I’ve recently been upping my efforts to eat a sugar-free, low-grain, vegetable-heavy diet. We moved away from SF about 7 months ago, and since then life has felt kindof crazy. We house-hunted for forever until we finally found a house we liked well enough to buy, and now we’re remodeling it; plus I’m currently 24 weeks pregnant with baby #2. You know how things can mount up and life can feel crazy, and then one day you start to realize that your good habits and routines and things you know you need to do for yourself have been sacrificed for less-helpful and healthy habits. Well, that had happened with my sugar and grain consumption. Even Nutritionists need a kick in the pants sometimes.
Mine came in the form of Kat James’ book The Truth About Beauty, in which she advocates a sugar-free, low-grain, low-glycemic, higher fat diet for overall health and beauty. The book has a lot of information about healthful products, Kat’s food philosophy, and how to take advantage of and enhance your own natural beauty, as well as her story of her recovery from obesity and eating disorder by good nutrition and clean eating. Ensconced as I have been for the last few months in house-hunting and house-remodeling, in full-time mothering, and adjusting to a new life in a new place; reading this book was just what I needed to remind me of all the things I know, all the things I learned in my master’s program, all the things I learned working with sick, inflamed people. And to remind me to take care of myself even though, and especially when, life is crazy and stressful. I don’t completely agree with everything Kat advocates, but the vast majority is great advice, and certainly worth a read.
So, here I am, recalibrating. Because that’s what we do when we get off track. I’ve been cutting out the sugar, reducing grain, and eating lots of veg, berries, nuts and seeds, and fats, plus some legumes and organic eggs . I’ve also made a conscious effort to increase my fat intake in the forms of coconut oil, avocados, olives, and some full-fat fermented dairy products. For the first few days I craved sweets and carbs, but that tapered off to a new calmness, a new satiety, a sense of nourishment.
Obviously, I’m pregnant, so weight loss isn’t my goal, or even an option for me. But sugar is bad for pregnant ladies anyway, and pregnancy is the best time to eat healthfully. Any (refined) sugar reduction is always a good sugar reduction, whatever your case may be. Since I’ve been eating more fat, I’ve noticed that I’m hungry less often, which is a huge issue for me when I’m pregnant. I started eating a serving of whole Greek yogurt (plain, unsweetened), with flax seeds, chia, a little xylitol or stevia powder, and fresh berries before going to bed (I don’t typically advise eating just before bed outside of pregnancy); and have since not awakened once in the middle of the night so hungry that I had to get up and scrounge around for some less-than-healthy-but-convenient snack. This alone, getting a good night’s sleep (I still have to get up and pee usually), makes a huge difference in my quality of life. I’ll take it.
Hopefully I’ll have a chance to post more about this soon. Meanwhile, keep an eye on YouFrillMe for occasional updates, as well as recipes I’m working with, adapting, and inventing, which are low-glycemic and full of healthy stuff. So far I’ve posted a couple of refreshing summertime treats, for your sugar-free enjoyment: Homemade Sparkling Green Tea Spritzer and Creamy Protein Fudge Pops.
My colleague Laura Schulz recently posted on her food philosophy. Like me, she has a MS in Nutrition, and she also runs a wellness coaching business. Here’s her excellent post entitled What to Eat? Eat GOBBS! Check it out.
Incidentally, she has come to some of the same conclusions I’ve been coming to in my reading / learning/ researching / eating lately; namely, that flours and refined (ground) grains should not be the pillar of a healthy diet. More on that later, but for now check out Laura’s take on it. I plan on reading the book she mentions by Dr Mark Hyman soon (right after I get done reading Orthomolecular Medicine For Everyone: Megavitamin Therapeutics for Families and Physicians, by Drs Abram Hoffer, MD, and Andrew Saul. )
I have been so busy blogging about more frivolous things over at YouFrillMe, that I have sorely neglected this blog. I’m not apologizing. It’s life, ebbing and flowing. But it doesn’t mean I’m not still passionate about health and nutrition and food. So here I am, randomly posting on iodine.
Ever since I read Dr. David Brownstein’s book _Iodine: Why You Need It, Why You Can’t Live Without It_, I have been convinced that we need to be consuming iodine in milligram amounts, not microgram amounts as our government RDA (Recommended Daily Allowances) would have us believe. I’m convinced that this is for our good health and well-being, cancer prevention, and longevity.
I also recently read Dr. Donald Miller’s article on Iodine for Health, in which he reinforces many of the facts/ideas I’d read in Brownstein. Namely,
- We should be consuming at least a dozen milligrams of molecular iodine/potassium iodide per day.
- At least 15% of US women are moderate-to-severely iodine deficient.
- Iodorol or Lugol’s solution are the best iodine supplements.
- Iodine helps detoxify the body of toxic halides like bromide (a dough conditioner) and fluoride (found in tap water), both of which adversely affect thyroid function and increase cancer risk.
- Eating iodized table salt DOES NOT ENSURE adequate iodine consumption.
- Strong evidence suggests that iodine can help prevent breast cancer and eliminate fibrocystic breast disease in women.
- Iodine can improve antioxidant status in human tissues, and induces apoptosis in compromised cells, thereby reducing cancer risk.
- Iodine supplementation alone can resolve some cases of hypothyroidism.
- Concerns regarding excessive iodine consumption are largely unfounded.
Seaweed and algae are food sources of iodine, so if you eat a lot of those, great. But as iodine is a trace mineral relatively scarce in US soil levels, I believe supplementation is the best way to make sure you’re getting plenty. I myself have been taking at least 1 tablet of Iodorol daily for nearly a year now, and I recommend reading Dr. Miller’s excellent article for yourself.
If you read this blog, you know that I’m a fervent proponent of probiotic supplementation for a whole host of reasons. And now I have just one more to share with you. And, as a person who has experienced a lot of major life stressors in the past two years (I score a 272 on the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale – eek!), I’m encouraged about current research in the study of probiotics and their effects on stress response.
New research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal demonstrates that lactobacillus probiotic-laced food has a calming, anti-stress effect in mice. In an interview with NPR’s Ira Flatow, the author of the study, John Cryan, says that the research, “gives us the idea that the concept of treating stress-related disorders by modulating gut microflora can happen, and this can happen in a positive way.”
The researchers are calling the means by which the gut and brain communicate, the “microbial gut-brain axis,” saying, [I]t’s been long known that the brain and the gut communicate, as you mentioned, in terms of feelings of hunger, et cetera. And so what’s becoming clearer over the last while is that this brain-gut communication or gut-brain, it’s a bidirectional communication, but also that the microbials, which is the gut’s flora within the gut, can actually also play an important part in regulating this axis.
Cryan says the effect they noted was an increase in the levels of receptors for GABA, a calming neurotransmitter in the brain; and that the effect on the mice was so pronounced, that it was similar to the effect of a valium injection. He adds that, “studies from the U.S. have also shown that stress can affect the makeup of your microbiota and gut flora and the composition of it.”
In the interview, Cryan is careful to point out that these studies are in the early stages, and haven’t been conducted in humans, but he’s encouraged by how they’re going. Many alternative practitioners, myself included, have for a long time operated under the assumption that gut health and neurological health are intimately connected, so this news from the research industry doesn’t necessarily surprise us. But I am pretty excited by the research that’s going on, working out more of the details of how humans depend on healthy gut microbes for good health .
We’ve been preaching the benefits of probiotics for years, and they’re not only for digestive and immune health, but also for neurological health, and indeed, total body wellness. So, down the hatch with your probiotic bugs, live active cultures, and fermented foods.
Here’s a NYT article from my favorite food guru Mark Bittman (His HOW TO COOK EVERYTHING VEGETARIAN is my kitchen bible). In it, he discusses how healthy food is not necessarily more expensive than junk.
A few tidbits quoted from the piece:
“Somehow, no-nonsense cooking and eating — roasting a chicken, making a grilled cheese sandwich, scrambling an egg, tossing a salad — must become popular again, and valued not just by hipsters in Brooklyn or locavores in Berkeley. The smart campaign is not to get McDonald’s to serve better food but to get people to see cooking as a joy rather than a burden, or at least as part of a normal life.”
“To make changes like this more widespread we need action both cultural and political. The cultural lies in celebrating real food; raising our children in homes that don’t program them for fast-produced, eaten-on-the-run, high-calorie, low-nutrition junk; giving them the gift of appreciating the pleasures of nourishing one another and enjoying that nourishment together.
Political action would mean agitating to limit the marketing of junk; forcing its makers to pay the true costs of production; recognizing that advertising for fast food is not the exercise of free speech but behavior manipulation of addictive substances; and making certain that real food is affordable and available to everyone. The political challenge is the more difficult one, but it cannot be ignored.”
Gigantes, or giant beans, are one of my current favorite foods. I love the texture and the heft of them. They’re filling and mild-flavored. And I’m loving them baked with tofu in a spicy sauce. I’ve done this a couple of ways. The first time I marinated the tofu in 1/4 cup of hot sauce, plus some worcestershire, soy sauce, and olive oil; then baked the tofu and gigantes together with diced tomatoes for a spicy, tomatoey hot dish.
This recipe is riffing on that same idea, with the addition of barbecue sauce. Because summer demands barbecue sauce. But it’s also riffing on the traditional Greek dish, Gigandes plaki, which is basically gigantes in a tomato-based sauce. Here’s what you’ll need:
2 generous tablespoons of hot sauce
1 cup of barbecue sauce
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
Drain and cube 1 pound of tofu and marinate it in the above mixture for several hours.
Soak 2 cups of gigante beans in water for several hours, then cook them through (I use my trusty pressure cooker for this; gets it done in 30 minutes flat.)
Once the gigantes are cooked, drain them, and add them to the tofu-marinade mixture, along with…
1 can of diced tomatoes (I’ve chosen fire-roasted in this case)
Perfect with a side of corn on the cob and a fresh salad.
I invented the perfect spring soup this week: Green Garlic and Leek with New Potatoes and White Beans. It’s simple, quick, and delicious. Green garlic is softly flavored, the leeks are buttery, the white beans and potatoes add creaminess. You’re gonna love it.
- cook 1 cup of white beans in the pressure cooker with a quart of liquid (don’t salt them! it makes them tough!) (or use a can)
- slice thinly 2 large leeks and 3 stalks of green garlic (the entire stalks)
- in a pot, sautee the leeks and garlic in a mix of coconut and olive oils
- chop 1/2 pound of small new potatoes into bite-size pieces, and add them to the pot
- add the beans and cooking liquid to the pot
- pour in a quart of veggie broth
- season with Tony Chachere’s, salt and pepper, to taste
- simmer for a while until the potatoes are soft
- use an immersion blender to lightly puree the soup, leaving some chunks (or puree half the soup in a standup blender)
eat, eat, eat!
Research is showing that the RDA for Vitamin D, currently 400 IU, is NOT ENOUGH to slash cancer risks. The RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) represents the minimum amount needed to prevent rickets in most of the population. It is NOT the amount necessary to maintain blood levels of vitamin D3 high enough to halve your risk of breast and colon cancer, as well as your risk of multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes.
Your blood vitamin D3 level should be between 50 and 90 ng/ml to reduce disease risk. Have your levels checked to make sure they are within this range. Your daily intake should be in the range of 4000 – 8000 IU in order to maintain these levels, according to the latest anticancer research:
“We found that daily intakes of vitamin D by adults in the range of 4000-8000 IU are needed to maintain blood levels of vitamin D metabolites in the range needed to reduce by about half the risk of several diseases – breast cancer, colon cancer, multiple sclerosis, and type 1 diabetes,” said Cedric Garland, DrPH, professor of family and preventive medicine at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center. “I was surprised to find that the intakes required to maintain vitamin D status for disease prevention were so high – much higher than the minimal intake of vitamin D of 400 IU/day that was needed to defeat rickets in the 20th century.”
Again, I cannot stress enough how important adequate Vitamin D is for cancer prevention. According to the Vitamin D council, “Vitamin D inhibits inappropriate cell division and metastasis, reduces blood vessel formation around tumors, and regulates proteins that affect tumor growth. It also enhances anti-cancer actions of immune system chemicals and chemotherapy drugs.”