Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Healthier Version of you for the Holidays

What we eat affects us well beyond our appearance. It affects how we feel, our moods, our energy and can contribute to or cause ailments such as fatigue, headaches, acne, eczema, inflammation, bloating, brain-fog and weight-gain.

The holidays are especially tough because folks are caught between that 'do I start now or wait until after the holidays?' Is there value in waiting? I lean toward no. Why suffer through the holidays with no energy to wrap gifts, go shopping, attend parties, host parties or run around after the kids?






I say, kick-off 2013 with a bang by making yourself a priority before the new year.  

 



If you are looking for some things implement right away, below are some recommendations that I feel the majority can and will benefit from. 

Before I get started, know that the purpose of eliminating the suggested foods and introducing the others is NOT to lose weight. Though if you regularly eat those listed on 'introduce' list and avoid those on the 'eliminate' list, you will likely lose weight by default. The purpose of the elimination/introduction food list is to support a healthier lifestyle that allows you to feel your best. And what better time to start than the holidays?

Included in this post:

  1. 5 foods to eliminate NOW
  2. 5 foods to introduce NOW
  3. 5 principles to guide you in becoming a healthier version of yourself
Now, we could go on an on debating the list of ‘5 foods to eliminate NOW’ and ‘5 foods to introduce NOW.’ Surely, there are countless foods that we could swap out on each list. The intent is to have a short list to work with to optimize success. Note that throughout this post you'll find several links to Mark Sisson's site, Mark's Daily Apple. Yeah, I'm a fan.

If you have a pantry that looks similar to the one in the image below, you may want to consider some of the recommendations in this post...




5 foods to eliminate NOW


This is a temporary shift that may turn into a permanent lifestyle.


Meaning that these are things that I suggest eliminating right now to see how you feel. You may feel better and adopt it as part of your lifestyle or you may find they work well for you and choose to eat them again after a period of time.


 

1.) Processed Foods (in general, this is anything packaged)


  • Processed foods are often high in sugar and carbohydrates (Carbohydrates are eventually broken down to glucose i.e. sugar)
  • Sugar and other foreign additives lead to inflammation
  • Sugar can lead to trouble concentrating, fatigue (after an insulin spike), headaches and weight-gain

Tips: 


Rule of 7. My rule is typically 7 ingredients or less. If it’s more than 7 ingredients, chances are, we don’t want to eat it. 


If it comes from a box...yikes, we probably do not want to eat it.


If there are ingredients that I do not know what food group it belongs to, chances are we don’t want to eat it.


Further reading:


143 reasons why sugar should be avoided

Top 10 Junk Foods in Disguise

2). Soda and fruit juices (Feeling bold? All artificial sweeteners)



  • Sugar, sugar, sugar
  • There is minimal nutritional value in drinking even fruit juice. If you want some fruit, eat it
  • When you drink the juice you are missing the fiber and drinking the sugar. In addition, you are often left feeling still hungry or more hungry after drinking juice rather than eating it.
  • If you are looking for something easier to consume, i.e. a drink, do a small smoothie. That way, you are still getting the fiber.

Diet soda, don’t even go there. You may as well drink the real deal if you are going to drink it. Artificial sweeteners cause an instant insulin spike, mimicking sugar and also tend to cause a lot of digestive distress.


Tips: 


What to have instead? 

Try some sparkling water like S. Pellegrino or La Croix. Hint water is also a good one with minimal ingredients. Bring some color to water by adding whole fruits like berries, oranges, limes or cucumbers for a nice, refreshing and natural flavor. If you were one to crack open a Coca-Cola in the morning, try some black or green tea or black coffee  (no sugar!). If you do need to add something to it, try real coconut milk or even spices. I have been adding nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla powder to my morning cup of joe and it’s divine. Keep in mind that these caffeinated beverages should be limited to 1-2 cups a day.


Further Reading:


Definitive Guide on Sugar


The Dish on Sugar & Sweeteners







3. Wheat (Feeling bold? All glutenous grains)

Glutenous grains include: wheat, barley and rye. 


The main issue with gluten is the gluten protein itself; which is hard for our bodies to digest. Back in the Neolithic Age (or New Stone era), we started the mass production and cultivation of these grains. They were shelf stable, filling and hearty. A saving grace for the people trying to survive in that era. The farming of these crops started to pop up everywhere from Asia, Africa to America and soon wheat cereal become a main staple. Some would argue, our bodies never really fully adapted. I won't go into that argument here. But the fact remains that these grains can be difficult for our bodies to break down with possibly one of the most prevalent side effects from eating these grains being that uncomfortable bloating or 'puffiness.' 


Note, that for those with celiac disease the reasons for eliminating gluten are far more serious and must be eliminated for an overall quality of life (this will require an entire post of its own).


When wheat finally is digested, it is broken down into glucose (sugar). And what can I say about sugar? We need it, that is fact. BUT, we don't need an excess amount of it. I am of the opinion that consuming large amounts of carbohydrates is what has caused an upward trend in obesity over the course of the past hundred years. Wheat contains about 37 grams of carbohydrates in one cup that is more than a cup of white potato (deemed one of the worst carbohydrates in which I disagree wholeheartedly with...), one cup of cooked potatoes has about 29 grams of carbs. 


Let's take a step back though. It's not ALL about the amount of carbohydrates. Take the sweet potato for example, there are about 40 grams of carbohydrates in 1 cup of cooked/baked sweet potato however it is much easier to digest, much lower on the glycemic index and seriously nutrient dense.


Bottom line: carbohydrates turn to sugar. An excess amount can lead to weight gain, insulin spikes, inflammation, bloating, fatigue etc. If you are going to eat some carbs (because we do need carbs!), opt for WHOLE fruits and vegetables that are nutrient dense!


"...a combination of vegetables and lean proteins offer more antioxidants, vitamins, protein, fat and even fiber (surprise!) than do grains.” -Mark Sisson


Further Reading:


Modern Wheat: A Perfect Chronic Poison


Women to Women: Inflammation 


4). Corn 


First things first: 



  • Corn is NOT a vegetable!  
  • Corn is a high-sugar grain
  • Corn is high on the glycemic-index 
  • Corn is very low in protein

Not much more I can say about this one. Let's keep the corn for Halloween decorating and give our bellies a break. 


Further Reading:


The Definitive Guide to Grains


5). Peanuts (Feeling bold? All legumes)


Ahhh... peanuts. The ultimate ballpark, bar and cocktail party snack. What in the world could be bad about peanuts? Well, if you aren't already aware, the peanut is actually not a nut. It is a legume. 

OK, so what's up with legumes? Legumes (this includes beans, chickpeas, lentils, soy etc.) are another food that are especially difficult to digest. Yeah, yeah 'the magical fruit...,' there's a reason for that. Have you ever seen a pinto bean in it's natural state? Hard as a rock. They require hours of soaking to even begin to be digestible. When something is difficult for us to digest, they can linger in our gut for much longer than desired causing discomfort and even bacterial overgrowth. 

Keep in mind that when we are eating legumes, we are not eating the flower or leaves of the plant, we are eating it's seed from a pod. But are the the worst thing to be eating? No, not in the least. They are generally high in protein and chickpeas for example are relatively low in carbohydrates.


The peanut on the other hand, is especially susceptible to contain mold (aflatoxin). Other legumes and grains have the potential to contain this mold due to the way they are cultivated though peanuts have a higher propensity due to the composition of it's shell (i.e. pod), being grown in close proximity to soil and in hot humid climates.


In addition, peanuts have a mix of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats; which on the one hand is great as they contain zero trans-fat though polyunsaturated fats are prone to oxidation (due to the instability of the the multiple double bonds). This may require an entire other post but to sum it up, oxidation can wreak havoc on our cell membranes and blood vessels leading to a slue of conditions including cancer. That being said, I am not suggesting we remove walnuts and sunflower seeds right now and they also contain polyunsaturated fats. However, that combined with the aflatoxins and hard to digest nature of the legume, I suggest eliminating.


Further Reading: 


Beans and legumes


Aflatoxins, or Another Reason to Shun Peanuts 


Peanut (wiki) 

ALL of these foods on '5 foods to eliminate NOW' can lead to inflammation causing uncomfortable bloating, fatigue, insulin spikes and crashes, sluggishness, brain-fog and an overall sense of feeling ‘off.’ When you add those up, they can all lead to further and more complex issues such as depression and anxiety. Chronic inflammation not only leads to bloating, puffiness and/or joint pain, it causes an autoimmune response as well, the arc-nemesis for those with autoimmune disorders such as celiac, multiple sclerosis, endometriosis, lupus and arthritis.

Tips: 

Wow, OK, I realize that list of 5 is more like 20... so, here are some tips on what to eat instead and curb cravings:

Vegetables, vegetables, vegetables (oh, and some herbs)! 


"Vegetables and lean proteins are more readily handled by your liver and pancreas, among other organs. Coupled with some much-needed beneficial fats such as organic butter, olive oil, nuts, avocados, and fish oil supplements, a vegetable-and-protein based diet is the most respectful to the human design.” -Mark Sisson


Vegetables can make a great base for dishes that would otherwise include pasta. Below are some of my favorite vegetables and herbs: 


  • Asparagus
  • Artichokes
  • Avocado (actually a fruit but I'll add it here :))
  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Butter Lettuce
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Celery 
  • Garlic
  • Eggplant
  • Fennel
  • Kale
  • Onions
  • Spinach
  • Sweet Potatoes 
  • Winter squash 
  • Zucchini
Other foods to eat in moderation to help curb cravings: 
  • Almonds
  • Coconut (meat, oil and butter) 
  • Eggs (farm-fresh, organic)
  • Dates 
  • Dark chocolate (70% and above, dairy free!) 
  • Tart Cherries
  • Pumpkin seeds 
  • Whole fruits (all fruits in moderation)

And without further adieu....  


5 foods to introduce NOW

Naturally this section is going to be a bit easier to write than the previous as I won't have to do much convincing (I don't think), unless you have allergies or find them repulsive.     

1.)  Avocados  

Avocados are amazingly nutrient-dense and can be used as a replacement for things such as mayonnaise and creamy salad dressings. I usually enjoy them plain right out of the skin but they are a perfect addition to countless dishes.

You've likely heard already that avocados are on the list for source of healthy fat. Consuming healthy fats is essential. Not only can they help lower cholesterol but they also aid in digestion and stabilize our metabolisms (which helps to control hunger).

More about avocados:
  • Avocados contain more potassium than a banana 
  • Avocados are a natural anti-inflammatory 
  • Avocados are high in omega-3 fatty-acids 
  • Avocados are antioxidant rich
Also, avocados travel well, I take them with me on almost any trip even via plane ;)

Further Reading:

Avocado.org

2). Nuts

Another source of healthy fat and recall that peanuts are not nuts ;) I am not going to discriminate here but some of my favorites are almonds, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts and macadamia nuts. Though brazilian nuts have an amazing amount of selenium (a rich source a natural anti-inflammatory ) but they kind of taste hmm like dirt unless you mix them with something else or load them with salt (not recommended).

It's easy to do over-do-it on the nut front so moderation is key. They should be generally treated more as a garnish rather than a base for your meal. I'll be the first to admit that I've stood in my kitchen and danced proudly that made a loaf of bread made from nut flour,  muffins made from nut flour and cookies made from nut flour but these should not be consumed in large quantities. Nuts though a healthy fat, are still high in calories and contain phytates which can trigger digestive issues in some and can inhibit the absorption of other nutrients. 




More about nuts:
  • Nuts are high in omega-3 fatty acids 
  • Nuts are an excellent source of Vitamin E 
  • Nuts are an excellent source of B Vitamins 
  • Nuts help to curb cravings and control hunger
Nuts also travel well and are generally very shelf stable but I do keep mine refrigerated when I can for freshness.

Tips: 

Nut butters that are organic and low in added sugar are also a healthy option and pair wonderfully with foods like apples, celery where you would otherwise use peanut butter :)

Buy nuts in raw form preferably unsalted and no added sugar. Add your own spices such as cinnamon, cardamon or cayenne pepper for some additional zing if needed. 

3). Fish (especially low mercury) 

We are on a role with healthy fats and omega's so why not add in some more? I can't say enough good things about fish. They are a good source of healthy fats yet they are still low in fat when compared to their meat counterparts. It is by far one of the best sources of lean protein. Our bodies crave (maybe not our minds but our bodies) lean protein for sources of energy and metabolic stability. 

More about fish: 
  • Fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids
  • Fish contain high amounts of wonderful minerals such as iron, zinc, magnesium and potassium 
  • Fish are a natural anti-inflammatory 
  • Fish has been associated with increasing brain function and lowering depression
While I wouldn't worry too much about it, mercury levels are still a concern for consumption of fish, use this list as a guide for low-mercury fish. 

4). Farm-fresh organic eggs


Yet another source of awesome omega-3 fatty acids. They too are an excellent source of healthy fat while still remaining low in fat and calories.
  • Eggs contain naturally occurring Vitamin D 
  • Eggs have a significant amount of protein 
If you have high cholesterol then it would be advisable to check with your physician on your egg consumption though studies are showing that an egg a day does not have an impact on cholesterol levels.

There are several reasons to eat eggs that are organic and farm-fresh. The list is quite long so I'll save that for a later post as well. But really, do you want to eat eggs that contain hormones? How about antibiotics? How about from a chicken that has been kept in a cage it's entire life? No? OK, eat farm-fresh organic eggs. Yep, a buck or two more than the toxic alternative. It's worth it. Trust me. 

Tip: 

Hard-boil 6-8 eggs at the start of the week for easy grab n' snacks. They are a fabulous 'pick me up' energy food. 

Further Reading:

Eggs -It's what's for breakfast


Are Eggs Really As Bad For Your Arteries as Cigarettes?

5). Pumpkin

Just in time for fall ;)  

Pumpkin has amazing health benefits and I am a tad bit obsessed with it this season. I always had this misconception that pumpkin would be higher in carbohydrates but come to find out it is actually very low (about 12 grams in a cup). 

So, what are some of the amazing benefits? 
  • Pumpkin is rich in dietary fiber
  • Pumpkin is an excellent source of alpha & beta-cerotine 
  • Pumpkin is high in both magnesium and potassium 
  • Pumpkin is a natural anti-inflammatory
  • Pumpkin (including seeds) help to curb cravings and control hunger
Go ahead, have some wheat and dairy-free pumpkin cheesecake this year ;) 

See a pattern here? For the '5 foods to eliminate NOW,' we are largely working to eliminate inflammation (by the way, inflammation is generally NOT visible) and for the '5 foods to introduce NOW,' we are working to promote healing anti-inflammatory foods. 

Further Reading: 



 
 



After that lengthy post, I'll leave you with some last thoughts, my 5 basic principles. Keep these in mind as you move through this holiday season and as always... enjoy ;)  

Bodhi Life’s 5 basic principles

#1) Eat real food. Eliminating processed foods is key in starting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Consuming foods that are closest to their natural state as possible brings our bodies closer to the natural world and closer to bodhi.

#2) Zero scales. Unless you are dedicated to tracking your progress, I believe weight scales are nothing more than white noise. You will know the optimal weight for you by the way you feel. If weight-loss is your goal, by becoming aware of how your body responds to food, weight-loss will transpire.

#3) No templates. I believe there are a few things that can be shifted and work for just about everyone, the rest depends on the chemistry of each individual person.

#4) Embrace patience. When transforming your lifestyle, you are not just breaking one habit. You are breaking years of countless small habits and re-learning what health means to you and your body. This takes time and great awareness.

#5) Nourish then exercise . I believe that what you eat has a far greater impact on their health than exercise. Exercise will then support you in living a healthy lifestyle.


Happy holidays beautiful friends & thank you for reading,


-Ashley

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