Category Archives: Nutrition

Diet Spotlight: The DASH Diet

About 1 in every 3 adults has high blood pressure, a condition that puts you at risk for heart disease and stroke, two of the leading causes of death in America. Even more alarming than this, only half of the people with high blood pressure have it under control. While medication is available to control high blood pressure, many people are able to successfully reduce blood pressure through their diet.

DASH Diet Basics

One of the most popular diets for controlling blood pressure (and recently tied for number 1 best overall diet in U.S. News diet report) is the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension Diet, or more easily called the DASH diet.

The DASH diet, which is technically considered a low fat diet, allows only 27 percent of calories from fat, 6 percent of which is saturated fat. Carbohydrates make up 55 percent of calories on the diet plan, while protein provides the remaining 18 percent.

The daily breakdown of the DASH diet looks like this:

  • 6 to 8 servings of grains, preferably whole
  • 4 to 5 servings of vegetables
  • 4 to 5 servings of fruits
  • 2 to 3 servings of low-fat dairy products
  • 2 to 3 servings of healthy fats and oils
  • 6 or fewer servings of lean meats, poultry and fish

Note: You’re also allowed 4 to 5 servings of nuts and seeds and 5 or fewer servings of sweets or added sugars each week.

What about Sodium?

Following the DASH diet will naturally reduce your sodium intake, since a lot of the sodium you eat is in processed foods, which are not encouraged. Although the diet recommends taking in less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, it’s worth noting that people who reduced sodium intake to less than 1,500 milligrams per day lowered their blood pressure even more.

Picking Foods with Potassium

Potassium helps reduce the effects of sodium, so when following the DASH diet, you should eat lots of foods that are high in potassium.These foods include:

  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Tuna
  • Oranges
  • Bananas
  • Raisins
  • Leafy green vegetables

Other Health Benefits

In addition to lowering your blood pressure (thereby reducing your risk of heart disease and stroke), the DASH diet can also:

  • help you lose weight
  • lower cholesterol
  • decrease triglycerides

Of course, your diet is only one part of living a healthy lifestyle. It’s best to combine the DASH diet with regular exercise, stress management, and plenty of sleep.

Healthy Recipe: Pumpkin Pie

When you think of holiday desserts, your mind probably goes right to pumpkin pie. It’s the star of many Thanksgiving tables, but unfortunately, even though the pumpkin packs a lot of nutrition, most versions are also full of lots of sugar. We decided to makeover the holiday treat to make it better for you.

Keep in mind that this is still a dessert and should be eaten like one — just a little! — but it’s a much better option than your standard recipes.

Pumpkin Pie Recipe

What You Need:
For the Crust:
  • 1 c. almond flour
  • 2 tbsp coconut flour
  • 2/3 cup tapioca flour
  • 1/2 cup grass-fed butter
  • 1 tbsp coconut sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 large egg
For the Filling:
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • ½ c. full-fat coconut milk
  • ½ c. pure maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp creamy peanut butter
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp ginger
  • ½ tsp allspice
  • ¼ tsp cardamom
What To Do:
For the Crust:
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Pulse all crust ingredients, except for the egg, in a food processor. Once thick crumbs form, add egg and continue to pulse until a dough forms. Remove dough from food processor and shape into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for one hour.
  3. After the dough is chilled, press into a 9-inch pie plate. If dough is sticky, use parchment paper to shape dough into plate. Pierce dough with a fork.
  4. Bake for 6 minutes, just enough to set. Remove from oven and set aside.
For the Filling:
  1. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
  2. Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl. Pour into prepared, partially baked pie crust.
  3. Bake for 45 minutes or until filling is set and no longer jiggles. Allow to cool for 2 to 3 hours before serving.

Enjoy!

Five Fruits that Help You Lose Weight

When low-carb diets become popular, fruit was shunned along with other high-carbohydrate foods like oats and sweet potatoes. But while it’s true that fruit is high in carbohydrates, it’s also true that certain fruits can help you lose weight, rather than preventing weight loss. As long as you’re not overdoing it, fruit can be an essential part of your weight loss plan.

fruits tart cherries

Apple

We’ll start with the apple because it’s in season. Plus, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ve heard the old adage “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”. In addition to their vast health benefits, apples contain a lot of fiber. This fills you up faster, keeps you full longer, and boosts your metabolism. Most of the fiber is in the apple’s skin, so try not to peel before eating.

Grapefruit

Several studies show that eating half of a fresh grapefruit before meals helps boost weight loss and reduces visceral fat, the type of belly fat that’s the most problematic. Grapefruit can also help balance your blood sugar levels and reduce insulin resistance, a metabolic condition that can progress into Type 2 Diabetes. Specifically, ruby red grapefruit contains lycopene, a phytochemical that can reduce your risk of developing heart disease.

Tart Cherries

A study done by the University of Michigan reported that rats that ate tart cherries over a period of 12 weeks showed a 9 percent greater reduction in belly fat than rats who didn’t consume the cherries. Tart cherries can also change the way your fat genes express themselves.

Berries

Raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries contain lots of polyphenols. These are antioxidant substances that help you lose weight and also stop fat from forming. In a study done by Texas Woman’s University, mice that ate 3 servings of berries per day experienced a 73 percent decrease in the formation of fat compared to mice who didn’t eat any berries.

Stone Fruits

“Stone fruit” is the name for any fruit that contains a large pit in the center. Examples of stone fruits include plums, peaches, and nectarines. Stone fruits can help prevent metabolic syndrome, the name for a group of symptoms (high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess visceral fat, and high cholesterol levels), which increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. The polyphenols in stone fruits affect the way fat genes express themselves, which reduces belly fat.

Appetite-Suppressing Foods That Can Help Boost Weight Loss

We all know that when it comes to weight loss, there are no magic tricks or quick fixes. It takes dedication and consistency, along with a proper diet and exercise routine and the support that you need to keep going. That being said, these appetite-suppressing foods, when eaten in conjunction with an overall healthy diet plan, may help contribute to greater weight loss.

avocado

Avocado

We started the list with avocado because we think that it’s one of the best foods on the entire planet. You probably already know that avocados are rich in heart-healthy fats, but it’s a certain type of fat, called oleic acid, that packs the true appetite-suppressing punch. Oleic acid is classified as an omega-9 fatty acid. When you eat oleic acid, which is also found in olive oil, your body converts it to a compound called oleoylethanolamide, or OEA. Studies show that OEA travels to the gut lining, where it sends signals of satiety to the brain. When OEA levels are increased, it generally leads to decreased hunger and reduced calorie intake at the next meal.

A word of warning though: while avocados can help suppress appetite, they also contain a lot of calories due to their high fat content. When including avocados in your meal, pay attention to the proper serving size, which is one-third of a medium-sized avocado.

Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt is made by straining out the liquid whey from regular yogurt. This process not only makes the yogurt thicker, it also makes it higher in protein per ounce. According to research, protein keeps you feeling fuller than fat or carbohydrates; so any food that is high in protein has appetite-suppressing effects. Research shows that when people increase protein intake to 30 percent of calories from just 15 percent of calories, they report feeling less hungry and typically eat fewer calories throughout the day.

A single 5.3-ounce container of Greek yogurt contains around 15 grams of protein, compared to just 7 grams for regular varieties; but be choosy when choosing yogurt. Flavored Greek yogurts still have the protein, but they can also contain as much sugar as a can of soda. Plain, nonfat or low-fat yogurt is best.

Flaxseed

Flaxseed packs a one-two punch when it comes to appetite suppression. It’s rich in both omega-3 fats and fiber, two nutrients that keep you feeling full. Fiber is especially beneficial because it has a “bulking” effect. It expands and pulls water into the digestive tract, which leads to feelings of satiety, and it doesn’t contribute any calories. The fat in flaxseed can also slow increases in blood sugar levels, which not only reduces hunger, but irritability as well.

One tablespoon of whole flaxseed contains 3 grams of fiber and 4 grams of fat; but make sure to grind your flaxseed before consuming it because your body can’t properly digest whole flaxseed.

Spinach

Spinach contains compounds called thylakoids, which can contribute to appetite suppression and a reduced food intake. According to research, when thylakoids are eaten with a high-fat meal, levels of Cholecystokinin, or CCK, and leptin, two hormones that signal to your brain that you’re full and to stop eating, are increased. On the flipside, thylakoids can also reduce ghrelin, the hormone that tells your body that you’re hungry. When combined with healthy carbohydrates, thylakoids can also help reduce cravings for sugar and sweets.

To reap the benefits of thylakoids, try this magnesium-rich smoothie. It combines spinach with avocado and fruit to give you the fat and carbohydrates you need.

watermelon

Watermelon: Five Reasons to Eat the Summer Fruit

Watermelon has become an unofficial mascot of summer. It’s almost impossible to go to a picnic or a barbecue without seeing the juicy red fruit as part of the spread. You might choose watermelon because it tastes refreshing and delicious, but did you know that the melon also provides some remarkable health benefits?

watermelon

1. It’s hydrating.

We know that drinking water prevents dehydration, which is especially important during these summer months; but did you know that eating foods with a high water content can also help keep you hydrated? Not only that, foods with a higher water content help keep you full.

Although there is a slight variation, most sources agree that watermelon is somewhere between 90 and 92 percent water, making it one of the most water-packed foods you can eat.

2. It’s low in calories, but packed with nutrients.

Because of its high water content, watermelon is low in calories, but don’t let that fool you. The summer fruit is a powerhouse of nutrients. A cup of cubed watermelon contains:

  • 17 percent of your daily vitamin A
  • 21 percent of your daily vitamin C
  • 5 percent of your daily potassium
  • 4 percent of your daily magnesium
  • 3 percent of your daily vitamins B1, B5, and B6

and the antioxidants lycopene and cucurbitacin E, which help fight inflammation and chronic disease.

3. Watermelon might combat cancer.

Watermelon is one of the richest source of lycopene, a phytochemical that’s responsible for the fruit’s red color. Studies have shown that lycopene may help prevent and treat prostate cancer, although no official conclusions have been reached. In addition to combating cancer, lycopene can help improve heart health and bone health. One cup of watermelon contains 7 to 10 milligrams of lycopene. Other sources of lycopene include tomato, red grapefruit, and guava.

4. It can improve heart health.

Watermelon contains an amino acid called citrulline, which converts to another amino acid — arginine — in the body. Both of these amino acids can help improve circulation and blood flow, two factors that are important for the health of your heart. A study done in 2012 found that taking watermelon extract supplements may even help reduce high blood pressure.

5. It may reduce muscle soreness.

In addition to helping your heart, the improved circulation and blood flow from the amino acids citrulline and arginine may also help soothe muscle soreness. In a study published in the Journal of Agricultural Food and Chemistry, researchers reported that athletes who drank watermelon juice before a hard workout experienced a lower heart rate and reduced muscle soreness the next day.

And aside from these health benefits, simply put, watermelon tastes great! What is your favorite thing about watermelon? Are you a fan of the summer treat?

Collagen: America’s Next Superfood?

Nutrition is a science; but it’s a dynamic science. Things are constantly changing as experts learn about new foods, or about how old foods affect the body in ways that we may not have previously known about. As a result of this constantly changing nature of nutrition, it may seem like the spotlight is always pointed on a new “superfood”, and really, it is; but that’s a good thing. It gives us the power to choose foods that support our body and our health and that’s the most important thing you can do. Recently, the spotlight has been on collagen and we’ve been getting a lot of questions on it: What is it? What are the health benefits? How can I incorporate it into my diet?

Like always, we’ve got your back. This week, we’ve broken down the science for you to let you know exactly what collagen is and how it can help you. Next week, we’ll share our favorite way for you to incorporate this “superfood” into your diet.

collagen

What is Collagen?

Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body, accounting for almost one-third of your body’s protein. It’s one of the major components in your skin, muscles, tendons, ligaments, GI tract, and bones. Collagen is also part of your teeth, blood vessels, and eyes. The simple way to think of collagen is as the glue that holds everything together. It gives everything structure.

As you age, your body starts to produce less (and lower quality) collagen. This is the reason that you can see the skin start to age. In addition to advancing age, collagen can also be damaged by excessive sun exposure, smoking, and a diet that’s high in sugar and refined carbohydrates (like white bread and pasta).

Benefits of Collagen

It’s true that your body makes collagen, but because of the wide range of benefits, you can (and should) also get the protein from your diet and from supplements, if necessary.

Consumption of collagen can:

  • Improve skin elasticity
  • Reduce joint pain and degeneration
  • Improve gut health
  • Boost metabolism
  • Increase muscle mass
  • Strengthen hair, nails, and teeth
  • Protect heart health
  • Improve liver function

Sources of Collagen

Collagen comes from four major places: beef, chicken, fish, and eggs. The catch is that most of the collagen found in beef, chicken, and fish is found in their bones, so you have to get creative to figure out how to extract it and get it into your body. Our favorite way to do this is to make a bone broth that we can sip on at any time of the day.

Collagen is also available in supplement form. It’s usually a powder that you can mix into any liquid. Because of the way it’s processed, most collagen supplements are odorless and tasteless and can easily mix into even cold water.

The Whole30 Program: Can It Change Your Life?

In 2009, Melissa and Dallas Hartwig developed a clean eating program designed to “change your life in 30 days”. In its infancy, this program, which was officially named the Whole30, not only attracted hundreds of participants, but it did, indeed, change those participants’ lives. These participants were not just losing weight, they were losing brain fog, food cravings, high blood pressure, and chronic aches and pains that nothing else seemed to help. Energy was increasing, athletic performance was enhancing, and sleep quality was improving.

whole30 sweet potato enchiladas

Since 2009, the program has exploded in popularity, and lately, it’s gaining more traction than ever. Melissa Hartwig, one of the co-creators, recently appeared on Dr. Oz to talk about the Whole30 and what makes the plan so great.

When we first started digging into the testimonials, we thought that it sounded a little too good to be true; but then we investigated a little further. Although the results from the program seem like a miracle, the premise is actually very simple: eat real food. And that makes sense to us.

The Whole30 Basics

The basic underlying principle of the Whole30 program is to eat real food that our ancestors would recognize as food. This includes meat, fish, eggs, and lots of vegetables, but excludes things like grains (which humans only learned to process during the Industrial Revolution) and processed sugar (which wreaks havoc on the body in many ways). The creators of the program believe, and they have a lot of science to back it up, that when you eat the way your body was designed to eat from an ancestral perspective, it allows your body to function optimally. This leaves little room for chronic symptoms and unexplained diseases and illnesses.

The No Foods

  • Added sugar (real or artificial)
  • Alcohol
  • Grains (including but not limited to wheat, barley, rye, oats, corn, rice, millet, bulgur, buckwheat, quinoa)
  • Legumes (beans, peas, chickpeas, lentils, and peanuts)
  • Dairy
  • Carageenan, MSG, and sulfites

The Yes Foods

  • Meat
  • Seafood
  • Eggs
  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Healthy fats (coconut oil, coconuts, olives, olive oil, avocado, avocado oil)
  • Herbs, spices, and seasonings (check your labels!)

Other Rules

  1. Do not re-create junk food. Technically, there are ways to make whole30 approved pancakes, muffins, and cookies, but this defeats the entire purpose of the program, which is to change your relationship with food. If you have a hard time giving up pancakes, it’s a good idea to use the 30 days to break the habit and eat other foods.
  2. Do not step on the scale or take any measurements for the whole 30 days. Although it’s likely that you’ll lose weight, especially if this food plan is vastly different from the one you’re used to, that’s not the main point of the program. It’s encouraged that you weigh yourself and take measurements before and after the 30 days, but not during.
  3. No cheating. 30 days, no cheats.

Our Take

The Whole30 program focuses on eating lots of real, whole foods and eliminating foods that are processed or inflammatory to the body. Although, it can be difficult to follow for those who are not used to eating this way, we think it’s worth a shot to commit for the 30 days. The point of the program is not to never have the “no” foods again, but to learn how these foods affect your body. If you’re able to pinpoint certain foods that don’t agree with you, you’re better able to make food choices that make you feel good over the long term.

Tried the Whole30 program? Chime in and let us know how/if it changed your life.

Healthy Recipe: Magnesium-Rich Smoothie

Last week we discussed the importance of magnesium and shared the staggering statistic that 68% of Americans don’t get enough of this important nutrient. We know that life gets busy and it can be difficult to always plan well-balanced meals that meet all of your nutritional needs, so we’re here to help. This smoothie takes only minutes to prepare and provides a whopping 156 milligrams of magnesium. That’s more than half of your entire needs for the day if you’re a woman, and 40% of your needs if you’re a man.

magnesium smoothie

What You Need:

  • ¼ cup pumpkin seeds (42)
  • ¼ cup spinach (6)
  • One-fourth of a medium avocado (14.5)
  • 1 tablespoon dark cocoa powder (unsweetened) (26)
  • ½ medium frozen banana (16)
  • 5 frozen strawberries (10)
  • 1 cup almond milk (15.2)
  • 2 pitted Medjool dates (26)

What To Do:

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth. If smoothie is too thick, add more almond milk until you reach your desired consistency.

Magnesium: a Mineral that Could Change Your Life

When you hear the word “magnesium”, what comes to your mind? You may know that it’s a mineral and one that you’re supposed to be eating, but do you know how incredibly important this one nutrient is for good health? If you don’t, don’t feel bad. You’re not alone. A lot of people focus on carbohydrates, protein, fat, and calories for good health, but there are lots of other vital players, like magnesium, in the game.

magnesium rich walnuts

What Does Magnesium Do?

Every single organ in your body, but especially your heart, lungs, and muscles, relies on magnesium to work properly. The mineral is involved in other 300 different biochemical reactions that range from converting the food you eat into energy to creating new proteins to making your nervous system work. Magnesium does so much for you and yet, according to research, more than half (68% to be exact) of Americans don’t get the recommended minimum daily requirement. To add insult to injury, around 19% of Americans don’t even consume half the recommended amount. So why is this such a problem?

Risks of Deficiency

As we mentioned earlier, having enough magnesium in your body is essential for allowing your organs to function properly. According to research, adults who don’t get enough are more likely to have heart attacks, strokes, and high blood pressure. Low levels of magnesium have also been linked to type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, depression, migraines, asthma, and colon cancer.

Signs of a deficiency can be widespread and non-specific, but the most common include:

  • Anxiety
  • Agitation/irritability
  • Low blood pressure
  • Confusion
  • Insomnia/sleep disorders
  • Hyperventilation
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Muscle weakness
  • Abnormal heart rhythms

I know this all seems like bad news, but here’s the good part: you can get all the magnesium you need by including magnesium-rich foods in your diet every day. The other good news: one of the magnesium-rich foods is dark chocolate.

Magnesium-Rich Foods

The best way to get enough magnesium in your diet is to make sure that you’re eating a variety of different magnesium-rich foods every day. By varying your food choices, you’re not only making sure your magnesium needs are met, you’re also making sure that you’re getting enough of all the another important vitamins and minerals that you need. The current recommendation is 310-320 milligrams for adult females and 400-420 milligrams for adult males per day.

The following foods are especially rich in magnesium:

  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Spinach, boiled
  • Swiss chard
  • Dark chocolate (70–85% cocoa)
  • Black beans
  • Quinoa
  • Halibut
  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Mackerel
  • Blackstrap molasses
  • Avocado
  • Salmon

Magnesium Supplementation

Although it’s always best to try to get all the nutrients you need from food, that can be difficult in today’s world. Fortunately, there are many supplements available over the counter. Magnesium supplements come in several different forms, but the forms your body can absorb most effectively are citrate, gluconate, and lactate. Magnesium supplements are generally safe, but always make sure to discuss any new supplements with your doctor before taking them.

Healthy Recipe: Golden Milk (Haldi Ka Doodh)

turmeric

Last week, we talked about turmeric and the potent health benefits associated with this powerful spice. While you could easily add the spice to savory dishes and soups, we wanted to help you think outside the box a little bit by introducing you to Golden Milk.

Golden Milk, traditionally known as Haldi Ka Doodh, dates back thousands of years with roots in the ancient branch of medicine called Ayurveda. According to Ayurvedic medicine, in addition to the benefits we discussed last week, the components of Golden Milk help support a healthy inflammatory response in the body, balance emotions, and support mental clarity. Traditionally, Golden Milk is consumed right before bedtime, but you can enjoy this simple and delicious “tea” at any time of the day.

What You Need:

  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon raw honey

What to Do:

  1. Combine all ingredients in blender until completely smooth.
  2. Transfer into a small saucepan and stir over medium heat until heated, but not boiling.
  3. Pour into a mug, sprinkle with cinnamon, and enjoy!