How Much is Enough?
One the first topics my clients ask me about when wanting to loose weight is, “how much should I eat?” Should I eat 4oz, 8oz or 12oz of meat and how many vegetables? What about fruit? How much is enough? The answers are relatively simple; however, they have been over analyzed and broken down so much that the American people are utterly confused. (more…)
Controversies Over What Raises Cholesterol
The answer to what raises your cholesterol should be a simple one, but even today there are conflicting opinions. I would like to shed some light on the subject not with my opinion but with fact… ok some opinion.
Paleo and Keto diets are quite popular in Crossfit, health and fitness and even functional medicine. This is because they reduce body fat, lower blood markers, and stabilize blood sugar. This ultimately reduces inflammation and improves health. At least that is the goal. These diets rely mostly on high-fat, moderate protein and low-carb ratios.
So, How Does Your Cholesterol Get High and How Much Control Do We Have Over It?
Let’s start with how Americans used to eat before processed foods, added sugars and food substitutes. What I understand from my parents and grandparents is that they cooked with fat, ate the whole egg, drank unpasteurized whole milk, didn’t know the difference between GMO and Non-GMO or organic versus non-organic, and ate a variety of food based on the season. They ate meat, all kinds, without worrying about LDL or triglycerides and fruit without thinking it would cause weight gain. There was no food timing or carb cycling.
To be fair, I do understand many things have changed since then. We have cell phones, cars, and a coffee shop on every corner, and stressors coming from every direction.
What are older generations always saying about today’s health? I don’t remember so many health issues growing up! And you know what? They are right! There has been an exponential increase in chronic disease since the evolution of food.
What Does Cholesterol Do and Why Do We Need It?
Cholesterol is the base for so many functions in the body. Here are a few that may interest you. Cholesterol is a precursor to testosterone, estrogen, cortisol and progesterone.
These are the hormones responsible for sex drive, female hormone balance, energy, sleep, muscle mass, blood sugar control and so much more. Cholesterol is essential for neural function and the formation of other hormones and absorption of nutrients. So, cholesterol is really important.
Our liver makes about three-quarters of our cholesterol, leaving the rest to be consumed through diet.
By the way, I still can’t find a study proving that consuming high amounts of cholesterol will increase bad cholesterol and put our body into a state of disease.
Low Fat and High Fat Diets
We tried the low-fat trend and around the same time we saw increases in obesity, heart disease and a number of autoimmune disease. What does a low-fat diet consist of? High amounts of sugar because food without fat tastes horrible. So, manufacturers added sugar to make food taste better. Of course, most of it wasn’t real food anyway.
Having high triglycerides is known to be associated with disease, obesity, and diabetes. Triglyceride levels are high, usually as a result of high blood sugar and the liver converting excess carbohydrates into fat. The low-fat diet or any processed low-fat foods are high in carbohydrates which could result in increased triglycerides.
Newsflash: Saturated fat and cholesterol have never been proven to cause harm! And, the American Journal of Managed Care released a statement rescinding cholesterol’s bad name.
Looking at a Keto diet or a Paleo diet which is also traditionally a low-carb, high-fat diet there have been no substantial evidence that these diets increase blood cholesterol.
In fact, risk factors decrease when on these types of diets. One of the most famous is of Gary Taubes, writer of best-selling book, “Why We Get Fat, and What to Do About It,” who is a proponent of high-fat and protein eating. When questioned about his blood markers by Dr. Oz., Gary did not respond on camera as he didn’t know, but later got his blood measured and they were optimal.
Not only have I seen this repeated with my own clients, but also on myself. I have patients who tell me stories about how their doctor can’t understand how they got their markers into optimal range without drugs. Weird, eating real food works.
What Really Causes High Cholesterol?
We touched on this earlier with the higher sugars and processed foods impacting cholesterol as a risk factor for disease. I want to go a little deeper. Since studying functional medicine and clinical nutrition, I’ve found the true backlash comes from stress and metabolic chaos impacting the stress hormones and eventually the gut and metabolism. Once our bodies get stuck in the cycle of blood sugar roller coasters this cycle turns disaster and is hard to reverse without some help.
Most of the studies defending the low-fat diet are compared to the Standard American Diet (SAD), which as the acronym states, is a really sad diet. Really, anything different would be an improvement. The only diet that has been proven through research to be effective or at least accepted by conventional medicine is the Mediterranean Diet.
SO what really causes high cholesterol is an overstressed lifestyle, diets high in carbohydrates and refined sugars, and the perpetual ups and downs in blood sugar causing metabolic chaos in the body.
How to Reverse High Cholesterol Without Drugs
First and foremost, change your eating habits! I prefer ketogenic diets and Paleo diets. However, vegetarian diets and the Mediterranean Diet can be equally effective. The point is to stop eating the Standard American Diet. If changing your diet hasn’t helped, it may be time to dig a little deeper with a functional medicine practitioner. Together, you’ll find the root cause of your cholesterol and ultimately your health issues.
Kids are picky eaters; there’s no getting around it. While it’s so tempting to go for an easy fix and just give them a bowl of Fruity Pebbles every morning, you have to realize that this is not healthy for your child. Cereals are highly processed and they are almost 100% refined carbohydrates. Cooking breakfast for your kids doesn’t have to be a production number each time. In fact, you can whip up a healthy meal in as little as 10 minutes! Check out these healthy breakfast ideas for kids.
-Ham and Egg Panini
Ingredients: cooked ham (you can use any kind of ham like turkey, prosciutto, smoked or farmer’s ham), 1 large egg, salt and pepper, 2 slices of gluten free bread and a slice of low-fat cheddar or Swiss cheese.
Directions: 1.) beat the egg in a small bowl and add a dash of salt and pepper 2.) put a few drops of olive oil into your nonstick skillet, pour in the egg and scramble until fluffy. 3.) transfer the cooked egg to the sliced bread then top it with ham and cheese 4.) put the other slice of bread on top and then grill it in a Panini press for 2 to 6 minutes depending on how brown you want the bread to be. If you don’t have a Panini press, you can just grill the sandwich on your skillet.
-Homemade Granola Bars
Ingredients: 1 1/2 cups rolled oats, 1 cup dates, 1/4 cup honey, 1/4 cup almond or sunflower seed butter, 1 cup chopped roasted almonds (unsalted) and 1/2 cup of dried cranberries.
Directions: 1.) put the dates in your food processor and process until it forms a dough-like consistency 2.) pour the honey and almond or sunflower seed butter into a small sauce pan and warm over low heat until well-combined. 3.) combine the oats, almonds, dates and cranberries in a bowl and then pour in the honey and nut butter mixture 4.) mix everything together and press the mixture into an 8 x 8 baking dish lined with parchment paper 5.) cover the pan with plastic wrap and allow everything to set in the fridge for 20 minutes before chopping the bars.
*This is a great make-ahead recipe that the kids can eat as a snack.
Ingredients: 3/4 cup plain yogurt, 1 cup blueberries or any fruit that your kid likes and 2 teaspoons wheat germ.
Directions: place yogurt in an ice cream/dessert dish and top it with fruits and wheat germ. That’s it! It couldn’t be easier than that.
While making breakfast every morning may not be an option, having these breakfast ideas for kids could help you on those days you can’t make a cheese omelet with fresh squeezed orange juice and gluten free toast!
Having a healthy gut is a mainstream phenomenon. We hear the term “gut health” thrown around on social media, on cable TV, and of course from functional medicine practitioners. It has been linked to everything from weight loss to cancer prevention. But do you really know the true benefits of gut health? Before I delve into everything that can go wrong with the gut and how to heal your gut, I would first like to highlight its function in our bodies, and how it affects every aspect of our health.
Our Second Brain
The gut is often referred to as the second brain. This collection of our digestive organs is responsible for the breakdown and metabolism of everything we consume. When it functions properly, we absorb all of the nutrients we need and eliminate everything we don’t. Contained within the gut is an entire microbiome of 10-100 trillion beneficial bacteria. Our bodies actually contain more bacteria than anything else! This is why functional medicine practitioners like myself discourage the use of antibiotics, which kill off all bacteria indiscriminately. Gut health is one of the first things we target in functional medicine because when the gut is imbalanced, everything else in the body will follow suit.
The term “gut feeling” refers to an instinctive, split-second judgment call. The gut is closely tied to our mental health. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of ease and happiness, is dependent on a healthy microbiome for production. Even conventional medicine is beginning to recognize the connection between gut issues and mental health concerns like anxiety and depression.
One of the best and easiest ways to support a healthy gut is to consume probiotics regularly. These are available in food and supplement forms. These beneficial bacteria replenish strains that may have been wiped out by conventional medication, illness, or living a toxic lifestyle. The following are a few of my favorite sources of these beneficial bacteria:
Fermented foods are not only packed with beneficial bacteria but are easy to make and delicious! Kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir are a few of the most popular. These foods encourage the growth of probiotics.
It can be difficult to choose the best probiotic supplement. Many companies have jumped on the bandwagon. You can even find a sugar-laden, gummy version available in most stores! For the most effective probiotic, choose a supplement with multiple strains. It should be stabilized to survive the stomach’s hydrochloric acid. Refrigerated, carefully shipped brands are often high-quality. Remember, these are live bacteria, and we want them to survive the process! Once in the small intestine, the colony will start to multiply and thrive.
Diets That Support Gut Health
A healthy gut requires more than a high-quality supplement, however. A low-stress lifestyle with plenty of rest, stress-relieving techniques to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, and a healthy diet are all necessary pieces of the puzzle. Unfortunately, many of us are led to believe that we have achieved our best health if we master even one of these. If you have a thriving yoga practice but indulge in a donut after class, you’re setting your system up for failure.
Grain-free, whole food diets are one of the best options for ensuring gut health. Not only do most of these diets encourage stepping away from processed, sugar-laden foods (Paleo, AIP, Whole 30), but they eliminate common allergens as well.
If you suffer from a sensitivity to scented perfumes, you likely avoid the department store perfume counter. However, many of us have underlying sensitivities to common foods like gluten and dairy but still consume them on a daily basis! By eliminating these foods from the diet, we give our bodies the chance to shift out of attack mode (which is what is truly happening during an allergic response) and instead allow our bodies to digest completely.
The Right Tests to Discover Your Underlying Health Concerns
Many of my patients have found immediate relief with making these small, yet significant changes. But for some, underlying conditions like small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) can complicate the process. As a trained functional medicine practitioner, I will order the right tests to uncover the underlying conditions that are keeping you from optimal health. Together, we will address these issues and create a plan to help you achieve your health goals!
The Benefits to Heal Your Gut
By making small lifestyle shifts like incorporating probiotics and eliminating common allergens, we can start to support one of the most important systems in our bodies. When we digest our food properly, we feel nourished, hydrated, energized, and relaxed after a meal. Digestive complaints like irritable bowel syndrome disappear, as the connection between our brain and gut is functioning properly. Mental health thrives because the neurotransmitters responsible for positive responses are in balance. Hormones are produced in the right amounts at the right times because our bodies are no longer in fight-or-flight mode.
While our modern lifestyles may neglect gut health, this doesn’t have to be the case! I can help you uncover the root cause of your deepest health concerns, in order to achieve optimal health. If you’re ready to heal your gut and ditch your health problems for good, contact me today for a FREE consultation!
One of the toughest parts about eating healthy is trying to avoid restaurant traps. Eating out is necessary for people who travel often or have an active social life that requires meeting for meals. And while eating at a restaurant can require careful planning, there are ways to do it without falling prey to the problems of restaurant eating.
The most obvious restaurant trap is portion sizes. If you compare today’s portion sizes to those from fifty years ago you’ll see that today restaurants serve almost twice as much on the plate. If you usually clean your plate, this is a set up for diet failure.
In order to avoid this trap, you’ll need to be aware that you probably only need to eat about half of what you’re served. Many people find success by asking for to-go containers as soon as their meal is served. They package up half of their meal and then eat the rest later.
You may also find a friend who enjoys the same dish and split it. Eating half of what you’re served will help you to stay within the recommended calories for a single meal. Beyond portion size, though, there are other problems.
High Caloric Foods
Restaurant dishes are known for containing much higher calories from fat than something you’d make at home. But you can look for ways to manage the calories by making good choices from the menu.
Some restaurants have a special menu for people looking to eat healthier and lose weight. If the restaurant you’re in doesn’t have a special menu, choose grilled proteins and steamed vegetables. Salads can also be a good choice but beware of high-calorie dressings. These can make the salad higher in calories than something else from the menu!
The ambiance in a restaurant can also make it a challenge to stick to your diet. A quiet restaurant where you can have a conversation can help you slow down your eating and help you stay on track.
Try to avoid restaurants that are loud with servers who are pushing drinks and desserts on your table. And the dessert menu is another big trap for people who are trying to diet. In general, you should skip the dessert.
The Bread Basket
And while not every restaurant has this, the complimentary bread basket or bowl of chips can make it really difficult to limit your carbs. Ask your server to take it away so that temptation is avoided.
Restaurant traps can make it hard to stick to your healthy food plan, but by making good choices you can still enjoy eating out without suffering from weight gain. You may also want to consider hosting dinner parties at home to allow you to enjoy the social part of eating with friends without the restaurant traps.