Do you avoid or limit the ONE food group that could remarkably improve health… FAT?! The anti-fat revolution of the ‘80’s, when all fat was deemed bad and fat-free was the craze, continues to leave its negative mark. Many of my clients find it challenging to “trust” the current research… that FAT will improve health, hormones, gut, and waistline! Yes, salmon, nuts, and avocado are great choices … but having more variety and liberal amounts are important. So WHY is fat necessary? And WHICH fat is best? Here are just the basics.
The Basics & What You Should Choose
First, fat contains key nutrients (depending on the type) such as omega 3 fatty acids (wild fatty fish, walnuts, flax), glutathione (avocado), zinc (nuts/seeds/meat), medium chain triglycerides (coconut oil)….and so much more!
Second, fat and protein are necessary at meals and snacks to feel full and help regulate blood sugars and hormones. However, all fat is not created equal! The “good” fats have an extremely positive impact on the body from hormone regulation, to improving gut health, lowering cholesterol, calming chronic inflammation, and even aiding in weight loss. These are essential fatty acids; fats that our body can’t produce. Eating them is “essential” for the body to function ; monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats (omega 3 and omega 6’s), and saturated fats (once discarded as “bad”). I work with clients to help discover the right amount and variety of good fats to meet specific needs and achieve optimal health outcomes.
Healthy Fats to Include:
Monounsaturated Fats: Cold-pressed oils (extra virgin olive, avocado, peanut), avocados, olives, nuts (almonds, cashews, macadamia, pine, and peanuts)
Polyunsaturated Fats (Omega 3 & 6): Cold pressed oils (grapeseed, flaxseed), fatty fish (salmon, tuna, herring, trout, sardines), nuts (walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts), and seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, chia, hemp, flax)*
Saturated Fat: coconut, egg yolks, organic poultry, grass-fed local beef, clarified butter (ghee)**
*Encourage organic oils, organic pastured raised eggs and raw nuts
Fats To Avoid/Limit:
Processed foods with “partially hydrogenated oils and trans-fats”; specific Omega 6’s such as soybean, corn, or canola oil; fatty meats; and high fat processed dairy products.
**Exception would be ghee shown benefit the gut
Note: I discourage canola oil due to poor stability and the fact that canola is among the top 5 genetically modified (GM) foods (organic is difficult to find)!
HOW you cook with oil is important, otherwise you could miss out on the benefits and hurt your health!
How Healthy Fats Impact Inflammation:
The scientific literature is clear that healthy fats can calm chronic low grade inflammation. This is one reason why fish oil is often recommended for arthritis, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, fibromyalgia, and autoimmune disease. Fats are turned into important molecules called prostaglandins that either increase or decrease inflammation in your body.
Start today to ADD more good “fats” to your daily routine…and cut back on sugar and refined carbs.
My favorites: avocado in wraps and smoothies, coconut oil to make eggs, walnut oil drizzeled on salads, homemade dressings with EVOO, nuts and seeds galore!
Don’t miss – “Fall Flavorizers” – quick recipes to add healthy fat!
Share your experiences and recipes! Julie 🙂
Did you know your body is working BEFORE you eat?
Think about smelling the aroma of your favorite dinner cooking…or cake baking in the oven? Did you feel yourself begin to salivate or stomach growl telling you it was time to eat. The process of eating and digesting is an extremely intricate and amazing event! Good digestion begins before food even enters the mouth! The first phase of digestion affects your gut, however, it is not driven by it! It begins in the head….this is called the cephalic phase of digestion.
The sight, sound, smell, and often the thought of food triggers signals from the brain. These signals are transmitted down the central nervous system via the vagus nerve. These signals drive your digestive processes and prepare the way for food to enter your digestive tract. Many of us fail to recognize or create mindfulness around this vital process! Why so important? Because you may secrete as much as 40% of the hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes (super important to break down protein and other nutrients) needed to effectively digest food. This is even before you consume a single ounce of food. We must appreciate our brain for its role in digestion. This is because the autonomic nervous system has a vital role related to digestion and gut function.
It is imperative to pause and mindfully engage in the complexity of eating in order to heal or optimize your digestive tract!
For example: You are having a smooth day, everything is going according to schedule, you are calm, content, and feeling in control…more relaxed than you have been in weeks. You notice that you are getting hungry and you think about the leftovers in the frig that you would love to heat up for lunch. The thought triggers impulses in your brain that flow nicely to your vagus nerve (beginning in the lower part of your brain and travels down through your neck, chest, and into your abdomen). This nerve mediates the parasympathetic nervous response which only functions well when you are relaxed. In your happy, peaceful, and mindful state, it is operating well telling your gut to secrete optimal flow of digestive juices and therefore aids in the movements required for proper digestion.
Now, lets think about an “off” day…you are rushed, grumpy, moody, and feel like the day is controlling you. You had a fight with a co-worker, spouse, or child and your parasympathetic system is not activating…and you start to feel hungry. Now at this point those signals can’t flow properly down your vagus nerve. Instead your sympathetic nervous system kicks in and in this frame of mind, with this part of your nervous system activated, your digestive tract is derailed before it even has a chance!
TAKE AWAY: Your state of mind impacts your Cephalic Digestion.
A positive and mindful state of mind will help with optimal digestive health!
Steps to Optimize the Cephalic phase of Digestion:
- Learn and engage in the practice of mindful eating
- Pause and breathe before rushing into a meal
- Give thanks for the food and recognize how it will benefit your body
- Limit multitasking when eating
- Avoid eating in a stressful environment
- Prepare your own food at least 80-90% of the time
Knowledge is Power! The more you understand your body and how and why it works….the more empowered you are to engage in change and transformation.
My passion is to help equip you to live the healthiest life possible.
Have a question you want me to blog about…. Drop me a line and let me know.
Until next time! Julie
Bloating is a top complaint from my clients! You may have heard me say…I am most passion about helping those who struggle with the “blah, bloat, and bulge”. Let’s face it…bloating can put you in a funk! It is uncomfortable, makes your clothes feel tight, and is often accompanied by gas, pain, and unpredictable bowel movements. The list of digestive dysfunctions that cause bloating is a long one and can involve some serious gut health issues..and some minor ones.
Here are 5 top reasons + steps you can take to tame the bloat.
(Keep in mind, the root cause of bloating is often complex. Don’t feel discouraged if you make changes and don’t get immediate relief. Give me a call, let’s figure it out together!)
1. Speed Eating
I have lost count of the number of clients referred by gastroenterologists who were baffled about a patients “bloating problem”. They were scoped inside out with no conclusive findings. One important question they often failed to ask…“how quickly do you eat”? Too many meals today are eaten in a hurry while standing up, working at a desk, driving, checking Facebook, talking on the phone, or zoned out watching TV! . Here’s the problem: Our digestive function only works optimally when we’re relaxed, calm, and mentally prepared for food. This is known as the parasympathetic state of our nervous system or “rest and digest” mode. Today’s world leaves little room for us to get into this mode. Instead we are rushing, rushing, rushing in the sympathetic mode…also known as “fight or flight.”
Eating on the go doesn’t allow for proper digestion. Our brains don’t communicate with the gut, informing it that food is on the way. We don’t take the time to chew thoroughly, so food passes on before it is primed. We now have partially digested food sitting in the stomach…and therefore the stomach has to work overtime! The food then can ferment and produce gas….and, then of course, bloating.
What to do: Make it a priority to make mealtime sacred. Turn off all distractions, taking time to sit and enjoy mealtime. Stop, take a few deep breaths, and give thanks for the meal you are able to enjoy. Take a moment to actually look at your food, smell it and taste it…experiencing all the flavors and textures.. Put your fork down between bites and allow your mind, body, and thoughts to relax for at least 20-30 minutes.
2. Bulking Up
The raw food movement has been around for a long time. So many raw foodies love to “bulk up” meals with tons of raw veggies, salads, fruits, and nuts. While I give a ‘thumbs up’ to fiber, antioxidants, and nutrients galore…for some this is just too much fiber. Consuming more than 40g of fiber can be problematic. It may inhibit absorption of key nutrients. (Note: The Average American diet ingests a mere 15g.) It is important to gradually increase your fiber intake and listen to your body. Honor your body’s own wisdom and physical cues. Some days you might eat more fiber, and some days you might eat less. Trust that your body will let you know what it needs for healing and nutrition. Every person is unique and has different needs, regardless of established guidelines. You may find that you need more or less fiber than someone else, and the type of fiber will play a role. Often soluble fiber – things like oats, sweet potatoes, bananas, and apples – may be better tolerated than insoluble fiber like nuts, leafy greens, fruits, and seeds.
What to do: Eat a wide variety of produce, fruit, veggies, and alternate cooked and raw veggies. Also include a mix of soluble and insoluble fibers in your day. Gradually build up your fiber and water intake as you increase fiber consumption to 25-40g. Exercise will help to encourage peristaltic action in your colon. Yoga, walking, and stretching all help your colon function well.
3. Low stomach acid
Believe it or not, having too little stomach acid is all too common. This may be due to stress, age, medication, and a weak digestive function…which can wreak serious havoc on the rest of your digestion. In order for the stomach to do its job, it needs to be highly acidic. If it’s not, the ingested food has a hard time moving through the digestive system. This is especially true if the pancreas is not triggered to release enzymes to continue breaking down the food. Once again, you have partially digested food in your stomach for far too long. Thus the bloat! (And not to mention that without enough acid, you may not be able to optimally absorb key nutrients such as B12, iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamin C.)
What to do: First, identify the root cause and support your stomach acid production. Talk with your doctor to find out if taking an acid reducer is really a good choice for you! Especially if you don’t have a stomach ulcer or been diagnosed with gastritis. For those not on medication… you may try supporting your stomach acid production. For mild cases, you can try this with a a shot of diluted organic raw apple cider vinegar (1/2 tsp. mixed with 8oz water 15-20 min. before a meal). For more severe cases, talk with your health care provider and dietitian/nutritionalist about supplements that may be right for you to support your low acid level. It is important to find your dose and stay consistent while your body relearns the process on its own.
4. Leaky gut
Leaky gut used to be a word you heard in the holistic world, it is finally coming mainstream and often recognized by conventional doctors as a real problem. Leaky gut, also known as gut permeability, happens when undigested food particles make their way out of the digestive tract and into your bloodstream via small fissures in the lining of your small intestine. This causes a response from your immune system because suddenly there are foreign invaders in your blood and an attack is necessary. The immune system produces antibodies toward this invader… and food intolerances are formed. Now, every time you eat that food, the body will launch the attack, and you won’t feel good. Until those small openings in the small intestine are sealed back up, this will keep happening and may result in issues like bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea.
Why does leaky gut happen in the first place? The standard American food supply is one big reason. Mass-produced grains and inflammatory foods like sugar, alcohol, commercial processed dairy, and processed packaged foods are all drivers in the formation of a leaky gut. Bacterial, fungal, and parasitic infections can also lead to gut permeability. And of course, stress can play a role.
What to do: Cut back or eliminate inflammatory foods like refined grains, dairy, refined sugars, packaged foods, and toxins from your life for a minimum of 15- 30 days. Even better, food sensitivity testing is valuable , or try an elimination diet to find out the specific foods that cause an immune reaction for you. Repair the gut lining with nutrients specific to repairing and developing tissue is important, like the amino acid L-glutamine, vitamin D, and other support minerals.
5. Imbalance of Bacteria (The bad is taking over)
Ideally, we would all have an abundance of different beneficial bacterial strains making a home in our gut and providing us with a balanced, healthy system. However, for too many people today that is just not the case due to many factors related to medication, current food supply, stress, environment, exposure to toxins, and the list goes on.
We are “out of balance” when there is a larger number of bad bacteria crowding out the good guys, known as dysbiosis. It has been estimated by some researchers that we should be at least 80/20 (meaning 80% good bacteria and 20% of the bad guys). This battle is something that should be confined to the large intestine, but at times it can back up into the small intestine, a place that should be relatively free of bacteria. This is known as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and is a difficult situation to eradicate. SIBO can come with symptoms such as intense bloating, pain, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue…and also resistant weight loss. It requires a very specific treatment protocol that should be monitored by your physician and dietitian.
What to do: Supply your gut with more of the beneficial bacteria. One way that may work for some is by eating raw fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, and kombucha. (However, caution to those that have a histamine sensitivity for which these foods may not be the best choice). Add a good multi-strain professional line of probiotic (right for your situation) to your daily routine. If you suspect you might have SIBO, ask your gastroenterologist to get tested to confirm your diagnosis.
Need some guidance and support? I would love to connect with you – Contact me!
Let’s work together so you can say goodbye to the bloat… it IS possible!
Check out my 5-Step ECF System designed to banish the “blahs, bloat, and bulge”…for good.
Your partner on the Journey to Optimal Wellness, Julie
“I have tried every diet out there…and nothing has worked.” A common statement I hear in my practice from clients who are frustrated and desperate to find answers. Food has become “foe” vs. “friend” …reduced to a mere struggle against calories.
“Eat less, move more, eliminate certain food groups, and use willpower to control your weight/health” is advice that is ineffective and outdated. Not only are our bodies more complex than this… but our environment has changed, forcing us to look at weight loss through a “new lens”!
Achieving optimal health and weight loss is truly a complex interplay between our “one of a kind” genes, dietary intake, biochemistry, metabolism, hormones, emotions, exercise, stress, sleep, exposure to toxins, inflammation and belief systems!
This is why I believe in (and practice) a holistic and functional approach. AND why my Signature program, the 5-Step ECF System ( 6-month intensive) addresses all these areas to help clients transform their health… and discover “Solutions to their Struggle”!
There was a recent study out of New York University in Toronto, which further confirms that the battle of weight goes beyond just diet and physical activity related to our BMI’s. What they found was that lifestyle and environmental factors are likely keys in why “maintaining a healthy body weight is now more challenging than ever.”
The study concluded that “factors other than diet and physical activity may be contributing to the increase in BMI over time.” (Not surprising! It is just not that simple.) Although the study did not investigate the possible factors, it did suggest some culprits.
Here are some they mentioned, as well as ones I know to be true in my work with clients:
1. Exposure to environmental toxins
We come into contact with hundreds of chemicals on a daily basis, from common items like pesticides, furniture, food and food packaging, plastics, building supplies, and household cleaners. Among those that have been associated with obesity are the endocrine-disrupting chemicals, which include bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates, found especially in plastics and personal care products. Think back to your childhood days if you are over the age of 40…how much exposure did YOU have to processed and packaged food, plastics, harsh cleaners and more….
While these chemicals are rampant in our modern world, there are some things you can do to avoid exposure such as select glass and stainless-steel containers instead of plastic, choose organic produce, buy products in BPA-free tins and cans, make your own household cleaners, and opt for natural beauty products.
2. Changes in your microbiome
The microbiome — the population of bacteria and other microorganisms living in and on our bodies — may have a role in the obesity rise. While research is ongoing, these changes may be related to the growing use of artificial sweeteners and processed and genetically modified foods, which may have a negative impact on bacteria in the gut. As well as increase use of antibiotics and other prescription medications.
In fact, experts have established a close relationship between the gut microbiome, obesity, and insulin resistance, with the hope that further understanding will help in the fight against this epidemic. It’s one more reason to make sure you not only take a high-quality probiotic supplement but also eat your pre-biotic foods!
3. The use of prescription medications (especially anti-depressants)
The use of antidepressants has skyrocketed by nearly 400% since 1988, and now 11% of people aged 12 years and older are taking at least one of these drugs. Weight gain is one of the side effects of these drugs, especially selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s) such as Celexa, Lexapro, Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft.
Other drugs that may contribute to weight gain include beta-blockers, corticosteroids, diabetes medications, and mood stabilizers. These medications may also lead to micronutrient deficiencies that impact your metabolism, leaving it compromised to function at its best.
Talk to your health care provider about alternatives to prescription antidepressants you may be taking. Or learn what nutrient deficiencies may be impacting your health and how to effectively find foods or high quality supplements to maintain optimal health and metabolic function.
4. Chronic stress and cortisol
Stress takes a massive toll on health, resulting in unhealthy behaviors such as emotional over- eating. According to a 2012 American Psychological Association report, “Stress in America,” the nation is on the verge of a stress-induced public health crisis” and the concern is especially critical among people who are obese or depressed.
The connection between stress and weight gain lies mainly within hormones, especially the stress hormone cortisol. When stress levels remain elevated, so do cortisol levels, which can increase your appetite. Emotional eating — turning to comfort foods when faced with tension, stress, anxiety, and depression — can become part of this pattern as well.
Practice stress management techniques daily, such as meditation, progressive relaxation, deep breathing, yoga, tai chi, or visualization. Learn and experience the value of key principles that help with mindful eating and living.
5. Lack of sleep
Research has shown there’s a clear relationship between lack of sufficient sleep and weight gain. One such study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention evaluated data from 13,742 adults and looked at how long they slept and their weight. The authors found that compared with individuals who slept seven to nine hours per night, individuals who got six or fewer hours of shuteye were more likely to have abdominal obesity.
A recent Gallup poll indicates we’re getting less sleep today than our peers did back in the 1940s. In 1942, Americans got nearly eight hours of sleep per night, compared with an average of 6.8 hours today.
Make sleep a priority by establishing an optimal sleeping environments and a time to go to bed and rise each day. Aim for a minimum of seven to eight hours of sleep every night. And don’t forget to establish an optimal sleeping environment…that includes no electronics in the room and keeping it cool and dark!
6. Lower metabolism and nutrient deficiencies
The fight against weight gain can become a vicious cycle and losing battle (especially after several years) for many people who restrict calories for a while and then experience the yo-yo effect: weight loss followed by weight gain over and over again. This weight cycling can lead to a reduction in metabolic rate (often due to loss of lean muscle), a significant hurdle when one is trying to drop and keep off the pounds. More fatty tissue (vs. lean tissue) requires less energy to maintain, causing even greater struggle. In addition, restrictive “diets”, multiple medications, stress, genetic and environmental factors can impact key nutrients important for optimal metabolic function and also lead to resistant weight loss.
There’s not a simple solution to maintaining a healthy weight — it is typically more complicated than eating less and exercising more. It’s about having our physical, mental, hormonal, and digestive systems working in harmony. This is what I love helping clients to achieve optimal health!
Are you looking for answers and solutions to your struggle? Ready for a highly personalized and integrated 5-Step approach to transform your health….then check out my 6-month Intensive called the 5-STEP ECF SYSTEM!
I would love to hear from you!
Are you a strawberry lover? If so, you are part of the vast number of Americans who enjoy one of the most popular, refreshing, and healthy natural treats on the planet!
All fruits shine with rich colors, signifying they are bursting with antioxidants that help fight disease and benefit your health! Strawberries are no exception, plus they are rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals…which include folate, potassium, manganese, magnesium, and are one of the highest fruits in Vitamin C. Is it any wonder they have won the title as one of the top 10 “super foods”!
Armed with this information, you may not be surprised that Americans consume about eight pounds of strawberries per year -nearly four times as much compared to 1980. But what you may not know is that we are also consuming dozens of pesticides, including chemicals that have been linked to cancer, neurological problems, and shown to disrupt our hormones and reproductive systems. (Many of these chemicals have been banned in Europe.)
Years ago I loved picking strawberries by the bushel each Summer…and the excitement and enjoyment that came once a Season, and now they are available anytime. Ever wonder what may have changed over the past decades to allow that to happen? Sadly, an increase in chemically-aided growing methods and use of pesticides are largely to thank for making strawberries available year round. Strawberry growers in particular, have been found to use jaw-dropping volumes of not only pesticides, but poisonous gases to sterilize their fields before planning, killing every pest, weed, and other living thing in the soil.
Here are a few Facts from the USDA’s 2014 testing of 176 batches of strawberries:
- Almost all samples – 98% – had detectable residues of at least one pesticide
- 40% had residues of 10 or more pesticides
- The dirtiest strawberry sample had residues of 17 different pesticides
- Strawberry growers used 60 different pesticides in various combinations
Want to know more and just how hazardous these chemicals are? Read the full report from the Environmental Working Group.
The report is short and a must-read to be informed. EWG is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment. EWG is unique in that it offers reliable factual information that is not skewed by the government or big food companies.
So How Do You Reduce YOUR Exposure to Pesticides? …Go ORGANIC!
Just last month the Environmental Working Group (EWG) released the 2016 edition of the EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. For the first time, it elevated STRAWBERRIES to #1 on the top of the Dirty Dozen List! (It took the lead after conventionally grown apples topped the list for the past 5 years.)
So, to help keep you up to date, and give you the facts so you can be the most informed consumer… here is your own copy of the 2016 EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce! For more information on Pesticides in Produce see my past blog post. Remember… organic produce is also free of GMO! If you read April’s newsletter, you may have hopped on the non-GMO bandwagon.
One of my favorite ways to “carry” my shopper’s guide with me, (to remember top fruit and veggies that are on the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15 list) is by using the free app! Check it out and never leave home with out it!
Oh and by the way…
Please support our wonderful local farmers…many of which are certified organic or use less pesticides than other conventional growers. Check it out – What’s In Season in Florida in May!
Drop me a line and let me know if you found this to be helpful. Do YOU plan to use EWG’s Shopper Guide?!
Let’s strive together for Food Safety and Optimal Wellness!
Ode to OATS! This used to be my favorite go-to breakfast… 5 years straight. I loved oats and never seemed to get bored due to lots of delicious toppings such as fruit, nuts, seeds, spices, pumpkin… the list goes on. However, one day I woke up and couldn’t bear to to eat oats…can we say “burn out“! (Ever happen to you?) Happy to say oats have made a “comeback” and I have fallen in love again…only now its for dinner in this amazing savory dish. I have been perfecting the base recipe and couldn’t wait to share it! But first a little background on oats…..
Oats are well-known for their role as a whole grain and are particularly rich in soluble fiber. Most specifically beta-glucan, which is the main component in oats shown to lower total and LDL cholesterol (bad stuff) and regulate blood glucose levels. What you may not know is that oats go FAR beyond its role in heart health. Recent research shows that polyphenols in oats, called avenanthramides, may possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties. Oats have also shown a positive effect on the gut (AKA our immune health) by protecting against bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. So think BEYOND breakfast. Consider using oats in new ways such as ground into breadcrumbs to coat fish/chicken; to make meat or veggie loafs; as a healthier crumble topping for dessert; or paired with veggies, herbs, and cheese like in this savory oatmeal frittata!
I challenge you to “GET YOUR OATS ON” … as a way to be good to your heart, gut, and mind!
Drop me a note and let me know if oats have made it to your dinner table…?
- 1-2 TBSP cold-pressed olive, grapeseed, or coconut oil
- ½ cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes in oil
- ½ cup chopped onion
- 2 gloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup zucchini, diced
- 2 cups baby spinach
- ½ cup cherry tomatoes, sliced
- 1 tsp. whole-grain Digon mustard
- 1-2 Tbsp. fresh thyme
- 13/4 cup GF old-fashioned rolled oats
- 13/4 cup organic vegetable broth
- 1 large egg and 2 egg whites
- 1tsp. baking powder
- 11/4 tsp sea salt
- Freshly ground pepper, to taste
- ½ cup crumbled goat cheese + ¼ cup nut cheese (note: you can use whatever cheese you enjoy to make this your own. If you are vegan - nut cheese like cashew work well. But goat or feta gives it a good creamy taste!)
- *Encourage organic veggies and oils that are cold-pressed and unfiltered when able
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Set aside a glass 10" pie dish.
- Heat a large saute pan over medium heat and add 1 Tbsp oil.
- Add sun-dried tomatoes and heat until oil is released and they are lightly browned. Remove sun-dried tomatoes and set aside.
- Add onions, garlic, and zucchini to remaining oil (add another 1Tbsp oil if needed) and sauté for 2-3 minutes.
- Next return sun-dried tomatoes to pan and add cherry tomatoes along with baby spinach, mustard, thyme. Cook until spinach is wilted, another 3-4 minutes.
- Take the oats and using a food processor, grind for several minutes to reduce the size of the grain. Then combine the oats with the broth, egg, and baking powder. Season with salt and pepper. Fold in the cooked veggies and cheese.
- Transfer entire mixture to pie dish.
- Bake for 40-50 minutes until top is golden-brown.
- Let cool for 10-15 minutes before serving.
“Oil is oil right?” Oh, this couldn’t be farther from the truth! (I cringed slightly as I heard this walking down the aisle of the grocery store.) Just like any other product we choose to consume (food, beverage, or supplement), we need to be mindful and informed shoppers to protect and optimize our health.
You may have seen the 60 Minute episode recently that showed olive oil imported from Italy really wasn’t olive oil at all. Yikes! And just the other day I picked up a jar of coconut oil and it listed palm oil on the back? I must confess, up until several years ago, even I was deceived by the marketing! Not only that… but I realized how I was actually using them was HURTING my health. Not anymore, and why I chose to post a blog to help you!
I find that clients are finding it exceedingly challenging to navigate not only the supermarket aisle, but filter through consumer ads, friend’s recommendations, and “health expert” blogs. So I want to give you the most accurate information on how to make the best informed choice for your health. Here you will find pointers and some of my favorite brands to help you when selecting 2 popular and healthy oils – olive and coconut.
Quality is key… as well as understanding how it is Sourced and Processed.
You can imagine how competitive selling olive oil can be due to its popularity and touted health benefits. In his book Extra Virginity, Tom Mueller takes us through the sublime, scandalous world of olive oil. He discusses how resellers add lower-priced, low-grade oils filled with artificial coloring to extra-virgin olive oil. In fact, one study demonstrated about 69% of olive oil imported and labeled “extra-virgin” failed to meet standards in an expert smell and taste test. Crazy! When it comes to olive oil (or really any oil), you have to do your research and pick the best ones. While most oils are refined, olive oil is one of the few oils we still consume mostly unprocessed.
Here are important considerations when choosing olive oil:
- Always choose extra-virgin, which is the oil that is derived from the first pressing of the olives. This version of the oil contains many nutrients (such as polyphenols) that protect it from heat damage. One study compared the anti-inflammatory power of the oil from the first pressing of olives with that of later pressings. Researchers found extra-virgin olive oil lowered inflammation, while oil from later pressings did not.
- Choose unfiltered. Unfiltered olive oil will appear to be cloudy because it contains naturally occurring elements like antioxidants which protect against oxidative damage.
- Look for cold-pressed olive oil, which means manufacturers use very little heat when processing olives to get the oil. Cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil provides the strongest possible nutrient value because of low-heat processing, along with the oil’s first pressing high phytonutrient content.
- Be aware of misleading claims by big food companies who throw around terms like “pure olive oil.” These somewhat misleading phrases often signify a mix of unrefined and refined virgin olive oils.
- Avoid extra-light olive oil. Companies love slapping this “light” term on foods because it appeals to those consumers looking for “low fat”. These terms subtly suggest all fats are bad and make you fat, absolutely not the case! Low-fat or “light” foods are often highly refined and processed. (Oh, we have come a long way since the “fat-free” days of the ’80’s…thankfully our culture and consumers are beginning to demand more wholesome foods, free of preservatives, additives, and dyes!)
Other tips to get the best out of your olive oil…
- Storage is important because heat and other factors can trigger oxidation and other problems. Always store olive oil in a dark, cool place. Keep it sealed tight and out of direct sunlight or away from other heat sources like near the stove. (boy did I get this one wrong years ago when I stored it smack up against my oven; and then often waited to put the cap on after I was cleaning up after my meal!)
- Use olive oil within one to two months once you open it for optimal health benefits. (Hint: that may mean purchasing a smaller bottle!) Research shows quality and health benefits decline after two months, even among properly stored olive oils.
Coconut oil has hit the market and boomed in sales over the past several years touting its health benefits…in particular for its medium-chain-triglycerides, a beneficial fat that may boost metabolism and convert to energy quickly in your body, and also help with overall gut health!
- Just like olive oil, always select coconut oil that is organic, virgin, cold-pressed and unrefined.
- Avoid products that are deodorized or bleached.
- Coconut oil is one of the most versatile oils because it’s very stable. You can bake with it and use it when cooking meat, veggies and sauces over medium-high heat. You can put it into your smoothies, hot beverages, or stir into hot cereals.
6 Strategies for Buying Oils
The next time you purchase olive oil, coconut oil, or any other type of oil, consider these six strategies. (Oh and remember…use a wide variety of healthy oils (listed below). Each offer benefits so don’t just stick to one type of oil, explore!)
- Always choose organic, unrefined, cold-pressed, or expeller pressed. These terms ensure you’re purchasing a quality, highly nutritious and sustainable product. Organic production prohibits genetically modified ingredients (GMOs) and the use of toxic solvents (such as hexanes) for extraction in oils. If possible, check out the company directly. Ensure the product is truly cold-pressed and lives up to its claims and standards, and that the manufacturer does not use toxic solvents in the refining process. Check out websites and don’t hesitate to email or call them with any concerns.
- Choose oils in dark, not clear bottles. The dark color helps protect the oil from direct sunlight exposure, which can cause it to go rancid.
- Store the oil in a cool, dark place away from heat and light exposure such as cabinets or the fridge in airtight containers. Never store oils on sunny kitchen counters or next to the stove.
- Always tightly close the lid after using. Oxygen can make oil go rancid quickly.
- Purchase the correct size and consume in the time recommended. Remember oils tend to go bad after a span of a few months or years depending on the type of oil. Those mega-store gargantuan containers, are not such a great buy if you don’t use the oil.
- Choose the right oil for the job. Because different oils have different smoke points, it’s important to choose the right oil for the task at hand. Here are the temperatures at which some of the more popular oils reach their smoke points (lowest to highest):
- Sunflower oil, unrefined: 225 F
- Red Palm oil: 302 F
- Walnut oil, unrefined: 320 F
- Coconut oil unrefined: 350 F
- Extra-virgin olive oil: 375 F
- Macadamia oil: 413 F
- Almond oil: 420 F
- Grape seed oil: 420 F
- Hazelnut oil: 430 F
- Avocado oil: 520 F
My top picks for Olive and Coconut Oil:
Since I often have clients ask me “what do you use”…here you go:)! I am not necessarily promoting these specific products, these are just one’s I have come to use and love. (Be sure to check out the link above where the olive oil expert Tom Mueller provides an extensive list of his picks for the best quality and best-priced brands.)
Coconut oil: I like Nutiva because it’s cold-pressed, virgin, organic, never refined and ethically sourced. Nutiva also carries a red palm oil I have yet to try.
Hopefully armed with these strategies you will feel empowered and confident to make sure you are purchasing and using high quality oils good for your health!
Leave a comment and share some of your favorite picks of oils you use and love!
With you on the Journey Toward Optimal Health & Abundant Living,
I would love to hear about your favorite recipes or your experience. Leave a comment or sent me a note!
- 3-4 carrots, peeled and cut into thirds
- 3-4 stalks of celery, quartered
- 5-8 whole shiitake mushrooms, trimmed
- 2 parsnips, peeled and but into thirds
- 1 medium beet, trimmed and cut in half
- 2 small sweet potatoes with skins on, cut into thirds
- ½ of a large bunch of flat-leaf parsley
- 1 8" strip of kombu
- 1 tablespoon shredded burdock root, optional
- 1 piece (1") fresh ginger, sliced, optional
- Rinse the vegetables well, including the kombu (if using).
- In a 8-10-quart pot, combine all ingredients.
- Fill the pot with filtered water until it covers the veggies well.
- Bring to a boil. Remove the lid, decrease the heat to low, and simmer for at least 1-2 hours (or more).
- Add more water if the vegetables begin to peek out.
- Strain the stock using a large course-mesh strainer.
- Save the vegetables for another use (you can puree and freeze in ice cube trays to add to sauces or other soups) OR you can serve with the broth.
- Cool to room temperature before refrigerating or freezing.
- If you prefer a creamy soup, you can take an immersion blender and puree all ingredients together.
SPRING is in the air! If you missed this month’s Newsletter, it was packed full of tips on “Spring Cleaning” for the body, mind and spirit. As we begin to clean our homes (inside & out), we should also do the same for our body. It is the perfect time to transition from more “winter” foods to those that help the body detox from those indulgent moments over the Winter of festive food delights (grin). Cleansing is a gentle and effective way to bring the energy of renewal into our own lives. “Spring cleaning” is more than just detoxifying the body, it can also mean avoiding toxins our environment and thoughts as well!
You may have heard critics argue that the human body is designed with just the right physiological processes necessary to clear the body of impurities and maintain health. Yes, that was likely true 20+ years ago. Unfortunately, for many people, lifestyle habits and the environments where we live, work, eat, and play often expose us to toxins that our bodies don’t efficiently eliminate. (Let’s face it, times have changed. We are exposed to more things that can impact our body than ever before – changing times often mean shifting our approach and focus to achieve optimal wellness!)
The toxins you can be exposed to everyday include:
- heavy metals in the food and water supply
- environmental pollution, including pesticides
- electronic devices
- chemical food additives
- smoking; overuse of alcohol or OTC drugs
- use/overuse of Rx medication
- prolonged high stress
- poor quality diet, sleep, and lifestyle habits
- frequent colds or chronic illness
Below are some gentle and safe ways to bring the energy of “spring cleaning” into your life,
from the inside out…
- Rest the digestive system by eliminating solid food for a short time. This is the time to consider homemade vegetable juices, broths, or carefully planned protein shakes to provide the extra nutrients that help your body eliminate toxins. Leafy green veggies are particularly cleansing, especially those that are bitter such as dandelion, Endive, parsley, beet, kale, Swiss chard, spinach, bok choy, and arugula. The advantage of making “greens” juices and shakes at home is that you have control over making sure it includes the highest quality ingredients. After cleansing re-introduce a balanced healthy eating plan. Here is one of my favorite GREEN protein shake I have been drinking lately.
- Combine 11/2 cups filtered water with 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk + 1/4 cup ice
- Add the following
- 1 scoop of pea protein powder (I like SunWarrior Plus or Designs by Health Pea Protein)
- 1 1/2 cup local spinach, Swiss chard, or kale
- 1/3 cup frozen blueberries or strawberries
- 1/2 Tbsp. maca root powder
- 1 Tbsp ground flaxseed or chia seed
- 1 Tbsp. raw pumpkin seeds
- 1/3 avocado
- Blend in Nutribullet, Ninja, or Blender!
- ‘Water’ your body and entice it with herbal tea. Drinking water and tea are a perfect way to cleanse and hydrate the system. Make sure you are drinking clean, filtered water. Try adding a squeeze of fresh lemon to your water to stimulate the liver each morning. Different herbal teas have different cleaning properties. Some great examples are dandelion, burdock, ginger, licorice root, mint, fennel, and cardamom. I enjoy using fresh loose organic tea (vs. tea bag), however when I do use a tea bag one of my favorite brands is Traditional Medicinals. Ginger tea with cardamom is my “go to” for good digestion and to curb cravings for sweets in the afternoon!
- Reset your sleep time routine. Research is clear, we cannot underestimate the benefits of a good nights sleep. Not just a couple times a week but every night! It is important to commit to a regular bedtime and wake time to help your body’s circadian rhythm. Not to mention, that critical quality 7-8 hours we all need to function at our best and avoid the side effects of a poor sleep pattern such as cravings for sweets, weight gain, lack of focus, fatigue, brain fog…(need I go on!). Do you really think skimping on sleep is helping you get more done? If you do nothing else for your health this Spring…DO commit to a routine sleep patter! (oh, and think you “need an app for that”? Check this out as one option)
- Go ‘Green and Clean’ in Your Home. Often a major area of toxic exposure is in our homes. Household cleaners, laundry products, lawn care chemicals, and bug sprays expose us to numerous chemicals and petroleum based toxins than ever before. (Especially if you are clean-freak like me. This was an area I had to really “clean up” a year ago). Even cosmetics, perfumes, shampoos, face washes, deodorants, and toothpastes have chemicals that can disrupt our health. (For some more than others). Health food stores offer environmentally-friendly, all-natural products. Personally, I love using high-grade essential oils to make all my own cleaners, weed killer, and even bug spray (It really works and is less expensive!)
- Manage Your Stress & Breathe. Think back over your day today. Did you take any deep cleansing breaths? (If you were like me about 8 years ago…I honestly couldn’t think of a good time I actually breathed!) Just taking the time to breathe has been shown to enhance both physical, mental, and spiritual well-being; and help to overcome stress, boost energy, focus your mind, improve sleep, and foster greater peace. Stress itself can wreak havoc on problems such as IBS, bloating, heartburn, headaches, and more. Furthermore, it can contribute to chronic inflammation.
- Take time to breathe deep each day. One of my favorite breathing exercises is called “flapping your wings”! (I can’t remember where I learned this!). Here is how it is done:
- Sit up straight and relaxed in your chair. Close your eyes, take a deep breath and let your shoulders relax, and hang your arms at your sides. Close your mouth gently and bring your tongue to the roof of your mouth. (When I do this, I visualize shutting out the world). Through your nose, breathe in deeply for 4-6 counts as you slowly raise your arms to your sides and up to the sky. Next very slowly lower your arms as you breathe out through your mouth for 4-6 counts. Repeat this 3-4 times. Do you feel refreshed?!
- Looking for a book to help you breathe and manage stress? Check out The Healing Power of the Breath by Richard Brown
- Take time to breathe deep each day. One of my favorite breathing exercises is called “flapping your wings”! (I can’t remember where I learned this!). Here is how it is done:
Following a detox program suited to your personal needs supports the body’s natural cleansing process and boosts your health in many ways:
- Allows digestive organs to rest
- Stimulates the liver to process toxins more efficiently
- Promotes movement of bowels
- Improves circulation
- Restores vital nutrients and energy to the body
- Provides clarity of thought and refreshment to the soul
What is YOUR Plan this Spring to have a gentle “Spring Cleaning”? You maybe looking for a comprehensive plan or intend to focus on one of the areas listed above. I would love to learn about your plans and support and guide you along your journey.
Cheers to an AMAZING SPRING ahead!
Flavor, health, memories, perceptions, desires, and traditions are all things we associate with FOOD, which influences our choices and approach to eating! When I help people embrace food as a positive and exciting aspect to their journey toward abundant health, it is important to stay away from hard set “rules and restrictions”. Instead, I like to take an individual and collaborative approach using structure and strategies that will work best for each person.
We are all unique and different! That is what makes YOU so special, and why the same approach will not work for every person. That being said…there are some basic tenets you may want to consider while planning, preparing, and eating your meals that will promote good health. I strive to incorporate these myself, and I hope you find them helpful too!
- Love the Food You Choose to Eat: It honestly hurts my heart when people tell me they have been eating bland food they don’t enjoy for years, and they feel guilty for eating pleasurable food. Food is meant to be pleasurable, enjoyable and satisfying! I love hearing clients say “I love the food I am eating AND I feel amazing and happy”. One of the selling features when I bought my home was the kitchen. On the wall painted in deep red it reads, “Approach love and cooking with equal abandon”. Spend some extra time to put “love” into preparing a meal that you can’t wait to enjoy. It will empower you to eat well (and happy) for life!
- Know Where Your Food Comes From: It is more important than ever to mindfully select safe foods (uncontaminated) while also being aware of the environment, quality of the food, and nutrient density. (Think about it… WHERE did those chicken nuggets actually come from and WHAT is in them (see #3)…? (grin)). Here in Florida, we are blessed to have so many local farmers (many organic) to support! This helps not only our environment and carbon footprint but also offers more nutrient-dense produce vs. food shipped all the way across the country which often doesn’t land on our plate for days or weeks. Know where your food comes from, so YOU can make an informed choice…and make a commitment purchase more local!
- If You Can’t Pronounce It, Don’t Eat It: Yes, this sounds pretty basic but super important. Check out the next flavored drink or even that “healthy” protein powder or coconut milk you choose to drink. You may be surprised to see words that are not coming from Mother Nature! Even I get surprised at some of the ingredients in food I have purchased, despite my desire to eat as close to nature as possible! So, check your labels…ingredients can change without you realizing. (Remember these 6 to avoid)
- Step Back and Ask – Is This Food Harming or Helping? This was a big lesson for me based on how some foods impacted my health. Most of us know what foods help us feel our best and ones that don’t. I finally came to a place in my life years ago. when I decided it just wasn’t worth it anymore when I had a reaction, felt lousy, or sluggish. So you may ask yourself prior to eating, ” is this helping me feel my best, keeping me balanced, and moving me towards my health goal”? Now, we must remember that this would apply about 90% of the time. Don’t underestimate the value of sharing the occasional pint of good ice cream with your “besties”. So just like rule #2 and 3, it is important to be mindful, but not so strict that you can’t be REAL!
- Make it Last – I don’t know about you, but I don’t cook every night. I plan meals around my recipes lasting us for several days, whether it is a dish to be eaten as left overs or reused in a way to create another dish. For many (myself included), this is the only way to be healthy and have a balanced life. Let’s face it, when we are cooking every night (unless cooking is your true passion), it is easy to get burned out and just grab “take out”! Check out one of my favorite meals that I can eat all week long…
- Sit Down (and Up) to Eat – Too often we don’t stop to enjoy (or acknowledge) our meals or even those around us. In our Western world we eat while we move, multi-task, slouch on the coach, or drive in our cars. This can impact our digestion, weight, happiness, gratitude, mindfulness, and relationships! Sitting at a table (upright) with others, allows us to better digest our food by slowing down our eating and lives! One constant attribute to all cultures of centenarians is the importance of socializing and joy, particularly around meal times. We cannot overlook the health value of stopping our busy lives and sitting down to enjoy a meal with others. Priceless!
Leave a comment and let me know what “rules” you follow in the kitchen to set YOU up for success.
I would love to hear from you.
Oh, and just a “little insider”… next month I would like to help you with your Spring cleaning. Yes! Spring is coming and with it a good time to clean up your kitchen and focus on your wellness dreams. So I am feeling really grateful and have decided to offer a little “gift” to those who are part of the JBS Community.
So… if YOU have not subscribed to my Newsletter and to receive regular updates…now would be the perfect time to Sign Up!
(Only those who are on my LIST will receive the Spring treat!)
Happy cooking and meal planning!… Julie