Nature’s Brilliance — Food as Medicine

How 6 Natural Foods Have Impacted Modern Medicine

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” is attributed to Hippocrates and although he did not see food and medicine as the same, it’s indicated from his writings that diet and lifestyle are central to health. 

But ancient cultures have used food as medicine for centuries, dating all the way back to the Egyptians who used various plants to treat everything from animal bites to mental health issues. Similarly, Chinese Herbalism and Indian Ayurvedic medicine are rooted in eating different foods to manage or cure different illnesses.

Pharmaceutical companies took notes from these ancient cultures and developed new drugs from the active compounds found on land and sea. My PhD thesis was on the synthesis of an anti-cancer compound that was extracted from natural plants – how cool is that?

This blog will highlight the wonders of nature – I’ll cover six foods and how they have impacted modern-day drugs.

 

An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

Whether it’s a green Granny Smith or a shiny Honeycrisp, apples have been integral to the research on drugs to balance blood sugar levels.

Apples have always been known to be great for managing blood sugar due to their fiber content, but a newly discovered compound in apples has actually led to the development of a new diabetes drug.

Discovered in the 2010s, the active compound in apples is phlorizin. The compound is found in unripe apples as well as apple tree bark, and it’s now used in drugs to help balance blood glucose levels in people living with diabetes.

 

Yam’s Medicinal Qualities

Yams are known for being sweet potato’s less popular cousin who gets to shine on holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. But did you know a compound in yams, specifically Mexican yams, has provided a multitude of medicinal benefits?

In the 1930s, researchers found the compound diosgenin in Mexican yams. Diosgenin was first used in the advent of birth control pills in the 1960s. In the years to follow, developers found that the compound was also effective to decrease inflammation for people with arthritis and dermatitis.

The Mexican yam derivative, diosgenin, is still used in drugs today, though it is more likely to be made in a laboratory than extracted from yams themselves. The holidays remain a yam’s time to shine!

 

Willow Bark’s Medicinal Qualities

Willow bark may be less commonly seen in day-to-day life, but if you have a willow tree in your yard, you may encounter it regularly!

In the 1820s, salicin was discovered in the bark of several varieties of willow trees. Since then, its uses have blossomed, providing anti-inflammatory as well as pain relieving effects. Its derivative, salicylic acid, is commonly used in the treatment of acne.

Salicin was also the original source of aspirin, one of the most commonly used pain relieving agents today.

 

Barley’s Medicinal Qualities

Barley is a grain that serves as a base to many foods: cereals, bread, beer, whiskey and more. Barley is a good source of carbohydrates and energy (and a buzz when in alcohol form), and has also opened doors for researchers to develop new drugs to assist with dental surgery.

Within Barley is a compound called gramine, which scientists found in the 1930s. Research on gramine led to the discovery of isogramine, which was then used to design lidocaine.

If you’ve ever gotten a tooth pulled, the dentist likely used lidocaine. We have barley to thank that a trip to the dentist can be (relatively) painless!

 

Peppermint’s Medicinal Qualities

Anyone have any gum? Well, a stick of gum likely doesn’t include peppermint’s active compound, though it takes on the minty flavor.

Peppermint is one of the longest used herbs for its medicinal qualities. Ancient cultures and today’s pharmaceutical companies alike have used peppermint to decrease joint pain, soothe itching on the skin, and manage hives (specifically hives connected to a condition called urticaria).

The compound in peppermint resulting in all of these health benefits is menthol, which is more of a household name as far as drug compounds go. Menthol directly sourced from peppermint is still in use today! BenGay is a commonly used topical pain reliever that uses menthol for pain relief.

 

Chili Pepper’s Medicinal Qualities

Chili peppers add more than a little (or a lot) of spice to your food. They’ve also made leaps and bounds in various pain relief medicines!

In the 1870s, scientists discovered the compound capsaicin in chili peppers. This is actually the same compound that makes your mouth burn when you eat something spicy!

In the medicinal context, however, capsaicin has been used in topical creams to relieve pain, especially for people suffering from osteo-arthritis and nerve pain from the shingles.

“Nature is so smart it put the medicine inside the food”  

Nature has created a plethora of fruits, herbs, and veggies that have been used to support health for centuries, in ways beyond providing basic nutrition. The best part? This is only the tip of the iceberg.

Researchers are currently exploring how herbal remedies, traditional medicines, and other compounds in everyday foods can open the doors to life-changing medicines. If you want to dive deeper into how food is used as medicine, check out the BBC article linked here for more information!Please note: this information is shared out of interest and not as a replacement for current medical treatment or as any medical advice. If you have any of the conditions mentioned in this article, please consult your doctor for medical advice.

Let them eat cake? Merci, Non!

I listened to another great podcast featuring Dr. Steven Gundry, a renowned cardiothoracic surgeon and New York Times bestselling author of The Plant Paradox and Plant Paradox Cookbook

Dr. Gundry explains what sugar is, why it’s harmful and some options for substituting it.  

Here are the highlights:

  • The average American eats around 153 pounds of sugar a year which is the size of a baby giraffe!
  • There are multiple forms of sugar: glucose, fructose, lactose are all sugar molecules.
  • Table sugar is sucrose which is 50% glucose and 50% fructose.
  • High fructose corn syrups are ~45% glucose and 55% fructose.
  • Many studies have been conducted indicating that fructose is worse than glucose and is the culprit in causing a fatty liver and elevated cholesterol levels. Bottom line: Sugar is sugar is sugar.
  • Most people do not realize the effect that sugar has on the gut microbiome. Bad bacteria and fungal species like candida yeast thrive on sugar. Good bacteria prefer complex sugar molecules with fiber as it’s easier to ferment.
  • Gundry believes that rationing sugar and flour during WWII was one of the reasons why diabetes and heart disease plummeted around the world during that period.
  • When you grind up whole products like wheat into flour, your body more readily absorbs them; that is why the glycemic index of white flour (85) is higher than white table sugar (58)!
  • Sugar takes a toll on our immune system. Research conducted by Linus Pauling, a two-time Nobel Laureate showed that any type of sugar consumption (including orange juice) suppresses white blood cell function by 70% for up to 6 hours.
  • Everyone knows about the dangers of saturated fat and cholesterol BUT most cholesterol is manufactured in our body. And elevated cholesterol comes from sugar consumption. How? Sugar is converted into the first form of fat which is triglycerides (TG). TG in turn are carried by cholesterol. Hence, the more sugar you eat, the more TG you make and the higher your cholesterol level.
  • Gundry says that TG is one of the most important markers of coronary heart disease. And NO – having TG levels of 150 is NOT normal contrary to what the lab reference ranges indicate. You need TG levels of 40-50 to be optimal. Go get your TG checked!
  • Sugar is an incredibly addictive substance: Did you know that rats will choose sugar over cocaine if given a choice?
  • Why is getting off sugar so difficult? Because two-thirds of the human tongue’s surface is dedicated to tasting sweets and this was for survival reasons – to gain weight in the summer to store fat for the winter.
  • Gundry is not a fan of fruit either – modern fruit has been hybridized to be bigger and sweeter. And now fruit is available 365 days a year when it is meant to be eaten only in season
  • If you are eating fruit out of season, he recommends “reverse juicing”: buy organic fruit, juice it and throw away the juice! Just eat the pulp which has fiber and rich polyphenols and nutrients. You can mix the pulp in yogurts or put it in shakes.
  • Sugar is hiding everywhere – brown rice syrup, glucose, fructose, agave are all other words for sugar, so don’t be fooled by what’s on the label.
  • Here’s a shocking metric to see how much sugar you may be consuming in a serving:
    • Take the total carbohydrates per serving and subtract the fiber = number of net carbohydrates
    • 1 tsp of sugar has 4 grams of carbs
    • So a slice of bread with 21 grams of carbs and 5 grams of fiber (16g net) is like eating 4 tsps of table sugar! Making a sandwich? That’s 8 tsps!
  • It is best to retreat from sweets – sugar is hidden in products that don’t even taste sweet.
  • Here’s the skinny on sugar alternatives and why Dr. Gundry says you can have your cake and eat it too:
    • Sucralose (Splenda) is a must avoid. A study conducted at Duke University showed that one packet of Splenda killed 50% of the gut microbiome (the good kind)
    • Honey, coconut sugar, agave are all sugars. If substituting with honey, have only several teaspoons a day – and stick to local or Manuka honey
    • Allulose, monk fruit and stevia are good sweetener alternatives that do not spike glucose.
    • Allulose also contain prebiotic fiber which feeds the gut. Look for non-GMO allulose at the market or online.
    • Stevia is a good substitute but has some bitterness. You can try the Sweet Leaf brand Stevia which is blended with inulin (the sugar in chicory and a great prebiotic).
    • Yacon syrup is another option but has been known to raise triglyceride levels so best not to consume much

What I took away from this podcast? Remember Marie Antoinette’s famous quote: “If the people have no bread, let them eat cake”? I say neither!

Here is the podcast:

https://drgundry.com/healthy-sugar-alternatives/

Are You Mesmerized Yet? An Introduction to Hypnosis

“Hypnosis is the oldest Western form of psychotherapy, but it’s been tarred with the brush of dangling watches and purple capes. In fact, it’s a very powerful means of changing the way we use our minds to control perception and our bodies.” — Dr. David Spiegel, Stanford University

In this blog, I’ve invited a certified hypnotist and colleague (Emma Ehrenzeller, CH) to introduce us to the science and possibilities of hypnotism. 

When you think about hypnosis, cliches like a swinging pendulum or the words, “you are getting very sleepy,” may come to mind.

Despite its mysterious reputation, however, leading researchers at Stanford have begun unraveling the science behind hypnosis, and have shown its clinical efficacy in decreasing stress, managing chronic pain, alleviating anxiety, and more.

What is Hypnosis?

Before we dive into the latest hypnosis research, let’s cover the basics: What is hypnosis?

The National Guild of Hypnotists, the oldest and largest hypnosis association in the United States, defines hypnosis as “an altered state of consciousness where the subconscious mind is in a state of hyper-suggestibility” (Harte, 2015).

There’s a lot of jargon in that definition, so let’s break down what it really means.

First, hypnosis is an altered state of consciousness. In the hypnotic state, you are still conscious; you’re just more relaxed and focused on the hypnotic experience. You are completely aware of what’s going on and in control, contrary to a lot of cockamamie you have seen in the movies!

Second, hypnosis is all about working with your subconscious mind.

Your conscious mind is your thinking brain: the mental chatter; problem solving; the focus on your daily tasks; your ambitions, and how you decide to work towards them. The conscious mind correlates to your frontal lobe and prefrontal cortex, among other parts of the brain (The Human Brain, 2022).

Your subconscious mind is where we store our hardwired patterns, beliefs, and habits. “Subconscious” literally means “below consciousness,” so anything you do naturally, without thinking, is a result of the subconscious. The term “subconscious” is more elusive in neuroscience circles, but it can be thought of as hardwired neural pathways which developed from a young age, or with constant reinforcement (such as the process of building a new habit until it is second nature).

And lastly, the subconscious mind is in a state of “hyper-suggestibility” in hypnosis; this simply means that in the relaxed, peaceful state of hypnosis, the deeper layers of mind are open to new ideas or “suggestions.” Depending on one’s goals, those suggestions may be about managing stress, building confidence, cutting out old habits, and more.

Put simply, hypnosis is a deep, guided meditation with an outcome attached. Many people will leave their first experience in hypnosis comparing it to a very deep meditation, with surprise that they were aware of themselves and conscious the entire time.

Here is an interesting analogy: “A guided meditation is like sending your subconscious an email newsletter while hypnosis is like sending your subconscious a handwritten letter.” 
― Juliet C Obodo, Writer’s Retreat New York City: A Travel Guide For Writers, Bloggers & Students

Isn’t It Mind Control?

Let’s address the elephant in the room: Is hypnosis mind control?

It’s a very understandable question to ask. TV, movies, and other popular media generally show hypnosis as some woo-woo act on stage, or an oddball hypnotist using the tool for his or her own gain.

All of these notions are false, however. Per the official definition of hypnosis, a hypnotized person is stillconscious; in other words, they are still completely in control.

While in hypnosis, your conscious mind is still active. I often have people who say they weren’t sure if they were hypnotized because they still had thoughts pop up. This is normal, and actually comforting for many people: it confirms they are still in control. They are simply being guided by the hypnotist, and they choose what they want to follow.

What’s the brain up to?

A 2019 study from Stanford University outlined the three main brain areas that are specifically activated when someone goes into the hypnotic state. Now let’s get technical:

First, the part of your brain keeping tabs on everything happening in your environment – your dog barking, a car honking, an itch on your toe – is calmed, allowing you to focus more easily on the hypnosis.

Second, the connection between two areas of the brain resulted in a stronger brain-body connection, allowing the brain to more effectively process what is happening in the body.

Lastly, they observed that people in hypnosis enter a sort of “flow state.” As Dr. Spiegel, the senior author on the paper, describes, “When you’re really engaged in something, you don’t think about it – you just do it.”

These findings led researchers to believe that in hypnosis, there is less self-consciousness or doubt about carrying out a certain action or suggestion. It is easy for the person in hypnosis to follow along without devoting as much mental energy to worry about what they’re doing.

What can hypnosis be used for?

In short, just about anything. Clinical studies have found the efficacy of hypnosis for pain management, decreasing anxiety, and reducing stress, but hypnotists have used the tool to cut smoking habits, increase self-esteem, cultivate emotional balance, and much more.

The next post will dive deeper into the science of brainwaves, how those correlate with meditative and hypnotic states, and how you can use brainwaves to reprogram your brain on your own time.

How can I get started?

There are many hypnosis associations nationally and internationally.

To find a reliable hypnotist, ensure they have a form of certification. The National Guild of Hypnotists (NGH) and Hypnotic World both have reputable training programs.

Titles can range between associations, but Certified Hypnotist or Certified Consulting Hypnotist are standard for those who have undergone foundational hypnosis training, and various board certifications are also possible for more experienced hypnotists as well. 

To find hypnotists through the NGH, click here: https://www.ngh.net/request-form/

To find hypnotists through Hypnotic World, click here: https://www.hypnoticworld.com/hypnotherapists/

Sources:

Elkins, G., Jensen, M. P., & Patterson, D. R. (2007). Hypnotherapy for the management of chronic pain. The International journal of clinical and experimental hypnosis, 55(3), 275–287. https://doi.org/10.1080/00207140701338621

Fisch, S., Brinkhaus, B., & Teut, M. (2017). Hypnosis in patients with perceived stress – a systematic review. BMC Complementary And Alternative Medicine, 17(1). doi: 10.1186/s12906-017-1806-0 

Harte, R. (2015). Lesson One—What Is Hypnosis? In Student Manual (pp. 1–2). essay, National Guild of Hypnotists.

Heidi Jiang, Matthew P. White, Michael D. Greicius, Lynn C. Waelde, David Spiegel, Brain Activity and Functional Connectivity Associated with Hypnosis, Cerebral Cortex, Volume 27, Issue 8, August 2017, Pages 4083–4093 <tel:4083-4093>

The Human Brain: Anatomy and Function. (2022). Retrieved 13 April 2022, from https://www.visiblebody.com/learn/nervous/brain#:~:text=The%20cerebrum%20is%20the%20largest,ourselves%20and%20the%20outside%20world.

What’s Growing in Your Backyard? An Introduction to the World of Herbalism

If you do not use chemical fertilizers or weed killers around your house (like me), then you may have some healthy herbs growing in your backyard. However, they can be tricky to identify, so as tempting as it might be, it’s best to leave the foraging to the professionals. With that in mind, we can still look to the vibrant, colorful plant kingdom for inspiration. Even if we aren’t going out and picking plants ourselves, exploring natural remedies can be rewarding.

In this blog, I’ve invited an herb nerd and colleague (Teaghan Aston) to take us on a journey to introduce us to the world of herbalism.  

Generally speaking, herbalism describes the intricate world of the use of plants to promote wellbeing. Most cultures have their own unique systems and beliefs surrounding how plants can be used to promote wellness, some of which have roots going back thousands of years. For example, Ayurveda is more than 5,000 years old, with Traditional Chinese Medicine following close behind, rooted in practices that began approximately 3,000 years ago.

While these two systems, in particular, typically incorporate many different modalities, herbs often play a huge role in how they work to improve balance in people’s lives.

The US is home to a plethora of valuable plants and herbal traditions of its own, which vary based on region. Many of these plants are still valued today by the herbalists and practitioners of holistic medicine.

Herbalism in Today’s World

Thanks to today’s training programs, modern herbalists have access to all sorts of information. As a result, many combine herbs from various traditions and parts of the world when working with clients. However, some specialize in traditional systems and stick to using herbs and modalities from those systems exclusively.

With that said, not everybody interested in using natural modalities can afford to work with an herbalist. With the ongoing increase in popularity of using natural approaches to foster wellbeing, all sorts of herbal products and formulations can be found online and in large chain stores.

Caution: The availability of herbal products makes it easy for people to explore these options, but access comes with a BUYER BEWARE warning.

  • Not all herbal products are created equally, and not all herbal products are for everyone.
  • There are herbs out there that have contraindications, which is why everyone, even those who have access to an herbalist, should still check with their doctor before adding an herbal product to their routine. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should never start working with a new herbal product or supplement without first consulting your healthcare provider.

  • Many herbal products are contaminated with heavy metals with sources of origin unknown or suspect. And you cannot tell from their online reviews.

On a more positive note, there are some things that you can do to reduce your risk while exploring herbal remedies.

Gather Your Information From Trustworthy Sources

While heading over to sites like Pinterest to look at other people’s recipes may seem quick and easy, it’s best to avoid finding information on sites like that when it comes to wellness, as anybody can put up anything, making it hard to discern what can and cannot be trusted.

Stick to Simple, Well Researched Herbs 

As mentioned above, there are all sorts of different herbal concoctions out there. However, complicated doesn’t always mean better, and when you’re working without the guidance of an herbalist, it’s generally best to keep things simple, and some herbs are more beginner-friendly than others. However, “beginner-friendly” is a very subjective term, and it’s important to use your discernment when assessing your comfort level surrounding the use of herbs for wellness.

Where to Begin?

Teaghan mentioned some herbs that she thought would be great to discuss in this post (purely for educational purposes). The herbs mentioned below are primarily a mixture of adaptogens, nervines, or nourishing herbs, although some (cinnamon) do not fall into the pre-mentioned categories.

Here is a great educational blog post from Mountain Rose Herbs, which breaks down the basics of understanding nervines and adaptogens that may be helpful if these terms are new to you.

Here are Teaghan’s top picks:

Hawthorn Berries

Hawthorn is a wonderful plant that may have cardiac trophorestorative (rectifies deficiency in organ/organ system) properties. It is a favorite among herbalists and people who are looking to provide their hearts with extra support. While popular as a general heart tonic, Research suggests that Hawthorn extract as an adjunct treatment (although most certainly not a “cure,”) may even be of benefit for symptom control in individuals experiencing chronic heart failure. Some people believe that Hawthorn can also be useful for soothing the “emotional” heart as well – although this is anecdotal. This makes sense, as in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Hawthorn is one of the many herbs used when creating herbal formulas for calming “disturbed shen” (spirit).

With that in mind, it is imperative that you seek immediate medical attention if you are experiencing cardiac symptoms. If you are already receiving treatment for a cardiac condition, it is essential that you get approval from your healthcare provider before determining if Hawthorn is appropriate for you, as there is some important information to be aware of, including but not limited to how Hawthorn can increase the risk of bleeding after cardiac surgery.

Reishi Mushrooms

Reishi mushrooms is experiencing a surge in popularity, which is no surprise, as there is much excitement in the herbal world surrounding their potential benefits. Reishi is thought by many to be a powerful ally for immune support, the nervous system, as well as a host of other things. While Reishi has a long, rich history of traditional use, the human research that we currently have available is limited although the studies that we do have are promising. For example, in this study, it was shown that a mycelium-based extract of Ganoderma lucidum may have been responsible for suppressing colorectal adenomas (precancerous lesions in the bowel).

In another human study, it was found that Ganoderma lucidum spore powder improved cancer-related fatigue in breast cancer patients during endocrine treatment. In this same study, the participants also reported overall improvements to quality of life, such as less anxiety and depression.

If you have mushroom allergies, Reishi products are not a safe choice for you. Additionally, Reishi may interact with anticoagulants/antiplatelets, immunosuppressants, and potentially other medications, such as those used for blood pressure and diabetes.

This is not a complete list of potential contraindications, so be sure to speak with your doctor before trying out Reishi mushrooms if it has piqued your interest.

Milky Oats (Avena sativa)

Teaghan says a tincture made out of fresh milky oat tops is one of her go-to choices when she’s feeling frazzled from the effects of stress and when she knows that her nervous system is in need of extra support. However, since oats are considered to be a “food” herb and are thought to primarily work through trophorestorative actions, they seem to work best when used consistently over time (from Teaghan’s personal experience), much like Hawthorn. Generally speaking, slower-acting herbs like these also tend to be more gentle than quick-acting herbs (although this is not always the case), which is why these “nourishing” herbs are typically the first ones that those new to herbs choose to experiment with.

However, research indicates that there could be some acute benefit, as we’ll touch on below.

While Teaghan’s knowledge of milky oat tops is mostly anecdotal, as human research is very limited, she did point out this study, which takes a look at both the potential acute effects as well as the potential chronic effects of Avena sativa (Green oat) extract.

Here is a brief excerpt from the study: “The results showed that both a single dose of 1,290 mg and, to a greater extent, supplementation for four weeks with both 430 mg and 1,290 mg green oat extract resulted in significantly improved performance on a computerized version of the Corsi Blocks working memory task and a multitasking task (verbal serial subtractions and computerized tracking) in comparison to placebo. After four weeks, the highest dose also decreased the physiological response to the stressor in terms of electrodermal activity. There were no treatment-related effects on mood. These results confirm the acute cognitive effects of Avena sativa extracts and are the first to demonstrate that chronic supplementation can benefit cognitive function and modulate the physiological response to a stressor.

It’s important to note that Milky Oat products are contraindicated for those who have celiac diseaseas well as those who have gluten sensitivities. There could also be other contraindications that we are unaware of, so be sure to double check with your provider.

Ceylon Cinnamon

If you’ve heard about the numerous reported benefits of Cinnamon, you’ve probably run into some confusion. When most people hear Cinnamon, they assume that there is only one kind, but there are multiple, and they are not all created equal. The variety that we are discussing here is Ceylon Cinnamon, also known as “true” Cinnamon, and its potential extends far beyond the spice cabinet.

According to this randomized, controlled trial, it was discovered that participants with type 2 diabetes who had been given Cinnamon experienced reductions in serum glucose, triglyceride, LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol, although it is unclear to readers which type of Cinnamon was used during the trial.

With that being said, Ceylon Cinnamon is generally thought to carry fewer risks than other varieties of Cinnamon, like Cassia cinnamon. This is because “True” Ceylon Cinnamon is believed to have lower amounts of coumarin (which can be toxic to the liver) than other varieties.

If you’re curious to learn more about Ceylon Cinnamon, Teaghan noted that this article published by Healthline appeared to do a great job of explaining it. However, while additional online resources are helpful, you still need to check with your doctor before pursuing cinnamon supplements. This is especially true if you are already taking diabetes medications or insulin, as mixing these with cinnamon products could lead to Hypoglycemia.

As you’ve probably determined, there’s a lot to consider even when working with seemingly basic herbs like the ones we’ve touched on here. If the research we’ve linked to is any indication, the plant kingdom holds a lot of potential power. While precautions need to be taken, such as those we’ve touched on throughout this post, we hope you’re left feeling inspired by some of the possibilities!

Genius Kitchen – Can I eat this?

I recently listened to an interesting podcast featuring Max Lugavere, a health and science journalist and author of a new cookbook called Genius Kitchen. His earlier New York Times bestseller, Genius Foods, has been published in 10 languages. Some of the research he has done for the Genius Kitchen is highlighted here in this blog. 

Dessert:

  • It’s fine to eat dessert and indulge every once in a while – that means infrequently, not every other day 😉
  • The best time to eat dessert is after some activity so your body can clear the glucose from the blood with exercise. So, eat dessert later in the day after a workout. Also, going for a walk after dinner reduces postprandial blood sugar.
  • Max recommends drinking apple cider vinegar (ACV) and taking cinnamon to reduce blood sugar spikes after eating starches. So if you’re going to treat yourself to that pasta dish, it may be a good idea to have a glass of ACV-infused water and some Ceylon cinnamon tablets. Here’s one to try:

Sugar:

  • Max likes non-glucose spiking sugars like monk fruit, stevia and erythritol. But sugar alcohols like erythritol may give you an upset tummy, gas and diarrhea although it is often better tolerated than xylitol and sorbitol. Did you know that prunes are a natural source of sorbitol? That’s why they’re widely used to keep the bowels moving.
  • Erythritol’s action is a bit different as it is fully absorbed in the small intestine and you’ll pee it out. Hence, it may be okay but given that everyone has different levels of tolerance, make yourself the guinea pig and test it out.  
  • There is a new sweetener called allulose which may be worth trying as it shouldn’t give you an upset stomach. I found this at my co-op and it’s used one to one with regular sugar. Here’s a brand you can try:

Dairy:

  • Dairy is a good source of protein like whey and casein. Whey is a highly bioavailable source of protein and the amino acid leucine which are required for muscle synthesis and maintenance. His bottom line is: if dairy doesn’t agree with you, do NOT consume it. Popping lactaid while indulging in foods your body cannot digest is not the solution.
  • Whey protein isolate is 99% free of lactose so you may be able to tolerate it. One of his favorite recipes is faux ice cream where he mixes whey protein, water and frozen berries. I may have to try this recipe – I’m lactose intolerant but the isolate may be something I can have every now and then.
  • If you can have dairy, Max recommends Greek yogurt (full fat) due to the high biological protein value (~19 g protein in a serving).
  • Full-fat dairy has a significant amount of vitamin K2. K2 is an underappreciated vitamin – it helps maintain calcium homeostasis so it stays in your bones and teeth and not in the arteries and kidneys. Vitamin K2 is present in higher amounts in grass fed cows and organ meats.
  • Here’s why Max recommends full-fat dairy:
    • Full-fat dairy has a compound called milk fat globule membrane (MFGM) and this MFGM encapsulates triglycerides in the dairy. 
    • Consumption of full fat dairy is associated with BETTER metabolic health and NOT associated with higher levels of cardiovascular disease. 
    • Heavy cream and butter are the same product but when you churn cream to make butter, you disrupt the MFGM. I found this fascinating: there is no impact on LDL cholesterol with heavy cream consumption but with butter, there is an increase in LDL. The protective effect is MFGM which encapsulates the fats. MFGM is also rich in phosphatidyl choline which is part of the brain cell membrane. So, the takeaway is: if you can handle dairy, enjoy products like full-fat cream that have intact MFGM, but go easy on the butter.  

Coffee:

  • It is the most commonly consumed psychoactive drug but it can be addictive so don’t over consume. 
  • Caffeine is a PCSK9 inhibitor which increases the efficiency of liver to recycle LDL particles.
  • Max recommends starting your day with a glass of lemon, electrolyte or ACV-infused water and then after about 45 minutes, drink coffee. Coffee can raise cortisol levels in the morning (when our levels are already high) which can contribute to the mid-body weight gain.
  • To make coffee healthier, he suggests using a paper filter for drip or a pour-over. Why? Because coffee has a compound called cafestol which is known as a powerful elevator of LDL cholesterol. So, while caffeine inhibits LDL, the cafestol elevates it. If you’re using a French press, filter the coffee before imbibing (I’ve been doing this anyway because I don’t like the small grinds in the cup but now I have an even better reason to do it).

Fat:

  • No need to fear fat. Foods like grass fed beef and fatty fish both have saturated fat but there are different types of saturated fat (i.e. stearic, myristic, palmitic) and not all are created equal. For example, stearic acid can boost mitochondrial function. Grass fed beef has a higher portion of stearic acid with less overall saturated fat and more omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Breast milk is filled with saturated fat and that’s what babies thrive on.
  • As for fatty fish, the benefits of eating fish outweigh the risks (mercury and toxins in seafood).
  • I was surprised to learn that ghee (which is clarified butter) has a prevalence of oxidized cholesterol so it’s not good to over-consume.
  • Max is not a fan of concentrated coconut and MCT oils and suggests eating the whole foods instead.

Salt:

  • Salt is important and unfortunately, most of what we consume comes from processed and canned foods. If you take out processed and restaurant prepared foods, only 11% of the dietary sodium comes from the salt shaker or is added to recipes. So, where are you getting your salt from? 
  • Did you know that the #1 source of salt in the American diet is from bread and rolls?
  • We need salt for good health and if you’re eating a low carb diet, you will need more sodium.
  • Flaked salt (vs. fine or coarse) is a great way to finish off the food.
  • About ~25% of the population are sodium sensitive so if you have hypertension, you have to be careful. But remember that added sugar also plays a huge role in the hypertension epidemic. It’s been shown that one single sugar beverage raised systolic pressure for two hours. So, it’s not just about the salt!
  • We used to consume 4X more potassium than we do now and it’s important to balance out the sodium intake with adequate potassium. Grass fed beef and wild salmon are good sources of potassium.

Bottom line:  Every food has benefits and risks and you have to know what works for you – it’s important to get blood work done annually to check your status so you’re not eating ‘in the dark’.

Here’s the podcast:

https://shows.acast.com/broken-brain/episodes/top-food-hacks-to-supercharge-your-health-with-max-lugavere

And here’s Max’s new book:  

www.Geniuskitchenbook.com

Seasonal Allergies and What to Do About Them

Is your medicine cabinet stocked with anti-histamines and allergy medications around pollen season? And do Paul Simon’s ‘Allergy’ lyrics ring true to you?

“Maladies, remedies,.. still the allergies remain….”

Most people assume pollen is responsible for allergies but foods, insect bites, domestic pets, mold, chemicals and smoke can all trigger a histamine response. Histamines are a type of immune cell that gets released when your body comes in contact with an allergen.  Conventional medicine can treat the symptoms of histamine release (like over-the-counter anti-histamines) but do not address the underlying cause to prevent it.

In this blog, I’ll share some tips on reducing the allergy disorder that many of us suffer from this time of year.

Keep your liver clean – Normally, your liver can process annoying allergens but in the toxic world we live in, it’s VERY easy to overload your liver – hence, the sneezing, itching and watery eyes. Did you know that bitter foods are like a gym session for your liver?  Bitter foods stimulate the liver to produce bile to optimize digestion and keep it functioning optimally. Some bitter foods to add to your diet include: a stiff cup of black coffee, dandelion greens, radicchio, bitter melon (you can buy this in the Asian markets), and green tea. In addition, you can try herbs like milk thistle, burdock and dandelion in tea form or as a supplement. Here is a powder blend I buy to add to coffee in the morning:

Eat a clean, gut-healing diet – Were you aware that more than 60% of our immune cells are in the gut? So it’s no surprise that an inflamed gut leads to more allergies. Focusing on an anti-inflammatory diet that’s packed with nutrients will enable your body to fight off these invaders:

  • Greens, cruciferous vegetables and polyphenol rich foods: broccoli, swiss chard, cauliflower, berries
  • Raw honey: evidence has shown the benefits of honey as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. Try adding a tablespoon of honey several times a day to your diet to reduce allergy symptoms. I suggest local honey – it’s easy to find at farmer’s markets and many grocery stores.
  • Apple cider vinegar: great as an antioxidant drink and to keep mucus at bay. Add a teaspoon to your morning glass of water and also to your neti pot to flush out your nasal passages.

AVOID gut-inflaming foods like corn, wheat/gluten, dairy, sugar, bad oils and processed foods.

Consider supplements – In addition to having adequate vitamin D, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids, here are 2 others that I add to my regimen during allergy season:

  • Stinging nettle – The leaf of stinging nettles has been shown to bind to histamine receptors and inhibit inflammatory responses. It can be taken in tincture of tea form. Here’s an extract from a reputable herbal company to try:

 

  • Quercetin – this powerful antioxidant found in foods like onions is known for inhibiting histamine production. Consider a supplement to get a strong enough dose to keep sneezing under control – here’s one that’s been third-party tested:

Clean up your environment:

  • Avoid fragrances and perfumes which are loaded with chemicals – there are many fragrance-free (or natural fragrance) soaps, cosmetics and personal care products to choose from. Here’s a cosmetic line that is free of parabens, chemicals and synthetic fragrances and dyes: https://hanscc.com

  • Use EWG-verified (Environmental Working Group) cleaning products for the home and avoid harsh bleaches. Actually, one of my favorite cleaning agents is just hydrogen peroxide. I buy the 12% food grade concentrate and dilute it 4:1 with clean water and use it to clean hard surfaces like bathrooms and countertops. To make your own, pour ¼ cup of 12% peroxide into a clean container. Then add ¾ cup of distilled, reverse osmosis or clean spring water to dilute. It’s very inexpensive and extremely effective! Here’s the 12% peroxide I buy:

  • Avoid pesticides/herbicides around the home: We have a lush weed-filled yard which my dogs and family enjoy without worrying about chemical exposure. Stick to non-chemical pesticides or traps if appropriate to manage critters and unwanted guests.

  • Get rid of mold and make sure areas inside and around your home are dry to prevent growth. If you think you may have a mold issue in your home, you may have to call a mold remediation specialist but you can purchase kits online to check first. Here’s a DIY mold test kit I bought:

  • Vacuum regularly – how about a robotic vacuum? I am obsessed with how much dirt/dust this small robot picks up. Here’s one I use.
  • Get an air purifier for areas where you spend the bulk of your time (i.e. bedroom, home office). There are many to choose from and they do not have to be expensive to do the job. Here’s one I bought. Just don’t do what I did – I was in such a rush to turn this purifier on that I forgot to peel the plastic cover off the air filter so it ran for months doing absolutely nothing!

The Role of Uric Acid on Diabetes and Chronic Diseases (It’s Not Just about Gout)

I listened to a great podcast featuring Dr. David Perlmutter’s new book. He is a board-certified neurologist and five times New York Times bestseller including the well-known “Grain Brain”.  The new book was released in Feb 2022 and called “Drop Acid” which is NOT about LSD but refers to the role that uric acid plays in the development of diabetes and other chronic conditions. 

Here’s a summary of the podcast interview:

  • Up to 88% of Americans are metabolically unhealthy, with at least one component of metabolic syndrome like high blood sugar, insulin resistance, hypertension, obesity, cardiac disease and even Alzheimer’s. It was very eye-opening to learn about how uric acid plays a critical function on the development of chronic conditions.

  • Uric acid is measured in blood and typically associated with gout BUT it’s also an important marker for metabolic conditions.

  • In an 8-year study, it was found that all-cause mortality was dramatically increased with high levels of uric acid. For example, heart disease and stroke related mortality was 35-40% due to high levels of uric acid.

  • Uric acid levels are easy to check during an annual check-up. Ideal level should be 5.5 mg/deciliter or below. For every point above 7, there is an 8-13% increased risk of all-cause mortality in addition to gout.

  • Uric acid is raised by 3 key factors: Alcohol, Purine and Fructose
    • Wine has not been shown to raise uric acid much; Hard liquor raises some but BEER raises it a lot. Why? Beer contains purines from the brewer’s yeast so it’s a double whammy of alcohol AND purine to contribute to the beer belly
    • Purines are from organ meat consumption but unless you’re eating a ton, it doesn’t raise the bar much
    • Fructose is the elephant in the room!

  • Unlike glucose, fructose is metabolized directly into uric acid. As fructose raises uric acid, weight, blood pressure and insulin all go up. An interesting study showed that if you give the gout drug (allopurinol) to participants eating a lot of fructose, their uric acid levels drop.

  • Fructose means energy storage whereas glucose means energy utilization. That’s why bears eat a ton of fruit during the summer so they can store fat for hibernation in the winter.

  • Fructose in the form of fruit is okay because it’s a whole food and not processed. It has fiber, vitamins and antioxidants. However, modern fruit has been hybridized for ultra sweetness so an apple a day is fine but that doesn’t mean a half dozen…

  • 60% of the food in the store with a bar code has been sweetened with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) or some derivative of it. Our bodies are designed to seek out sweet food for our survival. Were you aware that the US gov’t sponsors corn production to the tune of ~$500B/year and a lot of that goes into making HFCS which then makes us fat and sick?

  • When you eat fructose like HFCS, you are turning on gluco-neogenesis (body makes glucose), compromising insulin functionality and setting the stage for diabetes. Fructose inhibits leptin sensitivity (hunger suppressing hormone) which makes us want to keep eating and contributes to weight gain. Fructose also requires energy for it to be absorbed and uses up all the ATP (energy cells) in the gut. The uric acid enhances inflammatory bacteria and increases gut permeability leading to leaky gut syndrome. 

  • There are also medications that increase uric acid: Aspirin, diuretics, proton pump inhibitors, acid blockers, beta blockers and even the sugar substitute xylitol.

 

What to do?

  • First, get your uric acid levels checked. You can ask your physician or buy a test kit on Amazon: Here’s one to try.

 

How to Reduce Uric Acid

  • Eat a mostly plant-based, high fiber, high color diet. It’s better for you and your bacteria.
  • Limit fruit and do NOT drink fruit juice as it’s a concentrated form of fructose. I stopped buying green drinks at the grocery store because they contain fruit juices to make it palatable to most of us. If you drink juice, stick to vegetable juice only (which is hard to find).
  • Shellfish, anchovies and organ meats are rich sources of purine – it’s hard to eat a pound of anchovies in one sitting so no worries as long as everything is enjoyed in moderation.
  • Alcohol, especially BEER, should be avoided except for an occasional glass of wine (and I mean occasional, not every other day occasional!)
  • Coffee is a great drink for lowering uric acid.
  • Vegetables like broccoli have higher levels of purine BUT it is rich in fiber, bioflavonoids and vitamin C so enjoy to your heart’s content. 
  • Minimize consumption of refined grains like flour – flour elevates insulin and this increases uric acid by inhibiting its excretion in the kidneys.

  • Supplements that Dr. Perlmutter suggests to lower uric acid include:
    • Quercetin (500mg/day) is a powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory bioflavonoid and is present in foods like onions.
    • Vitamin C (1000mg/day) aids in the excretion of uric acid.
    • Luteolin (100 mg/day) also lowers uric acid and is on par with the gout drug allopurinol!
    • DHA (1000mg/day) present in fish oil offsets the damage of uric acid.
    • Tart cherry extract can also bring down uric acid.

It has been estimated that 25% of the western world has elevated uric acid so it’s important to get our levels checked so we’re not part of this statistic. 

Here’s the podcast.

And Dr. Perlmutter’s new book.

The Importance of Self-Care Part 2: Preventing Burnout

If you’re like me and often accommodate stressful situations because of an overload of work, family and social commitments, read on!

Burnout can be sneaky, as it creeps up on people over time. The causes can be different for each individual. Just like some end up burnt out from stress at work, for others, it’s from things like the emotional toll it takes from managing difficult personal relationships.

A few of the symptoms associated with burnout include:

  • Fatigue
  • Excessive stress
  • Sadness and irritability

So in this blog, I’ll share some self-care tips for dealing with burnout or to prevent getting there.

It’s important to note that some of the symptoms associated with burnout are similar to those of serious mental health conditions. So make sure to reach out to your healthcare provider to rule out depression or other disorders if you’re noticing that something feels off.

Healthy Solutions Don’t Have to be Difficult

If you’re experiencing burnout, you might be tempted to turn to ‘comforting’ vices…because when difficulties don’t give us a break, going all out with the chocolate cake, bag of chips or a bottle of wine appear to give us relief from the hassles of daily life. However, we all know that it’s a slippery slope with these unhealthy coping mechanisms leading to more stressful situations (weight gain, poor sleep and digestion, unhealthy liver, depression, etc.) And I’m so done with people telling me all the things I’m NOT doing correctly and why I may not be achieving my goals. So how about starting with one simple habit with intent and focus on cultivating it? Studies have shown that repeating something for 21 days is the average time it takes to make new changes stick. For example, walking for 30 minutes will not only lift your mood but keep you away from the refrigerator. If you’re feeling stressed and need instant comfort, try a brisk walk around the neighborhood – and bring a friend as studies have shown that habits stick better when you’re surrounded by a supportive community. One good habit will lead to another as you build momentum and positivity around the changes in your life. And stay away from the naysayers!

How are Your Boundaries Holding Up?

Preventing burnout, no matter the cause, all starts with establishing healthy boundaries. It’s important to get to know your limits and your needs… and once you’ve figured those things out, you have to learn how to effectively communicate and enforce them with others.

As with most of the work that surrounds personal growth, establishing boundaries and doing the work to enforce them can be uncomfortable. Here’s a simple boundary I established with my dogs – they are always conniving to get me in the kitchen to give them one more treat before bed. So, I put the virtual ‘kitchen is closed’ sign up after 9PM – no ifs, ands or buts!

Here’s a short video that describes setting boundaries in the workplace. They can also apply to the home (like point #2: never saying no – that sounds like my life).

BOUNDARIES IN THE WORKPLACE || EASY HEALTHY BOUNDARIES AT WORK – YouTube

Tap Your Way to a Stress-Free Life

Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), developed by Gary Craig, is sometimes just referred to as “tapping.” It’s a simple, accessible tool that many people report to be incredibly helpful for stress reduction.

EFT utilizes points along the body that are known as Meridian points. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, Meridians are channels through which energy (qi) flow – like a network of energy pathways connecting to every cell, organ and tissue in your body. Meridian points are often used in acupuncture, but with tapping, there are no needles involved… or expensive bills!

You can use this technique from the comfort of your home, and while there are paid training sessions that you can do, there are also many free tutorials and materials that allow people to learn the basics on a budget.

Studies have shown the correlation between EFT exercises and significant reductions in anxiety, depression, and other issues. And while it’s hard to fathom that something as simple as tapping specific points along the body could have a major impact, there’s a reason why it’s gained so much traction and popularity.

This video shows how quick and simple it can be:

How to Tap – with Nick Ortner of The Tapping Solution – YouTube

In the comments section, you’ll see many people discussing how tapping has helped them!

In future blogs, I will cover some other modalities that you may want to consider in your healing/wellness/vitality journey. 

The Importance of Self-Care Part 1

We all know that the choices that we make, even seemingly small ones, can have a big impact on our health. Incremental efforts add up like little steps which over time can amount to skyscraper-height changes!

The key to making these positive, lasting changes is patience (sprinkled with kindness). If you’re making the shift towards a healthier lifestyle, you have to be patient and commit to caring for yourself (first) so you have the health and vitality to care for those around you.

And self-care doesn’t have to be overwhelming. It can be a rewarding and luxurious experience, all while on a budget! So, in the next several blogs, I’ll cover some simple self-care tips that will help you stay on track with your wellness goals.

Building a Foundation With Nourishing Foods

You’ve probably had people advise you to stay out of the “inner” aisles while at the grocery store, as this is where most of the processed, sugar-laden foods hang out.

While that’s fantastic advice, it’s also intimidating. But focusing on fresh vegetables and whole foods doesn’t mean you have to give up flavor.

Instead, try thinking of it as an opportunity to experiment!

  • How about adding in a new spice each month? These days, most basic chain grocery stores have large seasoning sections with inexpensive options.

  • If you see a spice that you’re unfamiliar with, try looking it up to see what recipes it’s traditionally used in. This is a great way to get inspiration, keep your home-cooked meals from getting boring, and to learn about new cultures.

  • Try out new ways of working with produce. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather have flavorful, roasted, caramelized broccoli than mushy bland steamed broccoli. Check out this recipe that packs an explosion of flavor with just a couple of ingredients:         

Do You Wake Up Feeling Rested?

Getting a good night’s rest is more than just managing fatigue. Sleep plays a crucial role in all sorts of bodily processes. Research has shown that those who have poor quality sleep are at an increased risk for numerous health issues.

Some of the potential short-term consequences of sleep disruption:

  • Decline in cognition, memory, and performance
  • Difficulties with emotional regulation

Some of the potential long-term consequences:

  • Increased risk of hypertension
  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Increased risk of metabolic syndrome
  • Increased risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus

Not to scare you, but evidence shows that practicing good sleep hygiene is imperative to any good self-care routine. So, if you aren’t sleeping well at night, it’s best to consult with a professional to get to the root of the underlying cause. However, if you suspect that it’s simply a matter of being stressed out or not being able to “shut your mind off” at night, there are some things that might help you out. And even if you are sleeping well at night, these techniques are great for relaxing in general and could make a great addition to your stress management toolbox.

Breathwork

Guided breathwork is a beginner-friendly way to practice mindfulness. If you’re like me who’s tried meditation but rather than being present, you’re busily putting together a to-do list, then following a guided video could help you ease into a calm state. Guided videos give the brain something to listen to and make it easier to stay focused on the exercise.

Several studies have shown promising data on how deep breathing exercises could improve mood and anxiety.  

How about this guided video with several tips to try:

How About a Massage? No Spa Required!

Treating yourself to an at-home massage could be just the thing you need to facilitate relaxation at the end of a long day, or even in the morning if you find yourself waking up “on the wrong side of the bed”.

There are many techniques for self-massage, but rest assured that no fancy oils, equipment or uncomfortable twists and turns are required to give yourself relief!

Have you heard about the Vagus nerve? The Vagus nerve is a main nerve that connects our brain to our organs in the body. This nerve also activates our rest and digestive system (parasympathetic). By stimulating simple points within our ear, this Vagus nerve massage technique can help reduce stress and anxiety. Give it a try:

It’s All About What Works for You

Everyone’s circumstances are unique. A part of what makes self-care enjoyable is finding little ways to nurture yourself that mesh well with your needs.

The suggestions mentioned here are only meant to serve as inspiration for your journey. Always be sure to check with your healthcare provider before beginning a new regimen, and most importantly, have fun!

Budget-Friendly Recipes Part 2

During colder weather, it can be a bit more challenging to plan healthier meals as produce-in-season is more limited. In this blog, I’ll share some more budget-friendly recipes and how to make healthy vegetables a mainstay of our diet.  

Lentils

Lentils are not technically a vegetable as they are in the legume family. They are also one of the highest vegetarian sources of protein. Did you know that just 1 cup of cooked lentils provides 18 grams of protein and are a great source of iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and B-vitamins? My sister perfected this lentil soup recipe – she makes a big batch to have throughout the week OR freezes it in Pyrex containers for future meals.

Lentil Soup

  • 2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow or white onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped (can use other root vegetables like turnip and parsnip)
  • 2 celeries, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 cup dry brown or green lentils, picked over and rinsed
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt, more to taste
  • 1 cup spinach or chopped kale (tough stalks removed)

Heat oil in a large pot on medium heat. Saute onion, celery and carrot until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, cumin and curry powder and bloom the spices, about 30 seconds. Add the dry lentils, broth and water. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. Bring the soup to boil. Then partially cover the pot and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 25-30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. Add chopped greens and cook for 5 more minutes. Add more salt to taste. Ready to serve!

Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts are in the Brassicaceae family of cruciferous vegetables and are low in calories but packed with nutrients, especially fiber, vitamin K and C. They also contain antioxidant compounds that reduce oxidative stress, inflammation and lower the risk of chronic disease. Studies have shown the benefits of brussels sprouts consumption in reducing the risk of diseases like cancer.

Here’s an easy salad recipe that’s great as a side dish or for lunch

Brussel Sprouts Salad

  • 1 bag of brussels sprouts (or ~0.6-0.7 pound)
  • 1/4 red onion, finely chopped
  • 3 TBSP olive oil
  • 3 TBSP lemon juice
  • ½ TBSP mustard (Dijon or yellow)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Black pepper to taste
  • Handful of chopped nuts (walnut, cashew or almond)

Cut brussels sprouts in half and boil them in a pot of boiling water for ~5 min or until done (tender yet firm). Drain the sprouts and put into a salad bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper. Pour the mixture over the sprouts and toss. Top with a handful of nuts and serve!

Onions

Onions are in the allium family and are rich in soluble fiber and vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins, folate, potassium selenium, manganese and vitamin C. Onions have been used over thousands of years as natural remedies due to its health enhancing properties.  Onions are rich in flavonoid compounds like anthocyanins and quercetin which have demonstrated antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12410539/ .  Onions are an incredibly versatile and inexpensive ingredient and can be used raw or cooked in many recipes. Since I’m not a fan of eating a lot of raw onion (It’s hard to get rid of onion breath), here’s an onion soup recipe that uses 2 pounds of onions!

This makes multiple servings so you can save the soup and then reheat with bread and cheese.

French Onion Soup

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 pounds yellow or white onions
  • 2 containers (32oz) of beef broth (can substitute with chicken or vegetable broth)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 5 ounces Swiss cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Sliced bread (opt for whole grain)

Cut onions into thin slices (you may want to wear some glasses or protective eye gear as onions release a natural chemical that irritates our glands and produces tears). To a soup pot, add olive oil and the onions and cook until caramelized, about 10-15 minutes. Then add beef broth, bay leaves, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper and simmer for about 20-30 minutes. Turn oven onto broil and warm up. Spread a dash of olive oil on the sliced bread and toast until brown. When oven is ready, ladle the soup into an oven-safe soup bowl, then place the toasted bread and top with cheese.  Broil on the top rack of the oven until cheese is melted and browned. It’s ready to serve!  

Beets

Did you know that beets are good for your heart? Beets contain natural nitrates (not the nitrates found in processed meats) that convert into nitric oxide in the body – this opens up the blood vessels and lowers blood pressure and heart rate. This study showed that consumption of one cup of beetroot juice daily for four weeks sustained a reduction in blood pressure in hypertensive patients. But that’s not all – high in vitamins A, C, K, and B2 as well as folate, manganese, and copper, beets reduce inflammation, support digestion and a balanced immune system. One of my favorite ways to consume beets is by roasting them. Here’s one of my go-to recipes:

Roasted Beet Salad

  • 6 medium beets, cleaned and trimmed
  • 3 TBSP of balsamic vinegar
  • 3 TBSP of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

To a 400 degree preheated oven, put in aluminum wrapped beets on a baking sheet. Roast until soft in the middle (~50-60 minutes). When cooled, unwrap and peel beets and cut into bite-size pieces. Add olive oil, balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Pour over beets and toss. This can be served warm or cold.

Enjoy!