My Superfood Superlist

When I first start working with clients, I look at what they are eating and assess if their meals and weekly intake is balanced. From there, I recommend things to remove/add to their routine, then address the quality of the ingredients they are eating, tweak their macronutrients to best, and most quickly, reach their goals and finally we discuss superfoods. The magical thing about superfoods is they target inflammation in our bodies. Inflammation is defined as a biological response of cells to a stimuli, and chronic inflammation can lead to disease. So basically inflammation is the body’s attempt to self-protection and causes of inflammation include, but not limited to: low grade food sensitivities, an imbalance of gut bacteria (do you take a probiotic?), stress, environmental toxins (mercury, lead, etc), constant dehydration, lifestyle (sleep deprivation, inactivity) and certain foods (caffeine, sugar, oils (canola, cottonseed, sunflower, safflower oils), poor quality dairy, conventional meat, alcohol, grains, food additives) and the list can go on. Please note though, some inflammation is good. Too much is clearly bad.

I can continue to cover how to we have an overload of inflammation in our body’s, yet, my takeaway is to focus on good things you can eat daily, optimizing our health. When we focus on the good and healthy things to add to our diet and lifestyle, there isn’t a need (or as much of a need) to focus on what we need to take away.

Enlisted are a few of my favorite superfoods. What superfoods do you consume?

Cocoa Nibs

Why and how to consume? Cocoa nibs are very satisfying, especially if your senses are just after a chocolate taste or your body is in need of magnesium. Yet, cocoa nibs do have a bitter edge. For this reason, to get a chocolate craving satisfied I mix them either with some nuts/seeds and or coconut flakes, which all mix well in Greek yogurt. As you may know, cacao is a nutrient-powerhouse containing over 300 compounds including: protein, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, iron, zinc, copper, chromium (appetite control and insulin sensitizer) calcium, flavanols (antioxidants, known to lower blood pressure and cholesterol), sulfur (strong nails/hair) and magnesium (muscle relaxant and strong bones). If you eat cocoa nibs, or dark chocolate, you want to ensure it’s organic to avoid chemicals from irradiation and spraying of chemicals which are standard practice in growing cacao beans.

“Every study on chocolate is pointing to the same conclusion: there is something in chocolate that is really good for us. That something is the raw cocoa bean, the nut that all chocolate is made from. The cocoa bean has always been and will always be Nature’s #1 weight loss and high-energy food. Cocoa beans are probably the best kept secret in the entire history of food.”
— David Wolfe, co-author of Naked Chocolate: The Astonishing Truth About The World’s Greatest Food.

Chia Seeds

Why and how to consume? Chia seeds provide protein, fat and fiber to our diet, and one of my favorite perks, is they help us detox. To reap the fullest benefits, soak chia seeds overnight in either water, almond milk or coconut milk. I often add the end product to my morning smoothie or I mix in some berries and have it for an afternoon snack. Chia seeds provide satiety, absorbing 12 times their weight and expand in our stomachs. Chia seeds are good for our hearts and bones, providing a dose of calcium ebgs for an alternative to milk.

Maca Powder

Why and how to consume? I stumbled upon maca powder when doing some research for fertility and fatigue/low energy. Wow, was I impressed. Coming from the radish family, maca is touted to aid stamina, support immunity, increase vitality, balance sex hormones (PMS/PCOS/menopause) including an increase in sex drive and enhances memory. I most enjoy this nutty-flavored powder with my morning smoothie, but it can also be added to soups or just water. Maca includes 55 phyto-chemicals, including vitamins B1, B2, B12, and Vitamin C, zinc. It has amino acids, calcium and phosphorus as well.

Brewer’s Yeast

Why and how to consume? Known for its content of B vitamins, chromium and protein, aids in blood sugar control, relieves diarrhea, cold/flu, PMS and skin issues. The easiest way to consume Brewer’s Yeast for me is in my smoothie. Can you tell I like smoothies? I aim to have 2-3 a week, at a minimum. You can also mix Brewer’s Yeast in your eggs.

Shredded Coconut & Coconut Oil

Why and how to consume? Coconut flakes are great by themselves, used as a core ingredient in a homemade trail mix, mixed into Greek yogurt with berries and more. Coconut oil, along with grass-fed butter is the preferred fat to cook with at high heat. Coconut flakes have a nice helping of fiber and both flakes and oil contain medium chain triglycerides, lauric acid, among other nutrients. Overall, coconut has so many health benefits including weight loss my friends. One study out of the Journal of Nutrition suggests that we can expend more calories digesting medium-chain triglycerides (coconut) than digesting long-chain fatty acids (found in almonds, avocados, olive oil). Want to know more? I enjoy this write-up by Dr Mercola.

Grass-fed Butter

Why and how to consume? The difference between regular butter, even organic butter compared to grass-fed butter (I’ll name drop – Kerrygold is my favorite) is substantial. When Dr. Weston Price studied native diets in the 1930’s he found that butter was a staple in the diets of many supremely healthy peoples. Do you find it shocking that butter is America’s best source of absorbable vitamin A? Even more, butter contains a number of anti-oxidants that protect against free radicals that damage and weaken the arteries. Yup, Grandma was right – eat (grass-fed) butter to protect your heart. Butter protects against cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis, low thyroid and more. As for how to consume, I am not sure I need to explain this one, do I? Grass-fed butter is richer in the fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K), lauric acid and has vitamin K2. Grass-fed butter is also the best source of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which aids in weight loss/weight management and targets cancer prevention.

Kombucha

Why and how to consume? Kombucha is a slightly sweet, carbonated fermented tea. You can make your own, yet, I find it most realistic to purchase a bottle every trip I make to a nutrition/specialty store, such as Whole Foods. The Ancient Chinese called Kombucha the “Immortal Health Elixer” for its health benefits containing organic acids, active enzymes, amino acids and polyphenol antioxidants. Kombucha improves joint pain, immunity, digestion and, again my favorite, helps cleanse the body.

Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)

Why and how to consume? One, you can start the day with a shot of it, or you can add it to water with some lemon and honey. The most common way I find myself using it (besides cleaning my house) is on m salad. Please note, unfiltered is what you want to look for when buying a bottle. The unfiltered version has a wealth of vitamins, minerals and acetic acid. Acetic acid helps control appetite, increase insulin sensitivity, and helps decrease fat storage. I can’t fail to mention the alkaline benefits of ACV. Many foods and stress cause the pH of our body to be more acidic, which isn’t favorable.ACV can help combat this.

References:

Lead Contamination in Cocoa and Cocoa Products: Isotopic Evidence of Global Contamination (http://www.ehponline.org/members/2005/8009/8009.html)

Journal of the American Dietetic Association: Cocoa and Chocolate Flavonoids – Implications for Cardiovascular Health

The Journal of Nutrition: Plasma LDL and HDL Cholesterol and Oxidized LDL Concentrations are Altered in Normo- and Hypercholesterolemic Humans After Intake of Different Levels of Cocoa Powder

Yu, L. J., & Jin, W. W. (2004). Study on nutritional components and the anti-fatigue effects of dry powder of maca (Lepidium meyenii). Food Science25(2), 164-166.

Cicero, A. F. G., Piacente, S., Plaza, A., Sala, E., Arletti, R., & Pizza, C. (2002). Hexanic Maca extract improves rat sexual performance more effectively than methanolic and chloroformic Maca extracts. Andrologia34(3), 177-179.

Dini, I., Tenore, G. C., & Dini, A. (2002). Glucosinolates from maca (Lepidium meyenii). Biochemical systematics and ecology30(11), 1087-1090.

Price, Weston, DDS Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, 1945, Price Pottenger Nutrition Foundation, Inc., La Mesa, California

5 Ways to Build a Better Salad

Salads can get boring and if we do not rotate our ingredients, we can ambush the success of enjoying such healthy nutrients. If you are guilty, like me, I used to buy the exact same ingredients, week after week. Not only did this put me at risk for nutritional gaps, but my taste-buds got bored with the same flavors, textures and color. Overall, a good salad should include protein, fat and some carbohydrate and a minimum of 4-5 ingredients. Here are 5 ways to build a better salad.

Shrimp Salad

  • 5 large shrimp, or 3/4 cup of shrimp (cooked then chilled), I prefer using my grill pan and cooking the shrimp with some spice and lemon juice
  • Cherry tomatoes, chopped cucumber, green onion
  • Seasonings/dressing: combine cilantro, lime juice and olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss with a bed of organic greens.

Tuna Caper Salad

  • 6 ounce can of all white tuna in water or pure olive oil (I will admit it’s hard to find tuna in 100% olive oil; read labels and stay away from fillers like soy)
  • Chopped celery and diced tomato
  • Seasonings/dressing: 1 tablespoon of capers (undrained), chopped parsley  dijon mustard, salt and pepper with a bed of organic greens.

Asian Salad

  • 4 ounce chicken breasts, skin on, organic, free-range
  • 1 cups Chinese cabbage, sliced thin
  • 1 large carrot, shredded
  • minced scallion
  • 1/8 cup sliced almonds
  • chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 TBS toasted sesame seeds
  • Seasoning/dressing: 1/2 TBS extra olive oil, 1/2 TBS tamari sauce, 1/8 cup rice vinegar, 1/4 TBS honey, pinch red pepper flakes

Snag and Kraut Salad

  • 1-2 cooked sausages (as I learned in Australia “snags” is jargon for sausages). Make sure to read the ingredient list on sausage and only buy ones that don’t have chemical nor high fructose corn syrup. I personally love snags sourced from the farmer’s market, US Wellness Meats or when in a pinch Trader Joe’s has a clean Chicken Italian Sausage. Lastly, if you are in the Chicago area, I have recently discovered an awesome butcher in Lincoln Park, Gepperth’s Meat Market on Halstead St. 
  • Chopped romaine lettuce, organic
  • 1-2 chopped carrot
  • 1 chopped cucumber
  • 2-3 TBS of fresh sauerkraut (the Green City Market has the best, or make your own)
  • Dressings/seasonings: I either use some mustard or use a little salsa to add some texture/liquid to my salad. The sauerkraut and sausage provide a lot of flavor without a dressing too.  

Homemade Chipotle

  • Slow roast 1-2 pounds of pork tenderloin, overnight with onions and spices (I like chili spices with my pork)
  • Fresh organic salad greens
  • Avocado, 1 small
  • Dressings/seasonings: salsa verde and freshly squeezed lime

Overall don’t limit yourself to ingredients traditionally in a salad. Throw anything in there – and it doesn’t have to be only vegetables. I love using fresh berries or diced apple in my salads. If I don’t have anything raw on hand, I will also put in some dried fruit. Load on herbs too. Such beautiful flavor adding a nice punch of antioxidants.

Cheers to you and good health,

Kelly

Enjoy Food, the Right Amount & Satisfy Your Cravings

Yes, easier said than done.

Put a homemade meal in front of most people, and suggest they will not have an extra bite, let alone an extra serving – I think we can agree, that would be wishful thinking.

It is clear we live in an obesogenic world – food is readily available, cheap and tasty and there are plenty of commercials, ads, billboards and advertisements telling us we need their meal/snack.

However, we need to be able to moderate our portions and be attentive to what we are choosing to eat. Observed practices which have helped clients and myself include:

  1. Eat on smaller plates and eat most foods at home, composed of real food (i.e. meals don’t come out of a box). “For the average consumer, eating one meal away from home each week translates to roughly two extra pounds a year,” said Lisa Mancino, a food economist for the USDA. How many more calories a diner consumes out depends on the meal. Eating lunch out has the largest effect, adding 158 calories to daily caloric intake, compared to lunch prepared at home. Dinner out increases intake by 144 calories, and breakfast out adds 74 calories, according to the USDA.
  2. Eat a variety of foods. Our bodies require more than 40 nutrients and if we are deficient in one, guess what happens? We get hungry and we get cravings. Diversify your meals day to day and season from season. Most importantly, eat real, clean food. Need assistance understanding what that is, let me know.
  3. Attend to your gut. Yes that’s right. A healthy intestines, housing good gut bacteria, allows for an optimal and controlled appetite. With most clients I recommend a quality probiotic. When our digestion is off and you large intestines doesn’t have support from good bacteria, we can become at risk for infections and inflammation. With both, we get an increased appetite. A healthy gut also entails a good diet avoiding gluten, corny syrup, soy and in some cases dairy.
  4. Eat slowly, focus on the flavors, savor the food, chew your food, chew your food. Also be sure to chew your food (hopefully you got that). The digestion process begins in the mouth and helps you to be in-tune with your hunger/satiety. Data from a study out of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who took smaller bites and chewed for an average of 9 seconds vs 3 seconds before swallowing ate significantly less food.
  5. Do not stock your kitchen with nutrient-deficient “domino foods.” This can be a two part recommendation too; domino foods can be something that is good for us like dark chocolate, nuts, dried fruit. For example, I have a hard time moderating my portions of nut butters. Therefore, I make nut butter fresh with raw nuts, when I want it. Yes, nuts are nutrient dense, but I easily eat too much of it (too much of a good thing is bad) and therefore I control portions by making small amounts when I want and involve labor in fulfilling my desire thus reducing the likeliness of going for seconds. As for avoiding nutrient-deficient foods in your kitchen, no need to have goldfish, chips, candy, sub-par chocolate, etc in your house. Let those foods be eaten on an occasion and when socializing with friends. These are the type of things you will want late in the evening. Out of site, out of mind, out of kitchen, out of luck.
  6. Write what you bite. A food log/journal is such a cheap and useful tool. It keeps us accountable and aware of what we are eating on a daily basis. Starting each day, or do this the night before, jot down what your 3 meals and snacks will look like. I find writing my snacks down is very helpful, especially for the latter part of the day.
  7. Drink tea. Tea is great for us (especially herbal caffeine free versions and the process of heating water and seeping a tea bag, can be therapeutic. let along enjoying the flavors.
  8. Learn how to cope with stress. Since stress can be the biggest trigger for cravings and learning to cope with what you have at hand rather than turning to food, is the best thing for your health overall.
  9. Fulfill your craving with quality food. I often tell clients to make some treats out of clean food options. Examples of this is a frozen banana, Lindt dark chocolate, coconut cocoa treats and more.
  10. Eat square meals with plenty of fat (yes, we need more fat than most people think), protein and moderate carbohydrates. The golden rule I provide to clients is starting their day off with protein (20-30 grams) to prevent cravings and snacking later in the day and then follow-up lunch and dinner with a third of calories coming from healthy fat, a third from protein and a third from carbs. The other 10 percent = wiggle room.
  11. Get up and move. Activity can curb cravings and appetite up to two hours. Sometimes boredom and fatigue can be the reason we are hungry and some movement is the solution. This does not mean to skip your meals, but make activity a priority.
  12. Lastly, make your health a priority. Get up earlier to make a healthy breakfast, make homemade meals in bulk, be efficient with grocery shopping, errands, doctor/dietitian appointments, weave movement naturally into your day, etc. You know what you need to do and just do it. You deserve good health.

References:

SCIENTIFIC STUDIES RELATED TO MENU LABELING. YALE UNIVERSITY RUDD CENTER FOR FOOD POLICY AND OBESITY

Gut Hormones and Appetite Control. Gastroenterology.  

Clean, REAL Food Desserts

I wish I could claim these awesome, paleo and diabetic-friendly desserts, but they were both basically spoon-fed to me and I could not get enough. Enjoy. Gobble, gobble.

Pumpkin “Ice-Cream”

  • 2 Bananas, frozen
  • 1/2 c. Pumpkin purée (good on you if you roast and puree your own. However, we realize that is not always realistic)
  • 1/4 c. Almond milk, coconut milk, or milk of choice
  • 1/4 tsp. Pumpkin pie spice mix
  • Honey, raw, to taste

Throw in a foods processor and enjoy.

 

Chocolate, Almond Pudding

  • Coconut milk, 1 can
  • Almond butter, crunchy, half to 3/4 of jar
  • Hershey’s cocoa, to taste (~1/2 cup)

Mix all together and die in chocolate goodness. As well, you can vary the measurements of the listed ingredients to adjust the texture.