Category Archives: whole food

Whole Food Magnesium!

I was recently invited to test some of Garden of Life’s new products, including their whole food magnesium. Please note that I received several samples of this product for free, but was not compelled or asked to share a positive review, nor was I paid for this review. Those of you who know me can rest assured I will always be brutally honest in my reviews. Please also note that some, although not all, of the links in this article are affiliate links. If you purchase product after clicking these links, I receive a very small amount of compensation (less than 5%) of the purchase price. I never share links to products I do not believe in, nor do I ever share links to products I have not used and tested. The small amount of money I receive from affiliate sales are used to pay for the upkeep of this website.

The first product I reviewed was the Relax and Restore whole food golrelaxmagnesium. Did you catch that? This is a WHOLE FOOD magnesium, meaning it is made from food.

Why is that important? Because your body recognizes the molecular structure of supplements that are sourced from food and therefore digests and absorbs them much better than synthetic versions of the supplement. There are less than five other whole food magnesium supplements currently on the market, each of which provides an extremely small serving of magnesium, so this new product is a very big deal.

To learn more about magnesium and its importance for health, please read Why You Need More Magnesium.

Following is my review of Relax and Restore’s whole food magnesium features. I was brutally honest. I loved the product, but there are a few things I wish were a smidge different.

The Basics

The Garden of Life Relax and Restore Whole Food Magnesium is an effervescent powder. It is organic, non-GMO certified, and vegan. There are very few (less than three) organic magnesiums on the market, and none of those provide a whole food magnesium.

Relax and Restore also provides 1 billion active cultures of probiotics (Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, and Lactobacillus acidophilus) to help improve digestion. One billion active cultures isn’t enough to be a therapeutic dose of probiotics for most people, but it’s enough to improve the digestion and absorption of the product. For some people, it may be enough to boost immunity and improve regularity.

The magnesium in this product is derived primarily from pea protein. The main source of magnesium is a chelate, meaning the magnesium molecule has chains of amino acids (proteins) attached to it. The body digests and absorbs amino acids very easily, so the amino acid chelate connected to the magnesium ensures the magnesium will be very easily digested and absorbed. This should also ensure that this form of magnesium will not cause digestive upset.

Price and Serving Size

Serving size is a single teaspoon, so the smaller, approximately half-pound, containers provide around 50 servings. Not bad for a price point that’s between $15-17.

It is interesting to note that the different flavors have different net weights, but each provides about 50 servings. I’m assuming the difference in weights reflects differences in the ingredients that were added to create the flavors. To learn more about the extreme caution Garden of Life uses in selecting flavoring ingredients, please visit Seven Surprising Facts About the Garden of Life Colmpany.

The product is available in the following sizes:

  • Approximate half-pound containers, providing about 50 servings, averaging $15-17 per container. (Price differences were seen between various retailers. Amazing seems to have the best price.) Average cost per serving came to around 32 cents.
  • Approximate one-pound containers, providing double the servings (around 100), and costing around 24 cents per serving. This is obviously the better deal, but I recommend trying a small container of the flavored versions before committing to a large container. (Just in case you don’t care for the flavor.)

There is a somewhat similar product on the market that retails for a similar price but has double the servings. HOWEVER – that product is not organic or non-GMO verified, and contains some questionable ingredients. It also uses a synthetic form of magnesium that is known to cause diarrhea. It’s not a better option, in my opinion.

Taste

I tried the Original, stevia-free unflavored version, and the Orange Dreamsicle flavor. There is also a Raspberry Lemon flavor which I did not try.

I truly enjoyed both versions, although I felt the orange flavor was a bit strong. Adding more water helped eliminate that issue. My husband enjoyed both versions. The product wasn’t gritty after blending, and was easy to drink. I’ve tried other powdered magnesium supplements that were extremely gritty and hard to drink, so this was a pleasant change.

Effervescence

Here is perhaps my strongest negative opinion about this product. It’s not truly a negative, it’s merely a lesson I learned the hard way. Because the bubbles in this product are created naturally, it can take a while for the ingredients to finish bubbling.

Let me point out that drinking the product before the bubbling stops may result in a lot of burping. I felt it took an inordinately long time for the effervescence to stop effervescing, but I failed to time it. 

golrelaxlabelPlease also note that stirring the product once the powder has been added will greatly increase the bubbling effect and may cause foaming that will make the product overflow the cup it was blended in. 

If you’ll notice in the graphic at the right, the instructions clearly say to add the water to the powder. I did it wrong every single time, which may be why I had excessive bubbling. Following the instructions is obviously the wise course of action.

My advice if you ignore the instructions is to fill the container half way with water, add the teaspoon of product, and allow it to sit for 30-60 seconds. (I did time how long I waited.) Then add the remainder of the water, gently stir, and wait until the bubbling has obviously stopped.

Not a big deal, especially since the issue was with my failure to follow the instructions.

Interesting Side Notes

As you may or may not be aware, magnesium should never be taken with iron supplements, thyroid medications, some antibiotics, and a wide variety of prescription medications because it can either block absorption or increase absorption and increase the medication’s effectiveness. Please note that the face this is a whole food magnesium is not sufficient reason to assume this supplement can be taken with supplements and medications magnesium is known to interact with.

Having said that, I can say that I experimented with Relax and Restore and took it before bed with my iron supplement for two weeks. I did not notice any difference in how I felt, nor did I begin to notice symptoms of iron deficiency anemia. As someone with Pernicious Anemia, I can assure you I would have been flat on my back had this magnesium interfered with with absorption of my iron supplement. Let me also say, you should not experiment the way I did. My training and professional experience enables me to quickly tell if my body’s balance is shifting. In other words, don’t be stupid.

Have you tried Garden of Life’s Relax and Restore? What did you think?

How to Prepare to Make Positive Health Changes

It’s never too early or too late to begin planning ways you can implement simple changes to improve your health and wellness in Planning for Success graphicthe new year. I’m not a big believer in New Year’s resolutions, but I am a believer in careful planning. (For more information on making successful resolutions, see Ten Reasons Resolutions Fail and Ways to Succeed.) The following tips can be applied any time of year, but seem particularly appropriate right now. I also want to thank multiple members of one of my networking groups who suggested and requested this post. 

Following are my tips for creating a plan for positive change: 

  1. Figure out your priorities: What do you want to accomplish by making positive changes? I often hear people say they want to “eat healthier.” If I ask them WHY they want to create healthier eating habits, they can’t come up with an answer. Attaching a specific outcome to a change we wish to create will greatly increase the likelihood of success.
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    Take time to sit down and make a list of specific health improvements you wish to create. Don’t think about what you’re writing down, just brainstorm. Your list may have a few items or may cover several pages. After you create the list, look at it very carefully and ask yourself why you wish to accomplish these changes. Dig down deep and make sure the changes you wish to see are your personal desires and are not intended to impress other people or cater to someone else’s wishes. Eliminate any items you wrote down that are more for others than for you. After that, prioritize your list. Write each item down on another piece of paper (or move the items around if you made your list electronically) in order of most important to least important. 
    When creating goals, focus on your top three priorities. If your top three priorities are huge, you may want to focus on one at a time.

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  2. Ease Your Way Into Each Change:  If your goal is to run 25 miles a week but you rarely leave the couch right now, it is very unlikely you will accomplish that goal without causing yourself serious harm. Whether the goal you’re focusing on involves changing your eating style, changing your thought patterns, or moving more, start very gradually. Set a specific goal each week and then increase the goal for the following week. Break large goals into ‘stages.” For example:  If your goal is to lose 100 pounds, set a goal of losing five pounds each month. That is a very “do-able” goal that is not overwhelming. Breaking your goals into bite-size chunks help prevent becoming overwhelmed and also helps you regularly celebrate successes. (Celebrating success and rewarding yourself with non-food rewards is important. Don’t skip that part!)
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    Depending on the magnitude of the changes you make, easing into things also helps your body gradually adjust to the changes. The changes we make affect our body chemistry. Making drastic changes too rapidly can overwhelm our body’s ability to adapt and may cause negative health results. Slow and steady wins the race. Remember that every change you make counts. Changes you consider “tiny” eventually add up to large rewards.
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  3. Be Specific:  It’s easy to become overwhelmed when trying to create a list of healthy changes. Many of the lists i see include items such as “eat healthier, lose 100 pounds, run 50 miles a week, drink more water, stop smoking, and only think positive thoughts.”  Although those may be valid goals, each of them is far too large and very non-specific. After identifying your priorities in Step 1, create very specific, measurable changes (goals) to associate with them. For example, instead of making your goal to “workout,” create a goal that says you will “walk ten minutes two days a week and do a light hand-weight routine for ten minutes two days each week.” That goal is very specific, eases you into things, and is very measurable.
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    Instead of listing a goal of “eating healthier,” consider making it your goal to “eat one serving of vegetables with every meal and two daily servings of fruit as snacks or dessert.” Again, this goal is very specific, very measurable, and relatively easy. If eating five servings of fruits and veggies each day is overwhelming, start with something as simple as, “eat one salad everyday.” You know yourself and know what’s realistic for you. Create goals that are realistic and achievable, not ones that will require superhuman effort.
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  4. Jump start your success with a detoxification program:  A great way of preparing your body for positive change is by doing a 3-10 day detoxification program. A gentle detox program serves to rejuvenate the body and helps eliminate toxins which may impede  your success in reaching goals. Most people who do a detoxification program lose 10 pounds during the following year even if they don’t change their eating and exercise habits. Detoxification program typically require a bit of added discipline, which is a great way to start the process of creating positive change.
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    Your detox program could be as simply as giving up coffee and alcohol for ten days, or could be much broader. Click here for more information about my upcoming Detoxification and Cleansing Program, or here to purchase Detoxification and Cleansing Kits.
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  5. Find an accountability partner:  Making changes by yourself can be tough. Making them with a friend is easier. You can encourage each other and hold each other accountable along the way. Find someone you like and by whom you’re comfortable being held accountable. Share your goals with each other, work together to set goals and create plans to meet them, and then meet weekly or chat on the phone frequently to share your successes and discuss your challenges. Before you begin, pick specific non-food ways to celebrate your successes and attach dates to those celebrations. Rewarding success is an important part of accountability that is overlooked far too often.
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  6. Track your progress:  As you begin making changes, it’s important to track the changes you make, your successes and challenges, and the results you see from the changes. I recommend starting a journal. On the first page, list your goals and any measurements associated with those goals. Potential measurements to list include weight, cholesterol, blood sugar or A1C, measurements of specific body parts, blood pressure, muscle mass, etc. Pick measurements that make sense to you and which you hope your changes will positively impact.
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    On a daily basis, log information pertinent to your goal. You may wish to log what you eat, how long you work out, the positive affirmation you chose for the day, etc. In the midst of tracking specifics related to the day’s activities, also list items such as how you felt that day, what your emotional status was, any challenges you faced, etc. Make a point of sharing your journal entries with your accountability partner and reading his or hers.
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  7. Stay positive:  You’re human. Accept it. One of the fun things about making changes is that you get to learn a lot about yourself and about successful ways to achieve success in spite of challenges. If you have a day (or ten) when you completely blow it and don’t follow your plan, that’s ok. Learn from it and move on. Don’t beat yourself up about it, but don’t give yourself permission to continue. Record your challenge in your journal, noting what you learned about yourself and how you deal with challenges of that type. Use that knowledge and experience to achieve success next time. 
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  8. Use meal planning, but keep it real:  Most health changes involve changing our eating style. Planning menus and meals can be a huge help in sticking to a new eating style. Basic meal planning includes selecting meals for the week, creating a shopping list based on those meals, and then sticking to it. Some people view meal planning as pure drudgery, so I recommend using the following guidelines:
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    • Stay flexible:  If you planned to make lamb chops but the store is out of them, be flexible. This also applies if you notice something not on your meal plan for the week is on sale at a deep discount. Stay flexible and be willing to use other meals based on what the store has on sale and in stock. Keep a list of ten “go to” meals you can easily substitute if you’re unable to make something you planned for the week.
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    • Don’t be rigid about scheduling:  Some people schedule specific meals for specific days, while others pick 5-7 breakfasts, lunches and dinners for the week and fit them in as their schedule allows. Do what works best for you, but be flexible and be willing to change your plan if your schedule changes.
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    • Make enough to create leftovers:  Cooking more than can be eaten at one meal is fine. Leftovers can be used for lunches, frozen in individual servings for nights when things are crazy, or even eaten as breakfast.
    • Stick to real food:  Meal plans should include whole, real foods, not processed food that comes in a box. It doesn’t take significantly more time to cook simple meals from scratch – I promise – and the health benefits are huge.

Being flexible and not overly rigid in scheduling can also easily be applied to exercise planning.

What changes are you planning ot make in 2015? 

Simple Marinara Recipe

I wanted to share a quick, easy marinara recipe that is delicious and loaded with nutrition. Every ingredient in this marinara is raw, including the noodles, so the prep time is quick and the dish makes a very refreshing meal on a hot summer night. The recipe provides many beneficial enzymes and nutrients yet tastes delicious and can be made in less than 10 minutes. It is also high in magnesium, potassium, lycopene, zinc, antioxidants and more. It’s a win-win! Please try it and let me know what you think!

For those who are concerned, this marinara recipe is very low carbohydrate and uses low-glycemic ingredients. (I can eat a very large serving without needing to take insulin and without seeing a rise in blood glucose.) For more information on easy ways to reduce carbohydrate consumption, read: Simple Ways to Cut Carbs from Your Eating Habits.

This marinara is also Paleo and is a great option for Simple Summer Marinaraanyone on a Candida cleanse. It makes a fantastic after-workout meal because it provides a wide range of trace minerals, healing enzymes and vitamins. Serve it as a main dish or serve as a side with meat of choice. I’ve been known to skip the zucchini noodles and make a smoothie out of this recipe. It’s delicious!

Simple Summer Marinara Ingredients:

  • 2 organic tomatoes, cut into large chunks
  • 1 organic garlic clove
  • 1 organic red pepper, cored and seeded, cut into large chunks
  • 1 small organic red onion, cut into large chunks
  • ¼ cup organic sundried tomatoes, soaked in purified water for 2-3 hours
  • 2 tablespoons organic Italian seasoning blend (or 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, thyme and marjoram)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh organic basil + several whole leaves for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh organic oregano
  • ¼ cup organic, cold-pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil (or organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil – Tropical Traditions’ is my favorite)
  • ½ teaspoon Himalayan Sea Salt, to taste
  • Optional: Add 2-3 servings of a tasteless organic protein powder. I like organic Hemp Protein in this recipe.

Directions: Please note I refer to a food processor in the directions, but a blender works just as well. If you don’t have either, chop everything finely and stir together. No need for appliances with this marinara!

  1. Place chopped tomatoes in a colander set over a large bowl to drain while preparing other ingredients.
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  2. While tomatoes are draining, chop other ingredients and place in food processor.
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  3. Drain sundried tomatoes and place in food processor. (Save juice from chopped tomatoes and soak water from sundried tomatoes to use in other recipes such as smoothies, soups, etc.)
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  4. Add chopped tomatoes and remaining ingredients to food processor.
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  5. Pulse repeatedly until ingredients are fully blended. Mixture may be blended more for a smoother sauce, or less for a chunkier sauce.
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  6. Use a spiral slicer to slide zucchini or summer squash into “noodles.” If a spiral slicer is not available, slice zucchini or summer squash into very thin slices using a food processor or mandolin slicer. Zucchini and summer squash may also be shredded for a texture similar to rice.
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    My favorite spiral slicers include:
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    Joyce Chen Spiral Slicer – I own this one and love it! It can be used for many different things.
    GEFU Spiralizer – This is a new one on the market which I’m considering getting. It appears to be simpler to use and have less clean-up

To serve, ladle the marinara sauce over the zucchini noodles and top with basil leaves for garnish. Serve as is!

List of other blog posts

Natural Approaches to West Nile Virus

Picture of a mosquito biting a human

The recent rise of West Nile Virus has raised concerns about ways to prevent the spread the virus. West Nile Virus can become a severe illness in a very small percent of the population. The majority of us have nothing to worry about. The best defense against West Nile Virus is controlling mosquito populations in your neighborhood and ensuring your immune system is functioning at full capacity.

Please note: West Nile Virus is a very serious illness. Anyone with symptoms should seek immediate medical attention. The information in this post is shared for educational purposes only. The information in this post has not been reviewed by the FDA and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness. It is also not intended to replace the medical advice received from your physician.

Facts About West Nile Virus

West Nile Virus is reported to be a virus that is typically found in birds. The virus spreads to humans when a mosquito stings an infected bird and then stings a human. Although the virus is listed as a “severe illness” by the CDC and mainstream media, the fact is that less than 1% of those who are bitten by an infected mosquito develop severe symptoms. Children are reported to be the least likely to be infected. The population most at risk are adults over 50 who have pre-existing conditions which compromise their immunity.

Per the CDC, “No reliable estimates are available for the number of cases of West Nile encephalitis that occur worldwide.” The CDC also acknowledges that there is a broad variance in the data reported about the prevalence of West Nile Virus in areas where it is tracked. This raises questions about whether or not many cases listed as West Nile Virus truly are. Many people believe the severity and frequency of the virus are being exaggerated to support the spraying of dangerous chemicals. I encourage everyone research and draw your own conclusions. I also encourage you to take measures to protect yourself from the sprayed chemicals, as most of the insecticides being sprayed are known carcinogens and/or are known to impair liver and endocrine function.

Good News About West Nile Virus

It is important to note the following very positive facts about West Nile Virus:

  • Most people bitten by an infected mosquito never notice any symptoms. Their body very naturally combats the virus and they never contract a full-blown case.
  • A smaller number of people, typically those with slightly weaker immune systems, experience very mild flu symptoms. These symptoms include headache, sore joints, mild fever, etc.
  • Less than 1% of people – typically those with extremely compromised immunity – experience the most severe symptoms of West Nile Virus. These symptoms are very similar to those of encephalitis and include brain inflammation with headache, fever, muscle weakness, stiffness, confusion and sometimes convulsions. Only 5% of the one percent that may contract these severe symptoms experience long-term complications or death from the virus. (This equates to 0.05% of those infected.)

Protective Measures Against West Nile Virus

The most obvious way to protect yourself and your loved ones from West Nile Virus is to ensure there is no standing water in or near your home. The most common carrier of West Nile Virus, female Culex mosquitoes, typically do not travel more than 440 yards (one quarter mile) from where they hatch. Although they may travel further, your best defense is to focus on controlling stagnant water in your neighborhood. If you have a water source you cannot eliminate, I recommend using Bt bacteria (Bacillus thuringiensis), a non-chemical insecticide. This insecticide is used heavily in third world countries and has no known harmful effects to humans and other mammals even in very high doses. Most garden supply stores carry it.

The other option for reducing your risk of serious infection is to ensure your immune system is working at full capacity. The most effective way to boost immunity is to limit sugar and to eat a clean diet consisting of organic whole foods and no artificial food additives. Drinking adequate water, getting plenty of sleep and engaging in exercise are also known methods of improving immunity. If you wish to take a supplement to boost immunity, I recommend the following three for adults. Dosages must be adjusted for children:

The final option for protection is to use insecticidal sprays. The CDC has acknowledged that the essential oil Lemon Eucalyptus is equally effective as DEET when applied frequently. I recommend using natural sprays for protection, but you must realize these sprays must be applied more frequently to be effective. Very simple spray-on protection can be made using the recipe that follows:

Natural Mosquito Repellent Recipe

Blend all ingredients well and allow to “meld” for at least 48 hours. To use, shake well and spray onto skin and clothing. Re-apply frequently. Avoid spraying into eyes or mouth.

Other home remedies that can help include eating lots of garlic and taking Vitamin B1 on a daily basis. For maximum protection, dress in long sleeves and pants and avoid going out at dawn and dusk.

What are your favorite mosquito repellents? What are your thoughts on media coverage of West Nile Virus? (Let’s keep comments positive, please.) I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Image courtesy of: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Some links in this post are affiliate links

The Joy of Fruitless Smoothies

Picture of a sliced avocado

Many people are currently trying to eat less sugar and fewer carbohydrates. The reasons for this are related to attempts to lose weight, eliminate Candida or pursue a new level of wellness. Most of these people look at smoothie recipes and sigh with frustration because they believe it’s impossible to create a delicious smoothie that is low in carbohydrates. (Even carbohydrates from natural fruit sugars can be challenging to anyone with Candida, insulin resistance or diabetes.) It is very possible to make delicious smoothies that are sugar-free, fruit-free and very low in carbohydrates. Fruitless smoothies can be delicious and can easily become a very addicting habit. Fruitless smoothies are the perfect solution for anyone trying to embrace a low-carbohydrate lifestyle, lose weight, reduce Candida overgrowth, etc. The smoothies I’ve shared below are also perfect fits for the Paleo lifestyle which is currently very popular, and make great options for anyone with insulin resistance or diabetes.

A wide variety of creamy, great tasting smoothies can be made without fruit. My breakfast many mornings is a delicious, all-vegetable, smoothie that is low in carbs, high in protein and which keeps me going strong for many hours. This type of smoothie not only provides huge amounts of energy, but also keeps me feeling full until lunch and beyond due to the tremendous nutrition provided. By using a low-carbohydrate, high-protein blend, my bloodsugars stay very stable. Fruit-laden smoothies that don’t contain protein can cause blood sugar spikes. These blood sugar spikes later fall because they don’t have protein to keep them stable. These falls may cause hunger and fatigue mid-morning as blood sugar levels plummet. A combination of carbohydrates with protein creates a slower, smaller rise in blood sugar and helps maintain blood sugar levels at a more stable level.

Following are some guidelines you can use as a basis for creating wonderful fruit-free smoothies:
  • Use sweet veggies such as yellow and red peppers, tomatoes, etc., to add natural sweetness to smoothies
  • Add avocado to make smoothies creamy and thick without using sugar-laden yogurt
  • Use Stevia as a sweetener if needed
  • Use neutral tasting veggies such as cucumbers and zucchini to add bulk to smoothies without adding a lot of taste
  • Add dark leafy greens such as kale, spinach, etc., to increase the nutritional content of smoothies
  • Use liquids such as coconut water, aloe vera juice, coconut water kefir, unsweetened nut or coconut milk, the leftover soak water from sundried tomatoes or nuts, or vegetable juices to add flavor, sweetness, and additional nutrition to smoothies
  • Add a protein powder to balance blood sugars and extend the feeling of fullness
  • Use organic spices to taste to add flavor. Don’t limit yourself to sweet spices … have fun with spicy spices to create soups and gazpachos!
  • Strategically add ingredients such as protein powders, green powders, superfoods, seaweeds, powdered greens, maca, raw cacao powder and others to add unique flavor and increase the nutritional content of smoothies.
Using these guidelines and a bit of creativity, you can create a multitude of uniquely delicious and nutritional smoothies. Your options are limitless! Following are a few smoothie recipes I enjoy. Please let me know what you think of them!

Vitamineralicious Smoothie Delight

A lack of minerals can wreak havoc on health. The smoothie that follows is rich in minerals from vegetables, but also adds an extra punch by including a liquid trace mineral. You can boost the mineral (electrolyte) content of this smoothie by using coconut water or coconut water kefir as the liquid.

Ingredients:
 
1 avocado, diced
1/2 cucumber, diced
1 scoop Hemp Protein Powder
1 tomato, diced
1 handful kale or spinach (about 1 cup)
1 tablespoon organic lemon Juice
1 serving green powder
5-10 drops of a trace mineral
1 cup unsweetened milk alternative of choice OR 1 cup of coconut water kefir or coconut water
1/2 – 1 cup Purified Water (adjust amount to achieve desired thickness)
Stevia to taste (optional)
 
Place ingredients in regular blender or high-powered blender and blend well.  Drink 1-2 cups for breakfast and save the rest for a mid-morning snack.

Red Light District Smoothie

This smoothie is rich in anti-oxidants and Vitamin C.

Ingredients:
 
1 diced organic tomato
1 diced organic red pepper
1-2 cup(s) water from soaking sun-dried tomatoes, purified water or organic tomato juice (adjust amount to achieve desired thickness)
1 handful red lettuce
1 teaspoon organic Cinnamon
1 avocado (optional)
Stevia to taste (optional) or experiment with many flavored stevias
 
Place ingredients in regular blender or high-powered blender and blend well.  Drink 1-2 cups for breakfast and save the rest for a mid-morning snack. Garnish with a sprinkling of cinnamon
 

Diabetic Chocolate Shake

This smoothie is delicious! Add ice to make it more like a shake. If you really want to make it shake-like, add a scoop of So Delicious Dairy-Free Chocolate Coconut Ice Cream. (It’s to die for! That’s not an affiliate link … I just love their products!) Be aware that adding the coconut ice cream will increase the carbohydrate content of this shake.

Ingredients:
 
1 avocado, diced
1/2 cup organic cacao powder or organic cocoa
1/2 – 1 cups unsweetened milk alternative of choice
Stevia to taste (I use chocolate liquid stevia)
Organic cinnamon  or organic nutmeg to taste if desired
 
Place ingredients in regular blender or high-powered blender and blend well.  Drink 1-2 cups for breakfast and save the rest for a mid-morning snack. This is one of my favorite treats.
 
Please consider these recipes to merely be a suggestion. Run with them and modify them to your heart’s content.
 
My passion is helping people improve their health by identifying and correcting nutritional deficiencies and other causes of illness. I have helped thousands of people improve their health, reverse symptoms and reduce their need for medication. If you are ready to improve your health using a holistic approach, please contact me to schedule a consultation.
 
Have fun!

Important Facts About Chia Seeds

I found an amazing buy today in a location that surprised me. While cruising through Costco with my hubby, we found a 32-ounce back of organic Chia Seeds for $6.89. For those who are familiar with chia seeds, you know that price is amazing. If you don’t have access to a Costco, you can also purchase chia seeds here: Two Pounds Chia Seeds.

I grabbed a bag and began using my new stash of chia seeds as soon as I got home. While pondering what to make first, it occurred to me that not everyone is familiar with chia seeds. This blog will hopefully change that. If you can make it to the end, you’ll find my favorite recipe.

The Latin name for chia seeds is Salvia hispanica. Please note: This variety of salvia is NOT the salvia that became a popular drug a few years ago due its hallucinogenic effects when smoked. (If you purchase chia seeds, you may want to explain this to your teenagers.) Chia seeds are, however, the same seeds that are used on Chia Pets. The seeds make great grass seed, too.

Chia seeds began being cultivated over 5000 years ago in Mexico. They were a dietary staple of the Mayan and Aztec cultures. “Chia” is actually a derivative of the Mayan word for “strength.” One Aztec legend claims Aztec warriors could survive for days on a very tiny amount (about a tablespoon) of chia seeds soaked in water. Modern-day athletes often find that chia seeds improve endurance and strength and help boost the effects of workouts. I find this very easy to believe, because the nutrient content of chia seeds includes extremely high quantities of the following nutrients:

  • Omega 3 fatty acids: Chia seeds are known for having strong anti-inflammatory properties, primarily because of the high amounts of omega 3 fatty acids they contain. One of the amazing things about chia seeds is that they provide a form of Omega 3s that does not have to be converted for use in the body, and the seeds are easily broken down during the digestive process. Many people rely on flax seeds as a vegetable source of Omega 3s, but the omega 3s in chia seeds are much more easily absorbed and do not need to be converted to be absorbed. The omega 3s in flax seeds must be converted before they can be absorbed by the human body, and the only way the essential fatty acids in flax seeds can be released for absorption is if the seeds are ground. Whole flax seeds pass through the digestive tract intact, providing little more than fiber. Chia seeds, on the other hand, have a seed casing that is easily broken down by the digestive process, allowing all of the nutrients in the seeds to be easily absorbed. The seeds also provide significant amounts of fiber. It’s a win-win! Ad additional advantage chia seeds have over flax seeds is that chia seeds can be stored up to two years in an air-tight container without having the oils in the seeds go rancid. The oils in flax seeds go rancid very quickly if the seeds are not refrigerated.
  • Calcium and other essential minerals: Ounce for ounce, chia seeds have 500% more calcium than milk (in a much more absorbable form) and also contain significant amounts of phosphorous, iron, potassium, magnesium, zinc, selenium, strontium, and other minerals. Because chia seeds are so easily digested and absorbed, some people consider them a “superfood” that is a viable alternative to multivitamins when combined with a green drink. Their large content of highly bioavailable calcium and strontium also make them a viable option for improving bone density.
  • Protein: Chia seeds are 20% protein, providing a complete protein containing all the essential amino acids the body requires but cannot manufacture for itself. This means that eating chia seeds by themselves provides a sustainable form of protein. Four tablespoons (two ounces) of dry chia seeds provides 8 grams of protein, which is a full serving. The protein in chia seeds is very easily absorbed. For that reason, chia seeds are often recommended to anyone needing additional protein in their diet, including children, pregnant women, and anyone recovering from surgery or trauma. Chia seeds have also recently become a popular food for body builders.
  • Fiber: One ounce of chia seeds contains 11 grams of fiber, which is about 1/3 of what most people require for good digestive health. Increased fiber intake is also often recommended to anyone trying to lose weight. An added benefit for weight loss is that one ounce of chia seeds contains 12 grams of carbohydrates. This makes chia seeds an extremely low glycemic-index food that impacts blood sugar very, very slowly. For me personally, I can eat a large amount of soaked chia seeds without seeing any increase in blood glucose levels and without requiring any insulin. Some diabetics report including chia seeds in any meal containing carbohydrates because the chia seeds help to delay the impact the carbohydrates have on blood sugar.
  • Antioxidants: Chia seeds are loaded with antioxidants. They have more antioxidants per ounce than blueberries, providing 844 ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) per ounce. Antioxidants are known to fight free radicals and slow the aging process, so eating high amounts is always advised.
  • Vitamins: Chia seeds contain significant amounts of all B vitamins, significant amounts of Vitamin C, and also contain high amounts of the fat-soluble vitamins E, D and K.
  • Water: Although dry chia seeds do not contain any water by themselves, they are capable of absorbing up to 20 times their weight in water, and they absorb it very quickly. This is helpful for anyone struggling with dehydration, as they can drink the soaked seeds and know the water will reach their large colon for absorption. Their ability to absorb large amounts of liquid also provides ample opportunity for experimentation making drinks and puddings. More on that in a bit. They make a great gel that has a variety of uses. To make a “pudding,” I typically blend three to four parts liquid to one part chia seeds by volume. Simply add more or less liquid to control the thickness of the blend. (A quick and easy pudding can be made by blending 3/4 cup chocolate hemp milk with 1/4 cup chia seeds and allowing to soak for 10-20 minutes. Delicious!)
  • Energy: I guess this isn’t a nutritional content topic, but most people find that eating chia seeds provides solid energy that doesn’t fade. Their nutritional content helps maintain stable blood sugars and provides plenty of protein and nutrition to keep a body going. I highly recommend!

You now know how wonderful chia seeds, so let’s talk about how to incorporate them in your daily meals. Please start with very small amounts if you have never tried Chia seeds before or if your diet does not contain high amounts of protein. Their high protein content can create some issues (diarrhea, bloating) if people start with too much too quickly. I also don’t recommend chia seeds to anyone with diverticular disease, as their tiny size easily fits into inflamed pockets.

By themselves, they are a bit crunchy and have a very slight nutty flavor. (Their flavor is so slight they are virtually unnoticeable when added to dishes or beverages.) They make a great addition to smoothies and taste wonderful sprinkled over salads, stirred into yogurt or cottage cheese, etc. Following are some unique ways to add them to common foods:

  • Sprinkle them over sandwiches (they are especially delicious in any sandwich containing almond or peanut butter)
  • Stir into protein drinks
  • Add to ice cream when making home made ice cream
  • Add to coffee beans before grinding to get a few of the health benefits without adding much taste to the coffee
  • Add them to salsa: they help prevent salsa from becoming “watery” as the juice leaks out of the tomatoes and add a nice texture to salsa
  • Sprinkle them over pizzas
  • Sprinkle over cucumber salads
  • Stir two tablespoons (or more based on your taste) into 16 ounces of fruit juice and allow to “gel” for ten minutes – this makes a drink called “Chia Fresca” that is very popular in Mexico and Central America. Several companies now make chia drinks that can be purchased in health food stores. The ones made by Mamma Chia are my favorites. (Their high carbohydrate content is somewhat offset by the chia seeds, but diabetics should consume them cautiously.)
  • Stir into hummus or any dip or spread
  • Stir a tablespoon or two into a 16-ounce glass of lemonade or other flavored drink
  • Mix one teaspoon of chia seeds with 1/4 cup water and use as an egg substitute
  • Grind and substitute for up to 1/4 any flour
  • Add to sauces you’re using to brush over meat while it cooks
  • Add to meat marinades
  • Grind and use in place of flour or bread crumbs in meatloaf
  • Add to pancakes (this is especially delicious if you soak them in fruit juice first)
  • Sprout the seeds and add to salads (or cover a terra cotta head … your choice)
  • Add to oatmeal or other hot cereal
  • Add to granola and include while making
  • Blend with butter and honey for a delicious spread for toast or bagels
  • Add to soups or to slow cooker masterpieces
  • In all honesty, I haven’t found any dish that can’t have chia seeds added successfully … have fun experimenting!

Here’s my favorite breakfast “pudding” blend. I love this because I can toss the jar in the car on my way to work and munch on the pudding throughout the day. It’s delicious, filling and very energizing!

Protein-Packed Chia Pudding

In a quart-size Mason jar, blend the following:

  • 24 ounces (3 cups) purified water or milk substitute of choice (You can also use regular milk, but I prefer not to)
  • 1 scoop protein powder of choice – use flavored or unflavored based on choice. My favorite is Vibrant Health PureGreen Protein in either vanilla, chocolate or berry.

Blend well and then add 1 cup of dry chia seeds. Stir and then shake the jar well. Allow to soak for five minutes and stir well. Stir again after ten minutes. If you want to enjoy the pudding immediately, allow it to soak 10-20 minutes. I blend mine at night and let it soak overnight. That way it’s ready to go as I walk out the door in the morning. Since I don’t use any ingredients that can spoil, I don’t refrigerate the pudding overnight, but do refrigerate it once I get to work.

If you would like to receive additional information about ways to improve your health using simple dietary changes, please feel free to schedule a consultation. You may email me or call 317.489.0909 to schedule.

Have you tried chia seeds? What did you think? Please share your experiences and thoughts.

Top 10 Foods You’ll Never Find in My Kitchen

One question I get asked fairly frequently is, “What do you eat?” That is a great question, so I thought I’d start by sharing what I don’t eat. I also want to share that our eating habits should never become set in stone or overly rigid, but will need to evolve and be “tweaked” as our health changes and as deficiencies or weaknesses are eliminated. I eat a much different Toxic Symbolsvariety of foods now than I did three years ago. I encourage everyone to listen to your body and to make adjustments to lifestyle habits when you begin noticing issues that indicate a change is needed. As always, work with and rely on your health practitioner to help you identify problem areas and to provide medical intervention when needed.

Before I share my list, let me share that I try to eat “whole” foods, meaning I strictly avoid processed foods. A “whole food” eating style includes foods that are fairly close to how they appear in nature. Does it require a lot of cooking from scratch? Yes. Is it more time consuming? Not when done simply. I didn’t list processed foods on my list of foods I avoid, but know that few foods enter my kitchen in a box. Here are the top 10 foods you’ll never find in my kitchen:

  • Margarine (all hydrogenated/trans fat oils): In my house, we use good ol’ butter … the real thing … and have no worries about high cholesterol. Hydrogenated oils, also known as “trans fats,” are known to contribute to heart disease, are known to be highly inflammatory, and are created in a chemical process that attaches a hydrogen molecule to natural oil molecules to make them solid at room temperature. They are patently unhealthy. The nice thing about eliminating trans fats and hydrogenated oils from my kitchen is that it automatically eliminates most baked goods, donuts, and other high-carbohydrate foods. An interesting note is that even though a food’s label states “0 Trans Fat,” the food can contain up to .5 grams of trans fat/hydrogenated oils and still be labeled “0.” Since many companies’ labels list the nutritional information for “serving sizes” which are incredibly small, this means that a “normal” serving size may deliver a high amount of trans fats but the label can still legally say, “Contains no trans fat.” It makes no sense. The bottom line is that absolutely no serving of trans fats is acceptable in terms of health, so the current FDA guidelines allowing 0.5 to be labeled “0” are in need of major overhaul. In our kitchen, we use extra virgin olive oil for cold products (salad dressings, etc.) and extra virgin coconut oil for any cooking that requires oil. The coconut oil does not deteriorate in heat and contains very healthy medium-chain fatty acids which are known to assist with balancing cholesterol levels. (The rumors that coconut oil is a saturated fat that is bad for coronary health are false and completely ignore coconut oil’s very special chemical structure.)
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  • Soy: I know including this on my list is controversial, but I avoid soy at all costs. Over 90% of soy in this country is genetically modified, it is one of the most rapidly rising allergens in the US, it is known to harm thyroid function, and it is highly estrogenic and may interfere with normal reproductive cycles in children, men and pre-menopausal women. The only form of soy I can advocate is organic and fermented, and then no more than once or twice a week. On a side note, I was a vegan for over two years and ate no soy. It is very possible to be a vegetarian or vegan, not eat soy, and still get more than enough protein.
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  • Artificial Sweeteners: I only use pure stevia, an herbal sweetener. I carry stevia with me at all times so I never need to use saccharin, sucralose, aspartame or any of the other potentially dangerous sweeteners. Please read Why You Should Never Eat Splenda (Sucralose) for more information. Let me also state that many products claiming to be stevia are actually highly processed chemical versions of stevia and are not much better than other artificial sweeteners. My favorite stevia is a pure extract that is well filtered. My brand of choice is Sweet Leaf. Click the link to view samples of their products.
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  • Non-organic meat and dairy: I refuse to purchase meat from animals which were given antibiotics and hormones during their life cycle. Ingesting meat containing those items is simply not healthy. My preference is to eat meat that was locally grown, pasture-raised/free range, and which was fed foods that it would choose to eat naturally. The reason for this is that the meat from organically, sustainably raised animals has a healthier fatty-acid content, lower acidity, and is healthier in general. I am willing to purchase meat that is raised this way but which is not organically certified. I ask a lot of questions of the farmer to ensure the very best methods for animal and environment were used while the animals were being raised.
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  • Genetically modified foods: This is one I really can’t do justice to in a single paragraph, but I aim for a 100% organic diet so that I can avoid having genetically modified foods in my home. I will share that I don’t always eat at home. I am very aware that the foods I eat in restaurants may contain many of the items included on this list. I make good choices when eating out and trust that my exposure is far too limited to cause grave damage. The most prevalent genetically modified foods include: soy & all soy products, canola oil, cottonseed oil, beet sugar (most white sugar is beet sugar unless specifically identified as cane sugar), corn, papaya, zucchini and summer squashes, cassava, golden rice and flood-resistant rice. Organic produce cannot be genetically modified, but there is rising concern that organic crops have been contaminated by cross-pollination from genetically modified crops. A group of almost 300,000 farmers in the US are currently suing the Monsanto company for cross-contaminating their crops. My hope is that these farmers win their suit.
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  • White sugar and flour: Processed sugars and flours obviously don’t fit the “whole food” lifestyle. They additionally have been stripped of almost all nutritional value. For this reason, they are banned from my kitchen, and I try very hard to ignore it when my son purchases white bread for his own consumption. (Teenagers … what’re you gonna’ do?)
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  • High fructose corn syrup:  The commercials paid for by the Corn Refiners Association are lying to you. (It is interesting to note that the Center for Science in Public Interest has challenged these commercials and is lobbying to have them removed from the air.) High fructose corn syrup, now hidden and listed as “corn sugar” on food labels, is metabolized very differently from white sugar in the body. Multiple studies proved that rats fed high amounts of high fructose corn syrup developed pre-diabetic symptoms, metabolic syndrome, high triglycerides, gained weight around the abdominal area, and gained as much as 45% of their body weight in a short time. (Rats fed sugar-water instead of the high fructose corn syrup did not experience the same effects.) This same pattern is being repeated in the US population. One estimate I saw said the average person in the US eats 41.5 POUNDS of high fructose corn syrup each year. In addition to being excessively high in sugar and high glycemic impact carbohydrates, high fructose corn syrup has a metabolic effect that “turns off” the hormone in your body that tells you when you’re full. Ever notice you just can’t get enough to eat when you’re eating a food that contains high fructose corn syrup? There’s a true, hormonal metabolic reason. High fructose corn syrup is in everything. Start looking for it on labels. It’s in most condiments, many soft drinks, juices, many cereals and baked goods, many fruit-flavored yogurts, many breads, and many products you would never suspect to contain it. Eliminating this single ingredient has had an amazing effect on blood sugar and weight loss for some people. I encourage you to consider eliminating it.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: The Clinical Journal of Epigenics recently released a peer-reviewed study that  definitely connects rising rates of Autism Spectrum Disorders to high fructose corn syrup and other environmental toxins. I STRONGLY encourage all mothers of young children and all pregnant women to please completely eliminate this food ingredient from your diet.

  • Microwave meals: I never use a microwave. Period. I’d rather eat food cold than heat it in a microwave. There is a lot of controversy associated with microwave ovens, but the following facts remain: a) Microwaves convert the active, bioavailable from of B12 contained in food to an inactive form that is not easily absorbed (the same effect is noticed in other B vitamins); microwaving breast milk eliminates the protective antiviral and immune-boosting properties of the milk; microwaving garlic completely eliminates garlic’s antiviral and antibacterial properties; blood levels of hemoglobin were found to dramatically fall after a microwaved food was eaten but this drop did not occur when the same food was eaten after being cooked on the stove or in an oven. It is also very true that microwaving meats (blood-containing foods) changes the chemical structure of the meat. Among other things, the amount of carcinogens in the meat is increased. (A highly-publicized court case in the 90s occurred when a nurse gently microwaved blood before transfusing it into a patient. The chemical structure of the blood was modified in such a way that the patient’s body rejected it and the patient died.) It’s also interesting to note that chemists discovered long ago that chemical processes which should have taken days or weeks to complete were dramatically sped up if they were microwaved a short time. This correlates to other studies which showed that cell death (apoptosis) was hastened by microwaves. Those reasons are enough for me. I prefer to not change the molecular structure of my food before eating it. Period.
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  • White processed salt: There is absolutely no truth to the myth that sodium is bad for heart health. What is bad for heart health is processed white salt, the same type that is most commonly used in processed foods and restaurants. (And let’s be honest … any food in a box is processed. Read the labels and familiarize yourself with what you’re eating.) Every cell in your body maintains a very delicate balance of sodium and potassium. Sodium is essential for human life, but not in the the form most commonly added to foods. True salt has some color to it and contains essential trace minerals. I actually find that many people’s high blood pressure falls when they start using a mineral-rich salt (in small amounts) such as Himalayan Sea Salt (which is pink) or Celtic Sea Salt (which is gray). The truth is that common, iodized white table salt has been so heavily processed that all other trace minerals have been removed. The end result is a non-organic chemical – sodium chloride – which your body does not recognize. The water retention and elevated blood pressure caused by common table salt occurs because your body exerts so much energy to eliminating the salt from your body. Your body will isolate the sodium and chloride and will pull water out of your cells and tissues to surround the sodium and chloride molecules with water in order to neutralize them. This causes water retention and elevated blood pressure. Many sea salts sold today as “natural” are also highly processed and bear little or no advantage over common table salt. Another issue with regular sea salt is that it contains pollutants common to sea water. My favorite salt is Himalayan Sea Salt. Its pink color is an obvious indicator that it contains higher amounts of minerals than white salt does. Himalayan sea salt was deposited in the Himalayas thousands of years ago, so contamination is not a concern. Using an unprocessed, natural salt is definitely healthier than using a salt that is the result of a chemical process. On a side note, my husband often comments that Himalayan Sea Salt just plain tastes better, so it’s a win-win.
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  • Bacon, salami, sausage, hot dogs and lunch meats with nitrates: In addition to being highly processed, loaded with unhealthy fat and high in white salt (see above), these meats – sometimes of questionable origin – also contain preservatives called sodium nitrate or sodium nitrite. These chemicals interfere with red blood cell’s ability to carry oxygen throughout the body and have been implicated in erectile dysfunction and blue baby syndrome. They break down into nitrosamines in the body, which are a chemical known to be highly carcinogenic. The good news is that it is possible to find nitrate-free bacon and lunchmeats in many grocery stores. Unprocessed bacon actually tastes better to me than the processed variety. I don’t eat bacon very often, but when I do it’s always nitrate-free.

There you have it. Can you think of any foods that need to be added to this list? Please share!

Photograph courtesy of Daniel Y. Go