Saucy Saturday: Let’s Talk Bone Broth
Is this hype or truly healthy? Is it a super-food or a super-trend? Bone broth has had a place in the typical human diet for ages. It’s been in your grandma’s repertoire for health and healing and there is certainly something to be said regarding those tried and true methods to nurse us back to health. With modern scientific influence looking at components in food rather than the food as a whole item, we now know more about why certain foods (or rather, certain nutrients) are so good for us. I would conclude that bone broth is a super-food and though it is super trendy right now, it’s a bandwagon worth jumping on, and here is why:
Bone broth is very nourishing and tolerated by almost everyone. So how do you make it?
I like to save the carcass from a chicken or turkey in the freezer in a large ziplock bag until I am ready to make my broth. You don’t need to make it the same day/night or even the next day from the roast chicken you made. Save two carcasses even and make a large batch. I also like to save the extra nibs, bits and peels of vegetables over a few weeks. As I cook dinner I will store the carrot tops and ends of celery, ribs from bell peppers, etc and I throw them into a big zip lock back and let the collection grow. Once I have a nice collection of bones and vegetables I know I’m ready to start a batch of broth.
You can also go talk to your butcher and get bones that may otherwise be thrown away. It is a super cheap way to source bones to make some broth. You can use beef, lamb, turkey, chicken, venison, fish, really most bones can make bone broth. It’s good if you can source some chicken feet and neck to increase the gelatin in the broth. But beware, adding a lot of chicken feet and forgetting you put them in the pot can make for a horror movie scene when you go to check on your broth. Okay let's get started:
1: Get out a large pot for the stovetop or uncover your crockpot. Place bones in to the pot or crockpot and cover with water. If you are making a lamb or beef broth, it’s nice to brown the meat/bones before starting the broth. Throw in the vegetables you would like to add (you can also add half way through cooking) Add some extra water over the bones, to allow for evaporation. Don't worry so much about how much meat, water and veggies, just get it in the pot and add some water. You can't mess this up.
2: Add two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to water prior to cooking. This is so important to pull minerals and nutrients from the bones.
3: Bring the broth to a boil and then reduce to a low simmer for at least 6 hours. Skim the fat off the top as it rises. I recommend cooking for 16-20 hours for optimal nutrients. You can cook longer, many people say low and slow… however, if you cook too long you can have high levels of glutamate which is not optimal. So low and moderately slow.
4: Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Discard solids and strain the remainder through a colander, I also like to strain through a cheese cloth to get all the floaty bits out.
5: Let broth cool to room temperature, cover and chill. Use within a week or freeze for up to 3 months.
You can sip this broth, but I like to also use it to cook and incorporate in meals for my whole family (not everyone is willing to sip a mug of broth every day). I like to add the broth to cook my grains like quinoa, rice, barley, and spelt. I use it as a base for soup or to make a gravy. I use it in curries and noodle bowls like a pho knock off.
Hormones fluctuate dramatically throughout our lifetimes, and for women especially, they fluctuate dramatically just monthly. Hormones going hay-wire can contribute to weight gain, mood swings, and depression. There are actions within our own individual control that have significant effects on hormone production and metabolism. You guessed it: Diet and Exercise (and perhaps one you didn't guess or often overlook!) SLEEP. Today I will focus mostly on diet. We will keep it pretty simple too, eat more of these... and less of these... got it? Let's go.
Cruciferous vegetables (1-2 servings per day)
- cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, brussel's sprouts
Leafy greens (1-2 servings per day)
- spinach, kale, swiss chard, collard greens, beet greens
Berries, melon and citrus (1 serving per day)
Raw nuts and seeds (1-2 servings per day) - consider soaking
Ground flax seed (1 Tbsp daily)
Beans (at least 1 serving per day)
Whole grains (2 servings per day)
Fish (2 servings per week)
Healthy fats: avocados, olives, olive oil, and those mentioned above.
Artificial sweeteners (diet soda, etc)
Trans fats and saturated fats
Sleep at least 7 hours per night
Get out in the fresh air and breathe
Get into full spectrum sunlight as quickly as you can upon waking
Maintain a healthy weight
Consider supplements that may help (ask a qualified health practitioner)
Take time to relax
Curious if your health issues are related to food sensitivities? We’ll cover general information regarding food sensitivities, navigate information that may be helpful to determine if your health issue may be related to food sensitivity, and how as a part of my practice we can test and help you overcome food sensitivities.
Let’s start here: WHAT IS A FOOD SENSITIVITY?
Food sensitivity describes a specific immune reaction to a food or food chemical. A reactive food will cause immune cells to release chemicals that are inflammatory. These chemicals are called mediators and you may be familiar with the name of a few of these chemicals like histamine, cytokines and prostaglandins. There are about 100 different types of mediators, those are just a few. These chemical mediators your immune cells release are the DIRECT CAUSE of food sensitivity symptoms and associated inflammation in the body.
ARE FOOD ALLERGIES THE SAME AS SENSITIVITIES?
There is a lot of confusion regarding food intolerances, food allergies and food sensitivities, some of which may be due to the medical community and health professionals using the words interchangeably. However, all of these conditions are different, and created because of very different reactions (or lack of reactions) in the body. Let’s break it down.
Food intolerances are not something your immune system is reacting to. Rather it is most often that your body is not creating an enzyme for food breakdown (or creating enough of the enzyme). The intolerance most people know of is lactose. It is due to inadequate lactase production, so the sugar found in milk doesn’t break down and makes it to the distant parts of your GI tract (read your colon) and the gut bacteria have a hey-day digesting lactose. This causes gas, bloating, and for some diarrhea. The food sensitivity testing I work with does not test for food intolerance, however on the elimination diet we create together, it becomes easy to identify these food issues quickly.
Food allergies are a reaction that your immune system is involved with. Allergies are not exclusive to food either, I’m sure you know this already, but you can be allergies to medicine, insects stings (like bees), pet dander, pollen, mold, grasses, and food. There is only pathway that your immune system reacts to create an allergic response. It is called an immunoglobulin E mediated response or IgE. Symptoms vary, but they are usually immediate and varying levels of severity. Think hives, wheezing, vomiting, blood pressure drop, closing of airways, anaphylaxis. These are the kind of reactions to take very seriously. Most often these types of reactions are known to an individual and are confirmed with skin pricking. If someone tells you they are allergic to peanuts or shellfish, this is typically the type of reaction they are speaking about, and it’s not one to mess around with. The testing done in my practice will not show this type of reaction.
Food sensitivities are the third type of reaction. They are a more complex (almost elegant) type of reaction. It certainly doesn’t leave you feeling elegant, but there are so many different types of immune cells and pathways that are apart of these types of reactions. The symptoms are often delayed, instead of immediate like the food allergies just discussed. Because of this delay, it is hard for an individual to root out the offending foods on their own. These delays can be as long as 36 hours or as short as 2 hours. If it is a migraine that is triggered, how are you to know if it was the papaya in the fruit salad at work today or the coffee cheesecake that was served at the family gather last night? The symptoms that are related to sensitivities are also more varied and have varying degrees of severity. Most of the symptoms are related to inflammation and a cascade of related responses. From muscle contraction, to arthritis, to migraines and IBS.
DO I HAVE A FOOD SENSITIVITY?
If you have an inflammatory or autoimmune condition, most particularly one that is not responding to traditional treatment, you very likely may have a food sensitivity. The most common conditions that can be improved or completely resolved with food sensitivity testing and a related elimination diet are:
During an initial consultation, we will carefully review your symptoms and health history to determine if food sensitivity testing is right for you and may improve your health conditions, or if the test is un-needed and other issues may need to be resolved first. (Other issues could be parasites, small intestine bacterial overgrowth, etc).
I do have some patients that do not present with the typical conditions listed above and are just interested to know if they are sensitive to any foods. We can test and work on a patient specific diet for you to improve energy levels and decrease inflammation in your body based on the testing. There is no harm in testing and it could be a great way to spend your FSA funds before the end of the year!
HOW DOES YOUR FOOD SENSITIVITY TESTING WORK?
The mediator release test (MRT) is a blood test that directly measures the mediators your immune cells release when exposed to foods or food chemicals. There is 150 different foods and food chemicals tested. Things like apples, wheat, dairy, other items include herbs like basil and oregano, even foods like quinoa and rice. Chemicals in common medicines like Advil and Tylenol are also tested. Wouldn’t it be great to know if that medicine you are taking to rid yourself of inflammation or a headache was actually contributing to the problem? By measuring how much mediators your body is releasing, we can quantify just how reactive a food is to your specific body.
WHAT IS THE DIET PROTOCOL LIKE WHEN WE ELIMINATE FOODS?
The LEAP (Lifestyle Eating And Performance) Immunocalm Diet is an individualized diet based on your test results. It is implemented in 5 separate stages, starting with limiting your diet to the least reactive foods and gradually moving on to other foods that are more reactive. The idea is that we lower the inflammation and quiet your immune system and then slowly add back in foods. The diet in it’s most restrictive phase will still allow you to live your life, but we may find out that the food you eat every day for breakfast is something you are reactive to. If that’s the case, we better change it. So there is a level of flexibility you must be willing to practice to see optimal results and healing in your body.
One of the beautiful things about this program is you test, and then you eat food that is good for you, nourishing your body, and you simply remove foods that are harmful and allow your body to heal. Depending on the severity of your condition ( like IBS) you will likely see results within 5-10 days, for those with eczema, it may take a bit longer to see improvement (2-3 weeks). You do not need to take supplements or purchase any type of detoxifying formula to see improvements, the idea is to heal and eat real food.
HOW CAN I GET STARTED?
I’m glad you asked! Let’s set up a 30 minute consultation where you can learn more about it and I can screen you to make sure the test is best for you. It’s only $35 to schedule the initial consult. If you choose to move forward I decrease the price of the testing and package by $35, so you have nothing to lose. Our meeting can be completely virtual, so don’t let distance stop you from getting started and ridding yourself of foods that are harming your body rather than nourishing you! Click here, fill out the form and I will be in touch to set up an appointment.
Information on Egg Labeling in the Supermarket, What is Worth Your Money?
Egg buying has become very confusing, with a large mix of certifications, terms and phrasing on packages- many buyers are left wondering, when and what is worth the extra bucks? Check out my guide below of what the terms mean (or don't mean) and which terms are worth the extra bucks in my humble opinion(denoted by this ***). I also really like this NPR article:
I would pay more for this, it is a very specific term that guarantees the hens are not caged, fed an organic diet, receive no antibiotics or GMO foods.
This term really means nothing, it is not a regulated term so ANY producer can put this term on their label.
Again this is not regulated so any producer can put this on it’s label.
Omega 3 ***
This is also NOT regulated. However it is a great way to get some more omega-3 fatty acids. The hens are fed fish oil or flax oil to increase the omega-3s in the eggs laid.
Another unregulated term, however it means just what it says. The hens laying the eggs don’t live in cages, but this doesn’t mean they are in a “good situation”, or even outside.
So what is the difference? These hens can move around, perch and lay their eggs in a nest, and depending on how many other hens are around, they may be able to spread their wings.
Pasture Raised ***
I would also pay more for this term. Most of these hens spend the balance of their lives outdoors with a good amount of space and access to indoors. They can eat worms and insects along with vegetarian feed. Some producers include amount of square feet per hen. This is a level of transparency I believe in.
This term should not warrant extra dollars from your pocket because it is illegal to give hormones to egg laying hens in the US.
United Egg Producer Certified
Not worth your money or purchasing power. According to the Humane Society. “This voluntary egg industry program permits cruel and inhumane caging and treatment. Hens are confined in barren, wire cages so small the birds can barely move. The guidelines recommend cage space less than the size of a piece of paper—just 67 square inches—for each bird.”
This term means the hens are not in a cage and have access to the outdoors. The extra outdoor space may be a screened-in area on cement or dirt or grass. Even though it may say this, most free-range birds in commercial egg facilities never do go outside. The USDA does not certify this term, so be careful this may not mean your eggs were laid by a hen that ever saw the light of day.
The vegetarian diet contains no animal by-products. Chicken will scavenge in a natural environment eating bugs and vegetarian food. So a vegetarian diet may not actually be best for the hens, but you can know they are not eating other animal by-products. Most hens are fed a vegetarian diet, so I wouldn’t pay more for this.
Many people are starting to raise their own hens and source eggs from their own backyard. Before deciding to do this, check out your local city ordinances to see if your area will allow you to have hens based on city zoning. Even if you don't live in super rural areas, there is often at least 1 or 2 sources of farm fresh, truly pasture raised eggs around.
I also recommend testing other types of eggs: Emu, Goose, Ostrich, Turkey, Quail and DUCK!
Our gut is our bodies largest immune organ, it houses more inhabitants than your body has it's own cells, it helps us absorb all the necessary components for life including water, food, and vitamins, it is your bodies first access point for many invaders and houses the largest surface area of your body. Your gut is so, so, so vitally important- and having a healthy gut can assist in enjoying optimal wellness. We talk a lot about the microbiome that lives in our gut, however, we don't often talk about the cells that line our digestive tract, and the topic of today's blog is an important component of protein that these cells rely on: Glutamine.
Protein is made of amino acids, and glutamine is just one of twenty our bodies require. Glutamine, that amino acid from above is an important "food-stuff" for the cells of the gut lining. 20-30% of the bodies glutamine is used by these cells alone. It is an essential component for the maintenance of gut metabolism, and function especially during periods of trauma or when gut health is compromised.
If an individual is lacking adequate glutamine they may experience fatigue, weakened immune system, and even chronic inflammation. When gut cells lack the necessary glutamine, cell function decreases, and our first line of defense (in terms of immunity) can become severely compromised. Glutamine supports essential healing processes and works to regenerate and repair the cells of the intestine.
It is also an important amino acid used for removing toxins from our body - in this way it removes excess ammonia. It is also important in the production of a neurotransmitter known for calming effects on the body and mind in stressful situations (GABA).
Conditions (or habits) that can compromise gut health and function include:
Since glutamine is so important, even if you are not experiencing one of the above listed conditions or habits it is important to make sure your body is provided enough glutamine.
Food sources of glutamine include:
Dairy - ricotta cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt
Meat- chicken, beef, pork
Dark Leafy Greens - spinach, cabbage & parsley
You can buy glutamine as a supplement, If you walk into a healthfood store they will probably think you are trying to be a bodybuilder, that is why most people take glutamine. This amino acid won't bulk you up, instead it helps slow muscle catabolism (or breakdown), which is partly why it is so helpful for those intestinal cells. If you think that you would like to supplement with glutamine, all supplements are not created equal, and I recommend consulting your functional medicine dietitian (ME!) before adding it to your routine.
For many years (too many years) people have avoided butter for fear of heart disease, clogged arteries and larger love handles. They've turned to margarine for toast and apple sauce for baking recipes. I am here to tell you a little butter won't do you harm. Personally, a little butter (in terms of flavor) provides much more satiety than the substitutes. Fat is also very essential in our diets. That said, not all butter is created equal.
Have you ever wondered why some butter is white and some butter is yellow or golden? Ever wondered why some butter is wrapped in foil and others in translucent paper? Basically it's all science. :) Before we get to this weeks sauce - practically pure butter - let's talk some more about the star of the recipe.
You are what you eat, and so are cows. Cows that are pasture fed (instead of corn or grain fed) have an abundance of flowers and fresh grass full of the yellow pigment beta carotene. These pigments because they are fat soluble get stored in the fat. This is carried over into the fat in a cows milk. You may be wondering then why does milk appear white? Well, some milk is white again due to the cows diet, but even cows raised in pasture still provide white milk. So why is it white? There is only 3% milk fat in whole milk. Even in cream it is 30 to 40% fat. There is so much more water and minerals and protein floating around, it does not appear yellow. Butter however is 80% fat, and with that high concentration, if the beta carotene is in the fat, it will be that beautiful golden yellow.
The more color in the butter, the better in terms of vitamins and minerals. So, if it's white pick a different option. The difference in butter that is covered in tin foil versus the clear wrapping is due to the salt content. If salt content is present, the butter is less susceptible to becoming rancid, so sweet cream butter (or unsalted butter) is usually what you will find in the tin foil. If you are leaving the butter on your counter and exposed to air, you are better off choosing the salted version, to avoid it becoming rancid.
The butter in European butter is often treated with some bacteria, which makes it taste even better! There is a higher concentration of the fatty acid butyrate. In some studies, higher intake of butyrate is associated with greater satiety and less overall calorie consumption. This also could just be because it comes with sources of fat, which are very satisfying. I love me some Kerrygold Irish butter. I also love a new European butter Trader Joes is making from Brittany France that is cultured and salted, yummy.
Okay, so let's talk Compound Butters. And why is this a sauce? Compound butters can be used over cooked steak, cooked chicken, corn on the cob, pork, and cooked vegetables to finish them. It is a beautiful way to serve something. And the herbs make it so delicious. The butter placed over a warm dish melts and becomes the richest most satisfying of sauces. You can really use any herbs to compliment the meal you are preparing. You could simply do chive and cilantro for a more Hispanic flare. You could use an Herbs de Provence blend with it's use of lavender for a more floral component. Check out this recipe below, it has a wide range of applications and tastes so good. Sometimes I will even add some cracked pepper or red chili flakes into the mixture for an added bite.
1 pound butter (go for the good stuff - European, salted)
3-4 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp fresh chives
1 Tbsp thyme
1 Tbsp sage
1 Tbsp rosemary
Chop the butter into uniform chunks (it is easier using a chilled knife). Use a food processor and add oil and chives, process until chives are finely chopped. Add remaining herbs and blend until herbs have colored the oil. If you have a stand mixer whip butter at medium speed until it softens and lightens in color. You are essentially whipping in air, which is a good thing, it will help the herbs and oil incorporate more easily.
Next add in the herb oil to the butter and beat another 2 minutes until the oil is fully incorporated. Remove butter with a spoon and place on parchment paper or plastic wrap. Roll into a log and chill for at least 2 hours before serving. You can serve by cutting a slice of chilled compound butter and placing over the top of any meat or vegetable.
I don't know about you, but even here on the central coast of California, the weather is turning. It makes me want to post up with a good book, a large chai tea, and some earthy oatmeal or soup! Every morning I get up and have been brewing myself a cup of black tea and adding in 1/2 a teaspoon of my pumpkin pie spice blend. I love also adding the blend to my green smoothies with banana and peanut butter, or top off my oatmeal, or spice up my whole wheat pancakes. Sometimes I'll even throw a dash in a good ole' cup of Joe. You don't need to go out and purchase a spice blend, you can make it out of the spices you already have in your home.
Cinnamon has beneficial effects on blood sugar regulation. Cinnamon and Ginger are also spices shown to give your metabolism a good boost!
So in honor of Fall, here is a simple Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend. You can mix it in a ziplock bag and keep in the kitchen anytime you want to zing up a dish with the flavor of warm spices.
2 T cinnamon
2 T ground ginger
2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp allspice
Measure into a ziplock bag or small container and mix together. Store in a cool, dry place.
I could go on listing the myriad of questions that come up on a daily basis with clients. Gut health is quickly gaining attention both from the public and health professionals, AND WELL IT SHOULD. There is proven links between the health of our gut (and it's many millions of inhabitants) and risk of cardiovascular disease, immune health, obesity, food sensitivities, and even mental health. You read that right, studies are now showing that there is an increased risk of anxiety, depression, and mood instability with certain changes in gut health.
To be honest, there is more we do not know about our microbiome and gut function (particularly when it is not functioning well) than what we do know. If you ask 5 different Dietitians, Naturopaths, MD's or Yogis how much kombucha you should be drinking, we would all give you a different answer. Some health professionals recommend probiotics, however most don't. The majority will just cite the benefits of yogurt and turn a blind eye to the insane amount of high fructose corn syrup in most of the conventional yogurts found in your grocery store shelves. It is difficult to find a consensus on many of these points.
In my clinical opinion, we are not doing enough to support healthy guts. We are not nourishing our guts or most times even thinking that we should be. We talk about heart health, eating to prevent cancer, and food allergies, and we spend a lot of effort trying to get skinny in America. As some education reaches the masses, people are spending a lot of money jumping on these new trends of probiotics, fermented foods and drinks, without really understanding what it is that is going on inside of them.
We have a constant battle taking place in our bellies. We have millions of inhabitants that are all competing for resources. What is that resource you ask? FIBER. Now, I know you are thinking to yourself, fiber? Geez, that isn't sexy, or expensive, or trendy. I know! But, we are spending (in some cases) $40-$100 per month supplementing the bugs that already have found a home in our bellies in the form of pills, foods and drinks we are being told this will help us increase our gut health. This is not necessarily a bad thing, however, if you are starving your helpful, microbial friends of the food they need to survive and proliferate, then it doesn't matter how many of them you shove down the ole' pipe... they won't stand a good enough chance of survival.
Why is fiber SO important, yes we want these little buggers to survive, but what else is going on here? These bugs have the ability to turn that fiber into short-chain fatty acids, which have been linked to improved immune function, decreased inflammation and protection against obesity. You don't want these guys fiber famished. What's even worse, is not the die off of friendly bacteria, but when they don't have enough food to eat, they will compete for what is left in their environment that is edible: YOU. When fermentable fiber becomes scarce, studies have shown some microbes will turn to the mucus lining of the gut for food, penetrating a crucial FIRST LINE OF DEFENSE AGAINST PATHOGENS. This opens an individual up to a host of potential infections and increased risk of inflammation.
Now I'm not saying probiotics, yogurt, kombucha, fermented foods, or other gut promoting efforts are bad, in fact many I employ on myself, my family and in my practice to help individuals. But, if we are not doing the very crucial step of providing the necessary nutrients for our gut community, we are approaching this backwards. So you may be asking yourself, how do I get more fiber? Oh, well I'm glad you asked.
FRUIT, VEGETABLES, GRAINS (I KNOW), LEGUMES, NUTS, SEEDS. It is great if you can make sure at every meal you are incorporating a few of these items. I promise your gut will thank you.
I find this to be of particular importance with communities that shun grains at this point in time, if you choose not to eat grains, that is fine, however make sure you are upping your fruit and vegetables to compensate for the highly beneficial sources of fiber found in whole grains.
I'm sure you've seen sprouted products on the shelves of the health food store, they are even entering main stream markets like Trader Joes, Costco and other major grocers. Even wondered what's the big deal? Are they worth the hype?
In short, they are a big deal and worth the hype. What is a sprouted grain you may ask? A sprouted grain lives somewhere in between being a grain seed and a developing new plant. I say it 'lives' somewhere, because it is LIVING. In order for seeds to grow, it must be activated by certain conditions, like warm air and moist environment. Once these conditions are met the seeds grow, when they are changed the sprouting stops.
Why does it matter that these grains have been sprouted? Like, how does it actually help you? Enzymes are released in the process of sprouting, these enzymes assist in breaking down proteins and carbohydrates. Due to the presence of these extra enzymes, these grains are easier to digest. They are also lower on the glycemic index than their non-sprouted counterparts. Key nutrients like B vitamins, folate, fiber and essential amino acids are present to a higher degree in sprouted grains.
What if you are allergic to gluten? There are gluten free sprouted grains like sprouted quinoa.
Sprouted grains have a hearty, nutty flavor. They can be cooked and eaten as a side dish in place of rice or potatoes, or ground into flours for breads and muffins. I also love using sprouted grain bread, which I can buy ready made and all I need to do is toast it!
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.
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