What? Food Has Energy?

Have you ever paid attention to how you feel after you eat certain foods? I’m not talking about the immediate adrenaline or dopamine reaction that you get from coffee and junk food or the guilt that quickly follows, as I talk about in my Primary Food blog. I’m talking about how the food makes you feel once it’s being digested in your stomach and intestines and even what it does once the nutrients (or lack thereof) reach your bloodstream.

Believe it or not, food is not just a ball of calories that we throw into the black hole of our stomachs. Food is supposed to give us energy, but it’s supposed to be an even energy with no blood sugar spikes and subsequent crashes that leave us searching for more.

I participated in the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart from the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine during which I consumed no animal products. They have a meal plan complete with recipes and a shopping list to make it easier. I used the dairy-free/ vegan shakes from Isagenix to augment their plan so I really wasn’t hungry. It was actually enjoyable, but it wasn’t until a few weeks into the diet that I realized how even my energy level had been. I had still been able to make it through my workouts and feel good throughout the day.

Another side effect was that I felt a little more patient and less…angry. I had heard that animal protein can do that, but I hadn’t noticed it until I cut it out of my diet- and then added it back in. It was kind of weird to experience, but it was good to take note of.

That’s what I want to urge you to do. Take note of how your foods make you feel. Don’t beat yourself up about eating junk food. According to Dr. Annemarie Colbin, guilt is something that you are supposed to feel when you are mean to someone and get away with it. When you give in to a craving you don’t get away with it because you know.

So, if you have a craving for junk food and give in, don’t feel guilty- consider it research. A new flavor at Baskin Robbins…let’s go research that. If your friend said she finally figured out her grandma’s amazing peach cobbler recipe…you need to research that. But afterward really take note of how you feel. Do you get bloated and puffy? Does your energy fluctuate? How does your skin feel- does it get a rash, a break-out, greasy or oily?

Some foods can make you feel like you swallowed a rainbow, while others will feel more like a thick rain cloud, or even a mud pie filled rain cloud. Yuck! As you become more aware of how a food affects you, the sweets and junk and others that aren’t as good for you will have less and less of an appeal. And you’ll become very choosy about the treats that you do choose to have, only the top quality stuff will make the cut.

Try eliminating a food that you think you can’t live without for a week or two and then add it back in. You might find that it’s not that great after all. In the last few months I’ve found out that I do best without gluten and dairy. I still have them occasionally, if it’s something that’s worth it, but I avoid them now for the most part.

This is just food for thought. I know this can be hard to do, to eliminate foods or add others in, with picky eaters in your family- and I’m not just talking about your kids, those husbands can be a hard sell too. 😉 But learning what foods make you feel better will help you have more energy (and patience) as a mom and a wife. It will also help your kids be set up for success in the future.

Questions? Comments? Please let me know. I’d love to help you figure out what foods are best for you.

Jessica

Primary Food – Our Emotions and Our Lives

The Institute for Integrative Nutrition has this term called Primary Food. Basically, the food that feeds us is much more than what we put on our plates. When our lives are balanced, our hunger for life is satisfied and we rely less on the food on our plates to make us happy. Yes, there are people that just enjoy cooking and creating new recipes and trying new things, but that has more to do with expressing their creativity than with eating the food.

Do you remember being a kid and playing all day during the summer? If your mom wouldn’t have called you in for lunch you probably would have happily played all day and forgotten to eat. What about when you first fell in love with your significant other? Food had a different flavor. Life was just so great. The only thing that wasn’t great was that you couldn’t spend every moment together because you had work or school or other obligations. How about a time when you left a job you didn’t like so you could start something you were passionate about? All of these things made us high on life, no synthetic substances required.

Unfortunately, we live in a high stress society that is addicted to dopamine. Don’t feel good about your career, your relationship, or your social status? Instead of putting in some work to fix what you don’t like, we opt for a quick fix. Let’s go shopping! Don’t have any money? That’s okay- just use your credit card! Then as soon as we swipe that card the dopamine goes down and we’re on to our next fix. Let’s get a high-fat, high-sugar caramel macchiato at the coffee shop and finish that off with a big blueberry muffin. Then when the sugar and caffeine wears off in a few hours we can do it all over again. It’s really not supposed to be like that. Honestly.

Life is supposed to feed us. The food we eat is supposed to be our secondary food. Too many of us use food to fill in the gaps in our lives- and we’re paying for it with our health. There are 12 major areas that are considered Primary Food. Try to rate how you feel about them.

  • Finances– not just about how much money you have, but what you are doing with it
  • Career– you have to pay the bills, you can enjoy it too, but it’s not all of who you are, what work ethic are you passing on to your kids
  • Education– are you always learning and bettering yourself, it doesn’t have to be about earning degrees
  • Spirituality– are you being faithful to your religious beliefs
  • Health– do you catch every bug that comes around or dread a certain seasons due to allergies
  • Physical Activity– whether it’s yoga, weights, cardio, or a mix, do you keep your body active
  • Home Cooking– do you know what you’re putting into your body, do you enjoy cooking for your family or are you doing it out of obligation
  • Home Environment– is it a happy place where there is trust and communication
  • Relationships– is there a relationship that you need to fix or nix that has been nagging at you
  • Social Life– do you take time to go out with friends or even make new ones occasionally
  • Joy/ Confidence– these are not dependent on circumstances
  • Creativity– do you have a hobby that is letting you follow your passion, even if your job doesn’t

So, these are all the things that feed us instead of food. If you’re not feeling satisfied in several of these areas, then you may need to work on those areas before a “diet” will do you any good. Some of these may have a strong meaning for you while others may not play a big part at all.

If our primary foods are messed up then our emotions and state of mind tend to sabotage our effort to change our secondary food. I know this seems like a weird concept, but it really is true. These are the type of issues that are part of the Health Coach program.

I would love to work with you to help you get these things in line so that you can continue to move forward toward a full and fit life.

Questions? Comments? Please let me know.

Jessica

Benefits of Foam Rolling and Stretching

Foam_Roller_Exercises

While most are familiar with what stretching is, we tend to ignore this very important part of exercise- recovery. Another very important part of recovery is the foam roller. Stretching and foam rolling together may only take a maximum of about 10 mins after your workout, but they can be at least as important if not more important than your weight training and/ or cardio work.

You may have seen a foam roller in your gym and not known what it was. If you did know what it was you may not know how or why someone would use this device of torture. I’ll cover the “why” first. Basically, the foam roller helps keep your muscles long and smooth by allowing you to treat tender and tight muscles with a self-deep-tissue massage.

Long and smooth muscles don’t get injured as easily because they are stronger and have greater mobility.  They also recover quicker which will allow you to work out harder and more often.

Tight and knotty muscles are more likely to have imbalances, which can lead to pain, loss of flexibility, and even improper muscle engagement. For instance, if you sit at a desk a great amount of time you probably have tight hip flexors. Because hip flexors are the antagonist of the gluteal muscles, tight hip flexors will not allow you to get proper gluteal activation. Then your hamstrings will have to take up the slack for the inactive glutes. Basically, you’ll have tight hamstrings and a flat butt.

On the other hand, if you spend a lot of time on your feet, various muscle imbalances may lead to Pronation Distortion Syndrome (flat feet or knock knees) which can lead to plantar fasciitis, patella tendonitis, and other disorders.

Foam rolling isn’t just for recovery after your workout or to undo some of the damage done by your daily routine. It can also help to de-stress at the end of a long day. I know that when I feel tight and stressed at the end of the day, using a foam roller can really help me release some of that tension.

To find out how to properly incorporate a foam roller and proper recovery work into your fitness routine, please contact me for an initial assessment.

Questions? Comment? Please let me know.

Jessica

Digestion

Please bear with me on this one. I’m going to get a little more scientific and maybe too graphic in explaining some things. I find it interesting, but I know that most of you probably will not. However, there are so many people that are having problems in this area so I want to make sure that I explain this as well as give some good solutions.

I myself suffered from painful IBS. I’d either be in so much pain that it hurt to stand up straight or I’d be so bloated that I looked like I was about 4 or 5 months pregnant. I still get it very lightly from time to time, but it tends to be more stress related than food related now. Cleaning up my eating habits, drinking more water, and eliminating dairy and gluten have really helped me. If you really don’t want to know why we sometime experience digestive distress, then just skip to the bottom where I offer some solutions.

Digestion is one of those things that everyone does, but no one wants to talk about. Because it just happens, like breathing, we tend to think we can’t do anything about it. But that’s just not the case. So much of what we do and eat today has negatively affected our digestion so that what used to just happen, has now become bogged down and inefficient. As a result, we hear of more and more people suffering from horrible digestive disorders that are debilitating and painful. In fact, according to information found in the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, 60 to 70 million people are affected by some sort of digestive disease. In 2004, digestive diseases cost Americans about $141.8 billion both directly and indirectly.

So, what is happening? Digestion starts in the mouth, with saliva and chewing. The saliva and chewing stimulate gastric acid production in the stomach as well as bile production. Food then moves to the stomach, where the chewed up and broken down food is further digested into smaller bits so that it can be passed to the gut where the nutrients are absorbed and the waste and toxins are expelled.

Sounds simple enough, but the truth is that most of us don’t chew our food properly. Too many of us are gulpers- we take a bite of food, chomp on it a few times and then swallow it down with a drink like it’s a pill or something. Then we hurry on to the next bite. The problem with this is that chewing stops once food leaves the mouth. Stomach acid is supposed to be able to break down the food, but food only spends a certain amount of time there before it is sent on to the gut so if it’s not chewed enough it may not get broken down enough for the gut to absorb the nutrients from it, or worse it can get regurgitated back up into the esophagus (like our stomachs are trying to tell us to chew it some more so the acid can do it’s job). This heart-burn can cause us to think we have too much acid so we take antacids to get rid of the pain. Ideally our stomach acid has a pH of 1.9 in order to break down proteins. Antacids and other things, like drinking too much water with your meal, can cause the pH to increase. Average water has a pH of 7 so it’s easy to see how drinking a lot of it with your meal can interrupt the job of the stomach acid. Food then goes into the gut.

Here are a few factoids about the gut. If you laid out all of the surface area, including the villi, of the digestive system it’d cover an entire tennis court. Hard to imagine, right? There are more nerve endings in the digestive tract than all of the central nervous system– that little factoid can point to the reason why there is so much pain associated with digestive disorders and why stress can compound such disorders. Last interesting fact: 90% of the DNA in our bodies is in the digestive system, not because of the concentration of our DNA, but because of the large amount of bacterial flora there. We’re basically the shells that hold in the good and bad bacteria. Happy thought, huh?

When our food isn’t properly digested, the gut can’t pull out the nutrients. So even if we’re eating an amazing diet, we won’t be receiving the benefits of those nutrients. After absorbing the nutrients, the gut is also supposed to expel the waste. Again, a damaged gut cannot properly expel the waste and toxins allowing a build-up of toxins that can cause further damage. Bad bacteria can take over and because the bad bacteria is fed by sugar and starch, the bacterial overgrowth can cause cravings for these foods so that it can continue to live and grow. The good bacteria does not just enhance the absorption of the nutrients in our food, it also cools inflammation, fights infections, and directs immune function. Keeping the good bacteria healthy and in control of the gut is key to our health in so many ways.

So, how can we help ourselves break the nasty cycle of digestive issues? I can only tell you what has worked for me and what the top holistic health experts recommend. For those of you with serious issues you should definitely consult a holistic or naturopathic health care provider to make sure that all basis are covered and that your symptoms are not due to some more serious underlying issue.

Here are some easy tips that all of us can use to help with minor digestive issues:

  • Chew your food- make sure that your food is broken down thoroughly before swallowing it.
  • Wake up stomach acid and bile by drinking a big glass of water about 20 mins before your meal, and then stop drinking.
  • Drink lots of water throughout the day, just not within 20 mins of eating.
  • Drink apple cider vinegar or some lemon water before your meal in order to bring the pH of your stomach acid down and to activate its further production.
  • Don’t eat when you’re stressed. The adrenaline and cortisol produced during stressful times stops the digestion process which can add to constipation and more belly fat.
  • Eat more veggies; fruit; nuts, seeds, and oils; whole grains; cultured dairy products; fish, farm-fresh eggs and poultry, and grass-fed meat
  • Avoid sugar laden foods, refined grains, meat and poultry from commercial animal feeding operations (CAFO), high sodium foods, all foods with toxic ingredients like artificial colorings, flavorings, and sweeteners, partially hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, GMO’s, and high pesticide produce

Here are tips for those with more complicated digestive issues:

  • Keep a food journal to see if you can pinpoint the foods that cause the most intestinal distress.
  • Incorporate gut-healing foods like bone broth, healthy fats, and fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchee, and kefir into your diet.
  • Be a little bit stricter about avoiding highly processed and refined foods in the above category.

If those don’t help you, you may need to try an elimination diet:

  • Remove gluten, dairy, eggs, corn, and soy. Shellfish, peanuts, higher sugar fruits and veggies (like apples, pears, and onions) and sweeteners like agave and honey can also have a damaging affect
  • Work with your nutritionist or even a holistic health provider to tailor your plan to reincorporate foods back into your diet to see which ones trigger problems

Digestive issues can ruin your overall health so it’s important to get them under control. In fact, I just heard that IBS is the second leading cause of people missing work, behind the common cold. As a Health Coach, I would love to work with you to get your digestive issues under control.

For more information check out:
Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride.

Breaking the Vicious Cycle by Elaine Gottschall, BA, MS

The Inside Tract and My Foundation Diet by Kathie Swift, MS, RD, LDN. Her websites are Swift Nutrition and My Food My Health

This podcast about the Gut-Brain connection from The Healthy Skeptic is also very informative.

Questions? Comments? Please let me know.

Jessica

Beans and Lentils, Powerful Plant Proteins

beans and lentilsOkay, I have to admit that I never thought that I would go without meat. I am a meat eater. Granted, I have tried to make my choices a little healthier and environmentally conscious lately, but I really had no desire to give up meat. I’ve seen too many people who are vegan that look like they wouldn’t have the strength to stand against a strong gust of wind. They live on rice cakes with apple butter and lots of salad and that’s about it.

However, during my course with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition I learned a little bit more about the vegan diet. I heard a lecture by Dr. Neal Barnard of the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine and discovered the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart. It’s specially formulated to have the right amount of macronutrients so that people following a vegan diet will not get weak and sickly. I decided that I would give it a shot. It’s pretty much the opposite of what my son can eat on the GAPS diet, but I thought I could do it while my kids were visiting their grandparents.

I did augment the diet using the new diary-free shakes from Isagenix instead of the recommended snacks. Thanks to trying a grain-free diet for my son, I have found that I do feel better without gluten so I’ve also substituted quinoa for couscous in several recipes. Those were really the only changes I made and I haven’t felt weak, hungry, and deprived like I thought I would.

The four food groups of the Vegan Kickstart are Grains, Beans, Fruit, and Veggies. I have to admit I did not know a lot about grains and beans as I only have limited amounts of starch during my competition diets. I’ll talk a little bit more about grains later, but for now I want to focus on beans.

There are lots of different kinds of beans: cannellinis, garbanzos, adzuki, pintos, navy, black, and more. They are some of the most nutrient dense plant food around; packed with fiber, iron, and protein as well as rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients. As a bonus, they are low calorie. Studies have found them to lower the risk of cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Many people avoid beans because they just don’t know what to do with them. Are you one of them? Keep reading:

  • Toss beans and diced veggies (such as celery, shallots, red peppers) with vinaigrette for a quick bean salad.
  • Blend cooked beans with tomatoes, onions, and your favorite seasonings to create a yummy bean soup.
  • Top a green salad with 1/3 cup of your favorite bean.
  • Puree beans with a bit of olive oil, a garlic clove, salt, and your favorite seasonings. Voila! A fast dip or sandwich spread.
  • Include 1/3 cup of beans with your other favorite toppings next time you make stuffed baked potatoes or sweet potatoes.
  • Add 1/4 cup pureed beans to your favorite pancake, waffle, muffin, or cake recipe. You’ll be surprised at how moist and springy baked goods are when baked with beans. I even made completely grain-free cookies for my son using navy beans. Grain-Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites. The original recipe calls for chickpeas/ garbanzos, but he cannot have those on GAPS so I subbed the navy beans. My husband didn’t particularly like them, but he’s not a fan of navy beans. He did admit that they were the best tasting navy beans he’d ever eaten.

If you’re new to cooking with beans, try these tips for delicious and well-cooked beans.

  • Be sure to wash and clean the beans first.
  • Soak dried beans for 8-12 hours before cooking (hint: cut a bean in half; if the center is still opaque, keep soaking). Lentils do not have to be soaked.
  • After soaking, rinse, fill pot with fresh water, bring to a boil, then skim off the foam.
  • To aid digestion, add kombu, bay leaf, cumin, anise, or fennel to the water
  • Cover and simmer for the suggested time.
  • Remember: Only add salt at the end of cooking (about 10 minutes before the beans are done) or it will interfere with the cooking process.
  • Quick tips: For speedier prep, boil dried beans for 5 minutes, then soak for 2-4 hours. Or use canned beans instead (some people find them even easier to digest!).  Be sure to avoid canned beans with added salt or preservatives and rinse thoroughly once removed from the can.

Here are a few of my favorites from the Vegan Kickstart.

Hoppin’ John Salad

Hummus

Curried Lentil Soup

Beans are a great healthy and affordable way to get protein and nutrients into your family meals without a lot of hassle.

Questions? Comment? Please let me know.

Jessica