Summer is fast approaching and I’ve got three words for ya. ” THANK THE LAWD.”
1. Top salads with distilled coconut oil or olive oil and vinegar
Summer is fast approaching and I’ve got three words for ya. ” THANK THE LAWD.”
1. Top salads with distilled coconut oil or olive oil and vinegar
This Valentine’s Day, the only one you can trust with your heart is FOOD. That’s right, ya heard me; nourishing, nutrient dense food is all I am looking for this Saturday.
Let’s talk about why we should even give a flyin’ fig about heart disease. Um, well maybs because, according to the CDC, someone has a heart attack every 34 seconds…and someone dies of heart disease every 60 seconds. Scurry stuff right thurr.
[Although, At least that means if you have an ex-lover you’re wishing ill this Valentine’s day, there’s a chance he or she will have a heart attack in the next 34 segundos.
All kidding aside, let’s get back to food. Because it’s delicious. And it’s guaranteed to do your heart goodddddd! And luckily, its all the delicious food.
— Nuts! In the randomized, controlled PREDIMED study of over 7,000 people, the intervention group provided with the Mediterranean diet and nuts had over a 13% decrease in diastolic and systolic blood pressure!! That’s more than the group who was receiving a Mediterranean diet with an emphasis in EVOO! (1)
And, even more interesting, that’s a greater effect than reducing salt intake has on blood pressure. So eat yo’ nuts
— Dark Chocolate! In a study of 60 young, healthy individuals provided with a measly 10 grams of dark chocolate daily, they reaped benefits of decreased blood pressure and decreased arterial stiffness. Make sure you choose chocolate with greater than 75% cocoa content and read the ingredients for the word “alkali!” If the cocoa has been processed with alkali, then the polyphenol (antioxidant content) has been ruined and its no bueno! (2)
— Red wine! I was shocked at just how powerful the studies suggest the active polyphenol, resveratrol, packs on the human body! One to two glasses of red wine (usually, one for females and two for men) has been associated with increased good cholesterol (HDL) and decreased blood pressure. (3)
— Coffee and Green Tea! Lawdy, Lawd—there’s nothing I lurveee more than a piping hot cup of tea on a colddd February day. Right now I am addicted to licorice tea (which supports adrenal glands and incidentally metabolism!).Coffee and green tea are loaded with catechins, a type of flavonoid which has cardioprotective effects.
Consumption of greater than five bags of green tea or 1-2 cups of coffee daily have been associated with improved insulin response (which means better blood sugar control and decreased systemic inflammation) as well improved endogenous nitric oxide production.
We’ve talked about how I adoreeee EnergyBits because they promote nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide promotes vessel dilation and decreased blood viscosity, thus its gona keep ya’ from having a stroke. Thanks. I’ll take it.YUM. YUM.
All I know, is I can’t wait to warm up by the fire with dark chocolate and red wine this V-Day and fantasize about the beautiful, beating heart that lives within me; and cherish a loved one.
Happy Valentines Day, my lovely friends!
Your Go-To Real Food RD
I want summer.
I want grilled pineapple and ocean spray in my hair. I want all my freckles to pop because, try as I might, I’ll inevitably get sunburned. I want to run along the ocean in a sports bra. I want it to be daylight until 9pm. I want to wear shorts and big earrings. Ummmm, I really just want summer.
In the interim, however, there is snow and ice.
This, my darling friends, is a warm, filling recipe loaded with nutrient density and deliciousness that won’t keep you from daydreaming about your healthy body in a bathing suit this upcoming swimsuit season (I swear– it will be here sooner than we think!). The cauliflower gets almost gooey, but the shramps* stay nice and crisp. I really don’t cook shramp* enough considering how simple & easy they are to cook.
Okay. I am rambling. I think my brain is still frozen.
Eat Coconut Cauli and Shramps until your blue in the face (cause if you don’t the cold weather is gona turn yo’ face blue anywayyyy; oh snaapppp).
Let’s bring the nineties back and say it with me:
Fat makes you phat.*, **
The thing about dietary fat is that its delish, it slows digestion which keeps you fuller longer, and the right kind of fat can fight inflammation. Since obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and a whole host of other chronic diseases are all products of systemic inflammation in ze body, any opportunity we can take to zap that ‘ish is a great idea.
I eat a whole lotta fat. I eat loads of saturated fat in the form of grass fed butter, humanely raised bacon, free range eggs, coconut everything and dark 80% chocolate. I eat tons of monounsaturated fat in the form of black olives, avocados, macadamia nuts/hazelnuts and olive oil. And I scarf down healthy polyunsaturated fats in the form of almonds (or almond flour!), hemp seeds and fatty fish (tuna, salmon, sardines, anchovies, oh my!).
SO GUYS! Here’s a command: Eat a whole lotta fat, but eat a whole lot of the right kinds of fat. I think its high time for us to discuss this (even though we touched upon it on this and this episode of my all-time fave podcast, The Running Lifestyle Show!).
The thing about dietary fat is that while it can be a powerful source of anti-inflammatory mega-superpower, the bad kinda fat can be a super-duper-proinflammatory killah. The thing about fat is that it can literally change the makeup of your cell membranes, consequently changing the signals sent between cells. We want our cells shouting at the top of their figurative lungs, “ANTI-INFLAMMATION FOR ALL!!!” rather than “KILL ALL THE DNA! LETS AGE THIS &*^#!! LIGHT THIS BODY ON FIRE!”
YUP. Dietary fat has that kinda power. And this is why sometimes I choose low fat/non-fat foods over high fat, because the quality of the fat matters.
Harmful polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) are susceptible to going rancid and causing oxidative stress in the body. Much like you wouldn’t touch rotting, rancid leftovers from last Thanksgiving with a ten foot pole, you shouldn’t put easily oxidized, and highly processed, polyunsaturated fats into that sexy, healthy bod of yours. Back away from the corn, vegetable, soybean, safflower, canola oil as fast as you can. It can only cause harm. I love fat like a fat kid loves cake, but not in the wrong forms!
Its worth mentioning that when animals (ie. cows, chickens) eat a diet high in corn and soy, the fat content of their meat, dairy or eggs actually changes to include more of these harmful polyunsaturated fatty acids. Its confusing because while I totally condone the frequent consumption of red meat, its with the caveat that I want you guys eating grass fed red meat. The grass actually changes the meat to have an anti-inflammatory ratio of fats, rather than pro-inflamatory.
Polyunsaturated fat gets even more confusing because while some PUFA is harmful, other PUFAs are super, duper anti-inflammatory and wonderful for your body (see my faves listed above; ie fatty fish!). This is because different types of PUFA possess different susceptibility to becoming damaged, and send different types of signals after being incorporated into the cell membrane of your body’s cells.
While PUFAs are bad-news-bears, so are trans-fats. I think we all know this already, because its one of the few nutrition-hypes that the media got right. Man made trans-fatty acids are found in hydrogenated oils (ie. hydrogenated vegetable oil or partially-hydrogenated shortening, etc) and actually decrease healthy cholesterol while increasing harmful cholesterol. YIKES. Hydrogenated fats are often found in processed-yadda-yaddas (ya know, the fake ‘ish that isn’t actually food) such as margarine, cookies, or packaged cakes.
I think this little lesson in baddddd fat is important because I spend a whole lotta time and energy battling the low fat phenonemon of our modern culture, but I don’t want you guys chowin’ down on the harmful ish. We’ll delve into why saturated, mono-unsaturated, and beneficial poly-unsaturated fats are so amaze-balls in a different blog entry. But this is a good place to start.
*(I’m a huge Insta hashtag fan of #FatIsPhat whenever I eat eggs with bacon)
**(Phat is another word for “cool,” for those of you are actually cool and have no clue what the heck the word phat means)
I think mid-January has given me a surrious case of the winter-lazies. Last week it was a STRUGGLE to get my butt out of bed in the AM to run. I skipped my Monday AND Friday early-AM run in lieu of an extra hour of sleep. No self-judgement here– but I definitely can tell that the winter doldrums are stirring.
There are weeks where I am all about that menu planning. Other weeks, I am all about stocking my fridge with as many organic veggies and wild fish/grass fed ground beef/free range eggs in the fridge and call it a week of speedy meals. Slaw, hot sauce, bacon and fried eggs never sound like a bad idea to me (even at dinner time!). And when I’ve gotta case of winter doldrums, I sort of rely on my primitive instincts and just grab a little somethin’somethin’ from the fridge and let creativity reigh.
How about you? Are you a menu planning extraordinaire? Or do you rely on lots of quick fix dinners?
So… here’s a peak into what my brain cooks up a midst the dullest time of year (BUT SERIOUSLY, UGHHH, HOW MANY DAYS UNTIL SPRING ALREADY?!)
I love when mass media admits that calorie counting, starvation and restriction are ineffective long-term solutions for fat loss. The May 2014 edition of Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics had an awesome article on intuitive eating, A Review of Interventions that Promote Eating by Internal Cues.
The article basically discusses how “traditional diets that restrict energy, or particular nutrients, to induce weight loss have achieved little long term success. These programs have high attrition rates; participants rarely maintain weight loss and sometimes gain back even more weight than they lose during the program. In fact there is evidence that frequency of dieting is directly associated with weight gain.”
HM. THAT’S WHAT I BEEN SAYIN!
In fact, the article even goes as far as to say, “Researchers are now raising attention to the serious ethical concern with recommending diets for weight loss due to the long-term ineffectiveness and adverse effects.” Again. THAT’S WHAT I BEEN SAYIN!!!
Instead of focusing on obsessive behaviors where food and eating becomes the focal point of your life when you’re simply trying to obtain a lifetime of robust health. Lifetime of robust health does not equal obsessive behaviors. The Journal’s article focused on twenty peer-reviewed weight interventions that encourage people to eat according to internal signals to promote intuitive eating.
The Four Central Features of Intuitive Eating
Of the twenty studies reviewed in the article, only one group ultimately had net weight gain, while everyone else had maintained weight loss or their previous body weight upon follow-up. Sort of make it seems like self-love and a non-obsessive relationship with food is the best way to achieve long term success in the world of love and food.
So now we come to the part where we’re like, um, but Serena, food is addictive, don’t you think I want to have a healthy relationship with food?
The article promotes using the four elements of Control Theory to promote a healthier frame of mind.
“First, behavior is a proactive choice rather than a reactive response to personal circumstances. Second, behaviors chosen in different situations are adaptive and likely to preserve the match between desired and perceived circumstances. Third, behavior must achieve a balance across the basic needs of survival, power/competence, freedom, love/belonging, and fun. Fourth, effective and lasting behavior is achieved when individuals are able to review and evaluate their circumstances and choose new behavior compatible with their perceptions.”
I think that’s a pretty confusing way of saying that working with a counselor/RD can help you make realistic goals to change your current eating behaviors by working with you to establish a healthier relationship with food. Adapting a diet high in nutrient density will allow your body to naturally regain control of its physical cues for hunger and allow for “unconditional permission” to eat (because your metabolism will be healed and it will be able to take “hits” from unhealthy foods). And with healthy food choices, healthy life choices…next comes a healthy appreciation for your beautiful, strong body.
Kari over at The Running Lifestyle Show and I throw the term “fat adapted diet” around a lot. But I think the term can be really confusing because we aren’t talking about a ketogenic diet, or a diet where, on average, 70-80% of calories are from dietary fat. Instead, we are discussing a diet rich in nutrient-dense fatty acids which help your body learn to preferentially burn calories from fat rather than carbohydrate. (If you’re rolling your eyes and thinking “BUT SERENA, FAT HAS MORE CALORIES!!,” then ya gotta click that link and set your mind straight!)
Let me explain. Traditionally, the Standard American Diet (hmm, which incidentally spells the acronym “S.A.D”) suggests individuals to consume 50-60% of calories from carbohydrate, spread evenly throughout the day in “small, frequent meals,” like 5-6 times daily! However, I’d contest that consuming the majority of calories from carbohydrate and eating carbohydrate constantly throughout the day messes with our body’s insulin response, and contributes to holding onto fat.
Let me explain. We’ve talked about all the fat-storing/burning hormones before. But basically, in the presence of insulin, its impossible to burn body fat. Now, don’t get me wrong, insulin, is fabulous and absurdly important to living a healthy life. Type 1 Diabetics will literally die because of their inability to manufacture insulin without modern medicine’s interventions. This is because we require insulin to open the doors to our cells to let energy in. We all need energy to stay alive and well; so the goal here is not to eliminate the secretion of insulin, but to remain insulin sensitive.
Your body’s propensity to release insulin in response to eating a carbohydrate rich food is related to how frequently you eat starch and your activity level.
Think of insulin like alcohol for a hot second. The first time you consume alcohol, you become intoxicated rather quickly, maybe after one beer. Your alcohol tolerance is very low. Then, as you continue to consume alcohol throughout your lifetime, it takes more and more drinks to get that same buzz. Insulin is similar in that the first time you ever eat a very starchy food (let’s say your first run-in with white rice as an infant), your body only needs to release a little bit of insulin to adequately get the energy from the rice into your cells. As we continue to eat starchy foods throughout our lifetime, the amount of insulin we need to get small amounts of starch through the figurative-doors of our cells increases; aka. you become less sensitive to insulin. So, that same amount of white rice you ate as an infant, now requires way more insulin than it did when you were a wee-little-one to get the energy into your cells. Besides diet, staying active, such as by running, walking and exercising frequently, also helps your body “use up” insulin faster thus increasing your ability to stay insulin sensitive.
FYI, insulin also is released in response to eating protein dense foods, but just not as dramatically. Dietary fat, however, does not require insulin to be stored in the body’s cells as energy.
Sooo… the point being: eating a diet which is more balanced means that you choose closer to 20-40% of calories from nutrient rich carbohydrate, rather than greater than 50% of calories from carb from nutrient poor carbs; so that you’re still able to consume ~30-40% of calories from healthy fat and the remainder from lean protein. By eating less carbohydrate, you give your body a chance to re-sensitize to insulin. And! If you’re a huge fan of The Running Lifestyle Show, like I AM, then you’re probably super motivated to run-all-the-miles which helps you stay insulin sensitive!
SO! Now we understand that eating less calories from carbohydrate helps our body attenuate the insulin response, so we have a better chance of burning BODY FAT instead of sugar all day. And we can double-whammy our insulin sensitivity by leading an active lifestyle!
Other important factors in following this balanced lifestyle is choosing enough calories to fuel proper metabolism and to choose calories from nutrient dense sources. Eating the appropriate amount of calories to fuel your day-to-day activities is important so our body does not sense a “chronic calorie deficit” which can actually slow metabolism, and cause a preference for burning muscle rather than body fat, since muscle burns calories and your body thinks its starving when chronically deprived of energy! Eating nutrient dense foods is important because it helps curb cravings, as nutrient deficiencies contribute to your body wanting to eat more in an effort to seek out the nutrients its missing!
What’s this all mean for you? It means that if you’re not very active, start at an even playing field with 33% of calories from each macronutrient: nutrient rich carb (mostly non-starchy vegetables), lean proteins, and clean, healthy fats. Forego processed oils such as vegetable/margarine/corn/soy oil, nutrient poor starches such as pasta and bread, and try to choose protein from humanely raised animals/free range eggs/wild fish. And emphasize at least 10 grams of healthy fat at every meal without a huge load of starch, so that the body becomes efficient at burning fat (AKA! FAT ADAPTED!).
Fat is fabulous, and so is lean protein and nutrient dense carb, but Kari and I just like to focus on dietary fat for the shock-value (since low fat, in popular culture, has been praised for WAYYYYYYYY TOO LONG!)
Three days ago, amidst the mind numbing task of unpacking boxes and organizing my zillions of clothing (I hate organizing things!!!), I received a lovely email from The Paleo Mom, Sarah Ballantyne PhD containing some freakin’ awesome science which I was super duper psyched to read. With zero vitamin D absorption from the sun this time of year, barely any daylight, and a common disinclination to get fresh air because of the frost, winter time blues are common.
It was amazing to me to read about the influence of our gut bacteria on mental health. I MEAN GUYS; WHAT DOESN’T GUT BACTERIA INFLUENCE?! Between comprising 70-80% of your immune system, affecting inactive to active thyroid conversion and keeping your GI system functioning properly; you’d think those little bugs would have wayyy too much to do to care about your mental wellness.
However, a meta-analysis of observational and preclinical studies (yeah, I know, not the strongest evidence, but its interesting to consider the beginning stages of research too!) suggests that our body’s microbiome influences the production of tryptophan, the precursor to serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter which is responsible for feelings of happiness. Additionally, having a healthy gut may prevent intestinal permeability, which ensures that bacterial lipopolysaccharides (LPS) from entering the bloodstream. LPS contributes to systemic inflammation (well, duh) and the release of cytokines, which incidentally, have been suggested to play a causative role in depression! YIKES. I know good, delicious food makes me happy, but I had no clue what a powerful role it could play in preventing a medical diagnosis of depression! Bacterial translocation also may induce an autoimmune response to serotonin, which contributes to feelings of fatigue, so obvi we want to avoid that happening like the plague.
To foster healthy gut bacteria, it is important to eat a diet rich in nutrient dense carbohydrates. For those of you who listen to Kari and I on The Running Lifestyle Show, you know we talk a lot about “being fat adapted,” however I never want to undermine the importance of nutrient dense carbohydrate in addition to clean, nutrient rich fat & protein. Nutrient rich carbohydrate provides fiber which feed the microbiota (aka. They function as prebiotics) so they can produce short chain fatty acids: acetate, propionate and butyrate, which mediate inflammation. Perfect examples of nutrient rich carbohydrates include dark green leafys, root veggies, cruciferous cauliflower and broccoli, and fermented veggies such as sauerkraut or fermented beets/pickles/carrots (which not only feed the bacteria, but also provide probiotics).
Obviously, this article would have been way more exciting had it been a meta-analysis of randomized clinical controlled trials, however these recommendations can’t hurt anyone to follow anyway. More veggies, more fermented foods, and more dietary fiber can only reap robust health (while probably helping to keep that beautiful smile on your face).
Dash, S; Clarke, G; Berk, M; Jacka, F. “The Gut Microbiome and Diet in Psychiatry: Focus on Depression.” Current Opinion in Psychiatry, Jan 2015; Vol 28- Issue 1: p1-6.
Eat more veggies.
We all know its good for us, and this holiday season Kari, host of da best podcast evah, is putting you to the challenge. Sign up for 12 days of eating more veggies and staying active for twenty minutes to stay fit and healthy during the sugariest time of the year.
1. Veggies in an omelet!
The best way to start your day is with some organic, free range eggs scrambled up with some dark green leafy veggies. Dark green leafies are the lowest in calories but highest in nutrients, meaning they give the biggest nutrient bang for your buck. Plus, spinach wilts super duper fast, so it can be added to an omelet and cooked in a hot second. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Yum.
So don’t let me catch you eating plain ole eggs sans veggies this holiday season!
2. Veggies in Soup!
Even the laziest cooks can whip up veggie-dense soup. Whether you start from scratch with some homemade bone broth and add veggies and spices, or add extra chopped carrots/celery and onions to a can of Amy’s Organic Soup.
3. Veggies in a Smoothie (aka. Veggies To Go)
Grab your Vitamix or a powerful blender and whip this up:
Half a lemon, 2 stalks celery, 1 leaf kale, a handful of spinach, 1 cup coconut water, a handful of grapes.
This is a powerful detoxifying, green smoothie. It tastes green. And I love it. Less hardcore green smoothies can be found at Marmalade and Mileposts. :) Some of hers even taste like chocolate milkshakes. She’s a genius.
4. Naked veg.
Sometimes ya gotta grab a baggie full of raw veg and just nosh away. Baby carrots, cherry tomatoes (especially the yellow ones!), celery sticks dipped in peanut butter, Persian cucumbers, and broccoli florets are delish.
5. Veggies for pasta.
Skip the starchy, nutrient poor pasta and use steamed mushrooms, spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles instead. Veggies are stacked with vitamins, fiber and taste just as delish with grass fed ricotta & tomato sauce as starchy pasta. Skip the insulin spike and fill up with nutrition instead!
6. Veggie Wraps!
Um, no, I’m not talking about wrapping a bunch of veg with a whole wheat/spinach wrap. Instead, bust out the kale leaves or collard greens, slice out the stems, and use that as the vessel to get yo’ sandwich down yo’ piehole. Fill with spiced ground meat for burritos, Applegate Organic Grass Fed Hot Dogs, or even plain’ ole turkey and mustard.
I always think of the Spongebob Squarepants episode when Spongebob first encounters a salad and pronounces it “Sal-ahd”. It makes me laugh. Does anyone else remember that? Or am I the only one who has had salad on the brain since she was a small child? (Probs the latter).
ANYWAY, you’re all like, Serena, salad is the most boring suggestion ever. And you’re right.
BUT what I want to remind you is how fun and delicious salads
can should taste. I encourage you to add spices (oregano, basil, garlic powder for an Italian theme– or cumin, turmeric, paprika and onion powder for a Southwest theme) atop your leafy greens. This is seriously the most delicious way to turn that boring EVOO, vinegar pairing into an exciting, tantalizing, mouthwatering experience.
8. Hold yourself accountable!
Now that you’ve got all the creative veggie-packed ideas your mind could ever imagine, run on over to The Running Lifestyle Show to sign up for Kari’s fun Holiday Challenge. And be sure to listen to the show. Its pretty awesome if you ask me (I’m, admittedly, totally biased though.)