Have you heard that eating foods that are in season is valuable, but may not know the exact reasons why? Perhaps you're a person who vaguely notices the fruits and vegetables at Farmer’s Markets and some local supermarkets change over time, but don’t necessarily choose one item over another because it’s in season. Or you might be someone who looks forward to a certain season because your favorite fruit or veggie is available in abundance!
Although I have fond childhood memories of picking blackberries in the woods and helping my grandmother with her large garden, before I became a nutritionist, seasonal eating was not something I paid a whole lot of attention to. Now, after learning all the benefits, I am a regular at the local Farmer’s Market, and have become inspired to eat with the flow of nature. I’d like to share a few of my seasonal eating discoveries with you.
Eating seasonally is good for your body.
You’ll get more nutrients from local, recently picked, seasonal foods. Most foods reach their nutritional peak close to the time they are harvested, and many begin to lose their nutrient value after picking. If you’re shopping at a Farmer’s Market, it’s easy to get local, seasonal foods. But if you’re shopping at a grocery store, check the label to see the state or country of origin. The less distance that fruit or vegetable has had to travel the better.
I feel lucky to live in California and have an abundance of choices in all seasons, but you can find yummy, truly local food in most parts of the United States. What’s in season where you live? I’d suggest doing a Web search for “seasonal foods [your state or region]”. Find a website of a local agricultural organization, farmers’ coalition, or farm-share company – most will have charts of local seasonal foods by month.
Here in California, I’m excited about all the cruciferous vegetables we have in season now and throughout the year. Cruciferous vegetables support the liver so it can deal with all the toxins that come our way. The liver also processes and clears neurotransmitters and hormones that we no longer need, keeping you feeling good and your hormones stable.
Cruciferous vegetables such as brussels sprouts and broccoli rabe are yummy vegetables currently in season in California. We can also enjoy cabbage, kale and cauliflower all year.
Eating seasonally is good for your long term health.
“Eating a seasonally based diet with lots of variety throughout the year is the cornerstone of preventive medicine,” said Dr. Preston Maring, a physician at Kaiser Permanente.(1) Dr. Maring finds his inspiration from multiple studies touting the benefits of eating an in-season, plant-focused diet, including reduced risks of cancer, better cholesterol numbers, improved vascular health, weight loss and more.
Eating seasonally is good for your soul.
Eating seasonally allows you to step into the flow of nature, rather than working against it. According to Stanford University’s Dr. Katie Curhan, studies have found that when interacting with nature humans experience reduced stress and anger, increased feelings of calmness, and “a more concrete awareness of the life cycle.” (2)
If you’re inspired, you can consider growing your own food, as gardening can be very meditative. Participating in meditative activities can activate our parasympathetic nervous systems, eliciting a greater sense of calm.
Interacting with our communities can be soothing to our souls too. You can connect with local farmers at your neighborhood Farmer’s Market, and spend time getting to know your neighbors.
Eating seasonally is good for the earth.
Local, seasonal produce can be farmed and harvested without too much extra effort and a reduced need for pesticides. Plus, local food doesn’t have to travel as far, positively contributing to our carbon footprint.
To learn more about the health benefits of eating seasonally, and the healing properties of specific foods, join me and my colleagues on Thursday, April 7 in Walnut Creek for The Healing Power of Nature. It’s a free, 90-minute workshop that you won’t want to miss! Learn more and RSVP...
Photo credit: Stacy Spensleyhttps://www.flickr.com/photos/notahipster/4366374300/in/album-72157623010544930/
I've looked high and low for a nutritionist-approved green smoothie recipe that tastes good and is low-glycemic (so it won't raise insulin levels and promote belly-fat like many smoothies can if you're not careful with the ingredients).
I haven't found one I love as much as this basic, healthy green smoothie, so I thought I'd share it with you. If you have a Vitamix or other high-powered blender, you can throw in everything including the peels on the cucumber, lemon, apple etc. (though not the avocado!). If you have a standard blender I'd recommend peeling them.
½ medium apple, cored
1 celery stalk
Approx 2 inches of a medium-sized cucumber
Approx 1 inch of ginger root (to taste)
1/3 of a lemon (to taste)
1/2 of a medium avocado, peeled
1-3 cups of baby spinach or baby greens (kale, chard, etc.)
Approx 1 ½ cup water
Protein powder: collagen, pea or hemp protein**
A handful of ice if desired
Blend ingredients together until smooth. Drink immediately after blending. Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for about a day, though I'd recommend re-blending before drinking.
Optional additions/substitutions: chia seeds, hemp seeds, freshly ground flax seeds (increase liquid if using these seeds) unsweetened almond milk instead of water, 1 TBSP almond butter, ¾ cup frozen peaches, fresh mint instead of ginger. Please post your ideas below!
**Get in touch for protein powder recommendations!
P.S. f you're committed to reclaiming health and vitality in 2016, consider Real-Food Detox, beginning Feb. 2 in San Ramon. :-)
As the holiday season draws to a close, we might notice that somewhere along the way, we boarded a Sugar Train. We likely entered the train innocently enough; at the beginning it might have resembled a subway with frequent opportunities to disembark. But for some, it now feels more like a high-speed train traveling through an underwater tunnel with no exit stations in sight.
The cookies are calling. The chocolate stash has grown exponentially. Dessert happens…regularly; perhaps daily. Maybe we’ve won more sugar standoffs in the past, but now sugar clearly has taken the lead. We can no longer find it within ourselves to say no.
Before we go any further, I want to acknowledge something. Sugar acts upon the opiod receptors, or pleasure centers of our brains, just like recreational drugs such as cocaine do. Studies have shown it to be as addictive as cocaine, if not more so. Plus, if we’re pre-diabetic or diabetic, eating more sugar is especially apt to make us crave more sugar due to poor insulin handling. And, if you happen to have yeast overgrowth (dysbiosis) in your gut, the “bad bacteria” can cause you to madly crave sugar.
So, while it is possible to exit the Sugar Train rather than circling the globe until the end of your days, it is important to work with your biochemistry – and to be gentle with yourself -- to once again gain some control over sugar cravings. Here are some tips to get you started:
Short Sleep Duration Is Associated with Reduced Leptin, Elevated Ghrelin, and Increased Body Mass Index: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC535701/
Insomnia Increases Junk Food Cravings: Sleep deprivation blunts brain function linked to eating healthy foods.: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201308/insomnia-increases-junk-food-cravings
Evidence That Intermittent, Excessive Sugar Intake Causes Endogenous Opioid Dependence: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1038/oby.2002.66/full
Sugar addiction: pushing the drug-sugar analogy to the limit: http://journals.lww.com/co-clinicalnutrition/Abstract/2013/07000/Sugar_addiction___pushing_the_drug_sugar_analogy.11.aspx
Put your name at the top of the list with 7 ideas for nurturing, self-loving gifts to give yourself this season.
I recently returned from traveling, and on each of the 12 flights I took I heard the safety briefing during which you’re told to put your oxygen mask on first before helping others. Which got me thinking...how many times in our lives do we take care of everyone else’s “oxygen masks” before securing our own? And although I completely honor this time of giving, are we including ourselves on the list of people to give a gift to?
My guess is that for many of us, our name does not appear on our gift list. I’d like to suggest that you include yourself among those you give to this season. If we tend to give and do a lot for others (especially as women), we run the risk of leaving ourselves depleted, and often our health suffers.
I work with many people who after many years and declining health, decide that it is now the year to focus on caring for themselves. I am always inspired by their conviction. But if you haven’t already, I encourage you to gather that conviction now, and make EVERY year the year you focus on caring for yourself. Don’t wait until you’re exhausted or in a health crisis to do so.
So this holiday season, make the first gift you give be to yourself. The irony is that it greatly increases our ability to give to others. We thrive when we give from full wells that are spilling over, not rationing our last bit of water to others before taking a drink ourselves.
We see many gift idea lists during the holiday season; here is a list of gifts for YOU.
If you’ve got weight that just keeps holding on, or you’ve lost some weight but hit a plateau, handling your body’s toxic load may be a missing link. First, a little background on what I mean about toxins and toxic load, and then I’ll describe three ways toxins might be causing belly fat to hold on, or keeping you heavier than you’d like to be.
There are about 90,000 in circulation, and new ones coming on to the market daily. Research has shown that we’re born with toxins – an Environmental Working Group study showed more than 200 chemicals in newborns’ cord blood, even among mothers who described themselves as living healthy lifestyles. Chemicals like BPA, phthalates, flame retardants, pesticides, air pollution and more can disrupt our endocrine system and make it hard to maintain a healthy metabolism.
It’s important to understand how toxins contribute to excess fat. But before you just give up entirely, hang with me, as there are actions you can take to decrease your toxic load and support a healthy weight.
Toxins = Hormone Imbalances = Excess Fat
This topic is huge, but here are a few ways that toxins can disrupt your hormones.
Toxins can be endocrine disruptors. Bisphenol A (BPA, commonly found in plastics and cash register receipts) and PVC are examples. One way this happens is if you’ve got more toxins in your body than your liver can clear, the toxins can set off hormone imbalances. Your reproductive hormones are one system that can get out of balance, creating estrogen dominance for example. When our estrogens are out of whack (men or women) belly fat can seem to stick to us, and it can also be much harder to lose weight.
Toxins can also contribute to thyroid dysfunction, as chemicals can bind to thyroid receptors, displacing thyroid hormones that are needed for proper function. Flame retardants, commonly found in furniture, are among the worst offenders in affecting thyroid health. An imbalanced thyroid can result in sluggish metabolism that makes it harder to rid ourselves of fat.
One of my mentors, Dr. Sara Gottfried, feels that terms like “endocrine disrupters” and “xenobiotics” don’t go far enough in explaining the impact that toxins can have on our bodies. She refers to toxins as “metabolism blockers,” which seems appropriate to me.
Toxins = Inflammation and Insulin Resistance = Excess Fat
Toxins are implicated in both inflammation and insulin resistance, and both can lead to added weight.
A study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, found that Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) lead to insulin resistance. When we have insulin resistance, our blood sugar spikes as insulin’s role of shuttling the glucose into the cells for fuel is impaired. Instead of allowing a potentially dangerous level of glucose to circulate, the body responds by storing it as additional fat. The extra fat usually shows up around our bellies.
Insulin resistance creates inflammation. Fat cells (which often “host” toxins – see below), produce inflammation. Toxins cause the immune system to respond, which creates inflammation. Inflammation causes stress inside the body, raises Cortisol and blood sugar levels (which promotes weight gain), and is an underlying cause in many diseases.
Toxins = More Fat Cells = Excess Fat
When our bodies have too many toxins and we’re not releasing them through the liver, skin, urine and feces, the body creates fat to protect our organs from the toxins. This toxin-laden fat can more persistently hang on because the body is trying to protect our organs from harm.
When we are able to lose fat, toxins that were stored in the fat begin circulating in our bodies. If our livers and other detoxification channels can’t keep up with clearing those toxins, we’ll begin to feel unwell. Our bodies will also then make more fat to protect us and the cycle begins again.
What to Do?
Learn why detoxifying is an excellent first step in jump-starting weight loss, or essential to good health and keeping weight off if you’ve recently lost it…join me May 13th at 5 p.m. PST for the Health Re-Boot Workshop – it’s live and virtual, and costs you nothing. We’ll explore this topic, provide tips to start detoxifying ASAP and more. Check it out here…
You can also check out my Quick Cleanse, which begins May 27th at 5 p.m. PST. I’ll share some info on the Quick Cleanse during the Health-Reboot workshop, and offer special bonuses to workshop participants who sign up for Quick Cleanse.
Environmental pollution and diabetes: a neglected association. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18294985
The Complex Picture of Chemical Disruption of Thyroid Hormone Function. http://www.altmedrev.com/publications/14/4/326.pdf
Chemical Sensitivity. http://www.aaemonline.org/chemicalsensitivitypost.html
The Chemical Tributyltin (TBT) Stimulates the Production of Abnormal Fat Cells Toxicology. Carfi’ M, Croera C, Ferrario D, Campi V, Bowe G, Pieters R, Gribaldo L.Toxic Effects of Phthalates and Parabens Altern Med Rev. Crinnion WJ.
How Bisphenol A Promotes Obesity Mol Cell Endocrinol. Rubin BS, Soto AM.
Many Chemicals Accumulate in Our Fat Altern Med Rev Crinnion WJ.
A Theory of How Chemicals Cause Obesity Curr Opin Endocrinol Diabetes Obes. Grün F.
Chemicals Induce New Fat Cell Formation Endocrinology. Grün F, Blumberg B.
PCBs Induce New Fat Cells to Form While Increasing Inflammation Environ Health Perspect Arsenescu V, Arsenescu RI, King V, Swanson H, Cassis LA.
Chemicals Stimulate the Production of Abnormal Fat Cells Biochem Pharmacol. Moreno-Aliaga MJ, Matsumura F.
Chemicals Damage Glucose Metabolism of Fat Cells J Biochem Mol Toxicol. Olsen H, Enan E, Matsumura F.
Chemicals Increase Risk for Type 2 Diabetes and Obesity Obesity (Silver Spring). Dirinck E, Jorens PG, Covaci A, Geens T, Roosens L, Neels H, Mertens I, Van Gaal L.
The Complex Picture of Chemical Disruption of Thyroid Hormone Function Altern Med Rev. Patrick L.
Chemicals Promote Hypothyroid as Well as Hyperthyroid States Endocrine. Mastorakos G, Karoutsou EI, Mizamtsidi M, Creatsas G.
Weight Gain in Response to Environmental Toxins Environmental Health Perspectives 1.Michelle A. Mendez, Raquel Garcia-Esteban, M?nica Guxens, Martine Vrijheid, Manolis Kogevinas, Fernando Go?i, Silvia Fochs, Jordi Sunyer.