Weight-Loss & Metabolism

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Most of us live in cultures that rewards the skinny and lean and we're obsessed with losing weight. And so we stop eating, go on low-fat, low-calorie or detox diets and juice cleanses. Then we eat again and gain back more weight than we have just lost. Then you diet again...and again and eventually just looking at food will put on the pounds! What's going on? And, why can the happy SKINNY person next to you in a restaurant polish off an entire bread basket and a totally normal plate of pasta—and look happy and vibrant, and, no, not one bit guilty.

It's called Metabolism.

While short-term cleanses and fasts have successfully been used by many cultures, constant dieting on under 1,500 calories a day, eating fat-free and omitting entire macro-nutrient groups will ruin your metabolism. Your body is an intelligent being and has learned to survive in famines. If you are putting your body through constant famine situations, it will react intelligently and simply burn less calories so you can survive.

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Is Salt White?

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Just as there is good fat and bad fat, there's good and bad salt. Salt provides two essential elements, sodium and chloride. Both are essential to life. Our bodies cannot make these two elements. We must get them from our diets. However, let's look at the differences of unprocessed vs. processed salt:

Natural unprocessed salt, such as grey/green Celtic sea salt, Hawaiian red salt and pink Himalayan salt, contains about 84 percent sodium chloride (just under 37% of which is pure sodium). The remaining 16% are naturally-occurring trace minerals, including silicon, phosphorus, and vanadium.

Processed (white) table salt contains 97.5% sodium chloride (just over 39 % of which is sodium). The rest, 2.5% is man-made chemicals, such as moisture absorbents and flow agents, such as ferrocyanide and aluminosilicate. The processing also radically alters the structure of the salt. Refined table salt is dried above 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit, and this excessive heat alters the natural chemical structure of the salt.

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The Colors of Salt

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Ordinary salt out of the shaker comes from underground salt deposits which are then refined (much like table sugar) until all that remains is sodium and chloride. (Iodized salt also has iodine).

Unprocessed salt, on the other hand, are not refined and still contain a variety of minerals, which give them an alluring color and a more interesting taste profile. They are often called gourmet salt. Key is that they are much less processed than regular table salt.

Here's just a quick started guide on using some of the many natural salts available. As with all real foods, enjoy them all in moderation.

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Carbohydrate Digestion

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Carbohydrates are nutrients that provide your body with energy. But before carbohydrates can fuel your morning run, they must be broken down into their basic units, called monosaccharides, and absorbed from your digestive tract into your bloodstream.

Carbohydrate digestion, as all digestion, is a north to south process. It starts in your brain. If you are hungry, calm and relaxed and if you are smelling and seeing delicious foods, you salivary gland will kick into gear and start the mouthwatering process of releasing salivary amylase. This enzyme is particularly important for carbohydrate digestion, as it starts breaking down carbohydrates as you chew them. Very few of us chew our food long enough for salivary amylase to have a significant effect on the carbohydrates that we eat. On average, people chew six times before swallowing! If you chew consciously, and about 20-30 times per bite, you will notice that carbohydrate foods such as cooked vegetables, breads and fruit actually get sweeter as you chew them. Your body needs a meaningful opportunity to kick-start this so called chemical and physical carb-digestion in your mouth, because the stomach, the next digestive organ, really focuses more on protein digestion. Without that digestion the salivary amylase you swallow along with your food is inactivated due to the acidity of your stomach.

Digestion of carbohydrates does not resume until the food mass reaches the first part of the small intestine: the duodenum. Pancreatic amylase is released by the pancreas, and this continues the breakdown of the carbohydrate that started in the mouth. If carbohydrates are correctly and completely broken down into monosaccharides, they will be easily absorbed into the bloodstream through the small intestines.

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Fermented Foods

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When our Paleolithic ancestors started cultivating grain, population exploded. We had more calories, could store grains for the winter and were suddenly able to feed more people. However, body height, life span and general health actually declined in the early agricultural age. So, what caused the disruption of the health of early agriculturalists? Grains, while filling, they contain anti-nutrients and are generally hard to digest. Bodies were not able to derive the nutrients they were previously realizing from their previous paleo diet—and overall health suffered. It was a shock to the system and evolution had no time to adjust. (Our genes adapted less than 1% over the last 10,000 years.) Over time however humans figured out ways to make these agricultural foods more digestible and therefore more nutritious. How? Through sprouting, soaking and fermentation.

Sprouted, soaked and fermented foods eliminate anti-nutrients, such as phytic acid (which robs our bodies of minerals) but most importantly, add living enzymes to foods, which not only pre-digest the nutrients in this food (grains) but also assist in digesting other less enzymatic foods you may be eating.

Our northern ancestors ate dense, whole-grain sourdough breads. Allowing the grains to ferment before baking helps dough rise, preserves it for weeks, adds superior flavor and a better nutrient profile by boosting enzymatic action. Moreover, they used the whole grain, creating breads you had to chew for a good while because they were so dense...and yes, all that chewing produced salivary amylase! Today we have forgotten how important it is to soak any kind of grain, seed or nut in order to reduce anti-nutrients and boost enzymatic action. And in many cultures light, fluffy six-chew breads are preferred.

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Food Allergies

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While food sensitivity tests list all sort of foods we can be allergic to, true food allergies only involve proteins, which have not been broken down properly. Its mind boggling how many people nowadays have gluten and casein allergies, with egg white and other food allergies following close behind.

What actually happens? Well, if proteins don’t get broken down into their essential amino acids, something the body actually very much needs to function, these undigested and fairly large protein molecules end up in the small intestines and damage the intestinal lining. This allows them to sneak into the bloodstream where they are identified as a foreign object to be attacked by the immune system. This story is simplified but at the core of so many health problems that I cannot share this enough:

If you don’t digest your foods properly, they can actually damage your system and make your body attack itself. I see many dietary protocols where you avoid the foods you are allergic to, then slowly reintroduce foods over time, but most protocols fail to address the actual healing of the intestinal lining, resulting the more and more food allergies and sensitivities. An important dietary approach is to seal the gut walls and to give as much digestive support as possible. If given the proper rest and nutrient selection, the epithelial lining of the intestines is actually able to regenerate itself quite quickly. It takes a bit longer to calm down all of the inflammation and the body’s alerted immune system. So, patience is in order.

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Protein Digestion

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All living things are composed of proteins, which are chains of specific groups of amino acids linked together by chemical bonds. There are essential amino acids, which the body cannot make, and nonessential and conditional proteins, which the body can synthesize. According to the University of Arizona, protein production is so vital to survival, if a sufficient amount of just one essential amino acid is not obtained from food, the body takes that amino acid from muscle tissue and other sources of protein within the body.

The best dietary sources for amino acids are animal-based proteins, such as meat, eggs or dairy products, because they each contain all the essential amino acids. Amino acids are also found in plant-based foods, including vegetables, beans, grains, nuts and seeds. However, plant sources must be combined because they do not contain all the essential amino acids. An example is rice and beans, which form a complete protein when combined. The fairly large protein molecules must be broken apart into amino acids. While the mechanical breaking down of proteins begins in the mouth (yes, chew, 20-30 times), the chemical digestive process happens primarily in the stomach, where hydrochloric acid (HCl) and other gastric juices are produced to help digest, i.e. break apart large protein molecules. This acid also disinfects stomach contents—an important protective barrier. As the name implies, HCl is extremely acidic. In an ideal situation, your stomach acid will take your food, which is at a fairly neutral pH of around 7, to a pH level of 1.5 to 3. Stress, excess carbohydrate consumption, nutrient deficiencies, carbonated beverages and excess alcohol can prevent HCl production. Low HCl means a low pH in the stomach which not only prevents proper protein digestion but also creates an environment favorable to Candida, prions, bacteria, viruses, and parasites, which are all little proteins. Proper pH helps the body to digest theses microorganisms and they become food.

If HCl levels in the stomach are not low enough, i.e. not between pH 1.5 and 3, protein molecules cannot properly be broken down. This often leads to GERD or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, resulting in the inability of the body to break down food properly. The food gets rancid and putrefies causing reflux or backward flow into the esophagus. The esophagus lining cannot handle acidic foods from the stomach and burning results. Antacids raise the pH, of the rancid food, to neutral and stop the burning in the esophagus but make the digestive condition in the stomach too alkaline. The lack of the proper amount of stomach acid prevents the triggering of other important digestive processes further down the line.

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Superfood: Beets

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Beets are rich in betaine, which stimulates liver cell function and provides a protective effect for the liver and bile ducts.

Beets are just one of the many foods that can help to support proper healthy bile flow and detoxify the body. I personally love beets and have several recipes for their use. Beets are in season summer through winter. Be sure to purchase organic beets with the tops and use both. Consider taking the very top of the beet where the leaves attach and shredding it up as a slaw to eat daily if possible, especially if you have a sluggish gallbladder. It’s also delicious mixed with grated carrot and apple, and seasoned with gingerroot, lemon juice, sea salt and olive oil. 

Beets have a tremendous regenerating effect on the body, and for those recovering from digestive ailments beets help to can be used a digestive aid. It is an excellent tonic for the blood as it alkalizes the blood, promotes regularity and it helps cleanse the liver by stimulating bile production.

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Fat Digestion

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One of the main purposes of the liver is the secretion of bile—about a quart a day. Bile is a liquid is produced in the liver, but stored in the gallbladder. The gallbladder then releases bile into the small intestines when it receives a signal—and the signal is actual consumption of healthy fats. Healthy fats such as pastured butter, egg yolks, avocado and walnuts stimulate bile flow, while trans-fats do not. Eating fat free foods for long periods of time results in sluggish bile flow and fat digestion, leading to gallstones, gas, belching and nausea after eating. Moreover, we naturally crave fats because our cells aren't getting the fatty acids they need to function properly, leading to hormonal imbalance (we need fats to build hormones and bile to detoxify hormones), inflammation, depression and excessively dry (and aging) skin. Gallbladder surgery is one of the most common surgeries performed in the US, because bile ducts are hopelessly congested due to low fat diets. Thus, eating healthy fats on a regular basis is vitally important to keep bile flowing, to keep bile flowing to digest fats and to detoxify the body.

Bile is also vitally important in absorbing fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K and a powerful antioxidant that carries toxins filtered by the liver out of our bodies via the small intestines.

The most effective ways to promote gallbladder health are not periodic cleanses but a diet that consistently supports bile flow.

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The Art of Savoring

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Sometimes we close our eyes and transcend into a sublime state of being by simply tasting something delicious. There is a theory that food rituals make people pay more attention to food and thus many of the culinary traditions are at the root of making our food taste better through simple ritualistic customs around food.Just imagine the rituals of Thanksgiving or a traditional Passover meal.

A new study in Psychology Today explored the root causes of why we perform food rituals such as swirling wine, setting a beautiful table, or even unwrapping a chocolate bar in a slow ritualistic manner. What the study found is that people enjoyed and valued food more when it was connected with a ritual. It worked for chocolate as well as for carrots. But why? The theory is that people who are more involved with their food, had a natural flavor tune-up. I believe that this is a natural evolution, with our digestive function at its core: slowing down the eating process is good for our health!

A further experiment showed that food that people were personally involved in making tasted better than food they watched being made. So, get away from the TV and into the kitchen! Rituals make people more personally involved with the eating experience, which leads them to enjoy and value it more. So, it's no surprise that our ancestor created rituals: food tastes better, is better digested and assimilated and you create more with less. Lastly, through food we are more connecetd to each other and to the land around us—something we're all trying to get back to. 

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Lemon for Health

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Lemon tree is an ancient symbol; of cleansing, freshness and healing and lemons have long been a symbol of longevity, purification, love, and friendship.

The lemon is thought to have originated in China, India, Burma, and throughout Southeast Asia, where it was primarily used an antiseptic and antidote for poisons. From its origins, the lemon traveled through Europe and Western Africa before the first century AD, the Middle East around 700 AD, the Mediterranean and Africa after the first millennium, and finally came to the Americas after Columbus’s second expedition to the New World in 1493.

What are the health benefits of lemons?

According to traditional Chinese medicine, lemon’s effect on the body is cooling; it harmonizes the stomach and aids in digestion and replenishes fluids. Just as it cuts grease on counters, it cleanses the liver, kidneys, blood, mouth, and urinary tract while making the body more alkaline in pH.

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Grass-fed Ghee

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Ghee is clarified butter. Clarification in butter means that the butter is heated and milk solids (proteins) have been removed. The protein casein in dairy is difficult for many people to digest, especially when they are experiencing inadequate stomach acid levels, which lead to a plethora of health problems. If undigested, casein is a large foreign protein that can pass through the human gut easily, contributing to what is known as "leaky" or permeable gut. When these proteins pass through the gut, they contribute to inflammatory conditions in the body. Many people think they cannot digest the lactose in dairy, but may in fact actually be reacting to the protein casein. Because the casein is removed from ghee, ghee is much easier for many to digest than butter.  

Ghee is therefore the preferred way of enjoying butter if you are trying to heal your digestive tract. Ghee is a stable, healthy, saturated fat. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature. Contrary to what you've probably heard in the past, these are the most beneficial fats for our body! These fats are fully saturated with hydrogen bonds (NOT to be confused with hydrogenated oils). Saturated fats are stable, and do not easily oxidize (break down) or go rancid. In fact, one of the reason why so many cultures clarify butter is to make it stable at room temperature.

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Farmers Markets

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Farmers markets have increased from under 2,000 to over 8,000 in the last 20 years. While markets are as old as human civilization, the last 2-3 generations have become more accustomed to the convenience of supermarkets, packaged and prepared foods. Buying, washing and preparing veggies from scratch had become a rare occasion. The revival of framers markets is definitely here! From novelties at first 20 years ago ("hey, lets walk through this cute farmers market..."), it is now possible to get the bulk of your foods at these beautiful farmers markets found everywhere. Beyond fruits and vegetables, they now also offer eggs, grass-fed and pasture-raised meats, nuts, heirloom seeds, seedlings, cheeses, sausages, olive oil and flowers. You can stock up for the week at a fraction of the cost of shopping at a health food store. In addition there are some noteworthy benefits:

Fruits and vegetables are fresher, and therefore, taste better. In my opinion, fruits and vegetables at a farmers’ market usually taste fresher and better than those bought at a health food chain.It’s healthier and more sustainable to eat food that is locally grown. Eating food grown in the local area cuts down on the money, energy, and resources needed to ship the food to you. By cutting down on the natural resources used to transport your food to you, you’re doing your part to help the environment.It’s outside. Being outside and getting some exposure to the sun can be of great benefit to your health. (If you have any sensitivities or skin disorders that become aggravated with sun exposure, you’ll have to use your best judgement to determine how much exposure is best for you.) The sun is the greatest source of Vitamin D there is. Vitamin D is great for boosting immunity, supporting healthy bones and skin, and increasing serotonin, therefore reducing the chances of depression.It helps to build community in your city or neighborhood. One of the great things about going to the farmers’ market is that you have the opportunity to talk with like-minded, health-conscious individuals in your community.It creates an excellent opportunity to communicate with those who grow or create the foods that you eat. It’s important to know what you’re eating. And what better way to find out what’s in your food then being able to talk to the person who grows it and sells it to you? With the grower right there, you can find out if the tomatoes you’re thinking about purchasing are organic or not. And if the farm doesn't have an organic certification, is it because they couldn't afford the high price of the organic certification even though they don’t spray any chemicals or pesticides on their produce? You can find out all these intricate details by talking to the grower, which you couldn't do by shopping at a chain store. Most of the growers and business owners are more than willing to talk to their customers about their product and educate them about any politics regarding sustainable agriculture, Prop. 37, etc.Instead of giving your money to large corporations, you’re supporting local farmers and small business owners. Local farmers and small business owners need the money more than large health food chains. A lot of times, small farms and small businesses are just getting their start, and don’t have a lot of financial backing. It’s up to the consumer to decide if they like what they’re selling, and support them so that their business will prosper.

Here is a great little video by Michael Pollan.

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