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Pig to plate: The lowdown on pork, including do healthy hot dogs or bacon exist?

unhealthy hot dogsWith barbecue season in full force and organics cropping up everywhere, one question remains to be answered: is there really such thing as healthy hot dogs or bacon? In the U.S., many of us eat pork more than other red meat. We eat a lot of it – bacon, sausage, hot dogs, ham, chops, pork steaks, ribs, roasts and more. But should we really be putting all this pig on our plates?

If you’re a vegetarian, vegan or animal activist, the answer is clear. But if you’re a meat eater, the answer may not be so black and white.

Pigs 101

Despite the advertising campaign, pork is actually a red meat. Due to its light color after cooking, some consider it a white meat. But because pork contains more myoglobin (an oxygen-carrying protein) than chicken or fish, is a livestock product and has been linked to increased risk for heart disease and cancer, it is actually classified as a red meat.

Now that we’ve cleared that mystery up, let’s look at the benefits of eating pork.

Well, pork tastes delicious – so, not a benefit. It does give us some healthy fat and protein, if it’s not overpowered with additives, sugar and other junk.

But consider what we know about pigs. They eat just about anything, including their own feces, their own young and other dead animals.

Besides not sweating much, pigs digest their tantalizing menu of goodies more quickly than other livestock animals, resulting in less removal of toxins. Those toxins then get stored in the pig’s fatty tissues until we consume them. Still sound delicious?

What worse? According to onegreenplanet.org, more than 80% of factory-farmed pigs have pneumonia when they go to the slaughterhouse. If you aren’t exposing yourself to the pneumonia when eating the pork, you sure are taking in some of the antibiotics it was given.

Though sometimes warranted, antibiotics kill the good bacteria as well as the bad bacteria in our digestive tracts. Without the healthy (good) bacteria, poor gut health can lead to many other health issues.

Plus, if you follow Old Testament scripture in the Bible, God considered the pig an unclean animal (See Leviticus 11).

So even with all this information, I have to admit that I still love the taste of pork. And you might, too.

So can processing the pork take away some of the health risks. And finally, is there a healthy hot dog out there?

Pigs to plate: does processing the pork make it healthier?

Processing pork is meant to kill harmful bacteria or parasites in the meat. But due to the pig’s makeup and lifestyle, eating processed pork can increase our risk for swine flu, trichinosis, other viruses or parasites and cancer.

Plus, whether uncured or cured, sausage, bacon and hot dogs will contain nitrites and nitrates. At least with uncured versions, the nitrates and nitrites come from more natural sources such as celery powder, instead of added, man-made sources. Nitrates and nitrites are thought to be cancer causing, so we should consume only natural sources of them, in moderation.

Finally, what’s worse is that the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) concluded that no amount of processed meat is safe, so they recommend avoiding all of it, all the time (mercola.com).

So, we can conclude that processingthis already unhealthy meat does not make it healthier. Sad, I know. I love my bacon, too.

Roping in the processed meats prognosis

What does the WCRF’s recommendation mean to us meat lovers?

Most processed meats are pork-based, but any deli meat or packaged meat and even meat from a local farm may be processed. Processedmeans that the meat has been preserved by curing, salting or smoking it, or by adding chemical preservatives to it.

Processed meats include many of our go-tos: ham, salami, pastrami, pepperoni, hot dogs and bacon, as well as some sausages and hamburgers.

So the prognosis is that we should all stop eating processed meats!

That said, I’m a realist and a meat lover. So what other choices do we have? We can:

  1. choose to eat the unhealthier, conventional processed meats, but much less often.
  2. healthy hot dogresearch and find a trustworthy local source of the cleanest, most organic meat possible.
  3. learn to make our own paleo bacon.
  4. purchase more organic versions of pork products from brands such as The Piggery, Pederson’s Natural Farmsand Wellshire Farms.
  5. find store brands that offer uncured, organic versions made from beef instead of pork, such as Applegate 100% organic, grass-fed beef hot dogs (not their “natural” version). Note that they are still processed, but more organically and they are made from beef instead of pork.

As a society, we love bacon, ham and pork and many of us eat it daily. But to sum up the answer to ‘do healthy hot dogs or bacon truly exist’, I am sad to say, no.

However, we can choose healthierversions of them. If we eat those much less often and enjoy fresher, unprocessed meats or plant-based foods (even better) instead, our bodies will become healthier, too.

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

Eating an acidic vs alkaline diet: why it matters and what you should do

From hlbenefits.com

People have become more aware of eating an acidic vs alkaline diet as we are making efforts to improve our health. “The alkaline diet” has actually become a thing. So what exactly does acid and alkaline foods do to our bodies and how you should really eat?

Benefits of eating an acidic vs alkaline diet

Just like water, your body’s tissues and fluids have a pH level. Zero is completely acidic, 14 is completely alkaline and 7 is neutral.

At its best, the pH level of your blood will be 7.35 – 7.45, or slightly alkaline. Your kidney normally controls the pH level of your blood.

However, when your body is too acidic (acidosis) – 3.5 or below – you may experience symptoms, such as:

  • acne
  • brittle hair and nails
  • depression
  • dry skin
  • fatigue
  • headaches
  • mood swings
  • poor digestion
  • poor sleep
  • sensitive gums
  • shallow breathing

Why? With mild acidosis, the amount of free radicals in your body can increase, making you more susceptible to bacteria and viral infections. So eating an acidic diet does not offer any known health benefits and can actually wreak havoc on your body.

On the other hand, eating an alkaline diet offers several health benefits. It can help:

  • decrease blood pressure and cholesterol
  • decrease risk for kidney stones
  • improve bone density
  • improve hormone levels
  • maintain a healthy weight
  • reduce acid reflux
  • reduce chronic pain (and inflammation)

An alkaline environment may also make certain chemotherapy drugs more effective and less toxic, though this has not yet been validated by research.

However, as always, moderation is best. If your stomach environment is too alkaline (alkalosis), you might experience confusion, nausea or muscles twitches.

Your best option is to limit acidic foods and eat plenty of alkaline foods.

Understanding and balancing alkaline vs acidic foods

Fruits and vegetables have a negative Potential Renal Acid Load (PRAL) score, which means, in simple terms, that they may not produce the effect you would expect. When foods reach the kidney, they produce more ammonium (acid) or bicarbonate (alkaline), and this result is called the PRAL score.

For example, a lemon is acidic outside your body, but when eaten, it has an alkalinizing effect. Contrary to this, milk is alkaline outside your body, but is acidic when eaten.

For optimal health, aim for that slightly alkaline pH level of 7.35-7.45 by limiting your intake of these acidic foods:

acidic vs alkaline diet 1

 

*Regardless of your pH, these foods should be limited or avoided when seeking better health.

Next, eat plenty of these alkaline foods (fresh, organic are best):

acidic vs alkaline diet 2

 

Note that these lists of foods are not exhaustive but will get you started in the right direction. And do not necessarily eliminate eggs or walnuts from your diet, as they offer many other health benefits, but just be aware that they are more acidic foods.

More regimented than just being mindful of eating an acidic vs alkaline diet, some people actually choose to follow the alkaline diet, also known as the alkaline ash diet, alkaline acid diet, acid alkaline diet, acid ash diet or pH diet. This diet’s protocol allows fruits, vegetables, soybeans and tofu (organic, without the isolates), some nuts, seeds and legumes. But you need to avoid dairy, meat, eggs, most grains, walnuts, processed foods, alcohol and caffeine. The alkaline diet works for both vegans and vegetarians.

Summarizing acidic vs alkaline diet considerations

Too much acid does no good whatsoever.

Keep in mind that calcium is the most important mineral your body uses to neutralize acid, which in turn, helps prevent osteoporosis. If you choose to follow the alkaline diet, be sure you get plenty of calcium through leafy greens, sea vegetables, nuts (except walnuts) and sesame seeds.

Adding more alkaline foods will likely benefit your health, as many of those foods are fresh fruits and vegetables, which we can’t seem to get enough of. But if you have other health conditions or think you may already be too alkaline, consider testing your own pH level using a special litmus paper before making any drastic changes to your diet.

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

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Demystifying capers – those pea-looking nuggets full of nutrition

Capers make appearances in many dishes. My first sighting of them happened many years ago in an Italian dish – tortellini perhaps. I thought they were peas and picked them all out. I’ve since grown to like fresh or frozen peas, and have learned a bit more about capers.

What are those pea-mimicking things they call capers?

capers
From theheritagecook.com

Known for their Mediterranean flair, capers are the flower buds of a plant. They are typically dark green, pea-sized or slightly smaller (non-pareil, surfines) and pack a sharp, salty and sometimes lemony taste. Larger capers (capucines, capotes or grusas) are less popular. Though a caper looks like a pea, it tastes more like an olive.

Caperberries, on the other hand, are the fruit of the bush, and should not be confused with capers.

How nutritious are capers, if at all?

Instead of picking these little nuggets out of your food like I did, give them several tries. Capers provide protein, vitamins C, A and K, iron, calcium, fiber, sodium, rutin (good for circulation) and quercetin (an antioxidant, anti-bacterial, analgesic and anti-inflammatory).

Capers have helped treat hemorrhoids and varicose veins, lower LDL cholesterol in obese individuals, lessen stomachaches and flatulence and relieve arthritic pain. Because capers contain a high amount of sodium and tend to thin your blood, avoid or limit consumption of them if you are pregnant, undergoing surgery soon or have high blood pressure.

How do you cook with capers?

You’ll often find capers as a garnish or ingredient in tomato sauce or on a salad, meat or fish entrée. But you can also use capers to add a salty, pungent flavor to:

  • sauces or dressings
  • breadcrumbs
  • tuna salad
  • pasta salad
  • eggs, especially deviled
  • stews or soups

Most capers are pickled (and found near the olives in a store), so look for versions without added sugars, especially if you are following a Whole30 or Paleo protocol. Rinse capers before eating them to reduce your sodium intake and add them toward the end of your cooking process to maintain their firm texture and punchy flavor. Lastly, eat capers in moderation so you’re not taking in too much sodium.

If sodium is not your enemy, dabble with capers in your next Italian or fish dish. Look for the small, non-pareil capers without sugar and add them in your final minutes of meal prep. They may be the tastiest and most nutrient-packed gems you’ve ever eaten!

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

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Vegetarian vs vegan: what you need to know before doing a plant-based diet

Vegetarian vs vegan eaters face challenges you should consider before converting to one of these diets – whether following the trend or for other reasons.

Up to 5 percent of American adults consider themselves to be vegetarians, according to a July 2012 Gallup poll, and 2% consider themselves vegan (livestrong.com). This percentage of vegetarians isn’t drastically different from other European countries, surprisingly. But, a 2006 survey found that 40% of India’s population, or 399 million people, are vegetarians (raw-food-health.net). This represents more vegetarians than the rest of the world combined.

Meanwhile, according to a report by research firm GlobalData, 1% of U.S. consumers claimed to be vegan in 2014, with this percentage rising to 6% in 2017. The numbers of vegans in United Kingdom and Australia are also growing rapidly (foodrevolution.org).

Before changing from a meat eating to a plant-based diet, be sure you consider the facts, because done improperly, the change can be devastating to your health.

Defining vegetarian vs vegan diets

Both vegetarians and vegans eat plenty of vegetables (surprise!), fruits, grains, nuts and legumes. Both typically avoid eating meat, poultry (chicken, turkey, duck, etc.) However, some people modify a straight vegetarian diet to:

  • pesco-vegetarian, also eating fish and seafood.
  • ovo-vegetarian, eating eggs but not dairy.
  • lacto-vegetarian, eating dairy but not eggs.

Even more rigid than those diets, vegans do not eat eggs, dairy products or any other animal products, including gelatin.

Why consider vegetarian vs vegan anyhow?

As I reference in my book, Digested – eating healthier made easier 3 ways, we should all ideally choose vegetables for 40-50% of what we eat. Our standard American diet does not come close to achieving this!

The most obvious reason for choosing any plant-based diet is for better health. Vegetables give us more nutrients and minerals than other food groups while being easier to digest.

vegetarian vs vegan pizza

One study found that people who eat a pro-vegetarian diet (70 percent of food intake is derived from plants) were less likely to die from cardiovascular disease (medicaldaily.com). Plant-based diets tend to reduce risk for many diseases and health conditions, from allergies to cancer.

When comparing vegetarian vs vegans specifically, vegans tend to have lower serum cholesterol and blood pressure, reducing their risk for heart disease. However, vegans also run the risk of not getting enough essential nutrition without supplementation.

Besides for better health, people choose to eat vegetarian or vegan diets due to:

  • environmental concerns (less water is needed to yield vegetables vs beef, beef emits more carbon dioxide, etc.).
  • religious beliefs.
  • animal welfare concerns (these people also typically choose cruelty-free cosmetics and other goods NOT made from animal by-products such as wool or leather).
  • cost.

Critical considerations for vegetarian and vegans

When not done carefully, vegetarian and vegan diets can leave you lacking several nutrients that are critical to your health. Let’s look at a list of those nutrients, along with the foods rich in them. Bolded items pertain only to vegetarians, whereas unbolded foods below are typically eaten by both vegetarians and vegans.

Calcium: broccoli, beans, leafy greens, sea vegetables, dairy, soy (fortified tofu), rice milks, almonds, sesame seeds

Vitamin D: eggs or dairy products, other products fortified with vitamin D

Protein: dairy, eggs, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, soy, quinoa, oatmeal

Iron: dark leafy greens (kale, spinach, etc.), beans, peas, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, soy nuts, tofu, peanut butter, cereals or breads fortified with iron

Omega-3 fatty acids: eggs (mostly in yolks), winter squash, pumpkin, nuts, seeds, soy

Vitamin B-12: eggs, dairy, cereals, orange juice or soy drinks fortified with vitamin B-12

Zinc: spinach, mushrooms, cashews, pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, cocoa powder, yogurt, kefir

Vitamin B-12 remains the biggest concern when eating vegan, in particular, because eggs and dairy are our greatest food source for it. B-12 plays a significant role in the health of our bones, brain, heart and energy – so crucial without doubt!

For more information about getting protein from other foods sources, read High-protein diets: are they just a trend or truly healthy?

Also, whether eating vegetarian or vegan, it’s best to choose organic grain and soy products, since they are commonly genetically modified (GMOs) and sprayed with pesticides.

When contemplating vegetarian vs vegan:

  • consider your why, so you can better stick to it.
  • be sure you’re getting enough of all the essential nutrients.
  • only encourage kids to eat vegan under the care of a healthcare professional, because many of the essential ingredients will impact their growth and development.
  • if you do eat vegan, seriously consider taking supplements to ensure proper nutrition.

Even if don’t choose to go plant-based, at least choose to eat more plant-based – aiming for the 40-50% in vegetables each day!

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

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Banana vs plantain: how they stack up in nutrition and in the kitchen

When looking at nutritional value and how versatile they are, how does banana vs plantain pan out?

Banana vs plantain in a snapshot

From healthtips.tips

Americans eat bananas by the boatloads. In the United States alone, each person eats more than 11 pounds of bananas per year, according to insteading.com. India, China and the Philippines are the largest producers of bananas.

Plantains – sadly still strangers to many Americans – rank 10th in staple foods that are feeding the world today, according to this article. If you’re not familiar with them, you should get to know them!

Like bananas, plantains grow in tropical climates, making them available year-round. A plantain tree’s flowers develop into a bunch of 5 to 10 fruits. African countries including Uganda, Rwanda, Ghana and Nigeria are the largest producers of this fruit.

Nutritional value of a banana vs. plantain

Both bananas and plantains contain vitamin C and A, as well as potassium and magnesium. These nutrients help to regulate digestion and blood pressure, boost your immune system, reduce free radicals and prevent osteoporosis.

Bananas have higher sugar and fiber content, but fewer carbohydrates than plantains. Plantains are starchier while containing less sugar. Both bananas and plantains can raise your blood sugar, which is critical to know if you’re diabetic.

So banana vs plantain, which should we really eat by the boatload?

Well, plantains provide slightly higher levels of vitamins C and A, potassium and magnesium. But really, we should make room for both in our diets because each can be used each very differently.

Getting creative with banana vs plantains

We typically treat bananas as the fruit they are, adding them to smoothies, cereal and baked goods – when not eating them as a whole fruit. Plantains, however, are usually treated like a vegetable. Their denser texture makes them more versatile, but also typically eaten cooked rather than raw.

  • Plantains can be:
  • mashed, steamed, baked, roasted or boiled as a side dish.
  • a substitute for rice or potatoes (think: chopped in soup).
  • used to make grain-free breads that are not as sweet as banana bread.

When shopping for plantains, note that they change in color with ripeness like bananas do, though not as quickly.

  • green (less ripe) = chips
  • yellow (ripe) = fried, cooked, boiled or grilled
  • black (sweet and soft) = baked or as dessert

You can store plantains with other fruits or vegetables without it affecting their ripening process. During prep, cut the tips off the plantain and slice the thick skin along the creases without penetrating the fruit.

Bananas, on the other hand, should be stored away from other fruits or vegetables to prevent them from ripening too quickly. You can also wrap the stems in plastic to slow the ripening.

Both bananas and plantains are members of the Musa family. So if you have an allergy or intolerance to bananas, you may also have one to plantains.

So the next time you go shopping, grab some bananas and plantains and try out some of these recipes!

For more ways to incorporate another nutritious food into your diet through creative recipes, read Reap the health benefits of pumpkin year-round!

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

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Your leafy greens listed by rank and how to blend them into your St. Patrick’s Day festivities

Celebrate this St. Patrick’s Day with superstars of the leafy greens list. So…it’s not your traditional green beer, green eggs and ham feast, but it’s more nutritious and you can still have some fun. Check out which leafy greens rank highest and how to weave them into your St. Patty’s Day ways.

Raw leafy greens list ranked by nutrition

Just like other lists, a ranking can be deceiving. For leafy greens, it depends on which nutrients you wanting most and how you’re preparing them. So we’ll look at a couple of different rankings and lists.

First, this leafy greens list, formulated by the Huffington Post using CDC data, ranks raw salad greens based on nutrient density scores.

From brownboxsoil.com

My kids prefer the crunchier romaine lettuce and don’t eat a lot of dairy, so based on this information, I should mix some watercress with the romaine to supplement calcium.

You, too, can use this leafy greens list to toss together a salad that’s perfect for your needs. Or if you’re buying a pre-mixed box of salad, take a closer look at the greens it offers and make sure you’re getting good nutrition for your money!

Leafy greens list for the non-salad eaters

Not everyone loves salad and there is debate about whether eating raw foods is good for your digestion or not. So as with many food issues, do what seems to work best for you. Here’s a list of leafy greens (not ranked) along with their highest nutrient offerings.

 

Some of the stars on this leafy greens list can also be eaten raw, but are more often cooked. Though cooking vegetables will affect the nutritional value, your body may digest them better cooked than raw. If this is the case, steaming greens and vegetables makes a great compromise since it begins the digestion process for you but doesn’t cook away the precious nutrients! For specific nutrition data on any leafy green or food, befriend and bookmark Self Nutrition Data.

Find lots of different ways to cook your favorite leafy greens by searching online. If you don’t like collard greens one way, try them another! That’s why I rely on other sources for recipes instead of trying to figure them out myself – I can find a way to like the foods before I give up on them! If you need help getting your kids on board, read 10 ways to get your kids to eat vegetables now.

Lastly, as with all foods, mix and match from your leafy greens list so you get a healthy mix of nutrients. Rotating your foods (eating a variety of grains, fruits, veggies, etc. instead of one grain, fruit, veggie, etc. all the time) is key to good health and a strong immune system.

Leafy greens and leprechauns on St. Patrick’s Day

Now for the fun stuff! If the leprechaun in you wants to indulge in St. Patrick’s Day doin’s, add a bit of good luck to your celebration with these suggestions.

This St. Patrick’s Day, show your spirit by eating more leafy greens naturally, whether by incorporating them into traditional Irish dishes or creating your own new ones!

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

 

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How to recognize the 5 worst ingredients in food and avoid them

Are the 5 worst ingredients in food running rampant in your diet? Or maybe they’re lurking in unknown places, under names you’re not familiar with. Whether you are generally healthy and fit or trying to get a start in that direction, be sure you can detect and avoid these 5 ingredients.

Identifying the 5 worst ingredients in foods and why we should avoid them

We can all think of plenty of ingredients we should avoid. Sugar and sodium might top the list. But in moderation, those don’t scare me as much as these other ingredients.

5 worst ingredients in foods gross
From freshagenda.com

Genetically modified organisms are created by forcing genes of one species into an unrelated species. How can we keep putting these lab-created ingredients and foods into our bodies and expect them to function for life? It’s like putting juice in your gas tank and wondering why the car peters out early. GMOs are unnatural substances we’re asking our bodies to process, and they could be contributing to inflammation and diseases including cancer.

Conventional crops (soy, corn, cottonseed oil, canola oil, gluten/wheat) tend to contain genetically modified organisms and also to be sprayed with chemical-containing pesticides during growth. Double whammy here – the GMOs plus non-organic pesticides containing chemicals thought to cause health issues including cancer. This article from 2017 discusses how more than 35 countries have banned the use of GMO crops. It’s possible to do life without the GMOs, so why wouldn’t we?

Most articles about corn syrup focus on high-fructose corn syrup and how we should avoid that. But why not avoid corn syrup all together – low-fructose and high-fructose? They are both processed and made from conventional, typically GMO-containing corn, and found in foods and drinks that we should avoid anyhow.

5 worst ingredients in foods artificial food dyesArtificial food dyes have been linked to aggressive behavior and hyperactivity in kids especially. Research indicates they could be cancer causing. Yet they are in so many foods and even shampoos and soaps to make them colorful and appealing. I’ve even found them in soaps that are clear, too – why, I’ll never know. Artificial food dyes are banned in other countries. We have more natural ways to make our food pretty. Or here’s a thought – we could just teach our kids (and selves) to eat what’s healthy because it’s wise. After all, we all get just 1 body to last a lifetime.

Many artificial sweeteners have proven to cause cancer after long-term exposure or in higher doses. This was the number 1 thing on a list of things to avoid for a relative diagnosed with cancer. There’s a reason for that.

Think of our world without GMOs and artificial ingredients. We grownups will survive the upfront inconvenience and changes of stubborn, unhealthy habits. Our kids will learn to eat what’s good based on wisdom instead of selfishness or desire. We will use other options for food colors, such as turmeric and beet juice, which actually provide health benefits instead of harm. We will be healthier and more full of life and joy.

So how do you avoid the 5 worst ingredients in foods?

Let’s break it down in a chart, keeping in mind this is by no means all inclusive of nicknames.

 

If you’re still not convinced that avoiding these 5 worst ingredients in food is worth the time and effort, read my blog “10 reasons to eat healthier that may surprise you!

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

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Foods and headaches: eating for, and proactively against, the headache pain

Start managing that nagging, or sometimes debilitating, pain now by combining your knowledge about foods and headaches. What better time to be more mindful than during the holidays – when you are more likely to sleep less, drink more alcohol and coffee and less water and eat less healthy – together a recipe for headaches or worse?

The worst foods – the ones that welcome headaches

foods and headaches1 Not surprising, alcohol is one of the biggest headache-causing culprit. Alcohol dehydrates our bodies and inhibits our reactions. But it also contains various headache triggers:

  • Wine contains sulfites, tannins and histamines.
  • Beer contains grains and sulfites.
  • Spirits contain grains.

Many alcoholic beverages may also contain preservatives or added artificial colors, which could be a trigger for you. Stick to beverages and quantities that do not induce symptoms for you.

2 The artificial sweeteners in diet sodas, particularly aspartame, are known to trigger migraines, too.

3 Monosodium glutamate (MSG) can cause headaches. MSG lurks in many food places – chips, dressings, sauces and other proceeds foods, including cured deli meats.

4 The nitrates found in deli meats, bacon, ham and sausage can cause headaches.

5 Foods with an amine called tyramine can trigger headaches. You may be tyramine-intolerant if bananas, avocados, fermented foods, aged cheeses or cured or smoked meats trigger headaches.

Foods and headaches combined – pain relief naturally

Once a headache starts to take over, enlist foods, instead of medicines, for pain relief because many prescription and over-the-counter medicines can damage your body over the long term.

You won’t always know what’s triggering your headache, but if you look for patterns and experiment with these foods, you may find a common thread leading to your culprit – as well as its counterpart.

 

For headaches from lack of: try eating:
hydration spinach*, lettuce, watermelon, cucumber
tryptophan turkey, almonds*
B2 (riboflavin) spinach*, mushrooms, broccoli, eggs
B3 (niacin) beef liver, beets, salmon, sunflower seeds
magnesium Swiss chard, sunflower seeds, sweet potatoes, quinoa, bananas*, almonds*
omega-3s salmon, olive oils, avocado*
gut stability (you have nausea) fresh ginger
endurance (time of day pattern) cherries, beetroot

*Only eat these foods if you are not sensitive to them as they can be headache triggers, too, due to the amines.

If your headaches seem hormone-related, incorporating enough magnesium in your diet may help prevent headaches.

Headaches present another great reason to make leafy greens a major part of your diet. Greens help hydrate while providing magnesium and other minerals and vitamins that are essential to your health. So, during the holidays, when temptations are, well, tempting you, add healthy, headache-preventing foods to help balance out your spontaneous, not-so-healthy eating.

For a deeper look at foods and headaches, read “Migraine detail – how to manage those unbearable headaches and find true migraine relief”.

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

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Food and sleep: eat for more restorative sleep and productive wake time

Are you grogged out, ready to pummel your alarm when it goes off in the morning? Feeling clueless about why you even had to get up early? Or maybe you’re immune to the loud, repeating beep of it all together? I can relate! Food and sleep work together (or not) to heal your body. So make sure you’re syncing them up, or no amount of sleep will leave you feeling good enough.

food and sleepHow are food and sleep related?

It’s no news flash that some foods, especially those with sugar and caffeine, can thwart your quality of sleep. But on the flipside, your digestion may suffer if you’re lacking enough quality sleep.

For years, we’ve heard how REM sleep is the best sleep – that when we’re dreaming we are sleeping at our best. But now we can read about non-REM sleep, which is the truly the deeper, more restoring kind of sleep. This precious non-REM sleep seems more “available” during the earlier hours of the night, versus the wee 3am-ish hours, according to this article.

And if you’re not getting enough of the hardcore restorative sleep daily, the resulting sleep deprivation can stack up like a pile of unpaid bills, making it hard to catch up. These ‘bills’ may surface as digestive issues, mental health matters, exaggerated allergy symptoms and much worse.

I mean, if the iPhone comes with a bedtime app now, it must be a serious matter, right? So aim to get to bed between 8pm and midnight, allowing yourself 7 to 9 hours of sleep daily.

I could write a book about how to get better sleep. And maybe I will. Sleep is sooo important. But for now, let’s look at ways to make food and sleep play together nicely.

Keep certain foods and sleep separate

We’ve all heard to avoid caffeine close to bedtime. But did you know caffeine can “do its thing” for up to 8 hours? That means if you go to bed at 10pm, you shouldn’t have caffeine (chocolate, tea, coffee, soda) after 2pm – it should be finished, in the trash and not still in progress.

That means grabbing something decaffeinated for that 3 to 4pm crash. Stay tuned here.

Caffeine does not affect everyone the same, of course. But just because caffeine does not keep you from falling asleep, does not mean it’s not interrupting your sleep, unbeknownst to you. Nicotine, another stimulant, can sabotage your sleep in the same way.

Sugar can give you the rush and crash, along with disruptions – a train wreck in the works.

Though a depressant, effects from alcohol can wear off, also interrupting your much-needed restorative sleep.

Whatever you’re eating, avoid stuffing yourself at dinnertime. In fact, avoid heavy meals within 2-3 hours of your bedtime.

Maca powder, cardamom, cashews, apples, bananas and sweet potatoes help boost energy – so not ideal before bedtime, but great for that afternoon boost. Also, if eggs give you indigestion, they will hinder your sleep. Otherwise, the protein from eggs is thought to help sleep.

Drink half your body weight in ounces of water during the day and then only sip as needed after dinner. Practicing your trusty Kegel exercises might also save nighttime trips to the bathroom.

Finally, whether your medicines are food-based or not, consider the side effects carefully. You may want to take ones that jolt you in the AM and ones that make you sleepy before bedtime. If you wake up stuffy, try taking your allergy remedy before bedtime so it can work its best while you sleep.

Other foods pair nicely with sleep

Plenty of foods will help prepare your body for sleep. Choose foods that you know without any doubt help your body heal. (Dairy and grains often secretly wreak havoc, but I’m including them as options.)

  • cherries for sleeptart cherries
  • dark leafy greens
  • walnuts
  • herbal decaf tea (chamomile, passionflower, valerian)
  • miso
  • turkey or white Albacore tuna
  • low-sugar (no additives) yogurt
  • oatmeal

A few other suggestions for better sleep

Exercise is key to better health, but timing is everything. If you do a vigorous workout within 5 to 6 hours of bedtime, your body may cool down and wake you during that non-REM restorative sleep.

On the other hand, if you workout outdoors in the morning, make sure that 6 to 10am time period is not prime pollen time for your location. Sucking all the allergens in as your workout may leave you feeling unrested, regardless of how great of sleep you got.

Also to protect against allergens, keep your bedroom windows closed at night, shower pollens off before going to bed and stop pressing your snooze during the morning hours when again, pollens may be at their peak.

Finally, know how much sleep your body needs and stick to a regular sleep schedule. If you need, use a sleep diary, much like a food journal, to track what food and sleep habits help you get that deep, healing sleep, leaving you feeling most rested.

Healing food and sleep are essential for optimal health. Be highly intentional with both!

 

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

 

veggies with blog title

How to carve a pumpkin right into your diet and why: pumpkin health benefits

Adapted from Reap the health benefits of pumpkin year-round

 

carve a pumpkin into dietHalloween marks the time of year when grocery stores fill up with pumpkins. We go crazy over pumpkin carving. And a few souls actually roast and eat the seeds or start dreaming about that pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. But did you know this hearty, fruit-producing vegetable is sooo worthy—you should carve pumpkin into a household staple?

Health benefits of pumpkin

Maybe you’ve roasted your pumpkin seeds before. Or maybe you haven’t—they are a little intimidating, all tangled up in the stringy insides of something that appears to be so darling on the outside. But don’t let looks scare you. Use those precious seeds as medicine. Pumpkin seeds provide:

  • phytoestrogens, which help prevent high blood pressure.
  • tryptophan, which supports production of serotonin and improves your mood and quality of sleep.
  • beta-carotene which helps prevent cancer.
  • phytosterols, which reduce our bad (LDL) cholesterol.

Moving on to the meat of its benefits, pumpkin also:

  • provides fiber, which helps keep your digestive system moving the toxins out. That fiber helps you feel more full and satisfied, which is a bonus for grain-free folks.
  • replenishes your potassium after a workout (it may even muscle that banana out of first position).
  • supports healthier vision, skin and bones due to the vitamin A content. According to this Huffington Post article, 1 cup of pumpkin provides more than 200% of the daily vitamin A recommendation.
  • supplements your zinc intake. For men, this helps maintain testosterone levels and male sexual health—always a good thing!

How to prepare a pumpkin

So how do you prepare these power gourds of nutrients? First, choose a pumpkin that’s meant for eating, such as a pie, Jarrahdale, cheese, peanut or Cinderella pumpkin. Next:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cut your pumpkin across the top to cut off the stem. Then cut it lengthwise in half.
  3. Scrape out the seeds and stringy pulp and set them aside.
  4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and put each half of the pumpkin face down.
  5. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 1-2 hours.
  6. Scrape the meat of the pumpkin out of the rind, which can be thrown out or composted. Then cut the meat into small pieces and puree it in your food processor.

Try this recipe from takepart.com, for roasting the seeds without the wrestling match.

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 300 degrees.
  2. For every 2 cups of seeds and pulp, add 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil (and light salt or other spices as desired) and toss.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the seasoned seeds and pulp in a single layer on the baking sheet.
  4. Stir every 15 minutes, baking for about 50 minutes or until the seeds are crisp and the pulp is caramelized.
  5. Let cool and enjoy.

How to carve pumpkin into your meal plan

Pack pumpkin seeds as a snack. Sprinkle them onto a salad or vegetable medley for extra crunch. They make the perfect mood-boosting food at a time when we are adjusting to less daylight and Vitamin D.

Before pureeing it, sprinkle it with cinnamon and serve it as a side (instead of squash).

Use the puree in one of a zillion ways. Here are a few of my faves:

  1. Paleo pumpkin pancakes. Amazing. Grain-free. Easy to make and freeze for future breakfasts on the fly. They also double as sandwich bread in a pinch.
  2. Paleo pumpkin bars. Eat and energize any time of day, even on the go.
  3. Paleo chili without tomatoes. This is a gem for me, since tomatoes don’t love me and I miss them dearly.
  4. Add pumpkin puree or seeds to your smoothie or oatmeal.

Make pumpkin bread or pumpkin muffins. Add zucchini for more nutrition. Use pumpkin in sauces instead of tomatoes to avoid nightshades. Spread pumpkin butter onto anything. Experiment with pumpkin soup recipes. Even make paleo pumpkin ice cream. Your options are endless.

For even more information about the health benefits of pumpkin, as well as additional recipes, check out this article on jenreviews.com! Mmmm, pumpkin hummus!

Carve pumpkin into your diet regularly, instead of just during your fall carving craze. You’ll aid digestion, boost your mood and support better health even in the darkest of months!

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice.