Top 5 Skincare Ingredients to Avoid

Over the past year, I have become more and more educated on the power chemicals in topical products, household cleaners, and tap water have on my health. I never really understood the impact some of these toxic ingredients had on my health and well-being. I've been suffering with some hormonal imbalances and through my own research and advice from health experts, I am now taking big steps to eliminate the toxic load my body is exposed to daily. I had never paid attention to how my deodorant, toothpaste, make-up, shampoo, dish soap, laundry detergent, or tap water may be affecting my health. Yes, overall I am a healthy person on the surface level, but there have been deeper issues I've battled the last two years and thus what led me to change some of my daily habits. 

Detox is a common word used today in the health world. We all know that toxins build up in our bodies, and that we need to get them out. But did you know that you can prevent a lot of these foreign ingredients from getting inside your body in the first place?! Conventional beauty and body products can actually be one of the greatest contributors to our toxic load. If you are a woman, think about the number of products you use in the morning. I can rattle off at least 10 I was using regularly: conventional shampoo, conditioner, body soap, face lotion, foundation, mascara, eye liner, bronzer, deodorant, and perfume. In this blog post, I'm going to specifically talk about how we can eliminate toxins from our skin. Skin is our body's largest organ and it's about time we start treating it right!

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Since the beauty industry is largely unregulated (the last legislation passed to regulate the safety of cosmetics was over 80 years ago!); I have chosen to become a Beautycounter consultant in hopes of educating others on what I've learned and how to choose safer beauty and skincare products. Europe bans nearly 1,400 harmful cosmetic ingredients, yet the United States only bans 11! Beautycounter promises to never use approximately 1,500 questionable ingredients in their products. If after reading this post you'd like to learn more and/or hear about what products I recommend from Beautycounter please email me! Let's dive into five specific chemicals you absolutely want to avoid.

1. Fragrance/Parfum

I know, you just want to smell nice! But these engineered scents can have thousands of chemical ingredients (all of which are not listed on the product label). Fragrance formulas are protected under federal law's classification of trade secrets and can thus be undisclosed. Something about this just doesn't seem right!

2. MEA (Monoethanolamine), DEA (Diethanolamine), or TEA 

These are emulsifier (ingredients that prevent separation of other ingredients) and surfactants (foaming agents). These acronyms (and all other acronyms for that matter) should be avoided as toxic material. They are often found in cleansers, fragrances, and make-up. These chemicals have been linked to allergies, skin toxicity, hormone disruption, and birth defects. Not good!

3. PEG Compounds

PEG compounds (polyethylene glycols) are petroleum-based compounds that are used as thickeners, solvents, softeners, and moisture-carriers. PEGs may be contaminated with measurable amounts of ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane. These are known human carcinogens.

4. Phthalates

Phthalates show up as DBP, DEHP, DMP, and DEP on product labels. Phthalates are a group of chemicals used to make plastics more flexible yet harder to break. Common cosmetic products like nail polish, hair spray, aftershave lotion, and soaps can contain phthalates. With dangers of endocrine disruption, respiratory toxicity, birth defects, and infertility you don't want any of these chemicals sticking to your body.

5. Talc

For all my science nerds, talc is a mineral mainly made of magnesium, silicon, and oxygen. As a powder, it absorbs moisture and cuts down on friction. There are high health concerns of skin irritations, organ system toxicity, respiratory distress, and cancer with products containing talc. Talc can be found in baby powder, deodorant, dry shampoos, and mineral make-up. Many studies in women have looked at the possible link between talc powder and cancer of the ovary. Although findings have been mixed, with even some studies reporting a higher risk of cancer I advise staying clear of talc.

Now...the GOOD NEWS!

Safer alternatives are available and there are steps you can take to detox  and reduce your toxic exposure. I encourage you to start small and swap out one skincare product you use daily this month and another the next month, and so on, until you are confident the products you put on your skin are safe.

Check out what products I use daily HERE. And if you're interested in learning more about safer skincare and beauty, please click the button below to sign up for my "Non-Toxic Living" email subscription where I'll be sharing my favorite products, why I became a Beautycounter consultant, and exclusive Beautycounter offers I will offer from time to time only to subscribers.

Healthy Through the Holidays

With Thanksgiving less than 3 weeks away I wanted to share some tips and tricks to help you navigate through all the delicious food and treats that come along with the holidays. These 5 tips have helped me stay more mindful at parties, family dinners, and celebrations so that my health and wellness aren't compromised during the  6+ weeks of holiday festivities.

1) ALWAYS offer to bring a dish, snack, or dessert to share!

Whether it's a work party or a nice family dinner, I always volunteer to bring a dish to the gathering. This allows me the option to choose a healthier, real food item that I feel comfortable eating myself. Some of my favorites are autumn/winter salads, roasted vegetables, mashed sweet potatoes with coconut oil, a vegetable tray with hummus, fruit salad, or a Paleo dessert. I am guaranteed to eat at least one healthy item (or cleaner dessert) if I bring it, and I don't have to worry that there won't be anything healthy to eat (which can sometimes lead to giving in and indulging in all of the treats because you feel deprived).

I have linked some great recipe options to make for celebrations here:

Creamy Poppyseed Berry Apple Salad

Roasted Brussels Sprout & Beet Salad

Mid-West Winter Salad

Autumn Breeze Salad

Salmon Herbed Quinoa

Creamy Broccoli & Cauliflower Dill Salad

Dark Chocolate Coconut Bites

Paleo Pumpkin Spiced Cookies

2) Pack healthy snacks when you travel and/or stop at a grocery store when you arrive at your destination.

This tip goes for anytime of the year, but since I travel more around the holidays it is a good reminder. I like to boil some eggs a head of time and make either granola, Paleo muffins, or my breakfast cookies for both breakfast and snack options on the road or once I get to our hotel or relative's home. In addition, I pack vegetables like baby carrots, snap peas, sliced bell peppers, and cucumbers. I always bring apples as they are a fruit that travels well. Typically, I'll pop some homemade popcorn and pack that in a gallon ziplock as well (popcorn is my keep my awake snack while I'm driving ;)). Other snack items I will pack include: RX bars, Larabars, collagen peptides (to put in my tea/coffee/smoothies/water), almonds, and maybe some dark chocolate if I know I'm going to want something sweet. I can't tell you how many times I've been on a road trip and stopped at a gas-station and been tempted by all the candy, only to find there are no clean chocolate options! I stay away from all dyes and most added preservatives so gas-station food is usually not an option, thus why I prepare in advance! Of course many of these snacks would be difficult to bring if you are flying, but you can still get creative. Boiled eggs will be totally ok up to 8 hours unrefrigerated, as will most cut vegetables, and of course many fruits (apples, pears, plums, oranges, grapes, etc.) are good for days without refrigeration. If I know my husband and I are going to need to eat more than one meal on the road, I usually make tuna or chicken salad so my husband and I are guarantee some good nutrients during our drive.

Another helpful thing I have learned over the years is to not be afraid to go to the grocery store when we arrive at our destination if I have access to a refrigerator. Since I'm a huge foodie and nutrition nerd, I like picking out my own groceries and browsing stores I am not as familiar with. Some items I may pick up would include: grass-fed or dairy-free yogurt, almond milk, eggs, frozen berries, vegetables to roast, spinach for salads and smoothies, and ingredients for homemade dressing (if I don't pack it with me). These items would be for breakfast and any other meal where my family or friends aren't all eating together. 

3) Fill your plate with 1/2 vegetables, 1/4 protein, and 1/4 carbs! Skip the rolls, traditional stuffing, and green bean casserole.

If I find myself in front of a buffet of food at a party or am seated at a nice dinner with family, I ALWAYS pick out which vegetables I want to eat first. If I have the opportunity to fill half of my plate with leafy greens, salads, or cooked vegetables I will! From there, I look for the a good source of protein. This could include roasted turkey, dishes with chicken, chili with ground beef, or maybe even pulled pork if I am lucky (I love pulled pork)! Lastly, I fill the remainder of my plate with a healthy source of carbs like mashed sweet potatoes (hopefully not loaded with brown sugar and conventional butter), baked squash, or a baked potato. Since my plate is full and I know I'll be satisfied, I am way less likely to reach for the rolls, stuffing, or green bean casserole which all likely have been made with conventional butter, soup cans full of preservatives, or processed breads. In addition, these foods/dishes are typically  more nutrient poor in comparison to everything else already on my plate. These types of foods tend to be higher in poor quality saturated fat and carbs as well. Please hear me out: I absolutely LOVE my mom and aunt's homemade stuffing, and I may have a small portion because I know they use real ingredients and it isn't made from a box; my point is to not fill up on nutrient poor items. If you or someone you know has put a lot of time and love into making true homemade dishes by all means it is ok to have a small portion! I plan to try making a homemade Paleo green bean casserole this year at some point, and trust me I'll be eating a fair portion of it! This tip is more beneficial when you know the foods most likely are not 100% homemade and you are given a large amount of food options to choose from. I always encourage: 1/2 a plate of vegetables, 1/4 plate quality protein, and 1/4 plate quality carb source.

4) EAT A DESSERT OR TWO at a planned gathering!

Yes, you read that right. Please eat a treat IF you really want one! Don't deprive yourself of something that is enjoyed with close family and friends just because you are tying to be "healthy".

 I usually have a game plan of eating 1-2 small desserts per gathering IF I feel there is something worthy enough to have. That is a big IF. Let me give you an example. My mom's family is HUGE. We all get together for a Christmas lunch and there are over 60 relatives in one house! This means we have to bring a lot of food AND desserts. Typically one of my aunts makes grass-hoppers for everyone, and all the other families bring a tray of homemade Christmas cookies. By this point in my life, I have tried my fair share of Christmas cookies and know which ones I like more than others. So with this in mind, I plan to enjoy 2-3 cookies (they are small) that I know I am going to love. And yes, I mean enjoy. You shouldn't deprive yourself from something you love! The key is mindfulness, truly enjoying the treat, and appreciating the moment and holiday tradition you love. I'll probably pass on the grass-hopper this year because of the green food dye (it's not worth it in my mind), but I know I will enjoy some type of cookie with caramel and chocolate and probably a reese's peanut butter cookie. Food is meant to be enjoyed, not abused or restrictively controlled.

5) Don't over-indulge during the week.

While I do usually enjoy a treat or two at planned gatherings, it was because I planned for it and truly wanted it. I try to avoid unnecessary treats during the week, like candy sitting out at stores or offices, extravagant holiday lattes or mochas that are loaded with sugar, or treats that someone has offered me out of the blue. If I wasn't looking forward to having a treat it is 10x easier for me to pass it up. When I am able to look forward to the next social gathering, knowing I've stuck true to my healthy eating for the majority of the week I am going to get so much more pleasure out of partaking in some wine or dessert at a social gathering I have planned for.

This brings to my attention: home-baked goods. Those delicious treats that sit around most  homes the month of December are so very tempting! Whether it is leftover pumpkin pie or freshly baked Christmas cookies and fudge, treats in the house ALWAYS leave a temptation. One of my family traditions is making Christmas cookies with my mom and sister.  We spend hours baking away in my mom's kitchen signing to Christmas music and laughing. It's a tradition I truly look forward to each year. With this in mind, I have learned that when my mom sends me home with a container full of cookies I can't leave them in my house otherwise I will eat them all in a week or so! Over the years I've learned that sweets are definitely my weakness and I'll be the first to admit it. So, what do I do? I keep a few in the freezer to enjoy when I REALLY want one, but otherwise I send them all to work with my husband. He can choose to share with his co-workers or not.

Now, I understand this isn't feasible for everyone as many of you have families with little ones who would like to have a Christmas treat throughout the week. If you struggle with mindfulness around baked goods and sweets, my suggestion for you would be to have your significant other store them somewhere you don't know where the container is located. When your kids want a treat they will be able to when your significant other is able to get them one and you won't know where they are hidden. After a day or two you'll likely forget all about them entirely. Yes, this seems a little silly, but it will likely work and most likely help keep your sugar dragon away! One other tip I have; if you want cleaner treat options try out some Paleo, dairy or grain-free recipes as they will have real food ingredients that won't compromise your health as much as baked goods made with conventional sugars and flours. There are some great food bloggers out there that have amazing holiday treats. See some of my favorites below:

Shortbread Cookies by Against all Grain 

Pumpkin Pie Cookie Crisp by PaleoOMG

Seven Layer Bars by Against all Grain

Paleo Peppermint Chocolate Crinkle Cookies by the Healthy Maven

Grain-Free Apple Spice Coffee Cake by Against all Grain

Paleo Fudge by Fed and Fit

Pumpkin Bread by Clean Eating with a Dirty Mind

Chocolate Coconut Bites by Pinch of Yum

I hope these tips and tricks help you have a more mindful holiday season and new perspective  when enjoying the upcoming holiday parties and celebrations!

5 Benefits of Turmeric

What is turmeric?

Turmeric comes from the Curcuma longa plant that grows in Asia and Central America. It is sometimes known as Indian saffron or the golden spice. The golden spice that you often see on shelves is the ground roots of the plant. Ground turmeric is also the major ingredient in curry powder. Besides the spice product, turmeric is commercially available in capsules, teas, powders, and extracts.

The active ingredient in turmeric that gives the root it's unique medicinal properties is called curcumin. While turmeric has many benefits, it is only 3% curcumin by weight, and thus in order to get a more concentrated form curcumin supplements are often used.

5 Health Benefits of Turmeric

1) A Natural Anti-inflammatory Compound

2) Increases the Antioxidant Capacity of The Body

3) Can Help Prevent Cancer

4) Helpful for Arthritis

5) Protects the Heart

1) A Natural Anti-inflammatory Compound

Although acute (short-term) inflammation is crucial and necessary to fight of infection and pathogens, it can become problematic when it is chronic (long-term) and starts fighting against the body's own tissues. The majority of Western disease stems from low-level inflammation. This includes diseases such as cancer, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer's, and various degenerative conditions. This is where turmeric and cucumin play a role. Curcumin is strongly anti-inflammatory and has been shown to match some anti-inflammatory drugs by fighting inflammation at the molecular level. 

2) Increases the Antioxidant Capacity of The Body

One of the biggest mechanisms that contributes to aging and many diseases is oxidative damage. This oxidative damage happens within our cells and involves free radicals (highly reactive molecules that have unpaired electrons). Antioxidants are substances that inhibit oxidation, especially one used to counteract the deterioration of stored food products. Curumin happens to be a potent antioxidant that works to neutralize free radicals. In addition to fighting against free radicals, curcmin also boosts the activity of the body's own antioxidant enzymes.

3) Can Help Prevent Cancer

Curcumin derived from turmeric has shown to interfere with multiple cell signaling pathways that slow or reduce the growth of new cancerous cells or blood vessels in tumers. Researches have been studying how curcumin can affect the cancer growth and development at the molecular level. Although there has been limited studies conducted thus far whether or not high-dose curcumin could help treat cancer in humans, there is evidence linking preventative measures using curcmin against colorectal cancer. In one study in 44 men with lesions in the colon that sometimes turn cancerous, 4 grams of curcumin per day for 30 days reduced the number of lesions by 40%. Turmeric works well to help naturally treat cancer and could be especially effective at treating breast, colon, and skin cancer.

4) Helpful for Arthritis

Since curcumin is a powerful anti-inlammatory and pain-reducing compound, it has been studied in rheumatoid arthritis patients and the results of a multi-group study were published in 2012. Of three groups tested: curcumin treated, Dicolfenac sodium (an arthritis drug) treated, and a combination of the two, the curcumin group showed the highest percentage of improvement in overall scores. 

5) Protects the Heart

Did you know that heart disease is one of the biggest killer in the world? The curcumin found in turmeric may help reverse steps in the heart disease process. Curcumin's main benefit when it comes to the heart is improving the function of the endothelium, which is the lining of the blood vessels. Dysfunction in the endothelium layer is a major driver in heart disease and can cause an irregularity in blood pressure and blood clotting. Several studies suggest that curcumin leads to improvements in endothelial function. In addition, the potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant components of curcumin greatly benefit heart health.

Turmeric + Black Pepper

If you are familiar with turmeric supplements or done prior research, you're familiar with the recommendation to take turmeric with black pepper. Black pepper contains piperine, which has been shown to dramatically increase the absorption and effects of turmeric. 

So if you are cooking with turmeric or curry spice make sure to season in some black pepper as well. And if, after speaking with your health care professional, you're considering taking turmeric supplements I highly recommend finding one that also contains piperine for maximum benefits. Please remember that turmeric is generally considered safe for use in medicinal amounts, but it is important to talk to a doctor before using this or any substance medicinally as it can interact with several medications.

Practical Uses for Turmeric

1) Turmeric Tea (aka Golden Milk)

     *I recommend trying this recipe from Wellness Mama

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2) Add 1/2-1 teaspoon turmeric into smoothies for a bright tropical orange

     *experiment with pineapple, orange, lemon, ginger and nut milks

3) Season roasted vegetables with turmeric

     *try my Roasted Turmeric Carrots for a healthy side dish. I personally like adding these cold to my salads throughout the week

I recommend purchasing organic ground turmeric that is bright yellow/orange in color and has no added ingredients. Let me know if this article was helpful and maybe inspired you to incorporate more ground turmeric into your cooking and/or drinks!

Resources:

1. Cancer Lett. 2008 Aug 18;267(1):133-64. doi: 10.1016/j.canlet.2008.03.025. Epub 2008 May 6.

2. http://cancerpreventionresearch.aacrjournals.org/content/4/3/354.long 

3. https://wellnessmama.com/5297/turmeric-uses/

4. https://draxe.com/turmeric-benefits/

5. http://www.healthline.com/nutrition/top-10-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-turmeric

6. Nutr Res. 2012 Oct;32(10):795-9. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2012.09.002. Epub 2012 Oct 15.

7. Drugs R D. 2008;9(4):243-50.

8. http://www.balancemebeautiful.com/health-benefits-of-turmeric/

 

Antinutrients - Should I Be Concerned?

WHAT ARE ANTINUTRIENTS EXACTLY?

Antinutrients are natural or synthetic compounds found in food, especially grains, beans, legumes, and nuts, that interfere with the absorption of certain vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. An antinutrient's major role is to protect their natural “home”  (plant, root, or seed they inhabit). They are designed to repel pests, bugs, and other predators from eating the plant. Since plants don’t have legs and cannot run away from predators, they have a defense mechanism to ensure they can continue to grow and thrive. So in theory, antinutrients are a good thing; well, that is if you are a plant! But as we will unpack throughout this article, the human body is a “predator” and cannot properly digest these antinutrients. The plant’s defense mechanism is to fight against the digestive system and block the ability to fully breakdown food into it’s proper amino acids and nutrients. Antinutrients get their name from affecting the natural mechanisms of nutrient absorption. As you will learn below, eating large quantities of digestion-resistant foods (primarily grains) day after day can lead to inflammation and a weakened digestive system. The most common antinutrients include:

  1. Lectins
  2. Phytates (phytic acid)
  3. Tannins
  4. Oxalates (oxalic acid)
  5. Saponins

Although it may appear that antinutrients are a bad thing, under some circumstances they do have some health benefits. This is why they are so controversial. So how is one to know what antinutrients to avoid and which ones to consume? Let’s dive into each antinutrient and determine if it’s worth investing in!

1. Lectins

Lectins are carbohydrate-binding proteins found in all food plants, especially seeds, legumes and grains. Frequent consumption of these proteins can be harmful and damaging to the digestive system. They can stick to the cells in the lining of the small intestine and alter the texture. When over-consumed, grains and legumes (all beans, soy, and peanuts) can make digestion quite difficult. Although, all foods contain lectins, only about 30% contain significant amounts. Grains and legumes contain the most, followed by dairy, seafood, and nightshade plants (peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, and potatoes). When we consume grains and legumes we are actually eating the seed of the plant; this equates to eating hundreds, if not thousands, of seeds! Uncooked legumes are the largest source of lectins. I’ll be discussing how to properly prepare legumes in order to greatly reduce antinutrient levels towards the end of this article.

Conclusion: Concentrated amounts of lectins can cause damage to the intestinal wall and make digestion difficult. I recommend eating grains, beans, and other legumes in moderation, and if you have known digestive complications try to avoid them as much as possible. Dairy and nightshade vegetables have lesser amounts of lectins and only need to be tested for sensitivity in those with digestive complications, autoimmune disease, or other health complications relating to nutrient absorption.

2. Phytates

Phytates, also referred to as phytic acid, are indigestible, mineral-binding compounds found in grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Phytic acid is the most well-known antinutrient; it can prohibit phosphorus, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, and zinc from being properly absorbed in our bodies. This is a big deal, as minerals are key players in every cellular function. Mineral deficiencies can result in a lot of symptoms from fatigue, muscle cramps, PMS, PCOS, constipation, asthma, migraines, and hormonal imbalances. Although phytates are found in all grains, legumes, seeds, and nuts they are not as high in seeds and nuts because the hard outer shell is removed prior to consuming; this shell is where the highest concentration of phytates reside as it is the plan’s first barrier. You may wonder why cows, sheep, goats, and buffalo can eat a grain based diet? It's because they are ruminant animals that possess phytase (the enzyme responsible for the breakdown of phytates). Despite the clear drawbacks to phytates there is some evidence that phytates may be protective against kidney stones and breast/prostate cancer. When phytic acid binds minerals in the gut, it can prevent the formation of free radicals, thus making it an antioxidant.

Source: Schlemmer U, et al. Phytate in foods and significance for humans: Food sources, intake, processing, bioavailability, protective role and analysis. Mol Nutr Food res 2009;53:S330-S375.

Source: Schlemmer U, et al. Phytate in foods and significance for humans: Food sources, intake, processing, bioavailability, protective role and analysis. Mol Nutr Food res 2009;53:S330-S375.

Source: Schlemmer U, et al. Phytate in foods and significance for humans: Food sources, intake, processing, bioavailability, protective role and analysis. Mol Nutr Food res 2009;53:S330-S375.

Source: Schlemmer U, et al. Phytate in foods and significance for humans: Food sources, intake, processing, bioavailability, protective role and analysis. Mol Nutr Food res 2009;53:S330-S375.

Conclusion: In comparison to other whole foods like vegetables and meat, foods that contain phytates can lead to malabsorption of certain key minerals. For example, calcium eaten with 100 calories of grain is likely to lead to a 7.6 mg rate of absorption, while calcium absorption eaten with 100 calories of vegetables is around 116 mg (Dr. Loren Cordian, The Paleo Answer). If you are generally healthy, eat a balanced diet, and consume grains, legumes, seeds, and nuts in moderation, phytic acid’s effect on mineral deficiencies should not be a major concern. The problem lies in consuming large amounts of phytates with little vegetable and meat consumption. My suggestion is to eat grains, legumes, seeds, and nuts in moderation if you are healthy and have no underlying deficiencies.

3. Tannins

These are a type of enzyme inhibitor that may impair the digestion of various nutrients. Since we need enzymes to properly digest foods and transport nutrients to our cells, molecules that inhibit enzymes from doing their job can cause bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and other digestive issues. In addition, their capability to bind and shrink enzymes is what causes the puckery and dry feeling in the mouth after consuming foods rich in tannins. During my research, I found that coffee, teas, red wine, grapes, pomegranates, berries, barley, nuts, chocolate, rhubarb, squash, and legumes all contain tannins. As with phytates, tannins have some possible benefits. They have been reported to reduce the mutagenicity of a number of mutagens and have some anti-carcinogenic activity. But from my research, there have been few studies on this effect on humans. Consuming foods rich in vitamin C can help neutralize the effects on tannin on iron absorption.

Conclusion: Consuming large quantities of tannins may result in negative health effects, specifically to the digestive tract; however in small quantities they may be beneficial to human health. My suggestion: don’t eat a quart of blueberries in one sitting!

4) Oxylates

Oxylate is an organic acid found in most plants (leafy greens, vegetables, fruits, cocoa, nuts and seeds). After consumption, oxalate can bind to minerals to form calcium oxalate and iron oxalate. For most people, these compounds are eliminated in the stool or urine, but for sensitive individuals high-oxalate diets can lead to an increased risk of kidney stones or other health problems. As with other antinutrients, the main concern is prohibiting mineral absorption. It is of particular concern, when minerals like calcium are eaten with fiber which can further prevents absorption.

Conclusion: Most healthy people can consume oxalate-rich foods without any problem, but those with poor gut health may need to limit their intake. Individuals with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) or IBD (Irritable Bowel Disease) have an increased risk for developing kidney stones. For those with digestive concerns, drink plenty of water and make sure to get enough calcium (well-sourced dairy, bok choy, broccoli, etc.), which will bind oxalate in the gut and reduce the amount the body absorbs.

5) Saponins

These compounds are similar to lectins. Saponins can create pores in the cell membrane. Some experts believe they may increase intestinal permeability, also known as “leaky gut”, which can lead to a range of health problems. Interestingly, saponins can stimulate an immune response from within our cells which can then up-regulate antibody production. This can be problematic as the body can launch an immune attack on undigested food particles that may enter in our blood stream. Saponins are found in a variety of plant sources (beans, peanuts, soy), nightshade vegetables, and seeds (quinoa and sesame). In addition, they are found in Yuccaschidigera (a commercial source) that is used in beverages to produce a foamy head, and extensively in lipstick and shampoo for is emulsion properties. Saponins are known for their ability to create foam in water and behave like a detergent. I do want to note that some saponins have shown to exhibit anti-inflammatory and immune-stimulation characteristics, as well as antimicrobial properties towards some fungi and bacteria. But once again, more studies need to be conducted in order to conclude any health benefits to humans. 

Conclusion: More research is needed to conclude whether saponins are truly harmful to the gut. For now, it is wise to play it safe and eat saponins in moderation or limit consumption due to their known ability to increase permeability in the small intestines.

WHAT STEPS CAN YOU TAKE TO REDUCE THE EFFECTS OF ANTINUTRIENTS & OBTAIN THE OTHER BENEFITS OF PLANT FOODS?

You have probably noticed that most foods containing antinutrients also have positive health benefits and overall are healthier than eating processed foods (except modern, processed grain products like wheat, soy, and corn). So how can you best enjoy these foods if you are an average, healthy person? The answer: soaking, sprouting, and fermenting grains, beans, nuts, and seeds!

It is best to purchase sprouted or fermented grains (properly sprouted grains like quinoa or true sourdough bread). Some of my favorite bread brands are Angelic Bakehouse and Food for Life; although I personally don’t consume gluten often so I like the gluten-free versions. Fermentation and sprouting of grains can help break down the antinutrients. Soaking dry beans and other legumes overnight can improve their nutritional value and decrease phytate, lectins, tannins, and calcium oxalate. I still advise limiting your consumption though, as some types of legumes (kidney and soy especially) are still high in enzyme inhibitors even after soaking. Sprouting and soaking legumes and grains has been used in traditional preparation methods for thousands of years by various cultures. It is the recent mass production and processing of grains the last century that has stripped the nutritional value from typical grains and legumes. Evidence shows that by using these methods, grains’ nutrients are more bioavailable. If you choose to consume grains and legumes I suggest purchasing them organically and/or in bulk and sprouting them yourself to ensure the least amount of processing or chemical alteration. And as stated previously, make sure the remainder of your diet is varied with a lot of vegetables. And if you are susceptible to gut or digestive problems, limit or avoid grains and legumes all together in order to best reduce any negative digestive symptoms. To learn how to properly sprout beans check out the website Sprout People.

Overall, the benefit of eating antinutrients is overshadowed by their harmful properties, and proper preparation of grains and legumes can take an extreme amount of time. If a substance may be harmful to you when consumed, and there are no negative side effects of removing it, it may logically make sense to avoid it all together. I also want to make sure to note that organic white rice (jasmine and basmati) is white because the grain has been stripped of the bran, which removes almost all of the phytic acid, making white rice more digestible.  While white rice is still a grain, it is a safer option for those with digestive distress. 

Why Sleep Should be a TOP Priority

Let's discuss why sleep is so important to our health. I know, I know...all the experts tell you to get 7-9 hours of sleep each night, yet hardly any of us are able to achieve this. I'll be the first to admit it: LIFE IS BUSY. I use to think that sleeping was for underachievers and lazy people. Boy, oh boy was I wrong! Not only does lack of sleep lend me to increased anxiety, more stress, and bags under my eyes, it detriments my overall health and wellness! SERIOUSLY, for your OWN health, if you haven't stepped back to access your schedule and sleep habits, please take 10 minutes to read this post.

WHY IS SLEEP SO IMPORTANT IN THE FIRST PLACE?

I think we all know that sleep is vital to life. Getting enough quality sleep is crucial to our mental and physical health; as well as, the quality of our life and safety. Studies have shown that sleep deficiency alters brain activity. If you have trouble making decisions, solving problems, controlling your emotions; or have mood swings, feel sad or depressed, or lack motivation, adequate sleep can make a profound difference. Our health depends on our circadian rhythm. 

1) Physical Health

Sleep helps heal and repair our heart and blood vessels, and thus sleep deficiency can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. Overtime, lack of sleep can lead to obesity. During our sleep, the body helps maintain and balance our hormones. If we don't get enough sleep hormones like ghrelin (signals hunger) and leptin (signals satiety) become imbalanced. Ghrelin increases and leptin decreases. In addition, sleep also affects how our bodies react to insulin, the hormone that controls our blood glucose (sugar). Lack of sleep has been linked to high blood sugar. Our sensitivity to insulin greatly decreases with inadequate sleep. In addition, sleep aids healthy growth and development. Human growth hormone is excreted during sleep, and research suggests that it's during REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep that the body is able to: restore organs, bones, and tissue; replenish immune cells; and circulate human growth hormone for strong muscles and bones.

2) Brain Health

We need sleep to recharge our brain! In addition to hormone levels of cortisol, adrenaline, and cortisone (all related to excess or prolonged mental or physical stress) being elevated, poor sleep plays a toll on our day-to-day performance. Our safety may be at risk if tasks take longer to finish, we have a slow reaction time, or we make more mistakes due to lack of sleep. When we sleep adenosine (a neurotransmitter that produces ATP, the energy-storage molecule that powers most of the biochemical reactions inside cells) is lowered which tells our brain to rest and recharge. 

TIPS FOR GETTING ADEQUATE SLEEP

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  1. Download filters for your phone and/or laptop (check out f.lux) to reduce blue light and power electronics down 1 hour prior to bed
  2. Try a meditation app (check out Calm, Headspace, or the Mindfulness App)
  3. Use Low Blue Lights glasses, lighting, and filters in your home
  4. Stick to a sleep schedule - try to sleep and wake at consistent times
  5. Reduce or eliminate caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol prior to sleep
  6. Include physical activity in your daily routine (limit within 2 hours of bedtime)
  7. Increase bright light exposure during the day - natural sunlight during the day helps keep our circadian rhythm healthy
  8. Have a glass of Natural Vitality, Natural Calm Magnesium Supplement one hour prior to bed - magnesium is responsible for over 600 reactions within the body, and studies show that magnesium supplementation can improve relaxation and enhance sleep quality
  9. Decrease the temperature of your bedroom slightly
  10. Relax and clear your mind in the evening - try reading, journaling, stretching, or prayer

HOW MUCH SLEEP SHOULD YOU GET?

If you are concerned that you aren't getting enough sleep, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Am I dependent on caffeine in the morning to function?
  2. Am I anxious, sad, or often emotional?
  3. Do I look forward to my sleep?

I encourage you to start a sleep journal/dairy for 2-4 weeks to identify how much sleep is ideal for your body and how you obtain the best sleep. Write down how much sleep you get each night, how alert you feel the next day, and how tired you feel during the day. In general, adults 18+ should get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. 

Resources:

1) https://authoritynutrition.com/17-tips-to-sleep-better/

2) https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sdd/why

3) https://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/drobson5.htm

4) http://theconversation.com/chemical-messengers-how-hormones-help-us-sleep-44983

All About Protein

Protein is a super important component to our diet. Unfortunately there is a lot of confusion around protein... 

What is it and why should I care about it?

How much should I eat?

What are the best forms?

PROTEIN - What is it and why should I care about it?

Protein is one of the three major macronutrients that is vital to life. We need protein in order for our body to thrive and function optimally. Protein is the major building block of life. The protein in our body is composed of smaller units called amino acids. These amino acids are the building blocks of our tissues, organs, glands, tendons, and arteries; in addition they play a key role in repairing damaged tissue, skin, muscle and bone. Without protein life would not be possible. Some of the amino acids our body needs cannot be made within our body. These amino acids are "essential", meaning we can not produce them and instead must obtain them from our diet.

Protein helps fuel us, and the essential amino acids we get from animal protein is a key component to energy, satiety, and increased metabolism. If you don't eat animal foods, it is a bit more challenging to get the essential amino acids into your diet.

HOW MUCH SHOULD I EAT?

This is where a lot of confusion lies. I want to preface this portion by saying that my recommendations come from personal experience, holistic nutrition education, and other nutrition professionals. If you have an underlying medical condition like kidney disease or are currently pregnant please consult your doctor prior to changing your protein intake.

Unfortunately, the RDA (recommended daily allowance) outlined in the United States is a little skewed. I say this because the RDA is the minimum requirement needed to prevent deficiencies or complications. Did you hear that? Minimum requirement, not suggested requirement! With this in mind, the RDA is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or 0.36 grams per pound. 

This amounts to:

56 grams/day for the average sedentary man

46 grams/day for the average sedentary woman

I can almost guarantee that 90% of you reading this, are not sedentary 100% of the day. This means you need to eat more than the RDA of protein. For optimal health and wellness, I suggest finding the "right" amount of protein for you. Start with these general recommendations:

Moderately active (2-4 days/week): 25% of food intake

Fairly active or athletic (5-7 days/week): 30-35% of food intake

Not active or require fewer carbs due to low activity (0-2 days/week): 35% of food intake

Another popular approach is to aim for 0.8-1 gram per pound of body weight if you are strength training.

There is a lot of research that shows high protein diets up to 35% or even higher, in some cases, can be effective in both short and long-term weight loss. Protein boosts your metabolic rate and is very satisfying. Protein has a larger satiety factor than that of carbohydrates or fat. If you are unsure how much protein to aim for or don't have specific goals in mind, please don't stress about it! Simply start adding more animal protein into your diet and listen to your body. When plating your meal keep in mind that a piece of meat the size of your palm is roughly 4 oz and contains 30-40 grams of protein depending on the source.

If you are an athlete or train multiple times a week, you should aim to eat a quality source of protein with each meal and/or snack. Protein builds muscle and helps with recovery and overall performance, especially post-workout.

Although, don't force yourself to eat tons of animal protein if you don't feel like eating it. Listen to your body; if you're full, stop eating! Increasing protein does not mean increasing your overall caloric intake. It simply means you'll be balancing your plate a little differently. Instead of filling half of your plate with starchy carbs, make sure protein makes up almost 1/3 of your plate. Nutrient dense vegetables and a small amount of healthy fat should compose the remainder of your plate.  If you gradually increase the amount of quality animal protein in your, diet you'll likely see positive benefits.

WHAT ARE THE BEST FORMS?

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Quality protein is key! Instead of eating an entire case of lunch meat or 5 ounces of a processed summer sausage, focus on whole animal sources that go through minimal processing. Beef, chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, and whole/raw dairy products are best. Personally, I like knowing where my meat comes from. I try to purchase organic meats when possible or go through a local farmer and buy grass-fed beef in bulk. Now, I understand that buying free-range, organic, grass-fed animal products is more expensive. My advice is to find a local farmer and stock up (buying in bulk is often significantly cheaper), and if you have to buy the cheaper meats due to finances look for leaner cuts of meat with less visible fat. Animals store most of their toxins in fat, thus we are less likely to consume the toxins from conventionally raised animals by avoiding the fat. 

Whole food forms of protein are ideal! Since, we as a society no longer eat head to tail, we miss out on the healthy vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients (like collagen) that our ancestors greatly benefited from. There are amino acids found in liver, heart, collagen/gelatin, and bones that are not found in muscle meat. Try making your own bone broth in order to get more of these amino acids and nutrients into your diet. In addition, you can purchase collagen/gelatin peptides and bone broth online or at your local Whole Foods grocery store. 

Protein powders and bars should be the last resort when trying to get enough protein. If you are an avid athlete or train fairly hard, refueling your muscles with protein powder after your workout is ok and most likely beneficial if you cannot eat within an hour of working out. If you want my recommendations on clean protein powders (whey & plant-based) check out the Things I Love page. For the general population supplementing with protein powder every single day isn't necessary. Instead, prepare meals that focus on quality protein or snack on jerky, dried meat bars, or boiled eggs to get the most natural form of protein. If you want some suggestions on high protein snack options see my Things I Love page.

Are you still confused about how much protein is right for you? I'd love to help! Send me an email and I'll be in touch soon.

Resources:

1) https://chriskresser.com/should-you-eat-more-protein-in-your-diet/

2) https://authoritynutrition.com/how-much-protein-per-day/ 

3) Practical Paleo, Diane Sanfilippo

What's Up With Collagen Protein?

There is quit a bit of talk lately on social media about collagen protein, so I thought I would discuss why I recently incorporated it into my routine.

First off, what is collagen protein? Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and makes up the majority of our connective tissues. It provides the infrastructure of the musculoskeletal system; it also ensures the cohesion, elasticity, and regeneration of skin, hair, tendon, cartilage, bones and joints. Collagen protein is most readily absorbed into the digestive system when it is hydrolyzed. This is a process in which the collagen fibers are broken down into its smaller collagen peptides through a process known as "hydrolysis". The peptides make a chain of amino acids (aka peptide) consisting of glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, and arginine. These natural peptides are highly bio-available, digestible and soluble in cold water. It is also important to know that these amino acids are not present in muscle meats, and most of us don't get enough of them in our modern diets. Our ancestors ate collagen on a regular basis in the form of bone, skin, and scales. Looking at the health and wellness of our ancestors, it is of good reason to consider adding collagen peptides and bone broth (more on this in a future post) into our modern day diet.

Benefits of Collagen

Healthy Hair, Skin, and Nails

There is growing research suggesting that collagen peptides can contribute to healthy skin. In oder to receive the full benefits listed below, the peptides must have excellent bioavailability. Thus consuming the hydrolyzed form of collagen mentioned above is best. Collagen peptides can:

  • promote younger looking skin
  • improve skin moisture level
  • support nail growth
  • prevent formation of deep wrinkles
  • improve skin smoothness

Supports Bone and Joint Health

Glycine and proline are two amino acids needed for production of new collagen. Supplementation with collagen peptides can protect against degradation of connecting tissues and could prevent injuries during exercise. In addition, a recent study of 250 osteoarthritis subjects were given 10 grams of collagen peptides daily, and the results showed a significant improvement in knee join comfort.

Digestive Aid

Collagen soothes and healths the digestive tract. It can also help break down foods and aid in digestion. The gelling power of gelatin also holds water in the intestines where it is needed to help move food along smoothly. Glutamine is proven to improve the lining of the intestinal tract. A strong intestinal lining helps prevent food allergies or intolerances by keeping food from leaching into the bloodstream.

Contributes to Weight Management

Collagen is a good source of protein and can provide 10-18 grams per serving. Adding collagen peptides to a shake post-workout is a great way to increase your protein intake and maintain a healthy body. It can help regulate the body's metabolism by providing protein that is quickly absorbed. Try adding a serving to my Berry Superfood Breakfast Smoothie for an antioxidant jumpstart!

Where to purchase collagen and some recommended brands

The best prices for collagen peptides are found online. As stated above, I recommend purchasing bio-available, hydrolyzed collagen peptides. In addition, since most collagen powders (those that dissolves in water) are made from cattle hides, it is important to purchase well-sourced (pasture-raised) peptides. I currently have this Great Lakes Collagen Hydrolysate. I add a serving to my smoothies, tea, or bulletproof coffee. Based on what other nutritionists have said, I know the brand Vital Proteins is top of the line, and I fully support the company, I just cannot afford it quit yet! 

Unless you plan to make homemade gummies or jello with your collagen, make sure to purchase an unflavored collagen peptide or hydrolysate. Vital proteins also makes beef gelatin which is great for making gummies or adding cohesion to jams and pudding.

If you are looking for a tasty treat made with collage protein, I encourage you to give my no bake Brownie Protein Bites a try! They make a great pre or post-workout snack.

Sources:

1. Cosgrove, M.C., Franco, O.H., Granger, S.P., Murray, P.G. and Mayes, A.E. 2007. Dietary nutrient intakes and skin-aging appearance among middle-aged American women. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 86: 1225-1231.

2. Lin, M., Zhang, B., Yu, C., Li, J., Zhang, L., Sun, H., . . . Zhou, G. (2014). L-Glutamate Supplementation Improves Small Intestinal Architecture and Enhances the Expressions of Jejunal Mucosa Amino Acid Receptors and Transporters in Weaning Piglets. PLoS ONE,9(11). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0111950

3. http://www.vitalproteins.com/blog/collagen-peptides/

4. http://amino-collagen.com/collagen-supplements-comparison.html

5 tricks to help your produce stay fresher longer + 5 tips to eliminate food waste

It's the end of the work week and you open the fridge to get some items to start making dinner and realize that your half eaten bag of spinach is not looking the best, the cherry tomatoes are shriveling up, and your untouched bag of celery is as limp as your dishrag! After spending good money on quality, nutritious foods you wonder if it's even worth it when it all seems to go to waste so fast. Sadly, even with our best intentions, busy schedules usually take priority over the rotting food in the refrigerator for most of us. Luckily, all that food doesn't need to end up in the garbage disposal or food compost. Read on for some helpful tricks and tips that will help your produce stay fresh longer and eliminate food waste. 

5 TRICKS TO KEEP PRODUCE FRESHER LONGER

*I want to first preface that a clean, sanitary refrigerator will greatly reduce the chances of food spoilage or spores growing on produce. Clean out your refrigerator at least twice a month to keep your produce clean from the start!

1) Use the crisper bins in your refrigerator for fragile produce storage. 

Your refrigerator should have two climate controlled bins: one for low humidity and one for high humidity. Store ripened hard fruit and or vegetables that emit an ethylene gas in the low-humidity bin (e.g. apples, oranges, plums, peaches, avocados, kiwis, pears). By switching the drawer to low-humidity, it opens up a window in the bin so that the ethylene gas can escape. This keeps the fruits and vegetables from rotting prematurely. Store leafy greens, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, bell peppers, cucumbers, herbs, and brussels sprouts in the high-humidity bin.

2) Keep tomatoes OUT of the refrigerator

This is one mistake I made for years! Tomatoes are very sensitive to cold environments and will become soft with a leathery-like skin if refrigerator. They also lose some flavor when kept cold. The best way to store tomatoes is on the counter in a dry location. To avoid bruising don't stack larger tomatoes on top of one another.

3) Rinse and dry leafy greens, then add a dry paper towel to the container or bag

Dark leafy greens seem to be the first thing to go bad in my refrigerator, but I have found a way to lengthen their life a few days. Unless you have purchased organic, pre-washed greens, I recommend rinsing the leaves with cold water and inspecting them after you get home from the store. Get rid of any leaves that look bad, are discolored, or wilted. Then lay them out on a towel (flour sack towels work great for this) to dry completely. Additionally, you can pat dry if you wish. Then place a dry paper towel in the storage bag (I highly recommend these reusable produce bags) or container you plan to use and then add the greens. Place another dry paper towel on top of the leaves to help absorb any additional moisture. The goal is to keep the leaves away from water. If you will not be using the the greens for a couple of days, replace the paper towels every day to keep wicking the moisture away from the leaves.

4) Cut the ends off asparagus and celery and stand upright in a jar with an inch of water

Remove any bands or ties from the asparagus or celery and then cut about one inch from the bottom. Add one inch of water to an appropriate size jar or glass, and place the stalk ends in the water. Cover everything loosely with a plastic bag and place in the refrigerator. Likewise with celery and/or whole carrots, you can cut them into into smaller pieces and then store in a container with a small amount of water for easy grab-and-go snacks. Make sure to freshen the water in jars, glasses, or containers every two days or so in order to avoid bacteria growth.

5) Don't wash berries or mushrooms until you need to use them

In oder to preserve the fragile skin of berries and mushrooms avoid rinsing them until prior to eating or cooking. You should inspect the berries for any rotten ones prior to storing in the refrigerator though! In addition, once you open the mushroom package, store any leftovers in a brown paper bag, away from moisture and light.

5 TIPS TO ELIMINATE FOOD WASTE

1) Move any super ripe bananas to the refrigerator or freezer

Believe it or not, the refrigerator will help preserve a banana even though it turns the skin brown. I prefer to peel extra ripe bananas and cut them in half of fourths, then freeze them in a container. Frozen bananas are great for smoothies or banana "ice cream". In addition, if you are in a pinch and don't have any ripe bananas for a baking recipe, you can easily heat the peeled, frozen banana for 30 seconds in the microwave and mash for recipes like any of my breakfast cookies or my Morning Glory Muffins.

2) Keep leftovers AND eat them

If you make a meal and you have leftovers, eat them the next day for lunch of later in the week for dinner. Cooked meats are good for up to 5 days in the refrigerator. If you don't plan to eat the meal within 5 days, simply freeze it. The next time you don't have time for dinner, you'll have a pre-made "healthier" meal already to go! In addition to leftover meals, if you have a lot of leftover produce try roasting or steaming a batch of mixed vegetables for an easy snack. Cooked vegetables will last 2-3 days longer in the refrigerator, and if you don't eat them in time simply freeze the cooked vegetables for a later date.

3) Freeze leftover cheese

If you buy in bulk in order to save money (like me), you can easily, cut a block of cheese in half, wrap it in tin foil and store it in a plastic bag or container in the freezer for a later date. The same thing goes with shredded cheese!

4) Freeze scrapes from onions, potatoes, celery, and/or carrots

Don't toss the ends or tops of onions, potatoes, celery or carrots. Instead give them a good rinse to remove any dirt, and place them in a freezer bag or container. Freeze for up to 4 weeks to be used to make homemade chicken broth or chicken bone broth.

5) Freeze leftover cooked cauliflower and zucchini

Struggling to use the whole head of cauliflower or entire zucchini? An easy way to get multiple uses out of these vegetables is to chop and steam them slightly (in the microwave or on the stove). Then store the cooked vegetables in the freezer to be used in smoothies or acai smoothie bowls. Not only do these vegetables add nutrients to the smoothie, they thicken it so it's nice and creamy! As long as you add fruit, you won't even taste they're there.

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The next time you go grocery shopping or to your local market, I hope you remember to implement some of these tricks to save yourself some money and frustration.

Comment below if you have any additional tips for keeping produce fresh longer or eliminating food waste.

 

How to Grocery Shop On a Budget with Your Health in Mind

Lets admit it, healthy food can be expensive. With an upward trend of food manufactures making easy, boxed meals and processed snacks cheaper and cheaper there is a definite decline in the quality of nutrients Americans are consuming. I understand that is it more difficult to eat quality food when on a tight budget, but there are a lot of things you can do in order to save money and still eat nutritious foods. Here are my top 10 tips to help you eat healthy on a budget.

1. PLAN YOUR MEALS & CREATE A LIST

Start each week with a plan so you only have to go grocery shopping once during the week. The least amount of trips you take to the store the less likely you are to spend money! Planning is essential to both a nutritious diet as well as saving money. Plan out meals that require minimal ingredients. And if you have a recipe that calls for 2 cups of spinach be sure to plan another meal that requires spinach so you use the entire bag you bought. Next, make a grocery list. Then be sure to check your cupboards prior to shopping and only buy what you are going to use (ex: do not buy an entire bag of chopped kale if a recipe calls for 2 cups kale, instead purchase a smaller bunch of leaf kale and chop it yourself). There are many great grocery list apps available now to help you organize your list; personally I just use the reminders app on my iPhone and check things off as I place them in my cart. My husband and I started doing our list this way so we could "share" the reminder list and both add to it throughout the week when things run out.

2. STICK TO YOUR LIST

Grocery stores are set up to entice you into buying more than you came for. I highly encourage you to stay on task while shopping and only look for items on your list. As a general rule, you should try to shop the perimeter of the store first, as this is where the whole foods (produce, meats, and dairy are typically located). The middle of the store contains all of the processed, unhealthy foods and tempting treats. 

3. PRICE MATCH

Learn the grocery stores nearest your home and take a day to compare prices of typical items you purchase. For example, I know that I can get the best deal on quality ground beef, hormone-free chicken, and nitrate-free turkey breast at Costco. In addition, I have compared a few other grocery stores near me and found that my local Woodman's has the best prices on produce, almond milk, coconut flour, and frozen vegetables. In addition, you can look at the ads from your local grocery stores and make a list of the best deals going on that week. The more aware you become while you shop for groceries, the more familiar you will become with pricing. If you are haveing trouble remembering prices at certain stores, take a quick picture on your cell phone or keep a notes sheet open on your phone and write it down when you learn of a better deal so you have an easy cheat sheet to reference. 

4. BUY MEAT THAT IS ON SALE

If you and/or your family eat meat on a regular basis, it is a good idea to leave a meal or two open on your plan for a recipe that can use meats on sale. Depending on where you live, chicken and ground beef may tend to go on sale more often than seafood so adjust your meal plan according to the meats on sale if you need to. Keep in mind, you can always freeze meat! I suggest stocking up when meat is on sale and using it later in the month. When it comes to seafood, frozen is often cheaper and when cooked right just as delicious and nutritious.

5. BUY IN BULK

Even if you only have to grocery shop for yourself, it can pay to shop in bulk for certain items. Pantry stables like rice, oats, flours, canned beans, canned tomatoes, coconut milk, coconut oil, nuts, and popcorn are all available in bulk at stores like Costco or Sam's Club. As long as the self-life is 6 months to one year, purchasing in bulk saves money! Checking the unit price of items comes in handy when buying in bulk. A unit price is the price for one unit of the item you are buying. For instance, when I am purchasing canned tomatoes, I look at the unit price to tell me how much I am paying per ounce. The unit price will be listed to specify the cost per ounce or pound, so simply multiply that number by how many ounces or pounds you wish to buy to find the best price.

Other items to buy in bulk include frozen fruits and vegetables, along with frozen meats (fish and chicken especially) and paper goods (paper towels, napkins, toilet paper, etc.).

6. KNOW THE CLEAN 15 & DIRTY DOZEN

The clean 15 and dirty dozen are a list of vegetables and fruits indicating which ones to buy organic and which ones to buy conventional. Organic produce is more expensive so knowing which ones to actually splurge on is worth it! I do not purchase all organic fruits and vegetables, but I do try to stick to the dirty dozen rule as these items are the most contaminated foods when not grown organically. Save the picture below to your phone so the next time you're at the grocery store you can reference it easily. As a general rule, the thicker the skin on the fruit or vegetable (bananas, avocados, etc.) the less likely pesticides and other chemicals can permeate the edible portion. If the edible part is exposed (berries, tomatoes, apples, etc.) go organic!

7. SUBSTITUTE WITH FROZEN AND CANNED 

When recipes call for 1 cup of fresh blueberries. I can almost guarantee the recipe will taste the same if you thaw some frozen blueberries. Unless there is a huge sale on fruit, frozen is almost always cheaper. Frozen fish is typically cheaper than fresh and has the same nutritional benefits. In addition, use canned tuna and salmon for salads and egg bakes.

8. USE YOUR FREEZER

If you have leftovers that you do not want to eat because you want more variety for the week, simply freeze them! You will have a meal ready for you next week. Simply take the meal out of the freezer the day before and thaw in the refrigerator; you'll have a pre-made meal and save money that week! You can also batch cook a few family favorites one Saturday or Sunday and then freeze them in individual servings so your family can grab a healthy meal from the freezer whenever they wish! My mom was great at cooking ahead and always had something nutritious for us in the freezer on busy weeknights when we had sporting events. It is a huge time and money saver as you won't be running to Chipotle or Culver's and spending triple the amount to feed your kids.

9. BUY WHOLE FOODS

Some foods are a lot cheaper in the less processed form. For example, a block of cheese is cheaper than shredded cheese. Whole grains like mullet, rice, or oats are cheaper per serving than most processed cereals or pre-packaged oatmeal packs. Yogurt is another item you can save a lot of money on simply by purchasing the larger tubs of plain yogurt and adding your own frozen fruit and/or honey. You also eliminate the preservatives and sugars added to fruity yogurts by purchasing plain yogurt. 

10. RE-PRIORITIZE HOW YOU SPEND YOUR MONEY

Lastly, I want to leave you with a small challenge. Do you have cable TV? Do you have a fancy coffee habit? Do you go out to eat most days for lunch? The constant struggle to be able to "afford" healthy food may ultimately come down to priorities. Where are you spending your money that does not directly and positively impact your physical and emotional health? I challenge you to look at your finances and see if you can re-prioritize where you spend your money, and perhaps you will have a few more dollars to invest in your health.

Why I Started Incorporating Spirulina in My Diet

Spirulina is a blue-green algae that is grown in warm, fresh water lakes. Although it was not until the 1970s that the superfood became commercialized, it was used way back in the 9th century Kanem Empire of Chad and by the Aztecs in 16th century Mexico. There are two commonly used species in nutritional supplements: spirulina platensis and spirulina maxima. Spirulina is considered a superfood because of its immense health qualities and rich composition of protein, vitamins, minerals, and fatty-acids. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the European Space Agency (ESA) recommend spirulina as one of the primary foods during long-term space missions due to its concentrated nutrition. So what makes it so awesome? Let's take a closer look...

NUTRITIONAL COMPOSITION 

Spirulina contains no cellulose in its cell walls, so it is easily absorbed and integrated into the body when digested.

Proteins: Spriulina has a very high protein concentration (55-70%) for a plant. It contains the essential amino acids leucine, valine, and isoleucine. Because of its digestibility and amino acid balance, the usable portion of spirulina is around 90% (the highest of any protein other than casein)!

Vitamins: The superfood is rich in vitamin A, D, K, B1 (Thiamine), B2 (Riboflavin), and B3 (Niacin). Vitamin A is important for proper vision, our immune system, and reproduction; while vitamin D helps the regulation of calcium and phosphorous absorption. Vitamin K plays an important role in blood clotting and building strong bones. The B vitamins help turn our food into useable energy.

Minerals: Spirulina has a high composition of calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, and chromium. These minerals are good for proper translation of nerve impulses, energy production, formation of healthy bones and teeth, and the production of red blood cells.

Lipids: Spirulina is 4-5% lipids and contains the essential fatty acids that may help reduce inflammation that cause some disease and cancers.

HEALTH BENEFITS

1) Antioxidant and Anti-inflammatory Properties

Spirulina is an excellent source of antioxidants, which can protect against oxidative damage. The active ingredient in spirulina is called phycocyanin. When in it's active state (C-phycocyanin) it can fight free radicals and inhibit production of inflammatory signally molecules (1). Free radicals are atoms with unpaired electrons that occur naturally in the body; but when food or environmental factors (tobacco, pollution, herbicides) lead to an excessive amount, the body cannot handle them properly and damage occurs in the form of oxidative stress (damage to our cells that can lead to disease).

2) Lowers LDL and Triglycerides While Normalizing HDL

Spirulina has been shown to lower total cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides, while raising HDL (the "good") cholesterol. During a 3-month intervention study, the mean levels of triglycerides, LDL, total cholesterol, and the ratio of total cholesterol to high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol were significantly decreased (2). GLA is the main component responsible for these cholesterol lowering attributes. 

3) Can Help Balance Blood Pressure

When taken daily at a dose of 4-5 grams, spirulina has been shown to reduce blood pressure in individuals with normal blood pressure levels (3)

4) Improves Symptoms of Allergic Rhinitis

In one study (4), spirulina consumption significantly improved the allergy symptoms of nasal discharge, sneezing, nasal congestion and itching compared to the placebo.

5) Muscle Strength and Endurance May Improve

Some studies have shown that spirulina can enhance endurance due to its rich bioavailable iron source. 

6) May Help Control Blood Sugar

So far, animal studies have shown that spirulina can lower blood sugar levels. In a recent study, diabetic rats were treated with spirulina and showed a decreased hyperglycemia and oxidative stress rate (8). It is likely that spirulina may be helpful in the prevention of diabetic complications in humans.

WHERE TO PURCHASE SPIRULINA AND HOW TO CONSUME IT

Supplemental spirulina is available for purchase in tablet or powder form. I prefer to add the powder to my smoothies, chia pudding, or no-bake energy bites. Start your day off with an abundance of antioxidants by adding my Berry Superfood Breakfast Smoothie to your routine. Additionally, you could stir it into salad dressings, sauces, and dips.

The source and quality of spirulina is very important. Make sure to purchase a non-GMO spirulina that comes from a clean, reputable source and isn't grown in a region affected by environmental pollution as it will absorb toxins. I recently purchased Pure Hawaiian Spirulina Powder (click hyperlink for direct access) and love it! Please keep in mind whenever you try a new food to start small and see how your body reacts to the food. I suggest starting with 1 teaspoon/day and slowly working your way up to 1 tablespoon/day or every other day. Although, the superfood is somewhat expensive, when compared to other supplements (that are mostly unnatural) this value is worth the cost (at least in my opinion)! The 16 oz bottle that I purchased has 151, 1 teaspoon servings which will last me about 3 months as I am healthy, eat a variety of leafy greens and other whole foods, and thus do not feel the need to consume spirulina daily.

Resources:

1) PLoS One. 2014 Apr 1;9(4):e93056. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0093056. eCollection 2014. 

2) J Sci Food Agric. 2014 Feb;94(3):432-7. doi: 10.1002/jsfa.6261. Epub 2013 Jul 10. The hypolipidaemic effects of Spirulina (Arthrospira platensis) supplementation in a Cretan population: a prospective study.

3) Lipids Health Dis. 2007; 6: 33. Published online 2007 Nov 26. doi:  10.1186/1476-511X-6-33

4) Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2008 Oct;265(10):1219-23. doi: 10.1007/s00405-008-0642-8. Epub 2008 Mar 15.

5) https://authoritynutrition.com/10-proven-benefits-of-spirulina/

6) http://www.spirulina-benefits-health.com/spirulina_health_benefits.html

7) http://www.medicaldaily.com/benefits-spirulina-what-it-and-why-you-should-incorporate-it-your-diet-272346

8) Nutr Res. 2016 Nov;36(11):1255-1268. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2016.09.011. Epub 2016 Oct 4.

My 21-Day Sugar Detox Reflection

This post is a bit overdue as I finished my 21-Day Sugar Detox on Monday, January 30th. But life has been busy (a good busy!), and I am finally getting a chance to sit and write. If you wish to read my first blog post about this detox, you can find it here. First off, I would definitely recommend this detox to anyone interested in cutting their sugar cravings. By day 10 I had absolutely no desire for something super sweet. Yes, I did eat a green apple or grapefruit (allowed fruits) pretty much every day or every other day, but it was really just to get more variety in my diet. I loved exploring new recipes and trying new turnips for the first time!

I made a few recipes included in the 21-Day Sugar Detox book, but as a recipe developer myself, I have a hard time sticking to recipes, and I found myself modifying recipes. This is not to say that Diane's recipes are not amazing because they are! I just have personal tastes and usually season things accordingly. Of the recipes I tried (and/or slightly tweaked), I recommend the Mini Mexi-Meatloaves (this was fabulous!), Bacon & Root Veggie Hash, Balsamic Winter Squash rings, and the Not-Sweet Cinnamon Cookies. Beyond these recipes I made a few of my own favorite recipes. I also made almond milk every week and highly recommend trying it out as you avoid all of the extra junk that is in the store bought versions. You can purchase a nut milk bag on Amazon here; and as long as you have a high speed blender like a Vitamix or Blendec it is super easy!

The 21-Day Sugar Detox really helped me stay on top of my meal prep and gave more structure to my diet. Although, I eat fairly healthy and try my best to make time for my own meal planning and prep, it doesn't always happen when I want it to. But this detox forced me to meal prep (or else I was literally going to be eating salads and eggs all day). That is what is nice about a meal plan, it gives structure, inspiration, and a diverse, nutrient dense diet IF you stick to it and put in a little work! So with all this in mind, my average day looked a little something like this: 

Breakfast: 2 fried eggs, ½ cup of my breakfast potatoes (red potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, garlic powder, salt and coconut oil), and some sautéed greens (spinach or kale) in coconut oil or ghee; OR my Zucchini, Kale, Mushroom, and Italian Chicken Sausage Frittata (using Applegate Organics Fire Roasted Red Pepper Chicken and Turkey Sausage - the only chicken sausage I could find that does not contain sugar).

Lunch: a big salad with plenty of veggies (usually beets, zucchini, red onions and whatever else I had), chicken breast, canned tuna or salmon, and dressing (olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and dijon mustard); OR my Curried Butternut Squash Soup with some nuts; OR leftovers from dinner.

Snack: a green apple, grapefruit, raw vegetables, ¼ cup of pepitas, a handful of almonds, or unsweetened shredded coconut with almond milk.

Dinner: my Chipotle Shrimp and Chicken Sausage Vegetable Skillet; Mini Mexi-Meatloaves with cooked cabbage; my Chicken Fajita Bowl (recipe coming soon); Pot Roast with potatoes, carrots, and celery; my Paleo Spaghetti; or my Dijon Dill Salmon fillets (recipe coming soon) with baked sweet potato and vegetables. 

What I Learned:

1) How to listen to my body - I have always been a grazer, meaning I like to eat snacks throughout the day. But while on this detox my snack options were limited (my typical snack is fruit or trail mix with dried fruit) and I wanted to see if I could go longer periods without eating. My body reacted very well to this! Before the detox, I rarely found myself hungry, but when I stopped snacking as much, my body had time to reset. And since I was not eating sugar I did not experience any of the sudden shifts in energy due to sugar highs/lows. I began to feel more in sync with my body and started listening to when I should eat and how much to eat.

2) Fiber is my friend! - My digestive system was not very happy days 4-8 of the 21-Day Sugar Detox. I will spare you the details, but basically I was blocked up and not very regular for a few days. I think this was due to the fact that I was not getting as much fiber from fruits and more dense carbohydrates. I made some chia pudding (and actually developed this Chocolate Coconut Non-sweet Chia Pudding recipe because of this detox) to help get me flowing again and it helped. 

3) Protein is key to satiety and energy! - I am typically pretty good at eating a well-balanced diet, but I learned that if I did not get enough protein one day I definitely felt more sluggish and tired the next day. This is especially true while doing the 21-Day Sugar Detox as you are eating lower carb meals. 

4) I do not need coffee every morning - Crazy...right!?!? By day 14 or so, I realized I wasn't craving my morning cup of coffee or even wanting the extra caffeine boost. The last 15 days or so I have been primarily been drinking teas in the morning and feel great! The combination of no sugar, better sleep, and a clean diet left me with a ton of energy and my mood was terrific. Ok, not every day was a ray of sunshine, but I would say that 80% of the time I had more energy and felt amazing!

5) Added sugar is not worth the side affects - I know what you are thinking..."Kelsey, chocolate is my best friend and I cannot go without it!" I agree with you, chocolate is divine, but it is not going to solve any problems. And in fact for me it creates a few that I would simply rather live without. For example, when I eat added sugar (beyond fruit) more regularly, like dark chocolate, honey, maple syrup, a lot of dates, or raw sugar my face breaks out, and I feel more bloated. I have also seen a trend in my mood; if I eat a lot of sugar or even unhealthy carbs I feel sluggish, cannot think as clear, have less energy, and typically am more anxious. This could all correlate to the fact that when I am stressed I tend to crave sugary foods (I am working on recognizing this trigger); but nonetheless, if I simply avoid or limit higher sugar and carbohydrate rich foods I know I will overall feel better. In addition to clearer skin and higher energy, I felt great during my workouts and performed well! Although, I did not do this challenge in order to loose weight or "look" better, I did see a change in my body composition and know it directly correlates to eating more nutrient dense foods and less nutrient poor foods.

Overall, I highly recommend giving the 21-Day Sugar Detox a try! Except for my digestive system getting a bit funky and missing fruits (especially berries and bananas) here and there, the detox was well worth it. Now, I can confidently say that I am not addicted to sugar and am more aware of how much sugar I am eating. I know how to listen to my body, and when I am full. My energy level is more stable and I do not find myself fighting to get up and workout in the morning. If you have any questions regarding my 21-Day Sugar Detox please do not hesitate to email me!

Could a poor ratio of OMEGA-3 and OMEGA-6 be making you sick?

Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids: What are they?

     Many of you may have heard these terms before and have a general understanding that omega fatty acids are good for us, but you may be confused as to why they are truly beneficial. Let's tackle this together!

     Omega fatty acids are an essential fat (a fat that our body does not produce on it's own); thus we must consume omega fatty acids in order for our body to function optimally. The "omega" naming convention has to do with the placement of the double bond in the fatty acid molecule. Omega-3 fatty acids have the first double bond placed 3 carbon atoms away from the omega end. While omega-6 fatty acids have the first double bond placed 6 carbon atoms away from the omega end. I won't go into too much chemistry, but the main thing to understand is that both fatty acids are polyunsaturated. The term polyunsaturated can be broken down into major parts to be better understood. Poly means "multiple or many" and unsaturated means there are "double bonds within the fatty acid chain". Thus polyunsaturated = many double bonds

     Omega-3 fatty acids come from sources such as fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel) and walnuts, flaxseed, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, and chia (all in lesser amounts). The three main types are ALA, EPA, and DHA.

     Omega-6 fatty acids come from plant sources such as corn oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil, as well as from nuts and seeds. The most common form or omega-6 fatty acid is linoleic acid (LA).

Why Are Fatty Acids Beneficial?

     There is growing evidence that polyunsaturated fats have been helpful in reducing the risk of heart disease, along with protecting against type two diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, and age-related brain decline. In addition, these fatty acids can help promote hair and skin growth, promote bone health, and maintain the reproductive system. So what's the catch? One of these fatty acids promotes inflammation while the other reduces inflammation. And it is the healthy ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 that matters.

The RATIO is Key! 

     Let me backtrack a little and bring you to ancestral times. There is evidence that hunter-gather ancestors consumed a 1:1 ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. It is also important to note that these ancestors were free of diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancers. Now, fast forward to the industrial revolution when seed oils (canola oil, corn oil, soy oil) were invented; this marked a shift in the ratio of omega-fatty acids. Below is a chart depicting the amounts of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in industrialized oils. Between 1935 and 1939, the ratio of n-6 to n-3 fatty acids was reported to be 8.4:1. From 1935 to 1985, this ratio increased to 10.3:1 (a 23% increase). Other calculations put the ratio as high as 12.4:1 in 1985. Today, estimates of the ratio range from an average of 10:1 to 20:1, with a ratio as high as 25:1 in some individuals.


So what's the problem? To explain it simply: the less omega-3 fat you eat, the more omega-6 will be available to produce inflammation in your tissues. Typically prolonged inflammation results in oxidative stress and potentially disease. A diet with a lot of omega-6 AND not much omega-3 will increase inflammation. A diet with a lot of omega-3 and little omega-6 will decrease inflammation. If you are not familiar with diseases caused by systematic inflammation, the most common are: obesity, liver disease, ulcerative colitis, depression, anxiety, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, type two diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and other autoimmune diseases.

What Can You Do?

     Eliminate seed oils like canola, vegetable, and soybean as much as possible. And balance any omega-6 oils you may get in your diet by adding rich sources of omega-3 fat. Fish, seafood, and grass-fed, naturally raised animal products are the best source of omega-3. While chia, flaxseed, and hemp contain omega-3 fat, the value is not near that of fish. The most important thing you can do is to stop using vegetable oils in your home and decrease how often you go out to eat, as most restaurants use vegetable oils in just about everything (deep friers, pan fried food, baked goods, and dressings). And then, eat two 4-5 oz servings of fish a week (salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel, lake trout, sardines). I highly encourage you to cook with monounsaturated fats like extra-virgin olive oil, avocado oil, lard, or saturated fats like coconut oil, palm oil, or real butter (nothing from a tub). In the chart below, you want to avoid all the fats higher in omega-6 fatty acids (the blue bar). Although fatty acids are essential and we must consumer them, we must do so in moderation as they are still a source of fat and thus higher in calories. 

     If you have questions about any of the material I covered, please leave a comment below or email me directly at kelsey@hitenutrition.com. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Instagram @hitenutrition for additional tips and recipe posts!


Resources:

Hite Nutrition Costco Recommendations

As a frequent shopper at Costco, I often refer my clients to products I personally use from Costco, so I thought I would share a few of "my favorites" and some Hite Nutrition recommendations. There are many things to love about Costco. They focus on products that offer quality ingredients and are often organic or made with less preservatives. And most prices are comparable or cheaper than what you can get in a normal grocery store for the same quantity (excluding most produce). I know some of you may not have a Costco located near you so I have included a direct link to Amazon for each product that is available online. Those of you who have Amazon Prime this is another great option! I have found that most items at Costco are priced better in store than on Amazon, but you're paying for the convenience of having it delivered directly to your doorstep. If you have any questions on any of the products I recommend just send me an email at kelsey@hitenutrition.com.

Power Up Trail Mix is a combination of walnuts, dried mango, almonds, and dried cranberries. This makes the perfect afternoon snack!

 

I love the flavor of these Kirkland Protein Bars as they are very similar to Quest Bars, but 2/3 of the price! With 21 grams of protein I often grab one of these and a piece of fruit if I am in a hurry and won't be able to eat for a while. 

Harvested for You Organic Shelled Pumpkin Seeds come in a 20 ounce bag and is a great value for the quality! A single ounce serving is a great source of zinc, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, vitamin-k, and plant based omega-3's.

I personally have not purchased these Caveman Bars yet (more for a budget reason than anything), but I have sampled them and they are delicious! I love that these are dairy and gluten-free. I would consider these more of a treat as they only have 5 grams of protein, but nonetheless they are made with natural ingredients and are healthier than most convenience bars.

Larabars are a great item to grab when you need an afternoon pick-up! They often contain less than 5 ingredients and are super delicious because they are sweetened with dates.

Rw Garcia 3 Seed Sweet Potato Crackers are just as delicious and another great alternative to oily chips or crackers.

For those of you who don't necessarily love eating vegetables daily, I suggest adding this Organic LIVfit Superfood Blend into smoothies, baked items, and/or protein shakes to get some added nutrients.

Plum Organics is a great company that makes healthy snack and mealtime options for babies and toddlers. Costco carries their Mighty 4 product which is a squeezable pouch of Greek yogurt, a vegetable, a fruit, and a grain.

Hemp Hearts are raw shelled hemp seeds that are a great addition to any smoothie. Or try topping your oatmeal or yogurt with hemp seeds for some added protein and fatty acids! 

Earthly Choice Wild Rice is always a great addition to a quick dinner meal. This price is for 3 lbs and is comparable to other grocery stores. Email me if you need tasty ideas on how to cook wild rice!

I love adding chia to my smoothies or making chia pudding! Since this is a rather large bag I keep it in my refrigerator. Chia seeds are a great energy and metabolism booster, and they contain beneficial amounts of fiber, protein, and omega fatty acids. Give Nature's Intent Organic Chia Seeds a try!

The same goes for wild-caught canned salmon. Kirkland's canned salmon is a great source of protein! I use it on salads, in salmon patties, and creamy cold salmon salad.

Kirkland Organic Coconut Oil is cold-pressed and unrefined which I love. My husband and I make our popcorn with coconut oil so we really appreciate a cheaper organic brand. 

Almonds are a common snack in my diet as they are a good source of plant protein and minerals such as vitamin E, manganese, biotin, and copper. This Kirkland bag of almonds is cheaper in the store.

Chosen Foods Avocado Oil is great for high heat stir-frying or roasting. I also love making homemade mayo with this!

Stober Farms Organic Golden Flax Seed is a great addition to smoothies, baked goods, and oatmeal. Flax seed is high in omega-3 and fiber. In addition, studies show that it may help reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes.

In addition, I recommend trying the frozen Kirkland Wild Alaskan Pacific Cod. You should try to eat two servings of fish a week!

BACON! Who doesn't like bacon? I never use to eat it because it was "bad" for you, but then I discovered there are more natural sources without nitrates/nitrites. And if you don't have any heart complications, a little saturated fat is actually healthy for you! Go ahead eat some nitrate-free bacon here and there. Coleman Natural is a brand I recommend.

Coleman Natural chicken breasts are individually packaged for easy thawing and have no added salt. Although they are not raised organically, the chickens are not treated with antibiotics, hormones, or steroids. 

These Kirkland Organic Tortilla Chips are recommended because when purchasing corn products you want to buy organic in order to avoid any GMOs. Although these are made with vegetable oils (canola and safflower which I try to avoid) they are ok here and there or for parties.

Plainville Farms Oven Roasted Organic Turkey Breast slices are amazing! Yes, this product is more expensive than most sandwich meats but in my opinion it is worth the cost. The turkeys used have never been give antibiotics, are raised organic, and the deli slices do not contain any nitrates or other harmful preservatives.

These fresh Coleman Organic Chicken breasts are great if you have a larger family and want to buy safer chicken. The breasts are fairly large so I recommend cutting them in half and freezing them in quantities that work well for your family.

Mary's Gone Crackers are a great alternative to those canola oil, preservative packed crackers you may have in your pantry. They are gluten and dairy-free and made with whole-grain brown rice, quinoa, flax seeds and sesame seeds. Try them plain, with hummus, or goat cheese!

Any applesauce that is unsweetened is fair game; especially organic! You'll have to do some price comparison with your local grocery store to see if this Mott's Organic Applesauce 36 unit package is a deal or not. 

GoGo Squeeze is a great quick and natural snack for your kids to eat on the go!

Chosen Foods Avocado Oil Mayo is dairy, soy, and canola oil-free! It has the same ingredients as what I put into my homemade mayo. Please note that this product is significantly cheaper in stores.

GoGo Quinoa makes an Organic Macaroni out of red and white quinoa that is totally gluten-free and a healthier pasta option. Once again this product is far cheaper in stores. 

QUINOA!! One of my favorite superfoods! Kirkland's Organic Quinoa is a great deal and since it's pre-rinsed it's super quick to cook up. 

I know what you are thinking...really, canned tuna? Yes! I don't mind the smell and love the flavor, so I add Chicken of the Sea Albacore Tuna in Water to my salads and casseroles for a great source of DHEA and omega-3's. This is a cheaper source of protein.

Kirkland spices are a great addition to your pantry. I always keep Kirkland Ground Cinnamon and Kirkland Garlic Powder stocked. They are a great quality for their price (definitely cheaper in store than online). 

Almond flour is a stable in my pantry for Paleo treats. This Blue Diamond Blanched 3 lb bag is a steal and I cannot find anything cheaper, but unfortunately they do not offer this price online.

Angelic Bakehouse is a bakery that sells sprouted bread products in the form of sandwich bread, buns, wraps, pizza crust, and crisps. Why sprouted bread? Sprouting grains prior to baking allows our digestive system to more easily break down the grain and absorb more nutrients. Costco now carries their sandwich bread in addition to these Premium Wraps!

If you eat oatmeal, I suggest trying a steel cut oatmeal as the oats are simply cut open and never steamed or rolled. McCann's Steel Cut Irish Oatmeal is great because it doesn't take as long to cook as other brands.

Mmmm...almond butter! It's just so good in everything! I don't recommend buying this online as it is far cheaper in store. 

When purchasing seafood always try to buy a wild product as farm raised fish will not be as nutritious. Kirkland's Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon tastes great and is fairly comparable to other grocery stores.

Kirkland's Greek Yogurt is organic and a great price for the quantity if you have a family you likes Greek yogurt.

I love this triple berry frozen blend from Costco. I add them to smoothies, yogurt, and oatmeal.

Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Grain bread is similar to Angelic Bakehouse in that they sprout the grains prior to baking, thus more nutrients is absorbed by our digestive system. This bread is found in the freezer section at Costco.

Ground turkey is a great way to mix up your protein source and this Butterball Farm to Family ground turkey is all natural (no hormones or antibiotics) and is 97% lean.

Ground turkey is a great way to mix up your protein source and this Butterball Farm to Family ground turkey is all natural (no hormones or antibiotics) and is 97% lean.

Ground turkey is a great way to mix up your protein source and this Butterball Farm to Family ground turkey is all natural (no hormones or antibiotics) and is 97% lean.

I have recently made the shift to buying more organic and grass-fed beef as I consume a grain-free diet.This pack of three makes about four 0.90 lb meals of meat if you divide it prior to freezing. Until I find a local farmer who raises grass-fed cows this is my go to for beef!

Starting my 21-Day Sugar Detox (by Diane Sanfilippo): Days 1-3

Diane Sanfilippo, a certified Nutrition Consultant and New York Times bestselling author of Practical Paleo, is a very well known figure in the Paleo world. I recently started listening to her podcast called the Balanced Bites and learned that she developed a sugar detox program called "the 21-Day Sugar Detox". The program has had immense success with thousands of Diane's clients and followers.

MY PURPOSE & GOAL

Intrigued to see if I experienced any major differences between the Whole30 (whole30.com) and the 21-Day Sugar Detox, I added Diane's book (found here) to my Amazon cart. My goal in completing this detox is to let you know the effects it had on my body, mind, and energy level; as well as, explain the pros and cons I experience throughout the detox. And I'll be honest I do love natural sweet treats like my Paleo Pumpkin Spice Cookies, my gluten-free Morning Glory Muffins, or eating a dried date or two, so doing this detox will help realign my focus too!

SUGAR

First, let's start with some facts about SUGAR. Sugar is basically in everything that comes from a box, bottle, or carton these days. I couldn't even find almond milk at the grocery store the other day that did not have an added sugar in the ingredient list. America has tricked our brains to think that food does not taste good unless it is sweetened or salted. Many people are addicted to sugar and do not fully realize it because producers sneak it in wherever they can. "Natural" peanut butters, "healthy" cereals and granolas, and even deli meat often contain some form of added sugar. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 13% of adults' total daily caloric intake between 2005-2010 came from added sugars. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that no more than 10% of food intake should come from added sugars. So what are "added sugars"?

 

ADDED SUGARS

An added sugar is any sugar that is added to a food or beverages during processing which does not naturally occur in the food. For example, refined white sugar, brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, maltose, and sucrose are all sugars commonly added to drinks and food products. Naturally occurring sugars are totally safe to eat and most readily occur in fruit and milk. Natural sweeteners can also come in the form of any unrefined product like honey, maple syrup, molasses, pure monk fruit or agave extract. These are considered natural because no other additives disrupt their chemistry. Be cautious though that these natural sweeteners are still a source of sugar and should be used in moderation. 

WHY ARE ADDED SUGARS BAD? - The Science of Sugar

Knowing what sugar does inside your body will help you understand the reasons a sugar detox, like the 21-Day Sugar Detox, is going to improve your health. When we consume sugar a neurotransmitter (a chemical messenger that delivers signals to/from the brain) called dopamine is released. We receive a pleasure signal from dopamine when sugar is consumed; this is great if the sugar comes from a nutrient dense source like melon or berries which will decrease the desire for more sweet tasting food because the craving was satisfied. Unfortunately, refined forms of sugar also trigger the release of dopamine. These refined sugary, processed foods contain no nutrient value which leaves you with a content desire to eat more sugar. It's a revolving circle of: "that tasted really good" - "I want more" - "I am still hungry". This happens to most of us and results in a nutrient poor diet, cyclical bloating, and lethargy. In her book, Diane uses a great example to explain the importance of nutrient dense foods verses nutrient poor foods. She compares two foods that have equal calorie servings, 100 grams of a sweet potato and 100 grams of unenriched wheat bread. Both foods have around 20 grams of carbohydrate but look at the nutritional differences below:

% RDA of Sweet Potato vs. Unenriched Wheat Bread

*RDA = recommended daily allowance; data taken from the 21-Day Sugar Detox book

As Diane explains in her book, "When nutrients are added to foods in synthetic forms and without their co-factors (the complementary nutrients that are needed for proper absorption and utilization), you body simply cannot use them properly." When your bread or cereal is fortified with extra calcium this does not mean that your body is going to properly utilize the calcium because the co-factors of vitamins A, D, K2 and magnesium may not be present in the correct form to naturally help the calcium be fully absorbed and utilized properly. 

During the introduction to the detox, Diane does an excellent job of explaining why nutrient density is so important and why eating whole, natural foods to obtain the macronutrients and micronutrients our body needs is much more effective in living a healthy, vibrant life. This is why a low nutrient diet leaves you feeling tired and depleted. She further explains how insulin, glucose, and glycogen work to keep carbohydrates fueling our body based on our diet and activity level. Although, when we have an access of carbohydrates it is converted to fat. In addition, the book talks on topics of sugar and its affects on inflammation, stress, and hormones. I could go on-and-on about the processes of sugar, insulin, and glycogen, but I'll save that for another post as insulin-resistance is becoming more and more well-known in our communities. But for now, I highly recommend reading this book simply to gain a pimplier scientific understanding of sugar and the body.

MY INITIAL THOUGHTS ABOUT THE PROGRAM

I love that Diane and her team have worked to create multiple support systems other than the book. If you check out 21daysugardetox.com  you'll find an additional quick-start guide, audio series, daily detox emails, modification guides, and the community forum and support they offer. In addition,  you can find a local 21-Day Sugar Detox coach if you feel you want more one-on-one care and advice. Since, I am knowledgable in the area of food and nutrition, eat a well-balanced diet, and decided to do the detox in late December 2016, I went the cheap route and just bought the hard-copy book (well it was actually a birthday gift). I love hard copies so I can mark-up pages and place sticky notes and tabs in my books. The book encompasses everything you get online other than the daily emails, audio series, and community support. There are over 90 recipes provided in the book, broken down by breakfast, main dishes, soups/salads/sides, snacks, and non-sweet treats (each with allergy information, ingredient and kitchen tips). Diane includes a detailed menu for each of her 3 levels, which you can choose to follow or simply pick and choose recipes and/or foods based on the "yes/no food list" provided for each level (this is what I chose to do). I found the "yes/no food list" difficult to find at first and would have preferred this was placed before the menu for each level. Based on the quiz participants are encouraged to take, I decided to do level 3 of the detox with adding the energy modifications because I am fairly active and do CrossFit workouts 3-5 times per week. I would highly recommend anyone who is new to Paleo or preparing real, wholesome foods do level 1 first and then advance to level 2 if you choose to do another sugar detox.

To date, I have completed my third day of the detox, and thus far I have not seen any big milestones in energy level or body composition, but it is too early to tell from my perspective! I feel that I have the same amount of energy, have not experienced any headaches (often common with a detox), and have really only found myself hungry on two occurrences (usually around 3-4pm). I typically wake up at 4:50 am and sometimes find myself hungry during my fasted workout, but this has not happened yet. Because I am doing the energy modifications in order to maintain my stamina during my workouts and recovery, I plan to consume between 100-160 grams of carbohydrate a day but will try my best to obtain this from starchy vegetables. Towards the end of the book Diane lists some helpful information about how to find your carbohydrate needs and also includes a chart of starchy carbohydrate vegetables, with nutrient profiles, for those doing the energy modifications of the detox. I found this super helpful, as I did not realize I could eat sweet potatoes, white potatoes, and squashes to reach my carbohydrate goal (this was not made clear to me in the book as I missed it the first two times I read the restrictions). Once I realized this, all hesitations resided! Although, an area of interest to me is the types of fruit recommended during the 21-Day Sugar Detox. On this detox you are only allowed to eat 1 piece of fruit per day (other than lemons and limes) BUT it must be either a grapefruit, green apple, or green-tipped banana (not quite ripe). I find this interesting because 100 grams of raspberries has less carbohydrate and sugar than 100 grams of green apples or banana, and the same goes for blackberries. I am going to dig a little deeper to investigate why berries are eliminated from this detox. I am definitely going to miss them!

Admittedly, the 21-Day Detox program is making me think a lot about how many carbohydrates (and sugar) are in the vegetables and fruits I normally consume within a week. This program is opening my eyes to new recipes and cooking vegetables I am not as comfortable with (like parsnips, rutabaga, and jicama)! 

WHAT TO EXPECT ON MY NEXT 21-DAY SUGAR DETOX POST - Stay Tuned!

I will check in with you all again around day 16 to let you know how I feel, what I am eating (including any recipes I like), and tell you what I am learning from the detox. I hope you check back in with me and/or do a little research about the 21-Day Sugar Detox yourself. 

Thanks for reading! If you have suggestions or questions for future blog posts please send them to kelsey@hitenutrition.com; I love hearing about what interests you and receiving new ideas from my followers.

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New Year's Resolutions & Goal Setting

Happy New Year!

As many of you are making New Year’s resolutions or goals for 2017, I thought I would offer a few suggestions to help with the process and hopefully help you achieve them. 

First and foremost, I encourage you to write down 20 things you are grateful for AND 20 things you are proud of yourself for accomplishing in 2016. It could be as simple as “getting out of bed every morning” or “reading a book”. The goal of this exercise is to start off in a positive and reflective mindset. It will help you reflect on what went well in 2016 and give you hope and motivation for accomplishing things in 2017.

5 Things to Consider as You Write Out Resolutions or Goals for 2017

1. Decide if resolutions/goals OR a word, phrase or sentence is best for you.

While a list of 2-10 goals/resolutions is great for some of us, it may be unrealistic for others. This can be especially true depending on what kind of season of life a person may be in. Choosing a word to focus on for the year rather than a tangible goal may be more important (i.e. balance or grace). If you are in a season of change (moving, new job, new baby, etc.) you may be better off focusing on ONE goal/word/resolution rather than creating a list of them. You can always add to your goals as your season changes and allows, but this way it won't seem overwhelming and you will be more successful in achieving them.

2. Order your goals in regards to what is most important to you AND what area needs the most improvement.

For example: If your health is important to you, it will likely play a critical role in setting goals around family or relationships. If you are not healthy yourself, your relationships with others are probably not as healthy as you may like or as they could be. Some areas to consider when goal setting:

  • health (physical, emotional, mental)
  • career
  • financial
  • personal/spiritual
  • relationship/family
  • home
  • adventure
  • travel

3. SET REALISTIC GOALS and Defy your INNER REBEL

I would advise against setting a firm goal such as; “I want to lose 20 pounds”. While that may be a really good goal, try setting a few more tangible goals along the way that you can achieve on a daily basis that will help you reach that larger, overarching goal. Try something such as: "I am going to get up and go to the gym 5 times per week", or "I am going to meal prep every Sunday", or "I am going to reduce my latte consumption to 1 per week". 

Most of us will often say things like "I am going to give up sweets for 30 days” or “I am going to workout everyday after work” but then find ourselves failing within two weeks. Why is this? Perhaps because we are the rebellious type and like to do things our own way. If you don’t truly BELIEVE that you can accomplish your goal, don’t set it! It is that simple. Try something more realistic and set a goal like “I am not going to eat sweets unless I am at a special event or eating at a sit-down restaurant”. You still want the overall objective to be fulfilled; but by allowing yourself a few occasions that you can enjoy sweets you are less likely to rebel and give-in. Some of us need to be able to see the "light at the end of the tunnel" or "multiple lights" and this method gives room for this! 

4. BREAK GOALS DOWN even further!

Ask yourself: what can I do on a MONTLY basis? And what can I do on a DAILY basis to help reach my goal? Change requires a little bit of work every day and seeing weekly or monthly progress helps people stay motivated.

5. ASK QUESTIONS

When trying to improve upon areas where you lack motivation, ask yourself a few questions in order to better understand how you can accomplish your goals in those areas. By asking questions you open up doors that allow you to see the bigger picture from a smaller lens. Once you have a few action steps leading up to answering your question, take one at a time and work towards the bigger goal. 

  • how can I improve my workspace (so that I am more comfortable at work)?
  • how can I get promoted to a manager?
  • how can I make time to meal prep?

6 Things to Help You to Stick to Your Resolutions

    1. Make larger changes one at a time.

    You are more likely to succeed at grocery shopping every week, meal prepping, and eating healthier because they all coincide together. However, if you decide you want to dental floss your teeth every night, watch CNN every morning, and do a 5 minute ab routine prior to bed you are less likely to succeed at continually doing all three. Instead add one goal each month. This way your mind will already be programmed to dental floss every night; it’s part of your routine so adding something else will be more obtainable. 

    2. REMOVE YOURSELF from temptations.

    If you have decided to not eat processed sugar, don’t buy the teddy bears or fruit snacks for your kids. If treats are in the house you are more likely to give in when temptations strike! Contact me if you need ideas for healthier snacks for your kids!

    3. Replace bad habits with better ones! In other words: REDIRECT YOUR ATTENTION

    For example, if you are fond of drinking a can of diet coke when the afternoon blues hit at work, reach for some herbal tea or a flavored sparkling water instead (La Croix is a great brand without bad additives and flavoring). Stock your desk drawer with healthy alternatives and you will be less likely to walk to the vending machine for a soda or candy bar.

    Or if it’s an action you are trying to replace, like biting your fingernails, try putting some barriers in place. For example you can paint your finger nails with clear nail polish so it tastes gross or you can place a sticky note in a few places where you find yourself bitting your nails the most often that says something positive in regards to why you want to stop the habit like “I am calm and my nails love me!”

    4. KEEP A SCHEDULE!

    As much as some people don’t like planning ahead it is crucial to keeping your resolutions and obtaining goals. BUT MOST importantly make your schedule work for YOU! If getting up at 5am every morning to work out sounds like torture to you don’t set that goal! Juggle your schedule around and go into work an hour early if you can and leave work by 4:00pm to get the workout in!

    5. Have someone hold you ACCOUNTABLE!

    Find an accountability partner to help you stay on track and check in with you every week! You are more likely to stay on track if you know someone is going to be calling you to ask how your 3 runs went that week!

    After writing down your goals, it is very valuable to place them somewhere you will see regularly so they are always in the forefront of your mind. Take a picture of your list and send it to your accountability partner so they can have something to look back on easily.

    6. RE-EVALUATE Progress

    Lastly, re-evaluate how your resolutions are going every month. For example, if you had set a goal to sign up for a yoga class and then halfway through realize you miss the fast-paced HITT training, that’s totally OK! You tried something new and it’s ok to let yourself do something you love. Or if you set a goal to eat eggs for breakfast at least three times a week, but deep down you don’t like the consistency of eggs, either find a new way to cook them that you enjoy more or find another high protein breakfast source. If something ins’t going well after 1 month, you don’t need to force yourself to continue. Re-evaluate, ask why you wanted to have the resolution, find alternatives or modify the resolution slightly. 

    We are blessed to have another year, let's make it count! I know you can do this! Let me know how I can help you along the way.