Juicing....Worth the Hype?

So many people ask me about juicing, and whether or not it’s the end all be all of nutrition.  Many people have watched Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, and have started on a juice craze.   I’ve decided to put in my two cents about what a holistic nutrition coach thinks about juicing.  

1)  Vegetable juicing can be a great ADDITION to an already healthy diet.   An example of when juicing is appropriate is sipping on juice while you are at your desk at work between meals, or after you’ve had a workout.  More than once, I’ve talked to people who have done long juice fasts and have dropped weight dramatically.  But when they start to eat again, the weight comes back on quickly, because learning how and what to eat is first and foremost.

2) Stick to mostly vegetables.  People tend to throw in too many fruits. Instead, focus on cucumbers, leafy greens (you can juice leftover kale and collard stalks!) and celery.  Juicing too many fruits can upset your blood sugar balance.  

3)  Is it the right time of year?  The right time of year can be important.  Juicing is something that is more aligned with the summer months.  In winter, our bodies tend to crave warm soups and stews.  Remember, your body is intelligent, so listen to it.

4)  Balance Thermal Properties:  Many common vegetable used for juicing are cooling in nature, which is fine for summer months, but in winter remember we want to eat more warming foods.  If you INSIST on juicing, add some warming foods in to balance out your juice.


Cooling Foods









Romaine Lettuce

Warming Foods





Coconut milk/meat

*From http://www.acupuncture.com/nutrition/chinut1.htm

5)  Your body needs protein and fats! Juicing alone is not a good source of protein or fats.  It’s mainly carbohydrates and nutrients.  Which, by the way, many of the nutrients in juices are more absorbable with a healthy amount of fat, so if you are hell bent on juicing, add some healthy fat to it.  An avocado, pastured egg yolk, chia seeds, and extra virgin olive oil or flaxseed oil can be helpful for absorption.


In summary:

  • Juice in addition to a healthy diet, not in place of a healthy diet.

  • Focus on organic vegetables instead of fruits.

  • Think about time of year

  • Blend in warming foods

  • Add some fats!

So there are my two cents!  Happy Nourishing everyone!



*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.


5 Myths About Weight Loss

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


use them.

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

Bet You Didn't Know This About Your Factory Farmed Meat!

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.

Happy Nourishing….


Can the Family Farm Survive?

Everyone should farm once in their lives. Experience what it’s like to wake up when the sun peaks through the clouds, get your hands in the dirt, and take care of crops that will one day be someone’s dinner. It takes a lot of energy, both harnessed and put out by the farmer, to grow beautiful, nutritious food. Most of us have no idea where our food comes from, and the thought and care that goes into feeding the world. Farming is a jack of all trades profession, and many love it for the diversity that it brings to your daily life. There, however, are very few people choosing it as a permanent lifestyle. In recent years, with the help of Michael Pollan, Joel Salatin, and the food movement, there is definitely been a migration to go back to small family farming, but it is not yet a profession that can provide financial security, which is something that we as the consumer have the power to change. Last week I had the privilege of picking raspberries with a friend of mine on a family farm in beautiful Marin. It was fun putting back on my wide-brimmed hat and my arm sleeves (raspberry bushes are thorny!) and working in the fields. It was fun knowing that the raspberries I picked were going to be on someone’s plate that night.raspberry

Before picking, we washed our hands and were told to rub, rub, rub. We let our hands air dry, and were told that we could eat as many as we’d like, but to throw the raspberry in our mouth so as not to contaminate our hands. We were to pick only the best of the best, the reddest ones that came off easily with a tug.

Picking raspberries is much like treasure hunting. You are pulling back thorny branches to get a look inside the bushes. (I had to keep reminding myself not to use my bare palm…ouch!). You give a quick scan looking for the deep red color and give a tug to ones that you see. Often you tug and meet with resistance, so you leave that raspberry for another day. After looking from the top down, you squat to get a better view from the underside. During my many squats, I was feeling thankful that I had my ACL repaired a few years ago. I definitely got my leg workout in.

It was a fun-filled morning, with the novelty of it being a big factor in the amount of my enjoyment. I’m not sure if I could harvest raspberries every day. And of course, family farm life is filled with a million different tasks every day, but there is something daunting about a crop that is in full production and knowing how time-consuming it is to harvest. I filled a half pint basket about every 10-15 minutes. In my mind I was wondering what people usually pay for a half pint of raspberries….. $3.50? $4? In peak season maybe $2.50? And that’s retail. So, I would MAYBE be making $10 an hour? $8 an hour? And that’s not including the time it takes to take care of these plants throughout the year. And that weather and harvest amounts vary from year to year. It just didn’t add up.

I’m sure there are some small family farms that are successful, but I think that it is much more the norm that people who choose farming also enjoy very simple living and don’t work in farming to expect to make or even save any money. The farm manager reminded me of the saying, “to make a small fortune in farming you have to start with a large fortune.” I chuckled when I heard this, but in hindsight, I’m not laughing.

I read this in a Department of Agriculture’s article about median farm income (which means half of farms fall below the median and half fall above):

“Given the broad USDA definition of a farm, many farms are not profitable even in the best farm income years. Despite high prices for many crops, 2012 was no exception, with median farm income projected to be -$2,799. Most farm households earn all of their income from off-farm sources--median off-farm income is projected to increase by 3.4 percent in 2012, to $55,229 and by 3.9 percent in 2013, to $57,378.”

What really sticks out in this quote is the fact that most income for a family farm comes from OFF farm sources. That means a family member has another job in the community to make ends meet. This next paragraph is from the (EWG) Environmental Working Group’s article about farm subsidies:

“The ERS [Economic Research Service] data clearly show that smaller family farms depend on off-farm income to keep going. As anyone from farm country knows, family farms often rely on one member to work a different job in the community, whether for extra income, to obtain health insurance, or both. This pattern has become the norm in rural America and, unlike federal farm subsidies, it has allowed small farms to stay in business.”

So…….. bummer. EWG’s article talks more about farm subsidies and how they go mainly to corn, wheat, and soy crops AND that the majority of farm subsidies go towards large commercial farms. This, however, is another issue and another way that our government does not support small family farms.

Well, what can we do? Part of what we can do is to support our farmers markets! And support small grocery stores and companies that do their best to buy from local producers. The most important shift we can do for ourselves is to realize that good food is a good investment. It will take a larger part of your budget, but you are investing in something that you will put INSIDE your body, AND you’ll be supporting someone in the community to be making enough money to take care of their family. Pretty noble causes in my opinion.

Check out these local Bay Area markets and companies that support local food

Farmer’s Markets:

Online Grocery Companies: Both of these companies work directly with farmers and local food producers and deliver to your door!


5/12/2010. Farm Income Data Debunks Subsidy Myths. www.ewg.org. Retrieved 6/19/2013. http://www.ewg.org/agmag/2010/05/farm-income-data-debunks-subsidy-myths

n.d. Farm Family Income. www.usda.gov. Retrieved 6/19/2013. http://www.usda.gov/documents/FARM_FAMILY_INCOME.pdf

n.d. Median Farm Income up from 2012 to 2013. www.ers.esda.gov. Retrieved 6/19/2013. http://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/farm-economy/farm-household-well-being/farm-household-income.aspx#.UcItT_nvuTI

Bloated? Eczema? Gassy? It's probably something you ate....

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.

 Likely culprits:

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

·    Wheat

·    Nuts (peanuts, tree nuts)

·    Eggs

·    Sugar

·    Dairy (Casein)

·    Soy

·    Corn

·    Citrus

·    Yeast

·    Shellfish

Least Allergenic Foods

·        Lamb

·        Fish (cod, haddock, mackerel, and trout)

·        Artichokes

·        Beets and beet greens

·        Carrots

·        Celery

·        Fennel

·        Green Beans

·        Onions

·        Parsnips

·        Peaches

·        Pears

·        Rutabagas

Pulse Testing

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.



BMs.....Are You Normal????

Second post in the Digestive Series, and what better way to follow up chewing, then starting at the other end!  Yes, this isn’t the most popular subject to bring up at the dinner table, but your bowel movements are extremely important.  They are a great way to check if your digestive system is running smoothly.

 What is Normal?

 How often should you be going?  So, the definition of constipation is when you are going less than 3 times a week, but in holistic health circles this is definitely too little.  Ideally, you should be going at least once a day, if not more.  Ideal transit time (from one end to the other) is anywhere from 12-24 hours.

 There are a couple of things that happen when stool sits around too long in your colon.  One of the major functions of the colon is to reabsorb water and salts back into the body.  The longer it sits around in your colon, the more water is reabsorbed and the harder and more difficult to pass the stool will become.  Our stool is also waste material, and full of toxins that our bodies are trying to eliminate.  The longer the stool hangs out, the more likelihood our bodies will reabsorb some of the toxins we are trying to eliminate.

 Our bodies can pass up to 1 quart worth of waste into our colons each day.  That is a tremendous amount of waste!  Imagine all of that building up over the span of a few days, which might be considered “normal.”  The more we let build up, the more pressure we experience in our colon.  This intraluminal pressure, if it happens frequently, can lead to not so fun conditions of the colon including diverticulitis (small pockets that form in the large intestine that can trap wastes and become infected) and hemorrhoids.

 On the flip side, you don’t want your transit time to be too short and be more on the watery side. either.  This could mean that you aren’t absorbing your nutrients, although if it’s just short term, then your body could be trying to get rid of a pathogen.  Let your body do its work.

 What Should Your Stool Look Like?

 It might be somewhat unpleasant to look at what you have just done, but get used to it!  It’s important!

 One thing you should look for is undigested food.  This could be a sign that you aren’t chewing enough or a sign of malabsorption.

 Bristol Stool Chart.  This is a handy dandy chart to check the shape of your stool.  The ideal number to be at is a 3 or 4, more like a 4, and it should be easy to go.

 bristol stool chart

 Not Normal?  Here are some tips!


  • Eat your fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.  This is where the fiber talk comes in.  Fiber provides bulk to our stools, and makes them easier to pass.  It will also grab onto extra cholesterol and escort it out of the body.

  • Drink plenty of liquids.  Filtered water and herbal teas is what I’m talking about here.  One of my teachers would always say, “fiber without water equals bricks.”  Enough said.

  • Try a little Magnesium.  If you are constipated, taking a little magnesium before bed will not only help you sleep, but could help regulate your bowel movements.  One of the reasons that prunes are so helpful in this department is their high level of fiber and magnesium.  (Magnesium supplement forms that end in -ate are the best forms to take...citrate, malate, glycinate, etc...  Almonds, dark leafy greens, whole grains and nuts are good food sources.)

  • Move Your Body.  Regular exercise is not only helpful for lifting mood, regulating our immune system, and detoxification, but also for regulating our bowel movements.  You don’t need to run a marathon each day, a daily 20 minute walk, or a yoga class will suffice!

  • Try some cholagogues.  Chola-what?  Cholagogues are herbs that stimulate the release of bile, which can help stimulate our bowels to get moving.  Dandelion Root, Rosemary, Sage, and Hops are among these herbs.  (Not recommended for those with liver infections or gallstones)

  • Don’t Hold It!  We can desensitize our bowels if we don’t answer the call to nature.  Make sure that when you feel the urge.....go.

If you aren’t quite normal, think about some of these suggestions.  Keep in mind, however, that other things can contribute to abnormal events....such as medications and digestive disorders.  If you consider yourself healthy, and aren’t experiencing other major discomforts, then some of the suggestions above just might work in getting everything running smooth again.  Happy Nourishing!



*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.


Digestive Series: Chewing. Yes, it's Really That Important!

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/



Eat This Series: Nettles

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.
  • Detoxifying
  • 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.  

Blood Sugar: What You Need to Know

I’ve been thinking a LOT about sugar lately, and with the 10 day Kick the Sugar Habit Challenge coming up on January 27th (There are still spaces by the way…..  challenge and register here!), it’s been on the forefront.  I often give myself “permission” on the holidays and when I’m traveling to give into my cravings.  But, once I do this it is a seriously vicious cycle.  I’m to the point right now, that when I come home at night, even if I’m coming home from eating a fabulous meal, I still want something sweet.  Currently, I have zero snacky things in my house, which helps, but I don’t want these cravings anymore.  Be gone! So, I thought it would be helpful this week to talk about what happens IN YOUR BODY when you eat sugar and those fluffy, comforting carbs.  It’s going to get a little detailed, but I think there is importance in knowing how your body responds, and how your body will, over time, become increasingly damaged from consuming these foods.

The Low Down of Blood Sugar

Your body needs around 1 tsp of glucose  circulating in your blood stream at all times….too low (hypoglycemia) and too high (hyperglycemia) are both dangerous and can lead to problems. Some Symptoms of Hypoglycemia

  • Shaking
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty in focusing
  • Sugar cravings
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Many other things too…….

Many of us have symptoms of hypoglycemia, which lead us to eat lots of quick fixes….simple carbohydrates and sugar, which eventually can lead us to the path of high blood sugar.  Here’s a simplified explanation why: Your body is constantly switching between burning fat and burning the glucose from your meals.  It’s very efficient at doing this.  When you eat a meal, preferably one that has nice fats and proteins, your body will slowly digest and glucose will be released into your blood stream at a nice, slow steady pace throughout the day.  Perfect to keep you alert and running optimally.  Usually there is a little more than you need, so your pancreas will release insulin, which is the hormone that signals your cells to take in any excess glucose from your blood stream.  Your body wants to keep your blood sugar stable. More often than not, however, we are eating foods and meals that contain too many simple carbohydrates.  You have a scone and a cup of coffee for breakfast.  Or a bagel with cream cheese for lunch with that nice glass of orange juice.  You aren’t eating enough fat, protein and fiber to slow the digestion, so the sugars from your food are quickly digested and flood your blood stream all at once. If this cycle happens too often, then eventually the cells can become resistant to the insulin that your pancreas is releasing.  They become hard of hearing.  So the pancreas releases larger and larger amounts of insulin, which will cause two things eventually: 1)        Your pancreas becomes tired from overwork. 2)       The cells stop listening altogether, so you ALWAYS have high blood sugar and high insulin. With all that extra circulating insulin, is also makes it hard for us to use the glucose stored in the cells.   We then need to eat! (vicious cycle!)   High blood sugar can cause a lot of damage.  It can damage delicate blood vessels, cause chronic inflammation, and a host of other things.  High insulin can cause problems as well, this study from 2007 found that high insulin created damage to blood vessel walls causing cholesterol and plaque to build up.  So not only is diabetes a concern, but heart disease, high blood pressure, and a host of other problems can result. The good news, is that even if we have been abusing our body for the last 10 years, and we’ve noticed abdominal fat has built up and our cells are starting to show wear and tear from all that high blood sugar and high insulin…..our bodies are highly sophisticated.  The body has a tremendous ability to heal itself once we start taking care of it.  It is never too late. Start with Challenge!  Then we can go from there…..

Alternative Sweeteners....which ones?

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.

 Not Recommended:

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.



What You Need to Know About Sugar

It's time for another   10 Day Sugar Challenge back by popular demand!!   I love to do a challenge right before the holidays because it really does help us come back to a state of balance BEFORE we get to indulge a bit. This will give us a a great foundation to head into the holidays. Join me and a group of others for 10 days of taking the sugar out starting November 8th!   Register here!

I'm reposting an old blog about sugar...it's an oldie but goodie.  Take a look!

Sugar.  It seems that it's a problem for everyone, and that's because it is! Many clients come to me with sugar being a large part of their diet, and oftentimes even people who think they don't eat a lot of sugar, realize that they do.

Personally, I have made huge strides in lessening the amount of refined sugar in my diet. I used to hold the sugar canister over my cup of coffee for 5 whole seconds. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Really.  This happened.  But I decided one day to try it without and now, I can't stand the taste of sweetened coffee. The great thing about a sweet tooth is that once you put a little bit of effort into taking sugar out of your diet, the cravings start to disappear. Things will start tasting disgustingly sweet to you.  I promise you.

The problem with sugar isn't just the empty calories and the tooth decay. It's a whole host of other things. Read on.

1) Sugar makes you fat! More research is coming out on the idea that different calories are metabolized differently in the body, and the way sugar is metabolized will cause more of those calories to be stored as fat. (If you happen to have an extra 90 minutes lying around, watch Robert Lustig's youtube video, The Bitter Truth. Or if just an extra 10, watch Sean Croxton's summary of that video. Enlightening)

2) Sugar could give you wrinkles. Boo, right? An article in Discover Magazine reported that sugar in the blood can bind to collagen in a process called glycation.

3) Sugar suppresses your immune system. Can't quite beat that cold? Are you eating a ton of cough drops? Ann Louis Gittleman in her book, Get the Sugar Out, writes that the ability of cells to kill off foreign invaders can be reduced up to 5 hours after we ingest sugar. Also, it reduces the production of antibodies, interferes with the transport of vitamin C, and makes cell walls more permeable to outside invaders. Ooof.

4) Sugar disrupts your body's mineral balance. In sugar refining, nutrients such as chromium, manganese, cobalt, copper, zinc and magnesium are all stripped away. Not only are many of these the same minerals that help to control our blood sugar in the first place, but without them our bodies then have to use our own nutrients to absorb and metabolize sugar.

5) Sugar is an ANTI NUTRIENT. It's not just empty calories. It pulls nutrients, that I would rather keep, away from the body. Gittleman also writes that it interferes with absorption of minerals and can increase the secretion of B vitamins and almost ALL minerals, but especially calcium and magnesium. Double oof!

6) Sugar can feed cancer cells. Cancer cells feed on sugar. Also, with a continuous influx of sugar into the blood stream, our insulin levels are chronically elevated and insulin can trigger the growth of cancer cells.

7) Overuse of sugar can lead to insulin resistance, which can lead to type II diabetes. The more you eat foods that directly send sugar straight to the blood stream (think foods that are almost pure refined sugar, like soda), the more your body has to work to bring your blood sugar back down to a safe level. (Too high or too low blood sugar is dangerous.) If the body becomes overworked by what you are consistently eating, pretty much it will just stop working properly.

8) Unfriendly yeast in your body feeds directly on sugar. Ladies, have you ever had a yeast infection? Unfortunately, they are really common, and for you, it is imperative that you take sugar out! Men, you are equally at risk?  Jock itch? Athlete's foot...  You almost certainly have an overgrowth of Candida, which is the yeast that naturally occurs in our body, but can run rampant if the conditions are right. However, an overgrowth of candida can have all sorts of symptoms (jock itch, headaches, brain fog, fatigue), so even if you never experience yeast infections, candida can still run rampant. Men are also affected!

9)  Sugar is addictive.  According to Nicole Avena, and her great youtube video, eating sugar releases dopamine and affects our pleasure centers every time we eat it.  No wonder we crave it, we want to feel good!

There are many more things I could include, but these are some of the important ones. If you think these facts are meant to scare you....they are! It is important for us to realize the far reaching consequences of over indulging in refined sugar; it is not a harmless food. My personal experience is that once I start eating it, I start craving it all the time. It is extremely addicting.

But the good news again, is that as we start to cut it out of our diet, we will lose our taste for it. I work with many of my clients to cut sugar out for a week, and invariably they report craving it significantly less. It is possible! And those that dramatically reduce consumption lose weight.  It's really as simple as that.

So join me in the intention of cutting out the sugar. It is something that requires a little effort for sure, but it is one of the most health promoting habits you can have.




More Amazing Uses for Bone Broth

My posting last week was all about the benefits and the how-to of making bone broth, but how do you use it in your kitchen?  Well…these ideas are mainly what I do in my kitchen, but I would love other comments and suggestions. Bone broth really is one of the most versatile foods, and will instantly add flavor and a LOAD of nutrients to whatever you are eating.  Oh!  What about the fat the settles at the top of the broth?  Save it!  Use it for cooking….remember saturated fats are the best for cooking.  Use it to cook eggs or vegetables. When I worked at Three Stone Hearth, the awesome worker owned cooperative kitchen in Berkeley, they would always add a layer of fat to seal the bone broth in the jar.  This helped to keep the broth longer.  Which, by the way, can be kept in the fridge up to about 5 days, after which you can re-simmer and keep for a bit longer.  You can also freeze broth in small pint or quart size jars*, remember to leave room for expansion.  My friend Jessica, who specializes in yoga therapy for the spine and is awesome, found out that if you freeze broth in half gallon jars, that’s too much liquid to freeze and her jars would crack!  And Oh!  You can also freeze broth in ice cube trays, and whenever you are cooking veggies, you can add a cube for flavor.

You can also create a demi-glaze, which really just means simmering some broth until you have released most of the moisture…and you have a nice thick consistency.  This is great for gravies and sauces…  pour it over chicken, beef, vegetables…anything!

Here are some common ways I use broth in my kitchen:

1)        As a base for soups and stews.

2)       When you feel a cold coming on.  Thomas Cowan recommends that at the first sign of illness, we drink chicken broth with coconut milk.  The broth provides much needed fluids and nutrients, while the coconut milk provides some nice antimicrobial action. I also like to add a little lemon or lime….yum.

3)       Use it to cook grains, beans, lentils:  An immediate flavor booster and nutrient bang for your buck.

4)       Simple Soups!  Check down below for two recipes that are inspired by the food my awesome Taiwanese mom makes :)

Corn Soup

(3-4 servings)

1 quart chicken broth

1 can corn or 1-2 ears of fresh corn (summer only...I Know!)

¼ cup coconut milk (Native Forest brand)

1 egg

Salt to taste

Heat chicken broth in a medium saucepan and add corn.  If using fresh corn, shave corn off the ears in a medium mixing bowl first, add and then let simmer for a few minutes.  If you are using organic canned corn, drain first and then add to the soup.  Add coconut milk.  Take soup off heat and drop in egg.  Stir immediately, egg should wisp into thin strips.  Salt until desired taste!  Serve and enjoy!


Daikon and Seaweed Soup

(3-4 servings)

1 quart chicken or pork broth

1 medium daikon

1 handful of wakame

1 T miso paste (optional)

Sea salt and pepper to taste

Chop daikon into ¼ inch pieces.  Heat bone broth in medium saucepan and simmer daikon until a fork can be easily pushed through, roughly 20 minutes. Take soup off heat and in a small bowl, place miso paste and add a little bit of soup.  Mix until paste has dissolved and mix into the rest of the soup.  Add a handful of wakame, salt and pepper to taste, and serve!


Cowan, Thomas.  (2004) The Fourfold Path to Healing. United States; New Trends Publishing

*I recommend using Mason Jars in your kitchen.  They come in all different sizes, are really good quality, can replace the use of plastic containers in your kitchen, and are made in the USA!  You never have to look for the right top to go with the right container, because the tops are all interchangeable.  They also are super decorative and just LOOK COOL.  You can find them at your local hardware store or check out the link below.

Mason Jars

How to Make Bone Broth

If you want ONE thing you can do to improve your health….this might be it.   Save your chicken bones.  Make your own stock.  Bone broth is one of the most amazing foods you can add to your diet.  Truly. Traditionally, bone broth has been used throughout cultures as an ailment for the weak and the sick, and throughout culinary traditions as a way of adding flavor and depth to a dish.  It’s a win/win!  In ancient cultures, bones and organ meats were prized more than meat itself.  They are the most nutrient dense parts of an animal, and therefore, the most nutritious for us.

Benefits of Bone Broth

  • High in Minerals:  Due to the current food supply and the American state of health, most people are deficient in minerals.  Minerals are just as important as vitamins to our daily bodily functions.  Bones are a power house of minerals, and through prolonged simmering, we are able to extract all of these precious nutrients.  Thomas Cowan, author of A Fourfold Path to Healing, suggests that adding bone broth to our diet is the fastest way to rebuild our mineral deposits.
  • An Important Source of Gelatin: Gelatin is extracted collagen and an extremely soothing and nourishing food.  It is an excellent digestive aid and it’s extremely healing to our gut, our nervous system and for our entire body.  This is the original reason that jello is served in hospitals.  Patients were served a gelatin based food, but in the words of Jessica Prentice, worker owner at Three Stone Hearth, the jello served nowadays to patients is a “toxic mimic” of tradition.
  • High in Protein:  Included in the large amino acid profile of bone broth are glycine and proline.
    • Glycine is necessary in creating glucose when we are in need of more energy and is vital in supporting our detoxification pathways (thus, cleansing with only bone broth is a great idea.)
    • Proline is essential for the production of collagen, which helps us maintain healthy skin, bones, ligaments, tendons, and cartilage.


Making Your Own Bone Broth

Making your own broth is less time consuming than you might think, and if you have the proper tools (i.e. a crock pot!) it is extremely simple.  First off, save your bones in the freezer.  Of course, quality always matters, so at the very least you should be buying organic meats with the bone.  You can also go to the butcher and ask for bones, they are pretty inexpensive for the amount of nutrition that they provide.

Once you have a nice bag of bones, you are welcome to mix them, but I usually separate chicken from other meats due to flavor.  Place them in a large stock pot and cover with water (preferably filtered) and add a splash of apple cider vinegar.  The vinegar helps to pull the minerals out of the bones.

Temperature and simmering length are important.  The broth should be kept at a simmer, too high of heat will destroy the gelatin.   I personally leave the pot covered on a low flame over night and when I am out of the house.  The only incident I’ve run into is when I left a window open and the flame went out.  Another option is to leave the stock pot in the oven on 200.  However, if you have a crock pot, you don’t need to worry about any of this!  A crock pot has literally changed the way I cook in the kitchen, so I highly recommend you get one.  They are inexpensive and for busy people, they are invaluable.

The length of time that you simmer the bones depends on the size, basically you want to simmer them until they break apart easily.

  • Fish (don’t use oily fish and fish heads are great!): no more than 6 hours
  • Chicken: 12-24 hours
  • Lamb/Goat: 36 hours
  • Pork and Beef: 36-48 hours

This seems like a long time, but really the only attention you need to give it is in the very beginning when you put the bones in.  If you don’t have time to simmer the bones for this long, you can keep the bones and use them again until they are soft.  When I worked at Three Stone Hearth, they would simmer their chicken bones twice.  The first batch they used as chicken broth to sell and the second batch they used as a base for their soups.

If the bones you are using have a nice amount of collagen and you've kept it at a nice low temperature, the broth should gel nicely when cooled.  This is a sign that it is gelatin rich.  Great job!

So get started!  Start saving your bones!  Or get a whole chicken and use the carcass.  I just used the turkey carcass to make an amazing stock….the holidays are a great time to try it out!


Cowan, Thomas.  (2004) The Fourfold Path to Healing. United States; New Trends Publishing
Fallon, Sally.  (2000, Jan 1)  Broth is Beautiful.  Wise Traditions. Retrieved from http://www.westonaprice.org/food-features/broth-is-beautiful
Prentice, Jessica. (2006) Full Moon Feast; Food and the Hunger for Connection. Vermont; Chelsea Green.


Benefits of Ghee

Last week I posted all of the many amazing qualities of coconut oil.  Have you used it yet?  I used it this week making baked sliced sweet potatoes with a sprinkle of cinnamon.  They were delicious. Home made Ghee

Ghee is used widely in Indian cooking, and is used in various religious ceremonies.  It’s made by simmering butter, which evaporates the moisture (butter can be 18% water) and causes the milk solids to sink to the bottom.  Therefore,  some people who are lactose intolerant, are able to tolerate ghee as opposed to butter.  Clarified butter is made in a similar manner, but not simmered as long.  In ghee, the milk solids are browned which give it a nuttier taste.

Ghee is regarded as anti-inflammatory and is said to boost memory.  In Ayurvedic medicine, it is used to cure a whole host of ailments, from treating burns to aiding in digestion.

Ghee is ideal for frying since the smoke point (when molecules start to break down) is 482 degrees F.  It is probably the only oil that I would feel comfortable using in deep frying.  It does not need to be refrigerated, and can last about 6 months in a cool dark place.  With refrigeration, it can last up to a year.  Be careful not to add any moisture as this will cause spoilage.

Since it is so simple and relatively quick to make, I don't make large batches at once.  I use it pretty frequently, so I keep it in my pantry, which keeps it soft and easy to scoop out.  Note: I have noticed that after a few months, it loses its nutty aroma and starts to smell stale, so I try to use it regularly.

Making Ghee

Making ghee yourself is very economical.  A jar of ghee at the store can cost anywhere from $8-12 dollars.  Start with organic unsalted butter (conventional butter has other chemicals and a whole HOST of other problems.)  I usually use 2-3 sticks at a time, which will give you about 3/4 of a cup. In a saucepan, heat butter on low until it starts to simmer.  A white foam will rise to the top and it should start to bubble.  Check every few minutes and stir occasionally.  You will start to see white milk solids cling to the bottom of the pan.  When they turn nice, golden brown the ghee is done!   Some say the aroma is like popcorn, but to me it smells like a buttery croissant.  Careful not to burn the solids on the bottom as this will affect the flavor.  You can also simmer with different herbs to add flavor:  thyme, rosemary, basil and garlic are good options.  Strain and place in a glass jar, opaque if possible, but otherwise store in a cool dark place.  Some people sprinkle the browned milk solids on toast or over potatoes.  Use frequently and feel proud that you make it yourself!

Relish using ghee, it has a long history, and is extremely nourishing.  It will add a beautiful flavor to your meals and add a foundation of clean wholesome nutrition to your diet.

Fallon, Sally and Mary Enig, Ph.D. (2001) Nourishing Traditions. Washington D.C.: New Trends Publishing
Murray, M. (2005). The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York: ATRIA Books.
Wood, Rebecca. (2010)  The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia.  New York.  Penguin Books.

Coconut Oil and Ghee: A Love Affair Part 1

In my practice and classes, I often get asked about the healthiest cooking oils.  If you remember my last posting about which cooking oils to use, you will remember that I’m a fan of using saturated fats.  I use butter pretty often, but if I was honest and true to myself...dairy, unfortunately, is not my friend.  Did you know that about 90% of Asian Americans are lactose intolerant?  And 75% of African Americans?  It’s sad, but true. Cooking oils are fundamental in your cooking practice.  They not only provide a subtle flavor that permeates the entire dish, but they also provide the healthy fats that make you feel satiated.  In my kitchen, coconut oil and ghee are my fats of choice.  They are both highly saturated fats, heat stable, and can be stored outside of the refrigerator.  I'll wait until my next posting to talk about ghee, read on to find out all about coconut oil.

Coconut Oil:

Coconuts in general find their way into my diet pretty regularly.  Coconut water for after exercising, coconut milk for curries and desserts (Native Forest is a good brand to buy, no BPA in the lining), and coconut oil from frying eggs to baking.  Coconut has really exploded in the last few years, but I’m rather fond of this fad because it actually has extremely healthful properties.  Coconut oil originally received a bad reputation when a Minnesota researcher fed fully hydrogenated coconut oil to rats and watched a sharp increase in their cholesterol levels.  We now know that it was the hydrogenation of the oil and the resulting trans fats, which raised the cholesterol.  However, even today, coconut oil still has a stigma of being a “heart attack” oil.

For a number of reasons, coconut oil is extremely beneficial.  First off, it is 92% saturated fat, making it extremely stable when heated, and furthermore,  over 2/3 of its fatty acids are medium chain fatty acids.  There are three types of fatty acids: short, medium, and long.  Long chain fatty acids require bile from our gall bladder to be broken down.  Since bile is not required to breakdown medium chain fatty acids, research shows that these types of fats are much more easily used by the body for energy.   Coconut oil has also been shown to increase metabolism.

Coconuts are also one of the few plant sources of a fatty acid called lauric acid, the only other abundant source being in human breast milk.  Keeping in mind that breast milk passes on many healthful, immune enhancing properties to a newborn, the lauric acid in coconut oil is a pretty amazing thing.  It enhances both brain and immune system function.   Capric acid also makes up 7% of the fatty acid content and it is known for being antiviral, antibacterial, and anti fungal.  Pretty powerful stuff.

You can substitute coconut oil for lard or butter (please don’t say you use vegetable shortening!  Trans fat fest…..).  However reduce the amount you use in the recipe by about quarter, otherwise it will be too greasy.  It’s also great for massages or moisturizing.  Have you ever heard the saying, "don’t use anything on your skin that you wouldn’t eat?"  Coconut oil is thus perfect...and it smells great.

I love using coconut oil in baking, but one of my favorite ways to use it is with kale and coconut shreds. The fat in the coconut oil helps to make the carotenes in the kale more absorbable....

Kale with Coconut Oil and Coconut shreds

1 bunch Kale (any type) roughly chopped

1 clove garlic (minced)

1 T of coconut shreds

1 T soy sauce

Heat a large saute pan and place in a spoonful of coconut oil.  Add chopped kale, stirring to make sure each leaf is covered with the oil. Add coconut shreds, a splash of water and cover for about 30 seconds.  Uncover and stir in minced garlic and stir continuously until leaves are a nice, dark green.  Add soy sauce and serve!  (Serves 2-3)

Enjoy and stay tuned for the next posting about ghee and why it always has a place in my kitchen....



Fallon, Sally and Mary Enig, Ph.D. (2001) Nourishing Traditions. Washington D.C.: New Trends Publishing

Murray, M. (2005). The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York: ATRIA Books.

Ross, Julia. (1999) The Diet Cure.  New York: Penguin Books.

Wood, Rebecca. (2010)  The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia.  New York.  Penguin Books.


The Right Cooking Oil (and Why)

What oil should you cook with? Before we get into that answer, it makes sense to talk about the myth around saturated fats and all dietary fat in general.   Current conventional wisdom states that saturated fats clog your arteries and dietary fat will make you fat.  I constantly hear someone referring to a burger and fries as "a heart attack waiting to happen."  It has become SO normal and so widely known that fat will kill you.  Or will it?  It turns out that we have been wrong all these years.  What's worse, is that all the dietary advice that we've followed in the last 30 years has actually worsened our health, and led to more heart disease and more girth around our waists.  So where did this start from? Well, it all started with a man named Ancel Keys, and his theory called the Lipid Hypothesis.

Keys believed that dietary fats caused chronic disease, and specifically, heart disease.  Gary Taubes, in his book Good Calories, Bad Calories, describes Keys in this way: “Key’s abilities as a scientist are arguable – he was more often wrong than right – but his force of will was indomitable.” Keys firmly believed that dietary fat caused heart disease, and in the 1950’s went about to try and prove it.  It turns out however, that he used extremely questionable practices to prove his theory.  For example, Keys had data from 22 different countries, but used only the results from 6 of them to prove his hypothesis.  Originally, even the American Heart Association came out criticizing Keys, but suddenly, changed its stance in 1957 based on a report from 6 men, including, (gasp) Ancel Keys.  Once this report was released, Time Magazine reported it and it suddenly became gospel.  Saturated fat and cholesterol were targeted as culprits, mainly in animal and dairy products, and there was a nation wide push to lower the total percentage of dietary fat.

Many people, however, have opposed the Lipid Hypothesis from the beginning. In recent decades, more people have come forward to dispel this myth.  Michael Pollan, in his fabulous book In Defense of Food, spells it out by quoting a Harvard article from 2001. “It is now increasingly recognized that the low-fat campaign has been based on little scientific evidence and may have caused unintended health consequences.”   Ooof.

The same article did come up with a link between trans fats and heart disease.  Which, unfortunately, is exactly the type of fat that is promoted in supposedly “heart healthy” foods.   Margarine and vegetable cooking oils are the primary culprits.

Which leads us back to….what oils SHOULD you be using at home?

It turns out, that saturated fats, which have been so villainized in the past, are the best oils to use.   To make sure that you don’t create trans fats in your very own home, stay away from polyunsaturated vegetable oils while you are cooking.  Oils like corn, soybean, sunflower, and safflower are extremely delicate and will oxidize, or become rancid when you cook with them.   Imagine the molecules of these oils as squiggly lines, and at every curve and bend is a weak spot.  At these points, oxygen and heat can penetrate and damage the molecule. You’ve heard of antioxidants.  We eat them to combat the oxidative stress that happens in our bodies.  When you  eat these oils, it’s like eating a heaping bowl of oxidative stress.

The best oils to cook with are saturated fats, whose molecules look like nice flat bricks that line up nice and tight when stacked together.  (That’s why these fats are solid at room temperature)  This also means they are more stable when exposed to heat; examples are coconut oil, butter, beef tallow, and ghee.  Second best are oils that are mostly monounsaturated (imagine just one curve or bend in the molecule) such as lard, macadamia nut, and olive.

Follow the helpful chart below:

The Best Cooking Fats

(Adapted from Nina Planck’s book Real Food)


Heat Stable and Ideal for Cooking

Moderately Stable

Cook only at moderate heat


Only use COLD!

Beef Tallow

Chicken Fat



Coconut Oil


Macadamia Nut Oil

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Fish Oil

Flaxseed Oil

Walnut Oil


It’s always important to think about what you are cooking in deciding which oil to use.  Temperature and flavor are important things to think about, as the wrong oil could add a contrasting flavor to your dish.  Or conversely, it can add an incredible flavor.  Remember that if the oil smokes, it’s being burned.  Throw it out.  Furthermore, don’t be afraid of these oils!  Fat, in the right proportions, is extremely healthy and it is what helps you feel full and happy.

So try a new, safer, healthier, yummier oil.  Remember, fat adds flavor! Don’t be afraid to throw out your vegetable oils, or maybe just use them to grease your bike chain.

Note:  Many people ask about grapeseed oil and peanut oil because of their “high heat” properties.  I do not recommend using either of these oils because they both have an extremely high Omega 6 content and very low Omega 3.  This can lead to excess inflammation in the body…..which is another interesting, but lengthy topic.

Planck, Nina (2006) Real Food; What to Eat and Why.  New York; Bloomsbury.

Pollan, Michael (2008) In Defense of Food, An Eater’s Manifesto.  New York; Penguin Press.

Taubes, Gary.  (2008) Good Calories, Bad Calories.  New York; Anchor Books.


10 Tips for Reading Food Labels

It can be very confusing at the grocery store these days, with all of the new buzz words that companies create to sell you their products.  Ideally, we are eating whole, fresh foods for the majority of our diet (nudge, nudge, right?).  But once in a while we still have to buy something packaged.  What do these words actually mean and which ones can we trust?  Here are 10 food label tips, that tell us what to look for and what words we can trust and what words we can't! 1)  Don't trust the front of the box!  Often the front of the box contains words such as "all natural," and "multi-grain."  These words don't actually have any real meaning.  Some phrases you can trust are "100% organic" and "100% whole grain."  These phrases by law are true.

2)  Just because it says "organic,"  doesn't mean all the ingredients are organic.  If the box says "Made with Organic Ingredients,"  only 70% of those ingredients have to be organic.  If it says "Organic,"  95% of ingredients are organic.  Again, look for "100% organic."

3)  Zero trans fats actually CAN have trans fats!  Trans fats have replaced saturated fats as the culprit for heart disease and other health problems.  Companies are allowed to put "zero trans fats" on a label if it has less than .5% trans fat per serving.  But hey, we know that sometimes we can eat more than just one serving of potato chips, or cookies, and not to mention that companies sometimes make serving sizes ridiculously small (can you really only eat a 1/4 cup of ice cream?) All those servings can add up to a hefty amount of trans fats, and we don't want ANY in our bodies.

4)  The most important part of the package is the ingredient list!  The only thing I look at on the package is the ingredient list.  The shorter the better.   Ingredients are listed in descending order, with the first ingredients being the most plentiful in the product.

5)  The ingredient list is a great place to look for the word hydrogenated. This word equals trans fats!  Partially hydrogenated is even worse.  If you see these words, set the package back on the shelf!  This includes margarine and all of the fake butter spreads!  Organic butter can be good for you if you can tolerate dairy.

6)  Look for food additives.  According to Liz Lipski, a leading health advocate, the average person eats 14 lbs of additives in one year.  Stay away from ingredients like "red 40, blue 6, yellow 5, or sodium benzoate."  These are artificial colors and preservatives.  A leading researcher on this topic, Dr. Benjamin Feingold, discovered in the late 1970's that children with food allergies who avoided artificial ingredients improved their symptoms and exhibited better behavior and attention span in school!

7)  When buying meat and eggs, be wary of these words:  Cage free, free range, antibiotic free, and no added growth hormones.  The terms cage free and free range do not have very much meaning and often lack oversight.  Antibiotic free and no added growth hormones also don't have a third party certifier and the latter can be misleading because growth hormones are not legal for use in either poultry or pork.

8)  Look for the words organic, pastured, or 100% grassfed and grass finished when buying poultry and meat.  Be aware though that organic fish does not exist!

9)  When buying oils, look for words such as unrefined, expeller pressed,  and cold pressed.  These ensure that the oil was not processed under high heat and solvents were not used to extract the oil.  *Remember to stay away from vegetable oils and especially do not cook with them!  These are easily oxidized and can lead to trans fat consumption.

10) When buying anything at the grocery store, remember  this rule from Michael Pollan, a leading author and researcher about food in America.  In his book, Food Rules, he recommends:

Eat only food that will eventually rot.

Yes!  So true!  This is a great rule to live by, and to remember that the more whole, fresh foods that we can eat, the more nutrition we are adding to our bodies.  Every time you put ANYTHING into your body, ask yourself the question, "is this adding to my health?"  If it isn't,  set it down!  But be gentle with yourself, and hopefully these 10 food label tips can help you buy foods that are better for you and your family.


Blaylock, Russell L. Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills. Santa Fe, NM: Health, 1998. Print.

Fallon, Sally, Mary G. Enig, Kim Murray, and Marion Dearth. Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook That Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats. Washington, DC: NewTrends Pub., 2001. Print.

Main, Emily. (n.d.)  10 Food Label Lies. Retrieved from: www.rodale.com/10-food-label-lies.

Information about labels concerning meat are retrieved from: http://www.greenerchoices.org/eco-labels/