within the week.

A score below 5.7 is considered safe; 5.7-6.4 is classified as pre-diabetic; anything over 6.4 indicates diabetes.

The nitty-gritty part is changing the numbers if they’re higher than they should be. Here are my “quick and dirty” recommendations:

  • Eat more healthy fats. Always pair your carbohydrates with a good fat to slow the absorption of sugars into the bloodstream and to give your body a slow-burning fuel that will last for hours and hours without leaving you shaky and frantic. Unheated fish oils are the best source of essential Omega 3’s. Butter, tallow, and lard from pastured animals are safe saturated fats to use in cooking. Olive oil is a great mono-unsaturate to use for salad dressings and other cold applications. Coconut oil is a popular mid-chain fatty acid with many health benefits.
  • Drink water. Many times, the body’s thirst signals are mistaken for hunger cues. Instead of grabbing a [sweet] snack, grab a water bottle. Since pop and juice fuel sugar cravings and are actually de-hydrating (they USE water from the body to dilute them), avoid drinking them. If it is difficult for you to enjoy pure water, try stimulating your desire for it by adding a splash of citrus, a few drops of trace minerals or a pinch of natural sea salt.
  • Take a probiotic supplement and eat traditional cultured/fermented foods. Often, sugar cravings are driven by an overgrowth of pathological microbes in the gut. Using probiotics foods and capsules can help return the balance to your microbiome and lessen your cravings. You might try kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, or miso. Just make sure it has live cultures.
  • Use a liquid amino-acid supplement between meals to stave off cravings. The body can convert amino acids into fuel in a process called gluconeogenesis. When your body needs instant energy and you’re tempted to grab sugar to supply glucose, try putting a couple drops of amino acid supplement on your tongue instead.
  • Go cold-turkey. Read labels and cut all sugar completely out for 3 days. If you can do it for 72 hours, you can do it indefinitely, because the cravings subside after the first few days.
  • Book a consultation with me to find out where the particular imbalances in your body lie.

Believe me, your body will thank you! If millenia of humans could survive without refined sugar, you can too!

Can’t Say No?

Refusing treats isn’t about willpower so much as it’s about brain chemistry, experts are saying. When cravings strike, chances are you’re deficient in healthy fats and proteins.

While the brain’s fuel is indeed glucose, its cells are primarily made of fatty acids and its neurotransmitters are built from amino acids. Julia Ross, MA, MFT, explains in this post that amino acids – obtained through the proteins we eat – are used to make brain repairs. Without the proper foods in the diet, the brain cannot correct the addictive signals, allowing cravings and emotional eating to continue unimpeded.

Further, high-carb meals feed a feast-or-famine cycle of blood sugar imbalances. On the upswing, when the body is deluged with a flood of glucose, brain cells are actually “glycated,” or sugar-coated, causing slow or foggy thinking and leading to pre-mature mental degeneration. On the other end of the pendulum swing, the brain is actually starved of its necessary fuel and sends a panic signal for more sugar. That’s when you reach for the M&M’s.

If you could keep blood sugars nice and steady all day, there would be no frenzy to grab that quick-carb snack to quell your energy demands . The key to maintaining level blood sugars is to eat plenty of healthy fats and an adequate serving of protein at breakfast time. Don’t skip meals and evenly balance your carb-fat-protein calories throughout the rest of the day.

Some individuals find that an amino acid supplement between meals can help them fight cravings and make it to the next meal without bingeing on sugar-y foods.

Summer Shape-up

When the buds and bugs appear, so do the sneakers and gym shorts! After a heavy winter and a damp spring, you are probably a bit feverish to get outside and move. Maybe you want to shed some of your “hibernation fat” or maybe you just want to feel less sluggish. In any case, one of the best ways to re-boot your health for the season is to condition your plate.

Weight gain is a sign of imbalance in the body. That usually registers with most folks as too many calories ingested and not enough calories expended. But it can signal quite a different imbalance: not enough nutrients and too many “hollow” foods. This imbalance also leads to feelings of fatigue, unclear thinking, moodiness, insomnia, and cravings.

If you want to feel and look sharp this season, tighten your carbohydrate intake and not just your shoelaces.  That doesn’t mean eliminating wholesome plant foods – vegetables, grains, legumes, fruits, nuts, and seeds. Rather, be cautious about foods made with white flour and sugar. These nutrient-poor foods are detrimental because they rob your body of vitamins and minerals in order to process them, they spike your insulin levels and they burn so quickly that they leave you flat when they’re extinguished.

A food is considered nutrient dense when it contains a wide array of amino acids, vitamins, essential fatty acids, and minerals for the quantity of calories it contains. In other words, for just a few calories, it really packs a punch. On the other hand, a hollow food carries a lot of calories without giving you the quality fuel your body needs to function properly. An example might be “extruded, corn-based, cheese-flavor puffs,” which have a nutrient-density rating of 1.4, compared to cauliflower, which rates a weighty 4.5 out of 5. For more information about these ratings, visit http://nutritiondata.self.com/

The point is that a food with a low-rating actually uses up your body’s stores of nutrients to digest it, while a food with a high rating replenishes your stores.

Another problem with nutrient-poor foods – which are most of the carbohydrates we eat (chips, breads, pastas, cookies, cereals, crackers, cakes, pastries, etc.) – is that they create an insulin surge. They enter the bloodstream so quickly that blood sugar levels rise with dangerous rapidity. The body must respond with a flood of insulin to bring sugar levels back to safety. Insulin is a storage hormone that does its job well: to stow excess sugars as fat tissue.  So excess carbs almost always means excess weight, too.

Carbohydrates burn much quicker than fats, so the flip side of the coin is that after the blood sugar rush comes the inevitable crash. Parents will probably recognize that children can be hyperactive one moment and in tears the next. But it happens to adults, too. Even athletes speak of the proverbial “bonk” when their energy comes crashing down.

Because nature hates a vacuum, it isn’t enough to limit empty or refined carbohydrates. They must be replaced with wholesome alternatives. A stellar choice is natural fat (cold-pressed, unrefined, and virgin, such as fish oils, coconut oil, and olive oil. Raw nuts, avocados, and seafood are also beneficial.) Natural fat doesn’t spike insulin levels and keeps the metabolism fueled for hours at a time.

Consider that most Americans get 60-80% of their calories from refined carbohydrates. You can make a huge impact on your health by choosing to change your plate this season to a more balanced distribution of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. Try a 30-30-40 plan, where only 40% of your calories come from carbohydrates. You will almost surely think more clearly, sleep better, lean up, and feel more energetic.

America’s Most Common Deficiency

What necessary component is missing in the diet of more Americans than any other substance? Is it iron or protein or B vitamins? No, what most of us lack above all else is water!  H2O ranks second only to oxygen in sustaining life. But statistics estimate that three-fourths of us are chronically dehydrated! The reason for this stems from what we drink rather than how much we drink.

Per capita, American’s swallow almost a gallon of soda per week and roughly half that much coffee each week. Throw in fruit juices and milk and many individuals think their fluid requirements have been met. Unfortunately, coffee and other caffeinated drinks cause us to lose water. Beverages containing natural or refined sugars are also dehydrating. For every ounce of these drinks that we consume, we must sip an extra ounce and a half of water just to maintain normal balance in the body!

As the weather heats up, remember that your typical 2.5 cups of water lost through perspiration can easily double, so it’s even more critical to keep a water bottle in use! You only have to lose 2% of the body’s water volume to start feeling fatigued.

If you are playing in the sun and feel your concentration slipping and your aggravation rising, it’s quite possible you are losing too much water. Don’t wait longer to replenish because the consequences get worse: headache, dizziness, nausea, flushed skin, cramps  and weakness are troublesome, but they are followed by life-threatening symptoms: confusion, rapid heartbeat & breathing,  low blood pressure, lack of sweating and failing kidney function.

Since the body cannot store water as it does vitamins, minerals, or even fat, you have to replenish daily. An adult body is composed of 40 to 50 quarts of water! Most of that is fluid contained within the membranes of our trillions of cells. But you exhale about 1.25 cups of water each day through moistened air leaving the body, and lose roughly 6.25 cups through urination. Add that to the debt incurred by perspiration, and you’re down 2.5 quarts!

But hydrating isn’t just for restoring lost body fluids. The coming vacation season means travel. Along with new sites and adventures, come new pathogens. Your immunity can be truly challenged during these trips. You body’s first line of defense against foreign microbes is its mucous barriers: the sinuses, the lungs, and the gut. Ideally, these moist linings trap bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic invaders as they enter the body. Then white blood cells in these membranes destroy the harmful microbes before they can colonize and create disease. But what if these membranes – normally 98% water – are shrunken and parched? Where is your defense then? Is it asking too much to drink 8 cups per day?

Of course bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and 8 cups is only an average. A better measure of water need is your weight. To compute your water requirement, divide your weight in half. Take your answer and drink that much in ounces each day, capping at 100 ounces if you are over 200 pounds.

Perhaps your complaint is the too frequent trips to the bathroom when you try to hydrate.  Adding some electrolytes to your water can help you retain it better. Easy electrolyte solutions include a splash of lemon or lime juice, a pinch of sea salt, or a dribble of coconut water.

Be aware that plastic bottles left in hot cars can leach harmful BPA. Keep your water in a cooler or use a metal thermos to have a safe, wet summer!

Slow Starter?

If you can stay up late but have trouble waking in the morning, your cortisol rhythm may be skewed. Cortisol is your “get-up-and-go” hormone. It moves you from a parasympathetic restful state into action. Normally, it is highest in the morning, and gradually declines over the course of the day, until it reachest its lowest point around midnight – during your deep sleep.

Since cortisol is produced in the adrenals, disrupted cortisol cycles often point to some form of adrenal overload. Adrenals – tiny glands that sit on top of the kidneys – can be burdened by environmental toxins, food allergies, sleep deprivation, and many other factors. But the most prominent causes in the American lifestyle today are excess sugar intake and stress.

Excess sugar intake is considered by the American Heart Association to be no more than 9.5 teaspoons (or 47.5 grams) per day. Estimates in 2012 placed consumption at 3 times that much.

Love you adrenals with these measures:

  • Eat whole, not processed foods
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and refined sugar (watch food labels!)
  • Get adequate protein (roughly 1/3 of your daily calories)
  • Go to bed earlier (optimally around 10 p.m.) and sleep for 8 hours
  • Manage stress daily with laughter, nurturing, meditation, and deep-breathing
  • Engage in light to moderate exercise
  • Get outside as much as possible. Natural light is essential to healthy adrenal function.

Working with a health practitioner to obtain supplemental adrenal support may be necessary to normalize your cortisol output.

 

Is There A Pill for That?

High blood sugars, chronic cortisol output, overwhelming stress, crippling anxiety… these are the modern plagues that keep you from feeling peace. Wouldn’t it be simple if there were just a pill that could fix all that?

The bad news is that no supplement will compensate for poor lifestyle choices. But the good news is that if you are addressing dietary and emotional factors and still experiencing some extremes, ashwagandha may help modulate your responses. This herb, also known as Indian Ginseng or Winter Cherry, has been revered for millenia in Ayurvedic medicine. Native to India, its name means “strength of a stallion.”

The root is the part used in nutritional therapy and can be steeped in teas, or ground for use in capsules.

What are the purported benefits of ashwagandha?

  • Regulating blood sugars
  • Lowering cortisol levels
  • Blocking anxiety and relieving stress
  • Decreasing inflammation by reducing C-reactive protein (CRP)
  • Enhancing the immune response by stimulating the activity of natural killer cells
  • Promoting anti-oxidant activity to improve brain function and memory
  • Boosting thyroid function
  • Reducing cholesterol and high triglycerides
  • treating adrenal fatigue

The beauty of ashwagandha is that it’s an adaptogenic herb. That means it will treats extremes and tends to bring into equilibrium both highs and lows. So it may be used for both hypo- and hyper-thyroidism, and for depression as well as anxiety.

But before you order some, be aware that it should be tested on you by a certified practitioner, particularly if you have an auto-immunity. Since ashwagandha is a member of the solanacea family, individuals with an auto-immune response may experience extraordinary results if they are TH-1 dominant, but it could exacerbate their condition if they are TH-2 dominant because of its effect in stimulating natural killer cells.

Doses of ashwagandha are typically around 500 mg, taken once or twice a day. It works best when combined with a diet high in healthy fats and proteins, as well as a diet void of sugars.

Is Your Sweetheart Killing You?

The big, fat problem with heart disease isn’t the fat; it’s the sugar. Your sweet tooth is literally creating a sweet heart that is up to four times more likely to have an attack.

Simply put, sugar increases insulin output. Continuously high insulin damages the lining of the blood vessels, driving inflammation up to make repairs. Meanwhile, insulin resistance sets in as a high-sugar diet continues. Insulin resistance blocks the PG-1 anti-inflammatory pathway, preventing the body from putting the brakes on the inflammatory response. Chronic inflammation in the blood vessels compounds placque build-up and escalates heart attack risk.

To compound matters, insulin resistance also spurs mineral deficiencies. Both macro- and micro-minerals are blocked from entering the cells. Since rhythmic, powerful heart contractions depend on a balance of calcium and magnesium, insufficiency of one or the other contributes to arrythmias.

Love your heart. If you want to treat it right, don’t treat it with sweets. The heart is an endurance muscle, so its primary fuel is fatty acids. For heart health month, replace some of your carbs (white flours, fruit juices, soda, and desserts) with whole food carbohydrates (vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, fruits with the peel) and traditional fats (fish, avocado, olives, coconuts, butter).

Aim to get approximately equal calories from proteins, appropriate fats and carbohydrates. Watch your food labels. Dr. Mark Hyman, author of the Blood Sugar Solution, notes that “most of us don’t know that a serving of tomato sauce has more sugar than a serving of Oreo cookies, or that fruit yogurt has more sugar than a Coke, or that most breakfast cereals — even those made with whole grain — are 75% sugar. That’s not breakfast, it’s dessert!”

Worst of all is the soda, which can contribute up to 500 calories per day just from sugar. So love your fats and give your heart some sweet relief!

Are You At Risk?

Over the last 35 years, the number of adults diagnosed with diabetes has quadrupled, from 5.5 million to 22 million. Further, one third of Caucasian children born in the United States after 2000 will develop diabetes, and half of Hispanic and African-American children will end up with the disease, according to the Center for Disease Control.  Our risk for the disease is sky-rocketing.

Blood tests are an accurate way of determining whether you are headed toward diabetes. An A1C result of 5.7 or greater, or a fasting blood glucose level above 100 are considered pre-diabetic. But there are correctable indicators that can be spotted years before you reach these points.

  • Do you get 60% or more of your daily calories from carbohydrates?
  • Do you crave sweets?
  • Are you dependent on sweets to keep you going?
  • Do you become irritable when meals are delayed or missed?
  • Are you grouchy in the morning?
  • Do you become lightheaded, shaky, jittery, agitated, or nervous when you don’t eat?
  • Are you forgetful?
  • Do you feel mentally foggy or sluggish?
  • Do you have blurred vision?
  • Are you dependent on stimulants for energy?
  • Do you feel hungry constantly?
  • Are you unsatisfied after a meal?
  • Are you compelled to snack through-out the day?
  • Do you feel tired after you eat?
  • Do you have a general sense of fatigue all the time?
  • Does it take you hours to fall asleep?
  • Do you awaken in the wee hours of the morning and find it difficult to get back to sleep, even when you’re exhausted?

Nutritional Therapy is a highly-effective way of addressing these red flags and reversing the trends early in the game. A Nutritional Therapy Practitioner can assess strain on the pancreas and other organs through the use of reflex points. She can determine the burden on the body and can use pure-grade supplements to support the body in a healing journey while diet modifications are being made.

One of the most effective lifestyle changes you can make is changing your ratio of carbohydrates to fats. Most Americans get at least 60% of their calories from carbohydrates. By replacing some of those calories with calories from healthy fats, you can reduce your insulin surges and moderate blood sugar spikes and dips.

Never before in the history of mankind has there been such an emergency to lower blood sugars – and the tragedy is that most individuals don’t even realize the danger they are in. We are delighted to offer one-on-one consultations as well as classes to help individuals identify their risk and stabilize their blood sugars.