Health & wellness articles and infographics

Smack Down Your Stress for Lifestyle Success

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You hear it all the time, probably out of your own mouth more often than not:stressed woman at desk “I’m so STRESSED!”

In fact, stress is so ubiquitous that it’s become our way of life. We barely notice it because we don’t know what it’s like not to be stressed. Being busy is hailed as a virtue, and productivity is regardless of the cost.

At the same time, we pursue plant-based diets and carve out time for exercise, rightly assuming these things will help our bodies be stronger and healthier. But there’s one problem:

Stress can sideline your health journey.

As with any health concern, the more you understand how and why stress is affecting your body, the better equipped you are to take steps toward healing.

What is Stress?

Google defines stress as “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.” It comes in two forms:

  • Acute: “I’m changing lanes now and HOLY TOFU WHERE DID THAT TRUCK COME FROM?”
  • Chronic: “I’m stuck in traffic yet again on the way to a job I hate, drinking my third cup of coffee and still feeling exhausted.”

In other words, acute stress spurs you to life-saving action, whereas chronic stress wears you down little by little in ways you may not even be aware of.

Some (Not So) Surprising Stress Statistics

According to Statistic Brain and the American Psychological Association, the top causes of stress in the U.S. are:

  • Job pressure
  • Money
  • Health
  • Relationships
  • Media overload
  • Politics

When asked, around 48 percent of people say their stress has increased in the last five years, and the same percentage also admit stress has a negative impact on their personal and professional lives.

The Stress Effect

Not surprisingly, 77 percent of people say they have poor physical responses to stress — although I would imagine the true number is higher because stress isn’t always considered as a culprit when you’re feeling out of sorts.

But stress is a powerful thing. When you come up against a stressor, you body reacts with a cascade of changes meant to give you a short-term way to deal with an immediate problem:

  • Digestion and other non-essential functions slow down
  • Cortisol is released
  • Blood sugar and epinephrine rise
  • Blood pressure becomes elevated

After the stressor has passed (you slam on the brakes, don’t hit the truck and arrive safely in the intended lane), your body’s processes are supposed to normalize as you come back down from the jolt of the acute response.

In today’s society, when we go from traffic jams and coffee to tedious jobs to smartphones constantly interrupting us with news we’d rather not hear, our bodies never have a chance to normalize completely.

Cortisol Complications

Why? The main culprit is cortisol. This hormone, triggered through a cascade of chemicals from the brain and adrenal glands, prompts your body to break down stored glycogen and convert it to glucose for a quick source of energy during the stress response. Chronically elevated blood sugar decreases insulin sensitivity, meaning your body has to keep making more in order to get sugar into cells. Eventually, you could find yourself in the beginning stages of Type 2 diabetes as your cells simply refuse to respond or insulin production begins to drop off.

stressed lego man at desk

Cortisol can also break down proteins for fuel. Add to this a decrease in growth hormone production and problems dealing with stomach acid, and you could be at risk for muscle loss. Stomach acid is a key player in breaking down the proteins you eat, and if it’s not doing the job, your cells won’t get the protein they need.

And of course, we’re all familiar with the feeling of our hearts racing during times of acute stress. Blood pressure that stays high when it shouldn’t puts a strain on blood vessels, especially small vessels in areas like the eyes and brain. The heart itself is also affected as the body asks it to work harder than it’s meant to when you’re at rest. It’s little wonder some of the most common stress symptoms reported are fatigue, headache and muscle tension.

Stolen Hormones

The other problem with cortisol? It’s a hormone. This wouldn’t be a big deal if it didn’t share some of the same precursors as other hormones you need — namely, sex hormones.

Your body has a specific and efficient process for making sex hormones. Part of this process involves pregnenolone, a hormone precursor normally used to make DHEA and, in turn, estrogen and testosterone. It’s also used to make progesterone and aldosterone through a different pathway.

When you’re not under stress, this process should work just fine, but stress “steals” your pregnenolone to make cortisol. As this continues to happen during chronic stress, important hormonal balances are disrupted and your blood sugar goes even further out of whack due to lower insulin sensitivity from a lack of DHEA.

Together, the effects of chronic stress can spell trouble for anyone, even those who practice healthy habits in other areas of their lives.

The Missing Link

Which brings me to my most important point in this post: Even if you have your diet on track and stick to a regular exercise regimen, you could be putting yourself at risk for some serious problems if you’re constantly under stress. A 2016 study provided a graphic illustration of this when it suggested stress has the potential to negate the effects of healthy meals by making the body react the same way as it would to a large influx of saturated fat, namely by increasing inflammation.

Just like the stress response, your body’s inflammatory cascade is helpful when it works the right way. It sends the proper immune cells and compounds to damaged areas to clean up and speed healing. That’s why you experience redness and swelling when you get an injury.

But what happens when the process becomes chronic? A constant state of low-grade inflammation appears to be at least one of the major underlying factors in heart disease, diabetes and other lifestyle diseases. One possible reason for this could be an increase in “adhesion molecules,” compounds that facilitate the formation of the arterial plaques associated with heart disease. Excess cortisol circulating in the blood can also lead to a less robust immune response, leaving you vulnerable to all manner of invaders and making it more difficult for your body to repair itself.

Smacking Down Your Stress: Techniques to Trystress relief this way

I don’t think I have to tell you how to know you’re under stress. As I said at the outset — just about everyone is! You may feel tired, apathetic or just plain “blah.” You may struggle with headaches or stomach aches with no apparent triggers. You’re probably not sleeping very well. And all of it is undermining your plant-based diet and the time you spend at the gym, running trails or whatever you like to do for exercise.

Identify Your Stressors

The first step in breaking the cycle and gaining control over your stress is to pin down the causes. To do this, grab a notebook and start a stress diary. Every time you feel stressed out, write down:

Over time, you’ll begin to see patterns. For example, if you look back at your diary for the week and see a lot of entries like,

“Boss called another last-minute meeting. Critical; everyone had to go. Got angry and fumed through the whole thing. Ate too much Chinese takeout for lunch.”

Or,

“Husband called ten minutes before kids needed to be picked up and asked me to get them. Essential; couldn’t make other arrangements. Didn’t talk to him all through dinner. Stormed around slamming things until I felt better.”

…you know you need to learn a better way to cope.

Rule Your Stress

Fortunately, you don’t have to do anything fancy or mystical to bust stress. You don’t have to go on a retreat and do nothing except sit next to pools of calm water and listen to yourself breathe (unless you want to!). Here are some of my favorite simple, calming activities that I suggest to clients and have seen work for friends and family:

  • Reading favorite books
  • Adult coloring
  • Crafts like knitting or sewing
  • Stretching and/or restorative yoga
  • “Unplugging” from devices and media
  • Spending time with laid-back, supportive friends
  • Having a cup of chamomile tea before bed
  • Spending time in prayer, reading the Bible and connecting with God

You can engage in these activities any time during the day, but I recommend incorporating one or more into your evening routine. Stretching, fixing yourself a cup of tea and settling in to relax without your phone blaring push notifications at you every ten seconds helps you unwind from the day’s events and prepares you for a good night’s sleep — the ultimate restorative stress-buster!

You can’t escape all stress, but you can beat the stressors life throws at you every day. A stress management program is an essential part of staying healthy — without one, all the kale and burpees in the world won’t help you stay well!

Are you ready to get off the stress train and stop feeling “blah” all the time? Book a personalized 4-week package! I’ll walk you through the lifestyle changes you need to find relief and gain control over what’s stressing you out.

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It’s Okay to Hate Healthy Foods — Really!

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Ever feel like you’ll never learn to like some of the foods you’re “supposed” to eat? It seems like a new “superfood” appears on the scene every other week, so you go and grab some at the store only to find you really, really hate it. No matter what you do, you just can’t warm up to it, and you’re left feeling guilty for despising the amazing healthy food everyone else is raving about.

I’ll tell you a secret — and this is going to sound nuts coming from a wellness consultant. It’s okay if you hate healthy foods. Really, it is. There’s no dietary law stating you must enjoy every health-promoting food in existence. While I tend to encourage clients to try preparing new foods in more than one way before deciding they’re not fans, it’s silly to try and force yourself to eat something you truly can’t stand.

Of course, I’m not giving everyone carte blanche to toss the kale in the trash and stockpile dairy-free Ben & Jerry’s and Oreos. What I want to do is put healthy eating in perspective, because sometimes it seems as though people think of it as all-or-nothing. How often do we hear — or say — “I was good today!” when meal choices include a lot of whole, fresh foods? Or the opposite: “I was bad” or “I blew it” when a processed treat was on the menu?

This kind of mindset is what’s behind the idea that we need to somehow pile on the healthiest foods possible to give our diets superpowers, when the truth is much simpler and involves absolutely no food-related guilt trips. So let’s take a look at why it’s not going to kill you to leave the goji berries for someone else and why you’re not a horrible person if quinoa isn’t your favorite thing ever.

Personal Tastes (and Restrictions) Guide Choices

The foods you ate growing up did a lot to shape the tastes you have now. This includes ethnic flavors, favorite dishes your parents made on special holidays and any influence the food industry had on your family’s meals. The latter is where most people get into trouble when it comes to food choices and where the majority of “food guilt” comes from. These tastes — the deeply ingrained preference for sugar, salt and fat — are the ones worth changing, and they can be overcome by shifting dietary choices toward whole plant foods.

Intolerances, allergies and diseases also need to be considered when choosing which foods to eat. According to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), over 170 foods are known to cause allergic reactions, and as many as 15 million people in the U.S. have at least one food allergy. Reactions range from mild, such as an itchy tongue or a skin rash, to severe, including fatal anaphylaxis.

I’m often upset when I hear a doctors are advising patients to take Lactaid pills and continue consuming dairy when suffering from lactose intolerance or when I hear stories of people struggling with non-celiac gluten intolerance for years because the medical establishment isn’t convinced of its existence. If you eat a food and get sick every time, you don’t have to eat it. No matter what nutrients it contains, no matter what anyone tries to tell you, the best thing to do is give it up.

Superfoods Aren’t Always So Super

The term “superfood” has become an almost magical word most often used to describe exotic, expensive or hard-to-find ingredients. Trying to track down acai berries and spirulina when you don’t have a specialty store or food co-op nearby can be a challenge, and hitting the internet to order some can leave your credit card smoking.

You don’t have to spend a fortune to get the nutrients found in some of the most hyped superfoods. Common foods like blueberries, bell peppers, broccoli and lentils pack just as much of a punch at a fraction of the price. Yes, some nutrients may be more concentrated in foods touted as super, but if you’re already eating a plant-based diet, you’re getting an abundance of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients every time you enjoy a meal. All whole plant foods have beneficial nutrients, and balancing your food intake between whole grains, beans and legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds in their unprocessed forms is one of the best ways to take care of your body.

It’s All About Diversity

With that said, you don’t have to eat every plant food to enjoy superior nutrition; you just have to mix things up during the day. That’s one of the hidden perks of realizing you don’t like some healthy foods: There are so many others waiting to be discovered and a multitude of delicious combinations to experiment with. Mainstream food and nutrition news tends to only highlight the latest fads, loudly proclaiming the benefits of whatever the most recent study has found to be “good” for you. The next day, there’s either a new superfood celebrity or the darling of the previous day is being denounced as not so good after all.

Don’t let it all confuse you. Thanks to creative plant-based doctors, there are a couple of easy ways to envision a healthy, diverse diet. Dr. Greger has his Daily Dozen, and Dr. Fuhrman champions G-BOMBS. Both provide firm foundations on which to base your meals so that you get the best bang for your buck with every dish — no superfoods required.

Try an Alternative

Although it might feel like you’re missing out if the trendy superfoods — or even some plant-based staples — don’t excite your taste buds, an abundance of alternative choices makes it possible to thrive. Give these choices a go the next time you’re looking to pack super nutrition into a tasty meal.

Don’t like kale? Try…

  • Rainbow chard
  • Mustard greens
  • Dandelion greens
  • Broccoli raab
  • Beet greens
  • Turnip greens

Don’t like quinoa? Substitue…

  • Barley
  • Bulgur
  • Spelt berries
  • Millet
  • Brown, red or black rice

Not a chickpea fan? Say hello to these legumes…

  • Red, brown or black lentils
  • Black-eyed peas
  • Kidney beans
  • Black beans
  • White beans
  • Pinto beans
  • Edamame
  • Adzuki beans

However, as I mentioned at the start of this post, try some new ways of preparing a food before you write it off completely. When people tell me they “hate” a food, I almost inevitably find out it was either cooked to death or not used in a way that brought out its best flavor. If you try something a few times and still can’t get past the taste or texture, don’t feel guilty removing it from your menu.

What’s the takeaway here? All diets, even healthy diets, are influenced by individuality, culture, experience and tastes. Even though tastes do change over time, there will always be some foods you don’t like. Building your daily meals around the variety of choices you enjoy and trying new foods to add even more diversity will create a menu you can feel good about.

And those popular “superfoods?” Most of the time, they’re not bad. There’s nothing wrong with splurging on some hemp seeds or throwing a bit of maca in your smoothie, if that’s your thing, but none of them have to be staples of your diet for you to eat well and feel great. So the next time the mainstream media tries to send you on a guilt trip because you’re not mainlining coconut water and green smoothies, remember how much your tastes have changed so far, think about all the great food you are eating and happily ignore the hype.

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Struggling with Seasonal Eating? This Infographic Makes it Easy!

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Thanks to ZeroCater for providing this great post! Save the infographic to your favorites or pin it on Pinterest so that you can refer back whenever you’re planning a seasonal meal. You can see the original post here.

Step into any grocery store at any time, and you’re likely to find the same collection of produce. There will be carrots year round, as well as bananas and apples, probably even blueberries, peaches, spinach and cucumbers.

Most of us realize those food items aren’t actually in season most of the time they’re available for sale. Out-of-season produce lacks taste, texture an even nutrition. (Ever had an imported tomato in the middle of winter?) It’s rarely grown close to where you live, meaning huge amounts of labor and fuel go into getting you your peaches in December—when the fresh season in places such as Georgia usually winds down in August and September.

What you may not realize is how great and far-reaching of an impact searching out as much local produce as you can will make on your community. You’ll be supporting local growers and reducing the need for long transport times for food. Why else are these choices beneficial, and what should you look for? This graphic can help take the mystery out of seasonal eating. (If you take a look at fall, the whole pumpkin spice craze becomes a little more understandable. But only a little. Pumpkin spice Cheerios, anyone?)

zerocater seasonal eating infographic

Need help planning healthy seasonal meals? Join my next Q&A session for diet and lifestyle tips you can rely on all year long.

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Starting Your Day the Plant-Based Way — Healthy Vegan Breakfasts Made Easy

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You’ve made the leap and gone plant-based, but now breakfast is a big question mark. With bacon and eggs off the menu, what is there to eat?

Before you panic and rush to the drive-thru, remind yourself why you decided to stop eating animal foods. Bacon is on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) list of processed meats to avoid due to its potential to cause cancer, and the risk goes up when the meat is fried. Adding eggs increases heart disease risk by as much as 40 percent and makes you 29 percent more likely to develop diabetes. Slap it all on a refined white bun, and you have a recipe for chronic health problems with a side of digestive distress.

A balanced breakfast combines complex carbs, fresh fruits or veggies, clean proteins and healthy fats to deliver the nutrients you need for energy and breakfast satisfaction on a plant-based diet. What does it all look like when you put it into practice? This guide walks you through a typical whole food breakfast so that you can make healthy, delicious choices every morning.

Get Creative with Carbs

After a whole night without food, your body needs nourishment. Unlike proteins and fats, carbohydrates are efficient energy sources and are the body’s preferred fuel. Any plant-based breakfast should include a healthy helping of “carbs.” Your body breaks carbs down and uses the resulting glucose to create energy. Leftover glucose is stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen and turned back into glucose when more energy is required.

  • Serving size:½ cup cooked grains, 1 slice bread, ½ English muffin, 1 small bagel
  • Focus on: Whole, intact grains or breads made from sprouted grains
  • Avoid: Refined grains, refined sweeteners, added salt, chemical or artificial additives

healthy plant-based fruit bowl breakfastVary Your Veggies (and Fruits)

Savory food isn’t just for dinner! Filling your plate with veggies at breakfast is a great way to get on the right track for the rest of the day. Fruit satisfies your natural sweet tooth without the inevitable sugar rush you get from boxed cereal or pancakes drenched in maple syrup.

Eating fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables for breakfast (or any meal) gives your body an infusion of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients in their natural states. When consumed whole and unprocessed, these foods form a complete package in which all the nutrients work together in ways that aren’t possible with the synthetic forms found in “enriched” products. Mixing veggies and fruits with grains at breakfast gives you additional healthy carbohydrates to power your day.

  • Serving size: ½ cup chopped or 1 medium piece of fruit,1/4 cup dried fruit, ½ cup raw or cooked crunchy/starchy veggies, 1 cup raw leafy veggies
  • Focus on: Eating a variety of colors, experimenting with different combinations, seasonal foods
  • Avoid: Processed fruit or vegetable juices, dried fruit with added oil or sugar, canned fruit in syrup, frozen vegetables with sauce or salt

Pack in Powerful Proteins

You don’t have to chug a shake made with dubious powdered ingredients to get a healthy helping of protein with your morning meal. Beans and legumes deliver the biggest protein bang for your buck on a plant-based diet without any of the hormones, chemicals or additives found in meats and commercial protein powders.

It may sound strange to eat beans at breakfast, but English, Mexican, Ethiopian and other cultures regularly include them in the morning meal. Adding beans or foods made from beans, such as tempeh, to your breakfast plate provides essential amino acids to:

  • Help muscles recover after an early workout
  • Produce enzymes to power important chemical reactions in your body
  • Make hormones
  • Maintain healthy skin and hair
  • Transport nutrients around the body

Although it’s not necessary to obsess over protein intake on a plant-based diet, a big helping of breakfast beans makes the meal heartier and more satisfying.

  • Serving size: ½ cup cooked beans, tofu or tempeh; ¼ cup dry lentils; 1 cup sprouts; 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast or ¼ cup hummus
  • Focus on: Unprocessed plant proteins, fermented or whole soy, varying protein choices
  • Avoid: Isolated soy protein, processed vegan meat analogs, processed protein powders, commercial hummus with added oil and salt

Don’t Forget Fabulous (Healthy) Fats!

Fat plays a key role in helping your body absorb certain vitamins and phytonutrients. Vitamins D, E and K are all fat-soluble, as are the carotenoids that serve as precursors to vitamin A. Inside the body, fats protect your organs, build cell membranes and insulate nerves. Your brain is also about 60 percent fat, and several key hormones require fat for production.

A serving of healthy fat makes a nice condiment for or accompaniment to your breakfast. Use your preferred whole source to make oatmeal creamier, add crunch to breakfast scrambles or boost nutrient absorption from green smoothies.

  • Serving size: 2 Tbsp nuts or seeds, 1 Tbsp nut or seed butter, ¼ of a medium avocado, 1 Tbsp coconut (use sparingly)
  • Focus on: Whole fat sources, raw nuts and seeds
  • Avoid: Processed oils, salted nuts, nut or seed butters with added oil and/or salt

Some Tasty Ideas to Jump-Start Your Morning

whole grain toast with hummus

Ready to become a plant-based breakfast champion? Fill your plate (or your bowl) with these delicious combinations:

  • Oatmeal with red lentils, spinach, nutritional yeast and hemp seeds
  • Millet and black beans with sautéed onions, bell peppers and kale, topped with salsa and avocado
  • Chopped fruit bowl with walnuts and cinnamon
  • Leftover cooked rice simmered with almond milk, dates and cinnamon, topped with walnuts
  • Sprouted bagels with sliced tomatoes, leafy greens and avocado
  • Chickpea or tofu scramble with your favorite veggies and greens, garnished with sunflower seeds
  • Sprouted whole grain toast with avocado, tomatoes and nutritional yeast
  • Large green salad with all your favorite veggies, cooked lentils and lemon-tahini dressing
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Vitamin K, Plant-Based Health & Your Gut

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There’s a lot of buzz about vitamin K and whether or not people consuming plant-based diets get enough of all its forms. Just what is it that makes this nutrient so important, and do you really have to worry about being deficient?

What is Vitamin K?

Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin “family” that includes three forms:

  • Phylloquinone (K1), found in plant foods
  • Menaquinone (K2), found in animal foods and formed in the body from phylloquinone
  • Menodione (K3), a synthetic form often used in supplements

Why Do We Need Vitamin K?

Vitamin K has several “jobs” in the body:

cabbage vitamin k greenSupports bone health

Interactions between vitamin K and specific cells and proteins keep bones healthy and strong. Vitamin K aids in bone health in two ways: It moderates the function of osteoclasts, cells involved in bone demineralization, and it converts osteocalcin, an important protein in bone, to its active form, allowing it to bind with calcium so that the mineral stays in the bones where it belongs.

Aids blood clotting

By modulating the enzymatic processes involved in the production of clotting factors, vitamin K ensures that blood doesn’t clot too little or too much.

Prevents arterial calcification

Calcium deposits in blood vessels are responsible for the hardening of arteries that is the precursor to to heart disease. Vitamin K aids in the activation of proteins responsible for blocking this process.

Other benefits of getting your daily dose of K:

  • Brain and nerve support
  • Prevention of oxidative damage
  • Inhibition of cancer cell growth
  • Regulation of inflammation

Where Do We Get Vitamin K?

Common plant-based sources of vitamin K include:

  • Kale

    green spinach smoothie vitamin k

  • Spinach
  • Turnip greens
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Asparagus
  • Romaine lettuce

So remember, for vitamin K, eat lots of kale—and other leafy greens! If you’re particularly fond of brassicas, also called cruciferous vegetables, you’ll have no trouble getting enough of this important nutrient.

How much vitamin K do you need?

The daily recommended intake (DRI) for vitamin K is 120mcg/day for men and 90mcg/day for women..

Although vitamin K, like other nutrients, is best obtained from foods, it may be supplemented therapeutically for certain conditions, including osteoporosis. Therapeutic doses range from 100-500mcg/day. High-dose supplementation should always be overseen by a health professional.

Since vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin, your body is better able to absorb it if you include a healthy fat source along with your leafy greens. Sprinkle raw nuts or seeds on salads, add ground flax to soups and stews or try one of these delicious recipes:

Do Gut Bacteria Play a Role?

Your body needs both vitamin K1 and K2 for optimal health. Evidence shows gut bacteria do synthesize some vitamin K2 from dietary sources of K1, and antibiotic use can affect the level of production by reducing the overall population of bacteria. However, there’s currently no hard science showing where in the intestines this conversion takes place and whether or not humans are able to absorb enough from the process to meet nutritional requirements.

Other studies demonstrate K2 is created from K1 in peripheral body tissues, suggesting direct consumption of K2 may not be necessary. The only substantial plant-based source of K2 is natto, a fermented soybean product that’s not a big hit in the Western world, although after trying some myself recently, I’d like to point out that it isn’t as bad as some descriptions make it sound.

The jury is still out on whether or not the body converts enough vitamin K1 to vitamin K2 to meet nutritional needs. Until more extensive studies are done on people who have been eating exclusively plant-based diets for years, we probably won’t know for sure how well the conversion works or if a healthier diet may improve the ability to convert the vitamin from one form to another. My advice is to consume a variety of whole plant foods every day, including lots of leafy greens, and avoid processed junk that can interfere with the natural processes your body uses to stay healthy.

(As an aside, it seems strange to me that our gut bacteria — or anything in our bodies — would produce a nutritional compound we can’t or don’t utilize in some way. I’ll be interested to see what science uncovers about vitamin K conversion as more plant-based populations are studied!)

Additional References:

Bauman, E., Friedlander, J. (2013). NC202 Men and Women’s Health. Therapeutic Nutrition Part I. Penngrove, CA: Bauman College

Bauman, E. NC106.4 Micronutrients: Intro to Vitamins, the Fat Soluble Vitamins A, E, D, &K [PowerPoint Slides]. Retrieved from Bauman College: http://dashboard.baumancollege.org/mod/resource/view.php?id=1454

Murray, M., Pizzorno, J., Pizzorno, L. (2005). Vitamins. The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York: Simon and Schuster

Vitamin K (n.d.). In World’s Healthiest Foods. Retrieved November 22, 2013, from http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=112

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Remixing it Up: A RAD New Way to Clean Your Clothes!

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Meet my workout clothes.stinky gym clothes need to be RAD

They stink.

I mean, they really, REALLY stink. It would be embarrassing if I didn’t live alone. Heavy strength training along with frequent HIIT, pyramid and circuit workouts will do that to a (home) gym outfit.

“Wait a minute,” you’re thinking. “The post title promised I’d read about something RAD. Why the heck do I care about your smelly workout clothes?”

Because there’s something else I’d like you to meet. It’s called Remix, and it’s a brand new product from the ever-innovative RAD Soap Company.

Remixing Your Laundry Day

Remix comes in three scents: House Mix, One Hit Wonder and Grateful Threads. I was recently introduced to all three at the RAD Remix party, held at the RAD Soap store in Stuyvesant Plaza in Guilderland, NY. RAD opened their first retail store last November and has been turning out fun new products at a rapid pace ever since. Remix is the latest in a series of releases that include Voodoo body wash, Bath Juice bath soaks, Tub Tabs and rollerball scents.remix rad soap laundry soap

The buzz about Remix started several weeks before it made its debut at the party, which was a full-on dance party complete with entertaining dance tunes spun by none other than Zak the Soap Bro, a mini-buffet full of snacks (fruit included!) and a beer tasting. Remix was clearly the star of the show, and balloons added a final festive touch. RADsters popped in and out, stayed a while, shopped and talked, enjoying the welcoming and laid-back atmosphere.

Of course, I had to hit up the party to see all my RAD friends and finally try this new product I’d heard so much about.

What really piqued my interest about Remix was the promise that, unlike other detergents I’ve tried, RAD’s blend could banish the stench of gym clothes. Because, I’ll admit, there is nothing I’ve ever been able to do to get that workout ensemble to freshen up and STAY fresh. Another locally-made detergent had a nice scent but wasn’t powerful enough. Unscented natural detergent got the smell out initially, but it came right back after the first workout of the week.

After the party, I took my little sample bag of House Mix scent back to the apartment and used it in my usual Saturday laundry load. Upon opening it, I discovered a nondescript white powder with larger soapy “notes” in it, all sending up a very light “cashmere” scent. How did it stack up to all the previous detergents I’ve tried?

Does Remix Pass the Laundry Test?

The gym clothes, once again, serve as the best example. No smell. First workout, pure cardio? Sweaty, but still “cashmere”-scented. Even later in the week, after several HIIT and strength training sessions, the smell of the detergent lingered. I could walk into my bathroom without being bowled over by my workout clothes hanging on the door.

RAD sap remix house mix laundry

The rest of the laundry fared just as well. I’ll admit to occasionally smelling my own sleeve the first day or two simply to enjoy the pleasant scent of the detergent, and because it was so hard to believe the smell stayed without being overpowering. It’s especially nice if you wash bedding with it. Then you get to climb under the covers and stick your face into a fresh pillowcase full of RAD scent.

You also get to enjoy the softest clothes ever. EVER. I’ve tried a lot of detergents in the past, from the big names to the too-expensive types meant to keep dark clothes from fading to other locally-produced powder detergents. They all had their perks, but none performed anywhere close to Remix in terms of softness. Regardless of fabric type, every single thing came out of the dryer soft as could be. Even the towels, although these are always aided somewhat by the dryer ball I toss in with every load.

My only qualm about this detergent blend is some of the soap “notes” didn’t dissolve all the way and dropped out of the clothes when I was transferring them from the washer to the dryer. This may have been because the small bag didn’t come with a scoop, and I might have used a bit too much for that first load. Other than that, no issues at all. Two thumbs way up for the RAD family again!

Get Your RAD On

Remix is currently available in five-pound bags at the RAD store for $18.99. That’s 50 full loads! Think about it. If you do laundry once a week like I do, that’s almost a year’s worth of laundry. One year of soft, amazing-smelling laundry.

And no stinky gym clothes. (If you’re not in the Albany, NY area, small bags will be available online in the future.)

You can follow the RAD Soap story on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And, of course, check back here for more RAD chatter in the future.

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FULL DISCLOSURE: I was offered a free large bag of Remix in exchange for writing a review. All attendees of the Remix party received free samples.

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The 5 Mistakes You’re Probably Making When Choosing Healthy Foods

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You know the feeling: You’re standing in the grocery store, eying a selection of cereal, snacks or frozen foods and wondering which ones to buy. Should you choose the cereal with “35% less sugar!” or the chips made with coconut oil instead of vegetable oil? Is the “light” meal better than the others surrounding it in the freezer case? Should you even be eating any of these things on the restrictive fad diet plan you’re trying to follow?

Believe it or not, eating healthy really is straightforward. It’s only in the recent past that the simplicity of eating has become obfuscated by the insane amount of choices the food industry puts before us every day. Just a few generations ago, planning meals and snacks didn’t involve wading your way through a dizzying selection of processed food-like products. Food, for the most part, was recognizable, and it wasn’t necessary to have a degree in food science to understand what you were putting in your body.

Making healthy choices in today’s over-saturated food environment can be more than a little baffling. Food companies make wild claims apparently backed up by science, the media takes nutrition studies out of context and a host of dubious “authorities” fill the remaining space with conflicting opinions on every type of diet known to man. It’s no wonder people have a hard time knowing what to eat.

When you walk down store aisles stuffed with stuff and feel confused beyond belief, you’re not alone. There are several common mistakes people make when trying to sort out what’s healthy and what’s not.

Are you making these healthy eating mistakes?

5 Healthy Eating Mistakes

1) Choosing Packaged Goods with Health Claims

The health benefits emblazoned on food packages are there because food companies want consumers to buy their products, not necessarily because the product is good for you. Chances are you’ve seen most of these labels as you shop:

  • Zero trans fat
  • Gluten-free or vegan
  • Natural, organic or made with organic ingredients
  • Heart healthy whole grains
  • Contains antioxidants
  • Superfood power
  • % daily value of vitamins and minerals
  • More anything potentially healthy than the leading brand

Many of these labels are exaggerated or downright misleading. A product claiming to have no trans fat can have as much as half a gram per serving and still list zero on the package. The term “natural” has no official definition, and using organic ingredients can’t turn a highly processed product into a health food. The synthetic vitamins and minerals added to processed foods are often synthesized in factories overseas from products such as lanolin  and likely don’t have the same benefits as nutrients found in the original context.

Have you ever noticed food such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes rarely carry these sorts of labels? These foods contain nutrients packaged together with other compounds, many with functions yet to be documented, which are designed to work together in our bodies to deliver essential nutrition on a cellular level. There’s no need to add anything or make any claims because the health benefits you experience from eating unadulterated foods speak for themselves.

2) Switching to “Healthier” Oil

Olive oil and coconut oil have enjoyed an almost mystical status, being touted as “healthy” additions to any diet. Although these two oils are technically better for you than the highly processed vegetable oils used in most restaurants and packaged foods, no oil can be rightly categorized as healthy. Repeated consumption of oily foods causes stiffening of the arterial walls, making it difficult for blood to flow as it should and increasing your risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Olive oil isn't a health miracleSince this is the case, why do you hear so much about the benefits of switching to olive, coconut or another “healthier” oil? Any move away from processed vegetable oils, which are usually made from soy or canola using a chemical-laden process resulting in the extraction or destruction of nearly all nutrients, is likely to show some improvement.

The high levels of omega-6 fats in processed oils cause inflammation. When combined with oil’s artery-stiffening effects, this can promote the formation of plaques in your blood vessels and potentially leading to heart attacks or strokes. Coconut oil doesn’t trigger inflammation, so people who make the switch after years of slamming their circulatory systems with heavily processed oils will probably feel better, at least at first. The anti-inflammatory polyphenols in olive oil may provide a similar effect.

With that said, more research is necessary to determine if consuming small amounts of oil on occasion as part of a diet otherwise made up of unprocessed plant foods has similar harmful effects in the long term.

This doesn’t mean some oils have superpowers or can magically turn a bad diet into a good one. Oil usually contains between 120 and 130 calories per tablespoon, which adds up fast, especially if you’re eating foods containing the stuff at every meal. These calories can be better obtained from unprocessed foods, including the whole fats found in nuts, seeds and avocados. Whole foods also contain anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, which can help to combat inflammation instead of causing it.

What can you eat for the same amount of calories found in a tablespoon of oil? Here’s just a small sample:

  • One medium apple or pear
  • Two small oranges
  • 3 1/2 cups of kale
  • Just over half a cup of cooked brown rice
  • 1 1/2 slices of sprouted bread
  • About 1/3 of an average avocado
  • 3/4 ounce of most nuts

3) Ordering the Diet or “Light” Option

Remember the Snackwells craze when consumers snapped up and scarfed down more low-fat cookies and snack cakes than stores could keep on the shelves? The thought at the time was, if the label said low fat, the treats were automatically healthier. Unfortunately, people wound up eating more calories — and more processed food-like substances — than they would if they’d stuck with the originals.

The same confusion prevails today in fad diets (see point #4 below) and fad foods like “100-calorie” snack packs and “lean” frozen meals. Restaurants have jumped on the bandwagon with “lighter” menu items for health-conscious diners. To understand why these labels don’t mean you’re getting a more nutritious product, take a look at what’s really in a few mainstream options masquerading as healthy choices:

  • The “Mediterranean Veggie” sandwich at Panera Bread contains 1,090 milligrams of sodium and 12 grams of fat. Add a “seasonal greens” salad, and you get an additional 11 grams of fat.
  • McDonald’s breakfast menu boasts oatmeal, but unlike the kind you make at home, their version contains 33 grams of sugar and a collection of preservatives and thickeners.
  • Nearly all of Lean Cuisine’s vegetarian meals contain some form of cheese, butter or milk. The “Classic Cheese Lasagna” has five varieties, and is made with “blanched macaroni product.”

And those snack packs? They may have only 100 calories, but most of these come from processed flour, sugar and oil. (One exception is these 100-calorie roasted edamame packs from Seapoint Farms.) Fortunately, as noted above, there are plenty of low-calorie, nutrient-dense “grab and go” options available right from nature.

4) Compartmentalizing Foods by Macronutrient

Low-carb. Low-fat. High-protein. All these popular diets have one thing in common: they demonize one macronutrient while singing the praises of the others. Such an approach ignores the health benefits that may be gained from whole foods in the “forbidden” group. High-carb diets are prime examples of this mentality. These diets lump all types of carbohydrates together, creating confusion over the difference between processed and whole grains and making vegetables and fruits seem like dietary enemies.

The problem with this approach? Nearly all food is composed of more than one type of macronutient. Beans have protein, but they also contain complex carbohydrates. Nuts provide both beneficial fats and protein. Even green leafy vegetables deliver trace amounts of fat. Diets advocating severe restriction of an entire macronutrient category put you at risk for deficiencies in essential micronutrients and often perpetuate false information about why such a diet is healthier than others. Pay attention to the rhetoric, and you’ll often discover proponents of these diets make their claims seem like something new and revolutionary, a stunning “expose” proving something you always thought was good for you has actually been killing you slowly your whole life. After convincing you of the error of your ways, they’ll probably try to sell you something.

There are certain medical conditions requiring specialized restricted diets, but healthy people should aim to consume foods containing all three “macros” every day. Choosing whole plant foods the majority of the time and eating a variety of different types of food should deliver the right balance of major nutrients.

5) Assuming All Sugars are the SameFructose in fruit isn't the same

Thanks to “low carb” diet fads and the persistent idea that consuming sugar causes diabetes (fat has a lot more to do with it), there’s a great deal of confusion about the difference between naturally occurring sugar and sugar added to products. The biggest offender? Fructose, the same sugar found in both high fructose corn syrup and fruit.

It’s become common to question whether fruit’s concentration of fructose makes it unhealthy. The demonizing of sugar in all its forms makes it easy to become wary of a food that’s been a staple of our diets since God placed Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. However, putting products like soda in the same category as whole, unprocessed fruits ignores a much bigger picture.

In terms of context, the fructose added to beverages and packaged foods bears about as much resemblance to fruit’s fructose as bleached white flour does to whole wheat berries. As this article on Whole 9 points, out, “fruit isn’t just fructose. It’s also a rich source of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fiber – things that make you healthier.”

Because fruit’s sugars come in a package containing all these other compounds, blood sugar doesn’t rise as quickly. In fact, one study showed adding berries to a sugary meal can actually prevent the expected “sugar high,” in which the body releases large amounts of insulin in response to an onslaught of undiluted sugar. You’re also much less likely to over-consume fruit than soda or sweetened processed snacks. It takes a lot more effort to crunch your way through an apple than it does to polish off a bottle of your favorite brand of sugar water.

So what’s the best way to make truly healthy food choices?

  • Consume whole, unprocessed or minimally processed foods whenever possible, including fresh and frozen vegetables, low-salt canned vegetables, fresh fruits, unsweetened frozen fruits, whole grains and legumes.
  • Shop in bulk bins or seek out mail-order co-ops for whole grains and dried beans. These are not only healthy choices but also typically much cheaper when purchased in bulk.
  • Flavor foods with fresh or dried herbs, spices and low-salt condiments instead of relying on artificial ingredients.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the white noise in the world of nutrition and the constant battles between proponents of conflicting dietary dogmas. But when you stick with the basics and eat a variety of unprocessed plant-based foods, it’s easy to maintain a healthy lifestyle — and enjoy delicious meals every day.

Want to learn more about living a healthy plant-based lifestyle? Join “A Greener Gut” on Facebook for articles, videos, Q&A and more!

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