Won’t a High-Carb Plant-Based Diet Make Me Fat?

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The Truth About Whole Carbs vs. Refined Carbs

There’s a lot of debate out there about high-carb vs. low-carb diets and the potential benefits of one over the other, and it’s led to an equally large amount of confusion over whether carbohydrates, or “carbs,” are good or bad for you. This post isn’t meant to settle that debate but rather to shed some light on one of the main points of this confusion: the difference between whole and refined carbs.

At 4 calories per gram, carbs are found in a wide variety of foods, and they all tend to be lumped together in the high- vs. low-carb debate. But there’s a big difference in how whole carbs from foods like fruits, vegetables and brown rice and refined carbs like those in white bread, sugary desserts and sweetened drinks affect your body.

Refined Carbs: A Nutrient Wasteland

donut stack refined carbs sugarWith its high concentration of processed and fast foods, the standard Western diet has plenty of refined carbs. But these carbs start out as whole grains consisting of three parts:

  • Bran — Outer layer containing fiber, antioxidants and 50 to 80 percent of the minerals
  • Germ — Inner “seed” containing healthy fats, B vitamins, phytonutrients and antioxidants, including vitamin E
  • Endosperm — Food source for the developing seed, made up mostly of starches and some protein

Refined grains are stripped of one or more of these parts and the nutrients contained in them. The most refined products, such as white flour, have both bran and germ removed completely. When this happens, the grain loses:

  • 79 percent of the fiber
  • 70 percent of the minerals
  • 66 percent of the B vitamins
  • About 25 percent of the protein
  • Most of the antioxidants and phytonutrients

And, strangely enough, the calorie content actually increases about 7 percent!

The Fallacy of Enriched Grains

“Wait a minute,” you might be thinking. “If all that goes away when carbs are refined, then why do so many products say they’re ‘good sources’ of vitamins and minerals?”

The answer lies in the process of “enriching,” in which artificially manufactured nutrients are added back into refined grain products. This is why breakfast cereals with more sugar than soda can claim to be nutritious, and it’s another process that adds to the confusion about carbs. Only a select few nutrients are replaced when refined grains are enriched, and they’re often added in excess of their natural concentrations. So you get a lot of vitamins B1, B2 and B3 along with iron and folate, but you don’t get:

  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin B6
  • Potassium
  • Vitamin K
  • Magnesium
  • Calcium
  • Selenium
  • Fiber

fruity eclairs refined sugar

“Enriched” wheat, for example, has only about 5 percent of the vitamin E and 22 percent of the fiber of whole. The lack of these nutrients contributes to what refined carbs do to your body. Synthetic vitamins and minerals aren’t used as efficiently as nutrients found in whole foods, partly because they’re delivered in the wrong proportions and aren’t accompanied by a full spectrum of supporting nutrients.

When you eat refined carbs, your body has to take vitamins and minerals from internal reserves to process and assimilate the food. Since you don’t get the majority of those nutrients back and the ones you do get come from unnatural sources, your reserves deplete over time, leaving you tired, sluggish and prone to getting sick. Other negative consequences include:

  • Higher triglycerides
  • Increased blood sugar
  • Increased cholesterol, especially very-low density particles (VLDL)

These effects put you at a higher risk for chronic diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Research also suggests that low-fiber diets may be linked to a higher risk of colorectal cancer.

Refined Carbs to Avoid

If you’re going to “cut carbs,” refined carbs are the ones you want to get rid of! Take a look at your diet, and take steps to eliminate:

  • Added sugar, including high fructose corn syrup
  • Refined and enriched flour
    • White bread products
    • White rice
    • White pasta
  • Boxed breakfast cereals
  • Pastries, snack cakes, donuts, muffins, etc.

The Whole Carb Story

Leaving carbohydrates intact preserves the bran, germ and endosperm as a complete package the way God intended. Think about it: A grain is really a seed. Seeds need a wide variety of nutrients to germinate and then grow and thrive into full plants. When you eat a whole grain, you get these nutrients in the right forms and the proper proportions to support the health of your whole body.

Switching from refined carbs to whole carbs means benefiting from the vitamins and minerals removed during refining plus a whole range of antioxidants, including flavanoids and polyphenols. These powerful phytochemicals aren’t found in processed foods and can’t adequately be added through “enriching” because their combinations in foods and interactions in the body are still largely a mystery. Studies suggest attempting to use isolated antioxidants to treat disease or improve health can actually have the opposite effect. Getting antioxidants from foods like whole grains and other whole carbohydrates, however, preserves the natural balance and allows these compounds to work as they should, protecting your body at a cellular level.

How does this “whole package” benefit your body?

  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Decreases inflammation
  • Lowers the risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke
  • Improves cardiovascular health
  • Improves digestion and gut health

(I cover some of these benefits in more detail in my post, “5 Compelling Reasons to Eat Whole Grains.”)

What Foods Are Whole Carbs?

whole grain bread whole carbsPretty much all whole plant foods contain at least some beneficial whole carbohydrates. Many are packed with a wide spectrum of nutrients but are low in calories, and all have the potential to improve your overall health when eaten regularly and in various combinations. The best way to think about the carbs in a plant-based diet is to stop picturing “carbs” as a food group and start thinking of food as food!

Whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, spelt, millet and amaranth are all good sources of whole carbs. So are leafy greens, crunchy veggies, starchy veggies, fruits and beans. Even nuts and seeds contain a small amount of carbs. Therefore, making whole plant foods the bulk of your diet means getting all the benefits of carbs without the negative side effects of refining.

Getting the Good Carbs in Your Diet

So what does all of this have to do with weight? Can you safely adopt a high-carb plant-based diet without seeing the scale go up?

Short answer: Yes! In fact, swapping out refined carbs with whole carbs can actually help you lose weight. How does that work? First, fiber contributes to the feeling of satiety, so if you eat unrefined carbs like those listed above, you feel full sooner and stay full longer. Second, whole carbs are much more complex than refined and take longer to be broken down by the body. This eliminates the spikes and drops in blood sugar you get after eating refined carbs, so you don’t feel “high” after you eat only to completely crash and get shaky and hungry an hour later. You wind up eating fewer calories without feeling deprived, making it easier to lose unwanted weight and maintain a healthy weight once you reach your goals.

Here are a few tips to get you started with a high-carb plant-based diet:fruit and veggie with asparagus

  • Clean the processed foods out of your pantry
  • Switch to whole-grain breads and pastas
  • Switch from white rice to brown
  • Snack on whole foods
    • Fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, etc.
  • Increase your intake of low-calorie whole carbs
    • Leafy greens, veggies
  • Add beans to your meals in place of meats or processed mock meats

As for the high-carb vs. low-carb debate, don’t let it confuse you. It’s not whether or not you eat carbs but the type of carbs you eat that matters! A nutritious diet should contain a balance of whole, unrefined carbs; lean plant-based proteins; and healthy whole fats. Strike that balance, and you can enjoy your carbs in all their delicious unrefined forms without worrying about “getting fat.”

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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





Moving Forward — Gut Health, the Microbiome and Vlogging

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When Quantum Vegan became GreenGut Wellness, I knew I wanted to keep on promoting the benefits of a plant-based diet to my clients and readers like you. I also knew it was time to take things in a new direction — to focus more on digestive health and the role of the gut microbiome in overall well-being.

With that in mind, I’ve been thinking a lot about where to take this blog. I love sharing recipes and information on seasonal veggies, bringing you guest articles, sharing books or products and generally having a good time. But with all that’s going on in my life right now with GreenGut Wellness and personal obligations, my approach to the blog is in need of a makeover.

I’m not going to stop posting, but I am going to establish a schedule that’s a little easier for me to keep up. I’ve felt a bit overwhelmed trying to stay on top of social media, work with clients, be a Toastmaster and maintain a healthy personal and spiritual life. Right now, I can’t say what this posting schedule will be, but if you subscribe, you’ll see new posts whenever they go live. Join my email list for occasional content updates and newsletters, too! (The newsletter will be going quarterly starting next month, arriving in your inbox in January, April, July and October.)

Right now, these are my thoughts on the types of posts I’d like to share in the future:

  • Collections of the latest microbiome news
  • Reviews and summaries of interesting studies on and books about gut health
  • Articles on how plant-based diets influence the microbiome
  • Dietary advice and “how to” articles to show you how to take care of your gut
  • Occasional recipes targeted for specific areas of digestive health

I would also love to start vlogging now and then. One thing I feel has been lacking in this blog from the start is a sense of personality. I’d like to lighten up the formal, technical tone a bit by showing you who I really am — because I like to be fun, straightforward and silly. I also think it would be a more entertaining way to share plant-based diet tips and tidbits from my own experiments in the kitchen.

But I don’t just want to post what feel like posting — I want to hear from you! What do you want to see on the GreenGut Wellness blog? What would help you get healthier, decode confusing dietary advice and achieve your lifestyle goals? That’s the kind of content I want to bring you. Leave a comment, or fill out this brief survey to help me make this blog the best it can be.

Thanks for staying with me throughout this journey! I’m excited to see what the rest of 2017 will bring for GreenGut and the future of the microbiome. I’m betting we’ll see even more about how it relates to plant-based health!


Make it a Plant-Based Winter, Part 5: Robust Rutabaga

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Welcome to the fifth and final post in my Plant-Based Winter series on winter vegetables! Spring is fast approaching, but most of these veggies are still readily available in stores and at year-round farmers markets. Catch up on the others to get all the tasty info:

Root vegetables are some of my favorites. Carrots, parsnips, beets, radishes, kohlrabi, turnips and, of course, today’s feature: rutabagas!

A Rutabaga By Any Other Name

Depending on where you live, you might have heard a rutabaga called by many different names: swede, Swedish turnip, yellow turnip or even neep. (This last one is thanks to its scientific name, Brassica napus.) All these names refer to a globe-shaped root with a purple blush on top and a yellow-orange bottom. Like cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower, rutabagas are brassicas and have the same characteristic bitter overtones to their flavor. Their hardy nature means they store well, so you’ll find them hanging on long into the winter and even early spring without losing firmness or flavor.

Rutabagas were created by crossing cabbages with turnips and may have originated in either Scandinavia or Russia. The vegetable spread around the world from the 1600s to the 1800s and is now found as a staple in most grocery stores, at farmers markets and in the gardens of brassica lovers.

Real Rutabaga Nutrition

As with other brassicas, both the root and leaves of rutabagas are edible. They may be consumed raw or cooked in a variety of recipes and provide similar health benefits to other plants in the cruciferous family.

Eating 100 grams of rutabaga roots gives you:

  • 2 grams of fiber
  • 1 gram of protein
  • 30 percent daily value of vitamin C
  • Modest amounts of B vitamins
  • Modest amounts of potassium and other trace minerals

All for just 39 calories! (Unfortunately, I had a hard time finding nutritional information for the leaves, but I think it’s safe to assume they’re good for you in similar ways to other leafy greens, including antioxidant and fiber content.) Vitamin C boosts immunity and is an important nutrient in collagen synthesis.Potassium helps maintain a proper sodium-potassium balance for cell health, promotes healthy cardiovascular function and partners with other nutrients to make sure muscles work as they should.

Rutabagas contain glucosinolates, a compound found in many brassicas with the potential to lower your risk of developing certain types of cancer. Acting as antioxidants, these compounds help neutralize free radicals in the body before they can damage cells, preventing mutations that could potentially lead to the formation of tumors.

And, of course, there’s the all-important dietary fiber and its power to keep your gut healthy! Notice how every fruit and vegetable in this series has this important component? It’s hard not to get enough fiber on a plant-based diet as long as you concentrate on eating whole, unprocessed foods the majority of the time. High fiber intake creates a strong, diverse microbiome and promotes the integrity of the colonic wall to reduce the risk of complications from poor digestion, including constipation and food allergies.

Dr. Axe has an attractive chart and infographic showing the nutritional content and benefits of rutabagas, along with some fun facts on their history and preparation.

Selecting and Preparing Rutabagas

Looking for the perfect rutabaga? You want a tuber with few or no holes and a firm texture free of bruises. Select rutabagas that feel heavy for their size and have an even color.

Many rutabagas are coated with wax to make them stay fresh longer, but removing the wax means removing the skin, too. Unlike that of some winter vegetables, the skin of the rutabaga is edible. Look for varieties without the wax to get the full benefit of the nutrients found in vegetable skins. If you can’t find an unwaxed variety, use a knife and a vegetable peeler to remove as much of the wax as possible before using.

Enjoy your (wax-free) rutabaga:

  • Raw with hummus or another healthy dip
  • Chopped in salads
  • Roasted with your favorite seasonings or a bit of maple syrup
  • Cooked and mashed on its own or mixed with other root vegetables (try parsnips, turnips or celeriac)

Want specific recipes to follow? Try these tasty sources:

  • Finding Vegan’s archive of rutabaga recipes—  Including fries and an inventive rutabaga gnocchi!
  • Kale and Rutabaga Lasagna from Inspiralized — Layers of rutabaga slices, cashew cheese and garlic kale with tomato-basil sauce
  • Maple-Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Rutabaga with Hazelnuts — This recipes from, of all places, Martha Stewart, uses maple syrup to create a sweet veggie side dish (omit the oil for a truly whole-food, plant-based option)

Root veggies store well, and rutabagas are no exception. Keep them whole, or store leftovers in a sealed plastic bag, in the refrigerator for up to three weeks.

I’ll admit it — my favorite way to enjoy rutabaga is raw! How about you? I’d love to hear how you incorporate this root veggie into your own meals!

Featured image: “Swede (The Vegetable)” by pin add is licensed under CC BY 2.0




Make it a Plant-Based Winter, Part 4: Astounding Artichokes

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Welcome to post number 4 in my 5-part series on winter fruits and vegetables! Be sure to check out the rest of the posts for more seasonal deliciousness:

Okay, I cheated a bit for this post. Today, it’s all about artichokes, which are technically a spring vegetable with a harvesting season beginning in March. That means you have a little under a month to get ready to enjoy all the amazing ways artichokes can be eaten and be ready to pick the perfect specimens when the time comes. As someone who has only eaten the “heart” of this veggie, I’m excited at the prospect of trying a fresh one this year!

What is an Artichoke, Anyway?

Did you know artichokes are edible flower buds from a species of thistle plant? The most common type to appear in grocery stores is the green globe artichoke, although there are also purple and white varieties. These unique veggies were introduced to the U.S. in the 1600s, courtesy of the Spanish. Today, almost 100 percent of the crop grown in the country originates in California, with three-quarters being grown in Castroville, the “Artichoke Center of the World.”

Domestic artichokes begin to appear in stores around March and stick around until June. You might be able to find them later into the season if the weather stays favorable in warmer areas of California.

Admirable Artichoke Benefits

When you want to go all in and enjoy artichokes before they’re stripped down to hearts and canned or packed in jars, it takes a little work. But with the benefits you can get, it’s well worth the time (and potentially getting poked by the leaves). Here’s what you’ll find in a 100-gram serving of artichokes:

  • 47 calories
  • 5.4 grams of dietary fiber
  • 20% daily value of vitamin C
  • 12% daily recommended intake of vitamin K
  • 27% daily value of copper
  • A wide range of B vitamins
  • Trace minerals, including phosphorous, magnesium, manganese and iron

Fiber gives artichokes the apparent ability to lower cholesterol, binding with excess and escorting it out of the body before it can enter the bloodstream. Artichokes are also considered a bitter vegetable. Bitters contain compounds like cynarin, which stimulate the liver and gallbladder, help support healthy bile flow to provide a second avenue for clearing cholesterol. Better bile production and movement also aids in absorption of nutrients, especially fat-soluble vitamins.

Silymarin, caffeic acid and other antioxidants found in artichokes protect against free radical damage, which can cause inflammation and a multitude of other health problems if left unchecked. In tandem with fiber, these compounds may be part of the reason why artichokes are associated with a reduction in IBS symptoms. Vitamin K and phosphorous both play a role in maintaining bone health, working to fix calcium into bones and maintain proper mineral balance.

Selecting and Preparing Artichokes

Fresh artichokes can be intimidating if you’ve never cooked one, but picking the perfect green specimen is simple. Just look for artichokes with all the petals still closed, no bruising or splits and that feel heavy for their size. Ripe artichokes will squeak when squeezed (so of course, I’m going to have to try this). For recipes requiring artichoke hearts, look for canned varieties packed in water with minimal salt, or grab some frozen and thaw before using.

Fresh artichokes keep for up to a week when stored in the refrigerator in sealed bags. Don’t wash the artichokes before storing; instead, moisten the stem to promote freshness. When you’re ready to use the veggies, rinse thoroughly or soak in water with a bit of lemon juice to remove any grit. After cleaning, artichokes can be:

  • Boiled upside-down in a pot of water until soft
  • Steamed for about half an hour
  • Baked
  • Roasted
  • Grilled
  • Stuffed

Serve whole cooked artichokes as appetizers or side dishes, pulling off the leaves and scraping out the soft flesh with your teeth. The stem is also edible and can be eaten along with the bud or saved for use in another dish.

An Appendix of Artichoke Recipes

  • Vegetable Pallea — Total bias here; this is my favorite recipe featuring artichoke hearts, and one of my favorite recipes ever. Each time Robin Robertson updates this dish, it gets better, and she really hit the nail on the head with the version from Vegan Without Borders.
  • Pizza with Onions, Peppers, and Artichokes — From Nava Atlas’ VegKitchen
  • Vegan Artichoke Pizza — Featured in The Daily Green
  • Walnut-Crusted Artichoke Hearts — Spied on One Green Planet, these little appetizers are fried, but they look so good with the walnut coating that I couldn’t resist including them. I’m sure they could be baked instead!
  • Healthy Spinach Artichoke Appetizer — Parties for Pennies lightens things up a bit with bite-sized stuffed mushrooms.
  • Vegan Spinach Artichoke Dip — It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken seems to have a thing for creating vegan cheese dishes that include the often-elusive “stretchy” element of dairy cheese, and this dish is no exception. (I’ve tried the stretchy mozzarella. It’s amazing.)
  • Healthy Spinach Artichoke Dip — A quicker version of the iconic dip from Forks Over Knives, made with beans and nutritional yeast

Have you cooked whole artichokes, or are you more of an artichoke heart fan? Tell me how you plan to use artichokes in your spring meals!


Make It a Plant-Based Winter, Part 3: Compelling Cranberries

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Don’t miss the chance to add more flavor to your winter. Check out the whole series!

Most people are only familiar with them in the form of a jelly-like sauce appearing on Thanksgiving. Occasionally, they’re features dried in granola bars, muffins or bagels, usually sweetened to excess and coated in oil. But these little fruits are one of winter’s most amazing sources of powerful phytochemicals.

What are they — why, cranberries, of course!

Craving Cranberries?

Cranberries are often associated with Thanksgiving, but you can find them fresh in stores from the fall through the winter and in the freezer section all year long. Native to North America, cranberries grow on shrubs and are cultivated in the northeastern part of the United States, in Oregon and Washington states and in parts of Canada.

When it’s time to harvest, most growers flood cranberry beds with water and run harvesters through to remove the berries from the plants. The berries float and can therefore easily be collected. However, this method tends to damage the fruits, making them more suitable for freezing or turning into canned cranberry sauce than selling fresh. Between five and ten percent of U.S. crops are still harvested dry, producing a more attractive yield that can be bagged or sold in bulk.

cranberries in a pan by Keira freeimagesBerry Benefits: Antioxidants for Health

With only 45 calories per cup of whole berries, cranberries are a low-calorie way to add beneficial phytonutrients o your diet. These tart little gems pack one of the biggest antioxidant punches in the fruit world with an ORAC value around 9,000, falling just a little short of wild bluebrries. ORAC stands for “oxygen radical absorbance capacity” and expresses the level of antioxidants in a food, providing an indication of how well the food may combat oxidative stress in the body.

Eating 100 grams of cranberries also provides:

  • 18% daily value of manganese
  • 18% daily value of vitamin C
  • Small amounts of vitamin E and vitamin K

However, the antioxidant compounds are what really steal the show. With phenolic acids, proanthocyanidins, anthocyanins, flavanoids and triterpenoids (among others), cranberries deserve the title of “superfood.” All of these substances work together to provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects in the body.

Part of the way cranberries fight inflammation is by blocking the action of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha), part of the body’s pro-inflammatory cascade.Research into the cancer-protective effects is ongoing, but it seems cranberries are able to inhibit key enzymes in the cancer formation process and promote the natural death of damaged cells. The compounds in cranberries may also be able to keep enzymes related to the development of atherosclerosis in check, providing a dual benefit with the power of the antioxidants to protect against the free radical damage which can contribute to heart disease.

When it comes to gut health, cranberries play a role in lowering inflammation thanks to compounds such as quercetin. Inflammation can cause damage, including leaky gut syndrome, and result in symptoms ranging from discomfort and digestive distress to intolerances and allergies. There is some evidence cranberries may even increase the good bacteria in the gut, thereby boosting the health of the colon walls and providing potential protection against colon cancer.

And here’s one I found particularly interesting, mostly because it’s not an effect you hear touted much about superfoods: cranberry phytonutrients can protect against periodontal disease by lowering the production of the inflammatory cytokines that lead to puffy, red gums and subsequent tooth decay or loss.

If you’re curious about what else cranberries can do, WHFoods and Dr. Greger both have even more fascinating information on their power.

holiday cranberries by jynmeyer freeimagesSelecting and Preparing Cranberries

To purchase the perfect cranberries, look for plump, shiny fruits free of winkles. The deeper the color, the higher the antioxidant content. As with all fresh foods, you’re better off consuming the whole fruit than processed juices. Bottled juice not only tends to be full of sugar but also lacks the full complement of nutrients necessary for cranberries to exert their protective effects.

Fresh cranberries last for one to two months in the refrigerator, but they can be frozen for as long as a year — so don’t hesitate to stock up when you find a sale! Simply toss the whole bag in the freezer without opening it, and the berries will be there waiting if you find yourself craving a tart treat in the middle of the summer. Dried cranberries have a long shelf life and can be kept in the fridge for up to a year after the “best by” date and indefinitely in the freezer.

People with kidney disease or who take warfarin should be careful with cranberry intake, as the fruit may increase oxalate excretion in urine and has the potential to increase the effects of certain pharmaceutical drugs.

Ready to pump your meals full of antioxidants just by adding this one seasonal fruit?

  • Go sweet by adding dried cranberries to oatmeal or museli
  • Mix fresh or dried into baked goods before cooking
  • Use dried or fresh cranberries in savory pilafs or stuffed squash filling
  • Throw fresh or dried onto salads
  • Add dried to trail mix or homemade granola bars
  • If you’re into tart flavors, eat them raw, straight up (Not for the faint of heart!)
  • And, of course, homemade cranberry sauce!

Looking for specific recipes? Cranberries can star in many varied dishes:

Note: Most dried cranberries contain sweetener, oil or both. I’ve seen oil- and sugar-free ones in some local museli, but haven’t been able to find where to buy them myself. You can try making your own with this recipe, omitting the honey and oil. If you do, let me know how they turn out!

I’d love to hear how you’re enjoying cranberries this year. Share your favorite dishes in the comments!




Top 10 GreenGut Wellness Recipes of 2016 & Sneak Peeks for the New Year!

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It’s been a big year here at GreenGut Wellness, and, as has become my habit, it’s time to look back on the best of the year!

The biggest news, of course, was changing over from Quantum Vegan to GreenGut Wellness. I knew it was time to narrow the focus of my wellness consulting services, so after a lot of research, planning and prayer, I launched under the GGW banner in October. Having suffered from a chronic digestive condition for many years and seeing it improve greatly after adopting a plant-based diet, I’ve become very interested in the “ecosystem” of microbes living in the human gut. Interest is exploding in the scientific community, too, so there’s a lot of fascinating research and some fantastic books to read. There’s even a Microbiome journal!

Gut health really is the key to overall health (more on that later), and your digestive system is at its best when you eat — you guessed it — a lot of plants. My recipe collection can help you do that — and you’ve all been enjoying some tasty selections from the list this year. Thank you! Your interest in eating more vegan meals made these ten recipes the most popular on the blog for 2016.

Top Plant-Based Recipes of 2016

Remember if you make these (or any other recipe from the GGW archives) to tag your Instagram posts with #greengutwellness or give me a shout at @green_gut so that I can see your creations!

What’s New with GreenGut Wellness in 2017?

I love sharing the plant-based life with you. For me, diet and lifestyle changes have meant moving toward greater health over the course of many years — giving up self-destructive habits, poor food choices and unsustainable exercise regimens in favor of a balanced approach to workouts and a whole, plant-based way of eating with a little wiggle room for my own psychological health. I still stumble and struggle, but that’s all part of the journey, right?

In 2017, I want to help you take control of your health. That’s why I started Quantum Vegan and re-imagined it as GreenGut Wellness. As much of a sucker as I am for the science, what I really want to do is help people. We all have so much stuff we’re dealing with, and everybody needs somebody to guide them in the toughest things. And let’s face it, making diet and lifestyle changes is hard, no matter how dedicated you are. It means reversing a lifetime of bad habits and rethinking the way you approach some of the most basic parts of daily life. But the changes are worth it. The road may be a little rocky at the start, but navigating the bumps pays off when you start to see and feel improvements in your health.

With this in mind, I’m offering two ways to help you get started and stick with a journey toward better health this year. The first one is going on right now with a range of fun health tip sheets to power up your daily diet. From now until January 6th, all sheets are on sale for only $2.50 (they’re usually $3), no code required. That gives you you plenty of time to load up on tips for making salads, crafting the perfect smoothie, batch cooking and more. All sheets are delivered in PDF format after purchase, so you can print them out and stick them up on the fridge to help with meal planning or carry them around on your mobile device to give you guidance when eating out.

The second is a little more comprehensive and designed to help you keep your New Year’s resolutions when you start to feel like giving up. It’s normal to hit a patch somewhere in mid-January when you wonder why you bogged yourself down with such huge expectations for change and are ready to throw in the towel. So from January 14th through January 20th, I’m starting a Resolution Revolution. Using the code RESOLUTION10 gets you 10% off any wellness consulting package:

Every package includes a detailed health history so that I know exactly what you’re dealing with and can tailor services to meet your specific needs. You get phone, email and text support to ask questions, educational handouts for additional guidance, relevant recipes and more to help cultivate ongoing diet and lifestyle changes — and to empower you to take care of you own health for years to come. I can work with your doctor to address more complex issues by looking at blood work and suggesting additional tests. And it doesn’t matter where you are — all services can be conducted via phone or Google Hangouts.

No more sifting through endless lists of what to eat and what not to eat, trying to decipher the truth in the midst of the hype. You don’t have to try and go it alone this year. I want to show you how proper planning, personal accountability and individualized nutrient support can create a sustainable diet and lifestyle plan you can follow indefinitely. So whether you’re looking to eat more plants, get rid of stress, cook more variety or kick a sugar habit, I’m here to help you do it.

You can find all of this in the GreenGut Wellness shop. It’s a one-stop marketplace for every handout and service I offer. More details are also available on my services page.

I don’t usually do New Year’s resolutions for myself, but I do have one big dream for 2017. I’d love to write a cookbook! It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while, and I’ve been saving up some interesting new recipes to put together into something that’s a bit different than the other (very lovely) plant-based cookbooks out there now. Most of all, I want to spend the year going where the Lord leads me in my personal and business life, helping as many people as possible along the way.

What are your plans for 2017? Share in the comments! And don’t forget to subscribe to the GreenGut Wellness mailing list for updates, sales, news and recipes throughout the year.

A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps. ~ Proverbs 16:9

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