The Health Benefits of Eating Good Fats

I love eating veggies cooked in lard or tallow! 

If you’re thinking, “Eww! Gross!” or “Lard is horrible for your heart… this nutritionist does NOT eat healthily!”, then please, read on…

What is a ‘healthy fat’?

Brace yourself… this is a paradigm-buster.  Healthy fats are not limited to olive oil and avocado oil, and do not include common vegetable oils such as canola, corn, or soy, or “heart-healthy” spreads like margarine or “I Can’t Believe It’s Not ____”.  Healthy fats are naturally-sourced and minimally or unprocessed.  Processing with high heat and chemicals turns plant oils that may have been healthy while still in the seed, quite toxic.  Healthy fats also include (*gasp*) saturated fats.

Our bodies need all 3 of the following types of healthy fats:

  1. Saturated: butter, coconut oil, palm oil, and animal fats like lard, tallow, duck fat
  2. Monounsaturated: cold-pressed oils of olive, avocado, macadamia nut*, sesame*
  3. Polyunsaturated*: cold-pressed oils of walnuts, almonds, hemp, flax

*Seed and nut oils turn rancid when exposed to heat (whether during processing or in your kitchen).  Be sure to buy these oils as “cold-pressed” in dark containers, in the refrigerated section of your health-food store, and only use them raw, on cold foods.

Due to mis-representation and mis-interpretation of a few scientific studies in the mid-1950s that ballooned into government-mandated recommendations for all Americans, 2 generations of us have made crucial food choices in the name of our health.  We have been replacing natural foods like butter, eggs, bacon, lard, and coconut oil (all high in saturated fats and dietary cholesterol), with ‘food products’ like margarine, egg-white substitutes, soy-‘bacon’, canola and corn oil (all engineered in a laboratory and produced en mass with industrial processes – see for yourself in this video). All the while, we’ve been getting sicker by the year, with drastic increases in numbers of heart attacks, and cases of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and autoimmune disease.

(Learn a lot more by reading THIS article by Dr. Mercola about the history of industry politics and governmental recommendations, and even more in this paper, entitled The Oiling of America, by Sally Fallon and Dr. Mary Enig.)

 

But I Thought Saturated Fat Was Bad for Me…?

It’s true that some fats are toxic for human consumption and have been clearly implicated in the rise of inflammatory-based diseases… but they are notsaturated fats and dietary cholesterol… they are TRANS FATS and highly refined VEGETABLE OILS, found in processed “food products” like margarine, shortening, and canola oil.

Saturated fats are not harmful to our hearts as we have been misled to believe – in fact, they are critically important to our health in a number of ways.

Saturated fats:

  • Provide an excellent source of long-lasting energy, and are the preferred fuel for our hard-working hearts
  • Are a component of the membrane of every cell in our body – controlling the inflow of nutrients and the outflow of waste products.
  • Are necessary for healthy liver function – the liver needs saturated fats to create healthy bile, which allows for effective fat digestion and metabolism
  • Are essential for the absorption and use of the fat-soluble vitamins – A, K, E, and D.
  • Are required for the adequate digestion and use of proteins in our bodies.
  • Slow the absorption of carbohydrates, resulting in balanced energy.
  • Are critical (in concert with poly- and monounsaturated fats) in managing the inflammatory process.
  • Provide building blocks for many of our hormones
  • Taste really good, and trigger the hormones of satiation, allowing us to feel full and satisfied.

If we don’t eat foods that contain naturally saturated fats, we are depriving ourselves of the building blocks needed by every cell, every nerve, every muscle, and many of the hormones in our bodies!  In addition, every bit of heat-refined vegetable/seed oil we ingest becomes integrated into our tissues and organs (our bodies have a hard time telling them apart from the good ones) and decreases our ability to take in nutrients and detoxify the waste.

 

OK, You’ve Convinced Me.  So How do I Make this Change in My Diet?

Step 1:  Begin paying attention to what you are eating – search every label for ingredients like “vegetable oil, soybean oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil, or shortening”.  These oils are commonly used in just about all ready-made or packaged food, from salad dressings, peanut butter, and baked goods to chips, hummus, and spaghetti sauce.

Step 2:  Seek out alternatives to these products in the stores, or make your own.  Natural peanut butters have no added oils, and olive-oil-based salad dressings and hummus are fun and easy to make at home (I’ve done both with a bunch of 1st graders in my kids’ cooking classes).  There are some really tasty avocado oil chips on the market now.  And who doesn’t love home-baked muffins?

Step 3:  Bring the natural, unprocessed, good fats into your kitchen and use them whenever you cook.  Saturated fats are extremely stable at high temperatures.  Stock your kitchen with high quality (from pastured animals) butter, lard, tallow, duck fat and coconut oil, as well as cold-pressed olive, sesame, flax, or walnut oils for drizzling on foods after they’re cooked.  As you bring in the good, get rid of the bad – throw out the bottle of rancid veggie oil!

Recipe Ideas:
  • Sauté up some veggies in butter with salt and pepper for a simple side dish
  • Begin a soup with onions caramelized in coconut oil
  • Use butter or coconut oil in your next batch of pancakes, cookies, or muffins
  • Roast root veggies covered in melted tallow, salt, pepper, and herbs de Provence on a pan in the oven (375F for 1 hour, stir once)
  • Pop your next batch of popcorn in coconut oil and add salt and cinnamon
  • Drizzle your next Asian stirfry with cold-pressed sesame oil after it’s cooked
  • Mix up a big batch of your own vinaigrette for your next salad with olive and flax oils, balsamic vinegar, mustard, garlic, a bit of honey, and salt, pepper, and herbs (keeps great on the shelf for weeks!)

It takes a while to stop feeling guilty for eating and enjoying bacon, eggs fried in butter, heavy cream in your coffee, and lard in your veggies… but I invite you to do exactly that.  Paradigm shifts require brave new ways of thinking and acting.  I promise you, there’s a REASON all of these natural fats taste so good and are so deeply satisfying – they are really good for us!

 

I have recently rendered a big pot of tallow made from the fat of cows raised by the awesome local rancher and educator, Steve Campbell (at Triangle C Beef in Parma, ID).  Steve gives his cows (and the land they graze on) a tremendous amount of respect, love, and nutrients – he likes to boast: “My cows eat better than you do!”  I made so much of this beautiful and tasty grass-fed tallow, that I’m even willing to part with some of it!  $12 per quart jar.
Drop me a line and see how tasty good fats can be!

I’m teaching cooking classes all around town.  Come join me!

 

Boise Food Co-op in Meridian 
Cookin’ with Kids.  Monthly class for and with kids with food sensitivities (or not!).  Next class Feb 25th, 10:30am.   Register here.

Food Foundations.   Series of 4 Saturday classes (April 8-29) focusing on traditional foods and preparation techniques — broths, ferments, cultures, and sprouting.   Info soon here.


Boise Schools Community Education
Beyond Gluten-Free: Grain Free Baking.  Tuesday, Feb 21st  6:30-8:30p Timberline High.  Register here.

JUMP Share Studio (Kitchen)
Sugar Blues: Feel Better with Less Sugar.  Kicking off JUMPBoise’s “Food Talks” series.  April 4th, 6-7p.  Info soon here.

Grain-Free Baking.    May 16th, 6:30-8:30p  Info soon here.

8 Strategies To Avoid A Sugar Crash At Holiday Gatherings

This time of year is filled with holiday parties, cookie swaps, and other fun-filled, food-focused festivities.  If you’re like me, you enjoy spending time with friends and family, looking forward to all the special meals and treats… until the after-effects of an over-full belly, sluggish energy, and headaches set in.  As part of my gift to you this holiday (scroll down for the other part!), here is a list of strategies for you to enjoy your gatherings and avoid the sugar spikes and crashes!

1.  Make all your choices conscious ones.  If you are at a gathering and decide to eat more than you usually would, make it a clear choice.  Know that there may be consequences, and let that be OK.  It won’t do you any good to beat yourself up or feel guilty for your choices.

2.  If you are going to someone else’s home, eat before you go.  Have a good balance of proteins, healthy fats, and carbs so that you are not overly hungry when you get there.  Don’t starve yourself all day or “save up your calories” for later — our bodies don’t work that way.

3. Before you take that first bite, take a few slow, deep breaths and make sure you are in a relaxed state.  This is the only way you can properly digest all that scrumptious food.  Saying grace or sharing things you are thankful for can also help you get to that relaxed state.

4.  When you do start eating, chew, chew, chew your food.  Really taste and appreciate those wonderful flavors.  This will also help your digestive system work more effectively.

5.  Drink water before the meal begins.  Then sip small amounts of your beverage of choice during the meal, but try not to drink too much (of anything… even water) during or immediately after the meal — it dilutes your digestive juices.

6.  If you choose to enjoy sugary sweets, really enjoy them.  Notice the taste, notice how sweet they are, enjoy them thoroughly, then be done.

7.  Above all, enjoy your time with family and friends.  While the food often takes center stage, let your focus be on the people you are with.  Give someone a genuine compliment.  Tell them something about themselves that you really admire.  We often get so focused on the things that “have to get done” that we forget why we’re doing them in the first place.  By all means, enjoy the wonderful food, but really be present and enjoy the day and the people.

8.  When you get home, keep hydrated with water throughout the day and move your body.  Take a walk, build a snowman, go to the gym, dance, or move however your body likes.  Just be sure to move.  Even just a little.  Your body, heart, mind, and spirit will thank you.


Speaking of being thankful, I am grateful to have the opportunity to offer a 15% discount to the first 3 people to sign up on my websitefor my RESTART® Sugar-Detox and Nutritional Education series this coming January.  Gift yourself the experience of the clarity and true energy of 3 weeks without sugar in an intimate, supportive learning environment.  Join me.  

 

RESTART® Sugar Detox and Nutritional Education Series

Choose from 2 upcoming class series:

Boise (North End)
5 Thursday evenings, 6:30-8pm
Jan 19th – Feb 16th

Meridian (Boise Food Co-op, Eagle Rd.)
5 Saturday mornings, 10–11:30am
Jan 21st – Feb 18th

$150 covers 5 weekly classes + materials
(only $127.50 for the first three to sign up!)

Registration is limited to 10 participants in each class.

Learn more, read testimonials, and register here.


 Coconut-milk Peppermint Hot Chocolate

(Inspired by recipe at http://www.asaucykitchen.com/2316/)

Ingredients
1 can full-fat coconut milk
3 Tblsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Tblsp maple syrup
½ tsp mint extract
Optional:
Coconut whipped cream+
Sprinkle of cinnamon

Instructions
Heat all ingredients (except for optional whipped cream & cinnamon) in a saucepot, stirring with whisk until melted and smooth.
Pour into mugs* and sprinkle top with cinnamon if desired.*You may wish to add ¼ – 1/3 cup filtered water to thin out the milk – it’s very thick and dense!

 

Coconut whipped cream:
  1. Place a can of full-fat coconut milk in the fridge for 24+ hours
  2. Turn the can upside down, open it, and pour off the coconut water into a container to save for later (makes great smoothies or use in place of water when baking)
  3. Scoop out the thick, hardened cream layer into a chilled mixing bowl.  Whip with electric mixer for 1 minute.
  4. Add 1 tsp maple syrup and ½ tsp vanilla extract.
  5. Continue whipping until peaks form.  Enjoy!

 

 

Five Signs of Adrenal Fatigue + 5 Tools for Recovery

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As we move more deeply into Autumn, the season of increasing darkness, we often begin to feel tired. This is completely natural. The active, energetic outflow of energy that characterizes Summer has shifted to a slower, quieter, more inward-focused energy that entices us to cozy up. Unfortunately, many of us don’t take nature’s cue, and continue at the same quick pace. At a time when we should be sleeping more, cooking and eating soups and stews and casseroles, and declining at least some of our social invitations (and the alcohol and sweets that go with them) so that we can honor our desire to turn inward, we keep going, going, going…

Sometimes when we honor that feeling of fatigue and pull back just a bit on our energy output, we crash. You’ve probably felt this before – you designate a whole day to restful recovery, and instead of feeling better, you get a horrible cold, or just seem to lose all your energy. If this experience lasts more than a few weeks, you likely are experiencing Adrenal Fatigue.

Five Common Signs of Adrenal Fatigue

1. You do not feel refreshed by sleep – no matter how much you get. You’re tired all the time and yet somehow seem not to be able to fall asleep at night.

2. Daily tasks seem to require an increased effort, and everything seems more stressful.

3. It takes you longer to recover from illness or injuries – it seems like you’re always sick.

4. You get dizzy when you stand up quickly.

5. You can’t seem to keep your thoughts straight and your memory is less accurate – some call this “brain fog”.

Do you experience any of the above symptoms? If so, your adrenal glands are in need of some tender loving care! 

Among other important jobs, our adrenal glands produce the hormone Cortisol – known as our stress hormone. In addition to regulating our reactions to stressors, cortisol also regulates our blood sugar, assists the body in reducing inflammation, tones the tissues of our heart and blood vessels, and manages our immune responses. Our adrenal glands and cortisol work hard for us every day, but if we ask too much of them, then the effects of high cortisol in our body can be damaging in the long term.

Five Things you can do to Nourish your Adrenal Glands

1. Start off with a breakfast packed with protein and healthy fats. Trade in the conventional choices of cereal, bagel, orange juice, or a fruit smoothie (can you say “sugar crash”?) for long-term energy providers like eggs, sausage, and vegetables sautéed in butter or coconut oil.

2. Eat meals at regular intervals. Do not skip meals, or wait until you are ravenously hungry to eat. This sets you up for a blood-sugar roller coaster and makes it less likely you’ll feel replenished after a meal.

3. Replace coffee and other stimulants with mineral-dense snacks like nuts, dried seaweed, or a mug of warm broth. Stimulants artificially increase the activity of the adrenal glands – asking them to work harder.

4. Identify the stressors in your life and take action to remove some of them. Stressors can be anything from chemicals in your personal care products, food sensitivities, undiagnosed infections, or people who pull energy from you each time you interact.

5. Sleep more. Build a healthy pattern of respecting your body’s need for sleep. Go to bed by 10pm each night. Limit your access to screens (tv, computer, phone, tablet) after 8pm. Do not ride the second wave of energy late into the night!

Bonus tip!
6. Move your body, spend time in Nature, and smile. Feeling relaxed and supported reduces cortisol output. Moderate exercise is the key – walking and yoga are my favorites. These activities can be combined for an even greater effect!


COME JOIN ME at my workshop THIS THURSDAY in Boise:

Functional Nutrition of Adrenal Fatigue and Stress Reduction 
This Thursday, November 10th from 6-8pm at Boise Women’s Health and Birth Center (1502 W. Franklin St., Boise). 
$15/person or $25/couple
Registration is limited – call 639-2700 to reserve your spot!


Bacon & Egg Breakfast Muffins

 

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These muffins are a great option for quick mornings when you don’t have time to cook.  They freeze well too, so make a big batch and have them available when you need them.  I love to bring these along when I travel (frozen, in my luggage), if I know I’ll have a fridge and microwave in my hotel room.  I know I’ll get a good start to my day with my own home-cooked breakfast!

PREP TIME: 10 minutes
COOK TIME: ~20 minutes
YIELD: 6 egg muffins

Basic Ingredients:
  • 1/2 lb bacon, cooked and chopped  (sausage works great here, if you prefer)
  • 6 large eggs, whisked
  • ~3 tblsp milk, half&half, heavy cream, or coconut milk/cream
  • sea salt & black pepper to taste
Optional Ingredients* (add any or all to personalize to taste):
  • 2 tblsp pesto, or chopped fresh basil
  • 1 c veggies (mix and match): mushrooms, bell peppers, zucchini, etc. (chopped and sautéed in butter or coconut oil)
  • ¼ c onions (chopped and sautéed in butter or coconut oil)
  • 1 c spinach (defrosted frozen, or wilted fresh)
  • ½ tsp dried thyme, rosemary, oregano, or any mix of herbs you like
  • ½ c shredded cheese (any kind – cheddar is especially yummy)
Preparation:
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Prepare muffin tins:  either brush liberally with coconut oil or insert parchment paper liners – these guys tend to stick!
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the eggs.  Add liquid, chopped bacon, salt and pepper, and any other ingredients you wish to add.
  4. Pour the egg mixture into muffin tins to fill them approximately halfway*.
  5. Bake for approximately 15-25 minutes (depending on size) or until the muffins rise and become golden brown around the edges, and a toothpick comes out clean.

* The more optional ingredients you add, the bigger the muffins will be (fill up beyond half-way).    You may want to make more than 6 muffins, or just make them bigger – either should work fine.

Nourish Yourself Through Seasonal Transitions

Greetings, Foodies!

It’s been quite the summer… and quite a bit of time since my last post.   I’ve been busy with my family camping in Idaho, Montana, and Oregon, swimming in ponds and floating down rivers, teaching at music festivals, visiting family, tending our garden, and enjoying a lot of fresh, seasonal food.  What fun things have you been up to this summer?  I’m excited to connect with you again, after a few months’ hiatus.

Here it is, the end of August, and I can feel the beginning of the transition to Autumn here in Boise.  There’s a nip in the morning air, the kids have all headed back to school, and the vendors at the farmer’s market have begun to add to their bounty a variety of winter squash in beautiful baskets.

Are you feeling that same seasonal pull that I’m feeling  — the one that invites you to settle into routines and find a bit more grounding after a summer of spontaneity and travel?  I find myself seeking the ease of familiar patterns (earlier and more consistent bedtimes, here!) and the excitement of establishing new patterns for myself and my family (new school and work schedules, now that my son is a big 1st-grader).

As I talk with friends and clients, it seems that this desire to increase the ease and functionality of our lives dovetails into a renewed focus on self-care and commitment to our health.   For many work-at-home parents, for instance, having the kids back at school opens up space for reflection on the summer and a forward view of the coming Fall and Winter months.   The instinct to prepare, harvest, process, set new goals, and begin working on them is strong.  Is this true for you?  What goals are you setting for yourself?  Do any of them involve food or nutrition?

Our bodies perceive all transition and change as a form of stress.  Stress is not all bad, of course, as it motivates us to find new solutions for things that aren’t working well.  This is just what’s going on physiologically in our bodies during transitions.  Our need for nutrients increases while our desire for nutrient-poor, “comfort” foods like crackers, pastas, and boxed cereal often increases.  The challenge during times of transition is to plan ahead and have lots of fresh, organic, nutrient-dense, seasonal foods available for snacking and meal preparation.  The easiest way to do this (if you don’t have your own garden) is to shop at your local farmer’s market.

Check out the list below of foods that provide excellent nutritional support during times of stress.

  1. Dark, leafy greens.  High in folate and other important minerals that serve as the raw materials and cofactors for neurotransmitter production.
  2. Blackberries and Elderberries (often sold as jam or syrup/tonic).  Rich in antioxidants and bioflavonoids that increase production of dopamine.
  3. Watermelon.  Full of carotenoids including cancer-fighting lycopene and beta-cryptoxanthin, which aids in effective calcium metabolism and bone-building.
  4. Purple eggplant.  Contains anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants that help prevent oxidative damage to cells, especially those of the nervous system and brain.
  5. Fermented foods (like sauerkraut and kombucha).  Increase beneficial gut bacteria and decrease toxicity associated with pathogenic bacteria in the intestines.  Beneficial bacteria in fermented foods generate B Vitamins (well-known for stress support) and Vitamin K2, which is unavailable from any other plant food.
  6. Nuts and Seeds.  Most are a good source of magnesium, which modulates muscular and nervous system relaxation.  Magnesium is drastically depleted from a body during times of stress.
  7. Pastured Beef, Poultry, Eggs, and Liver.  High in quality protein and essential fatty acids, including Omega-3s, which help balance hormones and blood sugar throughout the day and provide consistent energy.  Also a great source of essential vitamins and minerals including iron, zinc, niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, biotin, folic acid and B12.

If you find yourself wishing for support in setting and reaching new goals around food and nutrition, I can help! 

In addition to working in a clinical setting as a Nutritional Therapist, I also offer PERSONALIZED FOOD DISCOVERY TOURS and IN-HOME PANTRY MAKEOVERS.  Whether we meet at your local grocery store or farmer’s market, or you invite me into your own kitchen, I will listen to your goals and food preferences, and offer guidance and education that will help you meet those goals.  Click here for more information on my shopping and in-home services.

If you prefer to learn and experiment in a supportive group environment, would like to check in weekly for an extended period, and are ready to see how great you can feel by changing the way you eat, you belong in my upcoming 5-week RESTART® SUGAR-DETOX NUTRITIONAL CLASS SERIES.  In this class, we take the time to learn first-hand how our bodies interact with food – with units on digestion, blood sugar regulation, and fat metabolism.  Find out more and register here.  Class begins September 8th, so sign up now!

Meanwhile, enjoy your transitions, enjoy seasonally fresh foods, and enjoy your journey to find out What Feeds You.  Be in touch if I can be of service to you.

~Kendy

Trusting The Innate Intelligence Of Our Bodies To Heal

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I recently returned from two weeks in the Sonoran Desert where I participated in a Vision Quest – a carefully-designed set of experiences where my guides and fellow participants co-facilitated a deeper experience of life’s purpose.  After several days of preparation, I entered the desert for 3 days and 3 nights of fasting from food and contact with other humans in order to create a space from the comfortable rhythms of daily life and to open myself up to a deeper connection with the natural world.

As is true for most questers, I did not receive a grand or Earth-shattering vision in the form of a single, life-changing event (as one might expect from a Hollywood movie of such an experience).  However, I did not return empty-hearted.  During my solo time, I experienced an opening of possibilities, a deepening of my ability to observe myself and my relationships, and a strengthening and alignment of my intentions for bringing my unique gifts and skills to my community.  I am empowered not only by these new abilities and strengths, but by the knowledge that they have been with me all along.  It feels as thought I’ve peeled back a few layers of artifice and discovered simple nourishment beneath.

As I shared in a previous post, I have traveled my own journey of chronic illness over the past 15 years.  I entered under the care of scores of doctors and other practitioners, and accumulated a cabinet full of supplements and recommendations as I sought renewed health.  I spent years struggling between the polar experiences of wanting complete control over my own health (i.e. stopping all supplements and appointments) and wanting to surrender my health completely to my current doctor (and take no ownership over any decisions).  Slowly, I began to learn about and experience the benefits of nourishing foods for my health.  A state of being manifested in me that didn’t seem to fall anywhere on that spectrum of polarities.  I had started a journey of empowerment to create true health for myself.

Simple (but oh, so challenging to implement!) changes like choosing a breakfast of eggs and vegetables instead of a bowl of cereal with skim milk and snacking on a chunk of beef jerky instead of crackers or a cookie allowed my body to find it’s balance of blood sugar regulation.  Inflammation decreased.  I began to experience restful nights’ sleep.  I reclaimed my days, which had previously been riddled with necessarily long naps and an inability to confidently make social or work commitments.  I was learning the skills I needed to take care of myself.

However, I had spent nearly 15 years relying on externalized power – expecting someone else to tell me how to get healthy.  I smiled internally, even as I dismayed at future prospects, when each new doctor told me I was a “complex case”.  Somehow I felt excused and redeemed… no wonder I hadn’t figured myself out!  Although I have made exceptional strides toward health in my past 3 years, I sat in circle with my fellow questers just a few weeks ago feeling stuck in my identity as “sick”.

Here’s where I bring the story back to my vision quest.  Three days alone – with no meals, work, or (human) conversations to distract oneself – is a fantastic opportunity to do some digging into a lifetime of assumptions and choices.  I knew I was ready for a new relationship with “my illness”.  I began by telling the whole story (from the very beginning, with every detail – I wasn’t going anywhere!) of my illness to the desert canyon that held me.  As I completed my retelling, I had a very clear realization.  All these years, I have been voluntarily placing my power outside myself, believing that health was a scarce resource.  I am no longer willing to invest in scarcity.  I am not a victim of my own body or my own “confused” endocrine system.  My being has a powerful desire, motivation, and capacity to manifest health if I trust and partner with it by removing obstacles and providing nourishment.

Not only have I found a deep trust in my body, but also in nourishing foods.  There is a tremendous healing power in the plant and animal foods provided by our Living Earth, Gaia, and in learning traditional ways of preparing and cooking these foods.  I am recommitted to a lifestyle that prioritizes time in the garden, farmers markets, and my kitchen – sourcing and preparing real food with traditional knowledge, trust, and love.

This seemingly small frame-shift has made all the difference in the world for me.  I am not so much in control of my health as in relationship to it.  In just the two weeks since my solo fast, I am stronger and more resilient.  Perhaps most importantly, my desires and actions are in alignment; efforts feel minimal and flow is abundant.

To be clear, I am not suggesting that you embark on a 3-day vision fast as a nutritional strategy for better health.  Instead, I tell you my story to encourage you to dig a little (or a lot!) into your assumptions, decisions, and actions.  How might your health or level of stress improve if you reconcile just a few of your deep desires for nourishment with your everyday food choices?  Where might you look or listen to learn more about how to source and prepare foods in a way that truly feeds you and your family?  How might it feel to inhabit your one body and your one life more fully?

I offer myself as a resource and guide for you.  Natural living systems (including our bodies and our foods) and the relationships between them embody limitless power, balance, flow and potential.  Let’s co-create this abundance together.

As far as I’m concerned, one of the most healing foods on the planet is fermented vegetables.  The process of traditional lacto-fermentation encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria that not only make the cabbage easier to digest, but provide an abundance of vitamins and enzymes for the lucky person who eats it.  It’s not the vegetable itself, but the relationship you facilitate between it and the bacteria, Lactobacillis sp., that creates the health benefits.  Most of us do not have a habit of eating foods with this much vitality, though our ancestors ate these foods daily.

Sauerkraut is a simple and versatile example of a fermented vegetable. It is quite simple to prepare, and at its simplest, requires only cabbage, quality salt, and time.  In order to try this recipe, you will need a 1/2 gallon sized canning jar, or a large bowl or crock inside of which you can fit a flat weight to hold the cabbage below the level of the brine during fermentation.  You do not need fancy or expensive equipment for this… just get creative with what’s in your kitchen.  The first few times I made sauerkraut in a jar, I used a ziplock baggie full of my son’s marbles as a weight!

HOMEMADE SAUERKRAUT

PREP TIME:  20 mins

Makes: ~1/2 gallon

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large cabbage head (about 2-3 pounds, cored and finely shredded — food processor works great for this, but you can shred/chop by hand too)
  • 1.5 – 2 tablespoons sea salt or Himalayan rock salt

INSTRUCTIONS

Toss cabbage and salt together in a large mixing bowl and begin to squeeze the cabbage and salt together with your hands, kneading it thoroughly to break up the cellular structure of the shredded cabbage.  You may also use any kitchen tool you have to repeatedly squish or pound the cabbage, achieving the same result.

  1. When the cabbage becomes limp and releases its juice, transfer it to your crock jar.  Pack the salted cabbage into the container as tightly as you can, eliminating air bubbles. A kraut pounder is particularly helpful in packing the cabbage tight within the crock, but you can use a wooden spoon or a clean fist too.
  2. Continue packing the cabbage into the container until the cabbage is completely submerged by liquid. If the cabbage is not fully submerged, mix up a bit of brine (~1 tsp salt per cup filtered water) and pour it in to cover cabbage.
  3. Lay your weight inside the container on top of the cabbage to keep it submerged, and cover loosely. Allow it to sit at room temperature, undisturbed, for at least 1-4 weeks, testing the sauerkraut every few days until it is done to your liking. Transfer to the refrigerator or other cold storage where it should keep for at least 6 months and up to 1 year.
NOTES
If scum appears floating in the brine of your homemade sauerkraut, simply spoon it off. You won’t be able to remove it all, but spoon of what you can and don’t worry about it. The real key to preparing homemade sauerkraut, and any fermented food, is that the solid materials rest below the liquid. Fermentation is an anaerobic process and to expose your ferments to air increases the likelihood that they’ll become contaminated by stray microbes, yeasts and molds.Once you have got the hang of this simple version, begin experimenting with adding herbs and spices.  Two of my favorites are:  1) Garlic powder and mustard seed  and  2) Fresh grated ginger, anise seed, and cardamom.

Attend my Nutrition Class Series at Boise Food Co-op

 

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Come join me at one (or all) of my four upcoming nutrition classes at the Meridian branch of the Boise Food Co-op!  I will be teaching a lunchtime class (Noon – 1p) each of the next 4 Wednesdays (Feb 17, Feb 24, March 2, March 9) and would love to see you there!  Cost is $10 per class for Co-op members, or $12 for non-members.  Attend the whole series for $32 (members) or $40 (non-members).  Topics are as follows:


Feb 17:  The Five Foundations of Nutritional Wellness: How to Build a Healthier Diet for You and Your Family
This introductory workshop will include a short history of the Standard American Diet (SAD), contributions of the Nutritional Pioneers, and how a properly-prepared, nutrient-dense, whole foods diet can bring greater health to you and your family.   In addition to the foods themselves, the five basic building blocks of good nutrition include digestion, blood sugar balance, mineral balance, fatty acid balance, and hydration. 
 
Feb 24:  Be Your Own Best Health Detective: Discover Hidden Food Sensitivities, Investigate Your Options, and Determine the Best Food Combinations for You
In this workshop you will learn about the 4 major essential macronutrients (fats, proteins, carbohydrates, and water) and how to discover which combinations lead to the greatest health and wellbeing for you.  We will introduce the practice of food journaling to systematically examine how we feel after eating, and you will learn how to perform the Coca Pulse Test to look for ‘hidden’ intolerances to particular foods.
 
March 2:  You Are What You Eat… Unless You Can’t Digest It!
Are you curious why you might feel so uncomfortable after those ‘heavy’ meals, or why you never seem to want to eat breakfast in the morning?  Even if this doesn’t describe you, it is likely that you encounter some sort of digestive inefficiency on a regular basis.  In this workshop, you will learn the basic physiology of digestion (how it should work).  You will also learn about what often goes wrong, and how to improve it (and hence, your overall health!) without drugs.  You will leave this workshop with tools to help you feel more comfortable in your body and knowing that what you’re eating is actually nourishing you!
 
March 9:  Stressbusters!:  How to Choose Nourishing Foods that Reduce Your Stress Response
Let’s learn together how our bodies define “stress”.  We’ll also look at how an accumulation of common everyday stresses creates nutrient deficiencies in our bodies, and how those resulting nutrient deficiencies then worsen the stress response.  You will leave this workshop with a new perspective and knowledge about stress, and a set of tools to help you get off the downward spiral of stress and nutrient depletion.

 

The Superfood Series Part 1: 5 Health Benefits of Coconut

 

Coconut palms

The Superfood Series: Part 1

5 Health Benefits of Coconut

 

Have you jumped on the ‘coconut oil’ bandwagon yet?  I’m normally not one to recommend that someone ‘join the crowd’ (I like to celebrate our differences more than encourage uniformity), but in the case of all things coconut, I’m going to recommend just that. 
 
Coconut is a superfood.  It is sweet without being high in sugar, full of healthy fatty acids that confer a number of health benefits, and is available in forms as diverse as cooking oil, snacking flakes, coconut flour (a gluten-free, grain-free alternative to wheat), and even coconut water (a refreshing and mineral-rich drink).  Let’s take a look at some of the amazing health benefits of this simple, tropical plant.  Coconut has been scientifically shown to:

 

  1. Improve heart health.   The fats in coconut are predominantly Medium Chain Fatty Acids (MCFA), which have been shown to help normalize blood cholesterol levels and lower the risk of atherosclerosis (compared to individuals who eat mostly Long Chain Fatty Acids, the most common in the Standard American Diet).
 
  1. Reduce sweet cravings while tasting sweet itself.   Coconut ‘sugar’ has a very low glycemic index of 35 (compared to 55-83 for honey or 65-100 for sugar), and so does not trigger the pancreas to release high levels of insulin the way other sugars do.  The healthy fats in coconut slow down the absorption of glucose (from other foods eaten at the same time) into the blood, thereby reducing common hypoglycemic sugar cravings.
 
  1. Improves digestion.  The fatty acids in coconut increase the absorption of critical fat-soluble vitamins such as A, K, D, and E.  The MCFAs in coconut are also well studied for their anti-inflammatory effects in the digestive tract; chronic inflammation of the tissues of the small intestine leads to intestinal permeability (or “leaky-gut”), spurring undiagnosed food intolerances and numerous health complaints including but not limited to fatigue, joint pain, migraines, and skin problems.
 
  1. Increase energy expenditure and reduce hunger, helping to burn fat.  MCFAs are metabolized differently than other fatty acids; after absorption in the small intestine, they travel directly to the liver for use as energy (and are not stored in adipose tissues as fat).  Compared to carbohydrates, fats produce a long-burning energy for the body; when healthy fats are included with each meal, most people find their desire for between-meal snacks significantly decreases.
 
  1. Support the immune system.  Approximately 50% of the fatty acids in coconut are 12-carbon Lauric Acid, which is the predominant fatty acid found in mother’s milk.  Lauric Acid is a proven anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral, and anti-parasitic substance.  For example, lauric acid can kill both the bacteria Staphylococcus Aureus (a dangerous pathogen), and the yeast Candida albicans (a common source of yeast infections).

If you are not currently enjoying coconut and wonder how best to incorporate it in your diet, I suggest you begin with coconut oil.  Be sure to buy organic, virgin coconut oil (available at health food stores, Trader Joe’s, and in huge containers at Costco), and begin by using it as a cooking oil in your frying pan.  Unrefined coconut oil is flavorful, so start off with it in recipes that would benefit from a sweeter flavor profile; for example, Asian-inspired stir-fries are super with coconut oil.  Coconut oil is also excellent for baking – any recipe that calls for vegetable oil or shortening will taste even better (and be so much healthier – tune into future posts for why you should permanently ditch all veggie oil and shortenings!) if you trade in an equal amount of coconut oil. 
 
Another great and easy way to add coconut to your diet is canned coconut milk or coconut cream (both available at Trader Joe’s and health food stores).  Use instead of cow milk or cream for a sweet, tropical, non-dairy version of your favorite recipe.  Here’s one of my family’s favorite desserts (we eat very few desserts, so it’s a treat).  My son loves how chocolatey it is, and I love knowing that he’s eating a super healthy food, even if it is masquerading as dessert!

Chocolate Mousse

 

5-Minute No-Bake Chocolate Mousse Pudding

Wow your sweetheart with this decadent and fancy dessert (and don’t tell her it only took you 5-minutes to make!).

Ingredients:
1 can coconut cream
~¼ cup organic unsweetened cocoa powder (use a bit more for a darker chocolate)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. sea/rock salt
Sweetener of choice (I recommend maple or honey) to taste
Directions:
Combine all ingredients except the sweetener.  Using an immersion blender or small electric mixer, mix until well blended.  Alternate tasting the pudding and adding a bit of sweetener until you get the sweetness just right – don’t overdo it!  Finish by blending more until pudding is light and airy, and peaks begin to form.  Pass out the spoons and dig in! 
 
Left-overs (if there are any!) can be put in the fridge, and enjoyed at a later time in an almost-ice-cream consistency.

 

 

Improve Your Digestion by Sharing Soup With Your Friends

My family recently invited a few other families over on a weekend evening to share soup. It was a simple gathering as far as food went; each family brought a pot of soup, someone brought some People Eating Soupfreshly made bread, and we shared it all. None of the soups had taken very long to make, yet they were created in our own kitchens with fresh ingredients, and were offered up to the group with generous hearts. While we caught up with each others’ lives and told stories of our children’s antics, we enjoyed the diverse flavors, asked about how each soup was made, and took pleasure in our warm, full bellies. It was truly a relaxing and nourishing evening.

The fact that I felt more well-nourished that night than other recent nights is not simply a consequence of eating good, homemade food (though that always helps). Even more important – my digestion was working optimally. Being relaxed and feeling safe (scientifically known as the parasympathetic state of the nervous system) while eating are paramount for effective digestion.brain digestion

Digestion actually begins in the brain – when we smell, see, or even think about food, hormones are sent down to our mouth and stomach to get the digestive juices flowing. Surely you’ve experienced the mouth-watering, tummy-growling anticipation of a meal about to be served… that’s the beginning of a well-digested meal! When digestion goes well in the mouth (yes, saliva plays a key
role) and stomach, everything south of there tends to flow smoothly too.

Have you ever tried to eat lunch in a flash while driving your car through traffic, hoping to get to your next activity on time? How did that meal sit for you? I’m going to guess it wasn’t optimal. Maybe you felt like you had a lead weight in your stomach, had heartburn a little later, and experienced more gas than usual that night and the next morning. You were in a sympathetic nervous system state (“fight or flight”) while eating that meal, and your body was not prioritizing digestion, so your food just sat there…

Here’s my advice for you. Next time you eat, set yourself up for success. Sit down at a table, preferably with someone who’s company you enjoy, take 3 deep breaths and maybe even flash a smile across your face before you begin eating. Appreciate the food on your plate and eat it with awareness (i.e. take the time to chew each bite). When you finish, take three more deep breaths and enjoy the feeling of being nourished. Better yet, make a big pot of soup and invite some friends over to share it. Let me know how it goes – I think it’s gonna be good.


 

Mushroom Cauliflower Chicken Soup (non-dairy)

This is the soup I made for our friends. I used turkey stock and turkey meat (frozen from thanksgiving leftovers) and it came out wonderfully, but you could easily shift toward a deeper flavor with beef stock and stew meat, or go vegetarian by using veggie broth and omitting the meat.

shroom soup

 

Ingredients:

3 cups cauliflower florets (fresh or frozen)

4-5 Tblsp coconut oil (split)

¼ tsp sea salt

¼ tsp. fresh ground pepper

2 medium yellow onions

2 cloves garlic

3-4 cups sliced brown mushrooms (crimini and shitake are yummy together)

1 tsp Thyme, dried

3-4 cups meat broth/stock (chicken, turkey, beef all taste great!)

1 can coconut milk

2 cups cooked chicken or turkey

 

Directions:

Spread the cauliflower florets on a baking pan and coat with 2-3 Tblsp melted coconut oil and salt and pepper. Roast in 400 degree oven for 20-30 minutes, until cauliflower is just turning golden brown. Meanwhile, heat 2-3 Tblsp coconut oil in large saucepan over medium heat and add onions, mushrooms, and thyme. When onions are transluscent (about 10 minutes), mix in stock, cauliflower, and coconut milk. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally. Use an immersion blender or pour into a blender to blend in batches.  I like to leave it somewhat chunky.  Stir in cooked chicken and then remove from heat. Serve and enjoy!

Why I named my practice: “What Feeds Me”

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The name I chose for my nutritional practice arose for me almost 10 years prior to my training in nutritional therapy. In fact, the phrase, “What Feeds Me?” has been on the wall of my home (even through a number of moves across the country and back) since I burned the words onto a piece of bark with a magnifying glass as a young adult. The intense power of the sun that afternoon guided my creation of a piece of art that has since served as a daily reminder of my most important life priority: to claim responsibility for nourishing myself.

WhatFeedsMeAt the time in my life when this priority arose, I was about a year and a half into a journey of unexpected, unexplained, deep and pervasive fatigue. My life had changed dramatically from that of a high-achieving always-moving, academic and athlete to one filled with pain, fear, sadness, disappointment, and a relentless stream of doctor visits. I began to identify myself through my illness, and moved through disbelief, anger, and frustration at not finding the help I expected and believed I deserved from the medical establishment. Instead of getting answers or effective treatments, I received comments like “your labs are all normal” and recommendations for support groups to “learn how to cope”.

I began to search for answers outside of conventional Western medicine, and I discovered a whole world of healing modalities previously unknown to me: acupuncture, cranio-sacral therapy, naturopathy, herbalism, osteopathy, chiropractic, and somatic psychology (among others).   As I engaged with these practitioners (and read everything I could get my hands on), a common theme began to arise: my health is my responsibility. I was being asked to participate in my own healing – by observing, evaluating, and ultimately changing my thought patterns and behaviors. I had never been asked to do this by a conventional doctor. In fact, the Western Medical paradigm demands exactly the opposite: the “patient” (think about the power of that word) should submit to the expertise of the doctor and follow orders, with unquestioning trust that the information used by the doctor to formulate the diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment (often after a 15 minute exam!) is complete, objective, and well-suited to the patient’s situation. No wonder so many people are chronically ill in our society today – their health (or lack thereof) is not their own!

It has taken me many years to fully embrace this monumental paradigm shift… I’m still working on it, in fact. In the beginning, assuming responsibility for my own health was an overwhelming burden – scary and lonely. I often felt like I was in over my head. As time passed, I learned the powerful skills of patience, observation, and self-forgiveness. I learned to ask myself the question: “What Feeds Me?” and then listen deeply and compassionately to the answers that arose. I learned to rest when I desired it (instead of my more familiar ‘pushing through’), to end relationships with people whose selfish or demanding energies drained me, and yes, I learned to eat differently.

Real change takes time… lots of time. Sugar was the first to go; at least 2 years passed between my first observation that eating sugar clearly increased my pain and fatigue and the adoption of long-term habits of avoidance in my food choices. Then I began trading my morning bowl of boxed cereal for freshly-made, cooked whole grains with nuts and fruit. My taste buds started to change, and I found that I was craving vegetables! Then I learned how to roast a whole chicken… As the food experiments and consequential improvements in my health continued, I began to feel a shift from the burden of responsibility to the gift of empowerment. I felt the power and motivation of possibility.

I designed personal practices to enhance my skills of introspection and observation and sought out and connected with others who shared my excitement for creating personal change. Community is critical. Though it is an empowering and life-affirming path, change is difficult! We all need help and encouragement on this journey – it is enlivening to both lend and receive support. My journey is not complete (and never will be as long as I’m alive), but I’ve learned a lot along the way that I would love to share with you.

swimming lakeAnd so I come full-circle to “What Feeds Me Nutritional Wellness”. My work is not just about recommending diet changes or supplement protocols. It goes much deeper. It’s about encouraging people to dip their toes into the stream of possibility, patiently guiding them in the skills of floating on their own, and hopefully then, celebrating with them as they learn to swim down the river of empowerment, with an ever stronger stroke. I’ve been there myself and have deep gratitude for those who led me to the water and encouraged me to wade in.

So… come on in! The water’s fine!    Let’s discover together What Feeds You.

RESTART 5-week Sugar Detox Class to begin in Boise in mid-January

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I am super excited to be offering  a 5-week nutrition class called The RESTART Program — part nutritional education, part sugar detox, and part support group — an empowering combination!  Check out the website for more information:  http://www.therestartprogram.com.

I am currently solidifying the class location and time details, and will post them as soon as they are available.   Let me know if you are interested in attending the class, and I will contact you personally when registration opens!