In order to get a rainbow of nutrients, we need to eat a rainbow of foods. Most of the color in our diets comes from fruits and vegetables, and especially berries. Berries typically have a high concentration of pigments, which contain powerful antioxidants called anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are known as powerful antioxidants, and they’re also good for strengthening blood vessels and the neurological system. These colorful phytochemicals are really what make many berries the super foods they are.

Antioxidants defend against free radicals that are responsible for aging and age-related diseases.  Studies show that eating 10 servings of fruits and vegetables can have dramatic effects on your body’s protection against free radicals. By adding more deeply pigmented fruits and vegetables to your diet, you increase the nutritional value of the food you eat. By adding more colorful varieties, you greatly increase the amount of nutrients that you consume.

Scientists suggest getting at least 3,000-5,000 ORAC units in your diet everyday to provide your body with optimal antioxidant protection against damaging free radicals. One cup of blueberries is about 3,200 units and I find it easy to eat a cup of blueberries. If you don’t like blueberries, look for foods with a high ORAC value like other berries, as well as kale, spinach, red grapes and Brussel sprouts. (Message me with your email to get a full list of high ORAC foods and their major health benefits.)

Eating richly colored foods high in antioxidants are your best protection against age related diseases, not to mention sun damage. When you make your next plate, give yourself the challenge of adding as many colors of fruits and vegetables as possible. What’s your favorite most colorful dish?

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Beautiful Skin- From the Inside Out!

There are so many products on the market that claim to help with aging skin, but as with all real beauty, it starts from the inside. When most people think of healthy skin, they think about what they put on their skin like cleansers, lotions and make-up. What you put on your body is important, but so is what you put in your body. Here are some tips to help your skin be radiant and healthy this summer:

HYDRATE- Drinking plenty of water will help your skin to retain its moisture and also help flush toxins from your system.

MIND YOUR FATS- Using high quality oils will work from the inside out. Extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil are both good choices. Olive oil is best for dressings and low heat cooking because of its low smoke point, while coconut oil is great for high heat cooking. Either can be used at any temperature, but oils vary at what temperature they begin to degrade, which is when free radicals begin to form and cause cell damage. Limit fried food. Coconut Oil is high in antioxidants which defend against free radicals.

EAT LOTS OF FRESH FRUITS AND VEGETABLES- Enjoying a rainbow of fruits and vegetables is the best way to get lots of antioxidants and a variety of nutrients. Vitamin C is great for our skin and antioxidants help minimize free radical damage from the sun and environmental toxins.

REDUCE YOUR SUGAR INTAKE- Do this for many reasons, like your energy level or ability to focus, but sugar really takes a toll on your skin by speeding up the aging process. Sugar is responsible for the breakdown of collagen and elastin, the proteins that keep your skin firm and smooth.

WEAR A GOOD SUNSCREEN- Ok, so there are many different opinions and this is mine. The sun is harsh and we need protection, even on cloudy days as the UV rays can cause damage. The only better way to protect your skin is to avoid prolonged exposure. There is much debate around which sunscreens are best, but I prefer to use a zinc based sunscreen. An Australian study showed that those who wore sunscreen had 24% less signs of damage over 4 and a half years. Some argue that the chemicals in the sunscreen are causing the rise in skin cancer. Do your own research and decide for yourself.

USE PURE SKIN CARE PRODUCTS- Our skin absorbs what we put on it. The bright green aloe that people use when they get sunburn makes me wonder how good that can be for your skin. Pure aloe is expensive and never turns bright green naturally. Some natural skin care products contain hidden ingredients, like dyes that can be detrimental. Most natural food stores carry a good selection of products and a staff who can help you choose or learn about what to avoid. There are many resources which rate the hazards of common beauty products and ingredients.

GET SOME R & R- Those who eat more sugar tend to experience more anxiety and stress, which is linked to insomnia. Lack of sleep and stress play a role in how our skin regenerates too. While you sleep deeply your skin’s metabolic rate increases, allowing your skin cells to repair damage from UV rays and other environmental factors. There is truth to needing your beauty sleep!

 

To learn more about beauty from the inside out contact me for a free 15 minute consultation to find out how I can help you!

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Why did they change the food pyramid? Because it wasn’t promoting healthy eating. In 2011, partly as a response to a rise in obesity and diabetes, the USDA introduced “My Plate” to represent the revised standards for the American diet they released in 2010.

The updated image shows a plate divided into 4 sections and a side. About half of the plate is made of fruits and vegetables with the other half being grains and protein. It shows a little more grain than protein, and a little more vegetable than fruit. It also includes a small side of dairy. This was definitely a healthy upgrade from the previous food pyramid which suggested half as many servings of vegetables as grains. The old pyramid suggested up to 11 servings from the “Bread, cereals, rice and pasta group,” and also suggested equal amounts of dairy and protein.

While this new version is better by far, Harvard School of Public Health has taken this new model offered by the USDA and addressed inadequacies of the new guidelines. They created what they call “The Healthy Eating Plate.” For those of us who don’t adapt well to change, they’ve also created an updated version of the pyramid. The foundation of this pyramid pictures balanced eating and exercise.

Harvard enhances their plate with a reminder to stay active and adds water on the side. It also has a side item, but suggests healthy oils rather than dairy. Milk is a limited menu item, along with juice and a reminder to avoid sugary drinks. Dairy is included as a protein and is also suggested in limited amounts, as is red meat. Healthy proteins include fish, poultry and Beans. The Harvard version doesn’t set a maximum number of calories from fat, suggesting that eating a balanced diet and choosing healthy oils is enough for a healthy diet.

This healthier version also advises that half the plate be fruits and vegetables, but it recommends about 2/3 vegetables and 1/3 fruit, instead of closer to half and half. Fruits have more sugar and should be eaten more conservatively than vegetables. They updated the “Grain” category, that once suggested mostly refined flour products, and they call it “Whole Grains,” to remind us to eat more of these and less refined products. Eating whole grains gives you more nutrition from the plants too, like more fiber.

Take a look at “The Healthy Plate” here and if you need guidance on how to better fill your plate contact me to set up a free 15-minute consultation to learn how I can help you!

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My Favorite Butternut Squash Soup

This is one of my favorite recipes. It’s just so good… I’ve adapted it over the years and simplified it some. I prefer to use coconut milk, but regular milk can be used also. The soup has warming spices and lots of fiber, so it can be very filling. Butternut squash is high in potassium and has ample A & B vitamins. Enjoy!

“CREAMY” SPICED BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP

2 TSP COCONUT OIL

1 LARGE ONION (Sweet or Yellow)

1 1/2 CUPS APPLESAUCE (or 3cups apples, cored, sliced and peeled)

2 LBS BUTTERNUT SQUASH

2 TSP CURRY POWDER

1 TSP GROUND GINGER

1 TSP SALT

½ TSP CINNAMON

1 CUP COCONUT MILK

¼ CUP ROASTED CASHEWS (optional)

GOAT CHEESE CRUMBLES (optional)

GREEN ONIONS FOR GARNISH (optional)

Peel the squash, then cut in half and remove the seeds and pulp. Slice the squash about ¼ thick and set aside. Peel and slice the onion.

In a large saucepan, heat the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently for 3-5 minutes, or until translucent. Add the curry powder, ginger, salt, and cinnamon, and stir to combine.

Turn the heat down and let the onions and herbs cook at a very low temperature for 5-10 minutes without burning them. Add the applesauce and let it cook for about 5 minutes.

Add the squash, plus 3 cups of water; cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes, or until squash is tender.

Transfer to a food processor until smooth, or use an immersion blender/hand blender. Return mix to the pan, add the coconut milk, and whisk to combine. Cover over low heat and simmer gently for 5 minutes.

Goat cheese is delicious in this soup, but if you want it to stay vegan serve with roasted cashews and green onions. Pepitas or toasted pumpkin seeds also work well. (recipe updated 02/02/2019)

Butternut Squash Soup_Recipes_1007x545

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Black Bean Brownies

For my birthday this year I made black bean brownies as an experiment. After searching through numerous recipes looking for one that was simple, and that might actually work, I found one that looked promising. I honestly don’t remember where I got the original recipe, but I adapted it based on my pantry supplies. I even made a carob version that was delicious, but will need revision before I post it here. This recipe is full of sugar, I admit that, but it is also a delicious brownie that seems like a better choice for me rather than using any flour.

Ingredients:

1- 15oz can of black beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided

3 Tablespoons Safflower oil or Avocado oil

3 eggs

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1/2 tsp vanilla powder (GF) or 1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350°. In a food processor blend beans, oil and 1/4 cup chocolate chips and process until blended. Add the eggs, brown sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, baking powder and salt and process until smooth. Spray 24 mini muffin cups with oil, you will have big mini muffins or you will have a little extra batter. Top with the rest of the chocolate chips. Bake for 10-15 minutes until toothpick in center comes out clean. Allow them to cool and serve. They keep without refrigeration in an airtight container for several days. The best part is watching people react after you tell them they just ate beans!

 

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Meeting the Challenge of Diabetes

Diabetes is a disease that disrupts normal metabolism in the body causing high blood sugar levels. This is because of an inability to produce or properly respond to insulin, which is a hormone produced by the pancreas to help regulate blood sugar metabolism. Type 2 diabetes is also known as adult onset diabetes and makes up 90% of people with diabetes. It is most often caused by excess weight and lack of exercise.

The good news is that Type 2 diabetes is often prevented and sometimes treated with healthy lifestyle practices. While medicines are necessary for many people, diet and exercise changes are also important. Here are some basic nutritional tips:

Portion Size- always read labels for suggested serving sizes and know your limit

Balance your Fat, Carbohydrates and Protein- eat a balanced meal or snack, don’t eat only one type of food at a time

Reduce or Eliminate Refined Flours and Sugars- these are sugar to the body and includes nectars, syrups and honey

Avoid Sugar Free Foods- they aren’t necessarily low in carbohydrates and have added calories

Know your Carbs- vegetables should be your main source along with some whole grains, know the difference between simple and complex carbohydrates

Watch Low Fat Products- they’re often high in sodium and carbohydrates

Record and Track- monitor glucose every day and if you’re curious, record your diet to see how it changes (Good News- a new glucose test using tears is being researched for a pain-free testing option)

Get a One-on-One with a Dietitian or Nutrition Coach- they can offer support and guidance to keep you in alignment with your goals

Simple changes in your diet can have long lasting effects, but it’s important to remember that physical activity is equally important. A regular exercise program along with a healthy diet can help people with diabetes feel better by losing weight and possibly even reducing their medications.

 

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Help to Curb the Cravings

When you’re trying to avoid some of your favorite foods it can be a challenge to deal with your cravings. Yes, having strong willpower is helpful, but here are some practical tips to help you cope. If you’re on a specific diet make sure it includes a good breakfast with adequate protein. Research shows this can help people lose weight by feeling fuller longer.

When you do have a craving for something you can’t have don’t just ignore it, find a reasonable snack to replace it with instead. If you absolutely can’t resist, a great idea is to pair a healthy item with a little of what is not permitted. For example a small piece of cheese along with your vegetables and crackers. Many people just give up and don’t eat anything which makes things worse.

Cravings are emotional so sometimes we aren’t even hungry. We can be tired, stressed or anxious. Sometimes we distract ourselves by trying to eat the solution to our problems, which isn’t actually a solution. Find other ways to reward yourself like buying a bouquet of flowers or going for a walk. It’s also a great idea to remove temptation as much as possible and have permissible snacks readily available.

Another good piece of advice is to avoid food porn. When we’re on a restricted diet we sometimes look for recipes which can turn into absolute torture as we scroll our computer screens through pages of recipes with fantastic photos. Its fine to look for recipes, but don’t get stuck looking at all the pictures of foods you can’t have right now.

Be kind to yourself. Guilt and shame will not help you succeed. Allow yourself treats (of all kinds) and enjoy them thoroughly. Find something that can serve as a treat regardless of your goal or program. It will make the process easier and give you something to look forward to.

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How Do Probiotics Benefit Us?

Probiotics are microorganisms that are a healthy part of our immune system and have recently been linked to mood and brain health. They’re found in large colonies in the gut, but are found in other parts of our bodies too. They live in our digestive system to protect us from pathogens and help us detoxify. When the balance of helpful bacteria becomes imbalanced by harmful bacteria, our immunity and vitality can become compromised.

Many problems can arise from imbalanced gut flora including decreased nutrient absorption, yeast overgrowth, gas, bloating, diarrhea, stomach pain and other GI symptoms. Some researchers believe the increase of imbalanced gut flora is partly because of the overuse of antibiotic and antibacterial products and the ultra-pasteurization of food. They believe we have less opportunity to receive probiotics naturally from our food and some of us may need to eat more probiotic containing foods.

New studies are finding more and more connections with mood and probiotics. They’re looking at connections like reduced anxiety and fewer sad moods for those who take probiotics. Some believe that by increasing nutrient absorption people just feel better. There are many links to mood and malnutrition. Many of the chemicals needed by our brains are made in the gut, so a healthy gut may be more likely to produce the right amount of chemicals. They’re still trying to understand the connection and with all of the interest in probiotics we can look forward to more information in the near future.

Some sources of healthy probiotics are yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi and other fermented foods. Probiotic supplements are becoming very popular, but they’re not for everyone. Consult your health care provider before beginning any new supplements especially if you have concerns about your digestive health. When choosing a supplement find a high quality brand that is refrigerated (best) and has a few strains of probiotics.

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What Is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a wax-like fatty substance that is present in every cell of our bodies. Though it helps with a few other functions within the body it has three main purposes. It provides a coating for each cell in our body, produces bile salts for digestion and helps us convert vitamin d into a usable form. It travels through our bloodstream to the necessary places, but blood is like water and cholesterol like fat, so the two don’t mix. Our body has to package cholesterol with protein into particles called lipoproteins.

There are two basic types of lipoproteins. Low density and high density (LDL & HDL) lipoproteins vary by the amount of protein in the particle. HDL is considered the “healthy” cholesterol. It has higher protein allowing it to flow in the blood more freely. Unlike LDL which is likely to deposit itself in the arteries, HDL moves through the blood collecting excess fat and cholesterol from cells and tissues. It takes it to the liver to be processed into bile or get recycled.

Increasing HDL cholesterol can decrease the risk of heart disease and is affected by lifestyle. Exercise increases HDL where smoking decreases it. Following a low fat diet decreases saturated fat and LDL cholesterol. To lower your risk of high cholesterol and heart disease try using healthy oils like olive, flax, hemp and coconut oil. Eat foods high in good fat like cold water fish, avocados and walnuts. Avoid fried foods, trans-fats and hydrogenated oils. Reduce the amount of red meat and dairy and replace them with more vegetables on your plate.

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