Multivitamins: A Magic Pill?

I recently was at a networking event and had the opportunity to have a skin scan done using the Pharmanex BioPhoton scanner. This device uses a laser to harmlessly measure your skin levels of carotenoids in about 90 seconds. This gives you a picture of your overall body antioxidant levels, and possibly therefore how protected your DNA is from free radical damage that can lead to cancer. The reading is just on a relative scale–not a measurement of units of anything–and reflects your diet of about a month prior. I held my breath, thinking, “If this comes out poorly, I’m gonna have a lot of explaining to do!”

I was super excited to see my score, as I ACED IT with an off-the-chart 74,000. (Can you tell I’m kind of competitive when it comes to test taking?) The average American scores around 25,000. When Dr. Oz, that paragon of good health, had the device on his show, he scored a 75,000. I’m feeling pretty darn good about all those raw veggies and fruits I eat every day! Here’s a short video of Dr. Oz taking the test:

Of course, the company that does the scans is counting on most people scanning poorly, so they can then recommend and sell their antioxidant supplements to you. I was however very gratified to hear the rep tell people that it is indeed possible to get all the nutrients you need from a well-balanced diet. HOORAY! We also talked to a few people about the fact that if your digestion is compromised, you might have the best diet in the world and not be able to absorb and utilize those nutrients you’re eating. You know, the dreaded “expensive poop.” Not to mention, if your diet is deficient in healthy fats, you won’t be able to absorb and use the fat-soluble vitamins, A, D, E and K.

So the question then is, If you know your diet isn’t full of the recommended more than 6 half-cup servings of fruits and veggies every day, and your digestion isn’t a smoothly ticking machine, shouldn’t you just start taking some multivitamins and antioxidant supplements (like Vitamins A, E and C) to cover all your bases?


Multiple studies have shown that supplementing with high doses of antioxidant vitamins can in fact increase your risk of morbidity and mortality from a variety of cancers. However, we know that people who eat large quantities of fruits and vegetables have lower incidences of heart disease and cancer. The difference is, Mother Nature in all her wisdom has packaged antioxidants and other nutrients in perfect little balanced bites of foods. Trying to one-up her by taking imbalanced loads of nutrients in ratios never intended to be ingested upsets the natural order of things. It seems that the large doses in fact impact our immune system function negatively, with undesirable results, rather than shoring it up as we hoped to when we swallowed the pills. This column sums up the issues nicely, if you’d like to know more: 

I do not recommend general broad-spectrum daily multivitamins or supplementation. When I do recommend supplements, it’s because of a measurable deficiency (commonly, i.e., Vitamin D and zinc), or because we are trying to use a therapeutic dose for a set period of time to help the body recover balance and deal with a specific health issue. Popping large dose supplements because “more is better” is definitely not the way to go.

Feed Your Good Bugs, Eat Fermented Foods!

Many of my clients and friends have heard me say, Eat something raw at every meal and something fermented every day.


Besides the fact that fermented foods are phenomenally tasty, they feed the beneficial bacteria that live in our gut. You may have heard a lot of buzz recently about the “microbiome”–this is just fancy talk for the world of bugs, good and bad, that live both on and in us. About 100 trillion bacteria colonize our body, which is more than 10 times the number of cells in your body. Of those bacteria, the majority live in the large intestine. The composition of your gut flora changes depending on diet, lifestyle, and age, but at any given time we are carrying 3 to 4 pounds of bacteria, made up of over 800 species.

The good bacteria in our guts provide protection from infection by bad bacteria, stimulate the immune system, help to digest foods, and synthesize some vitamins, such as K and B12. If fed properly with vegetables and fruits, the good bacteria produce short chain fatty acids, which contribute to the health of the cells of the gut lining and provide you with an extra source of energy. The good bugs also work to correct overgrowth of bad bacteria which cause inflammation. Bad bacteria also cause food cravings, by sending chemical messages to our brains that affect our appetite and mood, making us feel anxious and crave comfort foods like refined carbs and chocolate. A proper balance of good bugs is also thought to promote maintenance of a healthy weight by controlling appetite and cravings.

What we eat determines the kind of bugs we will grow in our gut gardens, as the bacteria follow the food. Probiotic and fermented foods include good bacteria, which aid digestion and help to balance the gut flora in a positive direction. Some great sources of fermented foods include:

Fermented dairy. Be sure that the label says it includes live and active cultures. Avoid any added fruits, as they often are very high in sugar, which is the number one bad-bug-feeding ingredient we want to avoid. Kefir is a tangy yogurt drink you might try. Other sources include buttermilk and aged cheeses. Goat and sheep milk yogurts are often well-tolerated by those who cannot digest cow’s milk–although the fermentation of any milk greatly increases its digestibility. Many people who cannot drink cow’s milk can eat yogurt with no problem. Of course, to support general health, we want all our dairy products to be organic and full fat.

Coconut kefir. Made from coconut water, this tangy fermented drink is brimming with probiotics. Sold in small bottles at Whole Foods and other health stores, you only need about a shotglass-full a day.

Pickled vegetables. These include brined pickles and olives with no added sugars or vinegars (meaning they were naturally allowed to ferment with the addition of just salt and maybe whey), unpasteurized sauerkraut, kimchi, and pickled beets and other vegetables. Beet kvass is a fermented drink made from beet juice, and is a great option.

Fermented soy. This includes foods such as natto and miso, but should be used in small amounts and with caution, as soy can be highly undigestible, and does contain plant estrogens.

Sourdough bread. Ah, bread. I’m talking about the real good stuff here, usually made by artisanal bakers from long-fermented sourdough starter. This is often more tolerable to people who cannot handle wheat gluten digestively.

Kombucha. Technically fermented sweet tea, look for one with the lowest sugar amount possible, meaning it was allowed to fully ferment and “eat” up all the natural sugars.

One word of caution: if you aren’t currently eating any fermented foods, you’ll want to start to slowly introduce them, thinking of them as a condiment or side dish. If your gut balance is off, adding a huge influx of good bacteria can create a bit of a “war” with the bad bugs, leading to digestive upset.

So remember, something raw at every meal, and something fermented every day!

Go Organic: Why Quality Matters

I always recommend organic food to my clients. And sometimes, I can immediately see their eyes glaze over and swear I can hear their thoughts:

“Ugh, organic is so expensive.”

“Organic doesn’t really matter. Veggies are veggies.”

“GMO…whatever. I’m not a scientist. Who cares.”

Organic foods DO make a difference to health and nutrition, and it’s something we really should all care about.

In July of 2014, the British Journal of Nutrition published a study that looked at 343 previous studies of whether organic food was more nutritious than conventionally grown. The researchers concluded that organic crops contained higher concentrations of antioxidants than conventionally grown foods, up to 40% more. At the same time, the researchers found that conventional foods contained greater concentrations of residual pesticides and the toxic metal cadmium. The theory is that organic plants produce more antioxidants and natural toxins to defend themselves against insects and other environmental threats.

Beyond being more nutritious, the lack of pesticide residues is what makes organics really pretty great. Pesticides and chemical fertilizers are endocrine disruptors: fake estrogens, essentially. These bind to our hormone receptors, blocking our natural hormones from being able to act as designed, and thereby mess with everything from our gut health to our liver to our reproduction to our brain function. In the gut, endocrine disruptors are known to allow “bad” bacteria to proliferate, which is now being shown to be linked as one cause of obesity. Not only are pesticides and fertilizers known endocrine disruptors, but so are genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

It’s been said that GMO really stands for “God, Move Over.”  GMOs are created by a laboratory process that transfers genetic material into the DNA of an organism. There are nine genetically modified (GM) food crops currently on the market in the US: soy, corn, cotton (oil), canola (oil), sugar from sugar beets, zucchini, yellow squash, Hawaiian papaya, and alfalfa.

Most GM crops are engineered to tolerate a weed killer called Roundup®, whose active ingredient is glyphosate. These crops, known as Roundup-Ready crops, accumulate high levels of glyphosate that remain in the food. Basically, the crops get sprayed with Roundup, the weeds die, and we eat the remaining crops that are covered in Roundup.

Corn and cotton varieties are also engineered to have their cells produce an insecticide called Bt-toxin, to make them resistant to pest damage. The Bt-toxin is produced in every cell of genetically engineered corn and ends up in corn chips, corn tortillas, and other ingredients derived from corn. The Bt-toxin produced by genetically modified corn kills insects by punching holes in their digestive tracts, and a 2012 study confirmed that it punctures holes in human cells as well. Bt-toxin survives in the milk and meat of animals that are fed GMO animal feed, and are passed on to us–80% of human fetal blood samples tested show the presence of Bt-toxin. There is even a theory that the genes from the corn can transfer into the native bacteria in our gut and start producing toxins there, essentially turning our good flora into toxin factories!

A recent analysis of research suggests that Bt-toxin, glyphosate, and other components of GMOs are linked to five conditions:

  • Intestinal permeability
  • Imbalanced gut bacteria
  • Immune activation and allergies
  • Impaired digestion
  • Damage to the intestinal wall

It is believed that the atmospheric rise in the number of cases of gluten intolerance and other food allergies in this country in recent years may well be linked to the increase in GMO crops in our food supply, as we know that food sensitivities result from gut wall damage and increased permeability. Basically, you eat a food, and particles of it escape through the damaged gut wall into the bloodstream, where food particles were never meant to be. Your immune system sees these particles as invaders, and sets up an attack, which is what we define as a sensitivity or allergy–when your body is reacting to/attacking a food and symptoms occur as a result of eating it.

There are many hidden sources of GMOs to be aware of. One major exposure is in the oils used in restaurants for cooking, dressings, and sauces, which are commonly soybean, vegetable, corn, canola, and cottonseed oils. Additionally, non-organic sugar is often from GMO sugar beets. Farmed fish eat GMO soy pellets.  And most critically, about 88% of the US corn crop is GMO.

The surest way to avoid GMOs, pesticides, and other endocrine disruptors is to buy and eat organic food. By definition, organic food must be grown without synthetic pesticides, growth hormones, antibiotics, genetic engineering or chemical fertilizers. My clients have heard me say that I am a stickler for only organic corn and soy (if you choose to make soy part of your diet). Anything that grows in direct contact with the soil, such as potatoes or carrots, or cannot be peeled, such as berries, really should absolutely only be consumed in organic forms.

Yes, organic food can often be more expensive than conventionally grown. Farmers’ markets are a great resource for local, fresh organic food, and frequently are less expensive. But honestly, is anything more important than the quality of what you put inside your body?

Some of the information for this blog post came from Jeffrey Smith and the Institute for Responsible Technology.

Water Water Everywhere

Water. Love it or hate it, it’s essential. It’s about 75% of you! It’s found in every tissue of the body, and makes up the bulk of the fluid in every cell. Just some of the many roles of water in the body:

  • Improves oxygen delivery to cells
  • Transports nutrients
  • Enables cellular hydration
  • Moistens oxygen for easier breathing
  • Cushions bones and joints
  • Absorbs shocks to joints and organs
  • Regulates body temperature
  • Removes wastes
  • Flushes toxins
  • Prevents tissues from sticking
  • Lubricates joints
  • Improves cell-to-cell communications
  • Maintains normal electrical properties of cells

Did you know your cartilage is up to 80% water? If you have joints that pop and click, increasing your hydration can really make a difference. Feeling a bit bloated? Increasing your water intake will actually flush out the extra water that’s making you puffy. There are so many reasons to drink up!

The body can produce about 8% of its daily water needs through internal metabolic processes. The remaining 92% must be ingested through what we eat and drink. We can’t store water, so we need to replenish it every day by staying well hydrated. Surprisingly, as many as 8 cups of water are lost each day to your basic metabolic processes, including breathing. That’s before you exercise or do anything beyond simply being alive!

Unfortunately, most people aren’t drinking anywhere near enough water to meet their body’s needs. Water is the most common nutritional deficiency in the American population.

If the body’s water level drops by as little as 2%, symptoms of dehydration will set in: fatigue, headache, anxiety, irritability, depression, cravings, and cramps. Migraines, heartburn, joint pain, back pain, and constipation will follow as dehydration continues.

Water depends on electrolytes (minerals that can conduct electricity when dissolved in water) for proper absorption and to control osmosis throughout the body. One great way to get minerals is through natural spring/mineral water or electrolyte water (in addition to eating lots of veggies and fruit!). Spring/mineral water should be bottled at the source and preferably in glass bottles, and contains tons of good stuff from all the time the water spent bubbling up through the earth. Electrolyte water is also good; it doesn’t contain sodium, which means it doesn’t taste salty, and is ok for people with sodium concerns. But note, sodium is an important mineral to consume, too! Spring or electrolyte water with sodium is a great post-workout drink—just add a pinch of real sea salt to your water bottle.

You should be drinking half your body weight in ounces of water a day, to a maximum of 100 ounces. (140 lbs = 70 oz water daily). Plus, add another 12 oz for every 8 oz of diuretics you drink, including coffee, fruit juice, and alcohol. Sip your water throughout the day–if you drink a large amount all at once, you just quickly pee it out.

I love water and drink mine plain out of a cute cup!  But if you don’t love it, here are some great ways to perk up your hydration:

  • steep fresh mint leaves in boiling water, then refrigerate.
  • add tons of cut up citrus, cucumbers, or berries
  • make caffeine-free herbal teas
  • add a drop of essential oil, like orange oil made from orange peels
  • blend watermelon, strawberries, and fresh mint, and freeze to make flavored ice cubes.

Other great hydration options that can be found on health food shelves these days include coconut water, maple water, aloe water and watermelon water. These all contain minerals, but also some calories and even some small amounts of sugar. If plain water just isn’t doing it for you, you might try diluting one of these 50/50.

The Magical Formula for Eating Like a Wellness Rockstar

A recent survey conducted by the National Cancer Institute asked Americans about their diet from the previous day. Only 9% had consumed three or more servings of vegetables or two or more servings of fruit. One in nine had no fruits or vegetables at all. In the United States, 46% of every food dollar is spent on meals and snacks away from home. The typical American consumes about 140 pounds of sugar a year. Clearly, our focus is not on healthy eating!

The decision to get rid of chronic health problems, prevent disease, and improve the quality of your life begins with changing your food choices. Real food provides your body with the fuel it needs to optimally function, as well as the raw materials to begin to detoxify and heal.

A balanced, properly prepared whole foods diet can be a powerful form of resetting the body. Too often, we don’t make the connection between what we eat and some of the symptoms we suffer. Of course, there’s much more to living a healthy balanced life than simply the food we eat. However, it’s a great start! Here are some very basic principles to help you make your food work for and not against you.

The Magical Guideline for Eating Like a Nutrition Rockstar:

Aim for 40% carbs, 30% protein, and 30% fat. All day, every day.

About half the food on your plate should be carbohydrates—vegetables, healthy grains. Add a good portion of protein at every meal. Then, add some fat. It’s that simple!

Some more details…

CARBOHYDRATES (aka anything that comes from plants):

  • Vegetables: Eat huge amounts—you cannot overdo it here—especially lots of leafy greens. Go for rich color and variety. Eat something raw at every meal and all the colors of the rainbow.
  • Fruit: Eat moderate amounts of fresh fruit.
  • Avoid refined carbohydrates: The average American gets 50% of their calories from refined carbohydrates. Refined carbs (i.e. white bread, white rice, pasta, instant oatmeal) are grains that have had the fiber, vitamin E, B vitamins, bran and germ removed—all the nutrients, which stresses your digestive and endocrine system. Eating refined carbs also uses up precious vitamins and minerals to process them. Instead, try brown rice, whole grain oats, quinoa, amaranth, and millet.
  • Sweeteners: Minimal, very occasional. Less is best. If you must, opt for real sugar or maple syrup over anything artificial (NutraSweet, Sweet and Low…)
  • Avoid refined sugar. Refined sugar increases insulin and adrenal hormone production, depletes vitamins and minerals, feeds yeast and other “bad” organisms in the gut, leads to mood and energy swings, increases cravings, disrupts sleep, and increases pain and inflammation.


  • Pastured, organic, grass-fed meats, poultry, and eggs are excellent, healthy sources of protein.
  • Dairy products should be unsweetened organic whole milk-based only (no low fat, no sugar/fruit added).
  • Consider healthy sources of vegan protein as well: hemp, chia, pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame seeds, nuts, beans and legumes, and spirulina.


  • For the past 60 years, Americans have been on low-fat and/or poor quality fat diets. We are a society extremely deficient in healthy fatty acids. On top of that, the fats and oils many of us have been using are refined, unstable and dangerous to consume, as the processing methods these fats are exposed to make them toxic to our bodies.
  • The research from decades ago that suggested that fat consumption was responsible for heart disease, diabetes, and obesity has now been debunked as flawed and false. Problems arise when we eat unhealthy fats, such as hydrogenated oils.
  • Fats benefit our health and wellbeing in so many ways: they satisfy our appetite, they are the building blocks of healthy hormones, they enhance mineral absorption, they provide a long-burning source of energy, they are the building blocks of healthy cell membranes, and they aid in the formation of anti-inflammatory substances in the body.
  • Good fats are vital for every aspect of health: nuts, seeds, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, butter, avocado. Avoid “vegetable oil” or “canola oil”—no oils in clear bottles on the grocery shelves.

LIQUIDS: Drink good quality water throughout the day. As a general guideline, drink half your body weight in ounces of water each day.  You can add fresh citrus or mint for flavor. No sodas, juice, vitamin water, or sweetened drinks. You need water to keep your cells hydrated and protected, to eliminate waste and ensure the health of your mucus membranes. Adequate hydration will improve a number of health problems including sinusitis, constipation, inflammation, allergies, fatigue, joint pain, headaches, and many others.

Remember: Always choose the best quality products possible. When possible, choose Certified Organic.

Avoid processed foods, fast foods, chemically treated foods, and industrially prepared foods. Pay attention to the quality of the ingredients that go in your mouth. Eat foods as close to Nature as possible.  Shop, plan, and cook for yourself. Avoid packages. Just eat real food. (There is no pasta tree!)

Pay attention to how the food you eat makes you feel. If you’re getting bloated, headaches, energy crashes in the afternoon, think back to what you’ve eaten all day. Did you have enough protein and fat at breakfast? Look for patterns. Focus on the foods that make you feel good. This is a balanced way to eat that shouldn’t make you feel deprived, but rather should make you feel physically and emotionally healthy and vibrant–like a wellness rockstar! Occasional parties and splurges are a part of life, so enjoy. But you may find that you feel so healthy eating like this, the splurges just aren’t worth the physical after-effects!

But How Do You Get Your Protein?!

“But how do you get your protein?!”

Vegetarians and vegans hear this question ALL too often. The fact is, there are lots of great sources of dietary protein that don’t require the consumption of animals or dairy products.

Now, having said that, I just want to go on record that I generally don’t recommend a vegan diet. It’s extremely hard as a pure vegan to eat a fully balanced diet, especially as most people are far too busy to put in the effort required to make sure they are checking all the nutritional boxes along the way. (Note: I didn’t say impossible, just extremely hard. Save the hate mail, please!) We see a lot of nutritional deficiencies, fatty acid deficiencies, and blood sugar handling problems develop over time in people following vegan diets. Vegetarians–those who do eat eggs and dairy–are generally more successful at balancing their macro- and micro-nutrients.

Having said THAT, I *DO* believe that vegan sources of protein are something everyone should incorporate into a healthy balanced diet. Following are some of my favorites.

Peas: One cup of green peas has as much protein as a glass of milk. Add peas to pesto—peas, basil or cilantro, oil, pine nuts, cheese or nutritional yeast.

Quinoa: Technically a seed, not a grain, quinoa has 8g of protein per cup cooked. Quinoa is a complete protein, meaning it contains all 9 of the amino acids considered essential for life (and which must be eaten, as the body cannot manufacture them). Therefore, it is considered a “perfect food.” Sadly, some sustainability issues are arising, as countries that grow quinoa are becoming monocultures in order to feed our demands for it.  Serve as a hot cereal, use as a base for pasta-salad type of recipes, or make as a side dish with added herbs and spices.

Buckwheat: with 6 g of protein per cooked cup, this food comes from a plant similar to rhubarb and is not a grain at all. Buckwheat soba noodles, buckwheat flour for baking and pancakes, and buckwheat kasha groats as a side dish are just some of the ways to incorporate this.

Nuts and nut butters: Nuts contain lots of protein as well as healthy fat. Buy raw organic for best health benefits (not roasted), and butters that are just nuts and salt, with no added oils or sugars. Nuts are high in calories, but are a great part of a balanced diet.

Beans: two cups of kidney beans have 25 g of protein. And you don’t have to buy dried and soak overnight—canned organic beans are perfectly fine. And if you’re not worried about sodium (which most healthy people don’t need to be), you don’t even have to rinse them! Beans combined with brown rice are a perfect protein, together providing all 9 essential amino acids. Don’t forget about chickpeas, lentils, and all the other wonderful legumes out there.

Tofu and tempeh: Recommended with a bunch of caveats. First, organic ONLY—conventional soy is full of horrible toxins and is entirely GMO. I’m not flexible on this one. Second, soy contains compounds that make its proteins very hard on your body to digest, which leads to gastric upset in lots of people, as well as hidden stressors on your liver and pancreas. Fermenting soy, such as in tempeh or miso, removes much but not all of these compounds. There are also concerns about the estrogenic properties of soy and what it does to the body’s hormone balance. Organic soy should be treated as an occasional treat—if you can digest it—and not be an everyday staple of your diet.

Leafy greens: Greens don’t contain as much protein as nuts or beans, but a good amount is present, plus all the healthy antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Greens should be a large part of a balanced diet, whether you’re a carnivore or not.

Hemp: Hemp seeds or hearts have 10 g of protein in 2 tablespoons. They’re also packed full of minerals, and a rare vegan source of Omega-3 fatty acids. Great to add to yogurt, oatmeal, salads, smoothies, baked goods, or in the form of milk as a dairy-free milk substitute.

Chia seeds: Almost 5 g of protein in 2 tablespoons.  Full of fiber, minerals, and Omega-3 fatty acids. Again, great in yogurt, oatmeal, smoothies, baked goods.But also, when added to liquid they release a gelatinous coating that is great for creating vegan puddings. My favorite is to add ¼ cup of chia seeds to 1 cup of full fat coconut milk (from a can) and ¼ cup of unsweetened shredded coconut, plus a teaspoon of vanilla. Stir well and refrigerate, and in a couple of hours you have a delicious coconut pudding that is full of protein.

Seeds: sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, and poppy are all full of healthy protein and fats. I never eat a salad without at least three of these guys on top!

Spirulina algae: 4 g of protein per tablespoon. Sprinkle it on popcorn, add it to smoothies, bake it into energy bars. This dark green powerhouse is full of amino acids and minerals, and is very easy to digest.

One vegan protein I do not recommend: seitan. Made from wheat gluten, seitan is a concentrated hit of the inflammatory proteins that cause so many people problems. Even if you don’t think you have a wheat sensitivity, wheat creates inflammation throughout our bodies, from our joints to our bellies to our brains. While a little bit of organic wheat is ok sometimes, seitan is an enormous quantity of wheat gluten, which I don’t think is a good idea for anyone to ingest.

Sugar By Any Other Name…


It’s the basic form of energy we need to survive. Every cell and every process in our body is fueled by glucose. This simple monosaccharide (read: sugar) is what every carbohydrate we eat breaks down into.

Carbohydrate: Anything that comes from a plant. Lettuce is a carb. So is wheat flour. So is table sugar. So are oranges.

Every time we eat carbs, our body breaks them down into their simplest base molecule, glucose, and uses it for energy. (Or stores it as fat, if we eat more than we need. Remember, fat doesn’t make you fat–SUGAR makes you fat!).

I get asked a lot what the “healthiest” form of sugar is to eat.

Guess what? Sugar is sugar is sugar. No matter whether it’s honey, maple syrup, orange juice, or the white stuff in the sugar bowl, your body does the same thing with it. (Except for one key exception, which I’ll talk more about below, read on!) Sugar gets broken down and used for energy, and/or stored as fat.  (Sugar also is being shown to be a highly addictive substance, and to cause significant and damaging inflammation down to the cellular level in the body. It causes serious adrenal issues, leads to diabetic conditions, and feeds cancer cells. Added sugar should be kept to an absolute minimum in the diet.)

Bummer, right?

There are a few sweeteners that, while still reduced to glucose after all is said and done, will provide you with minerals, anti-oxidants, and phytonutrients. These should definitely be used very sparingly, in an effort to keep added sugar out of the diet. But for an occasional treat, consider:

  • Unsulfured blackstrap molasses:  The final by-product of the sugar refining process, this nutrient-dense sweetener is low in sugar and high in minerals and other nutrients. It contains lots of B vitamins, iron, potassium, calcium, and magnesium.
  • Coconut sugar comes from coconut flower sap. It doesn’t rapidly spike your blood sugar, and also contains lots of B vitamins, vitamin C, zinc, iron, and potassium.
  • 100% pure maple syrup, the darkest you can find (grade B or C). Minimally processed, high in minerals.
  • Dates: dried, wholesome, delicious dates are full of minerals and fiber. Dates can be soaked in water to rehydrate, then blended into a paste that can be used in baked goods. I like to throw whole dates into my smoothie.

Remember above, when I said there’s one form of sugar that doesn’t get processed the same in your body? Agave nectar has become very popular as a “raw and natural” sweetener. The problem is, agave is highly processed, and is chemically almost the same as high fructose corn syrup. Agave is a minimum of 55% fructose. Fructose doesn’t break down the same way as other sugars, and its processing puts a big strain on your liver. High consumption of fructose can lead to weight gain and fatty liver disease, among other things. Agave nectar is found in a variety of supposedly “healthy” food products, but really should be entirely avoided.

I do want to mention that the sugar that is naturally found in whole foods like fruits, veggies, and dairy products act a bit differently in your body. The fiber, protein, and fat that is naturally contained in those foods acts as a buffer to slow down the absorption of the sugars into your bloodstream. This reduces blood sugar spikes and the adrenal stress that goes along with it. Fruit, for example, contains fructose, but also vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, and fiber, in an unprocessed package. As long as you are eating a balanced diet of about 40% carbs/30% protein/30% fat, the natural sugars you’re eating will fuel you in a healthy way. ADDED sugars and sweeteners are the bad guys we’re trying to avoid.

Healthy Yummy Satisfying FAT

My last post talked about why fat doesn’t make you fat. (Sugar does!) Just to recap why we need fat, our bodies are made to run off of long-burning healthy dietary fats. Fat plays a ton of role in our bodies, including serving as an energy source, making up the membrane wall of every healthy cell, being necessary for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), serving as the building blocks for our sex hormones, promoting the healing process, making us feel satisfied and full, and making our food taste good.

So, what is fat?

Fats, or lipids, are found in most foods. (Even kale has fat in it!) Fats are classified by the length of the molecule (short, medium, or long chain), and their bond saturation with hydrogen (saturated, unsaturated). Within the family of unsaturated fats, we find the healthy Omega 3 and Omega 6 fats. There are even two fatty acids (the building blocks of fats) that are considered “essential”, which means they are necessary to sustain life, but our bodies cannot make them and so they must be ingested.

That’s a lot of chemistry!

Here’s what you need to know. Incorporate good sources of fat into your diet! Choose a variety every day, as each source of fat is comprised of different types of molecules and different beneficial fatty acids. Good choices include:

  • Nuts and seeds
  • Raw, cold-pressed oils from nuts and seeds (Note: These oils are in dark containers and refrigerated. Avoid the oils in clear plastic bottles on the grocery store shelf.)
  • Cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil
  • Saturated fats from healthy sources, such as organic grass fed beef
  • Butter and other raw dairy fats
  • Raw, organic coconut oil
  • Avocados

Fats to avoid:

  • Hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated fats and oils
  • Highly processed vegetable oils (corn, soybean, sunflower, safflower, canola)
  • Trans fatty acids (from hydrogenated oils)
  • Fried foods

These fats are all dangerous as they cause inflammation at the cellular level. Inflammation is the root cause of many diseases, and heart disease in particular. Although for years we believed that unsaturated oils such as canola were actually good for the heart, we now know they cause inflammation and disease, and are to be avoided.

Here’s the bottom line: You don’t have to limit healthy fat in your diet. Because fat is so satisfying, it’s very hard to eat too much of it.  So what does that look like on your plate? About one-third of your plate should be some kind of protein, including animal (meats) and vegetable (beans) sources. And most of the rest should be vegetables of all kinds. Healthy fats, like avocados, coconut oil, and butter can be used liberally. Limit grains and fruits, and always avoid processed, packaged, denatured foods.

Why Fat Doesn’t Make You Fat

If you’re like me, you grew up hearing the message that eating fat would make you fat. Low fat eating was the only way to go. We cooked out of the American Heart Association’s low fat cookbook, we ate Snackwells fat-free cookies, and butter might as well have been arsenic. Americans ate that way for decades. And guess what? As a nation, we got sicker and fatter.

Fat is an absolutely essential ingredient for life. Just some of the many roles our dietary fats play in our bodies include:

  • Fats make up the membrane of every cell in our body. The health of that membrane is critical to every process every cell needs to do, whether it’s excreting toxins, taking in nutrients, or making a muscle contract.
  • Fats are critical for the absorption of many of the vitamins we eat. Without fat, those vitamins (A, D, E and K, specifically) cannot be utilized and are just excreted after eating.
  • Fats play a vital role in fighting inflammation and promoting healing.
  • Fats are critical to the creation of hormones, including those all-important sex hormones like estrogen and progesterone.
  • Fats make you feel satiated, make your food taste good, and allow you to eat less food and feel fuller, longer.

Our bodies are meant to run on fat, as it provides us with the best long-burning source of energy. Unfortunately, most of us are fueling our bodies with carbohydrates/sugars. (Note: carbs are anything that comes from a plant, which includes sugar and grains and fruits. Every carb we eat is eventually broken down into its simplest sugar form, glucose.)

Every time you eat carbohydrate-heavy foods, it sets off a cascade of hormones in your body, as the body tries to process all that glucose and store it away for use. The problem is, our bodies become so hyper-sensitive to the nonstop flood of sugar most of us are eating, that our hormones overreact and do too good of a job processing the glucose. As a result, our blood sugar levels plummet (you know that crash you feel an hour after you eat a giant plate of pasta? Yeah. That.), and we are left craving more sugar or stimulants such as caffeine to try to get our energy back up. Low-fat high-carb eating sets off a chain of events that can lead to hypoglycemia, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, and even type II diabetes. Our bodies can only handle so much sugar bombardment.

Beyond that blood sugar roller coaster though, the fact is our cells can only store away some of that processed glucose. Once our cellular and liver storage is full, but we continue eating more carbs, that processed glucose gets stored away as fat. There’s just nowhere else for it to go. Body fat. Belly fat. Fat. Sugar makes you fat.

When we eat meals that contain a good portion of fat, a few things happen. First, we feel full, happy, satisfied. We eat less. And we can go longer without wanting to eat again, because we’ve given our body long-burning fuel. Our cravings are reduced. Fat also slows the absorption of carbohydrates, so any sugars you have eaten will be much less likely to spike your blood sugar. And at the cellular level, we are building strong bodies, tissues, and cells.

Low-fat eating is a certain route to cravings, blood sugar issues, sleep disturbances, and even more severe disease. Give your body what it needs, and include some healthy fats every time you eat.