Madrona Nutrition and Fitness: Recipe and Nutrition Guide

Madrona Nutrition and Fitness:
Guide to Wellness through Holistic Diet
and Lifestyle

Rachel Fiske
Certified Holistic Nutrition Consultant,
Certified Personal Trainer

Monday, December 27, 2010

Can I Use My Microwave? Well, I Wouldn't. Don't Compromise Your Health Just to Save 5 Minutes.

The question as to whether microwaves really are harmful to our health has been a hot button issue as of late. Studies come out showing the dangerous effects microwaves have on our food and bodies, and then studies come out to counter those studies (although who is funding the latter studies is always a good question to keep in mind). When it really comes down to it, microwave ovens are an experiment on public health that has not been around long enough, nor has enough funding been put into research to tell us for sure, if it is harming us. As far as I'm concerned, I'm willing to air on the side of caution on this one, and believe the numerous studies/experiments that have shown microwaves to be harmful to our health. And really at the base of it, something just kind of creeps me out about heating my food via radiation. Lets take a look at some of the studies that have been done over the years to back this up.

In an article by Dr. Mercola in May of 2010, he notes that we are not only what we eat (as the popular mantra goes), but just as importantly we are what we buy and how we cook what we eat! I love this statement because its so true...we can eat veggies all day long, but if they are coming from pesticide laden, nutrient depleted soil, and/or if we are scorching all the nutrients out of it on high heat with rancid oils, we might as well go on the twinkie diet. Ok, it wouldn't be quite that bad, but you get the idea. 

On the subject of soil depletion, the calories we eat today do not have nearly the nutrient density as they did 100 years ago (or less). This is due to industrial farming practices rendering our soils void of essential nutrients. So as mentioned above, even if we eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables, we still need to get the most bang for our buck in terms of food consumption, which means preparing food in ways that will preserve the nutrients. Buying organic will obviously provide us with many more nutrients than conventional crops, however, can still suffer from nutrient-starved soil sometimes.

Microwaves work by causing the water molecules of food to resonate at very high frequencies, causing them to turn to steam and heat the food. In this process, however, the chemical structure of the food is also changed. Most of us are aware at this point of certain dangers of microwaves. We know never to heat breast milk in the microwave, one because so many nutrients are killed in the process, and two because microwaving does not heat evenly and causes "hot spots" potentially leading to bad burns (sorry, babies....thanks for being the test-group on that one). We also know not to heat foods in plastic containers (particularly fatty foods), due to the numerous toxins (BPA being the most commonly known) that leech from the plastic into our foods. Note: this also happens with other commonly microwaved packaging, like popcorn bags (lined with plastic), and other store-bought microwavable foods. Before a well-publicized law suit in 1991 when a woman died from a blood transfusion of microwaved-blood, we used to heat blood for this purpose, not realizing that it damages the blood's make-up.

Another argument that has been made is that microwaves leech radiation into our kitchens and homes. Although this was more of a problem with older microwaves and newer models have taken more precautions, it is still of concern. Consider this statement from Powerwatch, a nonprofit organization that has been heavily involved in the microwave debate:

"Even when the microwave oven is working correctly, the microwave levels within the kitchen are likely to be significantly higher than any nearby cellular phone base-stations. Remember also that microwaves will travel through walls if the microwave oven is against an inside wall."

Yikes. And keep in mind that the regulating body dictating the "safe" levels of microwave radiation to have in our homes is the FDA, and I for one do not generally trust their guidelines due to a long history meaningless standards stemming from corporate ties and affiliations. Keep in mind that our eyes are the most susceptible to microwave radiation, so do not stand up close to the microwave in order to prevent cataracts. There have also been some pretty convincing studies done on the effects of microwave radiation on high blood pressure and blood sugar levels in susceptible individuals. Watch this short video from the Center for Health Studies and Environmental and Research Studies:

Now, the thing about microwaves that is of most concern to me is the area where the least amount of research has been conducted, that being how microwaves actually effect the nutrients in our food. In actuality, there has been numerous experiments done on this topic, but not much publication of results (again, look at the interests of the media/publicists). Among the numerous studies that have been done, I will just point out a few examples. The Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture published a study in 2003 finding that broccoli zapped in the microwave lost 97% of its antioxidant value, rather than an 11% loss by stove-top steaming. A study of microwaving garlic for only 60 seconds showed that all of its primary cancer-fighting enzyme, allinase, was deactivated. A fascinating study done by a high school student was published in 2007, where the student watered 6 planted seeds for 2 weeks. Some were watered with tap water, others with distilled water, and others with microwaved water. The microwaved-watered seeds not only failed to thrive, but became moldy, rotten, and stunk. The others were healthy and vibrant.

And there is more. But again, for me, I'd rather heat my food the old fashioned way...without electromagnetic radiation. Like so many technological "advances" in our society, the dangerous health impacts are so often not actually proven beyond a doubt until it is to late. We are the test subjects of the great microwave experiment. If you agree, try using a toaster oven (or regular oven) on low heat (200ish degrees) for 20 or 30 minutes. Defrost foods overnight. Eat more raw foods. Don't take a chance on your health just for the sake of convenience. And hey, once your microwave is phased out, it can make some great extra shelf space.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Irritable? Moody? Craving Carbs and Sugar? Hmmm...sounds like HYPOGLYCEMIA to me!

My Professor, Holistic Nutritionist Laura Knoff, affectionately refers to some of the many side effects of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) as the "7 Dysglycemic Dwarves." These could be any number of things, such as sleepy, grumpy, moody, hungry, shaky, angry, sweaty, crazy....I know, cute, huh? :) I think Snow White would have done some serious reconsideration of the dwarves diet choices had they all been hypoglycemic. Did Snow White even cook for the dwarves? Anyway, I digress....

Given that our diets (even those of us who eat "healthy" diets) are generally heavy on carbs (including sugar) it should come as no shock that many of us suffer from hypoglycemia, yet don't necessarily associate symptoms with our diet. Below is a long list of symptoms common to low blood sugar:

fatigue, waking up tired, erratic mood swings, general fatigue, inability to focus attention, anxiety, weight gain, blurred vision, mental confusion, bizarre behavior, irritability, incoherent speech, hypersensitivity, negativity, anti-social, compulsive eating, cravings for sugar, dizziness, weakness in legs, sense of gloom, loss of sex drive, impotence, muscle pains, cramps, rapid heartbeat, fast pulse, sweating, insomnia, crying spells, low blood pressure, mental disturbances, loss of appetite, manic depressive, temper tantrums, headache, constant hunger, cool, wet or pale skin, trembling, dry or burning mouth, fluttering in chest

And believe it or not, there are more. Lets take a quick look at what is happening in our bodies when our blood sugar drops, and how. First and foremost, we need to understand how our bodies digest carbohydrates. Carbs include whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruit (in their real form, and then there of of course refined carbs and sugars which we'll get to in a moment). Carbohydrate digestion begins in the mouth with salivary amylase which begins the process of breaking down the sugars in carbs to monosaccharides. Depending on the type of sugar being digested, they either are carried directly to the bloodstream (as is the case with glucose), or processed first by the liver (as is the case with fructose/fruit sugar). Once delivered to the bloodstream, our blood sugar (glucose) rises, and excess is stored as glycogen by the liver, to be used as extra stores to raise our blood sugar when we are not getting enough glucose.

When our blood glucose rises after eating, our pancreas produces insulin. This is the only hormone the body can make to lower blood sugar. Insulin is like a messenger/ escorts glucose to the cells so that it can be used for energy. Once the glucose is absorbed by the cells, our blood glucose levels decrease. If it falls too low, our pancreas secretes glucagon, which signals the liver to break down glycogen in a process called glycogenesis. This will ideally cause the blood sugar to normalize. Additionally, when our blood sugar falls too low, the body goes into a sort of state of emergency, signaling the adrenal glands to produce epinephrine (adrenaline), and cortisol. This is why we get shaky, sweaty, etc, and persistent low blood sugar is taxing on our adrenals (see previous post on adrenal health). When there are problems with this entire, complex process, we can end up with dysglycemia, or unregulated blood sugar (high/hyper or low/hypo, but because hypoglycemia is so common today, that is what I am focusing on).

Nutritionist Laura Knoff also suggests that both high and low blood sugar all boils down to nutrient disregulation, meaning we either are not getting enough nutrients (vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients) in our diet, do not have adequate stores of these nutrients in our bodies, or cannot properly digest/assimilate the nutrients we are ingesting. The digestion factor could be stemming from a whole myriad of things, for example low stomach acid (HCL), leaky gut, food sensitivities/allergies, candida, and the list goes on. This, however, will have to wait for another blog. Now, I'd like to take a look at how eating refined foods reek havoc on our blood sugar, and which foods to focus on to stabilize it.

When we eat, the nutrients available in that food are not available to us immediately. And, digesting food requires essential vitamins and minerals, so when we eat we are borrowing nutrients from our bodies' stores. If the food we have eaten is of high quality (whole, nutrient dense), then those nutrient stores are paid back. However, if it is of poor quality (refined, processed), then there are no real nutrients to speak of, and we are just depleting our nutrient stores (if we have any to begin with) in order to digest that food. So, if we are eating refined carbohydrates (think: anything with white flour, sugar, non-whole grain breads, pasta, sweets, white rice, etc), the nutrients and fiber that is lacking will cause our blood glucose to spike rapidly (no fiber to slow them down). This consequentially requires our bodies to produce excess insulin (remember, the hormone that tries to lower blood sugar), the liver then tries to clear the excess, and what cannot be used for energy is stored as fat in our cells and the liver itself. This is where fatty liver comes from, as well as the frighteningly high levels of obesity in our country. Keep in mind, whole grains are much better as they are more slowly digested and assimilated by the body, but this same process still occurs, which is why we want a diet with a carbohydrate focus much more on vegetables rather than solely on whole grains and fruit (think moderation!)

Ok...are you overwhelmed and annoyed with too much information? Sorry! But as always, I want to educate you about why it is so important to eat a whole foods diet so you are more motivated to do so. So lets look at a diet that will support normal/healthy blood sugar levels. And remember, if you have had disregulated blood sugar for a long time, be may take your body awhile to readjust. Also it may be necessary to work with a holistic nutritionist to decide on a supplementation protocol.

What TO eat:

·         Leafy Greens cooked and/or raw-unlimited
·         Small Ocean Fish 3 oz serving 2/wk
·         Organic Poultry 3 oz serving 2-3/wk
·         Organic Beef/Lamb 3 oz serving 2-3/wk
·         Fibrous Vegetables unlimited
·         Starchy Vegetables limit to ½ cup cooked, 1 cup raw
·         Sea Vegetables unlimited, at least 1 tsp/day
·         Beans and Peas two ½ cup servings
·         Nuts/Seeds 2 Tbsp (esp. ground flax seeds)
·         Whole Grains Limit to ½ cup/serving
          Fruit Limit to 1 medium piece or 1/2 Cup/serving

Please remember the importance of an organic diet as much as possible, especially when eating meat, which commercially is LOADED with scary toxins and hormones. Also, it is key understand meal planning/timing when eating for hypoglycemia. You want to balance blood sugar all day, which does not mean having a cup of coffee for breakfast and not eating until 1:00. I assure you your blood sugar will crash and you will eat crap. Breakfast is THE most important meal for this, it is essential to include at least 20 grams of quality protein+good fat+limited complex carbs. For example, try a scramble with 2 eggs, leafy green and cruciferous veggies, and 3 oz. of chicken or fish. Yum. Then have a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack that includes the same, protein, fat, limited complex carb, and lunch should be the same. If you are going to drink coffee, make sure its with food. AND...don't forget that exercise helps with glucose regulation too, so be as active as possible!!
As always, feel free to contact me with further questions. Hypoglycemia is sooooo common, and affects us in ways we do not even realize. But the good news is that it can be corrected with diet and lifestyle changes, and we can feel (naturally) good again. And thats always the goal!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Incredible Seaweed Salad Recipe

So...I was just writing a blog about hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), which is soon to come. I took a break to make a quick salad and ended up with something I had to share. Pretty damn good, if I do say so myself.  First of all, if you're not already on the seaweed train, get with it people! Seaweed is an amazing superfood, dense with trace minerals (minerals we do not get anywhere else in our diet). According to Seibin and Arasaki, authors of the book Vegetables from the Sea, seaweed is full of "every mineral required by human beings, including calcium, sodium, magnesium, potassium, iodine, iron, and zinc are present in sufficient amounts. In addition, there are many trace elements in seaweeds." Seaweed (particularly of the brown algae variety, like wakame used in this recipe) have been shown to significantly aid in detoxification, especially when it comes to heavy metals.

Half of this recipe (the most important half), was inspired by fellow Nutrition Educator Sarah Eddison, and I think she got it from yet another Nutritionist. I used Ready-to-Use Pacific Wakame from the company Emerald Cove, which I got at Rainbow Grocery (a co op in SF). As with all salads, get creative!!

Seaweed, Beet, Carrot Salad Recipe (1-2 servings)


1 C Wakame
1/2 C Expeller Pressed Sesame Oil
1/2 onion
2 cloves garlic
1 grated carrot
1/2 C grated beet
1/2 Tbs. sesame seeds
1-2 Tbs. chopped raw almonds
1 tsp. seaweed gomasio
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

Soak the wakame in the sesame oil for about 5 minutes to rehydrate (mix well, and add a bit of water if you want. I probably added about 1/2 cup water, it depends on the consistency you like your seaweed). Add finely chopped (or grated) onion and garlic, and maybe a pinch of sea salt and pepper. Then add all ingredients together. I served mine with hard boiled egg, but it would be delicious with a protein like chicken or salmon, and maybe some avocado. Yum!! Insert this into your holiday dinner for a giant boost of nutrients to combat some other things that may grace our tables. :)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Baked Coconut Chicken Recipe

This was described last night by more than one person as the best chicken they had ever had...and I am inclined to agree. Its full of healthy fats like coconut, organic butter from grass fed cows, and ghee (see previous blog on fats). Hopefully by now we have embraced the importance of good fats in our diet and are eating plenty of protein which is so essential to our overall function (at least 20 grams per meal, especially at breakfast!). This recipe was adapted from Eat Fat Lose Fat by Dr. Mary Enig and Sally Fallon. They call for 1 cup of sourdough breadcrumbs, but I substituted flax and almond meal. Enjoy!

1 Tablespoon flax seeds
1/4 cup almond meal
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup shredded unsweetened dried coconut 
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1 egg
6 chicken thighs (or whatever chicken you have)
1/2 cup of either butter, ghee, or coconut oil (I used a blend of all three)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix together flax and almond meal, curry powder, salt, and coconut on a large plate. Pour orange juice into a small bowl with one beaten egg. Dip the chicken into the juice/egg mixture, and then in the "breading" mix. Place prepared thighs into a buttered pyrex pan. Melt butter/coconut oil/ghee together in a small saucepan (or in the oven) and pour over chicken. Bake for at least an hour, or until chicken is cooked through.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Recognizing and Managing Adrenal Fatigue

Hey everyone! My current homework assignment for my Holistic Nutrition Consultant program (year and certification #2), is surrounding adrenal health, and I thought I'd share! Its interesting, applicable stuff...

Today's fast-paced, technologically and consumer driven society with its many demands and pressures, can (and does) easily lead to chronic stress in our lives. This stress can strongly influence our mental and emotional state, our relationships, and (what I will be focusing on) our physical well-being. Common symptoms include overall exhaustion, a feeling of being emotionally void, unable to respond to stressful situations without feeling totally wiped out, dark circles under your eyes, very emotional or "on edge," weight gain around your waist, strong carbohydrate and sugar cravings, a slowed metabolism, insomnia, irritability, and more (LaValle, Cracking the Metabolic Code, p. 75). These symptoms occur because this chronic stress may have led to fatigue of our adrenal glands, which are the glands that control our reactions to stress, and interact with/effect many hormones in our body (including stress hormones such as cortisol). According to LaValle, PhD in his book Cracking the Metabolic Code, "the adrenal glands regulate stress, blood pressure, and blood mineral content through the secretion of various hormones" (75). Below, I have detailed three nutrients essential for managing adrenal stress/fatigue, including one macronutrient, micronutrient, and phytonutrient. It is important to note that if you are experiencing adrenal fatigue, your adrenals may be in one of many stages. Depending on the extent of the stress placed on them, If dietary changes are not helping, it may be necessary to work with a naturopath or holistic nutrition professional to seek further guidance in nourishing and supporting adrenal health.


     While focusing on eating all quality macronutrients is very important (fat, protein, carbohydrates), protein is the building block of our cells. We need quality protein to keep our systems working properly and efficiently, and not putting undue stress on our adrenals. It is essential for building and rebuilding our cells, muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons, hair, eyes, nails, and other tissues. When we we do not eat sufficient protein (as many people do not), it puts stress on our bodies, and stress is exactly what we need to avoid when addressing adrenal fatigue. Some good sources of protein include: grass-fed organic beef and lamb, poultry, liver, eggs, whole dairy products (yogurt, raw cheese, whole milk) and (in some cases) quality protein powders. Next to animal products, legumes and whole grains have the next highest level of protein. 


     According to LaValle, 75% of people in the US are deficient in magnesium. Nori Hudson of Radiant Vitality repeatedly states, "when in doubt....magnesium!" Calcium needs to always be in balance with magnesium, and both together are anti-stress minerals. Magnesium slows the release of epinephrine and norepinephrine from the adrenal medulla, and is therefore critical in balancing the sympathetic nervous system. It also aids in decreasing insulin resistance and stabilizing blood sugar, something crucial for adrenal health (LaValle, 87). Signs of magnesium deficiency include leg cramps, restlessness, insomnia, nervousness, constipation, anxiety, muscle weakness, and more.


     Licorice is an amazing herb for adrenal support. It directly acts as an adaptogen for our cortisol levels, either rising or suppressing it as needed. Along with this, it is a wonderful anti-inflammatory agent and digestive aid. Dosage will depend on body weight, so work with a nutrition professional to determine your appropriate amount. 

Here are some other suggestions of ways to change your overall diet for adrenal health. Remember, there are so many factors that go into supporting the adrenals, and these are just a few to consider! Feel free to contact me with further questions!

*Strive for at least 20 grams of protein at each meal, if not more.   

*Try sautéing with either coconut oil, ghee, whole milk organic butter

*When using milk or yogurt, go for whole, organic. The nutrient value of whole dairy is much greater, and it will keep you satisfied for longer.

*When buying meat, it is so important to buy organic! The majority of the toxins we take into our bodies are through animal products. If you cannot buy organic, go for leaner cuts, as toxins are stored in fat.

*Incorporate 1-2 T ground flax seeds daily

*Incorporate 1000-5000 IU’s of cod liver oil daily

*Try sipping a cup or so of home-made chicken or mineral (veggie) broth. Add 1-2 tbsp miso paste as well for a delicious taste. This is a fantastic way to easily absorb minerals throughout the day and is very soothing/anti-inflammatory to the body and adrenals.

*Incorporate sauerkraut into your daily diet! Fermented foods such as this are great as they add probiotics and aid with digestion.

*Each day, try to include herbal teas and at least 60 oz of purified water (add lemon too for vitamin C!)

*Its also a great idea to include some natural chelators to your diet, which bind with toxins and remove them from the body. These include cilantro, chlorella, garlic, and milk thistle.

*It is also essential to plan your meals and snacks according to blood sugar regulation, in other words, don't let yourself get too hungry! Another post soon to come on this subject.

*Consider going gluten free. According to Marcelle Pick, NP, OB GYN, most women who have adrenal fatigue are also sensitive to gluten.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Amazing Coconut Macadamia Yam Mash

Hello all! Well this recipe is a little late considering Thanksgiving has come and gone (along with our tighter-fitting clothes...we'll simply retire you until Spring), but I made this dish for the occasion and it would be great for Christmas, Hanukkah, or any night Monday-Sunday. Its absolutely delicious, and a nice change from 1) standard mashed potato dish which, if you have inflammation and particularly joint pain, you should stay away from (as well as all other nightshade vegetables), or 2) typical sweet potato dish with marshmallows and whatever other crap is generally included. 

As always, a brief lesson the endless benefits of yams. Yams are a great source of potassium, which is crucial for controlling blood pressure. Also, they are full of vitamin B6, which is linked to decreased risk of heart attack and stroke. Yams are additionally good for blood sugar regulation, as they are a complex carbohydrate which release sugar into the blood at a slow and steady pace. This mixed with its high fiber content make us satiated, and therefore, help with weight control. Yams are also very high in vitamin C (27% of our daily value in one cup of cubed yam), B vitamins, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus. 

Also included in this recipe are macadamia nuts, which are chalked full of of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and heart healthy monounsaturated fats. The recipe also includes coconut, which I previously wrote an entire blog on because its just that good...but includes among other things incredibly healthy short and medium chain fatty acids (that are great to cook with because they don't go rancid at high temperatures), provide us with energy that is not stored as fat (it can actually help us lose weight), and is rich in lauric acid which protects and boosts the immune system.

So now that we're all excited...try out this recipe!

Coconut Macadamia Nut Sweet Potato Mash

Source: Heidi Swanson (6 servings)

2 ½ lbs. orange-fleshed sweet potatoes
⅓ cup coconut milk
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
1 tablespoon maple syrup
½ teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
⅓ cup raw, unsweetened grated coconut
2 tablespoons melted butter or coconut oil
⅓ cup toasted macadamia nuts, chopped
Preheat your oven to 350F degrees, a rack in the upper third. Butter or oil 6 ramekins or a single medium-sized casserole dish.

Wrap each sweet potato in foil, pierce numerous times with the tines of a fork and place in the oven for somewhere between an hour and an hour and a half, until each is baked through. Times vary greatly depending on the size of your sweet potatoes - in the end you should be able to cut through the center flesh as if it were soft butter.

Remove the potatoes from the oven, let them cool for a few minutes, and cut each sweet potato in half. Scrape the flesh into a medium mixing bowl. You should have about three cups of sweet potatoes.

In a large bowl mash the sweet potatoes with the coconut milk. If my sweet potatoes are on the fibrous side, l take a hand blender to them for a minute or so (alternately you could use a food processor). Stir in the ginger, maple syrup and salt. Let it sit for a few minutes, stir again and taste - adjust the seasoning if you need to - this is your chance to get the right amount of salt and ginger in the sweet potatoes before they go in the oven.

Spoon the sweet potato mixture into individual baking dishes (or single larger baking dish), sprinkle with coconut, drizzle with olive oil and bake uncovered until warm and the coconut golden roughly 30 - 40 minutes.

Remove and sprinkle with the toasted macadamia nuts

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

So you want to do a cleanse, huh? But do you know why?

In recent years, we have become a society who just loves to do cleanses, detoxes, etc. And why not? We love quick fixes (or thinking we are getting a quick fix). I am by no means innocent of this, having jumped head first onto the cleanse band-wagon many-o-time. Now, I am not saying that cleansing and detoxing our bodies is a bad thing...not in the least! In our modern day lifestyle, we are absolutely exposed to a laundry list of toxins on a daily basis that affect our liver and our overall health in both the short and long term. HOWEVER....putting sudden strain on our liver and other detoxing systems to all of a sudden deal with and purge all of these toxins is not only ineffective, but can be quite dangerous, as well. So lets look at why these extreme detox regimens can be hazardous, and alternatively some safe, healthy, and effective ways to cleanse our bodies and achieve optimal health.

What does it really mean to cleanse our bodies/organs??

Good question Rachel! Thanks guys. So when we are talking about detoxing and/or cleansing, what that typically means is a diet that supports liver and bowel cleansing. The liver is the largest organ in the body, and its primary function is to detoxify, and also plays key roles in body metabolism (hint: if you simply can't lose weight, liver dysfunction may be to blame!). The liver filters the blood coming in from the GI tract...up to 2 quarts per minute! If functioning optimally, it will detoxify 99% of bacterial toxins on its first go (Bauman, 2010). The liver also creates and excretes bile, which is a carrier for many toxic compounds and eventually eliminated in our stool. The liver is detoxifying all KINDS of nasty toxins, including: Environmental toxins such as pesticides/herbicides, heavy metals (mercury, arsenic, lead, etc), drugs/pharmaceuticals, used hormones and neurotransmitters, food additives and altered (trans) fats, and more. A toxin is any substance that undermines our overall state of wellness, and is irritating/harmful to the body. Aside from the liver, we also detox through our respiratory, urinary, lymphatic, and gastrointestinal systems (of which the liver is a part of). So...when we talk about cleansing, we should be talking about healthy, effective, and SAFE ways to support these systems through food and perhaps some herbal supplements. But as is always my motto....start with food!!!

How do I know if I need to detox??

A gentle cleansing diet to support the liver and other detoxifying organs is rarely a bad idea (unless we are suffering from disease/health conditions, in which case consultation with a medical and/or nutritional professional is in order). Common signs of liver overload can include: fatigue, headaches, constipation and/or light/tan colored stool (impaired bile production), rashes, hives, acne (your body trying to detox), bloating, increased sensitivity to chemicals (for example, you walk into a department store and instantly get a headache from the perfumes), and more. These are signs that your liver is not functioning as it should be, and some simple dietary changes are in order, before you ever consider anything more drastic (fasting, liquid diets, etc). If you jump right into an extreme diet like this without having proper liver function first, you will make yourself ill! Too much, too fast. Again, start with food, and lets take a look at how to do this...

What does a cleansing diet look like??

Now, with all of this being said, gently cleansing/detoxing our bodies and organs can be incredibly benefit. Here are some of the reasons why:

• Improved Energy, Vitality, Productivity, and Mental Clarity
• Reduced Food Cravings
• Improved Digestion
• A Jump-Start to Successful Weight Loss
• Reduced Allergic Symptoms
• Lower Cholesterol and Blood Pressure 

Cleansing the body should start with ridding the diet of certain foods, like trans fats, processed/refined sugar and flour (this means pastries, cookies, candies, etc), coffee, alcohol, and nicotine. You may also want to eliminate gluten and dairy for a bit. In place of these foods, add whole, organic foods such as fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables, whole (preferably non-glutenous) grains, and herbal teas. Include lots of dark, leafy greens (kale, chard, spinach, dandelion and mustard greens, bok choy, etc), and also include seaweed and algaes (dulse, wakame, spirulina, chlorella are a few examples). These will provide the body with important trace minerals (minerals you do not get anywhere else), and also work as natural chelating agents (particularly chlorella, meaning it binds to toxins, particularly heavy metals, and draws it out of the body). Garlic and cilantro do this as well!

So, in summary....I am not necessarily against more extreme detox/cleansing regimens, which may comprise liquid or juice fasts (preferably with vegetable juice), or other types of plans. I have done them myself. However, if our liver and other cleansing systems/organs are not in the proper shape to handle something like this (and most of us aren't given the daily exposures of our modern society), we NEED TO BEGIN WITH FOODS! If you are interested in further cleansing diets/plans, please do so safely and seek guidance from a holistic nutrition professional, like,! :)

Hows THAT for something to think about pre-holiday season???

Friday, November 19, 2010

Delicious Kale Salad!

Just wanted to quickly post this amazing kale salad recipe that is so simple, tasty, and good for you! I have served this dish to people wary of kale and they've loved it, and fellow kale enthusiasts find themselves making it weekly. The following recipe is the whole sha-bang, if you will (and you will)...but if you're pressed for time simply throw the three main dressing ingredients together and massage it into some kale. And there ya go, you've got yourself a salad!!

Let me give a brief overview of the myriad of kale's health benefits. It is incredibly nutrient dense, first of all being full of powerful anti-oxidants that protect our cells from free radicals (like those found in rancid oils, like canola and vegetable oils). Kale is one of the best sources of Vitamin K, as well, which is crucial for anti-blood clotting properties and absorption of calcium (among other things). Furthermore, kale has been proven to act as an anti-cancer agent , provides cardiovascular support, and is very anti-inflammatory due to its amounts of omega 3 essential fatty acids. According to, It only takes 100 calories of kale to provide us with 25-35% of the National Academy of Sciences' public health recommendation for the most basic omega-3 fatty acid (alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA). We suspect that this amount will be plenty to show direct anti-inflammatory benefits from regular kale intake." up!!

1/3 cup tamari soy sauce (tamari is better than regular soy 
because its fermented! Yay probiotics!)
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup flax seed or extra virgin olive oil
1/2 medium- seized red onion
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 lb. fresh kale
1/2 cup alfalfa sprouts
1/2 cup sunflower sprouts
1 avocado, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (optional)
1 cup thinly sliced shiitake or crimini mushrooms (optional)

Combine the Bragg or soy sauce and lemon juice in a blender or whisk in a bowl.  Slowly dribble in the oil as the blender turns or as you whisk vigorously.  Slice the onion into thin half-moons and marinate in the dressing as you prepare the rest of the salad.

Toast the seeds in a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat until seeds are just golden and fragrant.  Toast each seed type separately as their size requires varying roasting times.  Cool to room temperature.

De-stem the kale.  Stack the kale leaves and slice into 1/4 inch ribbons.  This is the most important step so make sure that you take your time.  The success of this recipe lies in cutting the kale into small ribbons and in completely massaging the kale with the dressing.

Toss the seeds, sprouts, and kale together in the marinated onions and as much dressing as necessary to lightly but completely dress the kale.  Massage the dressing into the kale with your hands.  Add the avocado and mushrooms if using and toss again with your hands.

Serves 4-6!

Recipe courtesy of Esalen Retreat Center in Big Sur, CA

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Chemicals in Fast Food Packaging Show Serious Health Risks

I just read this article on one of my favorite alternative news website, As I'm rushing around this morning trying to get a million things done, I don't have as much time to comment on it as I'd like, but the article speaks pretty clearly for itself! 

Quick rundown: A recent study published by the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences focused on perfluoroalkyls (PAPs), which are chemicals used in (among other things) fast food wrappers and microwave popcorn bags as an anti-grease and oil agent. It has been found that these chemicals seep into the food they are packaging, and then we eat them! These chemicals have been linked (in this particular study and others) to significant changes on sex hormones and cholesterol levels, as well as early death and delayed development in rats. Keep in mind, as is the case with so many chemicals used on our food today, many of the long term side effects cannot be "proven" yet, because they are so new to the market and largely will be multi-generational, which is why we see these types of effects in studies done on rats (poor little guys).

So, aside from the ENDLESS list of other reasons fast food is detrimental to our health, here's yet another one to add to the list.

Chemicals in Fast Food Wrappers Show Up in Human Blood

TORONTO, Ontario, Canada - Chemicals used to keep grease from leaking through fast food wrappers and microwave popcorn bags are migrating into food, being ingested by people and showing up as contaminants in blood, according to new research at the University of Toronto.

[Chemicals used to keep grease from leaking through fast food wrappers and microwave popcorn bags are migrating into food, being ingested by people and showing up as contaminants in blood, according to new research at the University of Toronto.  (photo by Flickr user permanently scatterbrained / eric molina)]Chemicals used to keep grease from leaking through fast food wrappers and microwave popcorn bags are migrating into food, being ingested by people and showing up as contaminants in blood, according to new research at the University of Toronto. (photo by Flickr user permanently scatterbrained / eric molina)
The contaminants are perfluoroalkyls, stable, synthetic chemicals that repel oil, grease, and water. They are used in surface protection products such as carpet and clothing treatments and coating for paper and cardboard packaging.
Earlier research by University of Toronto environmental chemists Scott Mabury and Jessica D'eon, established in 2007 that the wrappers are a source of these chemicals in human blood. Their new study shows that perfluorinated chemicals can migrate from wrappers into food.
The specific chemicals studied are polyfluoroalkyl phosphate esters, or PAPs, breakdown products of the perfluorinated carboxylic acids, or PFCAs, which are used in coating the food wrappers.
"We suspected that a major source of human PFCA exposure may be the consumption and metabolism of polyfluoroalkyl phosphate esters, or PAPs," said D'eon, a graduate student in the University of Toronto's Department of Chemistry.
"PAPs are applied as greaseproofing agents to paper food contact packaging such as fast food wrappers and microwave popcorn bags," she explained.
In their latest study, D'eon and Mabury exposed rats to PAPs either orally or by injection and monitored for a three-week period to track the concentrations of the PAPs and PFCA metabolites in their blood.
The researchers used the PAP concentrations previously observed in human blood together with the PAP and PFCA concentrations observed in the rats to calculate human exposure to the chemical perflurooctanoic acid, PFOA.
"In this study we clearly demonstrate that the current use of PAPs in food contact applications does result in human exposure to PFCAs, including PFOA," said Mabury, the lead researcher and a professor in the university's Department of Chemistry.
Elevated levels of PFOA in blood have been associated with changes in sex hormones and cholesterol, according to the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances. Exposure to PFOA also has resulted in early death and delayed development in mice and rat pups, the agency says.
Rats that ingested PFOA for a long time developed tumors. However, based on differences between rats and humans, scientists have not determined for certain whether this could also occur in humans, the agency says.
"We found the concentrations of PFOA from PAP metabolism to be significant and concluded that the metabolism of PAPs could be a major source of human exposure to PFOA, as well as other PFCAs," said Mabury.
"This discovery is important because we would like to control human chemical exposure, but this is only possible if we understand the source of this exposure," Mabury said.
"In addition," he said, "some try to locate the blame for human exposure on environmental contamination that resulted from past chemical use rather than the chemicals that are currently in production."
The study is published today in the journal "Environmental Health Perspectives," published by the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Research was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.
"We cannot tell whether PAPs are the sole source of human PFOA exposure or even the most important, but we can say unequivocally that PAPs are a source and the evidence from this study suggests this could be significant," Mabury said.
The researchers concluded that due to the long time that PFOA remains in human blood, even low-level PAP exposure could, over time, result in significant exposure to PFOA.
Although humans are exposed directly to PFCAs in food and dust, the University of Toronto researchers said that because of the way the human body processes these chemicals, "PAP exposure should be considered as a significant indirect source of human PFCA contamination."
Regulatory interest in human exposure to PAPs has been growing. Governments in Canada, the United States and Europe have signaled their intentions to begin extensive and longer-term monitoring programs for these chemicals.
Regulators have made three assumptions, said Mabury, releasing the results of his 2007 study. "That the chemicals wouldn't move off paper into food, they wouldn't become available to the body and the body wouldn't process them. They were wrong on all three counts."

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Wonderful World of GARLIC!!

For those of you who have spent any significant time with me, you know that there is probably no other more appropriate topic for me to write about than garlic. I have many times been that weird girl at the table peeling and chopping up her own raw garlic to sprinkle over food, or simply eating a clove in the morning and washing it down with some apple cider vinegar in water. I know what you're all thinking....YUM!! Now, some people might worry that they'll smell like garlic, it will seep out of their pores, etc...but come on people!! Who doesn't like smelling garlic?? So let me now convince you to overcome this minor inconvenience with its myriad of impressive health benefits....

First, a brief history. Garlic originates in central Asia, where it has been grown for over 5,000 years. It has been used for centuries throughout many different cultures for both sacred and practical purposes, and was even given to the slaves building pyramids to increase their strength and endurance. Similarly, it has widely been used over the centuries for athletes before sporting events and soldiers before going off to war ( These are just a couple of endless examples of garlic's long history of being a "miracle food" some might say (like me).

So what makes it so special? Well, let me tell you. Garlic is nature's most potent antibiotic, being part of the allium family due to its many sulfur containing compounds which give it so many of its health benefits. It combats viruses, bacteria, and intestinal parasites. It also lowers blood pressure, blood cholesterol, discourages blood clotting, contains multiple anti-cancer compounds, antioxidants, is a great decongestant, expectorant, anti-inflammatory agent, and the best immune booster/cold medication on the market. According to studies, two to three cloves a day cut the odds of subsequent heart attacks by 50% in heart patients (Ed Bauman, Ph.D.). Check out this chart from whfoods on some of the major vitamins/minerals/nutrients found in garlic:

Wow! Thats a lot of good stuff, people. These nutrients along with other compounds are what make garlic such a powerful anti-viral, anti-bacterial agent, as well as its ability to combat cardiovascular disease, yeast/fungal infections, ulcers, cancer, and more.

So...whats the best way to eat it, now that we're ALL about to rush to the nearest (organic) grocery store? Well, garlic is undoubtedly most potent in its raw form. As with any food, heat kills some important nutrients (vitamins, in particular, minerals can withstand heat), and so you are losing some of its benefits. Try 1-3 cloves/day, chopped/crushed over salads or other foods. If you can't handle it raw, add chopped/crushed garlic to foods as you are cooking, but try adding it at the end to preserve as many of its healing compounds as possible. When eating it raw, the best way to preserve these same compounds is to crush it and let it sit for about 10 minutes before eating.

Well, there it is, why I am addicted to garlic. Not a bad addiction to have. Eat up!!!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ground Lamb and Basil Burgers! Yum!!

While another fascinating nutrition post is soon on the way (I know I know, you're all holding your breath and haven't slept in days), I wanted to share this delicious recipe I just made! Lamb is a great source of protein, as well as the mineral Zinc. Zinc is vital for our immune systems, wound healing, bone density, and prostate health (as well as many other benefits!). Lamb is also high in vitamin B12, which is crucial for proper brain and nervous system function. I wrapped mine in kale leaves and topped with some spicy mustard and raw sauerkraut. Enjoy!!!

Basil Lamb Burgers

1 lb Ground Lamb
3 Cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp cayenne pepper
¼ Cup scallions, chopped
¼ Cup fresh basil, chopped
1Tbs ground flax seeds
1 Tabs sea salt
Pepper to taste

1. In a large bowl, mix the turkey, garlic, cayenne pepper, scallions, basil, salt and pepper.
2. Allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
3. Take the mixture and make them into patties of desired size.
4. Grill on medium heat for about 5-6 minutes each side or until done.
5. Serve with rosemary potatoes from previous recipe.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Article from my Professor in regards to GM Foods....a quote of mine at the end...

Last year, an article was written in the New York Times letting us all know that (whew!) GM Foods actually aren't so bad for us! Um...FALSE. I wrote a letter to the editor that did not get published (your loss, NY Times), but a professor of mine (Helayne Waldman) who writes a monthly blog in the SF Examiner did respond to the article and quoted my letter at the end. At least it was (partially) published somewhere! Check out the original article, then our responses. GMO...scary stuff, people!!

On Frankenfoods and Sick Cows

  • April 23rd, 2010 6:16 pm PT

Two identical rats, 20 days old. Guess which one ate GE food?
Yesterday (4/22), I reviewed a piece in the New York Times entitled “For Earth Day, 7 New Rules to Live by.” At first I thought the column was a tongue-in-cheek look at what Earth Day should really be about-- restoring Mother Earth to the strong, proud Mama she once was. NOT!
Here’s what I did see. “Frankenfood, the article states, like Frankenstein, is fiction. The imagined horrors of “frankenfoods” have kept genetically engineered foods out of Europe and poor countries whose farmers want to export food to Europe. Americans, meanwhile, have been fearlessly growing and eating them for more than a decade — and the scare stories seem more unreal than ever."
Really? Check out the work of Arpand Pusztai and Stanley Ewen who found that rats fed a GE diet developed impaired organ function, a slower metabolism and a less efficient immune system. Read Jeffrey Smith’s description (Seeds of Deception) of cows that broke through a fence and crossed a field to b pass GE corn so that they could eat the real thing from the neighboring farm. Be aware as well, that GE soy, ubiquitous in the American food supply, was developed in part to be able to withstand massive doses of Monsanto’s broad spectrum herbicide “Roundup Ready,” hence the quixotic name “Roundup Ready Soy,. ” This, despite the Times’ claim that GE crops “reduce the use of pesticides and herbicides”
Got rgBH?
It’s in dairy products that many of us may get our biggest dose of genetically engineered food. I was first introduced to the concept of genetic engineering in 1994’s, when the FDA approved rgBH, a genetically engineered growth hormone designed to force cows to produce more milk. From the Center for Food Safety and other researchers we know that cows that were fed this hormone also produced high levels of another hormone called insulin-like growth factor. By 1995 the National Institutes of Health had already identified several problems with these new, elevated levels of IGF-1 in the food supply, including an elevated risk of breast, lung and colon cancers, as well as a possible role in osteosarcoma, a relatively uncommon childhood cancer.
As for the cows, the hormone seemed to make cows much sicker, caused reproductive problems, mastitis, other infections and an alarming rise in birth defects. This forced farmers to use larger doses of antibiotics in their herds, which, of course, found and continue to find their way into our meat, milk, cheese, yogurt and even baby formula. Were these diseases and abnormalities looked into? Hardly. In fact, as author Barry Commoner informed us in his 2002 analysis of the “spurious foundation of genetic engineering,” (Harpers Magazine): “the biotechnology industry is not required to provide even the most basic information about the actual composition of the transgenic plants to the regulatory agencies.”

As you can see, it looks more like wisdom than squeamishness behind the rejection of GE foods by much of the civilized world. Is is just possible the animals, the Europeans, the New Zealanders, the Zambians and millions of others are on to something that we Americans are too blind, too brainwashed, or too distracted to notice?
While the research is not all said and done on GE foods, we might well learn from those who advocate a more cautious approach. As one of my Berkeley nutrition students Rachel Fiske observed:

“It is critical to realize that many studies against the organic movement are funded by the very individuals who stand to profit from the use of GMO. Have we as a nation learned nothing in recent years from the disturbing rates of growing degenerative disease and childhood obesity? The ‘imagined horrors of frankenfoods’ are far from imagined.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.