I'd say from my own personal qualitative perspective the most recent and most popular food to avoid is not even a food, it's a protein: GLUTEN. Gluten is just ONE of the proteins found in wheat, barley, and rye. Wheat flour is used to make most breads, cereals, pastas, basically anything good, let's be serious.
There is a condition called Celiac where people have a genetic predisposition and then have some sort of insult factor that enters and causes an individuals immune system to attack the important finger-like absorptive villi in the intestines when gluten is present, this makes them very, very sick and often causes extreme weight loss and malnutrition. But, many other people who do not have Celiac disease have begun avoiding gluten and thereby wheat products. Some do it because so is the herd, other because they can link some sort of symptom to eating wheat like bloating, fatigue, abdominal pain or diarrhea.
I am happy to report another study coming out of Columbia University Medical Center which was recently published in GUT, a leading international journal in gastroenterology, evidences a biologic basis, and scientific support for something we have long described as leaky gut syndrome. You can read about the study here in Science Daily.
I'll talk about the actual mechanism of leaky gut and why it can cause food sensitivities in a future post. For now I would just like to report the findings, that individuals with Non-Celiac Wheat Sensitivity were found to have an immune instigated inflammatory response to wheat intake in this study. This shows that some symptoms of wheat sensitivity may not be imagined, and that there is a link in what is estimated to be 1% of the US population.
Looking for a good side dish for this weekends cookout, or just a healthy salad to keep in the fridge for the next few days, look no further! This salad is made with fresh, crisp fennel providing a slight anise flavor which plays nicely against the sweetness of the grapes.
I've been seeing fennel in the farmers markets near me lately, but you should also be able to find in your grocer's produce section.
Fennel and Grape Salad
In a large bowl, toss together the fennel, grapes, celery, onion, and parsley. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, garlic, mustard, salt, and pepper. Drizzle in the olive oil while whisking. Pour vinaigrette over the salad and toss together to mix well.
The salad can be made up to 1 day ahead of time. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
I ate strawberries as an afternoon snack today, they were delicious. Deep red all the way through the sweet berry and you could practically smell them from across the room. Strawberries are difficult to avoid in my present world, as I live in a city in which it's largest export is strawberries. But, I don't buy many strawberries locally, as much as it pains me, because strawberries are at the very top of the list of produce that contain large amounts of pesticides. Unfortunately, most farmers around here aren't growing organic strawberries this time of year because the berries would grow too much mold.
I'd like to provide a list of foods that I usually try to purchase only organically grown. This list closely mirrors the Environmental Working Groups Dirty Dozen.
8. Tomatoes/Cherry Tomatoes
10. Hot peppers
I'd also like to provide a list of foods that don't break my bank account when I shop as I choose a more conventionally grown option that is generally less expensive.
2. Sweet Corn
People are voting with their purse-strings to the tune of 13 billion dollars in 2015 alone in organic food purchases, however organic produce is only estimated to account for 1% of America's farm land. Talk with your local farmers on your interest in local, organic food and let them know you are committed to supporting their efforts and costs to convert to organic practices.
In this study two different strains of bacteria commonly used in probiotics were provided to mice who were later exposed to food allergens. One strain in particular lowered the mast cell reaction responsible for allergic responses, neutralizing their ability to induce allergy symptoms. The bacteria that showed effective was B longum KACC 91563.
Other studies have also shown the benefits of probiotics in lowering food allergy and sensitivity reactions, calming the immune response.
My recommendations for best practice when it comes to taking probiotics:
1. Always buy a strain that was refrigerated.
2. Keep it in the fridge when you get home.
3. Always take with a meal.
4. Start taking them slowly, every other day.
5. Mix up the brands/strains you purchase. If you can afford two different bottles at one time, every other day change which brand/strains you are taking to keep a robust and varying profile introduced to your gut.
Institute for Basic Science. "Protein from bacteria alleviates food allergy symptoms." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 March 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/03/160316085011.htm>.
The White House has indicated that Obama will sign the bill. Many people will consider this a win in gaining access to much requested information about the quality of the food they are purchasing. While, the people of Vermont, and MYSELF feel that this bill carries too much compromise. I do understand that it is helpful for the multi-billion dollar food industry to have uniform labeling rules across the states, but the Vermont law passed earlier this month would have required labeling to clearly state “produced with genetic engineering”. This would make it plan and TRANSPARENT for a consumer, instead of needing to have a smart phone at the ready to scan some code to find this information.
Representative Peter Welch asked on the House floor “if there is an acknowledgement about the right of a consumer to have access to information, why not give them the information in plain and simple English?” Sentiment, I strongly agree with. We have a right to know what we are purchasing and putting into our bodies and our families bodies.
“if there is an acknowledgement about the right of a consumer to have access to information, why not give them the information in plain and simple English?”
There is little scientific information to date about the safety of GMOs on the market. The food industry argues the safety of GMOs, advocates for the labeling argue that there is unknown risk with little research on the healthfulness of GMOs providing all the more reason to help people choose if they want to accept that risk and consume.
GMO foods are plants or animals that have had genes copied from other animals or plants and inserted into their DNA. One striking example is putting fish genes into strawberries to avoid frost (AMAZING), and scary. Farmers have been selectively cross breeding plants for centuries, but this manipulation is now done predominately in labs, with greater selection than was ever available before.
75-80% of the foods in the American market contain GMOs of some kind.
75-80% of the foods in the American market contain GMOs of some kind (an estimate provided by the food industry). Most of these are in some way corn or soy-based. Some derivative of corn or soy is in almost every processed food in grocery stores. While only a handful of GMO fruit and vegetables are available in produce sections.
This is most certainly a step in the right direction, but it is also decidedly a great compromise. In my own humble opinion, to great of one.
Stress, the secret ingredient that’s keeping you from your health goals...
HOWEVER, when a body has chronically high levels of cortisol (due to chronically high levels of STRESS) there are harmful effects on immune function, risk for chronic disease and WEIGHT. In normal stressful situations humans encountered thousands of years ago like chasing an animal in a hunt, the hunt would eventually end. Subsequently your body would send out other hormones to decrease cortisol levels. Remove the stressor and lower the cortisol.
Today our lifestyles are very different. Many work long days, coming home to families, with the stressors of finances, relationships, traumatic events, media streams of terror that never seem to end. We lead over-stressed, fast-paced lifestyles and our bodies are pumping out cortisol nearly constantly.
What does cortisol do?
Don’t worry it’s not all doom and gloom. There is much we can do for ourselves to slow this path to over-stressed and less than ideal health.
Here are just a few recommendations:
While our bodies are quite fascinating with untold numbers of physical processes we barely understand, and complicated cascades of enzyme interactions that work together so harmoniously to make us live and thrive, there are less complicated and less complex therapeutic diet and lifestyle changes we can make to strategically lower stress in our bodies and experience the extraordinary healing power inherent in these bodies when provided the right environment and necessary resources.
I made this black bean soup last week for my boys (BJ and my dad). It would have been vegan (if you care about that) had I not put plain yogurt on top and a whole wheat quesadilla with cheese. This came with a raving thumbs up from my boys and I even served as a bean side dish with enchiladas later in the week at our bible fellowship.
Next add in all spices and mix around and let cook for 1-2 minutes until you smell fragrances. Add water or broth, rinsed beans, let simmer for about 15 minutes.
Your vegetables should be soft at this point and ready for the immersion blender. If you don't have an immersion blender you can carefully transfer soup to a blender to make smooth. You can also just eat soup as it, I prefer it a bit smooth.
After blending you can serve. I like to add cilantro on top, however I didn't have it this time around. I also serve with a plain yogurt on top instead of sour cream, and this time I had some left over brown rice I added on top too.
This is a super healthy and yummy dish. Let me know once you try it. You can also play with spices to suit your taste.
You may call it the new (old) probiotic, because it has been around for hundreds of years, and only recently has regained much popularity.
Yogurt is not the only food source of probiotics.
Probiotics are very helpful in maintaining a healthy gut environment and they don't come packaged only in pills. Most people eat yogurt for the probiotic benefits, but there are other lacto-fermented foods that also pack in a big benefit for your gut community and raw sauerkraut is just one of these foods.
You can add this sauerkraut to sandwiches, wraps, or onto baked chicken or pork. It's a great way to add variety and tons of vitamins and minerals to your eating routine.
problem of satisfying an individual’s sweet tooth without providing the energy (calories) of table sugar. While these chemical compounds do have the needed elements to provide calories, the human digestive process alone does not have the needed enzymes to digest these foods. However, our friendly gut bacteria do! While you may not harness the calories these gut bacteria are working hard to obtain, you are supporting certain populations of gut bacteria that are specialized at creating other compounds your body is able to absorb that in turn effect your metabolic processes.
These metabolic effects are NOT beneficial ones. In a recent article published in Nature titled “Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota” experiments show in both mice and humans how the consumption of artificial sweeteners aspartame (equal), sucralose (Splenda), saccharin (sweet and low) increase glucose intolerance in as little as 7 to 10 days. They also completely change the amount and type of certain bacterial populations in your gut.
Glucose intolerance is a metabolic syndrome that can lead to diabetes or other chronic health conditions including OBESITY. More studies need to be done over longer periods of time to see long term effects of artificial sweetener consumption. We do know now that artificial sweetener increases glucose intolerance (not a good thing). We also know that glucose intolerance supports weight gain, which supports an interesting paradox whereby these artificial sweeteners are created to avoid.
Consider how many individuals consume these sweeteners every day in large portions. A study with this short of an experimental period evidenced glucose intolerance, how much more the change in metabolism and gut bacterial population after years of consuming a diet soda daily(or two or three).
Here is a list of other foods that artificial sweeteners sneak up in: yogurts, sodas, diet foods, breads (even whole grain breads, read the ingredients), ice creams, popcorns, diet juices.
We do not yet know the exact health effects of large amounts of artificial sweetener over longer periods of time, but from this Dietitian, I would rather you drink 6 ounces of regular soda and get the calories from sugar, than 6 ounces (or 24 ounces) of diet soda. However, if you could be happy with ice water with some lemon or lime juice squeezed in, EVEN BETTER.
STUDY REFERENCED: Suez, Jotham, et al. "Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota." Nature 514.7521 (2014): 181-186.
Caitlin Johnson is a dietitian, wife, lover of ice cream, chef wannabe, California-girl, Christian, liver eating, "food-avore."
218 W. Carmen Lane, Suite 108
Santa Maria, California 93458
Hours: Tues and Thurs 9-5 PST