Beating Seasonal Affective Disorder

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Fall begins the onset of shorter days and longer nights – which means our bodies receive less light. We also wake up and go to sleep to cooler temperatures. Because of these seasonal changes, many people experience changes in energy, mood swings and sleep patterns, especially here in the Northwest.

These changes can be positive or negative, or a combination. Negative changes in the way we feel due to the change of seasons is called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and about 10 to 20 percent of people are affected – ranging from mild to severe cases. But did you know that the foods you eat (or don’t eat) as well as maintaining other healthy lifestyle factors can help you overcome symptoms of SAD?

If you’d like to learn more about how the change of seasons may affect you, take the assessment below, designed to increase your self-awareness and understanding. While none of us can control Mother Nature, we can learn more about how we are affected by seasonal changes and what to do to overcome symptoms of SAD.

Take the Seasonal Changes Assessment 
The steps below will help you begin to assess how the change of seasons may be affecting three areas of your life: your sleep, energy and mood. Important: If your answers show a downward trend, please talk to your doctor, health coach or trusted friend about how Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) may be affecting you.

Sleep Assessment: This month, check in with yourself each morning: How do you feel when you wake up?

  1. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being “Exhausted” and 5 being “Excellent,” how would you rate how well-rested you are? 
  2. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being “Takes a Very Long Time” and 5 being “Very Easily” how would you rate how easily you fall asleep? 
  3. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being “I Wake Up Very Frequently” and 5 being “I Don’t Wake Until Morning,” how would you rate how well you stayasleep? 
  4. As October marches on (and the days get shorter), is it harder for you to get out of bed? (Yes or No?)
  5. Are you hitting the snooze button more often? (Yes or No?)
  6. Or do you feel about the same, or even better, upon waking up? (Same or better?)

Physical Energy Assessment:

  1. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being “Excellent,” and 1 being “Very Low,” how would you rate your energy level mid-morning? 
  2. On the same scale, how would you rate your energy level in the late afternoon? 
  3. As the month goes on, do you find it easier or more difficult to exercise or be physically active? (Easier/More Difficult?) 
  4. As the month goes on, do you find yourself being more or less productive at work or home? (More or Less?)

Mood Assessment: Once in the morning and once in the evening, answer these questions with a simple “more” or “less:”

  1. Do you find yourself more or less interested in your work, social happenings and/or family activities? 
  2. Do you find yourself more or less patient with others and yourself? 
  3. Do you find yourself feeling more or less happiness in your relationships?

Now that you know more about seasonal affects, what can you do? 
Do your answers show a “down” trend? This may be an indication that you are sensitive to or negatively affected by seasonal changes. Following are some simple actions that can help minimize these effects.

• Get outside! Less daylight in the fall and winter months causes some people to become more lethargic, irritable, and/or depressed. This month, focus on getting more daylight by shifting your exercise or recreational activities to the outdoors, at least 15 minutes a day. Go for a walk; ride a bike; chase after your pets or kids – it doesn’t have to be strenuous exercise. A consistent combination of daylight and physical activity can significantly improve your energy and mood.

• Prep for sleep. Because nighttime comes earlier during fall and winter, it can disrupt your circadian cycle and the summer sleep rhythm you've been used to. It’s more important than ever to turn off all electronics one to two hours before you turn in. Fall is also a great time to practice sleep-specific meditation. My new favorite is Meditainment. It’s free and lasts 21 minutes. (I always fall asleep before it finishes!)

• Eat More Omega-3s. What we eat can also affect how susceptible we are to “fall blahs” and “winter blues.” Certain foods can zap our energy, our motivation to exercise, and our good mood. Omega 3 fatty acids can help combat these symptoms. Excellent food sources of Omega 3 fatty acids include salmon, chia seeds, walnuts, and more.

Supplement with High Quality Vitamin D. According to this article from Harvard Medical School, this is especially crucial if you live in a rainy climate like Seattle or if you live at a latitude above 37 degrees North. For you here on the West coast, that's anywhere from San Francisco North. My personal favorite is Vitamin D3 Complete by Allergy Research Group since it includes the important co-factors Vitamin A and K. If you have darker skin you need more Vitamin D that someone with a pale complexion since your natural pigment makes it harder for the sun to penetrate the dermis.

• Keep a Food Diary. A recent study found that gluten and dairy may contribute to feelings of depression or mood swings in people who are allergic or sensitive to these foods. If you have increased feelings of sadness during the fall season, try reducing or eliminating dairy and gluten from your diet and see if your outlook or mood improves. This is, of course, easier said than done, but it just takes a little getting used to and I can help you with this.

• Focus on the Food Culprits. It’s certainly not NEW news that overindulging in alcohol and sugar-laden foods can make you feel sluggish the next day. But did you know they can also increase feelings of depression? If you are negatively affected by the seasonal changes, consider eliminating sugar and alcohol consumption and test how you feel. To test if alcohol and/or sugar are contributing to your seasonal symptoms, experts suggest eliminating them for 21 to 23 days. Why three weeks? Because our bodies release antibodies to fight sensitivities and allergies, and it takes 21 to 23 days for the antibody reaction to dissipate and renew.

Need some extra support this season? I can support you with a results-oriented Wellness program. Schedule a free Coffee Talk session and let's talk!

Finally! Non-Toxic Teeth Whitening

As a former coffee addict and current tea lover, my teeth are not as white as I'd like them to be. I've tried using the fancy bleaching trays from the dentist but the bleaching paste makes my teeth super sensitive and I'm sure it has all kinds of nasty chemicals that I don't want to ingest. So I went on a quest to find a non-toxic teeth whitening options and I discovered activated charcoal powder.

There are lots of brands out there, but I tried this one that uses organic activated charcoal and so far I'm impressed! I know it seems crazy to brush your teeth with black powder to make them whiter, but trust me, it works. I am kicking myself for not taking before and after pictures so I can show you the difference!

There has been some controversy as to whether or not the charcoal can damage teeth, but it doesn't bind to minerals so it shouldn't damage your enamel. That said, I wouldn't use it more than 2-3 times a week until your teeth look naturally white (we're not going for glow-in-the-dark here), and it's a good idea to use a soft or extra soft toothbrush to apply it. The powder I bought is extremely fine and I recommend steering clear any course powders to avoid excess abrasion. If you already have severe acid erosion or enamel damage you should consult with your dentist before using any type of whitening product. 

Keep in mind that the powder can stain clothing and that you'll need to brush your teeth with your regular toothpaste after using the activated charcoal to remove any black residue. I should also mention that it only removes surface stains from things like coffee, tea and red wine, and will not remove discoloration from antibiotics or other dental issues.

Do you have a natural trick for whitening your teeth or have you tried activated charcoal powder? Comment below and share.

Beating Seasonal Allergies Naturally

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Do you have a love / hate relationship with spring? Many of my clients do, because while the sun may be shining more, seasonal allergies are also kicking in making many of us miserable with hay fever, itchy skin and other nasty symptoms. This year seems to be particularly rough so far so I'm sharing my favorite non-toxic, side effect free remedies with you to help you beat allergy season without harmful or habit forming drugs.

So many people have come to rely on antihistamine drugs to control their allergy symptoms, but did you know that antihistamines can cause all kinds of nasty side effects including weight gain? Yeah, no thanks!

The good news is that there are effective natural remedies that can help keep your symptoms in check so you can get outside and enjoy the nice weather without fear of being miserable. Here is my personal combination of remedies that I've found to be more effective than pharmaceuticals. Everyone is different so these may not work for you, but I encourage you to try some different combinations to see what your body responds to best.

1. Nasal Spray - A good homeopathic nasal spray works in two ways; first it helps flush particles out of your nasal passages while keeping them moist and alleviating congestion, and second it helps regulate the body's response to allergens. I love the BioAllers Sinus & Allergy Nasal Spray, but if you're someone who's skeptical of anything that isn't mainstream, you might try the Zicam Allergy Relief Nasal Gel.

2. An Herbal Antihistamine - My personal go-to is HistaEze by Designs for Health, which contains a combination of guduchi (tinospora cordifolia), nettle leaf, quercetin, sodium bicarbonate and Vitamin C. Natural D-Hist by Ortho Molecular is also an effective formula and is carried locally at Pharmaca.

3. Rooibos Tea and Stinging Nettle Tea - Fresh nettles aren't always available but at this time of year you can find them in local farmer's markets here in the Northwest and they grow plentifully in this area if you're up for doing a little foraging. I simply steep 2 tablespoons of crushed dried leaves in boiling water for 5-10 minutes, and when I can't find fresh nettles, I buy the Traditional Medicinals Nettle Leaf Tea. My stinging nettle soup is another great way to enjoy this wonderful medicinal herb.

Rooibos tea is another great option since it is rich in the bioflavonoids quercetin and ruin which block histamine release. This is also a great option if you're pregnant since nettles are not recommended for pregnant or nursing women. My favorites are the Organic Double Red Rooibos Tea by Republic of Tea and Numi Organic Rooibos Tea. Rooibos tea is delicious hot or iced and if you like it sweet, try adding a little vanilla stevia, monk fruit, or local honey which some people find helpful for pollen allergies.

Using this trifecta of natural remedies has been a life saver for me and I've found it much more effective than the Allegra or Zyrtec I used to take. And the best part is that I don't have to deal with the nasty side effects those drugs had on me. I hope you'll give these remedies a try. Just keep in mind that I'm not a doctor and this is not medical advice, so you shouldn't stop or change any medications or treatments recommended by your health practitioner.

I'd love to hear from you! Did you try any of these remedies and what have yo found that works for you?

7 Top Tips for a Sound Sleep

Do you sometimes have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep? Are you waking up in the middle of the night or before your alarm goes off? It’s important for you to understand what’s causing your sleep struggles, and use tips like the ones below to prepare for a restful night.

Getting enough sleep has a positive domino effect on our health; our bodies are in restore and rejuvenation mode while we’re sleeping; this can help us heal from illnesses and reduce aches and pains in our joints or muscles, for example. Deep sleep also helps reduce stress and anxiety, so we have more energy the next day.

And speaking of the next day, have you ever noticed that you’re hungrier when you’re tired? Research shows our appetite can increase up to 25% when we’re feeling exhausted, and many of us often turn to caffeine or sugar (or both) to give us a boost of energy. And that begins a roller-coaster of bursts of energy followed by energy crashes. That’s right – not getting enough sleep can actually cause us to gain weight or make it harder for us to lose weight!

Tonight, why not start some of these healthy sleep rituals?

1. Give yourself a bedtime. What’s your bedtime? Just like kids, we benefit when we have a consistent sleep time, because our bodies anticipate and respond to routine.

2. Close the kitchen. Make your last meal two to three hours before bedtime, so your body has a chance to digest the food. Digestion is a lot of physical activity – not what you want to be doing while you sleep! Ideally you should give your body a 12-hour break between dinner and breakfast.

3. Shut down electronics 30 minutes before bedtime. Turn off the TV, the laptop, the tablet, the Xbox, your smartphone… did I miss anything? According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), all of these devices can hinder your ability to sleep. One reason, explains the NSF, is that these devices emit blue light, “which our brains interpret as daylight. Blue light actually suppresses melatonin, a hormone that supports circadian rhythm and that should begin to increase when you are preparing for sleep.” So when you’re on your tablet or phone at night, your brain thinks it’s daytime, making it harder to fall asleep.

4. Set your smartphone to the “do not disturb” setting. In addition to the blue light, sending nighttime emails, scrolling through Facebook or posting on Instagram right before bedtime might be stressing you out or making your mind race. You’re not alone – NSF research shows that 71 percent of people sleep either holding their smartphone (!), having it in bed with them, or having it on their nightstand. Instead, place your smartphone where it is not within arm’s reach, and set it on airplane mode or “do not disturb” for the seven to eight hours of sleep you should be getting. Note: if you don’t want to miss a call from certain people – say you have elderly parents or kids at college -- you can set your smartphone to allow calls and texts from select contacts. Everything else can wait until morning!

5. Create a relaxing ritual. Very few people fall asleep the minute their head hits the pillow. Instead, you may want to create some rituals that tell your body you’re shutting down for the night. Try soaking in a warm bath with organic lavender essential oil. You can also listen to some relaxing music or do some deep breathing, restorative yoga, and/or meditation. My favorite meditation app is Headspace, and it’s free. Try the 10-minute meditations to help you relax before bedtime.

6. Dark = Deep. How many little electronic lights are glowing in your bedroom once the lamps and overhead lights are off? The darker you can make your room, the more restorative your sleep can be, because the darkness releases the sleep hormone, melatonin. Cover up those little lights with black electric tape or turn them face down or toward the wall. You might also try light-blocking curtains if light streams in from outside.

7. Help your hormones with a sleep mask. If your room is still bright, try wearing a sleep mask. It creates the total darkness our bodies need to release melatonin and get a healthier night’s sleep. I always recommend the softest sleep mask you can find, with natural fibers. It may not be attractive, but if it helps you sleep, you will feel and look your best with more energy. And that’s a beautiful thing! 

I’d love to hear how your sleep improves with these tips, and which ones are most helpful to you. Feel free to share on my Facebook page – just not right before bedtime ;-). Sending you sweet dreams!

Freshen Your Fridge and Prep Like a Pro - Simple Steps to Transform your Kitchen… and Your Health!

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The Tough Part -- Step 1: Pitch and Toss 
If you were going to eat those last few pretzels, you would have by now. Or that last scoop of freezer-burned ice cream. Or that pumpkin pie filling from two Thanksgivings ago. Your pantry, fridge and freezer are not repositories for forgotten foods. Start your spring-cleaning by tossing anything that’s beyond its expiration date. Next, throw away anything that’s been in a storage container all winter. And if you’re taking this time to clean up your daily diet, toss out the temptation. Remember my favorite healthy eating tip: you can’t eat it if it’s not there. Start from the top shelf to the bottom, tossing as you go – in the pantry, the refrigerator and the freezer. If you feel as if you’re being wasteful, consider that you’re actually investing in putting your health first.

The Fun Part – Step 2: Shop, Stock & Splurge
Shop: Two things to know before you go -- don’t shop on an empty stomach, and don’t shop without a list. The best list starts with meal planning, so look ahead and plan your meals for the next few days or even a week. Review the recipes and only put on your list the ingredients you’ll need.

Stock up on the good stuff. Organic foods I always have on hand include: 

  • greens
  • pre-cut veggies
  • organic, pasture-raised eggs
  • coconut/almond/hemp/flax milk
  • organic, pasture-raised/grass-fed meats and poultry
  • salsa
  • hummus
  • quinoa
  • almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • apple cider vinegar
  • avocados
  • bananas (which I peal, break in half and freeze when they start to over ripen, then I use them in my morning smoothies. You can do the same with avocado!)
  • Pre-cut and pre-washed veggies really help reduce my prep time. They may be a little more expensive, but you’re saving time and investing in your health!

Canned or jarred foods I always have on hand include: 

  • garbanzo beans/chickpeas
  • coconut milk 
  • organic vegetable and chicken broth
  • wild Alaskan salmon
  • capers
  • diced green chillies
  • organic diced tomatoes (from glass jars only)

And speaking of saving time, don’t forget your friend the freezer. Many grocery and health food stores carry organic, non-GMO frozen fruits, vegetables, fish, grilled chicken, and more. Having these on hand really reduces your weekly shopping time, daily cooking time, and ensures you always have something healthy to eat.

Splurge: I found that having nice-looking, high-quality storage containers makes prepping and storing my food more convenient and a lot more fun. Plus, glass containers are non-toxic and I can see everything at a glance – no more guessing what’s wrapped in foil or stored in that cloudy container! In fact, put your healthy foods right up front on the shelves of your pantry, fridge and freezer so you “crowd-out” less healthier choices.

The Smart Part -- Step 3: Prep and Package

Preparing healthy and delicious meals in less time just takes a little scheduling. My favorite tip: cook once, eat twice (or more!) This is the best way I know to make mealtime more efficient. You might have heard this referred to as "batch cooking.” Here's what you do:

• Pick a cooking day. Instead of cooking every night, pick a day or two when you'll cook for the week ahead. Make it fun by turning on some good music and getting the whole family involved. Sure, you'll spend a little more time in the kitchen on your cooking day(s), but you'll save an extra few hours the other days (or evenings) of the week!

• Double or triple your recipes when cooking. When you prepare more than you need for one meal, you’ll have plenty to pack for lunches and future dinners. If you’ll have quinoa with a couple of meals this week, cook it in batches. If you bought a head of broccoli or cauliflower, roast or steam it all for the week and use half now, half later. Learn to love leftovers!

• Have it your way. Try different ways to eat the same meals; if you're grilling organic chicken breasts or grass-fed meats, make extra to chop and include in salads or soups. If you're cooking quinoa, make extra and the next day, add some veggies, olive oil and vinegar for a quinoa-based salad – served warm or cold.

• Prepare for the next day tonight. If you pack a lunch, select your favorite mix of leftovers the night before, and pack it in an insulated lunch box. Include everything you'll need to enjoy the meal at work, school, or wherever you'll be for lunch. Don’t forget to grab your lunch box before you head out in the morning!

• Package well. Remember the high-quality storage containers you bought? Use them to store your pre-cut veggies, fruits and leftovers in single-serving or family-sized portions, then freeze or refrigerate them. When you’re ready to prepare a meal, just take out the number of containers you need for the number of people eating with you, warm them up and serve!

When you cook in batches, you’ll begin to find your own favorite tips and short cuts. My clients who have tried this approach say it’s made their lives so much easier!

Honoring the Women Who Got Me Here

March is National Women's History Month and I am so lucky to work in a field where women are leading the charge! There are so many amazing women at the forefront of the nutrition and natural medicine world so this month I want to honor a few of them who have influenced and inspired me and who are sharing their passion and talent to make the world a better place. 

Dr. Brooke Weitz, ND

I met Brooke when she was in medical school and working as a personal trainer. She helped me discover my love for fitness and nutrition and is one of the people who inspired me to go back to school. She is a wonderful friend, a devoted mom and a brilliant doctor whose heart is as beautiful as she is. You can find her practicing Naturopathic Medicine at the ProClub in Bellevue, WA.


Dr. Nicol Giandomenico

This woman is the epitome of brilliant but she's also compassionate, humble, intuitive and beautiful, inside and out. I have the honor of working with Nicki at Sophia Health Institute where I see her transforming the lives of people who have struggled with chronic illness for decades. She has a true "whole person" approach and she has taught me SO SO much about nutrition. She inspires me to continue learning and growing so I can help people reclaim their health by using food as medicine.


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Flo Fleming, LMP, LE

I know it's cliche to feature my mom, but honestly, she is one incredible woman! My mom raised me as a single parent and her life was challenging to say the least. But she busted her butt to give me the best life and guidance possible, and I wasn't the only kid she raised either. I've had several friends both in childhood and as an adult who did not have a strong female presence in their lives, including my two half sisters, who she embraced as her own and supported emotionally and spiritually in any way she could. As a licensed massage therapist and esthetician she introduced me to the world of natural health and encouraged me to pursue my passions. She is a true woman of God whose love and generosity is apparent to everyone who knows her and I am incredibly blessed to have a mother who I adore, both as a parent and as a friend.


Cassandra Sternthall, MFT

Cassie is a Marriage and Family Therapist, EMDR practitioner, a mom, a grandma, a standup paddler and an all-around wonderful person. She has been an influence in my life since I was about 14 when I originally went to see her as a therapist. She guided and supported me through some tough times and has remained a close friend through my adult life, always encouraging me to be my best self. Sometimes in life we are blessed to meet people who become our "chosen family" and she is definitely one of those people.


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Ellen Vernon

Ellen may not be in the natural health field but she is a wellness enthusiast and one of my favorite human beings on earth. Ellen is definitely one of my "chosen family" and her wisdom, compassion and creativity know no bounds. She is one of those people who lights up a room with her infectious laugh and witty humor. She's one of those people you just want to be around all the time, and she always inspires me to try new things and challenge myself in new ways. Her support and encouragement has helped me push to pursue my dreams, both personal and professional and I am so incredibly lucky to have her in my life.


Teachers and Icons

I also want to give a shout out to the women below who although I don't know them personally, have been influential in my personal and professional development. Their grace and wisdom are a constant source of encouragement and they inspire me to strive for excellence, be my best self and help others to do the same.

I encourage you to reach out to the women who have shaped, inspired and supported you to let them know how much they mean to you. We often wait too long to express our gratitude to those who enrich our lives the most, and those people are usually the ones who give more than they get back and may not know how important they have been to us. Women do indeed hold up the sky and we need to hold one another up as well.

Cauliflower Power!

Cauliflower may not have been your first favorite vegetable, but it may become the star of your kitchen after you learn more about its remarkable profile of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals. With its many nutritional benefits, cauliflower is officially a Superfood in addition to being incredibly versatile.

▪ Cauliflower is rich in healthy vitamins and minerals, including beta-carotene, lutein, and vitamins C, E, and K; and folate.
▪ One serving of cauliflower contains 75 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin C.
▪ Cauliflower is a good source of choline, a B vitamin that aids in brain development and may improve cognitive abilities and prevent against age-related memory loss.
▪ Cauliflower is a powerful cancer-fighting food. It contains sulfur-containing chemicals called glucosinolates. During digestion, glucosinolates form the compounds indoles and isothiocyanates. According to the National Cancer Institute, indoles and isothiocyanates (in laboratory tests) have been found to inhibit the development of cancer, including breast, colon, lung, stomach, and bladder cancer.
▪ These compounds also have antiviral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects. (See my recipe that combines cauliflower with turmeric to reduce inflammation!)
▪ Cauliflower is a great source of good fiber – aiding digestion and helping you feel fuller, longer.
▪ Choose a head of cauliflower that’s firm and creamy white – no brown or yellow spots. Heads with green leaves typically indicate that they are fresh.

Cauliflower is also an incredibly versatile veggie and makes a delicious substitute for several empty calorie foods. Instead of mashed potatoes, try making Truffled Cauliflower Mash. Need a comfort food fix? How about making some Cauliflower Shepherd's Pie. You can pulse cauliflower florets in a food processor into small rice sized bits and use it in place of rice or quinoa, and you can even make pizza crust with it. I personally love it simply steamed and drizzled with good extra virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice and sea salt.

If you want a super-versatile veggie that’s fights cancer and memory loss; that’s an anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antibacterial; that aids digestion, detoxification and brain health – then look no further than the mighty cauliflower!

You're Sweet Enough Already...

Do you enjoy a no-sugar-added soda with dinner every night? What about a low-sugar, high protein ‘nutrition bar' after a workout? At the office, are you mindlessly grazing through the low-sugar or no-sugar added cookies? Do you read food labels to see where on the ingredient list sugars are hidden? If you're regularly drawn to sweets- or foods laden with artificial sweeteners-try going without them for a few days and see what happens. Are you having headaches, irritability, cravings, and symptoms that could only be described as withdrawal? Do you find yourself so uncomfortable that you're drawn right back to those same foods? You could be trapped in the vicious cycle of sugar addiction!

Sugar is a carbohydrate, one of the major nutrient groups, but it doesn't provide vitamins, minerals, or even fiber to our diet. Still, it's added to an array of foods, including ketchup, yogurt, cereal, canned soup, some lunch meats, salad dressing, condiments, bread, and so much more. While we require some sugar (glucose) in order to function property, all of this added sugar is harmful to our system.

Sugar's Addictive Qualities

When we ingest sugar, our body generates a response similar to that seen in addictions, which is why we develop cravings for more. It's often called the cocaine of dietary additives and recent studies have shown it to be 8 times more addictive than actual cocaine. Crazy right?

Here's how it works: Sugar -- whether natural, processed or artificial -- enters the bloodstream quickly, causing your blood sugar level to spike. The body recognizes this imbalance and acts to bring blood sugar back to normal. Insulin, a hormone, pushes glucose into the cells to be used for energy. But if you eat a lot of sugar, the body can't keep up. Insulin has to work harder and the body overcompensates, causing blood sugar to drop too low - and your brain reacts. You feel depleted, irritable, and crave more sugar.

Sugar by Any Other Name

Sugar names you might recognize are sucrose (table sugar), fructose (found in fruits, some root veggies, and honey), and lactose (milk sugar). Naturally occurring sugar in fruit and vegetables has a place in a balanced diet. But added sugar, artificial sweetener, and processed ‘natural' sugar like high fructose corn syrup are detrimental to your health.

Eliminate Unhealthy Sugar From Your Diet

Learn where Sugar Hides. On ingredient lists, any words that ends in -ose are sugars.  If they're among the first five items, walk away from it. If sugar is one of the last ingredients on the list, that's a better choice.

Avoid the Fake Stuff. Products containing artificial sweeteners are not a healthy alternative since these sweeteners are highly toxic and arguable more addictive than real sugar. Diet soda, 'fat free' and 'sugar free' candy and cookies are associated with weight gain and cravings, creating a cycle of addiction.

Sip with Awareness. A single can of soda, bottle of juice, flavored water, or Gatorade typically contains nine or more teaspoons of sugar. Four grams of sugar is a teaspoon so keep that in mind when reading nutrition labels.

Make Sweet Substitutions. Look for snacks labeled 'no added sugar' or 'unsweetened.' Use canned foods packed in water instead of juice or syrup. When baking, swap table sugar with stevia, monk fruit, applesauce, date paste, or molasses. Adding cinnamon or cacao powder is a great way to sprinkle flavor onto yogurt, oatmeal, or coffee. Opt for honey, maple syrup or coconut palm sugar over other processed sugars.

Reprogram your taste for sugar slowly. If you put two sugar packets in your coffee, cut back in half-packet increments and keep the sugar bowl off the kitchen table. Small steps add up to sweet success!

Cinnamon: Nature's Sweet Herb

Naturally sweet cinnamon (cinnamomum verum) revives our senses with its wonderful aroma and can boost our health with its medicinal properties. Cinnamon was first used in China (2700 B.C.) to treat fever, digestive, and menstrual problems, and Indian healers used cinnamon to treat gastrointestinal complaints, as well as sore throat and cough. Today, modern herbalists continue to use the herb for digestive issues, chest congestion and colds/flu, but they've also discovered it helps ease arthritis pain, as well as manage blood sugar levels.

Because cinnamon reduces the rate at which glucose enters the bloodstream, it can help prevent blood sugar spikes. This is hopeful news for some people with Type 2 diabetes, but more studies need to be done around this issue. It appears that cinnamon may work better in people whose diabetes is poorly managed as compared to those who have good management of their condition. As a medicinal supplement, different people respond to different amounts -- it's not just a matter of sprinkling a teaspoon on your oatmeal. Cinnamon may also change the way some medications work, so it's important to talk to your doc before adding cinnamon to your supplement regimen.

Cinnamon is available ground, in capsule form, and as a tea and there are many species of cinnamon. Be aware that typical grocery store cinnamon (‘the cassia cinnamons') contains coumarin, which, in high amounts, can be harmful to the liver. Ceylon Cinnamon has lower levels of coumarin, which makes it a better choice for most people, and regardless of species, I recommend buying organic cinnamon only.

If you're someone like me who likes some sweetness in their coffee or tea, try using less sugar and adding some cinnamon. You may be surprised at how satisfying and naturally sweet it it.

References:

  • Cleveland Clinic: Cinnamon. Accessed 2 Dec 2016: http://www.clevelandclinicwellness.com/Features/Pages/cinnamon-pro-con.aspx
  • Examine.com: Cinnamon Essential Benefits, Effects & Information. Accessed 2 Dec 2016: https://examine.com/supplements/cinnamon/
  • World's Healthiest Foods: Cinnamon (ground) http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?dbid=68&tname=foodspice
  • Johannes, L. Little bit of Spice for Health, but Which One? The Wall Street Journal (online, 2014, Oct.) Accessed 4 Dec 2016: http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702303376904579135502891970942
  • Hlebowicz, J. et al., 'Effect of cinnamon on postprandial blood glucose, gastric emptying, and satiety in healthy subjects.' Am J Clin Nutr. (2007 Jun) 85:6,1552-6. Accessed 4 Dec 2016: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/85/6/1552.long (full text)
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2016 Holiday Gift Guide for the Wellness Enthusiast in Your Life

JOW 2016 Holiday Gift Guide

  1. For Him: Beard Tonic Sampler by Herbivore Botanicals $22 - These highly nourishing, non-toxic oil based beard tonics from Seattle's own Herbivore Botanicals combine natural plant oils that promote a healthier looking beard while moisturizing the skin beneath. 

  2. Palo Santo Myst Bad Vibe Killer by Anima Mundi Herbals $18 - A potent anti-bacterial and anti-microbial, Palo Santo can help relieve sickness and expel undesirable microbes from your immediate space.

  3. Athleta Yoga Mat Tote $48 - This bag makes you look chic even when you're all sweaty after yoga.

  4. Suji Red Lip Whip & Lip Buff Duo $37 - I am OBSESSED with Seattle-based Kari Gran's Lip Whips and you will be too. This gorgeous, non-toxic, moisturizing red balm looks fab on everyone and can be applied to be sheer or bold depending on your mood. 

  5. Herbivore Botanicals Bath Salts Set $32 - This is a great gift for bath lovers. They smell divine and are non-toxic of course!

  6. Eco Travel Mat & Towel by Kriya Veda $58 - This ultra-lightweight travel mat fits into a tote, a fitness bag, or suitcase and doubles as a yoga towel. It's also washable, PVC free, Latex free, Rubber free, non-toxic, hypoallergenic, and recyclable.

  7. HotLogic Mini $49.95 - This fully automatic personal portable electric oven perfectly heats or cooks your meal so you don't have to nuke all the nutrition out of your food or eat a cold salad every day for lunch. Fits a glass container up to 8.75″W x 6.75″L x 2.5″H.

  8. Liver Cleanse/ Daily Green Detoxifier by Anima Mundi Herbals $25 - This nutrient-dense, therapeutic green superfood supports your liver and gall bladder, helps jumpstart digestion, and contains tons of antioxidants known to promote healthy detox and organ function.

  9. Certified Reconditioned Next Generation Vitamix $349 - Don't let the word "reconditioned" deter you... these blenders are just as good as the standard ones but without as hefty a price tag, and they also come with a 5-year warranty if you're the nervous type. I got my first Vitamix last year and I can't believe how much time and effort I wasted on crappy blenders. And yes, it's OK to give your wife a blender if its this amazing!

Black Friday Specials! Free Smoothie eBook and $50 Off

Now through Monday I'm offering a couple great deals to help you stay healthy during the holidays and get a jump on your New Year's wellness goals. Enter coupon code BF2016 at checkout.

Any questions? Drop me a line at info@joliverwellness.com.

Wishing you a wonderful and healthy holiday season!