Eat Real Food: Adopting a Natural, Organic Lifestyle

Eat Real Food: Adopting a Natural, Organic Lifestyle.

Like the athlete in this article, my husband discovered the same truth. Even though he had always been a very physical, athletic guy, he struggled for years with an extra 10+ pounds. But ever since he switched to eating a diet of “real” foods (mostly organic), his weight has pretty much remained in his optimal range.

As a nutritionist, I have always told my clients that if they eat a healthy diet, consisting mostly of real, natural food, their weight would fall in line. That’s not to say that just by eating organic a person will be thin. Calories still count in organic food. Too many organic cookies can still pack on the pounds. But when you eat organic, or at least real, unprocessed foods, your whole metabolic system works more efficiently.

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Might Alzheimer’s Disease Be “Foodborne”?

Might Alzheimer’s Disease Be “Foodborne”?.

After reading this article I reviewed several verified studies, and there does appear to be a possible link between meat and neurodegenerative diseases. This article (as well as others) argues that the culprit may be meat that is from CAFO animals (confined animal farming operations). Specifically, when animals are confined with hundreds of animals and eat a diet that may be tainted or not indigenous to the animal (ex: cows eating meat instead of plants) they could get sick and develop prions (basically infected proteins). Then they can pass on these prions to humans if we eat the meat with the prions (think mad cow disease).

The take-home message is that if you eat meat, it is probably a good idea to try to eat organic, or at least cage-free, plant-fed meats.

 

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6 Cancer Causers at Home You Should Get Rid Of – Healthy Holistic LivingHealthy Holistic Living

6 Cancer Causers at Home You Should Get Rid Of – Healthy Holistic LivingHealthy Holistic Living.

I stopped using all artificial scents years ago now and swear that is part of the reason my Fibromyalgia is more manageable (that and a clean diet and certain supplements).

I use essential oils and things like lemons and oranges to create natural scents. You can find lots of natural alternatives online or at natural grocery stores like Whole Foods and Earthfare.

Artificial scents have been linked to increased allergies, asthma attacks, eczema, headaches and even arthritis. Unfortunately, they can be found in so many everyday products, it’s tough to avoid them. But I have found great unscented or natural-scented products out there now like shampoos, soaps, cleaning products, nail polish and air fresheners. Check out my “Favorite Things” on my website for some of my favorites.

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How to Win an Argument With a Vegan

How to Win an Argument With a Vegan.

I don’t like the name of this article. I have never argued with a vegan, per se. In fact, I respect all people who make a conscious choice about the way they eat, it’s much better than people who don’t think about their food at all. However, I personally believe that eating a balanced (omnivore), natural diet is probably the healthiest diet for humans, and I am concerned that some new vegan food products are low in nutrients, and are harmful in the long run.

First let me talk about the positive side of choosing to eat vegetarian and vegan. Modern agribusiness farming is definitely having a negative impact on the earth. Livestock emits approximately 65% of the nitrous oxide into the atmosphere, which is even more potent that carbon dioxide. Water is also used in excess to raise animals for food. And more than 1/3 of all fossil fuels are used to raise livestock. Aside from the damage this practice causes to the earth, the current inhumane methods of containing animals in closed, dirty quarters and feeding them food that is not indigenous to them, injecting them with antibiotics and hormones and then of course slaughtering them in often gruesome ways; are all unhealthy practices for everyone.

So I get it why many people (especially after watching movies today about these inhumane farming methods) have chosen to avoid eating animal products. But agricultural farming practices are also harming the planet. The use of pesticides is causing a massive kill-off of bees, we waste tons of water on primitive irrigation processes, GMO’s are unhealthy for everyone and we over till the land stripping it of vital nutrients that we don’t replenish. So it seems neither way is sustainable for the earth.  

It is becoming more and more obvious that we need to create and use more sustainable farming practices. But cutting out one food source to achieve this unfortunately leaves us with a less than optimal diet for human health. I compare this choice to the current “green” building rage in our country. My husband and I chose to build an “energy-efficient” or “green” house about 5 years ago. We wanted a house that used up less energy and created a smaller “footprint” on the planet. A good cause- right?

We thought so. But once we started to undertake this project we quickly learned that there were many trade-offs in building green that were not really so healthy in the long-run. Our builder recommended we use spray-in foam for the insulation because it provides the highest level of insulation on the market today. And the more insulated a house is, the less energy is wasted. Makes sense. But what they don’t tell you is that the spray itself is very toxic to humans. In fact they have to wear specific suits and head gear when spraying it, so as not to come into contact with it. Basically it is made from polyurethane, which many studies are showing has a very bad impact on our endocrine systems and may cause many health problems. (tip: use natural insulation made from recycled blue jeans, or formaldehyde-free fiberglass)

There were several other “green” building practices that we would do differently today now that we have learned which ones are unhealthy for us, even if they are more energy-efficient (I will save for another article). Point is, we need to figure out how to provide healthy choices for us that also benefit the planet. That’s why I advocate more for healthier farming practices so that we can eat meat in a more sustainable way. Also, as a nutritionist, I recommend we all eat much less meat (I obviously don’t advocate for the Paleo diet either), and we shouldn’t eat any processed meat (think hot dogs, deli meat, etc).

Now on to the bad side of eating a vegan diet. If you choose to eat all natural, unprocessed vegetables, fruits, grains and some plant-based fats, then you are probably getting most of the nutrients you need, and may be able to maintain a healthy life (although you should still probably take supplements for B12 and D3- very tough to get without meat/fish sources). What I take issue with is the vegan meat substitutes out there today. Most of them are not healthy choices, and in fact can be detrimental for your health.

The main ingredient used in vegan meat substitutes is TVP (texturized vegetable protein). This is a man-made product made mostly from soybeans. Basically soy flour is extruded into various shapes and is heated to a degree that is becomes a “thermoplastic” protein. Yes, “plastic”. It becomes a polymer which makes it mostly indigestible. There is much controversy out there whether TVP is safe. Bottom line, TVP is not found in nature and as history has shown time and again, “processed” food is not healthy for us.

Also, vegans tend to eat more soy products overall, which in their natural state probably are healthy in moderation, but eating too much soy may predispose a person to other health issues. Some vegans also consume more protein-based shakes, which can create an imbalance of nutrients if they are ingesting too much protein. And many shakes are filled with unnatural ingredients that can cause other problems.

Overall, I have to continue to say that I think the omnivore path is still the healthiest and safest path.  And I am hopeful that our farming practices, both livestock and agriculture, will keep improving. If you would like to read a good book about being an omnivore, I recommend “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan. Not only is it an interesting read, his writing is fantastically entertaining.

 

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Nestle Researchers May Come up with Fat-Burning Drink | Wall Street OTC

Nestle Researchers May Come up with Fat-Burning Drink | Wall Street OTC.

Oh the irony… Nestle, a company that makes foods that contribute to obesity, is developing a drink that burns fat. Sound familiar Phillip Morris? But it looks like it may actually work, at least in part.

The chemical compound called “C13″ is the secret behind Nestle’s fat-burning elixir. It interacts with an enzyme that plays a role in muscle glucose intake. So it could help with fat-burning.

One of the main concerns about creating such a drink is that people will use it in place of exercise. Nestle is quick to defend this product by saying it is not intended to replace exercise, but could be helpful for people who are not able to exercise regularly due to disabilities, etc.

It’s too soon to tell if this drink will have a real impact on weight loss. Like many other weight-loss “miracle products”, it will probably have minimal affect, and could produce unwanted side-effects. Hopefully people will not use it as a replacement for exercise, which provides so much more than just burning fat, but as a supplement to aid in weight loss.

We’ll see if this product ever makes it to market. And I suppose the proof will be in the pudding…. haha… get it?

 

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How Trans Fat Eats Away at Your Memory | TIME

How Trans Fat Eats Away at Your Memory | TIME.

More evidence that “trans fats”, not saturated fats, contribute to dementia. While this study is pretty small, it corroborates other studies that link trans fat consumption to heart disease and higher body weight.

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Preventing Kidney Stones May Be As Simple As Changing Your Diet

Preventing Kidney Stones May Be As Simple As Changing Your Diet.

For all my friends and family who have endured the pain of passing a kidney stone, here are some tips for you. First and foremost, stay hydrated. This means drink lots of water, and limit or avoid drinks that have the opposite affect, especially soda and sports drinks (and limit coffee).

If you take any calcium supplements, make sure it is balanced with plenty of magnesium. Avoid unfermented soy and exercise regularly.

Yes, there is a genetic link to kidney stones, but that doesn’t mean you are doomed to getting them if you avoid the foods and drinks that increase their formation. Once again, soda and high fructose corn syrup are one of the biggest offenders in triggering kidney stones.

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Study: Milk may not be very good for bones or the body – The Washington Post

Study: Milk may not be very good for bones or the body – The Washington Post.

Got milk? Maybe you should skip it. That was the conclusion of a huge study out of Sweden of more than 100,000 people over 20 years who ingested the most milk and had more bone fractures and a higher risk of heart disease.

This is not the news the dairy association wants the public to hear. And many nutritionists are also decrying this study. Is it possible that we have been promoting a product in the USA that… wait for it… isn’t really healthy for us? And could it be we promoted milk based mostly on… now don’t be shocked…greed?

OK, on to the real evidence. As many of the study opponents are declaring, there are flaws with this study (no, not possible, aren’t all studies exact science? Especially the ones funded by corporations?) This study’s main flaw is it is based on people self-reporting their intake of milk and other dietary staples. Also, this study just took the raw data of how much dairy people consumed and correlated it with the outcomes of more fractures and more heart disease. There are other variables that could be playing a role too, not just the milk itself. But the university that conducted the study and the journal that published it felt the evidence was powerful enough to put it out there.

As a nutritionist who has read quite a bit of the literature on milk, I believe that the milk we currently ingest-pasteurized, hormone and chemically-ladened milk- is not healthy for us, and in fact is probably harmful in the long run.

Pasteurizing milk basically “cooks” much of the goodness out of it like healthy bacteria (think probiotics) that keep our immune system strong, and certain vitamins that are destroyed at certain temperatures. And much of the milk produced in our country is from cows who have been injected with artificial hormones that get into our bodies, and who have eaten a diet not meant for a cow. Cows are supposed to eat mostly grass. Today, most cows eat a diet of corn and soybeans, which aside from not being indigenous to cows, are usually genetically-modified to boot. This diet produces milk that is much lower in healthy fats such as CLA and omegas.

So what’s a body to drink? Well if you really want to add some nice cold milk to your cereal, I recommend at the very least using organic milk. Even better yet would be some “raw” milk from a local farm that you trust that is teeming with healthy bacteria and nutrients. Unfortunately many states have outlawed raw milk due to an old problem that happened in the early 1900′s that started this country on the path of completely pasteurizing milk for “safety” (code for saving money) reasons.

Also there are many other alternate milk sources today such as almond milk, soy milk (in low levels), and coconut milk. Of course there’s always good old water (not as healthy as it used to be), and fresh-squeezed fruit juices (in moderation). Unfortunately the choices for healthy drinks today is getting pretty slim.

There is a little good news from this study. It appears that fermented dairy products such as cheese and yogurt actually had a positive affect on bones and our hearts. Once again, fermented foods are higher in healthy bacteria, which may be part of the reason they are better for us.

Bottom line is we really don’t need to drink milk at all. From an evolutionary perspective, most of us never drank cow’s milk until pretty recently. In fact the data shows that in places that don’t consume cow’s milk they have perfectly healthy bones and less heart disease. We can get our calcium from many other healthier places like fish, greens, nuts and bone broths (look them up for great recipes).

 

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Beyond MSG: Could Hidden Sources of Glutamate Be Harming Your Health?

Beyond MSG: Could Hidden Sources of Glutamate Be Harming Your Health?.

MSG. I could literally write a book about this food additive. So I will do my best to give the condensed version of my thoughts and the science about MSG and other sources of glutamate and their impact on our health.

Glutamate is the salt from glutamic acid, which is basically an amino acid. Specifically, it is an “excitatory” amino acid. However, once glutamic acid is converted into glutamate in the body, it acts as a neurotransmitter. So for the purpose of this discussion, glutamate acts as an excitatory neurotransmitter, carrying messages throughout the body from different systems.

In it’s natural state, glutamate can be found in many foods, and is necessary for the body to function. It is most commonly known as MSG, monosodium glutamate. But to be clear, MSG is a man-made food additive made from glutamate, not the naturally occurring amino acid found in real foods.  One of the main things to understand here, is that glutamate found in natural foods is always balanced by other amino acids. So even though it is excitatory, it is always balanced by inhibitory amino acids like glycine or others. But “MSG”, the additive,  is not balanced and therefore is only excitatory. And like the name implies, it “excites” neurons into action.

For many people, MSG gets into the system at a highly concentrated level and can cause the neurons to fire too fast and can trigger inflammation. As a result,  some people may get migraines from this, others may get IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and still others may get arthritic-like symptoms. In cases of people who have any type of neurological disorder, like epilepsy, MSG can trigger seizures. And there are studies to support that a defect in metabolizing glutamate may also contribute to Autism and ADHD.

At the extreme end of glutamate’s detrimental effects are ALS and Huntington’s disease. It appears that in people who develop ALS and Huntington’s, they are not able to clear glutamate well and it stays around too long causing damage to the nervous system, which may be the root cause of the disease.

So like anything, the poison depends on the dose. More specifically, the damage glutamate can cause depends on how well your body can metabolize and clear it. Genetics obviously plays a role in how one metabolizes glutamate. But more evidence is showing that damage to our digestive system and the protective brain barrier are probably the biggest reasons we lose our ability to keep glutamate in check. So, if you are someone like me who developed a sensitivity to glutamate later in life, chances are you did damage to your gut and brain barrier along the way.

There are so many known ways to damage the digestive system and the brain barrier. In general, eating junk food, drinking alcohol, smoking, stress, lack of exercise, exposure to man-made chemicals and illnesses, all cause damage to these systems. So it is easy to assume that most of us do not have optimally functioning guts and brain protective barriers.

Unfortunately, once the damage is done, it is tough to undo. But with some knowledge and lots of effort, it may be possible to restore the gut’s and brain’s protective barriers, and ultimately repair your body’s ability to metabolize glutamate effectively. In my next blog, I will share some of the steps I have learned about and am taking myself to correct this situation.

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ADHD Linked to Prenatal Antidepressant Use

ADHD Linked to Prenatal Antidepressant Use.

Every person I know who has taken antidepressants before or during pregnancy had a child with either ADHD or Autism. Of course I realize this is anecdotal evidence, but studies are now showing this to be the case. And it only makes sense. Everything we ingest while pregnant can affect a developing baby (think smoking, alcohol, coffee, diet).

Antidepressants are now the second most prescribed medication in our country (antibiotics are number 1). We are truly a nation of people who are being drugged into a flatline state. It is amazing to me how quickly and easily we have been conditioned to think we need “medication” for any emotion we feel, or for any time life gets a little difficult.

Of course there are people with inherited mental chemical imbalances that truly may need some form of medication to help with the imbalance. Also there may be times of extreme difficulty, like the loss of a loved one, where temporary use of an antidepressant could be warranted. But for most of us, medication is not only not needed, it often causes more harm than good.

I also contend that most people who are feeling depressed are actually physically depressed, not mentally or emotionally. Many people in our country are so nutrient-deprived from eating the typical American diet of processed food, that they have chemical imbalances that lead to depression.

Here are a couple of tips to help if you are feeling depressed, or blue more than normal and for no real reason:

-make sure you are eating a nutrient-dense diet: greens, fruits, good proteins and healthy fats (fats play a huge role in balancing brain chemistry, so skip the low-fat diet)

-take a good Vitamin D3 supplement (1,000 iu’s, twice a day)

- for temporary depression, or to help bring you out of a funk, try St. John’s Wort (ladies going through menopause, it also helps with hot flashes), try it for a few weeks then wean off and take a break for a few weeks

- exercise, any form of exercise can help alleviate some depression

If you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, try to avoid taking antidepressants, and look for more natural alternatives.

 

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