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Fight the flames of inflammation and chronic disease using the power of food—Here’s how.


You’ve probably heard of inflammation. It’s described as a “fire” that’s happening inside your body that can – when it goes on for too long (is chronic) in too big of an area of your body (widespread) – damage your health. Inflammation is involved in several chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, atherosclerosis, and even some neurological issues like depression and Alzheimer’s.

Inflammation can damage normal, healthy tissues and cells. This damage then paves the way for more damage and, eventually, disease.

That’s why we want to reduce chronic, widespread inflammation for better health. A recent study published in the journal Nutrition Reviews looked at several studies to better understand the link between inflammation and what we eat.

How do we measure inflammation?

Inflammation is measured in a similar way to cholesterol: using a blood test. These tests measure levels of inflammatory “biomarkers” in the blood to estimate the levels of inflammation in your entire body.

A biomarker (biological marker) is something you can measure with a medical test that is a known link to a disease. Biomarkers alone usually aren’t enough to diagnose a disease, but they’re a measure of how likely you are to get that disease. In other words, your risks of getting the disease.

There are several inflammatory biomarkers that can be measured. This study looked at two that aren’t that commonly used: platelet-activating factor (PAF) and lipoprotein-associated phospholipase A2 (Lp-PLA2). In this study, researchers looked at the link between what people ate and how high these two biomarkers for inflammation were.

High levels of PAF are linked with several inflammatory processes. PAF contributes to harmful free-radical oxidation and can trigger the release of other, more well-known inflammatory markers, like IL-6 (interleukin-6), IL-8 (interleukin-8), and TNF-⍺ (tumour-necrosis factor-alpha). According to the study authors, “patients with diabetes, heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, and coronary heart disease have elevated levels of PAF.”

This means that you should aim for low levels of inflammatory PAF in the blood to try to reduce risk of disease.

Lp-PLA2, on the other hand, has some anti-inflammatory function, however, it’s most often considered to be inflammatory. Like PAF, you want to aim for low levels of Lp-PLA2 in the blood to try to reduce risk of disease.

Therefore, when it comes to PAF and Lp-PLA2, you want them to be low as that would indicate lower levels of inflammation in the body, and lower risk of many diseases that are linked with high levels of inflammation.

Yes, what you eat affects your inflammation levels

In this study, the researchers reviewed 16 clinical studies from around the world to figure out what dietary patterns tend to impact levels of PAF and Lp-PLA2, and they found a trend.

Their research confirmed that certain dietary patterns were associated with lower levels, while others were associated with higher levels.

Which diets are “anti-inflammatory” (i.e., better for health)?

The “anti-inflammatory” diets linked with lower levels of PAF and Lp-PLA2 are:

  • the Mediterranean diet,
  • vegetarian diet, and
  • other “heart healthy diets” (like the DASH diet and the “living heart” diet).

The good news is that you can start today! Several of these studies showed that changing your diet can change your levels of inflammation. For example, when healthy people ate a Mediterranean dietary pattern, they had reduced levels of PAF in their blood. And it can even help if you already have a condition linked to high inflammation, like type 2 diabetes. A study of people with diabetes showed that when they started eating a more Mediterranean or plant focused diet, their levels of inflammation dropped even more than those without it.

When it comes to vegetarian diets, we already know that too much red and processed meats contribute to harmful inflammation. Plus, eating more plants and less processed foods has benefits for heart health. The studies reviewed here confirm that people who don’t eat meat tend to have lower levels of inflammatory Lp-PLA2 than people who do eat meat.

Some studies had participants start eating a “heart healthy” diet. This means that they replaced some of the refined grains with whole grains and increased the number of vegetables and legumes that people ate. They found reductions in Lp-PLA2 levels after 12 weeks. And when the dietary change was accompanied by physical activity, these beneficial changes were seen after just 3 weeks.

You may be wondering which diets are associated with higher levels of inflammation. (And you probably won’t be surprised.)

The diets linked with higher levels of inflammation were the “western” diets. These are ones that include foods that are more highly processed, like carbonated drinks, fast foods, and salty snacks and higher meat and dairy consumption. Unsurprisingly, the “western” diet is also linked with a higher risk of heart disease.

How can food impact your body’s levels of inflammation?

There are lots of ways that certain foods and dietary patterns help to reduce inflammation.

For example, we know that eating more fruits and vegetables reduces some measures of inflammation and is linked with better heart health. Research also shows that some of the bioactive compounds in traditional Mediterranean diet foods naturally inhibit inflammatory PAF by blocking some of the inflammatory processes.

Which foods contain bioactive anti-inflammatory compounds? Preliminary research suggests that foods like wild fish, honey, wild plants, garden peas, flaxseeds, olive oil and olive pomace, wine, grapes, Cretan oregano, clove and cinnamon, onion, garlic, and seed oils. Other non-Mediterranean foods that inhibit PAF include soy sauce, Camellia sinensis (tea), and curcumin.

Another way that nutrition can impact your levels of inflammation is related to weight. Losing weight can reduce levels of inflammation, so eating a more plant-based or “heart healthy” diet can help to lower weight and inflammation at the same time.

Simple tips to use the power of food to reduce your inflammation

The researchers say, “a range of well-established, healthier dietary patterns may lower inflammation.” These include eating a more Mediterranean, vegetarian, and/or a “heart healthy” diet. What do these dietary patterns have in common? Try:

  • Including more fruits and vegetables into your day, like adding berries to your breakfast, grabbing an apple or veggie sticks as a snack, and having a salad with dinner whenever you can Here’s a link to my shredded root salad recipe.
  • Swapping out refined (“white”) grains for whole grains, like whole millet, oats, buckwheat and brown or wild rice
  • Having nuts, like almonds or walnuts, as snacks
  • Ditching inflammatory fats like margarine, shortening, and lard, and instead use olive oil
  • Adding some legumes in your meals, like chickpeas, kidney beans, and lentils Here are links to How to Use Your Beans and Walnut Falafel posts you’re going to love.

 

Contact me to connect if you have questions about incorporating more plant-based foods into your meal planning or if you need guidance around food sensitivities. 

Spring cleanse: Why & How?


Spring brings a feeling of rejuvenation and renewal.  We are ready to clean our surroundings and home, but don’t often think to set time aside to clean our internal environment, our body. A spring cleanse allows us to focus on self-care, lighten our diet and ease digestion, while supporting the body in eliminating toxin build up, restoring balance and increasing energy and vitality.

In traditional Chinese medicine, spring is a time to focus on rebalancing the body, clearing out excess and supporting digestion, liver and gall bladder.

It’s interesting that the spring plants and green shoots are typically used to support the liver. (Dandelion, nettles, mustard greens, arugula, cilantro, parsley)

Every nutrient and every toxin that enters your body throughout your gastrointestinal tract, your respiratory tract, or skin, must pass through the portal vein into the liver before it enters the blood for general circulation.

The liver is a complex organ and responsible for a myriad of functions including:

  • Cleansing the blood, manages the chemicals in the blood, helps to remove bacteria from the blood
  • Neutralizing and destroys poisons, disassembling chemical compounds for detoxification
  • Metabolizing alcohol
  • Aids in digestion through the production of enzymes and secretion of bile
  • Manufacturing new body proteins
  • Producing immune factors
  • Storing vitamins, minerals, and sugars releasing when the body needs them
  • Controlling the production and secretion of cholesterol and maintains hormone balance
  • Providing a source of heat.
  • Regenerating its damaged tissues.

The liver can continue to function after 90% of it has been removed, and it can eventually grow back to its normal size if no disorder weakens the organ. Show your liver love with massage, castor packs, greens and supporting herbal teas.

 Because of the scope of the liver, it is often the focus of a detox or cleanse program.

Foods specific for supporting the liver:

  • Bitter greens – dandelion, mustard greens, arugula, cilantro, parsley, use in salads or smoothies
  • Lemon zest – contains limonin which supports the liver detox enzymes, add to water and salads
  • Beets – contain betaine help to clear liver toxins and protect bile ducts, eat raw or steamed
  • Cruciferous family – important for the phase 2 liver detox – broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels, cabbage, Bok choy
  • Sprouts and micro greens – concentrated amino acids and minerals, broccoli, radish, kale, alfalfa
  • Turmeric – promotes bile and protects liver, add to tea or vegetables
  • Gluten free whole grains and seeds – provide B vitamins necessary for liver

 

Our body is naturally self-cleaning and self-healing; internal detox is an ongoing daily process if our systems are functioning properly. We have several channels for neutralizing and eliminating toxins not only the liver:

  • kidneys and urine
  • digestive system and bowel movements
  • lungs by exhalation
  • lymph system moves cellular waste
  • Skin and perspiration.

Taking focused time to spring cleanse, supports all of these channels.

 

If our body cleanses daily, why the need for a detox or cleanse program?

We are bombarded with an increasing amount of toxic exposure. Our babies are now born with a toxic load of more than 100 different chemicals, which they inherit in the womb because chemicals in our bodies cross the placenta. Our everyday lifestyles are exposing us to an accumulation of toxins, and we’ve hit the tipping point. People are experiencing health challenges that are directly related to the toxic overload, and the root of the problem is being overlooked.

Where do Toxins come from?

  • Man Made- plastics, BPA, nonstick cookware, pesticides
  • In air, water, soil – pollutants, fluoride and prescription drugs, pesticides – 80,000 registered
  • Food and drinks- artificial colors & flavors, additives, altered fats, caffeine, alcohol, synthetic hormones, neurotoxins, chemical stabilizers, metals, sugar
  • Prescription medicine and over the counter meds, vaccines, chemotherapy, radiation
  • Personal care products- soap, shampoo, lotions, cosmetics, “fragrance”
  • Dentistry- mercury amalgam fillings (David Kennedy, former president of IAOMT: “if someone has more than 4 amalgam fillings, their saliva is so high in mercury that they cannot legally spit in the toilet.”)
  • Cleaning products, air fresheners, laundry soaps, dryer sheets
  • Off gassing of home construction products- glues, treated woods, carpets, shower curtains, insulation
  • Emotions and stress, grudges and bitterness

 

If your immune response is awesome, you have 2 or more BMs a day, eat primarily clean whole foods, regularly walk/exercise to stimulate lymph flow, your blood sugar is controlled, sleep 7+ hours regularly and you are stress free, your body can handle a good amount of toxins.

However, most people are over fed and under nourished, highly stressed, don’t move around enough, rely on caffeine or alcohol to get through the day, sleep poorly and are unable to detox sufficiently. Sometimes fat storage is actually a protective mechanism, so when people carry extra fat, they may have a high toxic load, and they’re actually developing fat stores to protect them from an onslaught of toxins in the bloodstream.

 

Indicators you might benefit from a cleansing program:

  • back pain
  • bad breath and body odor
  • slow healing wounds
  • chronic respiratory problems
  • moody or irritable
  • brain fog, poor memory
  • headaches
  • low energy
  • insomnia
  • acne
  • brittle nails
  • sugar cravings
  • unexplained weight gain
  • bloating, constipation

 

What is the end result?

  • More energy
  • Less congestion and bloating
  • Better sleep
  • Greater feeling of wellbeing
  • Reduce pain
  • Reduce cravings
  • Better concentration / Less Brain fog
  • Clear skin
  • Bright eyes
  • Stamina
  • Increased libido
  • Weight loss
  • Fast recovery from illness
  • Bright eyes

 

What to expect while cleansing

  • As toxins release, headaches and body aches can occur, drinking lots of water helps them to flush out quickly, allowing time to rest.
  • Removing caffeine can cause withdrawal headaches, so take a couple days prior to your start to wean off, reducing by half each day.
  • Constipation can occur and needs to be addressed or the toxins will recirculate. Increasing vitamin C and magnesium to bowel tolerance.
  • If you’re doing at least a week cleanse, the first two days are the hardest, you start feeling better with more energy and focus by the third day and amazing by the end.
Start Cleansing!

Supporting the elimination channels is the focus of cleansing to allow the body to release accumulated toxins and provide focused nutrition for optimal support of the elimination channels.

How to do an effective cleanse/detox?

  • Focus on things you CAN control to reduce exposure to those toxins and chemicals that accumulate, removing the source as much as possible without freaking out and getting stressed. Stress will stop detoxification.
  • Reduce exposure to chemicals and toxins:
  • Replace toxic household chemicals with “green” cleaners- baking soda, vinegar, essential oils
  • Get fresh air into your house every day
  • Drink purified water out of glass – try to get ½ body weight in ounces
  • Don’t use plastic with food, leaches with fat and acids.
  • Choose food that is organic, non GMO, chemical‐free as much as possible (dirty dozen/clean fifteen=EWG.org)
  • Remove EMF exposure during sleep – keep phone and computers in a different room
  • Remove inflammatory foods (sugar, gluten, dairy)
  • Eat easily digested foods (lots of fruits & vegetables), increase fiber so energy is spent on cleaning out instead of heavy digesting.
  • Make exercise and deep breathing a daily part of your life
  • Do some mild exercise every day to move lymph- walking, swimming, yoga, chair exercise, massage
  • Rest, nap and make your bedroom a sanctuary for sleep, dark with no distractions
  • Stimulate skin- loofa or skin brushing
  • Take time for yourself and destress – read, laugh, walk in nature, baths, sauna, yoga, music…
  • Find joy in life, love, forgive, gratitude – this changes chemicals in the body and allows release.
  • Support with nutritional supplements if needed.

 

What to Include in your cleanse?

Cleansing foods:

  • All vegetables (except white potatoes, iceberg lettuce and corn), locally grown, in season and organic
  • Highly cleansing foods like artichokes, asparagus, beets, radishes, asparagus, and fresh herbs
  • Coconut milk (full-fat, Native Forest brand) or unsweetened almond milk
  • Focus on local and organic berries and seasonal fruits
  • Legumes and beans, including lentils, but not peanuts
  • Healthy fats in small amounts each day: avocado, unsweetened coconut, nuts & seeds, olive oil, coconut oil or ghee (clarified butter)
  • Whole gluten-free grains like quinoa, millet, buckwheat and brown rice
  • Spices and herbs
  • Raw honey, blackstrap molasses, brown rice syrup, coconut sugar and stevia to sweeten (use sparingly if at all)

Antioxidants are needed for detoxification to be effective. Include as many of the following:

  • Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries
  • Chaga tea and other medicinal mushrooms
  • Onions, garlic, turmeric, avocadoes, tomatoes, parsley, potatoes, carrots, asparagus, squash, apples, oranges, peaches, bananas (Glutathione)
  • Barley grass juice, wheat grass juice, cabbage, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cantaloupe (Superoxide dismutase)
  • Flax, chia, hemp seeds, walnuts, pecans, wild berries (Alpha Lipoic Acid)
  • Cherries, citrus, currants, red peppers, kale, pine nuts, sunflower seeds (Vitamins C, E)
  • Brazil nuts, sardines, oats, chia seeds (Selenium)

 

Purified water and herbal teas

  • Reverse Osmosis, mineral, alkalized
  • Dandelion, Tulsi (holy basil), nettle, chamomile, peppermint, hibiscus, rosemary

 

Herbal supplements and teas can help specific elimination functions if extra support is needed:

  • Blood purifiers – Burdock, red clover, Oregon grape, dandelion, sarsaparilla
  • Liver support – Milk thistle, nettles, burdock, schizandra, dandelion, clover, garlic, horsetail
  • Kidney support – Parsley, uva ursi, juniper berry, nettles, dandelion, goldenseal
  • Lung/Respiratory support – Wild cherry, garlic, horseradish, mullein, mustard, horseradish
  • Bowel support – Psyllium, slippery elm, fenugreek, marshmallow root, magnesium, Vit C, probiotics,
  • Lymph support- Red clover, Echinacea, cleavers, prickly ash bark
  • Skin Support – Elderflower, sage, ginger, capsicum, aloe

 

Complimentary therapies to support detoxification:

 

Drawing or Sweat Baths – Epsom salt, seaweed, clay, or ginger while sipping hot herbal tea to induce sweating

Saunas – far infrared, dry or steam

Alternating hot/cold showers– increases circulation and brings toxins through skin

Skin brushing – dry brushing removes dead cells and stimulates circulation and lymph flow

Tongue Scraping – removes bacterial buildup

Castor Oil – rub on are of liver, cover with towel

Lymph massage – light stroke massage along lymphatic areas (neck, collar bone, arm pits, groin, back of knees)

Rebounding – mini tramp jumping to increase lymphatic flow

Neti Pot – clearing congestion from the nasal cavity, allows for drainage

Deep Breathing – awareness breathing for replenishing air in lungs and expelling stagnant air, oxygen to cells

Enemas/colonics – clears any accumulated material from bowel, helps with dehydration.

 

 There are different degrees of cleansing programs:

I recommend starting slow and building up to an all liquid/water/juice cleanse.

Mild Food – a gentle way to detox, less likely to experience symptoms of detoxing.

  • Removing major allergy/inflammatory foods: gluten, dairy, sugar, soy, peanut, eggs, corn
  • Eating mostly fruits and vegetables, raw or slightly steamed, cooked gluten free grains, minimal oil
  • Chew well, support stomach acid with lemon water or HCL, bowel transit with herbs and probiotics
  • Can be long term- cooked food slows down cleansing process, raw food increases it.

Accelerated Mild Food

  • Eating raw fruits, vegetables and salads along with fresh juices or smoothies during the day and having a cooked plant-based meal for dinner.
  • All raw foods

Green smoothie / blended soups – whole food nutrients and fiber supplied, blending eases digestion, can be sustained for longer periods

  • 40% fruit to 60% leafy greens, blend and enjoy!
  • Faster toxin release, weight loss, symptoms can occur (headache, fatigue, nausea, constipation)
  • Additional support for bowels to ensure toxins released are eliminated (vitamin C, Magnesium)
  • Can be implemented several times a year.

Juice Fasting – concentrated phytonutrients, no fiber

  • It is important to incorporate both vegetable, greens and fruit juices, not just sweet fruit juice
  • Vegetable broths and herbal teas can be included and beneficial for targeting specific needs
  • This can be very balancing and results in rapid detoxification, a fiber supplement and vitamin C and magnesium are helpful to keep bowels moving.
  • Can experience symptoms of detox- headaches, flu-ish achiness, fatigue

Water Fasting– short term- 24 to 48 hours, no longer unless under trained practitioner supervision, good to consider doing once a month, improves hydration and boosts ongoing natural detoxification.

  • Water or herbal teas
  • Master cleanse- lemon water, maple syrup and cayenne – short term only, 24-48 hours, without medical supervision

**For all levels:

  • Remove the most inflammatory foods: gluten, sugar and dairy.
  • Reduce or avoid caffeine and animal protein during cleansing period.
  • Remove all processed food during cleanse.
  • Increase leafy greens of all kinds, seasonal fruits and vegetables and fresh herbs.
  • Increase water and herbal tea intake.
  • Listen to your body; prioritize rest so energy expense is inward focused.

Contraindications: fasting is not advisable for small children, pregnant or nursing mothers, frail or weakened, chronically ill and debilitated. Diabetics are encouraged to stick to cleansing programs including food, not just liquids unless monitored.

 

Example of a day while cleansing:

First thing in the morning drink: ½ of a lemon squeezed into a cup of warm water and sweetened with a little honey  or green lemonade (blended with spinach or tender greens) . Wait 15 minutes before eating.

Skin brushing and shower

 Breakfast: wait until you are hungry, then eat enough fresh fruit to satisfy you, chia pudding with berries or 1-4 cups of smoothie or fresh juice (decaf coffee  or green tea is okay during this time)

Deep breathing

 Mid-morning: If you are trying to lose weight, only drink water or more juice or smoothie until Lunch. If you need to snack, have a piece of fruit. Drink one cup of dandelion or Tulsi tea.

Lunch: Have 1 cup of cooked brown rice or quinoa with 2-3 cups of steamed vegetables.  OR have miso broth and a large salad with chopped veggies, seeds or avocado, or blended veggie soup. Eat enough to satisfy

Brisk walk and deep breathing

Mid-afternoon: If you need to snack, have fresh cut vegetable sticks – carrots, celery, radish, yam, cucumber, zucchini, etc. Have a cup of Tulsi tea.

 Dinner: Drink water before your meal. If you didn’t have cooked grains and steamed veggies at lunch, enjoy them ideally before 7:00 PM. Otherwise, enjoy a cleansing and nutrient rich soup or raw veggie meal – Large salad; or chopped/shredded veggies rolled in lettuce or cabbage boats, and/or raw vegetable noodles. Drizzle with lemon juice and honey, or a little balsamic vinegar.  Eat enough to satisfy your hunger in one sitting.

Wait 30-60 minutes before drinking anything after a meal. Try not to snack before going to sleep, only drink water or Tulsi tea.

Read, music or Epsom bath

*If blood sugar needs stabilizing, have ¼ cup sunflower or pumpkin seeds before bed

 

Cleansing Recipes to incorporate into your Cleanse:

Juices: Use a juicer or blend with a little water and strain liquid

Protein juice: 1 apple, 1-2 cup pineapple, 4oz alfalfa sprouts, 2 Tbs mint leaves – juice or blend well and strain.

Carrot Plus: 4 carrots, ½ cucumber, 2 celery stalks

Kidney juice: 2 carrots, 2 beets, 2 celery stalks, ½ cucumber, handful spinach

 

Potassium Vegetable Broth: good for energy, minerals and electrolytes

4 carrots, 2 potatoes w/skins, 1 onion, 3 celery stalks, ½ bunch parsley, ½ head cabbage, 1 broccoli spear

Cover with water in large pot, bring to simmer for 30 minutes. Strain solids, add coconut aminos or miso to broth and store covered in fridge. Drink during any time for cleansing benefits.

Smoothies: Blend all ingredients until smooth, drink and Enjoy!

    1. 1 Apple, ¼ c blueberries, ½ banana, 3 lettuce leaves, ½ c spinach, ½ c water
    2. 2 oranges, 1 pear, ½ lemon squeezed, 3 kale leaves, ½ c water
    3. 2 cup cantaloupe melon, 2 cup spinach
    4. 1 c strawberries, 1 apple, ½ c pineapple, ½ c dandelion leaves, 1 c romaine, 1 c water

 

Veggie Quinoa Salad

½ cup quinoa added to 1 cup boiling water, cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let bloom and absorb the water.

4 cups chopped baby greens: arugula, kale, spinach, Swiss chard, dandelion

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 sweet potato, cubed

1 onion, chopped

1 pound asparagus, cut in 2 in length

1 can chickpea, drained

Chop vegetables and Steam in a steam basket over boiling water. If you prefer to roast the vegetables, chop and toss with the seasonings and oil and place evenly on a baking sheet, then pour chickpeas over vegetables, cover with foil and roast at 375 for 20 minutes.

Combine seasonings and oil in a small bowl and toss with vegetables:

2 T olive oil

1 lemon, juiced

2 tsp paprika

2 tsp cumin

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp turmeric

½ tsp sea salt

Whisk the oil, lemon and spices together and pour over vegetables if baking. If steaming vegetables, cook until lightly tender, remove and toss with spice blend.

Dressing:

2 T Dijon mustard

2 T olive oil

1 T balsamic vinegar

1 lemon, juiced, ¼ cup

2 tsp maple syrup

½ tsp onion powder

Black pepper

Whisk together or shake in a jar to combine.

To assemble: while still warm, combine the vegetables and chickpeas with cooked quinoa and chopped greens.

Toss with dressing and enjoy.

 

Root Salad

Shred a mixture of veggies: carrots, turnips, radish, beets, kohlrabi, jicama

Thinly slice cabbage and kale or add dandelion or arugula greens.

Add a shredded apple if desired.

Mix together:

3 T lemon or lime juice or cider vinegar

6 T water

½ tsp maple syrup or honey if desired

Season the salad with salt and pepper and your choice of dried herbs. Mix well with vegetables.

Eat as is or use as a filling in collard wraps, lettuce boats. Mix with cooked rice or quinoa.

 

Stuffed Dates

6 dates

6 almonds or pecans

Cut dates halfway through, take out pit and insert nut. Squeeze date around nut. Eat and enjoy.

Optional: dust nuts with cinnamon, salt or cayenne before inserting into date for added flavor.

 

 Chia Seed Ginger Lemonade

1 quart pure water or tea of choice

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

1-2 inch ginger depending on your taste

3 T chia seeds

2 T honey or maple syrup

Place lemon juice and slices of ginger in a quart jar. Warm the water just to a boil. Pour into the jar add honey and let cool.

Add the chia seeds and whisk or shake a few times to prevent the seeds from clumping.

Store covered in refrigerator.

 

Gluten-free Sandwich Bread

2 ½ cups millet flour – You can find this by BOB Red Mill brand

2 tsp baking powder

¾ tsp sea salt

½ tsp baking soda

2 ½ cups water

1 T cider vinegar

1/3 cup psyllium husks – you find these at the co-op

1 cup sunflower or pumpkin seeds (optional)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9×5 bread pan with coconut oil.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the millet flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt until mixed.

In another bowl, whisk the water, vinegar, and psyllium until blended. Let stand and thicken for about 5 minutes.

Add the wet mixture to the flour mix and seeds, if using.  Use a rubber spatula and completely combine into dough. Gather into a ball.

Shape the dough into the loaf pan and smooth the top with wet spatula or your hands.

Bake in preheated oven for 90 minutes until the surface is pale golden brown, dry and crusty. The bread will sound hollow when tapped. Cool for 15 minutes then remove loaf from the pan and allow it to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container at a cool room temp for 2 days or refrigerate for a week.

*You may swap out different gluten free flour combinations (almond, oat, teff, buckwheat)

 

Curried Cream of Zucchini Soup – (Vita-mix or bender)

Serves 4

 ½ cup water or nut milk                  2 cups zucchini, peeled and rough chopped

2 stalks of celery                                 2 Tbs lemon juice

2 Tbs olive oil                                      2 tsp white miso paste

2 cloves of garlic                                 1 tsp. curry powder

½  tsp sea salt                                     Dash cayenne                                     

1 avocado or ½ cup coconut cream                                                              

1 zucchini finely diced, for texture (optional)

Blend all ingredients except avocado, olive oil and diced zucchini until smooth.  (Blend in Vita-mix for one minute if you want warm soup.  Add avocado or coconut cream and blend again until creamy and emulsified.  Pour into bowls and top with diced zucchini.

Variation: Omit curry and substitute 2 Tbs fresh dill (2 tsp. dry).

 

Spring Pesto Spread

 cups young greens (arugula, dandelion, cilantro, spinach)

¼ cup walnuts or pumpkin seeds

¼ cup extra virgin pressed olive oil

1 garlic clove

Pinch sea salt

Add greens to a food processor or blender followed by the nuts/seeds, garlic and salt. Pulse to chop the greens and drizzle in the oil as the machine is running. Store in a covered container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

 

Chia Seed Pudding

¼ cup chia seeds

1 cup plant milk

½ cup berries

Honey (optional)

Fresh fruit, nuts, seeds and coconut for toppings

Blend the milk and berries together and then add the chia seeds and pulse the blender a couple times to mix well. Pour into a jar or covered dish and chill for 4 hours or overnight. When ready to eat, add honey and toppings, if desired.

table

What is Food To You?


What is food?

Food is_______!

How do you fill in the blank?

The mantra I hear everywhere is Food is Fuel! Is it just calories and energy to fuel our body?

Do you think of it as being cultural, personal, shameful, boring, always on your mind, only social, too much work or just necessary for survival?  Everyone has a different relationship with food.

Understanding that relationship is helpful especially when you feel stuck in your body or your relationship with food is not a healthy one.

I think understanding what food does in the body can help us get into a better relationship with it.

If food is just fuel, it doesn’t matter the quality of food we eat as long as it has the macronutrients: fat, carbohydrate and protein. If it’s more than just fuel, then quality matters. I believe food is information for cells and DNA. If you eat whole foods, your food is full of information. However, if you eat processed foods, there is minimal information available. 

The information contained in whole foods is in the form of micronutrients (vitamins, minerals) and phytonutrients (flavonoids, phenolic acids, stilbenes/lignans) that provide much more than just fuel for the body.

When food goes through the refining process, these micronutrients are lost. It’s these micronutrients that are so important and enable the body to repair, regenerate, prevent disease and protect itself from pathogens.

Our bodies were created to protect and heal themselves if given the proper nutrition. 

In the book “Eat to Beat Disease”, Dr. Li explains that he has tested certain foods in the same manner drugs are tested for specific actions in the body.  Compounds in certain foods have been tested and found to help specifically with the body’s five defense systems which include: immunity, angiogenesis or blood supply, the microbiome, cellular repair and regeneration, and DNA protection.

Would knowing which foods tested most important help you make better choices about what you eat every day? Yes. Here are foods for each defense system that Dr. Li identified as being beneficial:

Many of the foods he identified are beneficial for multiple defenses. In Eat to Beat Disease, Dr. Li acknowledges that MDs are sorely lacking in nutritional knowledge because they never received courses in nutrition during medical school. Many doctors are asked, “What can I eat to help with my condition?” and most don’t know. Many doctors are struggling with their own health because of poor food choices and therefore tell their patients “It doesn’t matter, eat whatever you want”.

Those were the exact words from my mother-in-law’s oncologist. To support her and find out for myself, I researched and began learning more about the specific impact nutrition has on health outcomes. Along the way, I have shared what I’ve learned over the last 12 years by teaching group ad private classes and now through nutrition consulting and food education. 

I lost three family members to cancer within a two-year period.  Almost everyone I know has a story about cancer, whether it’s personal, a family member or friend who has had that fight. I believe we can improve health outcomes and quality of life for those who get the cancer diagnosis or any other life-threatening disease. I knew I needed to share what I learned about the body’s response to food.

Learning to eat well by incorporating clean whole foods and making healthy lifestyle choices gives our body the information it needs to defend itself and stay healthy. 

What is optimal nutrition?

If living a long and healthy life is the goal, then looking at the lifestyle and foods of people who are living long and healthy, upwards of 100 years of age, would be a good place to start. There are five groups of people who have a greater than normal number of centenarians who are healthy and having fun in their old age. These groups are called the Blue Zones. They have been compared to each other and studied in depth to find out what they are doing that makes such a difference from the norm. (The norm being a life expectancy of 79, with multiple medications and health deficiencies including heart disease, diabetes and cancer.) The Blue Zones have minimal incidence of disease.

Dan Buettner discovered these five places in the world ­– dubbed blue zones – where people live the longest, and are healthiest: Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece, and Loma Linda, California.  He identified these 9 factors or lifestyle habits leading to long, healthy life: moderate regular physical activity, life purpose, stress reduction, moderate calorie intake, a plant-focused diet, moderate wine intake; engagement in spirituality or religion, engagement in family life, and engagement in social life. To evaluate how you are doing in comparison, check out this test: Live Longer, Better – Blue Zones

The nutritional component we see in the Blue Zones, also backed by clinical research, suggests our mothers were right when they said we should eat our vegetables. In fact, the more vegetables and whole plant foods consumed, the greater one’s health improves. If fish and meat are consumed, they are eaten as a condiment or in small quantities and often used as flavoring among the Blue Zone communities. This is very different from how the typical American meal is meat centric.

If we made one change and filled our plates half full of vegetables and decreased the meat portion size, we could change the health landscape of the country. Now only 1 in 10 people get the recommended number of fruits and vegetable servings a day. We need to look at food as information and choose our forkfuls to support our body’s defenses.

As I get older, my health goal is being as active as possible and not dealing with chronic disease. It’s empowering to know that I have a lot of influence over whether I age that way or not. My meals are primarily plant based and I add a variety of concentrated whole fruit and vegetable juice powders to ramp up the micronutrient information I’m giving my cells. I think many people believe that we are subject to our genes and family dispositions to certain diseases.  However, clinical research tells me otherwise. The science of epigenetics indicates our nutritional input and environment has more influence on whether our genes will be expressed or not. That means what I eat influences if the genes for certain disease are turned on or off. You can choose your health future too. 

“If your goal is to extend the number of healthy years you have ahead, your food choices can tip the odds in your favor. “— Dr. William Li, Eat to Beat Disease.  Take a look at my plant-based recipes HERE and start eating to support your 5 defense systems.

 

SUPport Immune Function with Food


Immune System

The role of the immune system is to detect a threat, summon help, and launch a counterattack on anything foreign in the body. An army of cells make up the immune system and patrol every part of the body for cells that are misbehaving or don’t belong. To be able to do the job well, the immune system needs support with specific foods.

The immune system is made up of three parts:

  • The barrier system includes the skin, mucous membranes around eyes, sinuses, reproductive organs, and the digestive tract which function to keep invaders out.
  • The innate immune cells are the fast-acting fighting cells you’re born will that prevent infection and destroy invaders. 
  • The adaptive immune cells are highly specialized, learn through exposure to tag and identify invaders or pathogens and produces antibodies to recognize them and prevent pathogen growth. This is very specific to the individual.

The barrier system can be supported through handwashing and staying hydrated with adequate water intake daily which enhances the mucosal layers. Incorporating fermented foods and probiotics add protective microorganisms to the mucous membranes, skin and large intestine and influence the protective abilities.

Our innate and adaptive immune cells are white blood cells that have specific jobs within the body’s army. The supporting lymphatic organs that influence the immune cells are the thymus, spleen, lymph nodes and bone marrow. The nutrition you give these cells and organs matters immensely in the formation and function of the cells. The better the nutrition, the better the cells and function.

The more we are exposed to things that compromise the immune system, the greater the chance of developing chronic inflammation. Inflammation is an immune response to injury, infection, toxins, food sensitivities, mold, parasites, and cancer cells. Inflammation becomes chronic when it is persistent and prolonged causing our immune system to be constantly activated and results in actually weakening the immune system and causing health issues like heart disease, diabetes, depression, asthma. 

The wonderful news is that the immune system responds sensitively to subtle nutritional changes.

You can make small changes in the foods you consume and see major improvement in how the immune system functions. We know that eating processed and refined foods, fried foods, sugar and alcohol, results in nutrient deficiencies which rob the immune system and inhibits its function. It’s important to be aware of the foods that weaken or give the immune system a debilitating blow just as much as knowing the foods that can build it up.

For the immune system to function optimally, whole food nutrition is foundational. The nutrients that are critical for immune system function are best obtained from whole foods and include: essential fats, folate, iron, selenium, vitamins A, B6, C, E, D, zinc, antioxidants and probiotic foods.

Incorporating foods high in these nutrients into your everyday meals and snacks is the best way to get these nutrients on a consistent basis. Finding delicious ways to enjoy them is important, so you eat them. 

Vitamin C is important as an antioxidant and overall cellular function. Some food sources: peppers, broccoli, berries, mangoes, rose hips, cranberries, cherries, citrus

  • Make fruit salads or add high vitamin C fruits to smoothies, oatmeal or blending frozen fruits into sorbet
  • Make a relish or compote by blending together cranberries, oranges, mangoes and chia seeds. Use this over oats or yogurt, spread onto avocado toast.
  • Soak rose hips to soften and add to a baked fruit cobbler, compote or smoothies.

Vitamin B6 is needed for cellular function and neurotransmitter conversion. Some food sources: pistachio nuts, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, garlic, chickpeas, avocados, sweet potatoes.

  • Make seed balls with sunflower and hemp seeds blended with dates and coconut
  • Try a chickpea apple salad.

Essential fatty acids are so important for cellular integrity but also for immune response and hormone regulation. Some food sources: avocados, walnuts, hemp seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, cold water fish.

 Zinc enhances the immune system by supporting the T helper cells. It has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.  It prevents viral replication and may reduce the intensity of symptoms from viruses. Some food sources: lentils, peas, cashews, almonds, pumpkin seeds, raw cacao

  • Lentil stew and split pea soup are good choices
  • Make a trail mix with mixed nuts & seeds for snacking
  • Look for lentil or nut-based brownie recipes using the raw cacao

 Selenium is important for many cellular functions in body. It strongly influences the inflammatory and immune responses, is a potent nutritional antioxidant. Some food sources: Brazil nuts, mushrooms, mustard seed, chia, oats, goji berries, sesame seeds, lentils, carob

  • Add nuts and goji to trail mix or granola
  • A mushroom lentil soup is so hearty and nourishing,
  • Soak mustard seeds and then blend with some dates and a little vinegar to make a yummy mustard spread.
  • Add goji berries to tea and let soak, eating them as you finish drinking the tea.
  • Make a batch of oats with added chia seeds, goji berries and carob
  • Sesame seed butter (tahini) mixed with carob and honey makes healthy fudge.

 Brightly colored foods have phytonutrients that help with the innate and adaptive immune cell function.  Each color represents a different phytonutrient. The more color the higher the nutrient density. Eat the Rainbow to get nutrient diversity.   Food sources: carrots, beets, squash, sweet potato, red and yellow peppers, dark leafy greens, herbs, celery, asparagus, broccoli, avocado, kiwi, green apple, red cabbage, plumb, figs, tomatoes, berries, pomegranate, watermelon, cherries, currants, black beans, bananas, pineapple…

  • Make a pan of roasted sweet potatoes, beets, carrots and peppers, season with herbs or chili spices
  • Sauté leafy greens, kale, chard, mustard, collards, spinach and cabbage with lots of garlic
  • Greens salad with tomatoes, peppers, red cabbage and pomegranate seeds
  • fruit salad
  • Make avocado toast or chocolate avocado pudding
  • Make a mixed vegetable soup
  • Mexican stuffed sweet potato 

Probiotics are one of the first lines of defense in the immune system and essential for optimal barrier protection. Having a good population with a variety of bacterial strains helps with nutrient absorption and production of neurotransmitters, vitamins and immunoglobulins that influence immune system function. Food sources:  kefir, active cultures yogurt, kombucha, miso, tempeh, raw krauts and pickles, cultured vegetables and fruits.

  • Eat or drink small amounts of kefir, kombucha r krauts ahead of meals or as condiments
  • Enjoy as snacks, they actually quell hunger

 

There are also specific foods that have modulating effects on the immune system and increasing their consumption during the times when your immune system is bombarded can reduce your susceptibility and improve your body’s ability to defend itself. Some of these include: 

Shiitake mushrooms possess benefits ranging from anti-cancer to immunity-boosting and stress relief.  In China and Japan, they are a long-standing remedy for colds and flu because of the compound lentinan, which stimulates immune response.  Shiitake mushrooms add a delicious umami flavor to soups, sauces, gravy and main dishes.

 Garlic is a strong antimicrobial food and helps the immune system. Garlic has a full spectrum effect as antibioticanti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-parasitic.  Garlic is most potent if chopped or crushed and allowed to sit for 10 to 15 minutes before eating or cooking. This significantly increases the amount of allicin it produces. Allicin is the component responsible for its powerful affects. Try it in hummus, pesto, garlic paste on toast or blend it into juices, or make Nature’s Flu Shot:

  • Blend together 1 ½ cups pineapple juice, ¾ cup lemon juice, 1 large garlic clove, ½ teaspoon turmeric, ½ teaspoon ginger, 1/8 teaspoon cayenne, 1 tablespoon honey. Drink ½ cup per day.

 Onions are natural sources of quercetin, a bioflavonoid that has shown to suppress the rhinoviruses which are the underlying cause of the common cold. Add onions to vegetable sautés, salads, soups and roasted vegetables or heat on med low heat to caramelize and use as a topping for almost anything…so good.

Ginger is a spicy root that stimulates circulation and helps keep the sinuses clear of mucus, fights intestinal infections, and is particularly famous for supporting immune system against cold and flu. Ginger can be stewed in boiling water to make ginger tea, added to stir fried vegetables or grated into tahini with some tamari and enjoyed as a veggie sauce or dip.

 Fresh and Dry Herbs add medicinal qualities to meals. They have phytonutrients that are potent for immune system modulation; think ‘Spice of Life’. Consider using rosemary, thyme, garlic, ginger, oregano, turmeric, cilantro, basil, paprika, cardamom, Ceylon cinnamon, chili, elderberry, Echinacea, astragalus, rose hips. Usually found in bulk section of health food store.

  • Echinacea/golden seal, green, garlic, or ginger tea during flu season
  • Infuse herbs and spices into water for broth and cooking liquids for grains
  • Add fresh and dried herbs to simmer in soups, sauces and grains.
  • Make Golden Milk to get a wonderful blend of herbs and spices
  • Fresh herbs blended into a pesto or chimichurri sauce for use over grains or veggies.

 Green Tea is known to help prevent flu and the common cold. Catechins have been shown to inhibit the activity of the common cold adenovirus as well as influenza viruses. To maximize the release of catechins, add a bit of orange or lemon juice to your tea, the vitamin C increases availability. Steep tea for 5 minutes.

 
Culinary medicine is the idea of choosing an entire herb or food for its medicinal benefit first, then taste, when preparing a meal.

This approach is one of the safest methods of natural healing, as it relies upon our body’s natural protection measures. For example, it would be difficult to overdose on basil, as the physical volume of a lethal dose is simply impractical to consume in one sitting. Culinary medicine in many traditional cultures is the oldest form of medicine, prevention, and healing.  I suggest using whole herbs, onions, garlic and ginger in as many of your dishes possible. Not only will this approach taste good, but it will also improve the gut microbiome, which comprises 70% of the immune system, and help keep pathogens in check.

Whole foods and herbs have many nutritional cofactors and phytonutrients that help nutrients work optimally and improve the body’s assimilation of those nutrients.  However, supplementing with nutrients can be beneficial when there is a deficiency. Specific supplements for immune support include ones mentioned above in addition to a vitamin D3.

 

To ensure you get plenty of immune-boosting nutrients:
  • Load up on colorful fruits and vegetables. Eat vegetables raw or steam them for best nutritional density.
  • Eat clean proteins, more plant sources than animal, and whole grains.
  • Have a clove of garlic a day for its anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties.
  • Add herbs and spices that have immune supporting nutrients to recipes
  • Avoid fried foods as this introduces harmful free radicals that increase inflammation which suppresses immune response.
  • Avoid sugar so you don’t suppress your immune response.
  • An easy way of insuring you get plenty of colorful phytonutrients is from my favorite concentrated food source.