veg heart.jpg

In this section you’ll find articles on nutrition and aspects of food.

General Nutrition Guidelines

shutterstock_569418763.jpg

Momma was right…

Eat your vegetables.

 

A nutrient-rich diet is integral and essential to a vibrant life and smart healing. You can choose to become an unplugging, tree-hugging, green-smoothie-chugging, meditating, levitating whole food guru or you can start with three glasses of water and an apple a day. The main thing is to start where you are.

I offer you the culmination of thirty years of personal experimentation and clinical experience as well as a Bachelor’s degree in Nutritional Medicine. I've read pretty much every book I could find on nutrition, from butter coated bacon to no-fat vegan. I've probably even tried eating that way to see what would happen. Distilling all the books and all the research comes down to one simple phrase, one that you probably heard through your entire childhood; "Eat your vegetables." Thanks, Mom. 

Diets used to be much simpler and usually involved something that grew in the ground, ran on it, swam, or flew. So that pretty much leaves us veggies, fruit, nuts, pulses, fish, fowl, grains, meat and dairy. So actually there is an abundance of choice available! It's how generations before us survived on this fabulous planet so it makes sense to copy them.

In the past couple of generations there has been an explosion in food processing. Excess fat, sugar and salt manipulates us as well as artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, pesticides, GMOs, stabilizers, and a plethora of other chemicals I don't know about. It isn't called 'junk food' by accident. The World Health Organization sites a poor diet as the number-two cause of cancer and a major contributor to half of all cancers. It’s also implicated in many other chronic health complications such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease, fatty liver disease, and Alzheimer’s. 

So... given that, here are my basic guidelines for good nutrition, and thus a good working body and mind.

  1. Choose foods as close to nature as possible, meaning unrefined, ideally organic.

  2. Avoid highly processed foods, sugar, alcohol, and trans fats.

  3. Eat foods rich in omega-3 fats and friendly bacteria.

  4. Aim for ten servings of vegetables a day (smoothies help a lot).

  5. Eat everything else (meat, eggs, dairy, beans, grains) as suits your personal constitution.

That's it in a nutshell. Obviously everything can be tweaked, and the diet and nutrition industry would have us believe that it is really difficult to eat well, but really, it isn’t. Eat what your Granny used to eat - in other words, real food. Keep highly processed ‘stuff’ to a minimum and branch out in your culinary skills. You can check out some of my favorite things to make in the Recipes section. I add new recipes on a fairly regular basis, so long as they have passed my taste test. Ideally my husband will also be on board but hey, I can’t guarantee that. Especially if it’s something like a chia pudding. He just isn’t going there.


 

Why Eat Organic?

veggie garden.jpg
 

You can dramatically increase nutrient levels by choosing organic—called bio in some countries. Besides having fewer pesticides, organically grown foods have more nutrients than those grown conventionally with chemicals. I've covered the topic of organic dairy and meat in the page To Moo or Not to Moo? This section is for the fruits and veggies. 

A survey by the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine compared the nutrient content of organic and conventional crops [1]. Organic crops contained significantly more vitamin C, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus. There was a higher content of nutritionally significant minerals found in the organic crops. They contained far fewer heavy metals than conventional crops and heavy metals are very toxic to your body.

The scientists concluded, “There appear to be genuine differences in the nutrient content of organic and conventional crops.”

Typically the more fragile the fruit or vegetable, the more often it has been coated with pesticides. The following list of foods are the most heavily sprayed in conventional farming. The Environmental Working Group, an American nonprofit that specializes in research and advocacy about toxic chemicals in agriculture, calls them the Dirty Dozen. Whenever possible, these are the most important produce foods to purchase from an organic source. The EWG updates this list annually.

2019 Dirty Dozen

  1. Strawberries

  2. Spinach

  3. Kale

  4. Nectarines

  5. Apples

  6. Grapes

  7. Peaches

  8. Cherries

  9. Pears

  10. Tomatoes and cherry tomatoes

  11. Celery

  12. Potatoes

+ special concern foods: imported snap peas, lettuce, blueberries and hot peppers, which are found to contain traces of highly toxic pesticides. 

Fortunately, there is also a bright side. The EWG has kindly put together the Clean Fifteen, which are the safest foods to buy conventionally, as they contain the least amount of pesticides.  

Clean Fifteen

  1. Avocados

  2. Sweet Corn*

  3. Pineapples

  4. Sweet Peas Frozen

  5. Onions

  6. Papayas*

  7. Eggplants

  8. Asparagus

  9. Kiwis

  10. Cabbages

  11. Cauliflower

  12. Cantaloupes

  13. Broccoli

  14. Mushrooms

  15. Honeydew Melons

*some sweet corn and papaya sold in the US is produced from genetically modified seeds. Buy organic if you wish to avoid GMOs.

Endnotes

[1] V. Worthington, “Nutritional quality of organic versus conventional
fruits, vegetables, and grains,” Journal of Alternative and Complementary
Medicine 7, no. 2 (April 2001): 161–73.


 

Veggies & Fruit

Veggie+superhero.jpg

Pow! Pow! Powerful!

 

The fastest way to improve the nutrient content of your diet is to eat more vegetables—probably a lot more vegetables. Aim for ten servings a day. Seems a lot if your idea of a vegetable serving is a slice of lettuce and tomato on a burger (no, ketchup doesn’t count). A serving is roughly what you can hold in your hand, so it really isn’t that hard to achieve. A serving of leafy greens is two handfuls. If you embrace green smoothies you will knock out several of these servings in one swoop. I will give you some good ideas in the meal plans for increasing your veggies without even noticing.

Veggies are loaded with nutrients that strengthen blood vessels and connective tissues and that boost the immune system, all of which is great for your scar. One of these super nutrients is vitamin C, which is a co-factor for collagen synthesis and a primary antioxidant. Antioxidants protect the cells by “loaning” an electron to chemicals called free radicals, which would otherwise steal electrons from a healthy cell, causing damage.

A recent study showed vitamin C is rapidly consumed by the body post-wounding. The researchers found that vitamin C supplementation suppressed inflammation quickly while exciting the expression of self-renewal genes. Supplementation also promoted the proliferation of fibroblasts, the specialized cells that make up a scar [1].

Fruits high in vitamin C include all citrus, strawberries, black currants, kiwi, peaches, papayas, mangos, goji berries, guavas, and lychees. Vegetables high in vitamin C include spring greens, spinach, parsley, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, red cabbage, Brussels sprouts, bell peppers, and mange tout peas (snow or snap peas).

Quercetin is a well-researched antioxidant with anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. A study released in early 2017 showed that quercetin reduced breast cancer cell viability in a time and dose dependent manner, meaning it increased cancer cell apoptosis (cell death) as well as inhibiting the cell cycle progression. The scientists conducting the study were looking for an effective and less toxic alternative to chemotherapy and radiotherapy [2].

We are particularly interested in its anti-inflammatory action to support post-operative recovery, but I’m not about to knock its cancer killing properties. Quercetin is found in apples, red onions, green tea, broccoli, leafy greens, tomatoes, and berries.

Carotenoids, converted by the body into vitamin A, are essential for wound healing and proper immune function. A study in immunonutrition found that a deficiency in Vitamin A impairs wound healing. It has multiple positive effects on wounds, including collagen cross-linking, giving the wound strength, as well as increasing the monocytes and macrophages in the early inflammatory phase [3].

Food sources high in carotenoids are usually red, orange, or yellow in color and include carrots, apricots, winter squash, mangos, plums, tomatoes, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes.

There can be some contention over the best way to eat your veggies: raw or cooked. Some veggies retain their nutrients better when raw, whereas others, like carrots and tomatoes, dramatically increase in nutrients when cooked as the heat releases antioxidants in the fiber. Steaming vegetables seems to be the best way to retain nutrients when cooking, followed by roasting. I would say the most important part is to simply eat more of them.

Endnotes:

[1] B. M. Mohammed, B. J. Fisher, D. Kraskauskas, S. Ward, J. S. Wayne,
D. F. Brophy, A. A. Fowler, D. R. Yager, R. Natarajan, “Vitamin C
promotes wound healing through novel pleiotropic mechanisms,”
International Wound Journal 13, no. 4 (August 2 20, 2015): 572–84, doi:
10.1111/iwj.12484.


[2] Lich Thi Nguyen, Yeon-Hee Lee, Ashish Ranjan Sharma, Jong-Bong
Park, Supriya Jagga, Garima Sharma, Sang-Soo Lee, Ju-Suk Nam,
“Quercetin induces apoptosis and cell cycle arrest in triple-negative
breast cancer cells through modulation of Foxo3a activity,” The
Korean Journal of Physiology & Pharmacology 21(2) (March 2017): 205-
213, doi: 10.4196/kjpp.2017.21.2.205


[3] Oliver Chow and Adrian Barbul, “Immunonutrition: Role in Wound
Healing and Tissue Regeneration,” Advances in Wound Care 3(1)
(January 2014): 46-53, doi: 10.1089/wound.2012.0415


 

Supergreens

greens.jpg
 

Green leafy veggies are rich in a group of B vitamins, called folates, that maintain DNA stability. There is a widespread deficiency of folate in humans, and this deficiency has been implicated in the development of several cancers including cancer of the colon, ovary, breast, pancreas, cervix, brain, and lung. Supergreens are very protective— a powerhouse nutrient. Think of a superhero wearing a green kale cape.

Supergreens include broccoli, romaine lettuce, red- and green-leaf lettuce, spinach, endive, kale, chard, celery, bok choy, asparagus, arugula, carrot tops, beet tops, collard greens, escarole, frisée, mizuna, mustard greens, and radicchio. Some of these greens may have gone in your composting or trash can. Keep your beet and carrot tops and try them chopped up in a stir fry or blended in a smoothie.

I am inspired by Victoria Boutenko who wrote Green for Life. She conducted an interesting study on the myriad benefits of green smoothies. She asked study participants to drink a quart of green smoothie daily. According to the supervising doctor, after one month 66.7 percent of participants showed vast improvement with various health concerns. The testimonials and stories these participants contributed to the book are positively astonishing given the simplicity of the task. Boutenko’s daily quart of green smoothie improved the health of two-thirds of her participants. One quart is not hard to consume, especially when you make it really tasty.

I recommend you invest in a good blender. My old blenders made “chunkies” instead of smoothies, so I made the commitment and bought a Vitamix blender. It can chew up anything to create a silky drink and I use it daily for smoothies, blending ice cream recipes and making sauces, dips, soups, crushing ice into snow and more. Vitamix has been around for decades, and the machines are built to last.

Before I offer some tips on making smoothies, I know there are readers who are thinking, “If one quart is good, then drinking only smoothies all day will make me heal even faster, look even better, feel like a million...” If that’s you: slow down, Sunshine! Smoothies are a supplement to a healthy diet. So, have the smoothie in addition to healthy (heavy on the plants) meals. I don’t think doing a ‘juice cleanse’ and then breaking it with a bowl of double fudge ice cream is a good idea. I would rather you had the green juice regularly and transition your diet to more plant based. But hey, if doing a “detox” will help you break food addictions, and it will, then I’d say go for it; just follow up with a healthier diet.

Green smoothies look a little muddy if you use the very dark greens, but don’t let that put you off. I like baby salad greens, spinach, and romaine lettuce for my smoothies as they are lighter in flavor. If I'm making a smoothie that has added nut butter, or tropical fruits, I'll throw in a couple handfuls of frozen kale because the nuts and sweet fruits cancel out any bitterness. If you have blood sugar issues I would encourage you to make your smoothies more veg than fruit. You can also have your smoothie with a meal to slow down the release of sugar from the fruit.

Some folks love the really “green” flavor, and a friend of mine doesn’t put any fruit in her smoothies, instead preferring a big squeeze of lemon and a bit of fresh ginger. It’s up to you and your taste buds. I keep peeled, broken bananas in the freezer along with organic strawberries, blueberries, and pineapple. FYI: cherries will cause your smoothie to become very foamy!

Here is the basic Green Smoothie recipe.

Do your own thirty-day smoothie challenge and jot down any little health concern that’s bothering you right now. Include even smaller issues such as bags under the eyes or lackluster skin. Put the list in a drawer, drink your smoothies, and look over your list again in a month. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the positive changes.

So if you’re still wondering how on earth you are going to eat ten servings of vegetables in a day, start here - Have one quart of green smoothie per day, a generous salad of mixed greens, and a large portion of mixed vegetables. The meat, the beans, the cheese, the nuts or grains are a complement to the plants, not the other way around. This one change of eating more vegetables is huge - adding in a green smoothie gives you superpowers!


 

Essential Fatty Acids are Indeed Essential

omega3foods.jpg
 

Essential fatty acids, omega-3 fats, and omega-6 fats are literally essential to our good health. We must ingest them because our bodies cannot synthesize them. They are integral to keeping the cell membrane flexible, which we want for a healthy, functioning body.

The essential fatty acids are the starting point for making hormones that regulate inflammation and blood clotting, which is important for overall health let alone wound healing. They maintain the suppleness of the arterial walls, protecting your cardiovascular system. And, they are highly concentrated in the brain and are necessary for memory and performance as well as for preventing mood swings and depression.

Our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate a ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats of about 1 to 1. This changed dramatically with the Industrial Revolution and mass-produced foods, which saw the boom of using refined vegetable oils in foods and the use of cereal grains to feed livestock instead of grazing on grass. If you’re going to eat meat, make it grass-fed. Grass-fed beef is leaner, has more protein, and higher amounts of Omega 3s plus CLAs. For a deeper discussion on the merits of grass-fed animals, check out Beyond Beef Basics: Grass Fed, Grain Finished & More from The Nourish Evolution. 

Nowadays, the standard diet supplies a ratio of 1 part omega-3 to 15 parts omega-6 fats. That's a huge difference! Unfortunately the skewed ratio is having dramatically negative consequences on our health due to the pro-inflammatory nature of omega-6 fats. Pro-inflammatory meaning creates more inflammation. Not good. 

Vegetable oils such as safflower, sunflower, corn, and soybean are cheap and widely used in packaged and processed foods, and they throw the delicate balance of essential fats way out of whack. Suffice to say, we need to dramatically increase the omega-3 fats and reduce the omega-6 fats to optimize health and, in particular, scar health and healing.

There are three important omega-3 fatty acids:

  1. ALA, alpha-linolenic acid, found in a wide variety of foods, including flaxseed and walnuts

  2. EPA, eicosapentaenoic acid, found in fish

  3. DHA, docosahexaenoic acid, found in fish and seaweed.

Scientific studies indicate that supplementing with omega-3 fats, particularly EPA and DHA, dramatically assists wound healing by reducing inflammation and encouraging skin formation or epithelialization [1]. Now, not to seem shallow, but having bouncy, flexible cell walls, reduced inflammation and increased skin formation all sound like things that make up nice skin. Besides the brain and body protection, essential fatty acids can help us look good on the outside too.

Foods naturally high in EPA and DHA fats include oily fish like herrings, anchovies, mackerel, sardines, and salmon. The smaller fish are a healthier choice over salmon because they are lower on the food chain and less likely to contain high amounts of pollutants, including mercury, found in the oceans.

Vegans and vegetarians can obtain their omega-3 fats by eating seeds and nuts rich in omega-3 fats. However, these foods carry a high concentration of ALA as opposed to the wound-assisting EPA and DHA. Your body can convert some of the ALA into the other forms, but it is a more complicated task. If you do not eat fish, Nordic Naturals has a vegan omega-3 that comes from algae. If you think a bit beyond the box, using an algae supplement makes sense. After all, that’s how the fish get their Omegas.

One of the best food-based vegan sources of omega-3 fats is flaxseed. Grind the seeds freshly each time you consume them because you need to break down the seed coating to access the good fats. The oils can go rancid quickly, so buying them pre-ground is not beneficial. Be sure to store all seeds (and nuts) in the fridge to keep them fresh.

Other good sources of omega-3 fats are walnuts, especially English and Persian walnuts, followed by black walnuts. Chia seeds are high in omega-3 fats as well in protein and fiber, which makes them an excellent addition to a vegetarian diet. Dark leafy greens also contain some omega-3 fats which is one more reason to jump on the green smoothie wagon.

The other way to increase your levels of beneficial omega-3 fats is to reduce your consumption of omega-6 fats such as safflower, grape seed, sunflower, hemp, corn, cottonseed, and soy oils. This tips the ratio in the healthier direction. It is easy to overeat cookies and cakes made with vegetable oils, but pretty darn hard to binge on sardines, unless you are a sea lion. Margarine, vegetable shortenings and any other artificially stabilized spreads are bad news as we discovered in the trans-fats page.

If you've just had surgery or are recovering from injury, I do suggest a supplement, as you are in in the early stages of healing. You want to encourage and support the healing as much as possible. Personally I believe if you eat a fantabulous diet, with conscious food choices, you’ll be covered. If that’s not on the cards right now you can use a fish oil supplement or a vegan supplement.

From my research, I’ve found two fish oils that sound really good. The first is Wiley's Finest Wild Alaskan Fish Oil, which is traceable, sustainable, and American made. You can go to the Wiley's Finest website here to check them out and read more about their story and products. The second company I like is Nordic Naturals. I've prescribed their Ultimate Omega for years (the Wiley's is a recent find). Nordic Naturals' fantastic website explains and details the multiple benefits of fish oils, far more comprehensively than I can.

Endnotes

[1] J. C. McDaniel, K. Massey, A. Nicolaou. “Fish oil supplementation alters
levels of lipid mediators of inflammation in microenvironment
of acute human wounds,” Wound Repair and Regeneration 19, no. 2
(March/April 2011): 189–200.

 

Too moo or not too moo?

Because this looks totally natural…

Because this looks totally natural…

 
 

Does milk really do a body good?

Some people can digest lactose, the sugar in dairy products, no problem. Dairy food are made from milk; typically cows, goats and sheep, however I have worked with people who have camels and yaks, so they are also an option. Besides milk, dairy foods include cheese, kefir, ice cream and yoghurt. Animal milk, like human milk, is food for babies. That was nature's intention and it helps a small critter grow. When an animal or baby is weaned, surely that's the end of consuming milk, right? A cow or goat or sheep goes on to eat grass and grains if domesticated, and yet, we humans keep drinking milk and eating dairy, which is pretty bizarre when you stop to really think about it.

The Genetics Home Reference from the U.S. National Library of Medicine estimates that approximately 65 percent of the human population has a reduced ability to digest milk after infancy. If you're of East Asian descent, there is a 90 percent chance you can't digest milk. People from Northern Europe, who have a long history of dependence on milk for survival, have barely any problems at all. For two-thirds of us, eating dairy leads to cramps, bloating, terrible gas, sinus troubles, breathing difficulties and skin issues among other complaints. For some people, dairy causes systemic or body-wide inflammation - think arthritis, eczema, and acne. So even if your dairy is organic, and I'll explain why that's critical in a minute, it may be the root, or one of the roots, of your health complaints. 

When I removed dairy from my diet, not only did my eczema improve, but so also did the strange rash in my armpits, the bumps on my face and the sticky eruption on my scalp. My digestion improved and I had more energy. I suggested dairy elimination for all of my eczema patients, as a starting point, and for most of them, it made a huge difference. One woman tested it over and over (she was highly resistant to quitting cheese) and sure enough, every time she ate cheese she would get a patch of hot, itchy eczema. She finally accepted that cheese = eczema. A man with cystic acne finally agreed to go dairy free for two weeks. He had been drinking two to three lattes a day, which is a lot of milk. He switched to black coffee and his acne cleared up. To test the theory, I told him to drink his lattes and have a cheese sandwich, and he broke out the next day in angry spots. Now, after many years off of dairy, his skin is clear, unless he goes on a cheese bender. 

Now, onto the topic of organic vs. commercially raised animals. Unless they are raised organically, the animals get antibiotic treatment regularly. Approximately 80 percent of antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used in animal farming to promote animal growth and prevent infection. The problem is that antibiotics used in food-producing animals kills their good bacteria, which allows antibiotic-resistant bacteria to thrive in the animal. We then consume the antibiotic-resistant bacteria when we eat the meat or drink the milk. This can lead to a bacterial upset in us, read infection, that will not respond to antibiotic treatment when we need it.

Many esteemed medical and scientific groups have called out against agricultural and animal antibiotic use because of the dire health implications to humanity. In 2017 the US FDA initiated a strategy on Microbial Resistance. They call for a more judicious use of antibiotics in animals; use less of the drugs that are important for treating human disease, stop using it in feed or drinking water of food-producing animals and stop them being sold over-the-counter by restricting them to veterinarian use only. focuses on drugs that are important for treating human disease. 

The key aspect of FDA’s strategy is the request that animal drug sponsors (those who own the right to market the product) voluntarily work with FDA to revise the approved use conditions for their medically important antimicrobial drug products to remove production uses (such as growth enhancement or feed efficiency), and bring the remaining therapeutic uses under veterinary oversight. Once manufacturers voluntarily make these changes, products can no longer be used for production purposes and therapeutic use of these products would require veterinary oversight.

FDA also believes strongly that sick animals need treatment, and that these antimicrobial drugs should remain available for the purposes of treating, controlling or preventing disease in food-producing animals. We consider this approach to be the most effective way to implement such changes in a way that is protective of both public and animal health.

Thirty-five years ago scientists were noticing that farmers and farm animals were showing signs of antibiotic resistance [1]. The antibiotics used in agriculture may be significantly contributing to the spread of antibiotic-resistant superbugs that cause infections in patients in hospitals. Scientists looked for a connection and found that low levels of beta-lactam antibiotics, a drug class commonly used in both clinical and agricultural settings, accelerated the growth and spread of the (bad) bacteria Staphylococcus aureus. The effect was most noticeable among multidrug-resistant strains of bacteria known as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. MRSA spread rapidly when exposed to low levels of antibiotics, such as used with animals. The MRSA wasn’t killed by the antibiotics—it actually thrived. Staphylococcus aureus and particularly MRSA continues to be a major cause of infections in medical settings such as health clinics and hospitals [2].

When researching for Love Your Scar, my holistic guide to healing well after surgery, I was greatly influenced by the writings of Jane Plant, PhD, author of Your Life in Your Hands. Plant is adamant about excluding all dairy products during cancer treatment—and beyond—based on her research and repeated incidences with breast cancer. She got me thinking and I read other anti-dairy books to see what I could discover. T. Colin Campbell's experiment, The China Study is a classic, and recently updated. There is also Joseph Keon's excellent book Whitewash: The Disturbing Truth About Cow's Milk and Your HealthAnd finally, I've just finished reading The Cheese Trap by Neal Barnard.

Barnard suggests that cheese is addictive. Casein, the protein that is concentrated in cheese, has a morphine-like effect. When you think about it, it makes sense. You want a calf to bond to its mother to be fed her milk. These proteins have an effect on us too. They can attach to the same brain receptors that heroin and other narcotics latch on to. So does cheese act like crack? Maybe not as violently, but many cheese lovers can attest that it is a hard food to quit.

It's your choice. If you suffer any skin or digestive complaints, I'd strongly suggest you quit dairy for three weeks and see if your health improves. If it does, keep going! Once you are clear of your problem, have a glass of milk or a block of cheese and see what happens. If your symptoms return, or you feel a decrease in your well-being, it might be time to wipe off your milk mustache for good.

*Absolutely buy organic dairy to reduce your exposure to the antibiotics and hormone enhancers given to conventional dairy cows.

*Swap to goat and sheep dairy products as these have been found to be more easily digested than cow products.

*Reduce the amount of cheese you eat by grating it on foods for flavor.


 

FATS: the good, the okay and the very very bad.

fats.jpg
 

We need fats to live and thrive. Some are much better than others and some are downright disastrous for health. The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance has an excellent explanation of the different fats here. I'm going to focus on why trans fats are so dangerous.

Trans-Fatty Acids or Partially Hydrogenated Oils

Trans-fatty acids (TFAs), also called trans fats or partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), are liquid vegetable oils processed into a solid form such as margarine or vegetable shortening. This is done by adding hydrogen, thus the name partially “hydrogenated” vegetable oil. Processed foods have a longer shelf life when they contain PHOs, making them desirable to food manufacturers. But this is bad news for us. Scientific evidence concludes that PHOs are wildly dangerous and contribute to a wide range of diseases.

The cardiovascular system has been the main focus of research, which shows PHOs destroy good cholesterol while dramatically increasing bad cholesterol, leading to a much higher risk of heart attack. Research also indicates that PHOs increase risk of systemic inflammation, cell dysfunction, irregular heartbeat, insulin resistance, Alzheimer’s, liver dysfunction, infertility, cancer, diabetes development, and stroke. In addition, hydrogenated oils cause the body to store fat around the abdomen, which can be an indicator of poor health. 

As of June 2015, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determined that PHOs are not “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) and placed them on the list of foods that are, well, not safe to eat. Based on a thorough review of the scientific evidence, the U.S. FDA has determined that removing partially hydrogenated oils from processed foods could prevent thousands of deaths and heart attacks in the United States each year—and they are only talking about the cardiovascular danger of trans fats.

Given that these foods are now on the “bad” food list, the FDA has given food manufacturers three years to either reformulate their products without PHOs or try to petition the use of them in foods. Until that time, the FDA recommends that consumers check a food’s ingredient list to determine whether or not it contains PHOs. As I am writing this, it's the summer of 2018, so I looked to see if the FDA followed up. Here's an update. 

Common foods that may contain partially hydrogenated oils, or trans fats, include:

  • Baked goods such as cakes, cookies, pies, crackers, and donuts

  • Vegetable shortening and stick margarine

  • Coffee creamer

  • Pot pies

  • Waffles

  • Pizzas

  • Ready-to-use frosting

  • Potato chips

  • Microwave popcorn

  • Ramen noodles and soup cups

  • Fried foods (French fries, fried chicken, fried cheese sticks, fried anything)

  • Refrigerated dough products such as cinnamon rolls and biscuits

Here’s something critical to note: foods currently labeled with zero grams of trans fats may legally still contain small amounts (less than one-half gram per serving). These small amounts can add up and contribute to health problems.

Suppose you usually start your day with coffee with creamer and a donut. For lunch you hit the drive-thru and order chicken nuggets and fries—and maybe a little apple pie for dessert. Someone in the office has a birthday and there are cupcakes with frosting. For dinner you have a frozen pizza, and later, while watching a movie, you eat some microwaved popcorn. See the problem? It is not the individual amount you have but the cumulative effect of trans fats on your health.

To summarize: Processed foods with a shelf life probably contain partially hydrogenated oils. These are going to cause damage to your health, as determined by a plethora of studies. Even the government is involved. Therefore, trans fats are to be avoided.

To make snacks that have healthy fats, check out both the sweet and savory recipes for Gently Roasted Nuts. 

 

Turmeric.jpg

Magical Turmeric

 

The yellow pigment of the turmeric root, called curcumin, has powerful healing capabilities. Turmeric has been used in India’s Ayurvedic medicine since about 1900 BC, and modern research confirms the spicy tuber’s therapeutic uses for a wide variety of diseases and conditions. Specifically, curcumin exhibits antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and anticancer properties [1].

Turmeric has been extensively studied and is excellent for pain, inflammation, and for accelerating the various stages of healing. In particular, evidence shows it

  • enhances granulation tissue formation (the creation of new connective tissue and microscopic blood vessels),

  • collagen deposition (the laying down of collagen to stabilize the wound matrix),

  • wound contraction (when the sides of the wound heal toward each other to close),

  • and tissue remodeling (also called “maturation,” the last stage of the healing process, which can take up to two years)

Although there are turmeric-containing creams, I don’t have experience in using turmeric topically, and I hesitate to recommend what I have not used with my patients. However, I am very comfortable suggesting you spice your cooking with turmeric; it’s delicious.

Turmeric has been used medicinally for centuries in India, China, and Africa, and it’s found in many countries’ traditional dishes. You can add turmeric to curries, roasted veggies, smoothies, and rice. Or stir it into warm milk to make “golden milk,” one of my favorite ways of taking the spice, especially at bedtime when it helps you sleep.

Here is the recipe for Turmeric Paste, which you will need to make Spicy Golden Milk. 

Endnotes

[1] B. B. Aggarwal, C. Sundaram, N. Malani, H. Ichikawa, “Curcumin:
the Indian solid gold,” Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology
595 (2007):1–75.
[2] D. Akbik, M. Ghadiri, W. Chrzanowski, R. Rohanizadeh, “Curcumin
as a wound-healing agent,” Life Sciences, 116, no. 1 (Oct. 22, 2014):
1–7, doi: 10.1016/j.lfs.2014.08.016.


SugarSugarSugar

sugar.jpg

We were programmed to associate sugar with good times from a very young age. As children we were rewarded with desserts for eating our broccoli, and birthday celebrations included ice cream and cake. All holidays have a specific candy, whether it’s candy corn, candy canes, or chocolate bunnies. Even Pink Floyd says 'If you don't eat your meat, you can't have any pudding! How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat?!' My mom didn't make us dessert or have it in the house so sugar became this coveted thing. I would take my dog-washing money and on the way from the ferry to school, I'd stop at the corner shop for what now I recognize as a binge. I became quite the candy connoisseur. So, do we give our children and ourselves sugar? How much is too much? 

The problem with refined sugar is that it is a thief. It steals nutrients from our bodies, hijacks our hormones, and sets us on a course for obesity, inflammation, and chronic disease. Having high glucose levels or high blood sugar causes cell walls to become rigid and stiff. This slows the flow of blood and lymph in your body and reduces the amount of oxygen and nutrients reaching your cells. For this reason, eating sugar impedes healing and threatens full flexibility in every cell in your body from your skin to your inner organs. 

Having cured my eczema problems, I gained a reputation as a skin guru in London. To give you an example of what excessive sugar does to your skin, I’ll present a case study from my clinic. A builder in his sixties came to see me regarding his burning, weeping, painful eczema that covered a large portion of his body, but particularly affected his hands and arms. We went through his diet and it turned out he loved a cup of tea—with eight teaspoons of sugar. I asked how many cups he might have in a day. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “Perhaps ten?” I struggled to keep my eyebrows in place.

I asked this man to spoon eighty teaspoons of sugar onto a plate and leave it on his kitchen table until he next saw me. I did not tell him to cut back on sugar or stop drinking tea. I suggested that for every cup of tea he drank, he follow it with a cup of water, as he was currently not drinking any water at all. I asked him to add frozen veggies to his standard of canned soups for dinner and to eat one apple or pear a day. Because his eczema was so severe, he was given a homeopathic general-support remedy but nothing else. My focus was mostly on his diet as his sugar consumption was off the charts, and I hoped seeing the pile of sugar would motivate him to change.

Six weeks later at his follow up appointment, he proudly showed me that his eczema was completely gone – as if it had never existed. We both were incredulous. He was drinking four cups of tea a day, with no sugar, and was drinking two liters or more of water. He had added in the vegetables and fruit and had noticed he felt better, which led him to want to eat even more of them. The giant sugar mound had startled him into action, and a few simple changes were all it took for his body to heal the inflammation of the eczema. He was happy with his new diet, delighted with his skin and I never saw him again. 

The higher an ingredient is on the label, the more of that substance is contained in the food. One sneaky trick food processors use is to include three different types or names for sugar, listing them all separately so it doesn’t look so bad. Look on the label for total sugars. The Lunchbox Doctor, Jenny Tschiesche, gives an excellent explanation of how to identify sugar content on a label.  

You will find sugar in almost all processed foods.

Here’s a short list of the different names:

  • brown rice syrup,

  • corn sweetener, corn syrup or corn syrup solids,

  • cane juice, dehydrated cane juice,

  • dextrin, dextrose,

  • fructose, fruit juice concentrate,

  • glucose,

  • high-fructose corn syrup (bad, bad, bad!!!),

  • invert sugar,

  • lactose,

  • maltodextrin,

  • malt syrup, maltose, mannitol,

  • molasses, raw sugar,

  • rice syrup,

  • saccharose,

  • sorbitol,

  • sorghum,

  • sucrose,

  • treacle,

  • turbinado sugar,

  • and xylose

I give honey and maple syrup a kindofa free-ish pass card as they are more natural sugars. Yes, they have minerals, vitamins, and immune-enhancing properties. But they still break down in your body like sugar and can cause havoc in large amounts. 

For chocoholics who feel like a little part of them has just died, here is my peace offering: homemade chocolate. It is so easy to do and incredibly satisfying. Homemade chocolate is high in minerals and antioxidants, soothes those monthly cravings and provides nutritious fat. I mean, come on, it’s practically a health food.

Here's the link to the Homemade Chocolates page. You'll have fresh chocolate made with five simple ingredients to use as a syrup, frosting, bar or small candy. If you want to have a richer chocolate, there's a recipe for that, along with a bundle of variations to tickle your fancy.


Drugged up meat

cow.jpg
 

Choose organic if you don't want a whack of antibiotics on your dinner plate. 

I have dramatically reduced my meat consumption for several reasons. I won’t go into it right now but I probably will soon. One of the main reasons was that the animals are just too sick and they are making us sick as well. Many esteemed medical and scientific groups have called out against agricultural and animal antibiotic use because of the dire health implications to humanity. We are getting to the point where our miraculous drugs don't work when we're sick and really need them. A lot of it has to do with the meat on your plate. 

Thirty-five years ago scientists were noticing that farmers and farm animals were showing signs of antibiotic resistance [1]. The antibiotics used in agriculture may be significantly contributing to the spread of antibiotic-resistant superbugs that cause infections in patients in hospitals. Scientists looked for a connection and found that low levels of beta-lactam antibiotics, a drug class commonly used in both clinical and agricultural settings, accelerated the growth and spread of the (bad) bacteria Staphylococcus aureus.

The effect was most noticeable among multidrug-resistant strains of bacteria known as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. MRSA spread rapidly when exposed to low levels of antibiotics, such as used with animals. The MRSA wasn’t killed by the antibiotics—it actually thrived. Staphylococcus aureus and particularly MRSA continues to be a major cause of infections in medical settings such as health clinics and hospitals [2].

In 2017 the US FDA initiated a strategy on Microbial Resistance. They call for a more judicious use of antibiotics in animals; use less of the drugs that are important for treating human disease, stop using it in feed or drinking water of food-producing animals and stop them being sold over-the-counter by restricting them to veterinarian use only. The problem I have though is that this is a voluntary strategy, meaning they are requesting change but not demanding it. If you want to get into more detail, check out this excellent PBS Frontline discussion about antibiotics and meat - Is Your Meat Safe? 

Until the pharmaceutical companies and government make low-antibiotic use in food-raised animals mandatory,  I suggest you source grass-fed, which tips your good fats higher in Omega 3s. When you choose organic, you are guaranteeing antibiotic-free meat. If an animal on an organic farm needs medical treatment with antibiotics, that animal cannot be sold as organic (in the USA and Canada) [3]. 

Befriend a rancher. Call them and ask about their farming and slaughter practices. If you’re going to eat meat, do it with a conscience. These three online services support farming that is more humane and less drugged up.

Moink Box

Eat Wild

Butcher Box


 

Endnotes

[1] C. L. Ventola, “The Antibiotic Resistance Crisis,” Pharmacy and
Therapeutics 40, no. 4 (April 2015): 277–83.

[2] Jeffrey B. Kaplan, Era Izano, Prerna Gopal, Michael Karwacki,
Sangho Kim, Jeffrey Bose, Kenneth Bayles, and Alexander Horswill,
“Low Levels of β-Lactam Antibiotics Induce Extracellular DNA
Release and Biofilm Formation in Staphylococcus aureus,” mBio 3, no.
4 (July/August 2012): e00198–12. Published online July 31, 2012, doi:
10.1128/mBio.00198-12.

[3] Rob Wallbridge on The AgChat Foundation. "Let's talk about antibiotics and organic animal care". http://agchat.org/lets-talk-antibiotics-organic-animal-care/

accessed Aug 3, 2018.