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Many clients ask me how to cook kale, and what I love about not just kale, but all greens, is that they are so simple! Really. Just a quick sauté and done! One of my favorite ways to cut kale is a quick chiffonade. You get these thin beautiful ribbons, and they add a little sophistication to a quick meal! But enough! Watch the video and try this at home! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7YgXElamAc4
My entire life, I would often end the day with belly that looked like it belonged to someone at least 4 months pregnant. Ugh. It really didn't make me want to go out, or put my jeans on. I still go through life preferring to wear tights and dresses because I remember this phase of my life. And it happens still, but now I know why: I'm sensitive to gluten.
So, let’s talk gluten. What is it? Gluten is a component of the grains wheat, rye and barley. If your body is intolerant of gluten, it’s actually reacting to gliadin, a protein within gluten. Severity of this intolerance ranges from a mild gluten sensitivity, to full-blow celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder where your body basically attacks itself every time you eat gluten. In the short-term, sensitivities and celiac can translate into constantly feeling bloated, fatigued, irritated, foggy, or constipated, among over 300 (you read that right!) other symptoms, or it can mean having no noticeable symptoms whatsoever. In the long-run, it can mean the slow flattening and deterioration of your small intestine’s nutrient-absorbing villi, which translates to passing up nutrients that your body REALLY needs and reabsorbing toxins, leading to inflammation, deficiencies, other autoimmune diseases, and infertility. Not fun.
It’s estimated that 1 in 133 people in the U.S. are genetically predisposed to celiac, and about 18 million others are suffering from a gluten sensitivity. The worst part is that MOST of these people are walking around undiagnosed or even misdiagnosed with another disease or issue! Oh, and it runs in families. So, if a family member has one or the other, chances are you do too, even if your symptoms are totally different. Have I piqued your interest yet? If you’ve been feeling yucky, or I’ve planted a seed of doubt, take this short quiz from the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness to figure out if it’s worth a trip to your doctor to get tested for celiac disease.
Unfortunately, those with just a gluten sensitivity (after having eliminated celiac as a possibility, of course) can’t get clinically diagnosed simply for the fact there is no test for it yet. This makes it that much more important for you to listen to your body and to be your own health advocate.
So, tell me, why should I go gluten free?
The good news is that the harmful effects of a sensitivity can be completely reversed with a gluten-free diet because of your body’s remarkable ability to heal, and you may start to feel it immediately. An elimination diet can be an important way for you to figure out if you have a sensitivity to gluten, simply by seeing how you feel after you’ve taken it out of your diet. I have clients who, after going gluten-free for just a week, have woken up feeling refreshed, as if a cloud has been lifted, and others who have completely reversed their headaches, cramping, bloating, diarrhea, irritability, or whatever was ailing them. Many pounds have been lost simply by going off gluten since it forces to avoid some of the most fattening, processed foods. Everyone, however, is different.
One reason why you might want to go gluten free, is if you have any thyroid issues, digestive issues, or your children are having behavioral issues and attention deficit issues at school, it could be worth taking out gluten and seeing if things improve. Many people find that it helps.
We do however, need to know what foods and food products contain gluten.
Take a look at this list of foods that contain gluten. Does anything surprise you?
- Beer, ale
- Broth, bouillon powder/cubes
- Brown rice syrup
- Commercial soups and salad dressings
- Breads, cereals, pastas
- Imitation seafood
- Cakes, pies, cookies
- Processed meats
- Soy sauce
- Wheat starch
- Mac and cheese
- Marinades, gravies
- Rye-containing products
- Vegetarian meat substitutes
- Flavored rice-packaged products
Alternatively, here is a list of gluten-free foods (assuming they have not been contaminated with gluten during processing and are free of gluten-containing ingredients).
- Fruits and vegetables
- Dried beans
- Cassava, millet
- Grits, corn, cornmeal
- Oatmeal (gluten-free- Bob’s Red Mill is certified gluten free)
- Fresh meats, fish
- Rice, wild rice
- Nuts and seeds
- Cheese (not processed)
Do you see a trend?
In general, the more processed a food is, the higher the likelihood that it will have an ingredient that contains gluten or an ingredient that has been cross-contaminated with gluten-containing grains. So if you’re identifying with any of these symptoms, and want to explore whether gluten could be at the root of your ailment, here are some ground rules to eating a gluten-free diet.
Ground Rules for a Gluten Free Diet
1. Avoid gluten-containing foods, the obvious and the not-so-obvious. Clearly, anything with wheat, barley, rye is off-limits. But did you know that pasta, couscous and seitan are derivatives? Malt vinegar? Here is a great article identifying ingredients to look for on packages when you’re out shopping:
2. Focus on foods that are naturally gluten-free! There is NO shortage of nutritious, filling foods here that you already love, and your body will thank you. Just because a package says gluten free does NOT mean it’s healthy….it still could be incredibly processed. Read the labels!
Quinoa, rice, potatoes, and vegetables are perfectly safe. If wheat flour was previously a pantry staple, you’ll be happy to know there are a ton of natural alternatives:
- almond meal flour
- coconut meal flour
- pea flour
- potato flour
- garbanzo bean flour
3. At the supermarket, look for items that are certified Gluten-Free with an accredited label. Just because an item is labeled wheat-free doesn’t mean it’s necessarily gluten-free, so be an educated shopper! Thankfully, there are several organizations out there that take it upon themselves to certify products, more so in recent years.
The NFCA highly endorses the Canadian-based GFCP for their process, whose symbol looks like this:
4. Download your free copy of this comprehensive gluten-free diet guide from the NFCA here:
5. Check out online gluten-free recipe blogs! There are SO many, and you can shop around to find your favorites. Here is a great list compiled by thekitchn.com:
Try it for a week. You’ll find yourself eating a lot of fruits, vegetables, meats, poultry, fish, beans and legumes. Whole foods! You won’t be hungry, and your late-night delivery pizza cravings just may disappear (which is a good thing, regardless). It will also take practice reading labels and finding gluten-free alternatives to your favorite foods, but once you get the hang of it and realize how much better you feel, you’ll wonder how you ate any other way. Source: Brown, Judith E. (2011) Nutrition Through the Life Cycle. Belmont. Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
Source: Brown, Judith E. (2011) Nutrition Through the Life Cycle. Belmont. Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
Contributing writer: Duaa Elnoory for The Nourished Belly
*LEGAL DISCLAIMER – This website (including any/all site pages, blog posts, blog comments, forum, etc.) is not intended to replace the services of a physician, nor does it constitute a doctor-patient relationship. Information is provided for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating a medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have an urgent medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider. Any application of the recommendations in this website is at the reader’s discretion. Tammy Chang and The Nourished Belly are not liable for any direct or indirect claim, loss or damage resulting from use of this website and/or any web site(s) linked to/from it. Readers should consult their own physicians concerning the recommendations in this website.
Aloha Nutrition Lovers! I’ve made some exciting shifts in my practice lately. I’ve decided to start focusing on nourishing and sustainable weight loss! People have been coming to me for different sorts of things, but weight loss is a recurrent theme. And when people embrace this new way of living, many of them find that they are doing just that…. Experiencing weight loss that seems pretty effortless. So, in honor of my new title as a Holistic Weight Loss Coach, here’s a blog post about 5 common myths about weight loss and to really drive the idea home that yo yo dieting and starving yourself thin are really NOT the way to do it.
5 Myths of Weight Loss
Fat Makes Us Fat
For years, we’ve been conditioned that eating fat will make us fat. Many of us still buy low fat dairy products, don’t eat the skin on chicken, and are scared of using butter. The thing is though, our bodies need fat. We love fat. It allows us to absorb nutrients, it helps keep our blood sugar stable, and fat and cholesterol are the building blocks of many of our hormones, which we really, truly need. If you eat dairy, buy whole milk. Buy whole plain yogurt (organic of course.) Never buy something that is advertised as low fat, and eat the skin on your organic chicken! It makes things taste a whole lot better and fat is what makes us feel full.
Vegetable Oils are Healthy
I advise my clients to throw these suckers out. Maybe with the bottle you have in your cupboard, you can grease your bike chain, or clean some goo off your hardwood floors, but do NOT put this stuff into your body. You can read a bit more about why not in my blog post about cooking oils, but the basics are that vegetable oils (corn, soybean, Wessen for example) are extremely delicate oils, and most are extracted using high heat and solvents, and are often damaged before they even get to your house. Then you cook with them and damage them further. Or they are chemically processed (hydrogenated) to look like butter (margarine), and instead are just a heaping pile of transfats. Don’t
Diet Sodas Will Help Me Lose Weight
We drink diet sodas because we think that we don’t want any more calories, but there are studies out that show that just the sweet taste alone is enough to cause insulin secretions...which will cause us to store fat. Not to mention that artificial sweeteners have been linked to cause headaches, sleep problems, fatigue, and a whole host of other problems. There are many people who have written about this subject at length, Joseph Mercola being on them. Read more. Just the word artificial is an accost to my whole foods, nature loving sensibility. Are you with me?
I Just Need to Exercise More
Gary Taubes’ 2011 book Why We Get Fat and What do to About it, addresses the idea that it’s not as simple as eating less and exercising more. Exercise has plenty of benefits and everyone should be doing it, but it’s not the end all be all of losing weight. Taubes points out that exercise will invariably make us hungrier, and that while exercise is part of a healthy lifestyle, we won’t necessarily exercise ourselves thin. Losing weight because of activity level has a lot do with our individual metabolism, and honestly and most importantly…because of WHAT YOU EAT. More fabulous info by Taubes here.
The Less I Eat the Better
Deprivation has not been shown to aid in sustained weight loss. Gary Taubes points out that according to the Women’s Health initiative, which was a 15 year research study looking at the habits of post menopausal women, women who were eating 360 calories less a day for 8 years lost an average of 2 pounds each! I often look at clients’ diet journals and see that they aren’t eating ENOUGH. When the body doesn’t eat enough calories, our metabolism slows down and we start to store fat. Instead of depriving ourselves, we need to nourish and create an awareness between the food that we eat and how we feel. You should feel happy and satiated when you eat the right things.
Ok people. Get out of the old paradigm, and into the new.
Happy Nourishing, Tammy
My mind has been blown yet again by reading an article in WAP Foundation’s Wise Traditions written by a small meat processor, Bob Martin, who works for a small USDA processing plant. Now, there is already a lot of information out there about how the factory farmed meat industry in this country is a pretty foul and scary operation. Some great books out on the subject include Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma, Barbara Kingsolver’s, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals. They all do a great job explaining the conditions of CAFO’s (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) and the ramifications of eating meat and dairy products tainted with antibiotics and rBGH. rBGH, according to organicconsumers.org was manufactured by Monsanto, who sold it to Eli Lilly. It forces cows to boost “milk production by 10%, while increasing the incidence of mastitis, lameness and reproductive complications.”
I make it a point to buy good quality meat, and even though it is more expensive, I feel that I’m doing a favor for my body and supporting ranchers and farmers who also put an emphasis on high quality care and feed. And even though I feel pretty knowledgable about the conditions of factory farmed animals, I’m always amazed when I find out more unsettling facts. Read on please.
1) Large meat processing plants can process up to 2500 animals a day, with 20-30 USDA inspectors and each of them literally have 3-6 seconds to inspect each piece of beef! The particular plant that Bob Martin works for processes 10 animals a day and inspectors take as long as they need to.
2) Many of the animals killed at slaughterhouses have a dark red color to their meat, meaning that the animals are stressed before they are killed. The stress releases a rush of adrenaline into their muscles which affects the tenderness of the meat.
3) The contents of the stomachs must be removed, and for those animals being fed grain, the contents of their stomachs smell putrid and repulsive, while those being fed grass have virtually no smell.
4) Livers are heralded as being extremely nutrient dense, but the livers of grain fed cows are often abscessed and instead of being firm to the touch you can poke your finger all the way through! Ew! Cows are not supposed to eat grain, so it can be very hard on their livers, making them abnormally large and filled with fatty deposits. The liver of a healthy cow fed only on grass are firm to the touch and a normal size.
I don’t necessarily need MORE reasons not to buy meat from factory farmed conditions, but it never fails to surprise me to learn of all the different ways the health of the animal is severely compromised simply to make meat cheaper for the producer and for the public to buy.
At the very least, buy your meat organic which will ensure that your meat has not been fed GMO feed, and that your farmer has not used antibiotics or growth hormones. Look for meat that has been grass finished, not just grass fed, because most animals are on pasture for the first 3 months of their lives. And better yet, have a conversation with a person who sells meat at your farmers market and ask them to describe the way in which they raise their animals.
And if expense is a real issue, don’t forget about using the bones for bone broth! Which is the best way to get nutrients and a little more protein into our diets.
I have always been a pretty healthy eater. But for much of my life, I have had two issues plaguing my self esteem. My skin was one. I always broke out more than the average person, but a couple of years ago it got REALLY bad. I became super self conscious and did not want to have any pictures taken. Being from a Taiwanese family also didn't help because my mother pointed it out constantly! The other is the fact that normally, I would finish each day feeling bloated and GIGANTIC. If I let my belly relax, I literally looked like I was 5 months pregnant, and that really did not do a lot for my self image. I would just think that this was normal, and eventually I became accustomed to feeling this way. Stretchy pants were my best friend.
It wasn’t until I went to nutrition school, that I learned about food allergies and more importantly for me, food sensitivities. Allergies can cause pretty severe reactions, which I never had, but food sensitivities could cause bloating, gas, acne, brain fog, weight gain and a host of other symptoms. I had a LOT of these problems. Lightbulb! Bing! My “healthy” diet wasn’t really healthy anymore... at least for me. I began playing around with different foods, taking them out of my diet and checking to see how I felt, and finally, I found out which ones didn’t work for me. Since I've made a big switch in my diet, I know which foods make me bloat and my skin has cleared up tremendously. Last time I went home, a family friend (Taiwanese of course) couldn't stop raving about how my skin looked. Taiwanese are quick to point out the good and the bad. :)
What is a Food Allergy?
An allergy triggers the immune system. The immune system reacts to a foreign substance, or allergen (for our purposes something edible). The body will create antibodies against this allergen and can cause inflammation and tissue damage, especially if chronically exposed.
Immediate allergic reactions are acute and can include symptoms such as hives, rashes, itching, trouble breathing, and unconsciousness. These are the type of allergies that cause people to carry around epi-pens. In general, however, this only affects 7.5% of children and only 1-2% of adults.
What is a Food Sensitivity?
Delayed reactions are much harder to detect because they can take several hours or up to 72 hours after to manifest. They are often called “hidden” food allergies or also sensitivities. Delayed reactions are much more common and affect about 25% of the population. Those with intolerances are unable to either completely digest a food or unable to handle the chemical structure of a food. One of the most well known intolerances is lactose intolerance where a person is missing the enzyme “lactase” and therefore cannot digest the lactose in dairy products. Delayed reactions are much more insidious, because people often do not connect their symptoms (such as eczema, brain fog, ear infections, joint pain, or fatigue) to something they ate. Uncomfortable problems can persist for long periods of time.
Some delayed reactions or intolerances can be resolved over time by abstaining from the food, and then allowing it back into the diet only occasionally.
Explosion of Allergies
Chances are if you know any children, you know that there is an explosion of food sensitivities and allergies in children today. I’ve worked in education for the last 10 years and I have seen it. What has happened in the last decades that has changed so drastically? Well, let’s take a look.
1) Adulteration of the food supply: antibiotics, artificial flavors and colors. Some people are extremely sensitive to these additives, but it is also an issue to think about how all these chemicals interact with each other and over time.
2) GMO’s: Genetically Modified Foods. To be clear, we are talking about when scientists go into the DNA of a plant and add usually a different organism’s DNA into its genetic code, not selectively breeding and cross breeding. The most common GMO foods are conventional corn, alfalfa, soy, canola oil, rice, tomatoes, potatoes, milk (rBGH), and cotton. There has been little research done on the safety of GMO’s and many articles have been published possibly linking the two.
3) Increased environmental pollutants: More pollutants mean more stress on the body, and the body can only take so much.
4) Leaky Gut: Leaky gut is when the membrane of your gut lining is compromised, and larger food molecules pass through into your bloodstream. Your body recognizes these molecules as foreign, and starts to create antibodies to these foods.
Have Symptoms? What can you do?
Not sure if you have any symptoms? Here are some common ones that could be from food sensitivities.
* bloating * joint pain * excess weight
* gas * fatigue * chronic ear infections
* acne * diarrhea * depression
* eczema * asthma * chronic sinus infections
* brain fog * Irritable Bowel Syndrome * headaches
If you have some of these symptoms, it would be worth your while to try and take out some suspected culprits for a couple of weeks, and then add them back in one at a time, waiting 3 days between each one. This is commonly called an elimination diet, which I often work on with my clients, and if you are experiencing a lot of symptoms, then it would be a good idea to find a health care practitioner that can support you through it.
Not sure what to take out? Here is a list of commonly allergenic food and foods least likely to cause problems.
Most Allergenic Foods
· Nuts (peanuts, tree nuts)
· Dairy (Casein)
Least Allergenic Foods
· Fish (cod, haddock, mackerel, and trout)
· Beets and beet greens
· Green Beans
Developed by Dr. Andrew Coca, pulse testing is a helpful tool in narrowing down your sensitivities. Here are the steps:
1) Sit quietly for 5 minutes
2) Measure your resting pulse for one minute by counting the number of beats for 60 seconds. Record.
3) Ingest the suspected food.
4) Measure immediately for 1 minutes, record results.
5) Measure again at 10 minutes and at 30 minutes. Record.
6) If there is a significant increase or decrease (by 10 beats or more per minute), this indicates a likely sensitivity.
Good luck in finding out how to eat better and learning to avoid foods that are problematic! Happy Nourishing :)
Bauman, E, and Jodi Friedlander NC. (2011) Foundations of Nutrition. Bauman College.
Knoff, Laura J. (2010) The Whole-Food Guide to Overcoming Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Oakland. New Harbinger Publications, Inc.
O’Brien, Robyn. (2009) The Unhealthy Truth. New York. Random House.
*LEGAL DISCLAIMER - This website (including any/all site pages, blog posts, blog comments, forum, etc.) is not intended to replace the services of a physician, nor does it constitute a doctor-patient relationship. Information is provided for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating a medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have an urgent medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider. Any application of the recommendations in this website is at the reader's discretion. Tammy Chang and The Nourished Belly are not liable for any direct or indirect claim, loss or damage resulting from use of this website and/or any web site(s) linked to/from it. Readers should consult their own physicians concerning the recommendations in this website.
It’s official! The name of my holistic health and nutrition coaching practice is officially called “The Nourished Belly!” I wanted to find a name that described how I felt about food, and nourish is a word that should describe everything that we do, for ourselves and for others. The word “belly” is important because when our stomachs are happy, our entire well-being is at its pinnacle. When it isn’t, well, this is when we start to encourage and set the stage for disease. “The Nourished Belly,” thus describes the path I follow to find my own optimal health and how I encourage my clients to find theirs. So, to usher in this new name, I wanted to write a series of blog posts dedicated to nourishing your belly. The first of which, and one of the most basic things you can do to dramatically improve your digestion, is to CHEW YOUR FOOD.
Yup. It’s that simple. Many of us are accustomed to eating, and eating on the run. We often eat in front of the TV, or while reading a book, or in our cars! According to dosomething.org, 20% of all American meals are eaten in our cars. Yikes! All of these habits put eating on the bottom of the list of priorities, when it really should be with the top. Plus, it makes the nutrients from the foods less absorbable and harder on our digestive system.
Why Should We Chew?
1) It signals to our bodies to be ready for digestion. There are two modes that our bodies run in, the sympathetic and parasympathetic. Most people refer to the sympathetic mode as the fight or flight mode, so our bodies are preparing to run from that tiger. Thus, every non-essential function is switched off. Including our digestion. When you are on the go go go, this is the state in which your body functions. I experience this most clearly if I exercise too soon after eating. I can literally tell that the food is just sitting in my stomach, and it doesn’t feel good.
When we chew, we are signaling the body that we are in a relaxed state, and therefore our digestion will switch on. We are activating our parasympathetic mode. Turning off the TV and closing that book will also help prepare your body. Eating is not a time you should be multi-tasking!
2) Digestion begins in the mouth. We have enzymes that begin to work on carbohydrates, and to a small degree, fats, in our saliva. Chewing is designed to not only break food down into digestible pieces, but to also thoroughly mix our food with the saliva in our mouths. When we don’t chew, we miss an important step.
3) Not Chewing Can Lead to:
Overworking of the Pancreas: Our pancreas picks up the slack to release whatever enzymes are still needed to break down fats and carbohydrates. Interestingly, it is often referred to as the “mother," because who picks up the slack for you? Your mother! So true.
When you are young, your pancreas might be able to keep up, but over time, the function will decrease. Plus, your pancreas has so many other jobs, not only releasing digestive enzymes, but is also a key player in blood sugar regulation and a producer of many hormones. We want it in tip-top shape!
Food Allergies and Inflammation: Not chewing enough can lead to larger food molecules being absorbed through the intestinal wall. (and also could aid in the development of a syndrome called leaky gut.) Our bodies will perceive these molecules as foreign, and create antibodies against them. This is how food allergies can develop leading to inflammation and possibly other complications.
I’ve tried to chew my food the recommended 25 - 30 times, which is much harder than it sounds, especially if you are used to eating fast, like me. But we can start at a much easier place. Here are some tips:
- Set the stage for eating: Clear your table, turn off all distractions, and prepare your food on a beautiful plate.
- Once you start eating, taste your food! Focus on what your food tastes like, and make sure there are no chunks before you swallow.
- Take a deep breath when you are finished. Take a moment, savor the fact that you just took some time out of your day to nourish yourself.
Next time you eat, think about it how important chewing is for you, and just take a couple more minutes with your meal. One of my favorite sayings from Traditional Chinese Medicine is that “the stomach has no teeth.” Happy Nourishing!
N.D., Your Digestive System and How it Works. http://www2.niddk.nih.gov/. Retrieved from http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/yrdd/
Hello! First post back after the sugar challenge. I am so extremely thrilled how the challenge went for myself and for everyone involved! I have received such amazing feedback… It really shows that just a little bit of effort can make a huge difference.
Now on to Nettles! I’m excited about this post for a few different reasons. It’s the first one in my Eat This Series, although I would probably include my post about coconut oil and ghee in the Eat This category. The purpose of the Eat This postings is to show you simple and powerful foods to add into your diet for maximum nutritional benefit. The biggest bang for your buck so to speak. I’m also excited because nettles are an example of a seasonal super food. We have all become accustomed to eating foods whenever we feel like it, but when we really start tapping into what foods are available seasonally, we are increasing our awareness of nutrient density as well as tapping into the harmony of the harvest. It’s a beautiful, delicious, and healthy way to eat and live. Nettles have only recently become available in the last couple of weeks and the season usually goes through the end of April. Nettles are actually a weed, and are found all over the United States. They are also called stinging nettles, because they have stiff, bristly hairs that are found on the leaves and stems which inject a stinging fluid into the skin. An interesting note is that the sting can be used therapeutically as a treatment for increasing circulation and arthritic conditions. However, the sting isn’t pleasant, so if you find a patch to harvest, handle with care! Heat and drying destroys the sting.
- In Traditional Chinese Medicine, they are considered a blood tonic and support the bladder, kidney, spleen and liver.
- Helpful for allergies and hay fever
- Good for hypoglycemia because they help reduce blood sugar levels
- Helpful for high blood pressure
- Lowers inflammation
- Nutrient Dense
Nettles are extremely high in vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, Vitamin K, Carotenes and Iron. The other day, I let the fresh nettles steep all day, and the tea turned into this amazing dark green potion! It was so thick and felt heavy and rich in my mouth. I was just simply amazed by the color! It’s SO green…. The chlorophyll just pours out of it! Chlorophyll is an excellent source of magnesium, and for maximum absorption, drink the tea while eating a bit of fat. My fellow nutrition friend Corinne Steel uses a bit of flax seed oil that she pours into her carrot juice to better absorb the carotenes. Same idea with chlorophyll; it has both fat and water soluble components. Fresh nettles can be sautéed like spinach, and are delicious! Don’t forget to add some butter for better absorption!
You can buy nettles dried as tea, and I often brew these overnight to get all the goodness out of them. Nettle and mint are a good combination. Although dried nettles are great to use, definitely take advantage of using fresh nettles if you can find them at the Farmers Market. If you are in the Bay Area, Happy Boy Farms is already selling them. Check out the market schedule here.
Have fun exploring with the amazing super food! Eat them. Send us some comments if you gave them a try…. Enjoy!
McGee, Harold (2004) On Food and Cooking: the Science and Lore of the Kitchen. New York; Scribner.
Wood, Rebecca. (2010) The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia. New York. Penguin Books.
Alternative sweeteners are not a free pass. The goal is to get to a place in your diet, that you simply don’t need to add any sweetener. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t enjoy a healthy dessert or savor that ripe piece of mango, but if you are looking for a healthy way to carry on with your sweet tooth? Hm…there isn’t one. So I write the following post with some reservations, because again, we need to stop our sugar cravings, not simply satisfy them in an only slightly healthier way.
The Nitty Gritty about Alternative Sweeteners.
Brown Sugar, Sugar in the Raw (turbinado): These are all very similar to white table sugar and although slightly less refined, really aren’t any better to use.
Artificial Sweeteners (Splenda, Equal, anything in a colored packet): STOP! NEVER USE THESE. Most people think that when they use artificial sweeteners they are saving themselves the calories. But there are studies out that show that just the sweet taste alone is enough to cause insulin secretions…which will cause us to store fat. Not to mention that artificial sweeteners have been linked to cause headaches, sleep problems, fatigue, and a whole host of other problems. There are many people who have written about this subject at length, Joseph Mercola being on them. Read more. Just the word artificial is an accost to my whole foods, nature loving sensibility. Are you with me?
Agave: There was a huge fad to use agave for a time, and because it is low glycemic (it doesn't raise our blood sugar immediately) people thought it was the greatest thing in the world. It is made almost entirely of fructose, and again to cite Dr. Robert Lustig, a majority of the calories from fructose will end up being stored as fat!
Raw Honey: Honey is one of those traditional sweeteners that should be held as a treasure. One bee, during its lifetime, will only make 1/12 a teaspoon of honey! So our use of it should reflect that hard work. Quality is extremely important when it comes to honey. Buy local and raw, and don't buy the cheapest. A study by Food Safety News found that 3/4 of the honey bought at local grocery stores had zero pollan traces and were contaminated with cheap sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup. Beware of honey that says it's "ultrafiltered." This is a high heat processing that makes it difficult to trace the source of the honey, and high heat will destroy all the beneficial enzymes present. According to Ayurvedic medicine, the medicinal properties of honey are lost in heating.
Maple Syrup (organic/grade B): Maple Syrup is another sweetener that takes an immense amount of work. It takes roughly 46 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup! I use maple syrup as a sometimes sweetener because it contains more minerals and I love the flavor. It is a bit on the expensive side, and again, you should always choose quality over quantity, but this is a reminder to use it sparingly.
The other day I was in a "natural" cafe in Berkeley, and the maple syrup they brought out wasn't real! You have to ask for "real maple syrup." So, don't let appearances fool you and ask your server if the syrup is pure or not.
Brown Rice Syrup: Brown rice syrup is made from fermented brown rice. Enzymes (usually from barley) are added to the rice to break down starches into sugars, and then it is boiled until it thickens. Mineral and vitamin rich, brown rice syrup, sourced correctly, can be a good alternative to use. It tends to make things crunchy, so think cookies and granola. Early in 2012 there were reports that brown rice and products made from brown rice syrup were heavily contaminated with arsenic. Arsenic is naturally occurring in the soil, and for land that once used a lot of pesticides, there is still a lot of arsenic left in the soil. Sourcing is important; the southeastern states with its heavy cotton production left a lot of arsenic in the soil. California has much lower amounts of arsenic. All of this is another reminder that brown rice syrup, as with any sweetener, should be used sparingly.
Date Sugar: Date sugar is made simply by grinding up dried dates. I like how natural this is, but it does not dissolve in liquids and can clump, so it's ideal for sprinkling on top of foods. Dates themselves are a great way to add sweetness, and can be used in oatmeal and ground up in desserts. Dates are alkalizing and are great way to add minerals and vitamins to your diet.
Sucanat: Sucanat is sugar cane juice that is heated and dried. Therefore, it retains many of the nutrients that sugar refining takes out. It has a distinct flavor, so be aware when trying to use it in baked goods. I personally like it, and this is one of the sugars that I keep in my kitchen to use when I need to make something sweet. (Sucanat is similar to the rapadura you see in Latin stores.)
Palm Sugar and Coconut Sugar: This is another sweetener that I keep in the kitchen to make desserts. Palm sugar comes from the sap of certain palm trees, and is boiled down to make a thick syrup. Coconut sugar is collected from the flowers of the coconut palm. I find that the taste is very similar to table sugar, and it often comes sold in little packed cakes often found in asian food stores. Now, it is becoming available at natural food stores, but in a loose form.
Stevia: Beware of white powdered Stevia, as it is a highly refined product. Packets such as Truvia or Sun Crystals are highly processed and usually have another sugar added in, such as dextrose. The Stevia plant itself is a wonderful, natural sweetener. You can dry the leaves and grind them up for a natural sweetener. Oooh…I just did a web search and found a cool source of the natural herb on Etsy. Click Here.
So. indulge a tiny bit and try some of the more natural sweeteners. The more pure and less processed something is the better. But remember, that sweeteners are in general something to be used extremely sparingly, as ALL of them can lead to excess weight gain, or prevent you from losing anything. There are many more whole delicious foods out there waiting for you. Give them a try instead! After you start taking sweeteners out, you'll find that foods like squash and sweet potatoes are all the sweetness you need :)
Murray, M. (2005). The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York: ATRIA Books.
Wood, Rebecca. (2010) The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia. New York. Penguin Books.
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