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

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Breakfast Smoothie

Since starting my most recent job at a gym, I wake up really, really, really early. Breakfast is by far my favorite meal of the day, and I've always been the type of person who will get up an hour early just to have the time to sit, read the news, and enjoy breakfast. However, getting up at 3:45am would be a little crazy. So I've started making smoothies in the morning, which is great if you're pressed for time, or if you're the type of person who struggles with wanting to eat a big breakfast. As I've mentioned before, its SO crucial to get an adequate amount of protein (at least 20 grams) and good fat in the morning, as it will stimulate your metabolism and keep your blood sugar stabilized throughout the day.

One thing people have a hard time digesting (ha! get it? PUNny). I raw eggs in smoothies. This seems like some strange/unhealthy habit done only by body builders. But, I promise you, if you are buying organic, free range (preferably local from a farm) eggs, you are both not in danger, but you are providing your body with an excellent fuel source full of nutrients, protein, and fat. Its very important to not eat egg whites raw without the yolk, because this can lead to a B Vitamin deficiency. Check out this article from Dr. Mercola for more great information:

So, here is a smoothie idea! Of course, as with all recipes, feel free to experiment/improvise!

1 serving cold pressed, organic whey protein (Natural Factors is a good brand)
1-2 tablespoons coconut oil
1/2-1 cup coconut water (try raw milk or whole coconut milk instead)
2 organic eggs
1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
1 handful of berries (or other fresh fruit, berries are lower in sugar)
Dark, leafy greens that you have around (I generally add kale, and you don't taste it at all, but its a great boost of nutrients)

This is a good morning/breakfast smoothie, but can also be a great post-workout meal (30 minutes post exercise, as our body shuts down digestion during intense workouts).


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sugar: What's the Big Deal?

The NY Times recently featured an article entitled, "Is Sugar Toxic?" (link posted below). This is a great question. Most of us have gotten the message that sugar is bad for us. But why? What kind of sugar is bad for us? How does it actually act in our bodies that is so devastating? Let me attempt to explain.

This particular article begins by mentioning Robert Lustig, a pediatric specialist at the University of California, SF. Several years ago, Lustig gave a wonderful lecture called "Sugar: The Bitter Truth." Lustig's professional focus has been on childhood obesity, and he stands by his conviction that sugar is poison. Within his definition of sugar is included white "table" sugar, high fructose corn syrup, refined flour/carbs (aka, baked goods made with white flour, which acts exactly like sugar in the body), and sucrose, like beet and cane juice, either white or brown. By this definition, the USDA reports that the average American consumes about 90 pounds of sugar per year! The NY Times asserts that,

"If Lustig is right, then our excessive consumption of sugar is the primary reason that the numbers of obese and diabetic Americans have skyrocketed in the past 30 would mean that sugar is also the likely dietary cause of several other chronic ailments widely considered to be diseases of the Western lifestyles-heart disease, hypertension and many common cancers among them."

The article goes on to point out that Lustig views sugar like cigarettes and alcohol, a toxin that is killing us. Lets take a closer look at the specifics....

Any sugar (real or artificial sweeteners), cause an insulin release in our body. Insulin is the hormone which escorts glucose from the blood stream to our cells to be used for energy, a "storing" hormone of sorts. When the body is taking in too much sugar and refined carbs (pastries, donuts, cakes, cookies, etc), we are forcing our pancreas to produce excess insulin to deal with the excess sugar circulating in our blood. However, since your liver glycogen stores have already been filled up (the amount of glucose we actually need in a day), this excess is stored as fat. This is why sugar leads to weight gain and the inability to lose weight. Therefore, a diet high in carbohydrates (which people don't necessarily link to sugar), is actually a diet high in glucose (aka: sugar), and will be stored as fat. Furthermore, this pattern of excess leads to insulin resistance, which means our cells have essentially been overloaded, and are no longer receptive to insulin. This means they are also no longer receptive to the nutrients escorted to them by way of insulin.

A major nutrient that is typically provided to the cells via insulin is magnesium, which is absolutely vital to heart health. When the cells are no longer able to take in this key nutrient, here we see a myriad of heart conditions/disease begin to develop. Insulin also causes retention of sodium, which leads to fluid retention, high blood pressure, and congestive heart failure (

Lustig focuses on the dangers of fructose, which is a type of sugar that has to be processed by our liver where it is converted to glucose, the sugar that our body can utilize for energy. Fructose is found in fruit, however, in its' natural form it can be much more easily digested because it is encased with vitamins, minerals, and most importantly, fiber. It is the unnatural form of fructose that is so worry-some, such as high fructose corn syrup, and most refined sugars and carbohydrates. This increases the amount of fat in our livers (aka, fatty liver), and leads to many of the complications mentioned above, like insulin resistance, heart complications, and even osteoporosis.

Signs of excess sugar consumption and insulin resistance:

  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog
  • Low blood sugar
  • Feeling agitated, jittery, and moody
  • Intestinal gas/bloating
  • Feeling sleepy immediately after meals
  • High triglyceride levels
  • High blood pressure
  • Depression
This is only a small glimpse into the dangers of excess sugar consumption. And I am far from perfect, trust me! Being someone with a sweet tooth, I strive to satisfy my sugar cravings with occasional dark chocolate, and homemade desserts like the coconut macaroons I posted last week. Also, instead of adding sugar to baked goods, cooking, etc, try incorporating more spices like cinnamon and ginger. You may find you don't need the sugar. If you must use sugar, opt for grade B maple syrup, raw honey, molasses, or a pinch of stevia powder. Remember, everything in moderation!

I highly encourage you to check out Robert Lustig's video:

Monday, April 18, 2011

Coconut Macaroons

Clearly, I am obsessed with coconut. These macaroons are seriously delicious! As I've mentioned before, coconut comes in many delicious/nutritious forms, including those in this recipe: coconut butter and shredded coconut. Both can be purchased at any health food store/co-op, or online. is a great one. Enjoy!

  • 1 cup coconut butter. Melt stovetop on low heat, continuously stirring.
  • 2 (additional) cups shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 vanilla bean (optional)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
Directions:1. Preheat the oven to 300F and line a baking sheet with a non-stick mat or parchment.2. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl.3. Scoop about 1-2 tbsp of dough onto a baking sheet. You don’t have to leave much room in between as they do not spread out. Bake anywhere from 10-25 minutes at 300. Really you don't even have to cook these, they're great raw, but cook to firm up and the amount of time just depends on your desired consistency. Allow the macaroons to sit for 25 minutes so they can firm up, this is the key...otherwise they're crumble. Store in the fridge for up to 5 days in a sealed container. makes about 22 macaroons.

Variations: I like to add cinnamon and a bit of orange zest. You can also add some raw cacao powder if you want chocolate coconut macaroons, although keep in mind that this is a very overpowering flavor so just a little bit goes a long way! Or dark chocolate chips, blueberries...get creative!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Going Gluten Free: You Will Survive!

Two people yesterday alone inquired into help with transitioning to a gluten free diet, so I figured this was a great topic to address! Both individuals expressed that when trying to be/considering going gluten free, they felt overwhelmed with all of their diet staples that would now be off limits, and worried that there would simply be nothing to eat. Not to worry, this truly is not the case. Going gluten free isn't always easy at first, true. However, it really is just a matter of changing our tastes, habits, and ideas of "staple" foods in our diet.

Personally, I have been gluten free on and off for the last couple of years, and over the last few months have transitioned to a more intentional gluten free diet (aka, no more bites of cookies/cakes/etc here and there). I will go into further detail of the benefits of avoiding gluten (for people who are obviously symptomatic as well as those who are not), in a moment. For myself, the recent transition to completely avoiding gluten was a relatively easy one, as for the last year or so my diet has been naturally shifting further and further away from gluten-containing foods, as I focus on consuming more nutrient dense, whole foods. Generally speaking, if we are eating a variety of real foods including vegetables, fruits, high quality protein sources (grass fed/organic meats, eggs, limited fermented soy, whole milk/raw dairy), and perhaps some whole grains and legumes (soaked: see article on phytic acid:, there is simply not much room for gluten-containing foods.

So, what is gluten, and why should I be wary of it? Gluten is the protein molecule found in wheat and other related grains (some grains are gluten free, others are not). Before the discovery of seeds and the invent of agriculture, humans did not consume gluten, grains, or legumes. Once this discovery was made, however, and the human diet began shifting more to these types of harvested foods, more and more people began getting sick. It was not until much later (relatively recently) that Celiac Disease (CD) was discovered, which is an autoimmune disease brought on by an allergy to gluten. CD is the most extreme case of gluten intolerance, and there are many other levels that people can be sensitive to the protein, and a myriad of mild to severe symptoms. Another important point to consider, is that one of the reasons gluten sensitivities/allergies have been on the rise in recent years is due to the way we process grains in western society. Many gluten containing foods today are higher in the protein, and also stripped of other nutrients our bodies would need to break-down and assimilate gluten like fiber and important enzymes necessary for digestion (think white rice).

Over time, with repeated exposure to high levels of gluten in the diet (which is the dietary focal point of most Americans), we now have a problem. The gluten molecule can be very irritating to the lining of our intestinal walls, therefore causing inflammation. This inflammation eventually creates adhesions/lesions of that gut wall, leading to intestinal permeability, aka: leaky gut. Mmmm....leaky gut. I digress. Consider the following statement by Alessio Fasano in the Scientific American Journal, 2009:

"Turning to the biological effects of gluten, investigators learned that repeated exposure...causes the villi, fingerlike structures in the small intestine, to become chronically inflamed and damaged, so that they are unable to carry out their normal function of breaking food down and shunting nutrients across the intestinal wall to the bloodstream (for delivery throughout the body)."

Fasano goes on to say that fortunately, when gluten sensitivity is caught early enough, these effects can be reversed by eating a gluten free diet and possibly undergoing a supplementation plan to heal the gut. You might be thinking that this seems like an extreme case. And yes, people who are only mildly sensitive to gluten now may experience more mild symptoms, such as occasional bloating, indigestion, etc. However, repeated exposure to foods we are sensitive to can lead to increased sensitivity and more serious symptoms/intestinal damage, down the road.


  • Frequent indigestion
  • Frequent/foul smelling gas
  • Cracks in corners of lips
  • Bloating/abdominal distension
  • Chronic diarrhea or constipation
  • Irritability/moodiness
  • Depression
  • Muscle weakness
  • Chronic fatiue
  • Bone and/or joint pain/aching
  • Infertility
  • Skin rashes (eczema, psoriasis, or more mild rashes)
  • Failure to thrive in children
  • Sudden gain or loss in weight
An interesting point that I have noticed in regards to some of these symptoms, is that many of us live with these things to varying degrees on a daily basis, yet have never known what it's like to not have them. When we change our diet, we are amazed at what it feels like to truly feel our best.


One problem when going gluten free is that many people shift to gluten-free food-like products as opposed to naturally gluten-free whole foods. First of all, packaged foods that claim to be gluten free are often not, and secondly most are packed with added sugars, preservatives, additives, or equally as irritating grains. Here are a list of some gluten containing foods to avoid:

  • Cakes, cookies, pastries, pasta, pizza, bread
  • Pretzels, muffins, biscuits, couscous, scones, bran
  • Pancakes, cereals, oats
  • Grains including: wheat, rye, barley, bulgur, kamut, spelt

This is a short list, but may still seem overwhelming! There are tons of great websites with more complete/comprehensive lists of gluten-containing foods. But the GOOD news is, you can eat everything else! And you will learn to love it, I promise. :) Here is a list of foods to focus on:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Meat and poultry
  • Dairy (if you can handle it), Eggs
  • Grains and flours including: coconut flour, almond flour, amaranth, brown rice, buckwheat, quinoa
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Legumes
Once you change your ways of cooking and eating, this will become much more manageable and easy. There are tons of great websites to help you go gluten free, including wonderful recipes. Here is one to start with:

As always, feel free to e-mail me with further questions, or if you are needing more personalized consultation with your diet!


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Coconut Flour Pancakes

My love affair with coconut has reached a new level recently, as I have discovered coconut flour. Coconut flour is simply dried, ground coconut which contains 14% coconut oil and 58% fiber! The remaining 28% consists of water, protein, and carbohydrate (Dr. Mercola). For those of us who are gluten free, or simply experimenting with healthier alternatives, coconut flour is a wonderful choice. Other gluten-free flours such as brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, and cornmeal flours, may still have an irritating/inflammatory effect on the gut for some people. Also, coconut flour has a delicious, sweet taste, which makes it ideal for baking. It does not bind as other flours would, but mixing it with eggs fixes the problem. You can buy coconut flour at any health food store (your local co-op, whole foods, etc), or you can order it online from a great company: These pancakes will keep you feeling full due to the healthy fat and high fiber content.

I have been experimenting with gluten/grain free pancake recipes lately, and adapted the following from Enjoy!

recipe yields about 6 medium size pancakes


4 organic eggs
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 cup coconut milk (full fat) or raw cow's milk
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of sea salt
1 mashed banana (optional...I added this to make them extra fluffy)
Vanilla to taste
Cinnamon (feel free to use other spices...ginger and/or nutmeg would be tasty)
1 tbsp. sweetener (I used about 1 tsp. raw honey)
Coconut oil, butter, or ghee for frying

Mix all wet ingredients together, then dry ingredients separately. Coconut flour may need to be sifted, as it will often have some chunks in it. Then mix everything together until smooth, fry in cooking fat of your choice, top with a bit of grade B maple syrup, berries, or spread with butter or coconut oil. Yum!!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Nutrition for the Athlete: Several Nutrients to Consider

Many more posts are sure to come on this topic, but I wanted to share this bit of my homework assignment on nutrition for the athlete, as well as for a more active individual.

Nutrition and Sports Performance
Key Nutrients to Incorporate

Whether we are discussing an individual who is relatively active and exercises 3-5 times per week doing cardio and strength training, or a higher-level endurance or strength athlete, specific nutrition guidelines need to be considered. However, the same rule applies for athletes and non-athletes alike, which is that a whole-foods, organic, largely plant-based diet should be followed. With this said, a very active individual will have varying carbohydrate, fat, and protein requirements. Something that is all too common in the world of sports (or even just your average gym), is that too many people depend on synthetic, refined, and processed “foods.” Examples of these food-like products include bars, protein powders (generally in the form of protein isolates), energy drinks, foods containing trans-fats, and low-quality, synthetic supplements. Just think of the kinds of foods that are served at endurance event rest-stops. Not to say there are no high quality energy bars or protein powders that can, at times, be helpful to a very active individual; however, the majority of these products are full of sugar, binders, preservatives, colorings, and artificial flavorings/sweeteners that undermine any health benefit that may exist. Furthermore, many of the supplements (herbal and other) that are included in these foods, or sold separately, are synthetic versions of the herb, mineral, vitamin, or amino acid, and are not providing the same benefit of said nutrient in its original form. Below are several nutrients (macro, micro, and phyto) to consider for the athlete.

Macronutrient: Protein

While the average person (non-athlete) will generally require approximately 0.8 grams of protein per 1 kg. of body weight (and of course this varies person to person), an athlete will, in many cases, need more for muscle growth, repair, and preventing immune suppression (which is brought on by intense exercise). According to Ed Bauman, Ph.D, an athlete who moderately trains should strive for 1-1.4 grams/kg of body weight, an endurance athlete (endurance generally means aerobic activity for 90 minutes or more) should strive for approximately 1.8 g/kg, and an athlete engaging in intense strength (weight) training, may need up to 2.8 g/kg (this would be for a body-builder). Ed Bauman also notes that because protein has an acidifying affect on the body, it is crucial that an individual upping their protein intake also increase their consumption of alkalinizing vegetables (think dark, leafy greens and crunchy cruciferous veggies like cabbage, brussel-sprouts, and broccoli). Another way to alkalinize the acidifying effects of protein is to incorporate organic green powders into the diet in the form of smoothies. Protein should be eaten in the form of grass-fed meats, organic poultry, whole grains and legumes, eggs, cold-water fish, and organic, high-quality protein powders. Whey is a good choice if you can handle dairy, if not, try a rice protein powder. Stay away from soy!

Micronutrient: Vitamin C

With increased aerobic and anaerobic activity, our body creates more free radicals, which are damaging to our cells, nerves, DNA, lipids and muscles. It is crucial that active people, particularly higher level athletes (both endurance and strength), are getting high amounts of antioxidants to counter these negative effects. While there are many antioxidants to incorporate (Vitamin C, E, A, Zinc, Selenium, and Flavanoids), Vitamin C is especially important. As with all nutrients, it is of much greater value to get these from foods, as our bodies can recognize and use the nutrients, rather than in supplement form where the nutrient is isolated and cannot be absorbed/utilized. Vitamin C-rich foods include papaya, red bell peppers, brussel sprouts, strawberries, oranges, lemons, cantaloupe, kiwi, cauliflower, and kale.

Phytonutrient: Ginseng

Ginseng is a powerful adaptogenic herb that has is used to increase vitality. According to, ginseng has been shown to have a powerful effect on the endocrine system, increasing physical endurance, mental clarity and energy, and increasing the absorption of nutrients in food. It has been used widely in the world of sports nutrition/performance; however, keep in mind that as with any supplement or herb, in its synthetic form (think 5-hour energy drinks), it loses its effectiveness. Ed Bauman suggests proper dosage as standardized to 5% ginsenosides at 500 mg/day, or standardized at 14% ginsenosides at 180 mg/day. Bauman goes on to say that, as with any adaptogen, it is important to take 2-3 weeks off every 2 months for safety and effectiveness.