Food & Cooking

Selenium and zinc are essential thyroid nutrients

Essential Thyroid Nutrients

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

Your Thyroid Drives Your Physical Functioning

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

The thyroid is like a sports car

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

The thyroid can function poorly like an old car

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

Essential Thyroid Nutrients to Fuel Your Tank

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

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

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

Turning Potential Energy into Kinetic Energy

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

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

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

Another Essential Thyroid Nutrient

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

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

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

Food Inspiration for Essential Thyroid Nutrients

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

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

 

Mystery Muffins

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

Notes

Makes one dozen.
fresh vegetables

Make Vegetables Taste Good

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

Buying Vegetables

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

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

Cooking Vegetables

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

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

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

Make Vegetables Taste Good

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

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

Expand Your Repertoire

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

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

25+ Healthy Breakfast Ideas

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

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

Eggs

basket of brown eggs

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

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

Smoothies

4 smoothies on a tray

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

Here are some creative combinations to consider:

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

Healthy Breakfast Meats

a tray of healthy breakfast meats

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

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

Dairy-based Meals

yogurt parfait with nuts and berries

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

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

Pancakes & Waffles

waffles with a side of bacon

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

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

Healthy Breakfast Cereals

a bowl of muesli

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

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

More Healthy Breakfast Ideas

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

 

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

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

Do I Need to Quit Sugar?

Should you quit sugar? There is evidence that sugar is detrimental to health. But are sweeteners really harming you? Perhaps you’re one of the lucky ones who can eat treats without it impacting your well being. Or maybe you think sugar is okay in moderation. My 3-part quiz can help you evaluate whether you should quit sugar.

Sugar is the Perfect Lover

Americans are having an affair with sugar. And why not? It looks good, tastes good, smells good, never criticizes you, and keeps you company when you are lonely. But data from the market research firm Euromonitor – reported in the Washington Post – suggest that the love may border on lunacy. The United States consumes more caloric sweeteners (including cane and beet sugar, corn syrup, agave, maple syrup, and honey) than any other nation! This statistic does not included naturally occuring sugars, such as those in whole fruit or milk.

The Unites States leads the nations needing to quit sugar

So, if the nation is adding almost twice as much sugar to its food as France, is your personal intake as moderate as you deem? The Diabetes Council reports that sugar consumption rose more than 130 pounds per person per year in over the last century (1915 to 2011). That means per capita, we are eating more than 500 calories per day from our sweeteners – not including artificial ones!

 

Sugar consumption is up 130 pounds per capita

Part 1: Quit Sugar if Your Appetite is Unsatisfied

Do you feel the need to snack between meals? When you finish a meal, do you feel that something was missing? Are you plagued with cravings, in spite of regular meals and high caloric intake? Do you sometimes binge, or feel your appetite is out of control.

These signs tell you to quit sugar for two reasons:

  • Your blood sugars are crashing in response to an earlier spike, leaving you desperate to stoke up your metabolic fire once again. In other words, instead of a warm, lasting burn of energy, you are having a hot blast of kindling, followed by ashes.
  • Hundreds of nutrients you need to thrive – from essential fatty acids and amino acids, to minerals and antioxidants are missing, so your hunger spirals to greater and greater heights. Not only does sugar lack the essential “food” for your health, it robs you of those nutrients in order to metabolize it.

Part 2: Quit Sugar if Your Energy is Unstable

Are you exhausted, but you can’t sleep? Do your reserves run out and leave you shaky or jittery between meals? Are you drowsy after eating? Do you feel sluggish when you wake up or lethargic through the day. Does it seem that you just can’t muster the energy to get through the day, but then you’re wired at night?

Having adequate and level energy is a factor of blood sugar balance. Therefore, roller coaster energy can be a reflection of drastically fluctuating blood sugars. What you need is not more sugar! When you quit sugar, you allow your body to burn fat instead.

Part 3: Quit Sugar if Your Moods are Imbalanced

“Who are you when you’re hungry?” Adjectives such as ornery, snippy, grouchy, feisty, whiny, loopy, dramatic, and impatient are more than just a Snickers campaign! Do you feel irritable, depressed, anxious, angry, apathetic, or nervous almost every day? Yes, everyone has a bad day now and then. But are these negative moods pervasive in your life?

Being “hangry” happens when blood sugars drop too low. You have to ask yourself, “Why are they dropping?” A bowling ball rolling down the alley continues on a smooth path. But if you lob it in the air, it will stike the floor with intensity! The higher the launch, the greater the fall. As for apathy, that occurs when your cells block sugar because of a condition called insulin resistance where you are flooded with too much sugar all the time. Quit sugar to regain a more even temperament.

"Hangry" is an extreme drop in blood sugars

Bonus Question: Do You Struggle With Weight?

Often, weight is a sign of inflammation in the body. Sugar is inflammatory! So if you quit sugar, not only will you immediately remove excess calories from your diet, you will also take away some of the gasoline you’ve been pouring on the “match.” In my experience, clients can often easily drop 10 to 20 pounds just by removing all sweeteners from their diet.

Do you need help overcoming your love affair with sugar? I can help!

Eggs for a sugar-free Easter

Sugar-Free Easter

Create a sugar-free Easter without depriving yourself of treats! Use only whole, natural, nutrient-dense foods, and celebrate in health! These sugar-free Easter treats do not use artificial sweeteners or sugar substitutes, such as honey, agave, and maple syrup. Eating strong does not mean you have to give up the joys and traditions of special days.

Sugar-Free Cookies

Sugar-free Easter macaroons

Use dried fruit to transform the ordinary cookie into something spectacularly health-supporting.

Apricot Macaroons: First, blend 1/4 cup dried apricots with 1/2 cup thick coconut milk and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Then, in a separate bowl, mix 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut with 2 tablespoons flour (all-purpose, gluten-free, or almond) and a pinch of salt. Finally, add the blended apricot mixture to the bowl with the coconut shreds. After mixing well, scoop by tablespoon onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven.

Not-Sugar Cookies: To begin, puree 1/2 cup of golden raisins with 1 egg. Next, mix the puree into 1 cup of fresh-ground nut butter (cashew, almond, hazelnut, etc.) along with 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Flavor with 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice. Roll into balls and set onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Flatten slightly. Bake at in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes, until set and lightly browned.

Easter Candies

Certainly, no American celebration exists without chocolate! It’s incredibly easy to make these truffles. You can even roll them into an egg shape for your sugar-free Easter festivities.

Sugar-free Easter truffles

Before you add any other ingredients, warm 1/2 cup of coconut milk or heavy cream in a medium saucepan over medium heat until it begins to steam. While you are waiting, chop three 3-ounce chocolate bars (70-85% cacao) into 1/2-inch squares. When the milk/cream is warm enough, remove from heat and stir in the chocolate pieces. Keep stirring until the chocolate is all melted. Now, add a pinch of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of flavoring: vanilla, raspberry extract, or mint extract. Chill until firm – a few hours – then roll into desired shapes. Optional: roll in cocoa powder, chopped nuts, or unsweetened coconut flakes.

Sugar-free Easter Cake

Pear and Parsnip Cake

Similar to a banana bread, this Pear & Parsnip cake is a beautiful finale to your sugar-free Easter feast.

Start by peeling and grating 1 parsnip. Set aside. Warm 1/2 cup coconut oil, palm shortening or pastured lard until softened. Blend your softened fat with 6 cooked pear halves. Following that step, combine 1 cup flour (all-purpose, whole wheat, glulten free, or almond) in a bowl with 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg. Finally, mix the grated parsnip and the pear mixture into the bowl of dry ingredients. Spread in a parchment-lined loaf pan and bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for about 1 hour. Cake is done when a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Pretty Spring Ice Creams

Raspberry Sorbet

photo credit: Mordi Photographie

Serve your sugar-free Easter cake with a scoop of coconut ice cream! Or skip the cake, and serve a colorful, spring raspberry sorbet. Unlike the coconut ice cream, it is pleasingly light.

Coconut Ice Cream:

Blend 2 cans of chilled full-fat coconut milk with 1 cup medjool dates until smooth. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla or maple flavoring and pour into pre-chilled ice cream freezer bowl. Freeze according to manufacturer’s directions.

Raspberry Sorbet:

Blend 2 cups frozen raspberries with 2 ripe avocadoes until smooth. If desired, add 2 Tablespoons of lime juice and 2 Tablespoons melted honey. Pour into pre-chilled ice cream freezer bowl. Freeze according to manufacturer’s directions.

Brownie Bites Anyone?

Sugar-free Brownies

Who says you need jelly beans for Easter? Why not put little brownie balls into your Sugar-free Easter basket instead? Without a doubt, this is the fastest brownie recipe I have every made.

First, measure 1 cup fresh-ground peanut butter (no additives) into a bowl. Then blend 3 bananas with 1/2 cup cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Lastly, beat banana mixture into peanut butter. Spread into a sprayed 9″ x 9″ baking dish and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 30 minutes. Alternately, you can scoop the batter onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake 10-12 minutes (You may need to add 1/4 to 1/2 cup flour to make the batter thick enough for this.)

Having Trouble Making Sugar-Free a Habit?

Perhaps you want a healthier lifestyle but struggle to control those cravings. If you think your will power is too weak, let me empower you with tools to transform your health. Often, I find that cravings are more physiological than psychological.

Last-minute molasses cookies

Last-Minute Treats

Need some last-minute treats to give to a friend or serve with your holiday dinner that are not sugar-laden? Try one of these simple recipes made from natural foods. You will only need 10 minutes in prep time for each one. Nobody will know that both recipes are dairy-free, gluten-free, and low in natural sugar. The cookies have an egg-free alternative.

Creamy Cashew Fudge

last-minute fudge

With only 6 ingredients, this recipe is simple. You won’t use cups and cups of sugar – just a few ounces of pure maple syrup. But best of all, you don’t need to cook it on the stove like a traditional fudge. Melt the chocolate in the microwave in less than a minute, and stir it into cashew butter.

Palm shortening makes it set. This is not the same thing as traditional shortening, which is full of trans fats. Rather, it is palm oil with some of the unsaturated oils removed to make it firm yet creamy at room temperature. Palm oil, the second most-common cooking oil in the world, comes from tropical palm trees.

These luxurious fudge squares keep best in the refrigerator; they tend to be soft if left out.

Soft Molasses Cookies

last-minute molasses cookies

You’ll never guess what sweetens these chewy gems. The secret is golden raisins! A little pumpkin pie spice turns them into a holiday ginger cookie that can be rolled and cut into shapes if you’re not in a hurry. Although for a last-minute treat, you can drop them onto your cookie sheet with a spoon. Then flatten them slightly, and they’ll come out in pretty little circles.

For egg-free cooking, I find it works well to blend some water, avocado oil, and baking powder with the raisins. The cookies hold together just as well, and the liquid helps puree the raisins, just as the eggs would.

Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Last Minute Treats

Natural, gluten-free, dairy-free fudge and cookies that will delight your guests as if you had spent hours in the kitchen!
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Refrigeration Time30 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: cacao, chocolate, maple syrup, molasses, nut butter, raisins
Servings: 16
Cost: $5-10

Ingredients

For the Creamy Cashew Fudge

  • 6-10 oz. 70% cacao bar (depending on how dark you like it)
  • 1/2 cup palm shortening
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 cups cashew butter (no additives)
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

For the Soft Molasses Cookies

  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 2 eggs ( or use 1/4 c. water, 2 tsp. avocado oil, 1 Tbsp. baking powder)
  • 2 cups almond butter (no additives)
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Instructions

For the Fudge

  • Break the cacao bars into 1" pieces. Add them to the palm shortening in a microwave-safe container. Microwave in 20-second bursts, stirring in between, until chocolate is melted, but not hot.
  • In a mixing bowl, beat together the cashew butter, maple syrup, vanilla, and salt. Pour in the melted shortening and cacao bars. Beat again until smooth.
  • Spray a 9X9 pan with cooking spray. Spread the fudge in the pan with a rubber spatula. Chill until set. Cut into 1/2" squares.

For the Cookies

  • In a high-speed blender, puree the raisins with the egg or egg substitute until no pieces remain.
  • In a mixing bowl, combine the almond butter, molasses, pumpkin pie spice, and salt. Add the raisin puree and mix until completely incorporated.
  • If cutting shapes, chill for at least 30 minutes before rolling to 1/4" thick. Use a spatula after cutting to lift onto parchment-lined cookie sheets.
    Otherwise, drop by tablespoon onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Flatten slightly.
  • Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes, until browned and set. Cool slightly. Remove to cooling racks.