8 Reasons Dieting Doesn't Work

The common definition of dieting is “to restrict oneself to small amounts or special kinds of food in order to lose weight.” But the unfortunate news is that while dieting can result in short-term weight loss, most of the time it doesn’t result in any long-term health benefits.  In fact, dieting usually causes people to store more fat on their bodies when their diet’s over than what they started out with!  If you’re not convinced that dieting isn’t the best option for losing weight, read my point-by-point argument:

1) Dieting is DE-motivating and Negative: After all, nobody reads or hears the word “diet” or “dieting” and has happy thoughts. By it’s very definition dieting is about restriction; the emphasis is on the “cant’s” and “do-nots.”  Starting with such a negative focus creates a de-motivating association with living healthy. Abundant health depends on having a positive and sustainable outlook towards food.  We already have enough stressors and downers in our lives — the last thing we need is to add dieting to the list. Besides, stress can cause an increase in cortisol, which causes the body to store extra fat. In other words, worrying about weight-loss can actually cause weight-gain!

2) The Brain is Highly Efficient at Regulating Weight: Did you know that the brain is hardwired to protect your body from starving by closely regulating your weight?  The brain is getting constant feedback from and sending messages to the rest of the body through hormones like leptin and ghrelin. These hormones powerfully influence feelings of hunger and satiety.  They also interact with your body’s overall metabolism; if your brain gets the idea that your body isn’t getting the normal nutrition it’s used to, then it will actually signal your body to go into starvation/preservation mode.  When your body goes into starvation body, your metabolism slows down (which means it burns fewer calories) and will automatically store extra calories as fat the next time you eat a decent meal.  

The lesson: The body is very good at maintaining stasis. Even if someone has a lot of extra body fat, dieting will cause the body to try and preserve that fat and even add more to it once the diet is over.  This is the reason why so many people have stories of losing x amount of pounds and then later gaining it all back again.  

3) Dieting Promotes Unhealthy Cycles of Ups and Downs: Dieting results in unhealthy cycles that have physical and mental consequences.  One feels elated when losing weight but then extremely depressed when the pounds are put back on again.  The feelings of depression can cause stress, hormone imbalance, and increased weight gain. When fat is regained, people are often motivated to take extreme dieting measures, which lead to the same vicious cycle. Eventually  people come to a breaking point by either giving into obesity or making a real lifestyle change.  Sadly, it’s often not realized that a lifestyle change is the key until a life threatening consequence arises, such as diabetes, stroke, or high blood pressure.

4) Dieting Involves Sacrificing Important Nutrients for Health: Many diets call for extreme amounts of various macronutrients, such as high-protein or very low carbohydrates.  The problem is that if someone doesn’t feel energized or mentally focused (which can occur on low-carbohydrate diets), he or she probably isn’t gong to be able to continue dieting for very long. Another common diet is the low-fat diet, but many people don’t realize that fats are essential for proper hormone function and cellular regeneration.  Fats are needed for absorbing fat-soluble vitamins (A,D,E,K) and form the building block of cellular membranes.  In the long run, it doesn’t make sense to give up foods that the body needs for optimum health. 

5) Dieting is Expensive: One of the reasons dieting is so popular is because there’s a lot of money to be made in the weight-loss industry. Because there’s so much money in it, large corporations hold nothing back when it comes to using aggressive marketing campaigns to convince people of the importance and effectiveness of their name brand diets. Then there are celebrity diets — eager to make a profit from their latest dieting books, big claims are made, and people rush to learn the latest “weight-loss secrets.” The pre-made “diet” foods and reading materials that are part of most of these programs aren’t cheap either!  Industry experts know that most people are willing to pay a large price to lose those extra pounds “quickly and effectively.”

6) Dieting is Dangerous: Depending on how extreme the diet, some weight-loss programs put the body at risk for hormonal, electrolyte, energy, fluid, and micronutrient imbalances. These imbalances can cause weakness, increased blood pressure, insomnia, digestive damage, and cellular aging.  It’s far healthier to have excess body fat than put the body’s overall health at risk using dieting drugs, extreme “cleanses,” starvation methods, or unprescribed hormones.

7) Dieting Reinforces a Negative Self-Image: Dieting with an emphasis on weight-loss is often motivated by a desire to be thin, not for health reasons, but in hopes of improving one’s image. When dieting is used to obtain some elusive “model image” it can quickly become a depressing and vain pursuit that reinforces one’s own negative self-perception.  When “skinniness” is used as the gauge to determine good health, it becomes difficult to determine when one is “skinny” enough.  After all, there is always someone in the media, some model or actor, that is skinnier.  Moreover, our self-perceptions aren’t always accurate, especially when they’re influenced by a previously existing, negative self-worth.  Things get even more challenging when we’re not able to meet our dieting goals.  Overall, dieting, especially with an emphasis on weight-loss, generally does very little to improve self-image, and even less to improve one’s health.

8) The Healthiest People in the World DO NOT Diet: Since the research shows the dieting doesn’t provide weight-loss results and doesn’t improve health, where should we get our cues for healthy eating? Logically, a good place to start is with the eating habits of the healthiest people in the world.  The evidence suggests that the healthiest people tend to be from pre-industrial cultures or are people who eat mostly whole-foods. The healthiest people don’t diet at all; they don’t restrict themselves from eating in order to lose weight.  Instead they eat intuitively by listening to their bodies, and they live a lifestyle of healthy eating.  The things they make available for themselves to eat, day in and day, are nutritious and satisfying.  

It makes sense the people who eat a balanced diet of whole foods are healthy and tend to have minimal excess body-fat. After all, since the brain is hardwired to preserve and protect the body, the only way to maintain  a healthy percentage of body-fat is by consistently giving the body what it needs. When the body get’s the nutrients it needs in the right balance — healthy fats, protein, good carbs, vitamins, minerals — then the brain will signal the body and let it know that it’s had enough to eat.  Also, when the brain knows that the body will consistently get what  it needs, then it won’t go into starvation mode.  Instead, the brain will allow the body to access its fat stores for extra energy as needed

The Take Away: If you feel like you need to lose some extra body-fat ask yourself a few questions: What is your motivation?  Are you willing to make a lifestyle change?  If you’re not willing or you don’t feel educated enough to make a lifestyle change, read and study until your convinced  that eating whole foods (vegetables, fruits, meat, eggs, nuts, whole dairy) is the most delicious and healthy way to live.  It may take time to make a total  change, but it’s essential to make a commitment towards eating the best way possible for the rest of your life.

Ideally, losing excess fat is achieved by leading an active lifestyle (including incorporating exercise) and eating whole foods.  A sustainable rate of weight-loos is about 1-2 pounds per week.  But, in all reality, weight can be a poor indicator of health. Instead, focus on healthy living and the rest will take care of itself.

References: “Why Your Brain Doesn’t Want to Lose Weight,” By Sandra Aamodt on Ted.com; The Schwarzbien Principle, By Dr. Schwarzbien.

Originally posted 2013-09-12 16:46:36.

One Simple Rule For Eating Healthy

Sugar PlantWith all of the different information we have about what’s healthy and what’s not, you think it would be easier to hop on the bandwagon and follow it all the way to perfect health. The reality is that there is a lot of misinformation. As our world has been industrialized, so has our food system. The food industry is full of big business trying to maximize their food production in order to maximize their profits. As consumers, we must realize that food companies do not have our best interest in mind. Money is their motive, not our health. With that said, we can assume that the information at our fingertips is not the most trustworthy. Big food businesses fund their own research, which leads to biased interpretations and applications of information. This information is then fed to the public and is taught like fact.

As early as the 1800s, researchers could read the writing on the wall: 

“In medicine, we are often confronted with poorly observed and indefinite facts which form actual obstacles to science, in that men always bring them up, saying: it is a fact, it must be accepted.”  — Claude Bernard, in An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine, 1865

In the midst of all the chaos there is in the health world, I’d like to offer one simple rule for healthier eating: Eat whole foods. Eat the foods that are found in God’s creation. You’ve probably heard this before, so I’m going to say it a little differently this time: Eat ingredients rather than food products. You may be consuming a lot of boxed meals, health bars, “juice” drinks, shakes, mixes, potions, or whatever else, but they’re not whole foods. For the most part they are unhealthy, food products.

Food companies know that some consumers want to eat healthier, so they make products that appear to meet these demands. They can’t risk losing such a large population of “healthy” consumers. The problem is, these food products still aren’t whole foods. Most of them are still filled with loads of sugar, unhealthy fats, aging ingredients, or preservatives. The big food businesses (with profit in mind) will never create a truly healthy product. The reason is that God created everything we need for optimal health, and it is up to us to make use of it.

Garden harvest

Try using whole ingredients to make your own raw trail mixes, protein shakes, and snack bars if you like these items on the go. More importantly, eat real food at every meal. If you’re eating ingredients rather than food products, you’ll know exactly what you’re eating, as everything on your plate will be fairly easy to identify. Avoid anything that is pre-made. CREUS offers various do-it-yourself recipes from Mayonnaise to Clarified Butter (ghee); take advantage of these. God gave us an abundance of ingredients to work with, and He created them with our best interest in mind. This week, I challenge you to focus on eating food made of real ingredients rather than pre-made food products.

Originally posted 2013-09-05 12:23:59.

Seasons Within Seasons

DSC_5640_Fava Beans_Arthur KochBelieve it or not, for most of my life I had no idea that vegetables and fruits had a “season.” Sure, I knew that there was a harvest season; I’m from Nebraska, the land of cornfields. But due to the readily available supply of mostly any fruit or vegetable at the grocery store, I really had no idea that produce tasted better during a certain time of the year.

I never remember my parents attempting to buy produce in season. If it was there and we wanted it, we put it in the cart. I have a strong feeling this led to some of my picky eating habits. One too many sour strawberries made me think, “I don’t like berries.” One too many slimy (and likely old) slices of tomato on a fast food sandwich made me change my order to, “No tomato.”

When I moved out on my own and began my own grocery shopping, I remember occasionally not being able to find something I was craving. Then I began working at our local farmer’s market and my eyes were opened to the world of seasonal fruits and veggies. It all started to make sense.

I suddenly realized, this is why people make soup and chili in the fall (aside from the fact that it is warm and delicious paired with the “chilly” weather); they are using vegetables that are late in the season, which tend to have less flavor and more water (making them perfect for chili). This is why people preserved their favorites to eat during the cold months, when truly fresh produce was scarce.

I also recently discovered that there aren’t just “in season” and “out of season” times for fruits and vegetables, but there are even more nuanced picking times. A fascinating article in the New York Times explained that there are really seasons within seasons for vegetables and fruits. The first example in the article was the way fava beans make the best pureed soup late in the season when they are super starchy. If you attempt the same pureed soup earlier in the season, it will come out gritty and not at all appetizing.

In the past few years I’ve started re-trying nutritious foods that I didn’t care for as a child.  One of the foods I revisited was tomatoes. I started out by dicing them very small and adding them on top of salads in the summer. This summer I tried something that I used to find repulsive — eating raw slices of tomatoes. Mid-season, or around this very time, tomatoes are both juicy and refreshingly sweet. I simply sliced the tomato, sprinkled on some salt, and I could not believe the flavor! The texture is also crisp enough to hold up on its own, making a perfect summer snack.

It turns out my new friend, the tomato, also has its own “micro-season.” Early in the season, when the vegetables are still green, they are best used for pickling or frying, due to their acidity and firm structure. During the mid-season they are delightful as is! Later in the season, closer to fall, tomatoes’ watery texture makes them best for sauces.

Cooking with ingredients “in season” is great, but with more practice (and research), we can learn about how each fruit and vegetable works within the seasons. I’ve realized that I have so much more to learn about the array of food God has made for us to enjoy. I’ve only just scratched the surface of experimenting with produce, and I can’t wait to learn more!

Do you cook seasonally?

Do you can or preserve fruits and vegetables?

Sources: New York Times, “To Every Season, Another Season,” “Fruits and Veggies Matter More,” Eat Seasonally

Originally posted 2013-09-03 10:27:52.

Fat Soluble Vitamins

Sauteed Spinach with Toasted Sesame SeedsVitamins are essential nutrients (i.e. nutrients that we need for basic function but cannot produce on our own). There are two classifications of vitamins: Water-soluble and fat-soluble. Water-soluble vitamins include vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin B7 (biotin), vitamin B9 (folic acid), vitamin B12 (cobalamin), and vitamin C (ascorbic acid). The fat-soluble vitamins include vitamin A (retinol), vitamin D, vitamin E (tocopherol), and vitamin K.

When something is fat-soluble, it simply means it dissolves in fat. The best way to get these vitamins is consuming them with a little bit of fat, such as butter or olive oil. Not surprisingly, many fat-soluble vitamins are found in foods that are fatty (our Creator is so smart). Most vegetables, however, don’t contain fat, so when people try to be “extra healthy” by not using any oil or fat with their vegetables, they’re actually missing out on the fat-soluble vitamins those vegetables contain.

The interesting thing about fat soluble vitamins is they are not in extremely high demand in terms of quantity. They are actually stored in our tissues, so they do not need to be consumed in massive quantities. For this reason, fat-soluble vitamins (especially vitamin A) can cause toxicity if one is not careful. Toxicity is usually due to a person taking vast amounts of synthetic fat-soluble vitamins. One rarely becomes toxic from vitamins consumed from food sources. So, like in most everything nutrition related, it is best for the body when one consumes, whole, nutrient-dense foods.

Vitamin A (Retinol)
Functions: Absolutely essential for eye health (wards off night blindness and other eye ailments); maintains mucus membranes, skin, and epithelial cells; anti-inflammatory effects; bone and tooth growth; reproduction; immunity.

Dietary Sources: Cod liver oils, sweet potatoes, chicken livers, beef livers, calf livers, lamb livers, eggs, spinach, parsley, paprika, red pepper, cayenne, chili powder , cantaloupe, carrots, lettuce, dried herbs, butternut squash, watercress, mango, tomatoes, butter, beef

Notes: When consuming animal products containing vitamin A, you are actually getting retinol. This is the actual vitamin. Consuming plant-products gives you the precursor (also called the pro-vitamin) beta-carotene. The body turns this into vitamin A.

Vitamin D
Functions: Regulation of the minerals calcium and phosphorus

Dietary Sources: Cod liver oil, herring, pink salmon, kippers, mackerel, sardines, tuna, butter, caviar, salami, ham, sausages, eggs, mushrooms

Notes: The main source of this vitamin comes from the sun. It is synthesized in our skin and can be stored for periods of time (like through the winter). Lighter-skinned people synthesized it very effectively, whereas darker-skinned peoples are not able to synthesize it very well. It is interesting to point out that traditionally, darker-skinned people groups are usually found where sunshine is plentiful, like Africa, South America, and so on. Lighter-skinned people groups herald from colder climates, such as Norway, Sweden, Denmark, etc. They need all the vitamin D they can get, and they are more able to make it. Fascinating! Also, stay away from things fortified with vitamin D2. Your body utilizes vitamin D3, and vitamin D2 comes from some sketchy sources.

Vitamin E (Tocopherol)
Functions: A powerful antioxidant, it is actually part of the cell membrane and protects it. Some research suggests it can protect from certain types of cancers as well as heart disease, diabetes, viruses, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. A lot of research is still pending on this vitamin.

Dietary Sources: Sunflower seeds, paprika, red chili powder, almonds, egg yolks, pine nuts, fatty meats, wheat germ, liver, dried herbs, dried apricots, spinach, butter, avocado, almonds, raw peanuts (with skins), rye, asparagus, hazelnuts, blackberries

Notes: It really must be taken with food to even be absorbed.

Vitamin K
Functions: Synthesis of blood-clotting proteins and bone proteins

Dietary Sources: Gouda cheese, cauliflower, kale, green tea, turnip greens, spinach, tomatoes, parsley, Swiss chard, runner beans, broccoli, scallions, chili powder, curry, paprika, and cayenne, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, pickles, prunes, cabbage

Notes: Vitamin K1 is found and plants and must be converted to vitamin K2. Animal sources are already vitamin K2. Vitamin K is not stored well in the body like other fat-soluble vitamins, but it does recycle itself.

Understanding Nutrition, 12th Edition (Whitney & Rolfes 2010)

Originally posted 2013-09-03 09:51:37.

Safe and Sustainable Seafood

With the oceans becoming increasing polluted and overfished, it’s important to be aware of which types of seafood are safe to eat and are caught with concern for God’s creation.  Some fish, like shark and swordfish, for example, are at the top of the food-chain and accumulate extremely large amounts of heavy metals in their meat.  Heavy metals, like mercury, are harmful to human health, especially in high concentrations.  

Other fish aren’t as toxic up front but they’re raised or caught in ways that are toxic or damaging to the environment.  While damaging creation might not affect human health immediately, it always does in the long run.  To ensure that you and your family are eating fish that are healthy today and good for the future, refer to the lists below:

Healthy and Consciously Caught Seafood to Enjoy Often (low levels of mercury): Up to eight 6oz servings per month
Arctic Char (farmed)
Catfish (US)
Clams, Mussels, Oysters (except for Gulf Coast Oysters)
Crab: Dungeness & Stone
Crab: Blue
Crab: King (US)
Flounders, Soles (US Pacific)
Pollock: Alaska (US)
Salmon (AK)
Salmon (CA, OR & WA wild)
Sardines: Pacific (Canada & US)
Scallops (farmed)
Scallops (wild)
Shrimp (Canada & US wild)
Shrimp: Pink (OR)
Squid (US)
Tilapia (Ecuador & US)
Tilapia (China & Taiwan)
Trout: Rainbow (US farmed)

Consciously Caught Seafood to Enjoy Sometimes (some mercury):  Up to six 6oz servings per month

Bass: Striped (US hook & line, farmed)
Cod: Pacific (US)
Cod: Atlantic (imported)
Cod: Pacific (US trawl)
Halibut: Pacific (US)
Lobster: American
Lobster: Spiny (CA, FL & Mexico)
Mahi Mahi (US)
Monkfish (US)
Sablefish/Black Cod (AK & Canada)
Tuna: Skipjack/Light canned (imported
troll, pole and US longline)
Tuna: Skipjack/Light canned
(US troll, pole)

Consciously Caught Seafood to Enjoy On Occasion (moderate/high levels of mercury): No more than three 6oz servings per month

Grouper: Red (US Gulf of Mexico)
Tuna: Albacore/White canned
(Canada & US troll, pole)
Tuna: Yellowfin (US troll, pole)
Tuna: Yellowfin (imported troll, pole)
Tuna: Albacore/White canned
(US longline)

Seafood to Avoid (very high levels of mercury or caught in a way that damages creation):

Abalone (China & Japan)
Caviar, Sturgeon (imported wild)
Cod: Pacific (imported)
Crab: Red King (Russia)
Lobster: Spiny (Brazil)
Mahi Mahi (imported)
Orange Roughy
Salmon: Atlantic (farmed)
Shrimp (imported)
Snapper: Red (US)
Squid (imported)
Tuna: Albacore/White canned
(except Canada & US troll, pole
and US longline)
Tuna: Bluefin
Tuna: Skipjack/Light canned
(except troll, pole and US longline)
Tuna: Yellowfin (except troll, pole
and US longline)
Tuna (Bigeye, Ahi)

To obtain a complete and updated list of fish that are caught according to standards of good stewardship, visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium link below.  

References: Updated Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Buyer’s Guide, American Pregnancy Association Mercury Guide

Originally posted 2013-08-31 09:00:04.

How 'bout sardines?

Let’s face it, I’m adventurous. The fact that I love sardines may indicate this. However, this tiny fish (and its cousin the anchovy) is a powerhouse of nutrition. Adding sardines to your diet will provide health benefits that far outlast the odor sardines might leave in your kitchen.

Who knows how long sardines have been among us. Frankly, that fact is not really important. What we do know is that “sardine” is actually a broad term for small, oily-fish that are in the herring family. During the 1400s, these fish received their name after the Italian island Sardinia, where many schools once lived. They are a staple in the Mediterranean Diet and are eaten in abundance in Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Norway. They can be found fresh but they are widely available canned.  In fact, sardines are among one of the first foods to be canned.

While it is always best to find sardines fresh, doing so is not always possible. The nice thing about canned sardines, however, is they are cheap and have a long shelf life. Sardines in general are very low in heavy metals, like mercury. Their affordability and low toxicity make sardines a perfect REAL food protein to take along when backpacking, hiking, or on road trips. Look for sardines, whether fresh or canned, that are “Wild-caught.” This means they were not raised on a fish farm, where conditions are dirty and the fish do not eat their natural diet. “Wild-caught” sardines are pulled directly from the water.

Also, try to find sardines that are packed in water (sometimes referred to as “spring water”). Although olive oil is good for you, the canning processes can be harsh, so the oil may be rancid by the time you open it. Further, you don’t always know the beginning quality of the oil. Stay completely away from sardines packed in marinades with high fructose corn syrup, MSG, or other nasties. And, of course, steer clear of sardines packed in any industrial oils, such as soy and canola. Finally, try and find sardines that have the bones in. The bones are very, very soft. So soft, in fact, that they can be mixed into the meat with a fork. The bones lend a highly digestible form of vital calcium.

Nutrition Highlights
Sardines are very nutrient dense, meaning they have a high nutrient to calorie ratio. Sardines are a great source of vitamin B12, selenium (an anti-cancer mineral), protein, omega-3’s, vitamin D, and Calcium. The vitamin D in sardines is the animal form (D3), so it’s easily absorbed by the body.

For 3.75 oz-wt (92 grams) in oil (% of DV provided when available)

  • Calories 10% DV 
  • Vitamin B12 137%
  • Selenium 69% DV
  • Phosphorus 45% DV
  • Vitamin D 63% DV
  • Calcium 35% DV
  • Vitamin B3 24% DV
  • Choline 78.2 mg
  • Omega-3 fats – 1362 mg
  • Protein – 22.7 g

Health Benefits of Sardines
Sardines contain a high quality protein that is excellent for rebuilding the muscles after a workout or to maintain normal cellular health.

The omega-3’s contained in sardines are essential fatty acids that help the body fight inflammation and build healthy cells.  The combination of these essential fats with the minerals zinc and calcium, along with vitamin B12, promote a healthy nervous system and optimal muscle function.

Since sardines are high in calcium and vitamin d3, eating sardines can also  help make your bones and teeth stronger!

The Take Away
Sardines are a powerhouse of nutrition. Try to find them packed in water, because if they’re packed in oil, you don’t know whether or not the oil is rancid. When possible, choose wild-caught sardines with the bone-in. Take advantage of the the fact that, for now, sardines are a cheap, take-anywhere super food.

Easy Recipe
Spicy Balsamic Sardines on Rice Cakes (2 servings)
Ingredients: 1 can of sardines packed in water and drained, 2 T of balsamic vinegar, 1 T of garlic infused EVOO, GMO-free rice cakes, red pepper flakes to taste, cayenne pepper to taste
Instructions: Thoroughly mix all ingredients together and eat on rice cakes

Recommended Products
Wild Sardines from Wild Planet

References: USDA Nutrition Database

Originally posted 2013-08-27 09:00:16.

Eat These Vegetables As Soon As Possible

greens 03Real, living food is perishable.  We’ve learned to sacrifice nutrition for convenience, but this has been a major mistake for our health.  

All vegetables should be consumed as soon as possible, as they all start to lose their nutrients and antioxidants as soon as they’re harvested, but some vegetables are more perishable than others.  The most sensitive vegetables also happen to be among the world’s healthiest vegetables. The reason for the nutrient loss is that harvested plants use their stored nutrients to fight off starvation and oxidation. Unfortunately, the nutrients they use to survive are the same nutrients that provide incredible health benefits for humans.  With this in mind, consider posting the list below on your fridge as a reminder to eat up your recent purchases.

Vegetables to Eat Right Away:

  • Cruciferous vegetables: Broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, and cabbage (when cut)
  • Mushrooms: Crimini, shitake, white button, etc.
  • Leafy greens: spinach, lettuce, arugula, chard, beet tops
  • Herbs: parsley, basil, cilantro
  • Asparagus
  • Artichokes
  • Green beans

Additional Tips to Maximize Your Vegetables’ Nutritional Value:

  • Many store-bought vegetables have already been cut off from their life-source for 2-4 days before being purchased (due to transportation and sitting on the shelf). Purchase fresher vegetables by shopping at a locals farmers market, growing your own vegetables, or asking your grocer what vegetables came in on the most recent shipment.
  • Most vegetables loose their nutrients when cooked.  Eat your vegetables as raw as possible or lightly steamed.  Microwaving is OK as long as you don’t overcook them and use a microwaving steaming method.  
  • If you’ve chopped your vegetables up, be sure to store them in a airtight container and consume as quickly as possible. Exposing cut vegetables to air for prolonged periods increased their oxidation. 
  • Chopping leafy greens immediately before consuming, however, does make more nutrients available for absorption.  Cut your lettuce, cabbage, or dark greens into small strips 10 minutes before eating to maximize nutrient release.

References: Maximizing the Nutritional Value of Fruits and Vegetables, Eating on the Wild Side NPR Interview

Originally posted 2013-08-19 09:00:46.

How Phytic Acid Affects Your Health

Phytic acid or phytate (when in salt form) is one of the many phytochemicals found in nature that are considered  non-essential nutrients, meaning they’re not needed to sustain life. However, most non-essential plant chemicals, including phytic acid, can still have a significant impact on human health.

Phytate 101
For plants, phytic acid is the predominant storage form of phosphorus and is considered a common plant antioxidant. Phytic acid is found in various quantities in soy, peanuts, whole grain cereals, rice, wheat and corn and products containing these foods. For humans, however, there’s mounting evidence that phytic acid is an anti-nutrient that binds with minerals such as iron, magnesium, calcium, and zinc, making them useless for the human body. At the same time, there’s a small body of research that phytic acid may have a few positive benefits, including acting as an antioxidant, an energy store, and an anti-inflammatory agent. Phytic acid is also thought to reduce the early onset of colon cancer. Yet, phytic acid’s action as an anti-nutrient appears to outweigh any of its potential benefits. Moreover, it’s high concentration in many important staple crops makes phytic acid an important health concern.

How Phytic Acid Binds to Minerals
Although vital in plants, in humans phytic acid’s phosphorus is not biologically available. Phytic acid is polyanionic (a molecule possessing multiple negative sites) due to the many phosphate groups. These negatively charged “arms” of the phytic acid molecule bind with important positively charged minerals in the body, especially calcium and zinc. When this happens, phytic acid is transformed into its salt form known as phytate. Once the surrounding minerals are bound to phytate they are rendered insoluble and cannot be absorbed by the digestive tract.

Ways to Minimize Phytic Acid Consumption 
Does phytic acid’s effect on mineral absorption mean that were not meant to enjoy any foods containing phytic acid? Of course not! Apart from conveniences such as refrigerators and electric ovens were invented, people traditionally preserve and process their foods with methods that inadvertently reduce phytic acid content. The processing techniques commonly used include soaking and fermentation. These methods help render grains and seeds easier to cook and increase their storage life.

Through the soaking process, seeds and grains are soaked long enough (12 to 36 hours) to germinate and soften, which allows for faster cooking times (important if you don’t have access to a gas burner) and better digestion.  What wasn’t known until recently, however was that soaking also activates a grain’s phytase content.  Phytase is an enzyme that breaks down phytic acid!

Some grain and seeds, however,  contain very little natural phytase (oat meal and rice for example), so simple soaking does very little to reduce phytic acid content.  This is where lacto-fermentation comes in.  During lacto-fermentation, seeds and grains are soaked long enough to allow beneficial bacteria to form (such as lactic acid bacteria), which keep harmful pathogens at bay and make foods safe to store at room temperature for long periods of time. The fermentation process can also encourage the growth of phytase producing bacteria that supply enough phytase to break down most of the phytic acid content in seeds and grains!  In fact, lacto-fermentation is one of the traditional Chinese ways of preparing brown rice but has has recently gone out of practice (due to the invention of the rice cooker).

The take away: Phytic acid prevents the absorption of many of the minerals that make seeds and grains potentially healthy foods. Traditional, pre-industrial, ways of preparing these foods inadvertently made them more nutritious.  Take the time to get the most out of your food an optimize your health by soaking all seeds (quinoa and beans) and grains for at least 12 hours.  For rice and oatmeal, consider using lacto-fermentation.

Related Articles:
Is Brown-Rice Toxic?  It All Depends.

References: Top cultures. Phytochemicals. Gaetke, Gaetke LM, McClain CJ, Toleman CJ, Stuart MA. “Yogurt protects against growth retardation in weanling rats fed diets high in phytic acid.” J. Nutr. Biochem. 2010;21:147-152., Peng WU, Tao Z, Ji-chun T. “Phytic acid contents of wheat flours from different mill streams.” Agricultural Sciences in China. 2010;9:1684-1688., Nagel R. “Living With Phytic Acid.” Weston A. Price Foundation Website., Raghavendra P, Halami PM. “Screening, selection and characterization of phytic acid degrading lactic acid bacteria from chicken intestine.” International Journal of Food Microbiology. 2009;133:129-134., Lönnerdal B. “Soybean ferritin: implications for iron status of vegetarians.” Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;89:1680S–1685S.

Originally posted 2013-08-15 09:00:15.

The Ten Most Important Foods to Buy Organic

organic shopping guide listIt’s best to purchase as many organic foods as you can afford or have access to.  But going totally organic can break the bank for some, and it’s not always easy to find what your looking for in the organic food section.  The good news is that there are a number of foods that are low in pesticides, even when grown conventionally.  On the other hand, there are certain fruits and vegetables that you’ll want to avoid feeding your family unless you can ensure that they were grown organically.  According to Environmental Working Group’s 2013 pesticide test results, these are the top ten fruits and vegetables with the highest amounts of pesticide residue:

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Cherry Tomatoes
  4. Cucumbers
  5. Grapes
  6. Hot Peppers
  7. Imported Nectarines
  8. Peaches
  9. Potatoes
  10. Spinach

Yes, sadly, one of the most popular fruits in the United States, the beloved apple, is highest in pesticide residues, so be sure to buy it and the other fruits and vegetables in the list from the organic section!  Most pesticides are known to be carcinogenic and toxic.  While they might not be harmful in small amounts, the cumulative effects of consuming pesticides in the total food supply are unknown.  It’s best to eat clean!

For the full list of foods that should be organic and foods that are OK to eat conventionally grown, visit Environmental Working Group.  They also have a bunch of additional resources on how to avoid household chemicals and toxins.  

Originally posted 2013-07-11 01:27:32.

DIY Ghee (clarified butter) Recipe

Ghee is simultaneously one of the healthiest and tastiest cooking oils.  It’s also a very practical cooking oil because it can withstand high heat without breaking down or smoking.  Ghee made from organic butter contains high amounts of vitamin k2, which is essential for bone strength and cardiovascular health.  It’s also a great source of healthy fats, including CLA, which may provide antioxidant, metabolic, and cardiovascular benefits.  Even more, ghee is far more shelf stable than butter, making it great for traveling or leaving out for easy spreadability.

DIY ghee is easy and fun.  Homemade ghee is also cost saving.  By following the recipe below you’ll save half the amount you would spend on store-bought ghee. Enjoy!

Be sure to use organic, unsalted butter, in order to achieve ghee with the most amount of nutrients like vitamin K2, and CLA
Cheese cloths are inexpensive and handy. Use 3 or 4 pieces layered together to achieve the best filtering.
Melt the butter on the stove on medium heat.
Stage 1 – What the butter will look like immediately after it melts
Stage 2 – After the butter simmers for a while it will start to form large bubbles as the water boils out.
Stage 3 – After the bubbles get smaller and become less frequent, a golden foam will form and brown butter solids will sink to the bottom. It’s now ready to pour through the cheesecloth!

Originally posted 2013-07-03 19:36:49.