The Truth about Fat: Less is NOT More

Diet culture has cycled through what feels like hundreds of trends:

“Go keto and lose 10 lbs in a month!”

“Only eat raw, never cooked veggies for optimal health!”

And even the wild, “Eat only Special K to fit into your old jeans again!”

One diet trend has stood the test of time, however: Aim to have a low-fat diet. The idea that all fats are bad is pervasive—many of us have been taught from a young age that fat is unhealthy and we should avoid it at all costs. And that fat makes you FAT! But is that really the case?

Today we’re breaking down the facts behind the war on fat that has been raging for decades. We’ll outline which fats to avoid and which to prioritize for optimal health.

But first… Why do people say fat is bad or unhealthy?

Some fat is unhealthy, but if we take a peek into history, we see where the full-fledged smear campaign on fat began.

Scientists began researching nutrition more intensely following World War II. In initial studies, they found a link between heart disease and foods heavy in saturated fats (red meat, for example). In the ensuing decades, this led to physicians recommending that people limit the amount of fat they ingest. When the national food guidelines were developed in the 70s and 80s (think: the precursor of the ‘My Plate’ you or your kids might have been taught in school), the takeaway message for many was to avoid fat. People weren’t well educated on the difference between saturated and unsaturated fats, so the recommendation to avoid specifically saturated fat was heard by many that “fat is bad.”

Let’s clear one thing up first: What is the difference between good fat and bad fat?

First, I encourage you to drop language like “good” and “bad” from any of your food vocabulary. Most foods can be “bad” in too high of a quantity; for example, if you eat seven mangos in a day, your blood sugar will not thank you. On the other hand, even “bad” foods in small amounts can be a net positive. For instance, allowing yourself a cupcake (or—gasp—two!) at your child’s birthday party without any guilt will likely help you feel more present and less stressed about whether or not you should eat the cupcake. Enjoy yourself and allow yourself to enjoy foods in moderation, too!


Saturated vs Unsaturated Fats

Now, when we consider fat, you should know there are two main types of fat: saturated and unsaturated fat. Saturated fats, at the molecular level, have all of their carbon atoms “saturated” with hydrogens. This basically means they form a neat linear molecule. Saturated fats, because of their structure, can easily build up and “stack” on top of one another.

Unsaturated fats have one to a few of their carbons “unsaturated” with hydrogens. This gives unsaturated fats kinks wherever the carbons aren’t fully saturated with hydrogens, which in turn makes it hard for them to build up and “stack” atop one another.

Both of these fats occur naturally, and to an extent, both should be present in your diet. Because unsaturated fats don’t build up as readily as saturated fats, these are generally healthier fats that give more benefits to your body.

Remember: fats (also called lipids) are one of the four main molecules that make up your entire body, in addition to carbohydrates, DNA, and proteins. You need fats in your diet to help your body with its daily processes, insulation, repair, energy storage, and more! Fats are a vital part of your diet. You need fat for good health.

So, what kinds of fats (and foods) should I focus on?

Fats to include: Unsaturated fats are found in fatty fish, avocados, olive oil, nuts, seeds, and a variety of other natural, non-processed foods. These fats are the most nourishing for the body. Adequate consumption of unsaturated fats leads to improved health!

Fats to have in moderation: Saturated fats occur naturally in red meat, eggs, dairy, coconut and palm oil. The studies on saturated fats are mixed. In high levels, they are believed to contribute to heart disease. Limiting their consumption leads to better health outcomes, but you do not need to cut them out all together. They naturally occur in a variety of foods!

Fats to avoid: Trans fats in processed and fried foods are where we see the worst health effects. Avoiding highly processed foods, fast food, and fried food will help you steer clear of these genuinely unhealthy fats.

Back to our discussion about diet culture though—have you ever opted for low-fat or fat-free options at the grocery store, thinking that was the healthier choice?

Now that we’ve covered that many fats are healthy, I encourage you to think twice before choosing low-fat or fat-free options. Fat packs flavor in foods, so when fat is removed, it’s often replaced with a form of sugar… and a lot of it! Reduced fat options generally are more unhealthy than the normal fat option because of their high sugar levels, so read labels carefully when you’re grocery shopping!

All in all, there are some fats that can boost your health, while others will harm it. Prioritize unsaturated fats, avoid trans fats and processed foods, and enjoy saturated fats in moderation. End the war on fats and include healthy fats in your diet for optimal nutrition!

Breaking the Binge Eating Cycle: Darn it – It’s your hormones

Binge eating plagues a lot of us. The post-meal or late night snack raids of Domino’s pizza, a box of Oreo’s, or a pint (or two) of Jenni’s ice cream has become a secret, shame-ridden ritual for many people, especially in places like the US where heavily processed food is more common and readily available.

For some people, it really is a harmless, occasional late night snack. For others, however, these binge eating habits can snowball into a collection of disorders colloquially referred to as binge, compulsive, or emotional eating, but may formally fall under Binge Eating Disorder.

But what’s behind this desire to binge? Why do 3M Americans struggle with what’s called Binge Eating Disorder (BED)?

The underlying factors causing BED are many and varied, and in this series, we’re focusing on two of them: hormonal imbalances and emotions. Today, we’re diving into the hormones that drive binge eating and how you can bring them back into balance.


Which hormones affect binge eating?

Hormones are chemical messengers that move throughout our body, signaling from the brain to various organs what needs to happen, and vice versa. When hormones are out of balance, it’s like they’re sending the wrong messages—eating when not hungry, eating past full, etc.

Dr. Mark Hyman termed the “four hormones of the apocalypse” which contribute to the desire to binge eat. They’re listed below with their various effects:


The body manufactures insulin to process any form of sugar (glucose, sucrose, fructose) that you ingest. When you eat a sugary meal—pancakes with syrup for breakfast, for instance—your insulin will spike (a “sugar rush”), but then crash. That crash makes you hungry for food, even if you just finished a big (sugary) meal.


Leptin is a hormone that signals to your brain when you’re done eating and are satiated. But ingesting high amounts of sugary, processed foods and carbs leads to leptin working less effectively. So even if leptin tells the brain “Hey, I’m full!”, a high-sugar diet makes the brain effectively ignore those messages from leptin. Hence, this leads to more eating without any brakes to control it.


Ghrelin is what tells the brain when we’re hungry and ready to munch. It’s produced in the stomach and highly affected by sleep. Ghrelin imbalances lead to a constant feeling of appetite, even if your body doesn’t actually need food.


Peptide YY
Similar to Leptin, Peptide YY is another hormone which signals that you’re full. If it’s not produced enough or if its messages aren’t received by the brain, then we will likely overeat and constantly snack.


BONUS: Cortisol
We might have mentioned four horsemen earlier, but really, there are five. Cortisol is the hormone that’s produced under stressful conditions to help our body escape stress. The effects of cortisol on the body require more energy, which leads to more hunger and higher blood sugar levels. In part 2 of this series, we’ll talk more about the importance of cortisol in emotional regulation!


These hormones are all here to work for us, not against us. It’s just a matter of getting them back in balance so they can send their messages effectively.


How can I balance my hormones to curb binge eating?

Get enough sleep
Sleep is one of the BIGGEST factors affecting appetite. With decreased sleep, ghrelin production goes up! In other words, your brain is getting signals that your appetite is higher, even if your energetic need for calories hasn’t changed. Unfortunately, peptide YY production also goes down under sleep-deprived conditions, meaning you’re not getting the right signals to stop eating.

Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night, and notice how your appetite changes with adequate sleep!


Eat regularly
The intermittent fasting trend has some people skipping meals and eating within a small window, but the key is eating balanced meals regardless of your eating window to maintain your blood sugar. As a pre-diabetic, I do not do well on intermittent fasting beyond a 14-hour period (if I finish dinner by 7pm, I usually have to eat breakfast around 9am the next day) but this varies widely by individual. I have family members that easily fast for 18 hours and do not even realize it.

If you skip breakfast and feel tired and weak, then make it a goal to start eating a protein-full breakfast each morning. This will make it less likely for your appetite to spike late at night, and will keep your blood sugar steady.


Balance your meals

When you eat, ensure that you’re eating enough fiber, protein and healthy fats (you can read more about which fats to use in our blog post here). The combination of fiber (from veggies and complex carbs like beans), protein and healthy fat keeps your blood sugar steady.

Similarly, avoid highly processed, sugary foods, especially drinks! Everything in moderation of course—don’t feel like you have to cut out every bit of sugar from your life. Make an effort to decrease your sugar intake, however, as it can become addictive and fuel hormonal imbalances. Starting by cutting out any sugary sodas or coffees can help get your hormones and blood sugar back on track.


Regulate your stress
The stress-hormone cortisol often has a multiplier effect on worsening other parts of your physical health, including appetite and weight. If you find yourself eating when you’re stressed, consider adding more mindfulness into your habits with food. This means asking yourself things like: “Am I actually hungry? What do I feel in my body right now? Why do I want to eat this right now?”

Following that mindfulness moment, see if there’s another stress-reducing action you can take: a few minutes of deep breathing, a short walk, a conversation with a friend. Weave stress-relieving techniques into your daily schedule, too, to decrease your overall stress and better regulate your hormones! Check out our article on stress management here for more research-backed ways you can decrease stress.


Consider supplements
Some supplements can help you balance your hormones and blood sugar as well. Two in particular—Omega-3 fats and Vitamin D—can be especially helpful.

Omega-3 fats, typically found in fish oil supplements, can help fight insulin resistance and decrease erratic appetites. Here’s a high-dose omega 3 supplement that’s been third-party tested:

Vitamin D is another supplement that can work wonders for your health. It regulates hormones and balances insulin. If you find your stress weighing on your mental health, too, Vitamin D is often recommended to increase overall mood.  

Medium dose (2000 IU):

High dose (5000 IU):

Binge eating can feel defeating and shame-ridden, but when you realize that your body and hormones are driving you to overconsume, some of that guilt can be mitigated as you’ll realize it’s not just an issue of willpower. Use these tips to start balancing your hormones, and check back on another post on how to manage the emotional components of overeating!

Your Guide to Fats: Which Vegetable Oils Are Bad?

On the cover of health magazines in the 80s, 90s and even into the 2000s, you would have seen a lot of hullabaloo about how fat was Public Enemy #1 and it was making us all, well…fat. They demonized fat for obesity rates, rise in cardiovascular diseases, and other chronic conditions. The low-fat craze told us how we needed to avoid fat at all costs; then a plethora of reduced fat processed foods hit the store shelves in response to consumer demand.   

Then in 2002 appeared a seminal article written by the science writer, Gary Taubes, “What if it was a big fat lie?” – which started to turn the tide on the evils of fat. Our collective nutrition consciousness has decided that the scientific evidence is not pointing to fat as Health’s Most Wanted. In reality, fat is an essential part of our diet as humans. Fats help fuel our mitochondria, absorb vitamins and minerals, and keep us satiated after a meal. Did you know that our brains are even made up of 60% fat! And oils are some of the best sources of fats that can support our overall health.

However, understanding which oils are healthy and which should be written off of your eating plan is important in creating a balanced diet. In this blog, we’ve reviewed the different types of fat, and which oils to choose or avoid next time you’re at the grocery store or cooking a meal.


Types of Fats

There are three main types of fat: saturated fat, unsaturated fat, and trans fats.

Saturated fats mean that the fat molecule—also called a triglyceride—is completely “saturated” with hydrogen molecules. In the picture below, you’ll see how saturated fat is full of H’s (hydrogens); this allows saturated fats to stack on top of each other and build up easily, causing things like plaque buildup in your arteries. Some of you may remember restaurants transitioning from saturated fat (lard, tallow) to all vegetable oils (corn, soybean) in an attempt to switch to a healthier source. How ironic this is – we all know that saturated fats like lard are less processed and much more stable for cooking or frying. The moral of this lesson is that overall, you only need saturated fats in moderation for health. If I could find a restaurant that serves fried chicken cooked in lard again, I would love to go splurge!

Unsaturated fats have one or more double bonds (=) where the molecule is not saturated with hydrogens. This creates a kink in what would otherwise be a continuous, stackable chain. These kinks created by the unsaturated areas keeps the fat from building up as saturated fat does; as such, unsaturated fats are generally a healthier choice than saturated!

Trans fats: Do you remember when Crisco shortening was a main ingredient in many of the recipes then? Trans fats are formed when unsaturated fats are refined in a process called partial hydrogenation; these are fake oils and should be avoided. Consumption of trans fats has been linked to increases in heart attacks, inflammation in the body, and blood cholesterol levels. The city of New York leading the way with the first ban on trans fats in restaurants has demonstrated improved public health and lower rates of hearts attacks and strokes. Way to go Big Apple!  


Healthy Oils

1. Olive Oil

Olive oil is high in monounsaturated fat, which has been linked to lowering LDL cholesterol and promoting heart health. Olive oil which hasn’t been processed with chemicals is called virgin olive oil, and the highest grade of virgin olive oil is called extra virgin olive oil.

Christine Palumbo, a registered dietician, explains, “[Extra-virgin olive oil] contains more than 30 different phenolic compounds, a group of phytochemicals that include many with anti-inflammatory and blood vessel-expanding actions.” Olive oil is perhaps the most common choice for healthy oil, and it’s a clear example of fat that will actually help your heart health. Unfortunately, not all olive oil is actually olive oil – there are many blends and fakes out there. When the world’s production of olive oil does NOT match what is being sold as ‘olive oil’, there’s plenty of reason for suspicion. We will highlight what to look for in olive oil in a later blog.

2. Avocado Oil

Avocado oil is also teeming with monounsaturated fats and all the health benefits that come with them. This oil is especially unique because it retains its nutritional content at high and low temperatures; others, like olive oil, have a low smoke point, so the oil begins to break down sooner while cooking. Avocado oil is a great, neutral tasting option with high health benefits. I tend to use avocado oil for stir-frying as it’s more heat stable than olive oil. 

3. Sesame Oil

Sesame oil has naturally occurring polyunsaturated fats, which are also helpful for heart health! Research has reported that sesame oil has anti-inflammatory effects while also providing antioxidant support. Together, these properties help fight heart disease and plaque buildup in the arteries. Sesame oil has been a staple in Asian cooking for centuries, and is a heart-healthy addition to your own pantry. Keep in mind that sesame oil should only be used as a topping or a seasoning oil as it’s not heat stable for long-term cooking or frying.


Oils to Eat In Moderation or Avoid

Although we need fat in our diet for optimal health, there are some oils that we should only consume in moderation or avoid like the plague.  

1. Coconut Oil – Moderation

Coconut oil’s reputation has been up and down in recent years: some dieticians used to claim it was the best fat for your health because of its medium-chain-triglycerides, while others staunchly recommend against it for its high saturated fat content.

The research on coconut oil is mixed, with some studies pointing to it raising your HDL cholesterol (the good stuff), while other research shows that coconut oil might raise your LDL cholesterol (the artery-clogging bad stuff).

Because of its mixed reviews and high saturated fat content, the Cleveland Clinic and many others recommend you use coconut oil in moderation. I like coconut oil when making popcorn but due to the strong flavor, it’s usually reserved for a snack or a dessert dish.

2. Palm Oil – Moderation

Check the label of any jar of peanut butter and you’ll likely find palm oil listed; it’s a popular ingredient in many processed foods. With roughly a half and half makeup of saturated and unsaturated fats, palm oil isn’t as bad as some other options, as long as you’re not eating a lot of it. To me, the bigger issue is that extracting palm oil has been shown to have negative effects on the environment; the World Wildlife Fund reports that it increases deforestation and unethical working conditions. Opt for all natural peanut butter and avoid palm oil next time you’re at the grocery store. Read labels carefully because palm oil is hidden in a lot of snacks and otherwise healthy foods.

3. Vegetable Oils – Avoid

Vegetable oils include corn oil, sunflower oil, soy oil, safflower oil, grapeseed oil, cottonseed oil, rice bran oil, and rapeseed (Canola) oil.

New York Times best selling author and family physician Cate Shanahan, MD, notes how the high level of refinement needed for these oils in combination with their high content of polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) makes them a poor choice. The refinement process makes the PUFAs more unstable, less nutrient dense, and more likely to lead to inflammation in the body.

Shanahan recommends opting for oils that are less refined and closer to whole foods, whether that might be a cold-pressed olive oil or avocado oil as mentioned earlier.

I love how fats give me energy throughout the day without needing to raid the fridge every several hours. It also gives me mental clarity. It’s necessary to have fat in your diet, and when you opt for healthy oils like olive, avocado, and sesame oil, your body and brain will thank you.  It may be time to clean out your cupboard and re-prioritize your vegetable oil shelf!

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:

Let Food Be Thy Medicine – What I Eat (Part 2)

As I mentioned in Part 1 of my blog, I try to live by Hippocrates’ famous quote: ‘Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food’. In the busy world we live in, all of this takes advance planning. Although I am known as the ultimate planner, I often use up all my planning points for work and family so I have to keep things simple when it comes to meals.

Here are some dinner ideas that are part of my regimen.

Dinner at Home

My dinner menus are on the simple side and rarely contain more than 8 ingredients. I know that spices are some of the best additives to create a superfood meal but I am pretty lazy so don’t work with many – probably on my list to improve!

Tofu Steaks

Here is my sister’s recipe for Asian-style tofu steaks. It’s a great meatless dinner option and delicious with a side salad.

  • 1 lb extra firm tofu
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce (if using regular soy sauce, reduce to 1/8 cup)
  • 2 TBSP sesame oil
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 1 TBSP honey or maple syrup 
  • 1 TBSP Worcester sauce
  • 2 TBSP lemon juice
  • Black pepper to taste

Cut tofu lengthwise into four equal slabs and put into a baking dish or a bowl. Mix all the other ingredients to make the marinade and pour over tofu and let it sit for 30 minutes. Remove tofu from marinade and fry it in a greased hot pan (olive oil or avocado oil) for about 2-3 mins on each side until browned. Place on serving dish. Then add the marinade to the pan, heat until boiling and pour over the fried tofu steaks. You can garnish with scallions if you’d like.

Simple Salmon

This is so easy I can do it in my sleep. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. To salmon filets, sprinkle some olive oil and salt and add to a heated skillet (make sure it’s oven safe). Cook with skin side up (so it’s easier to flip in the oven) on stovetop for 2 minutes then put skillet in oven and bake 5 minutes per side. It’s crispy on the outside and delicious! Here’s another simple recipe that you may want to try that uses butter:

Cod, Sea Bass, Grouper or other white flaky fish

For each pound, make a mixture of 2 tablespoons of miso, 1 tablespoon of maple syrup, dash of garlic powder, juice of half lemon, 2 TBSPs olive oil and some water to dilute. Marinate the fish in the mixture (you can do this overnight if you plan ahead) and throw in oven at 400 degrees for around 15 minutes (this will vary based on size of filet and thickness). If you want to make it a bit richer, you can top it off with a knob of butter towards the end.

Broccoli Salad

Buy bagged broccoli florets in produce aisle as they are similar in size and cook evenly. Steam (5-8 minutes) or boil (3-5 minutes) the broccoli florets, add some garlic powder, minced shallots (or red onion), olive oil, balsamic vinegar, oregano, salt and pepper. Toss together and it can be served warm or cold.

3-Bean Salad

You can use any three beans you like for this. I use chick peas, kidney, northern, limas or whatever I have in the house. To the three cans of beans (15 oz.), add ¼ cup chopped parsley, 1 tsp of oregano, ¼ cup chopped yellow/red pepper, ¼ cup chopped red onion (or green onion) and ¼ cup chopped celery.  Toss with white or red wine vinegar (1/8-1/4 cup), olive oil (1/2 cup) and then add salt to taste. This tastes better the longer it sits so you can make a big batch and have it throughout the week.

Kale Salad

I prefer to chop up my own kale as the bagged ones have too many stems which make it difficult to digest. To one bunch of kale de-stemmed and chopped, add ~¼ cup pomegranate seeds, 1/3 cup olive oil, 2 TBSP red wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. Massage kale and dressing to release the pomegranate juice and soften the kale. You can top off with ¼ cup nuts (pine, walnut) or some pumpkin seeds.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Another simple dish to add to any protein source. To a bag/pound of brussels sprouts (cut in half and tops cut off), add ¼ cup olive oil, 4 cloves chopped garlic, 1 tsp Rosemary, salt and pepper. Bake in 425 degree oven for about 20-25 minutes until garlic and brussels sprouts are golden brown.

Collard Greens

These are widely available and easy to prepare. Wash one large bunch of collard greens, de-stem and chop into small pieces. In a stockpot,  add ½ cup of bacon or ham bits and cook with just enough water to get it browned. Throw in collard greens, ½ chopped onion, 1-2 cups of water and cook until soft. Add soy sauce to taste and finish off with some apple cider vinegar (~1/8 cup or to taste). We have collard greens in our garden that will NOT die no matter what the weather is or how much we neglect it so are enjoying them year-round.

Stir-Fried Zucchini/Squash or Mushrooms

This is a super easy side dish to add to any meal. Cut zucchini or yellow squash into rings and saute them in a tablespoon of ghee (clarified butter). Add salt to taste. You can do the same with mushrooms – the buttery goodness makes the veggies pop!

Sous Vide Chicken

Have you heard of the term sous vide? In French, it means “under vacuum” and in sous vide cooking, the food is sealed in an airtight container and submerged in a hot water bath. The temperature of the water bath determines the temperature of the food so it’s easy to cook foods without over or under cooking. Chicken is a perfect meat for sous vide as it cooks evenly without turning it into cardboard (especially chicken breasts). You will need to invest in a sous vide cooker which are widely available now.

To several chicken breasts or thighs, add salt, pepper, olive oil and whatever herbs you’d like (Herbs de Provence or Mrs. Dash). Mix well and put them in the sous vide bags. Immerse in water that’s come up to 145 degrees (for chicken). It should be done in around 2 hours but you can keep it on as it will not overcook. I usually start them sometime in the afternoon and it will often sit in the bath for 4 hours before I’m ready to make dinner. Take them out of the sous vide bag, put them on a pan and brown the skins on the broiler to get a nice crust.  Serve with the juice from the sous vide bag as gravy. 

Here’s a simple sous vide to buy.

And I only use re-usable silicone bags to minimize plastic contamination in the food.

Salad Dressing

This is my friend’s staple – she makes them in huge batches and gives them away as gifts in pretty bottles. It stores nicely in the fridge if you make more than you need.

To 2 TBSP of red wine or balsamic vinegar, add 1 TSP of Dijon mustard and ½ TSP salt. Whisk to dissolve the salt. Add 1 clove of finely minced garlic, and 6 TBSP of extra virgin olive oil and mix well. Black pepper can be added to taste. This dressing goes with any type of salad – arugula, spring greens, fennel, cabbage, radicchio, etc.

Dinner Out

  • Try to stay away from heavy sauces as it’s most likely laden with unhealthy fats and sugars (Chinese food is a big culprit). It’s difficult to know what’s in them and it’s likely no one will tell you.

  • It’s important to remember that food diversity is good for our gut. We are not designed to eat the same thing over and over. So when dining out, expand the variety by ordering foods that you wouldn’t normally have at home (especially the plant foods). For me, this includes lots of varieties of veggies and greens, pasta/bread (I rarely make this at home), fish of the day (I have a limited repertoire but restaurants offer more options), sushi, meats like lamb, duck or game. I actually enjoy cooking with game meats like venison but my meat supplier (my husband) hasn’t gone hunting in a while so off to a restaurant I go.    

5 Tips to Starting Off the New Year in a Healthy Fashion

I used to make New Year’s Resolutions every year until I realized that making promises at the beginning of the year which inevitably get broken within 90 days was not a sustainable habit. So, in light of the New Year, I’ll share some things you can do to take control of your health without a calendar to dictate your actions.

Cut the Carbs, Sugar & Bad Fats

One of the first things we can do is control what goes into our mouth. We as a society eat way too many carbs, sugar and bad fats. As you may be aware, chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, cancer and obesity are all tied to our over-reliance on what has become the standard American diet. Have you noticed how having a high-carb/high-sugar meal makes you crave more snacks several hours later? These high-carb foods (breads, cereals, pastas, waffles, pancakes, cookies, cakes, pies) cause blood sugar fluctuations that lead to incessant carb cravings thereafter. So, what to do after weeks of eggnog, wine (of course – alcohol is formed from sugar), grandma’s pumpkin pie and that holiday feast with turkey, stuffing, and mac and cheese?

First, reduce your carb and sugar intake. This does not mean you have to go on a ketogenic diet as moderation is key as you transition from all the holiday festivities.

  • Get most of your carbs from plant-based sources, primarily non-starchy vegetables like greens, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage). You can add some fruit like apples and starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes and beets to up your carb intake but the key is to make greens and veggies the mainstay of your daily plate. And no need to count calories – eat until you are satisfied as these veggies are high in fiber and volume and low in calories. Also, eating a naturally fiber-rich diet will help with elimination and keep you ‘regular’.

  • Eliminate bad fats and add good ones.
    • Man-made fats that are hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils like margarine should be avoided like the plague. If nature intended for humans to consume them, they would be naturally available. Also, vegetable oils (corn, soybean, canola, grapeseed, peanut, cottonseed, safflower, sunflower) are HIGHLY processed and READILY oxidized when exposed to light, air or heat. Oxidized or ‘rancid’ oils are NOT healthy for humans so it’s best to avoid them.
    • Healthy fats should be added to the diet – it sounds counter-intuitive for losing weight but healthy fats are necessary building blocks for cell membranes and for keeping hormones in balance. Non-animal sources of fat include avocados, avocado oil, nuts and nut butters, coconut and coconut oil, olives and olive oil. Animal sources include lard, grass-fed butter/ghee, grass-fed/wild-caught/pasture-raised meats and fish. 

Good Health Begins in the Gut

Good health = healthy gut = good intestinal bacteria. The human gut is home to more than 100 trillion micro-organisms and contains 10 times more bacteria than all the human cells in the entire body. Recent studies suggest the role that the gut microbiome plays in regulating the risk of diseases like cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, obesity and cancer AND the importance of diet in altering the gut’s microbial composition. So to keep your gut flora healthy:

Manage stress levels as studies have shown that prolonged stress can negatively alter intestinal microbiota composition

Get Moving!

If you don’t have time to exercise, how about starting off with a daily 7-minute workout? This free app called 7M offers exercises for a variety of body parts and they are only 7 minutes long. They have options with weights or without so no need to invest in equipment to get going.

Here are two 7-minute high-intensity interval training workouts to try without downloading the app:

Take Time to Meditate/Reflect

You don’t need a 30-minute meditation or yoga practice to get your mindfulness quotient in. Upon waking, try a 5-minute breathing or meditation exercise. Here are a couple to try:

And before bed, try to reflect on the happenings of the day – what went well and what could be improved. This raises awareness of the positive things achieved in the day along with areas for improvement. Continuous improvement and learning is key to keeping us youthful and vibrant!

Practice Good Sleep Habits

And last but not least, establish a sleep rhythm that works for YOU as we all have different sleep clocks. I have tried to be an early riser (before 6:30am) SO many times but it’s not my optimal sleep clock and ends up making me more tired and run down. Against my better judgment, I woke up REALLY early (5:30am) over Thanksgiving holiday to go walking with my sister – although I got my steps in, I ended up with a head cold which lasted for weeks.

If you are an early morning person, you can do a lot of the important tasks early in the day. But if you’re like me and cannot get going until around 7am after a stiff cup of coffee, you may be more prone to get some productive work done well into the evening.

So, in addition to when you sleep, determine how much sleep you need to feel optimal – some feel fantastic after just six hours but if you’re like me, you will need at least 7-8 hours to survive the next day.

So, how about a New Year’s plan of consistency, moderation and steady improvement to keep you going and going? Happy Holidays!

Your Gut & Weight Loss Connection

Have you heard all the buzz lately about the role that your gut microbiome has on your weight? There’s an ever-growing body of research around this with plenty of evidence for the association between gut bacteria and obesity in both infants and adults. In fact, the microbial changes in your gut can be considered a factor involved in obesity development as modifications to the bacteria in the digestive tract can reshape the metabolic profile. So, if that has you thinking about popping bottles of probiotics or even a fecal transplant to lose that extra baggage, read on…

Awesome bacteria

We have many hundreds of different species of bacteria in our gut and while some are harmful and cause illness, most are necessary for human health. They produce vitamins (like vitamin K) and can help your body fight off invaders. They determine how the foods you eat are digested and can promote satiety. So, having a lot of varied, beneficial bacteria is clearly good for you. This study conducted on human twin subjects showed that the obese twin had lower bacterial diversity compared to the non-obese twin.

The bacteria in your gut can even impact how fats from foods are absorbed and stored in the body. I envision these bacteria running around my gut doing aerobics to burn off the dietary fat I consume so it’s not stored in my thighs.

Sharing awesome bacteria

I am definitely not advocating sharing any fecal matter with anybody (unless you absolutely need a transplant) but this research is part of a growing body of evidence that your gut CAN shape your weight. A fecal microbiota transplant, also known as a stool transplant, is the process of transferring fecal bacteria and other microbes from a healthy individual into another individual. FMT is an effective treatment for C. difficile infection. This study showed that the sharing of thin mice fecal matter prevented the development of increased body mass and obesity-related markers in obese mice mates.

So, how do we cultivate awesome bacteria? As Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

  • Fiber

One of the reasons why the whole foods-based approach to eating is recommended is due to its high fiber content. So, it should come as no surprise that studies are showing that people eating a high fiber diet have lower weight. This is not just due to the fact that fiber lowers insulin levels and promotes satiety but also the role that the gut bacteria has in digesting that fiber. This review shows how fermentation of dietary fiber by gut microbiota leads to the production of short-chain fatty acids (butyrate, propionate and acetate) which suppresses inflammation, carcinogenesis and maintains a healthy balance of the digestive tract.

Remember, processed food = no good fiber (cardboard has fiber but your gut won’t process it)

Whole food = good fiber

Eating a diet rich in high-fiber vegetables and fruits will keep the bacteria in your GI tract busy and happy and help you achieve a thin-person gut microbiome. 

If you feel like you need some help as no one has a perfect diet, you can try supplementing with probiotics. There are numerous studies done on various strains of probiotics and its impact on weight loss. Here are a couple for you to check out:

Strains containing Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus have the most evidence for assisting with weight loss – here are ones that have been independently tested for strength and quality:



  • Flavonoids

Did you know that your gut likes to digest antioxidants commonly found in plants called flavonoids? And that studies have shown that flavonoids can prevent weight gain? Flavonoids are a class of compounds (with six different subtypes) that are rich in antioxidant activity to help ward off inflammation, rid toxins and keep you svelte.

Here is a list of foods rich in flavonoids:
  • Fruits – apples, all berries, peaches, grapefruit, lemons, limes, red and purple grapes
  • Vegetables – broccoli, kale, onions, tomatoes, lettuce, scallions, celery, red peppers
  • Herbs/tea – chamomile, parsley, peppermint, white/green/oolong/black tea
  • And don’t forget dark chocolate!

Magic Pills for Weight Loss?

If you are like many Americans that are always on a ‘diet’ or hoping to lose the muffin-top, you may have tried many strategies and ‘potions’ that are on the market today. The weight loss market is a HUGE (no pun intended) industry and rife with all kinds of get-thin-quick scams and beautiful before and after photos and videos of successful losers. Don’t fall for the hype – you didn’t gain the weight overnight so why would it disappear as quickly? There are also a lot of weight loss supplements with proven claims of weight/fat loss – most are modest and usually funded by the supplement manufacturers.

Cutting carbs and processed foods, eating whole foods which have low sugar and high fiber (clean veggies, fruit and protein), good sleep, adequate exercise and a healthy mind are still the keys to a successful weight loss effort.

If all this sounds overwhelming, Iet’s focus on what we put into our mouths. In this blog, I’ll share some evidence-based ways to boost your weight loss regimen with key ingredients that are available in foods.



As a pre-diabetic, berberine is part of my daily arsenal in the fight against rising blood sugar and insulin levels. This is technically not a food (I bet it doesn’t taste good) as berberine is an extract found in roots of plants like goldenseal (also called orangeroot or yellow puccoon, a perennial herb in the buttercup family). It has been shown to be as effective as metformin (a diabetes drug) in reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. And it has also been shown to lower total and LDL cholesterol. In this systematic review of studies conducted on the efficacy of berberine, its impact on decreasing lipid and glucose levels and modulating gut bacteria (it can eliminate H. pylori) demonstrated its use in obesity treatment and prevention.

Here are several to try that have been independently tested:

Green Tea (EGCG)

Green tea contains a class of catechins (called EGCG) which is the primary antioxidant and has been shown to reduce body weight in obese subjects by increasing energy expenditure and fat oxidation. This study indicates EGCG’s mechanism of action is by increasing the activity of norepinephrine, a hormone that helps you burn fat.

There are many green tea extracts on the market but I prefer to consume it in whole form – it’s delicious and you derive the same benefit. Here are several brands to try – look for organic if possible and check if it’s been tested for pesticides and contamination:



Did you know that consumption of dietary fiber is a key predictor of weight loss? This study done on 345 overweight participants showed that fiber intake was the most influential factor in promoting weight loss and dietary adherence.

It’s important to note that both soluble and insoluble fiber are essential:

  • Soluble fiber dissolves in water and forms a gel-like material as it passes through your digestive tract so it reduces your body’s ability to absorb fat. It also feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut to improve digestion while lowering inflammation. Good sources include: apples, beans, carrots, and oats. I personally like a form of fiber called inulin which is also considered a prebiotic. It’s available in powder form and I have it in my morning shake. This one come from the agave plant:

  • Insoluble fiber keeps the bowels moving, prevents constipation and can reduce your risk of hemorrhoids and other colorectal conditions. Good sources include: berries, nuts, vegetables (including cauliflower, cabbage, green beans, potatoes), and wheat bran.

Psyllium contains both soluble (80%) and insoluble (20%) fiber and can be used to supplement if you think you’re getting insufficient quantities from your whole foods diet. Here are two that have been independently tested to be free of lead, cadmium and other contaminants:


Glucomannan is also a form of fiber and found in the roots of the elephant yam – it’s also known as konjac root. It becomes gel-like and absorbs water in your gut to promote a feeling of satiety. This randomized, controlled study conducted on 176 subjects demonstrated that glucomannan fiber added to a healthy diet promoted up to 10 pounds of weight loss over a five week period.

I actually don’t mind the zero taste of konjac root which is sold as shirataki – it comes in noodle and rice forms. It is a bit weird in texture (some describe it as rubbery) so I use the rice to add to soups and mix the noodles with regular spaghetti. Here are several to try:

Shirataki/konjac root is considered low carb, low calorie, gluten-free, Paleo and ketogenic – so if you’re interested in doing more with this miracle food, check out the recipes below:



Did you know that activating a protein called Nrf2 (sounds like nerf ball) in your body will not only increase fat burning but also turn on cells that generate antioxidants and assist with detoxification? And guess what – sulforaphane is a powerful Nrf2 activator. What is sulforaphane? It’s the active compound in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and cabbage that has anti-inflammatory, detoxifying and brain enhancing benefits. And the best part is that you can get them all through the foods you eat.

Broccoli sprouts are considered to have 25X more sulforaphanes than regular broccoli. If you want to supercharge your diet with broccoli sprouts, you can get them at your local store (in small containers) or if you are ambitious, grow your own.

For the green thumbs out there, here are options and instructions to grow your own

If you want to stick to regular broccoli, try steaming or lightly cooking them as it will increase the amount of sulforaphanes your body absorbs by up to 300 percent. And remember to buy fresh broccoli as frozen ones have little to no sulforaphanes left due to processing.

What To Do To Promote Healthy Weight Loss

In a previous blog on weight loss, I covered the importance of tamping down inflammation so your body loses its resistance to getting rid of that unwanted belly fat. In this blog, I’m highlighting some evidence-based tips on what to do to help you get off the rollercoaster ride of weight loss/weight gain.

Intermittent Fasting

There are no shortage of fad diets and recommendations on losing weight. And all of it looks like the plan for success on ‘paper’. But as you know, different diets work for different folks so most of it is trial and error (I’m speaking from years of experience!) Regardless of which eating plan you’re on to lose weight, intermittent fasting  (IF) is something one can do on ANY diet.  It’s simple and saves you time and money (who doesn’t want that?) So, what is intermittent fasting (IF)? It’s where you eat your meals within a short eating window (around 8-10 hours) and fast for the rest of the day. For example, if you have breakfast at 10am and finish dinner by 7pm and repeat the same schedule the next day, you’ll have fasted for 15 hours. Why is this so great?

  • When you fast, your glycogen stores and insulin levels will drop, which then forces your body to tap into the fat stores for energy.
  • Reducing insulin levels will decrease your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
  • It eliminates the late-night snacking habit which has been associated with weight gain and metabolic dysfunction.

This systematic review of 27 IF trials showed weight loss of 1-13% of body weight without adverse events and has shown promise for the treatment of obesity.

There are some caveats to intermittent fasting – it will not be suitable for those who are pregnant, have eating disorders or athletes with frequent need for calories. So, make sure to check in with your clinician prior to starting IF. Also, it’s been shown that periodically breaking the fasting window with regular eating is a good habit if you would like to sustain this for the long term. For example, if you like to IF during the week, take a break on the weekend with a longer eating period.

Check out my earlier blog on Fasting as a Therapeutic Option for Weight Loss.


Did you know that research has shown that sleep deprivation decreases metabolic rate and raises BMI in healthy adults? And since we are a sleep-deprived society with nearly a third of US adults getting less shut-eye than recommended, it’s no wonder we have an obesity epidemic in this country. According to this study, the pathways linking sleep deprivation to weight gain are: increased food intake, decreased energy expenditure, and changes in level of appetite-regulating hormones to reduce leptin (which signals satiety) and elevate ghrelin (which signals hunger).

So, if you want to boost weight loss, aim for a minimum of seven hours of sleep to keep your metabolic rate functioning at its peak.

Strength Training

Did you know that inactive adults lose 3-8% of muscle mass every decade which results in a lower metabolic rate and higher fat storage? It’s important to keep our muscle mass as we age so that we can keep our metabolic rate up to prevent fat accumulation (in all the wrong places). Since muscle is metabolically more active than fat, having more means it burns more calories.

According to this study, 10 weeks of strength training can increase resting metabolic rate by 7% and also assist in the prevention and management of type 2 diabetes by decreasing visceral fat, reducing HbA1c, and improving insulin sensitivity.

So, if you only have 30 minutes to workout, pick a strength training exercise that will also get your heart pumping. Here’s a 20-minute total body strength workout to try:

What to incorporate into your diet

Whether you’re doing a Mediterranean, low carb, vegan/vegetarian or Paleo diet, here are some foods you can incorporate to your eating plan to keep the metabolic rate humming.


If you are a fan of coffee, raise your mug to toast the wonders of caffeine in promoting weight loss:

  • Not only does it taste good, but this systematic review of 13 randomized clinical trials showed that caffeine intake was effective in reducing weight, BMI and fat mass.  
  • The caffeine in coffee stimulates the nervous system to stimulate lipolysis (fat burning) and energy expenditure.
  • Do you know why sports drinks are often loaded with caffeine? Because it’s been shown to reduce fatigue AND increase exercise performance by up to 12%. 

Make sure you don’t imbibe too much or too close to bedtime as it may interfere with your shut-eye (thereby defeating the purpose of using caffeine as a weight-loss promoter).


Could these spicy compounds found in chili peppers be the answer to obesity? Evidence suggests that the capsaicinoids (compound in chili peppers) offset the impact of calorie restriction by increasing energy expenditure and fat oxidation, while preventing the increase in hunger and decrease in satiety. These effects remove the resistance to fat loss during a weight loss program and facilitate the maintenance of the new ‘setpoint’ after weight loss has been achieved. So sprinkle that hot sauce liberally onto your foods!

Green Tea

Green tea contains some caffeine (not as much as coffee) but the real powerhouse in this drink are the catechin polyphenols (antioxidants) known as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) which has been shown to boost metabolism. Indeed, research has shown that EGCG extract increases fat oxidation and 24-hour energy expenditure due to its thermogenic properties.

Here are several brands to try – look for organic if possible and check if it’s been tested for pesticides and contamination:


The satiating power of protein has been well established in numerous research studies. This study showed that an increase of 15-30% of protein with a constant carbohydrate intake produced a sustained increase in leptin sensitivity (to suppress appetite) resulting in significant weight loss. You can get protein from a variety of sources regardless of your diet. If you are vegan/vegetarian, try the following seven foods for maximum protein:

  • Edamame and lentils (18 grams/cup)
  • Pinto beans and chickpeas (15 grams/cup)
  • Mung beans (14 grams/cup)
  • Fava beans (13 grams/cup)
  • Lima beans (12 grams/cup)


Did you know that drinking water can increase your metabolic rate and help you eat less?

  • Studies done on both lean and overweight subjects showed that water consumption half an hour prior to mealtime reduced their calorie intake during the meal.
  • In this study conducted on overweight children, drinking cold water increased resting energy expenditure by up to 25%. 

So make sure you are getting plenty of CLEAN water in your diet. Even with tap water, it is ideal to filter prior to drinking. Here are some options:

  • Countertop: You want the largest pitcher so you are not constantly filling it.

  • Whole house: If you want clean water throughout the house, you may want to invest in a whole house filtration system. The tap water where I live is not that clean so this is what I put in which is good for 600,000 gallons and easy to maintain with simple filter changes every 3-6 months.

  • If you want to remove just about everything for drinking, you can invest in a reverse-osmosis system which you can install under your kitchen sink. Here is what I have.

Promoting Weight Loss by Demoting Inflammation

If you are like many Americans that struggle to lose excess weight, there’s comfort in knowing that you are not alone and all the odds are stacked against you. As our hormones decline with age, our food choices, the toxic environment and the sleep-deprived world we live in tell the cells in our body to hold on to the fat for dear life. In this series of blogs on weight, I’ll cover some evidence-based ways on what NOT TO DO and DO to boost weight loss without counting every calorie we eat and every step we take.

I have personally tried just about every diet in the book and realized after many years that it’s not a one-diet-fits-all approach and that some diets will make you feel better where others will not. Because we live in a world full of gourmands and almost infinite food choices, it’s become even more complicated to know what works and what doesn’t. For example, I don’t do well with wheat and dairy but it took me many years of eating the Western diet to figure that out. You probably heard the advice – it’s NOT what you eat but it’s what you DON’T eat that matters.

Inflammation and Weight

Did you know that inflammation in the body can prevent you from losing weight? Chronic inflammation contributes to insulin resistance and obesity regardless of how much you eat. Obesity is also an inflammatory condition that traps you in the cycle of fat gain and resistant weight loss creating a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation.

But enough of the bad news. There are ways to promote weight loss without starting a new fad diet or becoming a super athlete. 

Here are some of the inflammatory foods you should consider eliminating from the diet to amp up your body’s fat burning potential:  

Artificial Sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners like Equal, Sweet-n-Low, and NutraSweet contain saccharin or aspartame and are commonly used in foods and beverages to make them sugar-free. If you think reaching for a diet soda is a good idea because it has zero sugar, did you know that consumption of diet soda is also strongly associated with obesity? Not to mention that some people can develop a sensitivity to these artificial sweeteners creating inflammation and joint pain, headaches, skin rashes and swelling. Just say NO to artificial sweeteners. How about trying stevia or allulose instead?

Here are a few to consider:

An estimated 30-50 million Americans are lactose intolerant (where your body lacks the enzyme lactase to break down the lactose sugar). This means that those people should avoid dairy products like milk, cream, cheese, and whey. When you eat what your body cannot handle, stomach discomfort, bloating, cramping, gas, diarrhea/constipation is the inflammatory response. Popping a Lactaid pill to have that slice of pizza or scoop of ice cream is not the answer. If you want to reduce inflammation, listen to your body and avoid products it doesn’t like. Of course, it’s easier said than done. I love ice cream and pizza and will indulge in them infrequently and only when I’ve been following a clean diet and my body feels optimal. But when I’m trying to lose weight, dairy is OUT.

Excess Alcohol
Did you know that drinking too much alcohol not only damages your liver but can permanently change your gut microbiota contributing to alcohol-induced oxidative stress, intestinal permeability to bacteria and other diseases? This study demonstrated the well-established link that excess alcohol can have on the composition of gut microbiota.

Food Allergies
You may be genetically programmed to tolerate less foods than your sibling/parent so it’s important to know how YOU respond to foods. Inability to tolerate the foods you eat will generate chronic inflammation in the body and make it difficult to lose weight. Common allergenic foods include corn, dairy, eggs, nuts, wheat and soy. Consider working with a nutritionist to try an elimination diet to see if any of these foods impact you. Or you can try it at home by eliminating most of the common allergenic foods. Have you heard of the Whole 30 program? Check it out – you may want to try it to see how much weight you lose after 30 days of eating clean. 

Foods containing sugar and processed carbohydrates
Sugar is in almost everything and it’s almost impossible to avoid when you’re eating out. Did you know that sugar (in various forms) triggers the release of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) which increases oxidative stress and inflammation and damages mitochondrial, skeletal, muscle and brain function? This study suggests the need to limit added sugar to reduce inflammation and prevent the development of metabolic and related diseases. Also, enriched bread, cereals, crackers, pastries, cakes and cookies have low nutrient density and fiber content but high glucose spiking potential that lead to an inflammatory state and insulin resistance. As good as it tastes going down, the advance glycation end products (AGEs) generated from eating these foods is your body’s way of telling you to STOP.

Fried Food
French fries, doughnuts, chips, tortillas, and fried chicken are staples of the Western diet. The vegetable oils used to fry these foods are high in omega-6 fatty acids which creates an imbalance with the essential omega-3 fatty acids, leading to inflammatory and autoimmune conditions. To add insult to injury, foods cooked in high temperatures generate a compound called acrylamide which is anticipated to have human carcinogenic effects. Here’s a recipe for Air Fryer French Fries – if you don’t own an air-fryer, you can oven-fry them instead.

Gluten is a general name for proteins found in wheat, rye, spelt, and barley, and acts like a glue to help maintain its shape and provide a chewy texture. Gluten is predominant in wheat products like bread, baked goods, pasta, pizza dough and cereals but can also be found in soups, sauces and salad dressings. If you have sensitivity to gluten, your body will see it as a foreign pathogen triggering an inflammatory response. This study shows how the consumption of wheat and cereal grains can contribute to the manifestation of chronic inflammation and autoimmune diseases by promoting intestinal permeability and a pro-inflammatory immune response.

Processed Meats
If you eat a low-carb diet with animal/sea protein, stay away from deli meat, hot dogs, smoked, cured and other processed foods. These foods stimulate the creation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) which in turn generates inflammation in the body. AGEs are implicated in the progression of many diseases including diabetes and atherosclerosis.

Preservatives, Artificial Colors and Flavor Enhancers
These additives designed to increase shelf life, make food look tempting and enhance flavor are unnatural substances thereby promoting inflammation in the body. Here are some common preservatives to watch out for:

  • Nitrites (nitrates and nitrosamines)
  • Sulfites/sulfur dioxide
  • Sodium benzoate, potassium benzoate, benzene

Many of the artificial colors have been banned by the FDA but there are still some in the market as it’s being reviewed. Check labels carefully and consider shopping at chains like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods where they won’t stock any foods with artificial coloring.

If you are a fan of Chinese food like me, you will notice some restaurants still add MSG (monosodium glutamate) to enhance the flavoring of the food. That’s why that Kung Pao chicken tastes so good! In this study, researchers used MSG to induce obesity. And this study showed that MSG promotes liver inflammation. So next time you go for some Chinese food, make sure it’s MSG free!

Trans Fats
Known as partially-hydrogenated oils, trans fats are inexpensive and highly stable with a desirable taste and texture. Some restaurants and fast food chains still use trans fat for frying foods as it can be used multiple times without changing out the oil. Trans fats are also found in cookies, cakes, crackers, and packaged snack foods. And remember, foods can be labeled as “trans-fat free” if they contain less than 0.5g per serving. So read the ingredient list carefully and if it says ‘partially-hydrogenated oils’, it has trans fats. It is evident that consumption of trans fatty acids is associated with higher levels of inflammatory markers leading to conditions like cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis.