Should You Be On a Ketogenic Diet?

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Keto diets are all the rage these days and I've had so many people ask me what I think of keto, if should they be doing it, and if it will it help them lose fat, heal from chronic illness, achieve better brain health, etc.  So I'm finally sitting down to give you the skinny on this high fat protocol in hopes of shedding some light on the subject to help you decide if it's right for you.  Keep in mind, this article is not intended to guide you through following a ketogenic diet.  I simply want to present you with some facts and considerations to help you decide if it’s worth pursuing depending on your goals.

First of all let me say that there is no single perfect diet that EVERYONE should be on, regardless of what “the experts” might say.  The closest thing to that would be a whole or non-processed food diet where you eat real food that comes from the earth, not from a lab or factory.  But you probably knew that already.  

If you're not yet familiar with the ketogenic diet, it is a very high fat, low-moderate protein, extremely low-carbohydrate diet.  It has been used as an effective therapeutic diet for epilepsy since the 1920's, and more recently for cancer, Lyme disease and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and ALS.  When the body is deprived of glucose (which we get from carbohydrates), it is forced to burn fat for fuel instead which is why it can be effective for fat loss, mitochondrial function and brain/neurological health.

The most well-known diet that people associate with keto is the Atkins Diet, but this differs from a true ketogenic diet in that it includes high amounts of protein.  A proper, healthy ketogenic diet will not be high in protein since the body can convert protein into glucose more easily than it can convert fat, so even if you're eating really low-carb, too much protein can prevent you from getting into ketosis.  With that out of the way, let's dive into what you need to know before doing keto.

Do Your Research First

There is SO much misunderstanding and misinformation out there about keto and there are certain people who should absolutely not follow it, so it's important to understand what it's all about before you try it.

While many people may benefit from a ketogenic diet for several weeks or even a few months, I don't believe that people should be on a ketogenic diet long-term unless they first do genetic testing to understand how a high fat diet might affect them in light of their genetic predispositions.  This applies both for those wanting fat loss and those considering keto as a therapeutic diet, and stay with me here because I'm gonna get all science-y for a minute...

For example, in people who have one or two alleles (+/+ or +/-) of the the APOE4 gene, high saturated fat intake is associated with greater risk for Alzheimer's.  Since the ketogenic diet has actually been shown to be beneficial for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's patients, it would be important for APOE4 individuals to limit saturated fats and eat mostly  unsaturated fats.  And while the keto diet has become the hot ticket for fat loss, there are some people with a gene variant who are more likely to actually gain weight if they eat a high fat diet.  There are yet other genetic variants that put people at greater risk of obesity and diabetes if they consume a high fat diet, so bottom line, if you're following or considering the ketogenic lifestyle, you may want to do some genetic testing.

I also recommend regularly checking in with your doctor and monitoring your thyroid and hormone levels since some people (usually women) will experience suboptimal thyroid levels and hormonal changes. If you have thyroid or adrenal issues,  a keto diet may not be the best idea for you.

Carbs Matter

Let's start with what it takes to actually get into ketosis and how to measure it.

Depending on your goals for doing a keto diet, your daily intake of net carbs (total grams of carbohydrate - grams of fiber = net carbs) will vary between about 20-60 grams.  Men can often go higher and still achieve ketosis, especially if they are active, but everyone is different and it takes some people longer to get into ketosis than others which is why it's important to measure your ketones regularly.  Total daily net carbs should be lower If you are using keto as a therapeutic diet, versus for fat loss, but again this varies according to the individual.

I was at recent event when a woman who was "trying the ketogenic diet" refused to taste a special cocktail because it had a few grams of sugar, when meanwhile she was snacking away on cheese crackers.  I think some people believe that just because something isn't sweet means that it doesn't contain sugar.  The fact is that foods made from grains and starchy vegetables like potatoes are easily converted into glucose (yep, that's sugar) once we eat them, so it doesn't matter if you're avoiding actual sugar if you're still eating too many carbs.

Measuring Ketone Levels

I’m not going to sugar coat it; accurately measuring ketones is a giant pain in the ass and it’s expensive. Ketones are detected in the blood, breath and urine and testing methods vary greatly in cost and accuracy.  

Most people rely on urine strips which are the least expensive option but are notoriously inaccurate since ketones will appear in lower and lower levels in the urine the longer someone is in ketosis.  Urine strips often work well for the first 1-2 weeks, but after that they become less reliable and results can differ depending on how hydrated you are at the time of testing.  Testing ketones via blood is the most accurate, but it’s also painful and expensive.  Other methods test acetone in breath and include the Ketonix and LevlNow devices.  I had the chance to test the Levl for a couple months when I was following a keto protocol and I was impressed with it, but it requires a significant investment both initially and monthly.  

At this point in time, the Ketonix device may be the happy medium when it comes to price and accuracy, but I’m hopeful that the Levl will become less expensive in the near future.  They’re a great bunch of people and the accuracy of the device is the next best thing to blood testing, so if you don’t mind the price tag, this is a good way to go.

The beauty of measuring your ketones regularly is that you will learn how your food, exercise, and schedule affect your body’s ability to get into and stay in ketosis.  If you don’t measure you can end up being more or less strict than you need to be and you may not reap the benefits of the protocol.

Not all Fats are Created Equal

Probably the biggest and most detrimental mistake people make when on a keto diet is not being careful about the types of fat they’re eating.  If you’re eating a high fat diet you want to make sure that the fats you’re ingesting are high quality, anti-inflammatory fats, versus inflammatory, processed, or hydrogenated ones, as these will exacerbate the problems that a keto diet is supposed to reverse.

Good fat sources to eat include avocado, olives, coconut, nuts, seeds, cold water fish, and fats & dairy products (if you tolerate dairy) from organic, pasture-raised, and grass-fed animals.  Fats to avoid as much as possible include processed/refined industrial “vegetable oils” like canola, soybean, sunflower, safflower, corn and peanuts oils, and fats from non-organic and factory-raised animals.

It’s also important to use the right cooking temperature for each type of oil to prevent oxidation for overheating which can turn an otherwise healthy oil into a trans-fat.

Don’t Skimp on Veggies

Another common mistake keto dieters make is not eating enough vegetables.  Getting plenty of the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants found in veggies is crucial for good health, and as long as you’re eating non-starchy vegetables that are low in starches/sugars, you can eat quite a lot of them without going overboard on net carbs.  Some of the best bets are dark leafy greens, broccoli rabe, cauliflower, cabbage, asparagus, bell peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, celery, and cucumbers.

Is Keto Right For You?

A ketogenic diet can be healing and life-changing for some and a disaster for others, so it’s important to listen to your gut instincts, talk to a trusted health practitioner, and do some research before diving in.  I’ve coached many clients to successfully navigate a keto protocol so if it’s something you’re considering, let’s talk more about it.  I am more than happy to answer any questions you may have to help you decide if it’s right for you.

As I've said in previous blog posts, I'm not one for bandwagons. In fact, if "everyone is doing it" I'm extra skeptical.  The first question that runs through my head is, does this have any merit or is it just the latest fad? Usually it's a combination of the two and the important thing to ask yourself when you’re intrigued by the newest, hottest thing is “Does this resonate with me as something that might be truly helpful or is it just a shiny new object?” Because at the end of the day, it’s all about figuring out the right approach for your body and your lifestyle, not what’s right for the current Hollywood “it girl”. 

Continually jumping on trend bandwagons will keep you in a cycle of dieting and prevent you from creating a sustainable and healthy lifestyle that enables you to get results AND enjoy life.  If you are looking for support and guidance in finding the right approach for you, I can help! Click here to schedule a free Coffee Talk session and let’s chat about what you want to achieve.

Paleo Desserts on New Day Northwest's Wellness Wednesday

I had so much fun on New Day NW's Wellness Wednesday! If you missed the live show, you can click here to watch my dessert segment and here for the Wellness Wednesday panel on Sleep Issues and Healthy Food Choices with myself Dr. Darius Zoroufy from Swedish Hospital.

New Day has a beautiful new kitchen set where I shared my recipes for Sautéed Cherries with Raspberry CoulisDecadent Dairy-Free Paleo Cheesecake, Chocolate Pot de Créme and Pistachio Almond Truffles (AKA fat bombs). Give them a try and let me know what you think. And for those of you who want to make your own almond based "cream cheese", here is the best recipe I've found thus far (although I'll admit that I rarely have the time or the desire to make my own so I use the Kite Hill stuff instead). 

I'm always nervous before going on camera, but Margaret Larson is so gracious and real and she really knows how to put you at ease. I felt like I was just cooking and and chatting with a girlfriend, so thank you to Margaret and all the wonderful staff at New Day for making this so much fun! Of course I remembered good stuff I could have shared as soon as I left the building so I recorded the short video below to add to what we discussed in the panel.

Questions about trying out a paleo or ketogenic diet? Schedule a free Coffee Talk session by clicking here and you can ask me all your burning questions.

The Gut-Mood Connection: Preventing and Treating Depression with Food

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Awareness and dialogue around mental health, and depression in particular, is growing all the time. It is heartbreaking that we have lost so many gifted, wonderful people to suicide, but the silver lining is that we’re actually talking about this out loud. Finally. We’re realizing that while people’s lives may appear idyllic on the outside, they are often suffering silently on the inside. Now imagine the impact that depression has on those who are not wealthy or famous and who may not have access to help.

As someone who struggled with depression for over a decade, I know what it’s like to think of death in terms of relief and escape. I am thankful that I had access to therapy coupled with a strong faith and a single mom who taught me and showed me that there is always a way out, even if it’s painful and difficult. I’m grateful that I witnessed people in my family who turned to alcohol and drugs as a means of escape and anesthesia and learned by watching them that substance abuse only made things worse. I am one of the lucky ones.

Many people don’t have access to therapy or treatment and don’t have a strong support system or a relationship with a higher power to lean on in the dark times. And even for those who do have these things, sometimes the pain is just too strong to break free of and they succumb to the overwhelming feeling that there is no way out. Sometimes drugs and/or alcohol are involved, and sometimes they’re not.

Depression is a complex problem and it’s causes can be both numerous and mysterious. To say it is simply due to diet or can easily be fixed with nutrition would be silly and short-sighted. However, more and more studies are showing that the impact of diet and gut health in preventing and treating depression are profound, and for some, dietary changes can mean the difference between life and death. Changing my diet made a huge difference for me and it helped give me the strength (both emotional and physically) to break free of depression.

Only recently has the medical community started to recognize and understand the connection between food and mood, and the data is really exciting! According to this study, our gut microbiota is linked to anxiety, depression, and even schizophrenia, and a poor diet is a risk factor for these conditions. Supporting a healthy gut microbiome with a healthy diet of unprocessed foods and probiotic foods and/or supplementation is not only beneficial in preventing and treating depression, but can be as effective as anti-depressant medications.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for regulating our moods, sleep, and appetite and it also inhibits pain.  A lack of serotonin has long been blamed as the cause of depression, and this is often the case. However, we’re learning that the lack of serotonin can be a symptom of chronic inflammation and inadequate gut flora. We now know that 95% of serotonin is produced in the gut, and that the presence of enough beneficial bacteria is essential for proper serotonin production. So if we have a history of antibiotic use or were not exposed to enough bacteria in birth or childhood, we may not produce enough serotonin.

Another interesting factor is inflammation which is measure by testing C-reactive protein levels. In one studythat followed C-reactive protein levels in over 1000 women for several years, they discovered that the onset of depression was triggered by increased inflammation (higher C-reactive protein). A poor diet and inflammatory foods have been linked to increased C-reactive protein and mood disorders, so getting away from processed, high sugar foods is crucial.

The take home here is that by eating an anti-inflammatory diet and including probiotic foods or taking probiotic supplements, you can help prevent and/or decrease anxiety and depression. Do your best to eat whole foods including plenty of vegetables and moderate amounts of clean animal protein (pasture-raised, organic, wild caught, etc.) and limit or avoid processed foods and high glycemic/high sugar foods. Adding in some fermented veggies such as sauerkraut or kimchi that contain live cultures and possibly taking a probiotic supplement is also important. These foods can be expensive and aren’t always accessible, but local food banks and non-profits such as Got GreenFoodJustice.org, and othersare working to make fresh, real food more accessible to low-income and marginalized communities.

If you need support is this area or want to learn more about the food-mood connection and what you can do to feel happier and healthier, I’m here to help. Don’t suffer in silence! If you’re struggling with depression, I understand what you’re going through and I’m living proof that you can be free of it. Click here to book a free Coffee Talk session and we can talk confidentially about your concerns. I won’t try to sell you on working with me unless ongoing support is what you’re looking for. 

 

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Brain Boosting Healthy Fats and Herbs

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Protecting Brain Health with Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)

The omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are classified as "essential" nutrients for the human because they cannot be made by the body. Hence the term, Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs). Since the body cannot make EFAs, we have to acquire what we need from food and nutritional supplements. While EFAs are important to overall health, I'm only going to highlight their importance to brain health here. Fatty acids nourish and protect brain cells and help reduce inflammation, and scientists are actively investigating the role EFAs play in preventing and managing age-related cognitive decline.

When we consume EFAs, the body will use what it needs and then stores the rest for future use. Brain tissue is especially rich in EFAs where it is important for protecting connections between nerve cells. So, a diet deficient in these fats deprives the brain and nervous system of a crucial nutritional substance. Scientists believe DHA protects against Alzheimer's Disease (AD) and dementia, and adults with insufficient intake of DHA show poor performance on cognitive tests as well as increased risk for age-related cognitive decline. In studies using an EFA supplement, there have been positive changes in memory related functions for individuals with very mild AD.

Because we must get EFAs from food or nutritional supplements, it's important to understand what our bodies need. Most Americans get a daily average of only 130 mg EPA + DHA - far below the 1000-2000 mg recommended for optimal health and cognitive function. We also need the proper ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acid. Too little omega-3 and too much omega-6 can result in increased inflammation. Eating a variety of EFA rich foods plus a supplement is a good option for many people.

People who have a high intake of fish consumption show a decreased risk for dementia and AD. Foods abundant in EFAs include salmon, sardines, and krill, as well as flaxseed, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and walnuts. Be mindful of the source of your fish, since some are high in mercury, so look for wild caught fish which are smaller and lower on the food chain. Your holistic physician or nutrition coach can help you with dietary options and EFA supplements that best meet your needs.

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Hemp Seeds Nourish Brain Health

Although hemp seed comes from the same species of plant as marijuana, it does not contain psychoactive chemicals and it stands on its own regarding health benefits. Hemp is considered "brain-friendly" because it's rich in nutrients, especially omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids - a group of fats the body doesn't make on its own. A healthy ratio of these fatty acids (EFAs) is generally 2:1. Eating hemp seeds provides that balance, which is important for Westerners whose diets typically include more omega-6 fats. These EFAs, plus antioxidants found in hemp, help reduce inflammation, which plays a crucial role in overall health particularly for the heart and the brain.

The protein in hemp is another stand-out nutrient. Hemp seeds are one of the few plant sources that contain all the essential amino acids the body cannot manufacture on its own and yet are necessary for many bodily functions. Both fat and protein are critical for brain development from conception through birth and beyond. As we age, we need these nutrients to feed the protective layers around nerve tissue. Researchers are actively examining the benefits of hemp seed for brain health and in relation to conditions such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Disease.

The light, nutty flavor of hemp seeds makes them an easy addition to anyone's diet. Enjoy them raw; blend to make hemp milk; mix into cereal, yogurt, salads, smoothies, and desserts; or add to soups and other recipes.

Hemp seeds are best bought shelled/hulled and are usually labeled as "hemp seed hearts." Store in the fridge or freezer for the longest preservation of flavor and nutrient content. You can also store hemp in a dry, cool area away from heat sources for up to one year.

Boosting Brain Resilience with Ginkgo & Bacopa

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One of the oldest living species of tree, Ginkgo Biloba's leaves and seeds have been used in botanical medicine for thousands of years. Touted as the "brain herb," Ginkgo has received extensive research attention for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and the role they likely play in supporting healthy cognitive function and treating dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

Two components in Ginkgo help support brain health: Flavonoids, the source of the plant's antioxidant qualities, and Terpenoids, which help improve circulation by dilating blood vessels. Ginkgo may work by increasing blood flow, flushing out free radicals that can damage cells, and reducing inflammation. It may even protect nerve cells from further damage caused by Alzheimer's Disease or vascular dementia.

Numerous studies show Ginkgo has a positive effect on memory, learning, and thinking in people with Alzheimer disease or vascular dementia. For some people, it may work as well as prescription medication for Alzheimer's, but Ginkgo hasn't been tested against all drugs used to treat the disease. Also, testing Ginkgo supplements with healthy young and older adults has not conclusively shown a significant change in cognitive function. It's likely the herb works differently in healthy people compared to people who have an impairment or illness.

Another herb worth noting is Bacopa monnieri, an Ayurvedic botanical medicine used for centuries to enhance learning, memory and attention span. Scientists have been investigating Bacopa for potential therapeutic intervention for Alzheimer's and age-related memory loss. Research suggests it may have a protective effect on brain cells by supporting optimal nerve conduction or helping them resist damage that can occur from infection, toxins, and the aging process.

Botanical medicines can interact with other drugs and medical conditions. Consult your wellness practitioner to determine if either of these herbs are appropriate for you.

Natural Approaches to Preventing Alzheimer's Disease

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Is Alzheimer's Disease hardwired into the brain's destiny as we age?

It's a scary thought and many people believe it's true. But the good news is that we're learning more all the time about the root causes and progression of Alzheimer's and the factors that may protect the brain from this illness.

Alzheimer's Disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia, affecting a person's memory, thinking and behavior to the point where they don't recognize themselves and their loved ones. Approximately 5.5 million people age 65 and older have Alzheimer's Disease. Nearly 200,000 people under age 65 have "younger-onset" AD. Symptoms start slowly and worsen over time, ultimately interfering with independent living and quality of life. Signs to look for include:

  • Persistent forgetting of recently learned information and important dates or events

  • Difficulty planning, problem solving, completing familiar tasks, and understanding time

  • Difficulty processing visual images, object distance and contrast

  • Trouble maintaining a conversation

  • Social withdrawal and depression

  • Changes in mood and personality, usually becoming anxious, suspicious, or confused

Scientists believe the disease process begins when protein deposits build up in brain tissue and damage nerve cells. This can evolve over 10-20 years before symptoms are noticed. While family history can increase your risk, there are many other factors influence the onset and progression of AD. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, as outlined below, can help alter your brain's destiny.

The Brain-Body Health Connection. Several illnesses are linked to an increased risk for AD, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and diabetes. To protect your mind from cognitive decline, exercise daily, eat more vegetables and whole foods, learn new skills, meditate, read regularly, and get quality sleep each night.

Smart Food for Healthy Aging. Choosing fresh, nutrient rich foods is vital for brain health (and the body, too!). Select organic foods to decrease exposure to toxins that exist in conventional farming. Limit your intake of caffeine, sugar, alcohol, refined grains, and packaged foods to ensure optimal health benefits from your food.

Manage Stress. Stress elevates hormones in the body that increase inflammation which, over time, interferes with optimal functioning and contributes to illness. Relax with yoga, mindful walking, or guided imagery to help keep these hormones in balance.

Get Your ZZs. We need just as much sleep in our elder years as in our 30s and 40s. What does change is the brain's ability to maintain continuity and quality of sleep, particularly deep sleep. Maintaining healthy sleep habits throughout your adult life can make it easier to maintain sleep quality as you age.

A Personalized Approach, Naturally. Prevention is important, but once signs of cognitive decline are noticed, you need expert guidance. Though more long-term studies are needed, initial research shows that a personalized approach incorporating natural medicines plus lifestyle change can reverse cognitive decline for some people. For expert guidance in developing a personalized prevention or early intervention program, consult with a specialist in natural medicine treatments for Alzheimer's Disease such as a Naturopathic Doctor or Functional Medicine practitioner.

 

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A Natural Approach to Treating PCOS

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Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common endocrine (hormone) disorders, affecting approximately 10 million women of all races and ethnic groups worldwide. It's the leading cause of infertility in women and can present at any life stage - from puberty through post-menopause. Most women with PCOS will have cysts on the ovaries, but as many as 30% of women will not have cysts. Women with PCOS experience an array of symptoms, including:

  • irregular menstrual cycles
  • obesity
  • infertility
  • pelvic pain with or without periods
  • mood swings, depression or anxiety
  • thinning hair on the head
  • excessive body hair (hirsutism)
  • fatigue and sleep problems

Because of the wide range of PCOS symptoms, fewer than 50% of women are properly diagnosed. Too often women simply accept the discomfort and don't inform their doctors until symptoms are at their worst. Even then, they are often misdiagnosed because so many of the symptoms can be attributed to other causes. Another reason for missed diagnosis is that PCOS has long been believed to be present only in obese women; we now know that it can affect women of any body weight including those who are normal or even underweight. Additionally, PCOS can present differently based on life stage, genetics, ethnicity, age and environmental and lifestyle factors such as self-care, exercise, and eating habits.

Causes of PCOS

Obesity and insulin resistance are health issues that are linked to PCOS and both affect hormonal function in the body. Insulin resistance relates to problems with regulating insulin, a hormone that allows the body to properly use glucose (blood sugar) for energy. When the body isn't as responsive to insulin as it needs to be, too much of it circulates in the blood and can cause a hormone imbalance.

Natural Solutions

Dr. Samuel Thatcher, an early pioneer in PCOS research and treatment, was among the first clinicians to advocate for a holistic approach to PCOS treatment. With the goal of enhancing a woman's quality of life, holistic health practitioners perform a thorough lifestyle assessment, blood tests, and dietary analysis. They then educate and guide women in using natural approaches to manage and heal from PCOS, such as:

  • Lifestyle Improvements. A whole foods diet, exercise, stress management, and proper rest are essential to PCOS treatment. These approaches can create a positive shift in blood sugar level, mood, and body weight. Approaches will differ based on a woman's stage of life and complexity of symptoms.
  • Supplement Support. Some of the herbs and nutrition supplements that may be used for PCOS aim to balance blood sugar level as well as hormones. These can include Nettle Root, Green Tea, Flax Seeds, Saw Palmetto, Licorice Root, Chaste Tree Extract, Trace Minerals, Vitamin D3, and Chromium.

Eating an anti-inflammatory, low-glycemic diet is also essential as it can help to balance hormones and optimize your body's detox process. Eliminate inflammatory foods including dairy, gluten, sugar, and refined "vegetable" oils (canola, soybean, peanut, safflower, anything hydrogenated) and processed foods. Increase your intake or organic non-starchy vegetables, clean proteins (organic, pasture-raised and grass-fed only, minimizing beef and avoiding pork) and healthy fats.

Many of the personal care products we use can also act as hormone disruptors, so ditch the conventional hair, skin and body products and opt for non-toxic, fragrance-free products. I've put together a list of some of my favorites here. EWG.org's Skin Deep database and the Think Dirty app are also excellent resources.

If you think you have PCOS, speak with a holistic practitioner about the approaches best suited to your symptoms and needs. It is crucial that you get a comprehensive hormone panel to determine imbalances, so be sure to ask your doctor for this.

Give Teas a Chance

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As a Health Coach, I get asked a lot of questions about coffee and tea. So I’d like to clear up some myths, answer some commonly asked questions, and share with you the joys and benefits of TEA! I find no matter what the season, many people (including me) love the ritual of making and sipping tea. And with new studies showing the extraordinary health benefits of tea – including Matcha tea – I want to make sure you have the latest wellness information. Whether you drink it hot, iced, or at room temperature, I think you’ll find new reasons to love tea!

Now is a great time to learn about the benefits of tea and why you might want to swap out your coffee for tea, add it to your day, or continue drinking it if you’re already a tea-lover.

Tea dates back to 2700 B.C. According to an article published by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Chinese legend says that leaves from an Camellia sinensis plant fell into Emperor Shennong's cup of boiling water – and tea was born, brewed and boosted around the world for its soothing qualities and powerful health benefits.

In the past two years, scientists have conducted more than 30 studies on the health benefits and disease-fighting properties of tea, with nearly 1 million participants. That’s a lot of research! I’ve culled the findings below into several overall benefits. So put the kettle on and discover the health benefits of tea!

The Health and Wellness Benefits of Tea

Cancer-prevention. Tea contains powerful antioxidants that help reduce and repair free radicals in our body. Free radicals are the molecules that cause inflammation and can lead to diseases such as cancer. Herbal and green teas are less processed, and are the best choices to get your antioxidants.

Reduces risk of cardiovascular disease. Black tea has been shown to reduce the risk of heart attacks, while green tea has been shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Green tea has the highest amount of polyphenols. Polyphenols are particularly powerful in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases, cancers, and osteoporosis.

Weight loss. Some studies have found that tea may help you lose weight and reduce belly fat. The most effective weight-loss tea is green tea because it is high in catechins – antioxidants that can boost your metabolism and increase your body’s ability to burn fat. Other teas that may aid in weight loss are: 

  • Black tea: High in flavones, it’s associated with weight loss and lower BMI (less fat around the middle). 
  • Oolong tea: Some studies show it improves fat burning and speeds up metabolism. 
  • White tea: Early studies show it may increase fat loss.

Multiplied benefits with Matcha. If you want to maximize the health benefits of tea, Matcha tea is the powerhouse!

  • Made from baby green tea leaves ground into a powder, Matcha tea has the nutritional equivalency of 10 cups of green tea! Matcha has more antioxidants and catechins than green tea alone, so you get more of the disease-fighting and metabolism-boosting benefits.
  • One study found that Matcha has more than 100 times the amount of polyphenols as regular green tea, and more than 60 times the antioxidants as spinach.
  • A recent study (NIH) shows that the combo of phytochemicals, L-theanine and caffeine in Matcha (and green) tea improve mood and reduce brain fog.L-theanine is an amino acid known for its calming effects.
  • Matcha also has high amounts of EGCG, a component that stimulates thermogenesis, the biochemical process our bodies use to burn fat and create energy. Studies show EGCG may speed fat burning and reduce new fat cell production.
  • Matcha is still in the scientific discovery phase, so you should continue to read studies and avoid over-drinking it. (More is not necessarily better!) The recommended amount is ½ teaspoon per brewed cup, once daily. Quality matters, so be sure to buy organic Japanese matcha as there are concerns about soil contamination with Chinese matcha.

More Tea Benefits! 

  • Reduces depression. Tea (three cups a day) can lower the risk of depression by 37 percent (NIH, NLM, NCBI) and the risk of a stroke by 21 percent (AHA).
  • Reduces risk of liver disease. Tea reduces the risk of liver disease, including liver cancer, carcinoma, and cirrhosis. (NIH, NLM, NCBI).
  • Reduces risk of Type 2 diabetes. Tea (two cups) can reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by nearly 5% (NIH, NLM, NCBI).
  • Reduces caffeine-related symptoms. If caffeine has a negative affect on you (contributing to anxiety or insomnia, for example) note that tea typically has 50% less caffeine. Naturally decaffeinated tea is considered healthier than the chemical process used to remove caffeine from tea (and coffee). An 8-ounce cup of tea using one tea bag, brewed for three to five minutes, has 40 mg of caffeine; a cup of brewed coffee contains 100 mg. For those who still struggle with caffeine-related symptoms even with less caffeine, there are many varieties of naturally caffeine-free tea, including hibiscus, chamomile, rooibos, and most herbal teas.

And as if all these benefits weren’t enough, the ritual of simply making a cup of tea has a calming, relaxing effect for many people. 

I’d love to hear how you enjoy tea! Please share with a comment below or post on my Instagram or Facebook page!

What Can Detoxing Do for You?

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Detoxing has become a popular way for people to restore their health, jumpstart their metabolism and kick off a weight-loss or clean-eating program. There are many reasons a detox can be beneficial, and done right, detoxing does a great job of helping you achieve those goals.

However, there are many different ways to detox, and the process you choose should be based on your individual needs, challenges, goals, and preferences. Don't just jump on the detox bandwagon without doing your research first! Beware of any program that requires extreme calorie deprivation or prolonged fasting, even juice fasting, as these extreme protocols can do more harm than good.

While healthy eating and/or detoxing should not feel like an exercise in depriving yourself, nearly all programs include refraining from one main food that may be the cause of many of the symptoms people suffer from most – fatigue, bloating, moodiness, headaches, congestion, itchiness, and stomach upset issues of one kind or another. That one food is sugar.

Consuming sugar does more than cause weight gain; it causes inflammation, belly fat storage, and spikes in your blood sugar that create a roller-coaster effect: it provides a burst of energy, but then it depletes your energy, so you crave MORE sugar. The more you eat, the more you want, and its effect on your body makes it nearly impossible to lose weight or reduce your symptoms.

Did you over-indulge over the holiday season? Have you been feeling more sluggish or achy than usual? Has your stomach been upset for days (weeks or years!)? Do you suffer from headaches, heartburn, or have trouble sleeping? Do you feel like your clothes have shrunk? Do you want to get back on track, feel and look fabulous and have more confidence? Would you love to fit into your skinny jeans? If you answered yes to any of these questions, embarking on a detox or clean-eating program for 10 to 21 days may be a great way to remedy your symptoms, increase your energy and lose the post-holiday padding. My best advice includes:

1) Recognize that there are many types of detoxes – they don’t all involve juicing, fasting, or deprivation. In fact, my program includes real, whole food at every meal – plus snacks, and a wide variety of easy, delicious recipes. Remember, a detox isn’t just about what you DON’T eat – it’s also about what you DO eat and how you nourish your body, mind and spirit.

2) Ask yourself how you feel, what you want and why you want it. Write it down. Don't rely on willpower for motivation! You need a driving purpose to keep you in the game. 

3) Get Support – Don't try to go it alone. Get a close friend or loved one to detox with you and/or talk to an expert who can help you determine the right approach for your individual goals. Prep week for my Reboot Your Bod 21-day winter detox starts Tuesday, January 2nd and the detox begins on Monday, January 8th. This is a great opportunity to reboot your system with a great group of like-minded people, and start the New Year feeling great! Read more about it here.

I’m happy to answer your questions about detoxing and help you find a program that’s right for you. YOU CAN DO IT. I can help you! Click here to schedule a free 50-minute Coffee Talk.

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!

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!