Food Is Not Your Enemy

Kitchen Tools to Make You Healthier
April 23, 2014, 11:06 am
Filed under: Healthy Lifestyle | Tags: , ,

Did you know that your choice of kitchen tools and cookware can make a difference when it comes to your health? It’s true—some materials found in many a kitchen can actually harm you over time, while others will lead to better health. Here are some tools you might like to have if you’re looking to build a better kitchen …

Cast-iron pots and pans. Cast-iron cookware is strangely cheap, extremely durable, and will give you nice even heat. But it will also add a significant amount of iron into your diet, as some iron from the pan actually leaches into the food being cooked. A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association showed, for example, that the iron content of three ounces of applesauce increased from 0.35 mg to 7.3 mg when cooked in an iron pot and scrambled eggs increased from 1.49 mg to 4.76 mg of iron. On the other hand, the worst kind of cookware to use would be anything made of aluminum, a known carcinogen that’s also been shown to contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Glass storage containers. What’s good about glass is that it’s not plastic. Plastic leaches such unhealthy compounds as dioxins and PCBs into our food, especially if heat is introduced into the equation (never microwave food in plastic containers for this reason). Pyrex dishes or Mason jars are a nice alternative to plastic containers.

 A wooden cutting board. Cutting boards made of wood are much less likely to harbor pathogenic bacteria than plastic ones.

 A blender. Smoothies! If you whip up a smoothie in your blender, whether with fruit, veggies, or both, you’re likely getting 4 or 5 servings of produce in one shot. This is an easy way to add more plants into your diet—a goal all of us should try to achieve.

A slow cooker. I am so in love with my slow cooker. You throw a bunch of ingredients in there in the morning, and by evening you have a delectable, tender concoction, and enough of it to feed a family of four a few times. I’ve used it to make pulled pork, chicken, ribs, brisket, and even lasagna. So it’s clearly convenient, but is there anything particularly healthy about using a slow cooker? Yes! According to Dr. Andrew Weil, slow cooking is less likely to expose you to advanced glycation end products (AGEs), toxins the body absorbs when we consume grilled, fried, or broiled meats cooked at high temperatures. AGEs have been linked to inflammation, insulin resistance, diabetes, vascular and kidney disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. Steaming, boiling, or braising foods—which is what the slow cooker does–will reduce your intake of these harmful compounds. Plus, cooking meat on the bone for hours and hours in the slow cooker will draw the key nutrients found in the bones–like collagen and gelatin, both crucial for your bone health–into the finished dish.

“Unhealthy” Foods That Are Actually Healthy

Nutritional science changes—often. One day we’re told a food is good for us, the next day we’re told it’s bad. The opposite is true as well—sometimes a food that we’re told to avoid turns out to be quite good for us. Here are four such foods we need to remove from the nutritional “doghouse” based on the latest scientific findings …

Butter. If you grew up in the ‘70s and ‘80s like I did, then you likely kept margarine in your fridge rather than butter. Everyone knew that butter was bad for you, and that margarine was better for heart health. Unfortunately, it turns out we were dead wrong.

Margarine is made up of trans fats, and we now know that trans fats are way worse for our hearts than saturated fats. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, your risk for developing heart disease increases by 30 percent if you regularly consume trans fats as opposed to butter (or even lard).

And butter—especially butter from grass-fed cows and raw milk butter—contains many important nutrients, such as vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin K, lecithin, and trace minerals. So throw out those tubs of margarine and spreads made from overly processed vegetable oils and use butter!

Eggs. Stop tossing out your yolks. The most recent research finds that the cholesterol in egg yolks raises our levels of good cholesterol, not bad cholesterol. And egg yolks are extremely nourishing—they are one of the few foods that contain a good amount of vitamin D, as well as vitamin A, the beneficial long-chain fatty acids EPA and DHA, choline, and many micronutrients. Some people pass on the yolks thinking that eating just the whites will help them lose weight. But an egg only has about 70 calories.

Beef (from pasture-raised cows). While we shouldn’t necessarily gorge ourselves on lots of red meat every day, there is a place for beef in an omnivore’s diet, especially if that meat comes from pastured animals as opposed to those raised on factory farms. There is a ton of protein in beef, and many other nutrients such as vitamin B12, iron, zinc, and magnesium. But grass-fed beef is lower in saturated fat and higher in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, and conjugated linoleic acid than grain-fed beef (a.k.a. “regular” beef in your supermarket). Grass-fed cattle are generally pastured on smaller farms where they’re not pumped full of steroids and antibiotics, which is better for our health as well.

Dark chocolate. Studies have shown that dark chocolate containing a high percentage of cocoa (70 percent or more) has many health benefits. Thanks to the flavonoids and antioxidants found in cocoa, chocolate not only has the potential to lower blood pressure, but it also can reduce diabetes risk and improve cardiovascular health. This doesn’t mean that you should feel free to down a king-size bar, however. Even high-quality dark chocolate is full of calories. Savor just a few squares.

New Nutrition Facts Labels on the Way
February 27, 2014, 4:21 pm
Filed under: Dairy, food politics, Fruits, Sweets, weight loss | Tags: , , ,

Good news–over the next two years, the nutrition facts labels will change on our packaged foods. Most significantly, serving sizes will become more realistic, calorie counts will be larger and bolded, and added sugars will get their own category. You’ll now be able to see how much sugar in your yogurt, for instance, occurs naturally in the yogurt itself or the fruit added to it, and how much is added sweetener. Given that added sugars are a very large part of why our nation is suffering from an obesity crisis, this is a really positive change. You can read all about the new labels and see a graphic of what one will look like here.

Sugar, Not Fat, Causes Heart Attacks
February 11, 2014, 12:48 pm
Filed under: Chronic Disease, Eggs, food politics, Food/Health Blogs, Sweets | Tags: , , , , ,
I totally love the work done by Dr. Mark Hyman. He’s a firm believer in fixing the causes of our health problems, not just the symptoms. The latest newsletter from him said the following:

“It’s over. The debate is settled.

It’s sugar, not fat, that causes heart attacks.

Fifty years of doctors’ advice and government eating guidelines have been wrong. We’ve been told to swap eggs for Cheerios. But that recommendation is dead wrong. In fact, it’s very likely that this bad advice has killed millions of Americans.

A rigorously done new study shows that those with the highest sugar intake had a four-fold increase in their risk of heart attacks compared to those with the lowest intakes. That’s 400%!”

Eye-opening, right? But depressing that we’ve been led down a bad path by some specious government recommendations.

When in doubt, choose the whole, natural foods that humans have been eating for generations (like eggs). And question the “wisdom” that we’d be better off eating a food made in a factory.

Should You Bother Taking Vitamin Pills?
February 10, 2014, 12:28 pm
Filed under: Chronic Disease, Healthy Lifestyle | Tags: , ,

In the U.S., we love our pills. We often lean on pills as a crutch—if you don’t feel you can (or want to) improve your diet to lower cholesterol, you’re given a prescription for a statin drug. If you don’t exercise, manage stress, or lower your salt intake, you’re simply given some pills to bring down your blood pressure. Anxious? Here’s a pill. Can’t sleep? Don’t bother looking to see if your late-night eating or alcohol consumption are affecting your sleep, just take a pill.

In this spirit, we often turn to vitamin pills—why bother eating healthier food when you can just take the vitamins you need in pill form? But some new studies have shown that not only can vitamins be ineffective, they can also be downright harmful.

When you eat tomatoes, there are certain nutrients you can count on getting: vitamins A, B6, C, E, K, thiamin, niacin, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, potassium, and manganese. But the tomato also contains lots of fiber and micronutrients, many of which researchers acknowledge are not even yet identified. Our body efficiently absorbs the nutrients from a natural source like a tomato. One of the issues with vitamin pills is that the nutrients are isolated, removed from their natural delivery system that includes the fiber and micronutrients. And scientists are starting to find that we don’t absorb and use the vitamins from pills in the same way or as effectively as we would from real food containing those nutrients.

Despite their popularity, there is no evidence that multivitamins enhance health or prevent illness. Both the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and a National Institutes of Health State-of-the-Science Conference concluded that multivitamins do not offer protection against heart disease or cancer. On the other hand, studies have shown a strong link between vegetable consumption and the prevention of cancer.

Even more surprising was a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine that showed that women who took multivitamins were 6 percent more likely to die than those not taking them! I had always been neutral about vitamins in the past; I felt that they weren’t necessary for the most part if you were eating a good diet, but that there was no real harm in taking them if you wanted to. But this kind of study really gives me pause.

So if you’re looking to up your intake of essential nutrients, eat more vegetables and fruits. Eat more beans. Eat more whole grains. Eat more eggs. And question all those vitamin bottles in your medicine cabinet.

How to Make Your Health & Weight Resolutions a Reality
January 13, 2014, 11:59 am
Filed under: Exercise, Healthy Lifestyle, weight loss | Tags: , ,

Each January you may find yourself making resolutions to lose weight, eat better, exercise more, or generally get your life in greater balance. You really want these things, and get excited as you visualize a thinner or healthier you.

But all too often, a few months pass, nothing changes, and we get down on ourselves. Why does this happen again and again?

First off, know that you’re not alone. Making big changes like these can feel very tough, and many people struggle. But you can do it—it all comes down to having a plan.

Saying to yourself, “I’m going to eat healthier” or “I’m going to eat less” tends to not help you reach your goals—these statements are too vague and leave you adrift at each meal. What is healthier, after all? Does that mean you should skip the butter? Not eat pasta? Have spinach salad all the time? And is it okay to enjoy a big indulgent dinner once in a while? Not knowing the answers to these questions can leave you feeling confused, frustrated, and unable to do anything differently than you’ve been doing for years. The uncertainty leads to inaction. You’re left wishing, but not doing.

Here are a few tips to get you on the path to reaching your goals:

Take small actions every day. What will you do today to help yourself reach your goal? Perhaps you will go for a brisk walk. Or have a large serving of veggies with your lunch instead of fries. Or forgo buying chips and cookies at the supermarket. These are things we all know can improve our health and weight, so do at least one of them every day. Remember that your daily choices need to be different than they used to be or your body won’t change.

Make a schedule. We’re all busy. But if you take the time to sit down and schedule in when you’ll shop, cook, and exercise each week, you’ll see that it is possible to do these things. Waiting to “find time” in between your other obligations will likely lead to inaction.

Rethink a comfortable yet unhealthy habit. Do you take it for granted that every night after dinner, you will sit down in front of the TV with a bowl of ice cream? Maybe you’ve stopped asking yourself if you even want this ice cream on any given night—you simply go on autopilot and grab it no matter what. Start to notice these habits, question them, and decide if you’d like to do something else instead.

Seek out support. Perhaps a friend or family member is willing to take this journey with you and can provide you with moral support, or maybe you feel you need help from a professional. Either way, know that help is out there, and that this can make a big difference in whether or not you’re successful. If you would like personal guidance from me, you can always schedule a free one-hour consultation with me to get the process rolling. You can sign up here.

Here’s to a happy, healthy 2014!

Holiday Overeating and Family Drama: The Role of Forgiveness
December 16, 2013, 1:25 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

Have you ever downed an entire package of chips, crackers, or cookies? Ate mashed potatoes or cake until you felt sick? Drank more eggnog or wine than your body wanted?

Do you remember how you were feeling at the time?

I ask because sometimes we overeat to distract ourselves from difficult emotions we may be experiencing. Think about it–have you noticed that sometimes when you overeat you’re not hungry at all? What you are is lonely, or angry at your mother, or sad, or resentful, or frustrated, or something else.

It’s way more effective to address your uncomfortable feelings directly rather than trying to cover them up with food, food that you’ll likely wish you hadn’t eaten very soon after eating it. One of the ways to deal with these feelings is to forgive—yourself as well as others.

Forgiving is not easy, even for the most enlightened among us. If you’ve been allowing yourself to be controlled by past or present hurts, think about forgiving. These steps can help:

  • Talk to sympathetic friends and family. Chatting with others is tremendously comforting.
  • Write a letter to the person you’d like to forgive. You can decide whether or not you send it.
  • See the situation from the other person’s perspective–your own perspective may change.
  • Don’t forget to forgive yourself. Sometimes we can be harshest with ourselves. Don’t beat yourself up about overeating at a holiday party—it won’t help you with your weight or health goals; it will just make you unhappy.
  • Understand that you are responsible for your own attitude. Don’t let holding a grudge hold you back in life.

Forgive and watch how much better your relationship with food becomes.

Happy holidays to you! 


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