Posts in Nutrition Tips
The 6 Best Dairy Free Products

I work with a lot of my clients on gut-healing which includes leading them through a personalized elimination plan and reintroduction to pinpoint which foods are causing digestive symptoms. One of the main culprits for many is dairy. Sad but true, because cheese is so so delicious but sometimes we need a break from it in order to heal our guts. With my guidance, I always empower my clients to discover how foods make them feel, so that they can make decisions about what they eat on a day to day basis to feel their best!

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I am therefore constantly on the lookout for new products, especially dairy free replacements if dairy is a no-go.

The market of dairy free products is a saturated one, with so many choices it can be hard to know which ones taste good and are made with good ingredients.

But all good, I have done the taste testing and label reading for you!

I have narrowed it down to my top 6 favorite dairy-free products that I always have on rotation when my tummy needs a break from the real thing.

1.     MILK: Forager Project Cashew Milk. Doesn’t get better than this for taste and ingredients. Forager has been around for a minute and has perfected their milk. I love using for smoothies and chia seed pudding as it doesn’t leave a funky after taste like almond milks can.

2.     MILK: Native Forest Simple Coconut Milk.  This is the only coconut milk I have found that doesn’t add Xanthum Gum! You can buy it on Amazon if you can’t find this in your store.  Make sure the label has the word “SIMPLE” on it ;)

3.     CHEESE/CREAM CHEESE: Kite Hill Ricotta Cheese. One word – texture!! I don’t know how they do it but the texture is just like real ricotta and it tastes dang delicious. I am not a big fan of their cream cheese, because 4 out of 5 that I buy always have mold when I open them (what’s up with that?), but I have used this as a spread on bagels and it’s a better cream cheese alternative.

4.     CHEESE: Miyoko’s Vegan Mozz. Holy crap this stuff is epic. It melts, browns and bubbles just like real mozzarella cheese. I kid you not. I would never lie to you!  So the next time you want to make that panini or pizza dairy free, get this stuff pronto.

5.     YOGURT: Forager Project Cashewgurt. I have tried so so so many dairy free yogurts. I still haven’t found a coconut one I like that is versatile, and the almond milk ones have weird aftertastes. There are oat milk ones out on the market now but the ingredients are shit. Forager has nailed it with the texture and mild taste. I don’t only just eat it with granola and fruit but also mix it into dressings and tuna salads.

6.     BUTTER: Miyokos Vegan Butter. Vegan butters can be, errrrr, quite industrial with their ingredients. But this one is really good, made with coconut oil, and melts and bubbles in the pan, and is delicious on bread too!

 
Tada! Hope you enjoy some new ideas for products and leave in the comments your favorites! Always on the hunt for something new.


Intuitive Eating: The 5 Types of Hunger

When it comes to intuitive eating, there is a lot of talk about hunger. Eating intuitively is not just about eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full. It is about quieting the external messages we receive from Diet Culture which disconnects us from our body, telling us to follow certain food rules and to be insecure and anxious about our food choices. When we are disconnected from our bodies, it becomes difficult and sometimes impossible to pay attention to our hunger cues. We have made up so many rules in our minds that we no longer can hear our body.    

One thing I frequently discuss with clients who are working to break the binge/restrict cycle or to calm anxiety with food, are hunger cues. Specifically the types of hunger that we experience which can be tapped into.  This helps my clients to better understand what might be fueling their desire to eat in order to better respond to their body’s cues.

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THE FIVE TYPES OF HUNGER IN INTUITIVE EATING

1.     Physical Hunger

2.     Emotional Hunger

3.     Taste Hunger

4.     Necessity Hunger

5.     Nutrient Hunger

When reading through and then recognizing the different types of hunger, it is important to note that all of these are NORMAL AND VALID.  We may have been taught to believe that any other type of hunger that is not physical must not be real, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

What is important is to know which type of hunger you are experiencing so that you have the tools to satisfy it without guilt or shame. To embrace all of them equally as a part of the human experience with food, emotions, taste and pleasure.

1.     Physical Hunger comes from our need for energy. This can manifest as that gnawing feeling in your stomach and also as fatigue, headaches, shakiness, irritability and moodiness. When we are physically hungry, we should eat!

2.     Emotional Hunger is when you have an unmet emotional need that increases your desire to eat. I personally hate that emotional eating has a negative connotation as I truly believe emotional eating is normal and healthy eating. A lot of people refer to binge eating as emotional eating, but these are actual separate. Binge eating is used to not feel emotion at all, and to instead shut it out. By bingeing, we are not meeting our emotional need and instead are suppressing it.

Emotional hunger can also be confused with physical hunger.  The difference is that emotional hunger comes on quickly and is usually coupled with an uncomfortable or intense emotion which can be sadness, anxiety, lonliness, and also extreme joy.  You feel it more in your head than in your stomach and can therefore come on an hour or two after eating.

3.     Taste Hunger is present when you are craving something specific.  Meaning a certain food just sounds dang good! An example of this is being at a wedding and wanting a slice of the cake because it sounds really good, even if you just ate a big dinner. It can be the same at a restaurant when you are satisfied with your meal and want a dessert.  This usually means you are eating when you are not hungry, and remember, you are allowed to eat when you are not hungry and that is totally normal!

4.     Necessity Hunger isn’t truly hunger but rather a need to eat in anticipation of hunger later when you won’t be able to eat. Let’s say you are at work and you have back to back meeting coming up, during which you will likely get hungry.  Although you are not hungry in the moment, you eat in order to stay ahead of the inevitable hunger. Remember that this “hunger” is valid and very important to pay attention to.

5.     Nutrient Hunger comes from our need for nourishment. Aka, you head to Vegas for a bachelorette party and you come back craving veggies and green juice. Or you are craving red meat after you finish your menstrual cycle and enter the follicular phase. Our bodies are smart, they know exactly what nutrients we need and when. Diets such as keto, paleo or being vegan can remove entire healthy food groups with essential nutrients that our bodies may need and be asking for when we are restricting.


Are Green Juices Good For You?

Think twice before you order your next green juice with added fruits.  Apples, pineapples, grapefruit, orange… they may make your juice taste sweeter, and cut the taste of the veggies, but juicing removes the fiber and all of its benefits. So what does that actually mean? And, are green juices good for you?

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The short answer is yes, the green juice benefits are great for you and provide vitamins and nutrients from the vegetables for energy, good digestion and also boost our immune system. What is not so good for you are green juices with added fruit.  Juices made with fruit are stripped of their fiber content, causing the sugar in fruits (such as added apple, orange, pineapple, etc.) to be absorbed faster into your system and therefore spiking blood sugar levels. This can change your cravings throughout the day as insulin is released from your pancreas to lower blood sugar levels and in the meantime can change what your hunger hormones are telling you for satiety. For example, have a veggie and fruit juice by itself and you might be hungry an hour later. Or crave more sugar later in the day.

Really this means that drinking fruit juice without the fiber, can have the same impact on your system as eating white table sugar.

This is because fruit contains fructose, just as honey, maple syrup and white table sugar do. So, what’s the difference? FIBER. Fruit contains fiber, while other sources of sugar do not. When you eat fruit in its whole form, you get the benefits of the fiber – which helps to break down the sugars (fructose) for slower absorption.  Meaning, as your system digests fruit in its whole form it has to break down the fiber first, slowing the absorption of sugar into you blood. Thus curbing cravings and keeping you more satiated.

 Fruit contains both soluble and insoluble fiber.  Soluble fiber stabilizes blood sugar, slows absorption and reduces cholesterol. Your small intestine absorbs the nutrients and fructose for energy and the insoluble fiber drops down into your large intestine where it pushes waste through your digestive tract, making digestion quicker and helps with more regular bowel movements.

Here’s my advice, when buying your daily green juice keep it just veggies with no fruit.  Eat your fruit whole or blend it into a smoothie so you get the benefits of the fiber. And if you are craving a big glass of orange juice, or a pineapple and veggie juice, have it with a snack that contains fiber or use it as a base for your smoothie and add in ground flax or chia seeds. Your health will thank you!


The Best Healthy Fats to Add to Your Smoothie

Food is something that is so personal to all of us. We all have our own unique bodies and cravings. And although I am not one who believes in diets or following a strict meal plan, I do believe that fats are important to consume every morning WITH YOUR breakfast, and especially in your smoothie.  I AM giving you a full list of healthy fats to add to your smoothies, while still making intuitive choices for what Your bodies crave and need every single day.

My chocolate cherrie smoothie with avocado and chia seeds, hooray for fats!

My chocolate cherrie smoothie with avocado and chia seeds, hooray for fats!

Since smoothies are packed full of nutrients from the fruit and veggies, we need fat to help better absorb and get the benefits from vitamins such as Vitamins A, C, D, E and K. We also need fat in our smoothies to keep us full until our next meal. Have you ever whipped up a fruit, veggies and protein smoothie only to be hungry 2 hours later? Adding in fats helps to keep you full and satiated longer so that you are not starving, and don’t need a snack, between breakfast and lunch.

The good news is that there are so many ways to add fats to your breakfast smoothie, depending on what you are craving that day, so you can make the intuitive choice for the combo you crave!

Plant Based Fats
Avocado – add 1/4 large avocado to 1/2 small avocado

Coconut milk – use 1 cup canned coconut milk as your base

Coconut oil – use 1 tbsp. liquid coconut oil (MCT oil) which won’t harden when cold

Nuts and Seeds
Nut butter – add 1 tbsp. unsweetened almond, cashew, walnut, hazelnut or pecan butter (use my code BBM25 for 25% off)

Seed butter – add 1 tbsp. unsweetened sunflower seed butter

Chia Seeds or Ground Flax Seeds – add 1 tbsp. to help thicken your smoothie and add Omega-3’s

Whole Milk Dairy
Goat Milk Kefir – use 1 cup as the base of your smoothie, goat milk is easier to digest that cow’s milk dairy because of lower lactose (milk sugar) and casein (milk protein) and added benefits of probiotics.

Whole Milk Yogurt – use 1 cup as the base of your smoothie with a splash of water or coconut water to help blend. Make sure to choose an organic brand with good probiotic cultures such as Straus or Nancy’s.

To create the perfect smoothie, make sure you are adding at least one of these fats from the list above or a maximum of two. Going overboard on fats will be too much on your digestive system.

Make sure to share your favorite smoothie combinations with healthy fats by tagging me on Instagram where I also share my recipes as well.


Does Binge Eating differ from emotional eating and over eating?

I GET Asked this question quite often, so i wanted to answer it for you Here on my blog. As we navigate our relationship with food and heal any disordered eating tendencies, it’s easy to get caught up in what is “right” versus “wrong.” Truth is there is no black and white answer, or perfect relationship with food. But learning how to differentiate between normal and disordered eating will help you along the way. Because we all should be enjoying our food and creating a safe space for ourselves to have a loving relationship with what and how we eat.

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The answer to this question is simple. YES. There is a difference between the following:

 

1)    Binge eating

2)    Emotional eating

3)    Eating when you are not hungry/past the point of being full.

 

It is important to know the difference and separate them. They can also go together, so it is important to know that too.

 

Binge eating, as many of you know, is damaging to both your physical and mental health. Binge eating is tied directly to the urge (not the emotions) to binge. Bingeing feels out of your control and usually is "emotionless" and results in you "blacking out" and eating to the point of not being able to stop so that you feel sick and physically ill afterwards, often until the next day. Binge eating is often followed by feelings of guilt, shame and sadness which can often continue the cycle of binge eating.

 

Emotional eating can be categorized as normal eating behavior. But it is important to note only if this is separated from and does not lead to a binge. We eat when we are sad, lonely and also when we are happy and feeling joy. It is ok to eat when you are emotional if you are AWARE in the moment and is consistent with present thoughts that might say something like "yes I am aware I am eating because I am emotional, and I can stop when I want to." It is also important to be aware that binge eating is emotionless. When you binge eat, the urge is strong and present but your emotions then fall way during a binge and you are not aware or present. 

 

Eating when you are not hungry or eating past being full can also be categorized as normal eating behaviors. The difference is that you have control over the urge and you can stop if you wanted to. These can also be defined simply as "mindless eating" and not binge eating. We often eat when we are not hungry because we are bored or to fill the time. We can become mindful of this by mentally checking in with ourselves when we are bored, and ask ourselves "Am I hungry, or just bored? What else can I do to fill this space?"

 

Eating past being full can also be categorized as normal eating. When this takes place we are able to identify that we over ate and also listen to and trust our body that it will balance itself out. We aren't able to intuitively listen to our bodies all the time because of well, life and all it's wonderful distractions, and therefore we normally overeat or under eat. When eating past the point of being full or eating when you are not hungry leads to a binge (as explained above), this is when it is categorized as ED behavior.

 

I work with clients on separating these three behaviors and overcoming the binge/restrict cycle. It is important to note that the journey to full recovery is difficult and working with a health coach like me to form new habits with food will be beneficial for your mental, emotional and physical health in the long run.

You can book a consult call with me here. 

Pricing for all my programs is found here.

 


My 6 Tips To Stay Regular And Avoid Constipation When Traveling

We have all been there. Day 4 into vacation and you haven’t been able to go to the bathroom. It’s uncomfortable, embarrassing and just plain awful. When we travel or go on vacation, our natural rhythms are thrown off by air travel, time zones and being out of routine. Many off us struggle with digestion and regularity when we travel, but it doesn’t have to always be a thing! Staying on our normal routine can be helpful, but I have 6 of my top tips to “keep things moving” below so that you can relax and enjoy yourself.

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1. HYDRATE! Probably the most important but one we often forget about. Drinking enough water starts the day that we go to the airport and get on our flight, not just on the airplane (although that is very important)! Be conscious of how much water you drink the day of your flight. My rule of thumb is drinking enough water on a travel day so that I am using the restroom every two hours beforehand. I bring a bottle of water with me to the airport and drink half on the drive there and the other half while checking in/in the security line. I bring a stainless steel SWELL BOTTLE with me so I can immediately refill again before boarding my flight.

Don’t be shy to ask for as much water as you want on the flight, select an aisle seat and maintain every two hour bathroom breaks (except if overnight flight so you can catch some Zzzz’s). I always ask flight attendants to refill my stainless steel water bottle and I also ask for hot water for tea. This is my go to GINGER TEA to drink on flights and also while traveling to help with digestion.

2. Magnesium. My go-to supplement for traveling because it helps to reduce water retention (with the help of compression socks too), is a natural sleep aid and also relaxes your intestines to keep you regular. Triple threat! I like to take Magnesium nightly (400-500mg) and will start this ritual 1-2 days before my travel in the time zone I am traveling to. For example, if I am traveling to New York from San Francisco and my usual bed time is 11pm, I will take magnesium at 7pmPST (11pmEST). This help to get me on schedule so my natural biorhythm catches up quickly. Here is the magnesium supplement I take which is the best for regularity and constipation relief, in my opinion.

3. Digestive Enzymes. When we travel we tend to try new foods that we don’t typically eat at home and also eat our a lot more than usual. Add this on to any time changes, plus eating outside of your normal routine, and this can cause digestive upset and backed up pipes. Here are the digestive enzymes I take when I travel. I keep a few in my purse and take two right before each meal with a glass of water. I notice such a big difference.

4. SLEEP. Getting proper rest and good sleep while you travel is important. Start the night before you depart with at least 8 hours of restful sleep. When you are traveling across time zones on long flights, time your sleep on the plane for the place you are going to. This will help you adjust better when you get there. I always use a sleep mask to block out any light. This is the sleep mask I have used for years and love for travel and using at home too.

Using magnesium for sleep on the plane as well as melatonin can be helpful. For melatonin I recommend no more than 3mg to 5mg as your body naturally doesn’t promote more than this on it’s own. Here’s a good quality melatonin I use.

5. Move! Sitting on an airplane for more than 5 hours at a time will slow down any “movement” on the inside. Take breaks to walk up and down the aisles. On larger trans-atlantic planes I have always found a little nook by the doors of the plane where I can do simple squats or jumps to get my blood flow going without the whole plane seeing me! Upon arriving in your destination, rather than going straight to the beach or to sleep, I suggest going on a 15-20 minute walk to get things moving. It’s also a great way to explore the new city you are in and check out what is near your hotel or Airbnb!

6. Drink a Smoothie. Yup, if you know be by now you know I love smoothies. They work wonders for digestion as well as constipation. Check out my tips on How To Make A Perfect Smoothie. I suggest having one the morning of your flight using a tbsp. of chia seeds or ground flax for added fiber. You can also bring a blender bottle with you to make your own smoothie. When you get to the airport, order a steamed cup of almond or coconut milk from a Peet’s or Starbucks. Add this to your blender bottle with an individual packet or prepacked scoop of chocolate protein and an individual packet of coconut oil. This will melt right into the steamed milk and lubricate your intestines for regularity. Plus it tastes like hot chocolate! I love these two chocolate protein powders: collagen protein and vegan protein.

Last but not least, remember to enjoy yourself on your vacation and to not stress about the small things. It’s not always about choosing the healthiest thing on the menu, but rather enjoying yourself and trying a few new things! Balance this out with one veggie heavy dish daily, or find a local smoothie bar and grab a green smoothie for breakfast!

Are Bananas Really A Health Food?

About a year ago, and after much denial, I realized that bananas give me brain fog. The type of brain fog where I find it hard to concentrate with a very “heavy” feeling in my head for much of the day. Brought on by my lingering candida, symptoms like brain fog can creep in with too much sugar in my diet, even from fruit. If by all means possible, this is something that I like to avoid so I have reluctantly cut bananas out of my diet for the most part. This being said, THIS IS WHAT WORKS FOR ME AND MY BODY.

Alongside this personal realization about bananas, I noticed in the wellness community that there is an ongoing debate about whether or not this popular fruit is actually good for you. In the diet community, they are a big no-no.  A fruit that is high in sugar and must be cut out if your goal is weight loss. So much chatter about a piece of fruit, so naturally I wanted to know what was up. What is true and what are some of the myths about bananas.

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WHO SHOULD AVOID BANANAS?

If you have been diagnosed with candida albicans then it is best to avoid bananas while you work with a health coach to get your candida symptoms under control. Eating a banana is like opening the windows of a house during a fire, it'll greatly feed the candida. Not only does one banana contain close to 30g of sugar per serving, making it one of the highest sugar fruits there is, but it is also very high in mold content which needs to be avoided at all costs for candida sufferers.

If you have an imbalance in hormones (low thyroid, PCOS, etc.), then bananas should be avoided as well. To get your period back, clear your acne, stop hair loss, and balance your mood and hormone levels, it is wise to keep sugar (as well as dairy and caffeine) out of your diet. But you will also want to take a close look at the other foods and beverages in your diet that might be working against you with your health coach or nutritionist. Bananas will not be the cause of any diagnosis, but taking a break from them (along with other foods) for a short period of time may help with your symptoms.

WILL BANANAS MAKE YOU FAT?

Nope. Bananas will not make you fat. The myth comes from the idea that if you want to lose weight, you need to cut out sugar and bananas are high in sugar.  As I always tell my clients, any highly restrictive dieting should only be as a means to an end for symptoms of a diagnosis, never for weight loss and only for 6-8 weeks maximum so as not to bring imbalance to your microbiome by cutting out certain nutrients.

But here is the thing, bananas are also high in fiber, potassium and magnesium. The high fiber content of bananas and the natural mineral relaxer, magnesium, are a natural remedy to ease and prevent constipation. Bananas can also be great for those who suffer from high blood pressure.   

What we should worry about is not whether a banana will make us fat, but whether or not a banana is actually a health food. Some people claim that bananas are as close at it comes to a genetically modified food due to the fact that the bananas we eat today are a result of cloning to always grow and look and taste a certain way as well as resist disease. Let me explain first by giving you the cliff notes on their history and how they are grown today.

SO MR. BANANA, HOW DID YOU COME TO BE?

When you do the research on bananas you will find that this fruit has a complicated past.  Bananas that we eat today, look totally different from the bananas that we ate 100 years ago.  Up until the 1940s, Americans ate a banana varietal by the name of Gros Michel or “Big Mike.”  Gros Michels were sweet, creamy, and sturdy. You could throw them in a ship's cargo hold and they would show up at their destination, perfectly ripe and unbruised. I mean, I used to put a banana in my purse to snack on at work and within 30 minutes of transport it would emerged bruised and browned. Hmph.

As Big Mike gained popularity around the turn of the century and into the 1920s, these banana crops also suffered from a fungus known as the Panama Disease and by the 1940s it was endangered. In 1947 a new banana called the Cavendish was introduced.  Though the fruit was more delicate (hence the typical purse bruising) and less tasty, it was resistant to Panama disease. Cavendish bananas replaced the Gros Michel as the world's most popular banana by the 1950s. But the Cavendish are sterile, meaning the only way to keep growing them is through cloning. This is the banana that buy and eat today. Only through genetic modification can we create a banana that can resist the fungus.

IS A BANANA JUST A “FACTORY PRODUCT?”

When you think about it, virtually all of the cheap foods we find in the supermarket today — think potatoes, eggs, or ground beef — are the products of finely tuned, highly industrialized agricultural systems geared toward mass production. And, as Dan Koeppel details in his excellent book, Banana: The Fruit That Changed The World, bananas were among the first foods to be turned into a commodity. Fancy that.  And fancy that a man wrote an ENTIRE book about bananas. Now that is dedication. Koeppel goes as far as saying “It's almost wrong to think of the banana as a fruit, as a product of a what we traditionally think of as farm. The Cavendish banana is a factory product in every bit the same way that a potato chip or a BMW is."

So hold up, is a banana just an industrialized fruit?  All those Cavendish bananas also look and taste identical. And that's largely due to the fact that banana plants reproduce asexually.

When a farmer wants a new banana plant, he or she removes a part of an existing plant (either a side shoot, called a "sucker," or an underground root-like structure called a "corm") and puts it in the ground. In time, it will develop into its own genetically identical plant. Without sexual reproduction — a grain of pollen fertilizing an egg, as occurs with most other fruit species — there's no random variation among plants that growers need to worry about. Every banana you've ever eaten is a clone.

This is how virtually all commercially grown bananas are produced worldwide, and it means that every banana plant behaves in the same perfectly predictable manner. Their fruits grow at the same rate, in the same abundance, and ripen at precisely the same time.

ARE WE BANANAS TO EAT BANANAS?

From a nutritional standpoint, bananas are still a cellular food, meaning that they have a low carb density (percent of the food mass that is carbohydrate minus the fiber component). Versus potato chips which are an acelluar food and have a very high carbohydrate density. The carbohydrate density increases as more non-fibrous carbs are packed into a given quantity of food. So even though an author and research such as Koeppel claims that the banana is the same as potato chips he is missing one key fact: nutrients. Bananas are full of fiber, magnesium and potassium.

True you can get adequate amounts of potassium from other foods such as sweet potatoes and avocados without eating a fruit that has been cloned to perfection. And that’s really the bothersome thing here – that we have been eating a cloned fruit for nearly 75 years. One that people have developed allergies and intolerances too as well as one that does have 30g of sugar (fiber or no fiber).

Although we are not bananas to eat bananas, educate yourself on the facts to make a decision that is best for you regarding the foods you choose to have in your diet. In terms of health, yes berries for example will be higher in antioxidants and lower in sugar. But eating bananas every once in a while, is not going to make you fat and surely won’t kill you either.


Why Sourdough Bread is Good for You

I have always been a big supporter of sourdough bread. Meaning I regularly give money to a baker to provide me with loaves of gluten goodness. But my affinity for fat slices of fresh baked sourdough goes further. I wanted to understand (and therefore researched and read many studies) the biochemical processes that take place during sourdough fermentation. Why does this process make sourdough easy to digest? Why does some bread cause digestive discomfort and bloat? Why is sourdough healthier than ordinary or commercial breads? I'm answering these questions for you because let's face it, if science tells us to eat bread then you EAT THE BREAD. 

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So why is sourdough bread good for you? The magic is in the sourdough fermentation and understanding two key words: Phytic Acid. This process of fermentation transforms the bread, increasing the bioavailability of key nutrients and boosting the nutritional content of the bread. The fermentation process helps to break down phytic acidbut why is that so important? 

Phytic Acid

First you must understand the simple anatomy of a seed and which components are important for digestion and nutrient absorption. All grains start life as whole grains. In their natural state growing in fields, whole grains are the entire seed of a plant. This seed is made up of three key edible parts – the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. There has been a lot of research done on the link of digestive disorders and IBS to bread, indicating that the storage of phosphorus in seeds is found in the bran part of wheat and is called phytic acid.

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 This phytic acid inhibits enzymes which are needed for the breakdown of proteins and starch in your stomach. When we lack these enzymes, this results in digestive difficulties (and looking 6 months pregnant after eating bread). This is why commercially processed whole grain bread (whose labels trick us into thinking they are healthy by using the words "whole grain") is often the worst thing that a person with a wheat intolerance should eat.  

A lot of us have been conditioned to believe that any bread that appears white in color must be bad, and bread that appears brown in color must be good. Right? WRONG. Read your labels. Most commercial wheat breads contain dough conditioners, added sugars, preservatives and emulsifiers to bake bread at a faster rate. These additives are also to blame for some people's wheat intolerance. So why is sourdough better than commercially processed wheat breads? The wild yeast and naturally occurring lactobacillus (oh hey probiotic) can neutralize the phytic acid, therefore making it easier to digest. These phytic acid molecules bind with other minerals, just as zinc, iron, magnesium and calcium which makes these important nutrients unavailable to us. 

Give me the nutrients!

Long and slow fermentation of wheat can reduce phytates by up to 90%. In studies, sourdough fermentation versus yeast fermentation showed a more efficient breakdown of phytic acid as well as nutrient availability. Simply put, the phytase enzymes released by the yeast as the dough ferments effectively pre-digests the flour, which releases the micronutrients and in turn reduces bloating and digestive discomfort. To add to that, sourdough bread also takes longer to digest; studies have shown that rye flour added to sourdough can help regulate blood sugar as well.  A total win for bread! Sourdough is also a prebiotic, which helps to support your gut microbiome. There are some incredible studies emerging regarding bread and nutrients, and we are increasingly becoming aware of the links between gut microbial diversity and the association with good health. With evidence based studies, this information becomes more practical in our minds to understand how sourdough can support your health. 

A Balanced Diet

Eating sourdough is just a part of what makes a healthy diet.  Adding more nutrient dense food to your diet, particularly fermented foods such as sourdough bread, makes the nutrient more available and easier to absorb and digest. Many of us believe that bread is the enemy and can cause not only digestive discomfort but also weight gain. What's important is the type of bread that you buy.  Make sure it is from a baker, not commercially processed, and contains minimal indredients (whole wheat flour, sourdough culture and sea salt). Lifestyle, immune system support, blood sugar management, weight management and good digestion are all manageable without cutting out the foods you love. So support your gut microbiome and your health and grab a slice! And as always, listen to your body first over what any study says or what I tell you on here ;)

How important is it to buy organic fruits and vegetables?

I get this question a lot, and it is one I used to ask myself whenever I went grocery shopping and would balk at the price of an organic apple being over one dollar. Therefore, I did what I always do when I don’t have the answer, I investigated and educated myself on not only how important it is to buy organic and why, but also which fruits and vegetables are more important to buy organic versus others.  I am compiling what I found here, just for you!

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In my opinion, having a diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables is so important that I would rather have people eat non-organic / out of season / not local produce than not eat any at all. Especially if one dollar organic apples are not in your budget, or you live somewhere with a short growing season and long winter. Many people can’t afford to buy all organic all the time, and therefore it helps to know if it’s worth to pay extra for that apple or head of cauliflower.

The good news is that you don’t have to buy all organic produce to reduce your exposure to contamination. This list from the Environmental Working Group gives you the inside scoop on which fruits and vegetables contain the most chemicals and which ones are least contaminated so that you can make an informed choice to buy organic or not. I use it when shopping to help put some money back into my pocket.  Also, my basic rule of thumb when buying organic is to spend the money on the foods I eat the most.  For example, if you are eating berries and cucumbers every day then buy organic.   

Familiarize yourself with are these two lists:

THE DIRTY DOZEN a.k.a. the twelve most contaminated:

1.     Apples
2.     Celery
3.     Tomatoes
4.     Cucumbers
5.     Grapes
6.     Hot peppers + bell peppers
7.     Nectarines
8.     Peaches
9.     Potato
10.  Berries
11.  Collard Greens
12.  Kale + lettuce

 

THE CLEAN FIFTEEN a.k.a. the fifteen least contaminated:

1.     Asparagus
2.     Avocados
3.     Cabbage
4.     Cantaloupe
5.     Sweet Corn (be wary of GMOs and buy local)
6.     Eggplant
7.     Grapefruit
8.     Kiwi
9.     Mangoes
10.  Cauliflower
11.  Onions
12.  Papaya
13.  Pineapples
14.  Sweet peas
15.  Sweet potatoes

And what about fruits and vegetables that are not on these lists? Like bananas for example? I label bananas as peeled fruits, like mangoes, avocados and kiwis, and therefore I don’t typically buy organic.

Although one thing to think about with peeled fruits is although the thick skins may spare you from significant pesticide exposure, it is possible that large amounts of pesticides and herbicides are used on the farms from which these originate, contaminating groundwater, promoting erosion and also possibly damaging local ecosystems. To help keep contamination out of your food and the environment, it’s best to buy organic when you can. Educate yourself and make smart decisions about your food.  Your health will thank you!


What Processed Food Did to my Health in 4 Days

I did a little accidental experimentation over the holidays.  While traveling through Tennessee and Kentucky to visit my boyfriend’s family I was faced with the challenge of either eating a plethora of processed foods or not eating at all. Instead of choosing the latter, I chose instead to dive full on into eating a standard American breakfast, lunch and dinner of whatever was being served. I wanted to see what would happen to my body and health as a result.  It was just for four days, what harm could it really do?

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Before I tell you the surprising things that happened, let me give you a brief history of my own food choices and health journey.  

THE SHIFT TO REAL FOOD
I have been off chemically processed foods for over 10 years, eliminating them out of my diet by choice and also by necessity for my health.  Realistically it is almost impossible to cut out all processed foods from your diet, even bagged spinach and tahini are considered processed, but what I write about in this post considers food products that contain chemically processed ingredients (preservatives, sugars, etc.) that in my opinion can’t truly be called “food” as most chemically processed food is devoid of any nutrients.

I had my gallbladder removed 10 years ago as a culmination of many health issues including IBS, candida, weight gain, chronic yeast and bladder infections, digestion pain so bad that I couldn’t get out of bed unless I was going to the toilet, migraines, recurring bronchitis and upper respiratory infections, inflammation and the list goes on. I commonly referred to myself as a lemon. I worked long hours in my banking job, all I wanted to do was excel and achieve success. As a result, I gained 20 pounds and got really sick. After hitting dead ends with conventional western doctors and taking medications that caused other symptoms that were often worse, I tried whole food nutrition as medicine.  No doctor ever asked me what I was eating, and so I knew I needed to take matters into my own hands with what I ate.

I used to live off of processed food like frozen burritos and Stouffer’s mac and cheese, so eating real ingredient food was both challenging and confusing at the same time.  It took practice.  I had gotten so used to eating what everyone else around me was eating that I lost control of my body. I used to be convinced that calories were king. Instead, I taught myself how to read the ingredients on labels. I learned how to cook. How to pay attention to what my body was telling me.  What happened changed my life. All my ailments simply vanished and I was able to maintain my weight by changing my diet and eating real food with no chemically processed ingredients. Not only that but my skin, energy, sleep, mental clarity and mood all improved beyond what I expected. I remember at first being addicted to the energy that good food gave me, almost like a runner’s high.

Not only did real and whole foods rid me of all my symptoms and made me feel alive and well again, but they tasted better. I found that I was fuller faster and fuller longer when eating nutrient rich food, which I truly believe is the key to weight loss and good health.

WHAT I ATE
Ok, back to processed foods. Here is a short list of common processed ingredients found in what I ate over the holidays as well as pantry staples including salad dressing, bacon, maple syrup, jam, peanut butter, bread, and because we are in the South, Pillsbury biscuits.

-       High fructose corn syrup

-       Caramel color

-       Mono and Diglycerides

-       Calcium propionate

-       Sorbic acid

-       Sucralose

-       Sodium Benzoate

-       Calcium Disodium EDTA

-       Maltodextrin

-       Glycerin

-       Nitrates

-       Hydrogenated vegetable oils

-       Cellulose gum

-       Hydrolyzed corn protein

-       Modified food starch

This list may have been longer, considering I didn’t have access to all the ingredients/labels of food I ate, or knowledge of how food was prepared in restaurants (I ditched my usually MO of questions for waiters prior to ordering, this is not something that is probably customary at a Waffle House).

From December 23rd to December 26th I dove in to my old diet, it was kind of like visiting an old friend.  Or maybe better described as a toxic ex-boyfriend who took me years to break up from because I was convinced I loved him. That is until I knew what love and self-respect really was in finding real food. But I digress. And I have to admit it was hard to shake current healthy food habits. Trying to pick the “healthiest” of unhealthy options was thrown out the window.  Instead, I went back to habits of eating what everyone else was eating during family brunches, dinners and restaurant outings. I will also caveat that I didn’t drink alcohol during this period. Also, due to unseasonably cold weather and long driving distances, these four days were largely sedentary. So what happened was a result of not only eating standard American processed food, but also being sedentary with no exercise and hardly any walking. It really went like this: Bed – car – relative’s house – couch – car – relative’s house – car – couch – bed. Repeat.

WHAT HAPPENED
What happened as a result was both surprising as well as expected.  Again, the toxic ex-boyfriend. Surprised by his actions but also expected given past experiences. Here is a list of my symptoms over the course of four days:

-       Bloating and gas. I will say, that I am not free of either of these symptoms with my current diet, as gas is natural as we pass certain foods through our digestive systems, but this was different. The gas was unreal and smelled horrendous.  My poor boyfriend, I had to step out of the room a few times it was so bad. I mean, I am not calling myself a saint or saying I have the perfect digestive system and I poop roses. But I will say I haven’t smelt gas like this before from my body. I was shocked.

-       Interrupted sleep. Not only did I find it hard to go to sleep, but also waking up again and again during the night.

-       Anxiety. The feeling of wanting to crawl out of my own skin.  This could have been the result of not exercising, but I cannot remember the last time I experienced heightened anxiousness for no apparent reason. I mean, I was on vacation and relaxing!

-       Bad breath. Morning breath was in full force and by the afternoon I had dry mouth and a bitter taste.

-       Shift in cravings. The more I ate, the more I wanted. I became a bottomless pit and surprised myself by how much food I could take down in one sitting.

-       Cellulite. This is something I battled endlessly when I ate a diet of processed foods. It took years for it to clear up and for me to be confident in wearing shorts and bathing suits. But in less than a week it all came back.

-       Weight Gain.  I gained four pounds (note: I weighed myself at the beginning and at the end of our 2-week trip). Imagine if I kept on going. By my calculations I would gain just over 100 pounds in one year. And that is just weight.  What else would happen to my health? Would all of my ailments come back and more? I kept thinking of Fast Food nation and his doctor advising him to stop or he would die. (If you haven’t seen this movie, I highly recommend it).

In 2017, it was reported that Americans are the fattest we have ever been. It makes sense, as most Americans live a sedentary life of bed – car – office – car – couch – bed and eat a diet of processed foods. Can we point the finger at ourselves or directly back at the food companies and our government? The majority of products (I have read this number is over 80%) on grocery store shelves, and the list above, come from one of two sources, corn and soy crops, both subsidized by our government and used to make junk food chemicals that serve no nutritional purpose for the body but to sell food faster and cheaper.

Today, I wouldn’t be where I was unless I found real food.  I encourage you all to ask yourself the very important question of what is in your food? By eliminating chemically processed foods from my diet I was able to maintain my weight, get off of prescription drugs and all my health ailments vanished.

Ask yourself the question, will this food give me nutrition or deficiency? Set out on your own mission of exploration. What is in your food and how can you live the healthiest life possible? In my opinion, eating well is the highest form of self-respect.  Well, that and leaving your toxic boyfriend or girlfriend behind ;)


Nutrition TipsMolly Alliman