Preventing the “Holiday Hangover”

Hi everyone!

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, ushering in the holiday party season! We know how hard it can be during the holidays to stay on track with a healthy food and exercise plan. When the splurging on treats, big meals and drinking goes a little bit too far it’s all to easy to run into what we call the “holiday hangover.” It can creep up quickly, even after the first few festivities.  You know, the “I’m waking up thinking about sugar” habit starts, the headaches, increased appetite, more frequent colds/sickness from a depressed immune system, and yes…the potential dreaded holiday weight gain.

But! We come bearing good news! Practical Nutrition chatted with Scot and Kara from Channel 3′s Better Connecticut to discuss some simple ways to avoid the hangover (and still enjoy the holidays!). Watch the video below to make this a happy and healthy holiday season!

WFSB 3 Connecticut

Click here to download the recipes and key points featured in the video! 

Click here if you’re interested in joining us for a “Healthy for the Holidays” 10 day cleanse!

As always, stay well, eat well and have a beautiful week!

Ana and Amanda

Practical Nutrition Challenge: 11 Tips For Better Health

Making the commitment to “better health in 2014″ may sound good, but with so much information out there we recognize it can be overwhelming to know where to begin. We’re so happy you’re taking the time to read this post! It priorities and highlights where we feel your focus should be as you think about health related changes you may want to make for the upcoming year.

PN Mascot: Representing the Foundation Of Health!

PN Mascot: Representing the Foundations Of Health!

Anyone who knows Amanda or me knows that we’re goal setters who are always up for a challenge…especially when it comes to trying something new that we know will benefit our health. Recently, I (Ana) started a new 20 minute “move my body” routine that leaves me feeling amazing even when I don’t have enough time for an “official” workout (you can email Amanda or me if you want to learn more about that routine- I’m hooked!). As we approach the new year and come out of what may have turned into a few “toxic” few weeks food wise, you can set similar goals for your food habits. Here are a few simple ideas to get you going. We suggest picking one a week, and building an arsenal of healthy food related tips and tricks that can make a huge impact on your overall health if maintained over a period of 3 months or more:

  1. Include a mug of hot water with fresh lemon daily- this contributes to alkalizing the body (some studies show that cancer cells cant thrive in an alkaline environment), and promotes gentle daily detox
  2. Drink half your body weight in oz per day of water (more depending on your exercise routine)- this will help you take a healthy poop at least once a day and also keep food cravings at bay
  3. Make sure you are getting enough high quality omega 3 fatty acids on a daily basis. The form our body utilizes best come from cold water, minimally processed fish.  If you don’t eat a lot of  fish take some god fish oil (ask us if you have questions on this- individual needs vary and the quality/integrity issues with fish oils is particularly high in the supplement industry)
  4. GREEN AND RED FRUITS AND VEGETABLES! Get 2-3 cups of these life givers every day (organic if possible!)- kale, spinach, brussel sprouts, beets (check out Amanda’s balsamic beet recipes and develop a new relationship with these guys!), arugula, sprouts, berries, pomegranates, etc. etc.
  5. Buy your meat locally and organic/grass fed (for red meat) whenever possible
  6. Eat 3-4 organic eggs per week (the whole egg!)
  7. Try not eating food that comes in a package for one week and see how you feel- instead make 2-3 “batch” cooked recipes throughout the week for lunches and dinners- cook once and eat 3 times! For breakfast and snacks try some nuts, fruit, eggs, smoothies, or Greek Yogurt- all of these just involves some thinking ahead
  8. Keep a food journal for a week- but don’t focus on the food you’re eating- focus on the thoughts/feelings you have before you eat- what have you eaten all day up to that point? Are you hungry or thirsty? What is driving your hunger- social setting? Routine? Boredom? Other emotions? Getting a handle on the psych behind our own food choices is empowering and ushers in lasting change
  9. Check out the ingredient list on all the food you eat- forget about the number and nutrition facts. Instead, make sure what you’re eating really have in it what it claims to be (i.e. granola bar- is it 1% granola and 99% chemicals and sugar? i.e. sports drinks- is it artificial flavors, sugar, and chemicals or real food based sources of electrolytes (lemons, maple syrup, sea salt, etc) that have what your body needs?) Again, more of a thought process technique
  10. Try including fermented foods every day for a week. Not only do they improve the count of “good belly bugs” aka probiotics (strengthening our immune system and improving brain health- brain/gut connection), they contain live enzymes that help break down our food (you might notice a flatter stomach),  and B vitamins for lots of energy. They aren’t as overwhelming as you think- easy sources are found at all health food stores and include Kefir (much like yogurt!), Kombucha (yummy fizzy tea like drink!), sauer kraut, fermented carrots or cucumbers, etc!
  11. Last but not least, know your body. Take some time to learn what your individual nutrition needs are. Think about what makes you feel the best/most alive/best levels of energy and relate those feelings to the food choices you were making during that time. Haven’t experienced how your food choices can boost your mood, success, relationships, and happiness in your life yet? Take some time and see what you might be missing in your diet- you will be surprised how much a few small changes in your diet can affect many areas of your life for the good

In our mind, overall wellness involves the optimal healthy of mind, body, and spirit. On a physiological level, the above combination of these 10 simple habits result in steadier blood sugar levels, a healthy body weight, reduction of overall systemic inflammation, a stronger immune system, and a more efficient detox system in your body. When thinking about making some health changes for the new year and doing some “damage control” from the holidays, think about all the positive things you CAN do not about the things you will have to give up. Positive thoughts lead to positive actions!

Keys to success always include:

  • Accountability
  • Measurable Goals to Track Your Progress
  • Know Why You Want to Reach Your Goals- Be Internally Motivated and Remind Yourself of This Frequently
  • Predicting Your Potential Road Blocks
  • Just Getting Going…
  • And Just Keep Going!

Here’s to the health and happiness of you and the ones you love! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

As always, stay well, eat well, and have a beautiful week!

Ana and Amanda :)

The Hidden Health Secrets Of Hemp Seeds!

Discovering hemp seeds was a game changer for me. If you’re looking for a plant based protein, hemp has it all. On top of containing all of the amino acids our body needs (making it a “complete protein”), they have a perfect ratio of omega 3:omega 6 fat’s which keeps inflammation down in the body and helps our brain, heart, mood, and joints.

Its always good to remember that hemp is different from marijuana. Both hemp and marijuana come from the mother plant Cannabis Sativa. The main difference between the two is that hemp does not contain the active chemical “THC” which causes the effects of marijuana use. This is why consuming hemp seeds or any other hemp products will not affect any type of drug test.

The unique nutritional profile and diverse flavor potential hemp contains makes it something that I always have in my cabinet. The video below should help you understand a bit more about this super food and offer some practical tips on how to use it!

Treating High Blood Pressure Naturally, Part 1

Salt-

High blood pressure, aka hypertension, is one of the most common chronic diseases plaguing us today. In fact, it’s the number one most frequent reason for a visit to the doctor’s office, and for good reason… hypertension is a major cause of stroke and heart disease, affecting approximately 1 billion individuals worldwide. According to projections, over 90% of adults in the United States will develop hypertension by age 65, but only 34% are able to return to a healthy blood pressure! That is a problem! 

 

The first thing most people do when diagnosed with high blood pressure is to start drug treatment. While this will lower your blood pressure into a healthy range, and that will make your doctor happy, this doesn’t get to the root of the problem… it just covers up the symptom. There’s a reason your body felt the need to increase your blood pressure, and it’s not because it wants to kill you; it’s because there’s an underlying issue that needs to be addressed.

There are two root causes of hypertension in most cases:

  1. Low potassium intake
  2. Weight gain

And that’s where we should target our treatment.  I will get into the details of these and provide practical tips over the next couple of weeks. But today, I’d like to focus on what does NOT cause high blood pressure… sodium. This topic needs special attention, due to the excessive media attention sodium gets.

 

Salt is required for life.

First, you need to know that salt is a nutrient. Salt contains sodium and chloride, both of which are important for our health. Sodium is important for normal cellular metabolism and for maintaining proper fluid volume. It also plays a role in the nervous system, allowing us to move or react to our environment, among other things. Chloride is needed for stomach acid production, a necessary component of digestion and an important defense against food-borne pathogens. Salt is a nutrient that our bodies need, despite the image it gets these days. 

Some of us are more sensitive to salt than others.

In reality, we all respond differently to reducing salt intake. Some experience an increase in blood pressure, others see a decrease, and still others see no change at all. Take this 1987 study, for example. Subjects had normal blood pressure to start, and their sodium intake was restricted to 1600 mg/day, a very low level. This graph shows that the change in blood pressure varied wildly depending on the person. Some people are “salt-sensitive”, while others are not. And it turns out, whether we get enough potassium has a big impact on our salt sensitivity. More on that next week.

salt

Reducing salt too much can be harmful.

There was an article in the New York Times about this recently, click here to read it for yourself. The truth is that restricting sodium to the level that the Dietary Guidelines recommend, 2300 mg per day, can be dangerous. According to a researcher quoted in the article, “As sodium levels plunge, triglyceride levels increase, insulin resistance increases, and the activity of the sympathetic nervous system increases. Each of these can increase the risk of heart disease.” In other words, following the guidelines for sodium can increase your risk for heart disease and diabetes.

For every study showing a benefit for reducing salt intake, there’s a contrasting study showing the opposite.

 

What does it all mean?

When we have this much conflicting information on salt, it means we’re missing something. I’ll break it down for you.

  1. Foods that are high in sodium tend to be junk foods that are also full of additives, artificial flavors and colors, sugar, and more. Think canned, boxed, and frozen foods. In fact, 80% of our sodium intake comes from processed foods… and there’s much more going on there than just sodium.
  2. People who eat a lot of processed food tend to eat too much food in general and are prone to weight gain (one of the main causes of high blood pressure).
  3. In addition to being full of sodium, junk foods are also very low in potassium (the other main cause of high blood pressure).

Hopefully that clears things up on sodium! 

Stay tuned for next week’s post, where we’ll get into treating the first cause of high blood pressure: potassium!

Adding Fat to Your Veggies is Good For You!

oliveoil

The low-fat craze of the 90′s just won’t die.  I thought we were past low-fat at this point, yet every time I go to the grocery store I’m still bombarded with the fat-free message… low-fat this, fat-free this, vegan-oil-free-fat-free-dressing that. In fact, Whole Foods has a full line of “healthy” fat-free salad dressings at the salad bar. In the school lunch program, fat is being pulled from the menu like never before in favor of whole grains, vegetables, and skim milk.  New York City schools have gone as far to ban butter(!?!?). For the average consumer, the message is loud and clear: fat is bad, mmmkay? We’ve gotta eat more vegetables! Eat your broccoli, eat your salad! Throw out the butter and oil! Fat’s killing the kids!

But there’s a problem with that. A big one. Of course vegetables are full of nutrients, but eating them without fat renders their fat-soluble vitamins useless. Getting those important nutrients in is why we eat veggies in the first place, isn’t it!?

To quote one study… “Essentially no absorption of carotenoids was observed when salads with fat-free salad dressing were consumed. A substantially greater absorption of carotenoids was observed when salads were consumed with full-fat than with reduced-fat salad dressing.” Translation: no fat = no absorption. A little fat = a little absorption. A lot of fat = a lot of absorption. Doesn’t get any simpler than that. We need fat for carotenoid absorption, no two ways about it.

Maybe I should explain exactly what a “carotenoid” is… carotenoids are a family compounds found in plant foods, like spinach, kale, carrots, tomatoes, etc. This group includes some nutritional all-stars like beta-carotene, lycopene, and lutein, among others. They provide a wide variety of health benefits, ranging from having anti-cancer properties, to promoting eye health, to preventing plaque buildup in the coronary arteries. In addition they can be turned into vitamin A in the body, helping us meet our need for that important vitamin. You don’t want to miss this stuff! But if you’re not adding fat to your salads or your steamed veggies, you’re not getting it!

Of course, you need to use some discretion here… don’t go overboard and add a half a bottle of olive oil to your salad. And try to stick with good, healthy fats, like olive oil, butter, and coconut oil. Fat isn’t bad; you need it! Get out of the low-fat mentality. Take your brain out, shake it out, smother it in butter, and you’re ready to go! Add fat to your veggies and enjoy it… your body will thank you. :)

Eating For Optimal Energy with Dr. Ronda Nelson on BlogTalkRadio

Are you eating healthy and feeling run-down during the day? In this radio program, Ana talks with Dr. Ronda Nelson of The Healthy Way Cafe about this important health issue. Click the “play” button below to hear the program. For even more information on improving your overall health and medical conditions naturally, visit Dr. Ronda’s website at www.restorationhealth.net. Enjoy!

 

Why I Don’t Believe in Canola Oil

canola-oil

Ahh canola oil. If you haven’t heard of canola oil, then you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade. In recent years, this oil has exploded onto the scene to become the most popular cooking oil out there, to some extent replacing soybean oil and corn oil. It’s higher in monounsaturated fat, and it contains omega-3′s, so we’re told it’s healthier. But is it really a healthy choice?

Let’s start with a little history, just for context. The modern canola plant is the result of years and years of hybridization and genetic modification. There’s evidence of using the canola plant (then called rapeseed) that dates back about 4,000 years to India. No word on what it was used for. But more recently, in the 13th century, it was used as fuel for oil lamps. It was also used during World War II as a lubricant on steam engines. Until the 1970s though, it was basically inedible; it contained a highly toxic fat called “erucic acid”. The canola of today has been bred to have a low erucic acid content, which has allowed it to become a real, edible oil. Kinda weird huh? Formerly used to fuel oil lamps and as a lubricant on steam engines… now America’s darling cooking oil.

What about nutritionally? What about those healthy monounsaturated fats and the omega-3′s?

Well, the monounsaturated fats are great, but that doesn’t automatically make canola oil healthy. Oreos contain healthy dark chocolate, but that doesn’t make Oreos healthy, does it? No. What else is there to canola oil? You’ve heard it’s high in omega-3′s, but that’s a little misleading. Not all omega-3′s are equal, and the type in canola oil isn’t the type associated with all those health benefits… you can only get those healthy fats from fish. So that health claim is overhyped. It’s also pretty high in inflammatory omega-6 fats, although admittedly not as high as other vegetable oils like soybean and corn oils. In terms of healthy fat content, it’s average at best.

In addition, much of the canola oil in the store is genetically modified; if it’s not labeled organic, there’s a good chance it’s GMO. The effects of genetically modified foods on health are completely untested and unknown; I don’t advocate being the guinea pig.

And, although the FDA has approved canola oil as a safe food, it still prohibits its use in infant formula. What’s the deal with that? If it’s so healthy, why keep it from our babies? There seems to be something fishy going on there…

What about how canola oil is made? What can we learn from that? Is it a natural process?? You tell me…

It’s treated with chemicals, soaked in chemicals, and bleached. Not so natural is it? Nothing that needs that type of processing in order to become edible should even be considered food!

All in all, this is why I don’t believe in canola oil. It’s nutritionally neutral, it’s genetically modified, it’s suspiciously prohibited from infant formula, and it’s highly, highly processed. Remember the saying, don’t eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food? Well, she sure would have a hard time recognizing canola oil! Unless maybe she had a steam engine to lubricate ;)

To Snack or Not To Snack!? I Say Snack!

snacks“Snack food” can be our best friend or worst enemy. Those of you who know me can vouch for the fact I’m eating something every 2-3 hours- its fun and restores my energy,  mood and focus almost immediately (if done correctly)! Eating “small frequent meals” is a great way to make sure you don’t eat too much food in one sitting or save the majority of your calories for a certain time of day or night. Both of these habits can lean to weight gain, unstable blood sugar, mood swings/irritability, depressed outlook on life, midday “crash” and abnormal sleep patterns. The good news is that allowing “clean”, mindful snacking to become a part of your everyday routine can transform these symptoms in as quickly as in one week!

Here are two questions I ask myself before I have a snack:

1. What have I eaten so far today? This helps me determine what to choose- assess your day’s intake for protein (chicken, eggs, fish, etc. etc.),  healthy carbs (fruits, vegetables, beans, complex grains- quinoa, etc), and beneficial fats (avocado, nuts, olive oil, coconut, etc.) for the day so far, and make choices based on what foods you might be missing.

2. Am I really hungry? Create a “mental” hunger scale in your mind to rule out eating because your bored, stressed, emotional, tired, etc. 1=real hunger (you haven’t eaten in 4-5 hours, you’re ready for a meal), 5= perfectly satisfied after a nice balanced meal, and 10=thanksgiving day stuffed. Snacks should be consumed when you are around a 3 on the hunger scale, and leave you at about a 4. If you’re unsure of your hunger, drink a big glass of water, get up and walk around for 10 minutes, and reassess the situation (dehydration can be mistaken for hunger). Never let yourself go below a 3 or above an 8 on the hunger scale (unless it’s actually Thanksgiving- that is your one exception!).

Here are some key things I look for/avoid when I choose my snacks for the day (who doesn’t love taking a munchie break?!):

- My snacks almost always contains a fruit or vegetable in one form or another (contains fiber- helps slow digestion and keep you feeling full; also offers the body some hydration)

- I avoid anything that comes in a package that is more than 5 ingredients (ie Seaweed Snax are in a package but they have 3 ingredients; almond butter is in a package but it contains: almond butter, and so on and so forth…)

- All I drink throughout the day is water, 2-3 cups of tea/coffee with limited additives, or the occasional cup of unsweetened almond milk. I avoid all artificially sweetened/low calorie/diet/light  beverages

- I make sure my snacks I pack for the day are a combination of sweet (fruit), salty (seaweed snacks, unsalted nuts that I add a few shakes of sea salt myself to), crunchy (veggies), savory (hummus), and for me a nip of chocolate…yum!

It takes a bit of work but the benefits of being prepared with healthy snacks overwhelmingly outweigh the hassle it takes to pack them. Here are some of my favorites: 

- Carrot/celery sticks dipped in almond butter, hummus, or sesame tahini (a sesame seed butter- so good!)

- Seaweed Snax with avocado slices and tuna if I need some protein

- 2 cups organic popcorn with 2 tsp olive oil and sea salt; in addition have some fresh sliced peppers and hummus

- Hard boiled egg mixed with 1/4 avocado on 10 rice crackers

- Simple Smoothie (made with whey protein, almond milk, stevia, coconut flakes, and 1 cup frozen blueberries- no blender needed, drink like a glass of milk with extra nutrition!)

- 1/2 cup canned organic pumpkin, 1 scoop protein powder, and dash of cinnamon

- Frozen (or fresh) grapes with 8-10 brazil nuts (super tasty, nutrient packed nut!)

- Greek yogurt with stevia, cinnamon, and fresh blueberries

- Hummus with cucumber slices

- Chai tea (brewed strong) blended with 1 scoop protein powder and 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk; 1/2 apple on side

- 1/2 grapefruit mixed with 1/4 of an avocado with dash of sea salt

- Add a bit more protein to any of these to help make it a more substantial meal

One more thing…a lot of people ask me if its okay to eat before bed. My answer is pretty simple and can be applied to almost anyone: if its 2-3 hours after you’ve had dinner and you feel hungry again…have a snack! Ask yourself the questions outlined above and follow the guidelines above for any time of day and you’ll be fine. Listening to our bodies is a lost art…separate your emotions, stress from the day, and habitual food routines from your bodies physical needs… begin to trust that your body will tell you when it needs to eat. The key is listening and responding to that enough times in a row to form a new habit :)

Get creative, be prepared, and you will feel amazing! Its not about a diet or restricting the foods you love…and it sure isn’t about being perfect all the time…its about being in the mindset that food is powerful and experiencing the fact that it can transform the way you think, feel, and respond to the world.

As always, stay well, eat well, and have a beautiful week!  

 

Ana Elisabeth

Nutrition Myths: Humans Are Herbivores

If you’ve ever read any of the popular vegetarian/vegan books out there, then you’ve heard this argument. These authors might say something like… “Humans were never meant to eat meat; our physiology isn’t built for it. Our digestive tract, for instance, is much more similar to that of an herbivore, an animal who only eats plants.” To the average person just looking to eat healthy, this can sound alluring. That’s where I come in and tell you why it’s completely wrong!

Let’s look at some digestive tracts then, shall we? Below are the digestive organs of a human, a cow, and a cat, in that order. Cows are herbivores, eating only plants, while cats are mostly carnivores, and they can derive all the nutrition they need from meat alone. Humans are omnivores, and they lie somewhere in between.

catlas

humandigestionCow Digestive System

 

You can see here that a cow, designed to eat grass, has four stomachs (not to mention the spacious interior and giant cecum).  If you’re counting, that’s three more than we humans have, and those extra stomachs serve to ferment fibrous plant material for digestion and absorption.  Humans don’t have this ability, which is why if we ate grass, it would come out just the way it came in. Ever seen undigested food in your poop? It’s always a plant food right? That’s why.

What humans do have, however, is the ability to produce HCl, aka stomach acid, to break down protein from animal products.  Cows and other herbivores can’t do this. Point: we’re not herbivores!

Carnivores like cats, as you can see above, have similar digestive systems to humans. While our physiologies are different, and cats thrive on an extremely high protein/low carbohydrate diet, you can see that we have all the same digestive machinery of an animal designed to eat meat.

Unlike cats, we humans rely on plant foods for needed carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Point: we’re not carnivores either!

Overall, humans take little pieces from herbivores and little pieces from carnivores. We’re unquestionably omnivores; our bodies run best when we feed it both plant and animal foods.

For more information, check out this article here entitled “Humans are Omnivores” (written by a vegetarian!), which goes into much more excruciating scientific detail.

The Skinny Ideal: It Wasn’t Always This Way

If you’re a woman, I don’t think I need to tell you that society values thinness. Everywhere you look, there are thin models, thin actresses, thin news anchors… it’s a not-so-subtle hint. Thin is considered attractive, and you’ve been hearing the message loud and clear for most of your life. Of course I can’t stand it, but there’s not much I can do to change it. I’m only one man (who happens to like a little more meat on his gals ;) ). What I CAN do, however, is show you that society didn’t always value thinness. In fact, just a few decades ago, thinness was frowned upon!

Take this ad, found in the book “Food in the United States, 1820-1890″. It’s for a weight-gain product called “Fat-ten-u”.

Fat-ten-u

There are plenty of other ads for this product online, you can find a few of them here. Fat-ten-u is advertised to “make the thin plump and rosy with honest fleshiness of form.” Yes, you’re reading this right. There are no typos, and it’s definitely not April Fool’s Day. Here’s a quote from another ad… “[a thin woman] must, in the confines of her bedroom, through shame, try to cover her poor thin figure from the gaze of her beloved spouse.” I couldn’t make this stuff up. Women in the 1890s wanted to gain weight! Plumpness was attractive! Crazy huh?

I say this not to make anyone question their weight loss efforts; I definitely don’t want to discourage you from shedding a few unwanted pounds. But there are two important points I want to hammer home.

1.  Trends come and go. Right now, it’s cool to be skinny. One hundred years ago, it was cool to be plump. Things are always changing. Don’t get caught up in the current trends, and don’t assume that our temporary and ever-changing societal ideals have anything to do with how you should look.

2.  Everyone is different. Many women, no matter how hard they try, will never ever look like paper-thin models; their bodies just weren’t built for it. Many other women will never look pleasingly plump. Everyone’s different. There is no universal ideal body. Know yours, love it, and be confident in it; it’s the only one you’ve got!

:)