Should you be drinking kombucha?

Soft drink sales are falling, but kombucha sales are rising! Homebrewers have been producing this favored fermented drink for thousands of years, and increasingly we see kombucha on the drink menus at restaurants, on tap in cafes and health food stores, and in supermarkets. So what is it? Is it good for us? Is all kombucha created equal????

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What is kombucha, exactly?

Traditionally, it is a drink produced by fermenting sweet tea, resulting in a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (S.C.O.B.Y.). During the process, sugar is converted from yeast and produces alcohol. The bacteria then convert the alcohol to organic acids, such as acetic acid, and the lightly effervescent, mildly sour, refreshing drink, kombucha, is created. You often find it bottled in flavors like ginger, passionfruit, lemon, and raspberry. Kombucha is touted, not only for its low sugar content but also for its health benefits, such as stimulating the immune system, preventing cardiovascular disease and some cancers.

And with Coca-Cola buying into the kombucha craze, it’s only going to increase in mainstream popularity.

Is it good for me?

With all the hype, it’s understandable to wonder if kombucha is something you should be drinking on a regular basis. There are many reported beneficial effects of kombucha, and some brands even suggest you should drink a bottle each day to reap the benefits.

Kombucha certainly has a lot going on:

  • It contains live cultures of bacteria and yeast, which can act as probiotics, and studies have concluded that these live microorganisms may benefit their host by protecting against diseases, improving digestion, and enhancing immune function.
    The organic acids produced during the fermentation process have been shown to slow the growth of pathogenic bacteria, such as Staph aureus, Salmonella, and E. coli.
  • Because Kombucha is made from tea, it contains polyphenols (naturally occurring plant chemicals) known as catechins, which have antioxidant properties and can protect or act against some cancers, tumors, and unwanted genetic changes.

Kombucha is a potential source for a range of bioactive components, and these components can significantly differ based on the quantity and types of sugar and tea used, the microorganisms presents, and fermenting temperature and time.
Whether these bioactive components make it into the gut in sufficient numbers to have a beneficial impact is up for debate and varies based on an individuals gut flora. According to senior research scientist Dr. Michael Conlon, who specializes in diet and gut health, “The health potential of probiotics more generally can vary depending on the number and type of microbes, what you consume them with, and the composition of your gut microflora. It’s likely the number of microbes in kombucha would be much lower than what you might see in a commercial probiotic product.” He added that “fermentation generates certain types of acid and other bioactive compounds that can be beneficial, but whether they get through to the large bowel so that a benefit can be gained is unknown.”

Research regarding the claimed benefits has mostly been studied on animals. Conlon continues with “there’s a lack of scientific evidence from human clinical trials to support the claims, and more research is needed.” Image result for should you be drinking kombucha

But, what about the sugar?

Throughout the fermentation process, most of the sugar is consumed by the yeast, and any residual left is based on fermenting time. As per the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a product can only be labeled “low sugar” if it contains 25% less sugar that it’s original brand or no more than 0.5g to be labeled “sugar-free.” The sugar content per an 8 oz bottle of most unflavored kombucha products is roughly 2-6g. Those that favor more on the sweeter side are still a better choice; when compared to the standard soft drink, Coca-Cola (39g sugar per 12oz), Orange Juice (9g per 3.5oz), Gatorade (6g per 3.5 oz), Lipton Mango Ice Tea (11g per 8.5oz), Glaceau Vitamin Water (32g per 20oz). Sugary drinks provide excess calories, and excess calories may lead to obesity, weight gain, some types of cancer, type-2-diabetes, and heart disease, to name a few. Therefore, the increased availability of lower sugar alternatives, like kombucha, can make a real difference, and for someone with a coke-a-day habit that adds up to a whopping 12,700g.

Does it contain alcohol?

Some alcohol remains in kombucha after the fermentation process, but it’s usually in trace amounts, and because it is sold as a soft drink it needs to comply with state-based alcohol legislation and labeled with its alcohol content (less than 0.5% alcohol by volume in the United States). However, controlling the fermentation to achieve a product with just enough acidity and sweetness, and ensuring the alcohol content meets state-based regulations is a balancing act, one that’s particularly tricky when producing on a large scale. There have been occurrences where the alcohol content went a little wild, and products were recalled. In 2010, the grocery chain, Whole Foods Market, (now owned by Amazon), recalled all kombucha products on its shelves including multimillion-dollar brand leader GT’s Kombucha, when samples tested were found to be more alcoholic than labeled.

When kombucha is not getting recalled, its minimal alcohol content can be a significant drawcard. The non-alcoholic options may be limited in pubs and bars, you may not like soft drinks and get tired of drinking juice and sparkling water, so Kombucha may be a good alternative. Although it is low in alcohol, its tart, lightly acidic flavor profile and palate-cleansing properties make it a drink that readily complements food, much like wine. Who knows, maybe you can reduce your alcohol consumption by pairing kombucha with your favorite foods instead of that glass of wine (but, let me know how that works out if you do make the swap).

Should I drink it?

Kombucha may be touted as ‘an immortal health elixir, a ‘living superfood’ that’s ‘rich in antioxidants and acids, and has the potential for containing beneficial health properties. But there is no guarantee that these features directly translate into actual health benefits or that drinking it will ‘make you feel great.’ A claim that ‘it harmonizes your body, mind and spirit’ is puffery. However, if you like the taste, you’re looking for an exciting alternative to alcohol or sugary soft drinks, or you don’t mind the price tag (roughly $5-10 per 16oz bottle in the supermarket), kombucha may be the drink for you.

Is all kombucha created equal?

Currently, there is no standard definition for kombucha, so products sold can vary widely. Compared to traditional recipes, kombucha sold in supermarkets, etc. have little similarities. Producers have gone into “overdrive” in production because of high demand. To make sure you “get what you pay for,” check drink labels and educate yourself:

  • Ingredients? If you see live cultures floating at the top, that is a good indicator the drink is made from a S.C.O.B.Y. but take caution with ingredients like “kombucha extract.”
  • Reefer? Refrigeration prevents further fermentation, which can affect the taste and produce more alcohol, so if the kombucha you buy does not require refrigeration, it may have been pasteurized. While this can help control the alcohol content and extend shelf life, the drink will likely have fewer active microorganisms as a result. Always refrigerate the fermented beverage before consumption, unless it has been pasteurized. However, although yeast has been filtered and the alcohol content is stabilized, at warmer temperatures, any remaining yeast, and other microbes can still grow and be active, posing a health risk.
  • ETOH content? Research the company to see how often they sample their product’s alcohol contents. Some companies may check the content of each batch or less frequently, such as once a year.
  • Added sweeteners? One of the main ingredients needed to make kombucha is sugar, but this is mostly used up during fermentation. Some products may contain non-nutritive sweeteners erythritol and stevia that make the kombucha taste sweeter without adding calories, which may or may not appeal depending on your stance on added sweeteners.
  • Outrageous health claims? Therapeutic claims are not permitted on foods, and if a company wants to state on the label that its kombucha has a specific health effect, the claim has to be one of those pre-approved under the FDA. The product, also, must meet certain conditions, and if you see a claim that “seems to good to be true,” it probably is.

Is Kombucha safe?

According to U.S. federal laws and regulations, kombucha is considered a traditional food. In other words, it does not require pre-approval, and there are no specific quality controls or manufacturing practices for it (as long as the alcohol content is not above 0.5% or continues to ferment after bottling), other than the general requirement under the FDA that it be safe and suitable. In 1995 the possibility of toxic effects and acidosis when consumed in large quantities became a public concern after two incidents in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC); however, both parties had severe pre-existing conditions that made them susceptible to acidosis. The investigations concluded that kombucha is not harmful when consumed in small quantities (roughly 4 ounces daily) unless of course, you have pre-existing conditions. In 2010, some commercial producers were forced to recall unpasteurized versions from grocery store shelves when the alcohol content exceeded 0.5%.

Yes, kombucha poses a higher risk when not prepared correctly but most forms of this fermented food represent a relatively low threat. The popularity and commercialization of the brewed drinks are increasing and with growth and the “popular vote,” comes work in promoting best manufacturing practices.

Nutritional Nugget

How do you like your apples? Sweet, crisp apples can be paired with almost anything! Dip into peanut butter for a quick snack or toss in a salad for that perfectly sweet crunch.

WODal Nugget

Melisma: A group of notes sung to one syllable of text

Inspirational Nugget

God's plan is always the best. Sometimes the process is painful and hard. But don't forget that when God is silent, He is doing something good for you.

 

Pain is an inevitable part of human life, as is pleasure. The difference with pain; however, is – we have to grow up to the fact, mature to the fact, and relax to the fact that there will be pain in our lives, but there should also be a good balance of pleasure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moringa, Maqui Berries, and More: 8 Superfood Trends Coming Your Way

Move over kale, quinoa, and coconut water! You were so last years. 

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There are some new superfoods on the block, packed with compelling nutritional benefits and exotic tastes. They might sound rather bizarre but, five years ago, who could have predicted we’d be drinking collagen and feasting on avocado toast. These are the superfood trends you should not only watch out for but get excited about.

1. Nut oils

In 2016, nut butter exploded into the mainstream, with many choosing to give up animal products in favor of a plant-based diet. Following suit, nut oils are the new breed of superfood cooking essentials, with cold-pressed almond, cashew, walnut, and hazelnut oils set to be a healthier alternative to the average olive, vegetable, or sunflower varieties. While the nutritional content may be primarily quite similar, it’s worth remembering that not all fat is created equal. Nut oils typically contain less damaging trans fats and are much healthier for the heart. If you’re allergic to nuts, you could try avocado oil, which is coined to be the next coconut oil, as it’s great for cooking!

2. Moringa

Matcha, maca, spirulina, and green tea powder have previously ruled the roost when it comes to supercharging your smoothies, but there’s a new super-green in town, and it sounds more like a new dance craze than something you’d actually consume. Packed with vitamin C, calcium, potassium, and amino acids, the delicate, velvety powder comes from the fast-growing Moringa tree, native to India, Pakistan, and Nepal. Try sprinkling it into smoothies, yogurts, and juices. On the first impression, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a more peppery version of green tea, but the taste is a touch more bitter. Moringa is said to help manage blood sugar and stabilize histamine production. And despite being totally caffeine-free, it makes for a fabulous natural energy booster.

3. Chaga mushrooms

Admittedly, these don’t look very appetizing, with a lumpy exterior that resembles burnt charcoal. However, these important fungi are high in fiber, which makes them fantastic for regulating the digestive system, while its anti-inflammatory properties can also help soothe any inflammation in the bowels. The high level of antioxidants is another impressive superfood quality of the chaga, with further studies showing that it supports the immune system by increasing the production of certain immune cells. While you can buy a packet of chaga to crunch on, it’s more likely to be seeing them on the hot drinks menu as “mushroom coffee.” Interesting!

4. Cassava flour

Move over buckwheat and coconut flour! Used traditionally in Bali and South Asia, this beautifully soft powder is a much closer alternative to wheat for gluten-free eaters. It’s paleo-friendly, vegan-friendly, and nut-free, too. It’s not necessarily a superfood in the sense that it doesn’t offer an overwhelming amount of nutritional benefits that we couldn’t get elsewhere. However, it deserved a place on the list because it’s a perfect fit for plant-based recipes due to its root vegetable base and non-allergenic properties.

5. Watermelon seeds

Taking over from chia, pumpkin, and sesame, watermelon seeds will soon be the new buzz word among superfood fanatics. To enjoy the full goodness, they need to be sprouted and shelled before consumption. But it’s worth the hassle; a one cup serving contains 31 grams of protein and is also a fantastic source of magnesium, vitamin B, and both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Eat them alone as a snack, try roasting them, or sprinkle them over fruit, yogurt, or atop your acai breakfast bowl for a nutritious boost!

6. Maqui berries

Apparently, goji and acai have had their moments, it’s time to let their low-sugar sister shine. With a less bitter taste and milder flavor, these hard working berries contain a big dose of antioxidants, and they can help regulate blood sugar, aid digestion, and boost metabolism. Likely to spring up in powder form and be consumed much like acai, in breakfast bowls, smoothies, and juices, it contains a rainbow of vitamins, minerals, anti-inflammatory properties, as well as fiber. Add two tablespoons of freeze-dried powder to your breakfast smoothie for a superfood hit!

7. Tiger nuts

The incredible superfood benefits of tiger nuts are slowly but surely making their presence known and weaving their way into modern takes on favorite sweet and savory recipes. The small, raisin-shaped nuts contain high amounts of dietary fiber, potassium, and vegetable protein and have prebiotics which aid in digestion. They’re also an excellent source of magnesium, which is a natural muscle relaxer that helps maintain healthy kidneys and also prevents menstrual issues in women. They can be easily ground to make flour, or compressed as an alternative to cow’s milk.

8. Probiotic waters

In addition to nut butter, 2016 was also the year where probiotics really started making their way into the mainstream rather than being purely something health-conscious individuals kept a secret. They’d not only crop up in supplements but also in chocolate and yogurts too. Making it even easier for us to boost our gut flora and maintain a healthy digestive system, gut-friendly waters will soon be in our refrigerators. Why eat your probiotics when you can drink them? Offering a more functional delivery, the good bacteria will be in the right place in a matter of seconds by drinking it in liquid form. If you experience regular IBS troubles and irritation, you may benefit weaving one into your daily routine.

So, there you have it. Before long, expect to be sipping chaga coffee while you chow down on a maqui and moringa bowl, topped with watermelon seeds and tiger nuts. You heard it here first!

 Adapted from: Natalie Olsen, RD, LD, ACSM EP-C

Nutrition Daily Nugget

Eat Breakfast Within 1 Hour Of Waking Up!  When you eat right after waking up, you’re giving your body a chance to maximize your metabolism, regulate insulin levels and keep your appetite under control. By skipping breakfast, your body actually goes into conservation mode to preserve calories meaning you won’t burn calories and you’ll hang onto body fat.

Daily Inspiration Nugget

Just be yourself. Let people see the real, imperfect, flawed, quirky, weird, beautiful and magical person that your are. - Mandy Hale

 

 

 

5 Smart Carb Swaps

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Eating fewer carbs does not mean giving up everything you love. A few easy changes can make a big difference in how much you consume. Instead of choosing carb sources loaded with sugar, fat, and calories, opt for more nutrient-dense alternatives filled with fiber, heart-healthy fats, and whole grains. You’ll be surprised at much you love the alternatives below and how delicious eating low-carb can be.

1. BBQ Baked Beans

GOOD: Beans are full of fiber.

BAD: Lots of sugar in the sauce—13g for a total of 32g carbs.

BETTER: Black beans with sautéed red bell pepper, jalapeño, lime, and fresh cilantro. 10g fewer carbs and an additional 1.5g fiber.

2. Salad Dressings

GOOD: You’re eating salad!

BAD: Dressing choices, such as honey mustard (one of my favorites!!) and raspberry vinaigrette contain roughly 7g refined carbs per 2 tablespoons, all from sugar. And most light or fat-free dressings add sugar to make up for fat.

BETTER: Opt for oil and vinegar-based dressings instead; you’ll get zero carbs and lots of heart-healthy fats.

3. Apples with Low-Fat Caramel Dip

GOOD: You’re eating apples—25g balanced carbs and 4g fiber.

BAD: That caramel sauce has 26g carbs in just 2 tablespoons, all from sugar.

BETTER: Swap caramel for 1 tablespoon peanut butter. You’ll add 4g filling protein.

4. Cracker Jacks

GOOD: Whole grains and nuts.

BAD: The caramel adds 30g refined-sugar carbs per cup.

BETTER: Lightly salted oil-popped popcorn and nuts.

5. Mashed Taters

GOOD: More veggies.

BAD: No skin = 2g less fiber.

BETTER: Mashed butternut squash has just 47 calories, 12g carbs, and 4g fiber per ½ cup. Add a teaspoon of butter for 34 calories and 2.4g sat fat.

Not bad alternatives! And if you want to take your health goals to the next step, check out the challenge.

Nutrition challenge: If half of your daily grain intake is not 100% whole grain, I challenge you to “up-your-ante!” If this is old news to you, then what challenge will you take on?

Adapted from: Sidney Fry, MS, RD

Nutrition Daily Nugget 🍏

Get your kids in the kitchen! They’ll be more excited about eating healthy foods when they’ve been involved. Give them age-appropriate tasks and keep a step-stool handy.

Daily Inspiration Nugget

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Good Carbs, Bad Carbs — How to Make the Right Choices

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Carbs are highly controversial these days. The dietary guidelines suggest that we get about half of our calories from carbohydrates. On the other hand, some claim that carbs cause obesity and type 2 diabetes, and that most people should be avoiding them. There are good arguments on both sides, and it appears that carbohydrate requirements depend largely on the individual. Some people do better with a lower carb intake, while others do just fine eating plenty of carbs. So lets take a detailed look at carbs, their health effects and how you can make the right choices.

What Are Carbs?

Carbs, or carbohydrates, are molecules that have carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms. In nutrition, “carbs” refers to one of the three macronutrients. The other two are protein and fat. Dietary carbohydrates can be split into three main categories:

  • Sugars: Sweet, short-chain carbohydrates found in foods. Examples are glucose, fructose, galactose and sucrose.
  • Starches: Long chains of glucose molecules, which eventually get broken down into glucose in the digestive system.
  • Fiber: Humans can not digest fiber, although the bacteria in the digestive system can make use of some of them.

The main purpose of carbohydrates in the diet is to provide energy. Most carbs get broken down or transformed into glucose, which can be used as energy. Carbs can also be turned into fat (stored energy) for later use. Fiber is an exception. It does not provide energy directly, but it does feed the friendly bacteria in the digestive system. These bacteria can use the fiber to produce fatty acids that some of our cells can use as energy. Sugar alcohols are also classified as carbohydrates. They taste sweet, but usually don’t provide many calories.

Whole” vs “Refined” Carbs

Not all carbs are created equal. There are many different types of carbohydrate-containing foods, and they vary greatly in their health effects. Although carbs are often referred to as “simple” vs “complex,” some find the terms “whole” vs “refined” to make more sense. Whole carbs are unprocessed and contain the fiber found naturally in the food, while refined carbs have been processed and have had the natural fiber stripped out.

Examples of whole carbs include vegetables, whole fruit, legumes, potatoes and whole grains. These foods are generally healthy. On the other hand, refined carbs include sugar-sweetened beverages, fruit juices, pastries, white bread, white pasta, white rice and others. Numerous studies show that refined carbohydrate consumption is associated with health problems, such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.

They tend to cause major spikes in blood sugar levels, which leads to a subsequent crash that can trigger hunger and cravings for more high-carb foods. This is the “blood sugar roller coaster” that many people are familiar with. Refined carbohydrate foods are usually also lacking in essential nutrients. In other words, they are “empty” calories. The added sugars are another story altogether, they are the absolute worst carbohydrates and linked to all sorts of chronic diseases.

However, it makes no sense to demonize all carbohydrate-containing foods because of the health effects of their processed counterparts. Whole food sources of carbohydrates are loaded with nutrients and fiber, and do not cause the same spikes and dips in blood sugar levels. Hundreds of studies on high-fiber carbohydrates, including vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains show that eating them is linked to improved metabolic health and a lower risk of disease.

Low-Carb Diets Are Great For Some People

No discussion about carbs is complete without mentioning low-carb diets. These types of diets restrict carbohydrates, while allowing plenty of protein and fat. Over 23 studies have now shown that low-carb diets are much more effective than the standard “low-fat” diet that has been recommended for the past few decades. These studies show that low-carb diets cause more weight loss and lead to greater improvement in various health markers, including HDL (the “good”) cholesterol, blood triglycerides, blood sugar, blood pressure and others.

For people who are obese, or have metabolic syndrome and/or type 2 diabetes, low-carb diets can have life-saving benefits. This should not be taken lightly, because these are currently the biggest health problems in the world, responsible for millions of deaths per year. However, just because low-carb diets are useful for weight loss and people with certain metabolic problems, they are definitely not the answer for everyone.

“Carbs” Are Not The Cause of Obesity

Restricting carbs can often (at least partly) reverse obesity. However, this does not mean that the carbs were what caused the obesity in the first place. This is actually a myth, and there is a ton of evidence against it. While it is true that added sugars and refined carbs are linked to increased obesity, the same is not true of fiber-rich, whole-food sources of carbohydrates.

Humans have been eating carbs for thousands of years, in some form or another. The obesity epidemic started around 1980, and the type 2 diabetes epidemic followed soon after. Blaming new health problems on something that we’ve been eating for a very long time simply doesn’t make sense. Keep in mind that many populations have remained in excellent health while eating a high-carb diet, such as the Okinawans, Kitavans and Asian rice eaters.

What they all had in common was that they ate real, unprocessed foods. However, populations that eat a lot of refined carbohydrates and processed foods tend to be sick and unhealthy.

Carbs Are Not “Essential,” But Many Carb-Containing Foods Are Incredibly Healthy

Many low-carbers claim that carbs are not an essential nutrient. This is technically true. The body can function without a single gram of carbohydrate in the diet. It is a myth that the brain needs 130 grams of carbohydrate per day.
When we don’t eat carbs, part of the brain can use ketones for energy, which are made out of fats.  Additionally, the body can produce the little glucose the brain needs via a process called gluconeogenesis. However, just because carbs are not “essential,” that does not mean they cannot be beneficial. Many carb-containing foods are healthy and nutritious, such as vegetables and fruits.
These foods have all sorts of beneficial compounds and provide a variety of health benefits. Although it is possible to survive even on a zero-carb diet, it is probably not an optimal choice because you’re missing out on plant foods that science has shown to be beneficial.

How to Make the Right Choices

As a general rule, carbohydrates that are in their natural, fiber-rich form are healthy, while those that have been stripped of their fiber are not. If it’s a whole, single ingredient food, then it’s probably a healthy food for most people, no matter what the carbohydrate content is. With this in mind, it is possible to categorize most carbs as either “good” or “bad,” but keep in mind that these are just general guidelines. Things are rarely ever black and white in nutrition.

“Good” Carbs:

  • Vegetables: All of them. It is best to eat a variety of vegetables every day.
  • Whole fruits: Apples, bananas, strawberries, etc.
  • Legumes: Lentils, kidney beans, peas, etc.
  • Nuts: Almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, peanuts, etc.
  • Seeds: Chia seeds, pumpkin seeds.
  • Whole grains: Choose grains that are truly whole, as in pure oats, quinoa, brown rice, etc.
  • Tubers: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc.

People who are trying to restrict carbohydrates need to be careful with the whole grains, legumes, tubers and high-sugar fruit.

“Bad” Carbs:

  • Sugary drinks: Coca cola, Pepsi, Vitaminwater, etc. Sugary drinks are some of the unhealthiest things you can put into your body.
  • Fruit juices: Unfortunately, fruit juices may have similar metabolic effects as sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • White bread: These are refined carbohydrates that are low in essential nutrients and bad for metabolic health. This applies to most commercially available breads.
  • Pastries, cookies and cakes: These tend to be very high in sugar and refined wheat.
  • Ice cream: Most types of ice cream are very high in sugar, although there are exceptions.
  • Candies and chocolates: If you’re going to eat chocolate, choose quality dark chocolate.
  • French fries and potato chips: Whole potatoes are healthy, but french fries and potato chips are not.

These foods may be fine in moderation for some people, but many will do best by avoiding them as much as possible.

Low-Carb Is Great For Some, But Others Function Best With Plenty of Carbs

There is no one-size-fits-all solution in nutrition. The “optimal” carbohydrate intake depends on numerous factors, such as age, gender, metabolic health, physical activity, food culture and personal preference. If you have a lot of weight to lose, or have health problems, such as metabolic syndrome and/or type 2 diabetes, then you are probably carbohydrate sensitive. In this case, reducing carbohydrate intake can have clear, life-saving benefits.

On the other hand, if you’re just a healthy person trying to stay healthy, then there is probably no reason for you to avoid “carbs.” Just stick to whole, single ingredient foods as much as possible. If you are naturally lean and/or highly physically active, then you may even function much better with plenty of carbs in your diet. Different strokes for different folks.

Adapted from: Kris Gunnars, BSc

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Cook someone a meal! There’s no better way to show you care than to make the effort to cook for somebody you care about.

Daily Inspiration 

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5 Unexpected Tips for High Energy Nutrition

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For so many people, having more energy is at the top of the wish list. As full as our schedules may be, we often feel like we could be doing more, if only we had more energy. For this reason, the marketplace is filled with supplements, beverages, and bars that promise a quick energy fix, but these won’t sustain you for the long term. So how can you raise your energy level in a way that’s healthy and sustainable and boost your energy so that you can get more out of life? Rather than the quick fix energy drink or an exotic supplement, try out the five seldom talked about tips below that can help you tap into healthy energy sources that truly last. These tips may surprise you, but give them a try and you’ll soon find yourself with energy to spare.

1. Eat to the point of energy

Most people eat until they feel full. This makes sense. However, with this technique, rather than eating until you’re filled with food, you eat until you feel filled with energy. The yogis of old postulated that there’s a point in any meal where you can stop eating and walk away from the table with more energy. It takes a little practice to finish your meal still feeling a little hungry, but it’s the kind of hungry that can easily be translated into a hunger to do the next thing.

2. Assimilate the beautiful

One of the key goals of digestion is to assimilate “stuff” that the body needs. The whole of our biology is actually designed to absorb from the environment that which supports life. However, here’s the challenge: We are more than just a mere biological machine that uses food for fuel. We need love. We need meaning, and interestingly enough, we need beauty. You won’t read about the nutritional value of beauty in any textbook, but don’t let that fool you. Our 5 senses are hungry to drink in the beauty of the world. When we fail to assimilate the beauty that the world is giving us, we get hungry for all the wrong things. The science of Mind Body Nutrition teaches us that the more we can recognize and acknowledge the beauty in our lives, the more fulfilled we become, and the less disordered our eating will be.

3. Make your life more sugary

Evolution has designed us to like sweet things. You have more sweet taste buds than any other kind of taste bud, and this is good. Imagine if we lived on a planet where everything tasted bitter or bland. Wouldn’t you choose the planet with the sugar and agree to simply deal with the challenges of getting hooked on sweets? Dynamic Eating Psychology teaches us that the mind and body exist on a continuum where they influence one another. So yes, our biology recognizes sweetness, but so do our heart and soul. Sometimes we use sugar as a substitute for a life that’s not quite as sweet as it could be. If you want more energy, and you want to let go of the metabolic fatigue caused by too much sugar in the diet, start noticing the sweetness that’s already present in your life. Then add a little more sweetness to everything that you give to the world. Be the sweetness that you want to taste.

4. Be hungry

Have you noticed that when you’re well fed, you can do more? Then again, if you’re too full, it’s couch potato time and little gets done. So here’s a nutritional recommendation for having more energy that may seem a little paradoxical: Be hungry. What I mean is this, be hungry for life. Be hungry to track down your purpose and your destiny. Be hungry to give your gift to others. Be hungry for a better world. As you become more aware of your hunger for life, your hunger for food finds its proper and natural place. You stop fearing your hunger because you’ve actually learned how to welcome it and honor it. Hunger gives us energy. The desire to be fed with a full and complete life ignites a fire in us that can light up the world.

5. Don’t just eat food, be food

The study of nutrition is all about the chemical makeup of your food and the science of how you digest it. We are the eaters, and food is what we eat. However, if you take a look around you, you might just notice that everything is food for everything else. Plants eat the soil, animals eat the plants, animals eat animals, humans eat all sorts of things, and eventually each one of us will likely find ourselves becoming a meal for all sorts of microscopic critters. However, what if you considered your entire life as the meal? Let the world consume you, digest you, and be nourished by all the contributions that you came here to make. In this way, you’ll be a perfectly digested and life-giving nutritional contribution to the world body. You won’t just have energy, you’ll BE energy!

Adapted from: Emily Rosen

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Get big on beans! Beans are the most undervalued food in the supermarket. They are inexpensive, easy to store, rich in protein and fiber, and taste so good. Add some to your soup tonight.

Daily Inspiration 

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Post-Workout Nutrition: What to Eat After a Workout

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You put a lot of effort into your workouts, always looking to perform better and reach your goals. Chances are you’ve given more thought to your pre-workout meal than your post-workout meal. However, consuming the right nutrients after you exercise is just as important as what you eat before. Below, is a detailed guide to optimal nutrition after workouts.

Eating After a Workout Is Important

To understand how the right foods can help you after exercise, it’s important to understand how your body is affected by physical activity. When you’re working out, your muscles use up their glycogen stores for fuel. This results in your muscles being partially depleted of glycogen. Some of the proteins in your muscles also get broken down and damaged.

After your workout, your body tries to rebuild its glycogen stores and repair and regrow those muscle proteins. Eating the right nutrients soon after you exercise can help your body get this done faster. It is particularly important to eat carbs and protein after your workout. Doing this helps your body:

  • Decrease muscle protein breakdown.
  • Increase muscle protein synthesis (growth).
  • Restore glycogen stores.
  • Enhance recovery

BOTTOM LINE: Getting in the right nutrients after exercise can help you rebuild your muscle proteins and glycogen stores. It also helps stimulate growth of new muscle.

Protein, Carbs and Fat

Protein Helps Repair and Build Muscle

These powerful macronutrients are involved in your body’s post-workout recovery process. As explained above, exercise triggers the breakdown of muscle protein. The rate at which this happens depends on the exercise and your level of training, but even well-trained athletes experience muscle protein breakdown. Consuming an adequate amount of protein after a workout gives your body the amino acids it needs to repair and rebuild these proteins. It also gives you the building blocks required to build new muscle tissue.

It is recommended that you consume 0.14–0.23 grams of protein per pound of body weight (0.3–0.5 grams/kg) very soon after a workout. Studies have shown that ingesting 20–40 grams of protein seems to maximize the body’s ability to recover after exercise.

Carbs Help With Recovery

Your body’s glycogen stores are used as fuel during exercise, and consuming carbs after your workout helps replenish them. The rate at which your glycogen stores are used depends on the activity. For example, endurance sports cause your body to use more glycogen than resistance training. For this reason, if you participate in endurance sports (running, swimming, etc.), you might need to consume more carbs than a bodybuilder.

Consuming 0.5–0.7 grams of carbs per pound (1.1–1.5 grams/kg) of body weight within 30 minutes after training results in proper glycogen re-synthesis. Furthermore, insulin secretion, which promotes glycogen synthesis, is better stimulated when carbs and protein are consumed at the same time. Therefore, consuming both carbs and protein after exercise can maximize protein and glycogen synthesis. Try consuming the two in a ratio of 3:1 (carbs to protein). For example, 40 grams of protein and 120 grams of carbs.

Eating plenty of carbs to rebuild glycogen stores is most important for people who exercise often, such as twice in the same day. If you have 1 or 2 days to rest between workouts then this becomes less important.

Fat Is Not That Bad

Many people think that eating fat after a workout slows down digestion and inhibits the absorption of nutrients. While fat may slow down the absorption of your post-workout meal, it will not reduce its benefits. For example, a study showed that whole milk was more effective at promoting muscle growth after a workout than skim milk. Moreover, another study showed that even when ingesting a high-fat meal (45% energy from fat) after working out, muscle glycogen synthesis was not affected.

It might be a good idea to limit the amount of fat you eat after exercise, but having some fat in your post-workout meal will not affect your recovery.

BOTTOM LINE: A post-workout meal with both protein and carbs will enhance glycogen storage and muscle protein synthesis. Consuming a ratio of 3:1 (carbs to protein) is a practical way to achieve this.

The Timing of Your Post-Workout Meal Matters

Your body’s ability to rebuild glycogen and protein is enhanced after you exercise. For this reason, it is recommended that you consume a combination of carbs and protein as soon as possible after exercising. Although the timing does not need to be exact, many experts recommend eating your post-workout meal within 45 minutes. In fact, it’s believed that the delay of carb consumption by as little as two hours after a workout may lead to as much as 50% lower rates of glycogen synthesis. However, if you consumed a meal before exercising, it’s likely that the benefits from that meal still apply after training.

BOTTOM LINE: Eat your post-workout meal within 45 minutes of exercising. However, you can extend this period a little longer, depending on the timing of your pre-workout meal.

Foods to Eat After You Workout

The primary goal of your post-workout meal is to supply your body with the right nutrients for adequate recovery and to maximize the benefits of your workout. Choosing easily digested foods will promote faster nutrient absorption. The following lists contain examples of simple and easily digested foods:

Carbs:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Chocolate milk
  • Quinoa
  • Fruits (pineapple, berries, banana, kiwi)
  • Rice cakes
  • Rice
  • Oatmeal
  • Potatoes
  • Pasta
  • Dark, leafy green vegetables

Protein:

  • Animal- or plant-based protein powder
  • Eggs
  • Greek yogurt
  • Cottage cheese
  • Salmon
  • Chicken
  • Protein bar
  • Tuna

Fats:

  • Avocado
  • Nuts
  • Nut butters
  • Trail mix (dried fruits and nuts)

Sample Post-Workout Meals

Combinations of the foods listed above can create great meals that provide you with all the nutrients you need after exercise. Here are a few examples of quick and easy meals to eat after your workout:

  • Grilled chicken with roasted vegetables
  • Egg omelet with avocado spread on toast
  • Salmon with sweet potato
  • Tuna salad sandwich on whole grain bread
  • Tuna and crackers
  • Oatmeal, whey protein, banana and almonds
  • Cottage cheese and fruits
  • Pita and hummus
  • Rice crackers and peanut butter
  • Whole grain toast and almond butter
  • Cereal and skim milk
  • Greek yogurt, berries and granola
  • Protein shake and banana
  • Quinoa bowl with berries and pecans
  • Multi-grain bread and raw peanuts

Make Sure to Drink Plenty of Water

It is important to drink plenty of water before and after your workout. When you are properly hydrated, this ensures the optimal internal environment for your body to maximize results. During exercise, you lose water and electrolytes through sweat. Replenishing these after a workout can help with recovery and performance.

It’s especially important to replenish fluids if your next exercise session is within 12 hours. Depending on the intensity of your workout, water or an electrolyte drink is recommended to replenish fluid losses.

BOTTOM LINE: It is important to get water and electrolytes after exercise to replace what was lost during your workout.

Putting It All Together

Consuming a proper amount of carbs and protein after exercise is essential. It will stimulate muscle protein synthesis, improve recovery and enhance performance during your next workout. If you’re not able to eat within 45 minutes of working out, it’s important to not go much longer than 2 hours before eating a meal. Finally, replenishing lost water and electrolytes can complete the picture and help you maximize the benefits of your workout.

Adapted from: Arlene Semeco, MS, RD

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Chill out! Frozen foods, particularly fruits and veggies, can be just as nutritious as fresh produce and, in some cases, they may be even better.

Daily Inspiration 

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The Connection between Leaky Gut, Gluten Intolerance, and Gallbladder Problems

As Hippocrates once said, “All disease begins in the gut.” Researchers have indeed found that many diseases are linked to changes in gut microbes or gut function.

 

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Do you have trouble digesting fatty foods? Back pain or nausea? A sluggish gallbladder may be to blame. Recent evidence suggests that inflammation in the gut is closely related to gallbladder function, but how about the gut-biliary connection, gluten, and all those things flowing, and how are they involved and how do they connect? Well, let’s check it out!

Meet your biliary tract

The biliary tract, or biliary system, refers to the liver, gallbladder, and bile ducts, which work together to make, store, and secrete bile. After production in the liver, bile travels via the common bile duct to the gallbladder for storage. When dietary fats enter the small intestine, they are sensed by enteroendocrine cells, which release the hormone cholecystokinin. Cholecystokinin, in turn, stimulates contraction of the gallbladder and the release of bile into the small intestine.

Try placing a single drop of oil in the center of a glass of water. The oil remains in one spot and doesn’t reach the edge of the glass, right? Add some dish soap, however, and the detergent encapsulates the oil, forming an emulsion and making the oil drop soluble in water. This is exactly how bile works in your small intestine.

Bile is made up of 97 percent water, with the remaining 3 percent consisting of a mixture of bile acids, cholesterol, phospholipids, bilirubin, inorganic salts, and trace minerals. Bile acids act like a detergent, helping to emulsify lipids in food. A lipid droplet from food does not mix well with the rest of the contents of the intestinal lumen. For the droplet (oil) to be absorbed, it must first be encapsulated by bile acids (detergent) to form a micelle. This micelle is then soluble in the luminal contents (water) and able to diffuse from the center of the lumen to the intestinal epithelium (edge of the glass) for absorption. Without bile, these lipids go undigested, resulting in fatty stools, a condition called steatorrhea. Bile is also crucial for proper absorption of cholesterol and the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, all of which are transported to the epithelium in micelles.

(All too) common gallbladder diseases

Gallbladder disease symptoms can be steady or occur in acute episodes. Though symptoms will vary slightly depending on the exact disease, pain is usually located in the upper abdomen and may be accompanied by features such as jaundice ( a yellowing of the skin), nocturnal onset, nausea, vomiting, and radiation of pain through to the back and neck. The most common gallbladder diseases are:

Cholestasis: The backup of bile flow in the liver or in the biliary ducts.

Gallstones: Stones formed in the gallbladder from the components of bile. About 20 to 25 million Americans (10 to 15 percent of the adult population) are affected by gallstones. Gallstone disease is the leading cause for hospital admissions related to GI problems, yet over 80 percent of individuals with gallstones never experience biliary pain or more serious complications.

Cholesystitis: A complication of prolonged cholestasis and gallstone disease characterized by inflammation of the gallbladder tissue due to cholestasis and lack of blood flow. About 6 to 11 percent of patients with gallstones develop cholecystitis.

Cholangitis: A serious infection of the bile ducts that sometimes occurs as a complication of cholestasis or gallstones, when the flow of bile is blocked. The infection can also spread to the liver, so quick diagnosis and treatment are very important.

Gallstone pancreatitis: In rare cases, a blockage of the pancreatic bile duct by a gallstone can cause inflammation of the pancreas. This occurs at the sphincter of Oddi, a small round muscle located where the bile duct opens into the small intestine. Similar to cholangitis, this is a dangerous condition, and prompt treatment is crucial.

Risk factors for gallbladder disease

Those who are overweight, female, and over the age of 40 have an increased risk of gallbladder disease. In fact, females are almost twice as likely to develop gallstones, and 25 percent of those who are morbidly obese have gallstones. Underlying diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, liver disease, and cystic fibrosis, as well as a number of prescription medications, can contribute to gallbladder disease.  Pregnancy, oral contraceptives, and antibiotic use have all been associated with the onset of cholestasis.

Lifestyle factors also play a role. Reduced physical activity is associated with a higher risk for gallbladder surgery. Gallstones have also been associated with a Western-type diet high in processed foods and sugar. Curious about the role that gluten might play in gallbladder disease? Well, see below!

Leaky gut affects the biliary system

When intestinal barrier function is compromised, also known as “leaky gut”, gut bacteria that are normally confined to the intestinal lumen can cross the gut barrier and enter the bloodstream. The immune system sees these microbes and their microbial products as foreign invaders, and quickly launches an immune response. This can affect the biliary system, as the resulting inflammatory signaling from such a microbial invasion has been shown to alter the gene expression and function of key transport systems involved in bile uptake and secretion in the liver.

The connection between microbes and biliary function has been known since early 1901. In his classic textbook, The Principles and Practice of Medicine, Sir William Osler reports that pneumonia can lead to jaundice: In this form there is no obstruction in the bile-passages, but the jaundice is associated with toxic states of the blood, dependent upon various poisons which either act directly on the blood itself, or in some cases on the liver-cells as wellWe now know that these “toxic states of the blood” are due to the presence of microbes in the bloodstream (sepsis) and that the “various poisons” Osler describes are inflammatory signaling molecules called cytokines, which affect transporters on liver cells.

The takeaway:

Healthy gut → microbes remain in the colon → proper gallbladder function

Leaky gut → microbes leak into the blood → gallbladder dysfunction and disease

Bile helps maintain gut barrier function

Like many interorgan networks, the gut–biliary connection is a two-way street. As mentioned earlier, leaky gut and microbes entering the blood can lead to gallbladder disease and a backup of bile. However, a lack of bile entering the intestine can itself cause leaky gut and an alteration in gut bacteria. How do we know this?

Researchers found that when they induced acute liver injury in animals, they rapidly showed evidence of increased intestinal permeability. Notably, these changes in the gut barrier preceded any changes in the gut microbiome. Another research group using a mouse model of cholestasis found that stimulating certain receptors in the gut with bile acids resulted in less gut inflammation and improved gut barrier function. This may occur by stimulating host production of antimicrobial properties at the intestinal barrier.

The takeaway:

Healthy gallbladder → bile acids reducing inflammation → proper gut barrier function

Gallbladder disease → less bile entering the small intestine → leaky gut & dysbiosis

The gluten connection: leaky gut, leaky bile duct?

Gliadin, a protein in gluten, can increase the production of zonulin, a toxin that breaks down the tight junctions between epithelial cells in the gut. This causes gaps between intestinal epithelial cells and allows microbes and dietary proteins from the gut lumen to “leak” into the bloodstream. Hepatocytes (liver cells) and cholangiocytes (the cells that line the bile duct) are also connected by tight junctions, forming a selectively permeable barrier between the blood and the biliary system. Research has shown that zonulin is associated with the tight junctions in virtually all mammalian epithelia. In other words, if gliadin compromises the intestinal barrier and gets into the bloodstream, it can also wreak havoc on other epithelial barriers, including the blood–biliary barrier.

Sure enough, research has linked gluten intolerance and celiac disease to increased prevalence of gallstones and biliary cirrhosis. There is also a high prevalence of celiac disease in patients with autoimmune hepatitis. One study found that 42 percent of adults with celiac disease had abnormal levels of liver enzymes. Adherence to a gluten-free diet for one to 10 years normalized liver enzyme levels in 95 percent of these patients.

Intestinal villi, the fingerlike projections on epithelial cells responsible for nutrient absorption in the small intestine, are typically shortened and damaged in celiac disease. This may impair the sensing of incoming dietary fatty acids by enteroendocrine cells, resulting in reduced release of cholecystokinin and insufficient contraction of the gallbladder. Studies have shown that this too can be reversed with a gluten-free diet.

Cholecystectomy

Cholecystectomy, the complete removal of the gallbladder, may be unavoidable in some people with late-stage gallbladder disease. In this procedure, the biliary tract is rerouted, so that bile flows directly from the liver to the small intestine via the common bile duct. Gallbladder removal should be avoided whenever possible, as it has several unintended consequences and significantly alters physiology. Even in the absence of the gallbladder, the liver continues to produce bile.

Without a storage organ, intrahepatic cholestasis, the accumulation of bile in the liver, may occur. Altered bile secretion into the small intestine has also been shown to affect gut microbes and gut function. Additionally, even if a patient has undergone cholecystectomy, he or she may still continue to produce gallstones in the liver or bile ducts if the underlying pathophysiology has not been addressed.

Treating gallbladder disease: the functional way

There really is no conventional treatment available for gallbladder disease other than invasive surgery. Conventional medicine usually only advocates a low-fat diet. While this may alleviate symptoms over the short term, long-term reduction of fat intake only prevents the stimulation of gallbladder contraction by cholecystokinin. This can lead to more sluggishness and an increased risk of gallstones, which is what we are trying to avoid in the first place.

In contrast, a high-fat diet has been shown to protect against gallstone formation, especially during weight loss. On the other extreme, many natural health websites are promoting gallbladder flushes. However, research is limited on flushes as a treatment recommendation so it may be better to look more at addressing the underlying cause (a goal of functional and integrative nutrition/medicine). Recommendations for approaching a gallstone issue include:

Get tested: Markers of impaired gallbladder function include high ALT, AST, bilirubin, LDH, GGT, ALP, and 5ʹ-nucleotidase. Relative levels of these markers can also help narrow down which gallbladder disease you are dealing with.

Change your diet: Many people resolve their gallbladder issues simply by changing their dietary habits. Removing inflammatory foods, such as gluten, processed foods, and sugar can substantially improve gallbladder health.

Heal the gut: While it’s a bit of a chicken-or-the-egg situation as to which comes first, leaky gut and biliary disease certainly go hand in hand. It’s important to address both simultaneously in order to break the cycle of gut inflammation → biliary stasis → lack of bile → more gut inflammation.

Stimulate bile flow: Bitters, such as curcumin, dandelion, milk thistle, and ginger are well known for their ability to stimulate bile flow. These can be taken as supplements, included in meals, or consumed as tea.

Dissolve gallstones: Beet root, taurine, phosphatidylcholine, lemon, peppermint, and vitamin C have all been shown to reduce the impact and even dissolve gallstones.

Consider supplementing with bile: If you’re having trouble with fat digestion, you can also consider supplementing with bile itself from a bovine or ox source until your bile flow is restored.

Adapted from: Chris Kresser 

Research articles and references highlighted in blue

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Be good to your gut! Include Greek yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir or foods high in fiber in your diet.

Daily Inspiration

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