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