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November 29, 2018

The benefits of salt

As much as sodium has been demonized in the American diet—it actually plays as vital a role in the functioning of our bodies.

Sodium (like calcium, magnesium, phosphate, and potassium) is an electrolyte, meaning that it creates an electrically charged ion when dissolved in fluids like blood. Our bodies need electrolytes to facilitate nerve impulses and regulate body functions, such as heart rate, digestion, respiration, brain activity, and blood pressure. It is an essential nutrient where only in extreme cases not getting enough can cause health concerns.  While you lose a little sodium daily through sweat and urination, it is generally not enough to cause a sodium deficiency unless you are severely malnourished.  Hyponatremia, which is the extreme loss of sodium, can cause muscle cramps, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and even death.

But on a happy note – salt makes our food taste better!  With unique flavors from salts from different regions of the world, experimenting with various salts can be fun and really enhance your dishes.

Simply put, the average person who eats well and exercises regularly should enjoy this tasty nutrient without concern.

The difference between salt and sodium

One of the main causes of salt confusion is that people use the words “salt” and “sodium” interchangeably. But they aren’t the same thing. Sodium, which has been linked to heart disease and risk of a stroke, is only one of the basic elements that make up salt (a.k.a., sodium chloride (chlorine is the other element)).  Regular salt is 40% sodium.

Pink salts, used frequently by home cooks, have nearly the same amounts of sodium chloride as table salt, but they also contain small amounts of additional minerals that give it coloring and unique flavors.

So how much sodium should we be getting?

When it comes to tracking your sodium intake, the established number to keep in mind is 2,300 mg, the FDA’s suggested amount per day. But it’s important to note that less isn’t better, because we need sodium for a balance of electrolytes. If you don’t have enough and your blood pressure is too low, you can get dizzy and light-headed. (That goes double if you work out intensely and are drinking lots of water).

Watching salt intake is one way to monitor the amount of sodium we consume, but you shouldn’t weigh out salt and think it’s all sodium – remember, salt is only 40% sodium. The sodium to really keep an eye on is in processed foods. Most people actually only get 11 percent of the sodium in their diets from their salt shakers because processed foods are typically high in sodium.

So, if your diet is rich in non-processed, whole foods and you only salt your foods to enhance taste, then you probably don’t need to be concerned with how much you are getting; unless, of course, if there is a medical condition affected by sodium, then keeping track becomes important.

Eating Well, Recipes, Shopping & Markets

Kelp: Iodine rich and anti-inflammatory

June 6, 2017

Kelp (a.k.a. brown seaweed) contains high amounts of iodine, magnesium, calcium, potassium and iron, as well as vitamins, antioxidants, phytonutrients, amino acids, omega-3 fats and fiber, which together yield impressive health benefits that are hard to ignore.


Considered by many to be a superfood because of its wide variety of nutrients, kelp has been a staple of several Asian cultures for centuries. While its popularity in the western world is more recent as more people discover the many benefits this vegetable has to offer, it’s quickly becoming part of a balanced diet for a large number of health conscience Americans.


Kelp noodles are a great alternative to flour-based noodles or pasta as they are gluten-free, egg-free, low in calories, contain virtually no carbohydrates, and are high in iodine that helps with healthy thyroid function for healthy hormones.


Get to know some of the many benefits of mighty kelp:


There are about 30 different varieties of kelp growing in chilly waters throughout the oceans of the world.


Certain types of kelp are the highest nutritional source of iodine available.


Kelp is helpful with weight loss, and it can help reduce diabetes risk factors and prevent or treat certain blood disorders.


Fucoidan, found in kelp, has been extensively researched for its cancer-fighting and anti-inflammatory properties.


The high presence of vitamin K in kelp, along with fucoidan, helps to keep your bones strong.


Kelp is available in powder, dried, fresh and supplement form. You should always get kelp from a reputable source and preferably eat it rather than take it as a supplement.

Eating Well, Shopping & Markets


February 4, 2016

Genetically modified organisms, commonly known as “GMOs,” have been around since the 1980’s and are plants scientifically altered to resist insects without the application of pesticides.  They look like any other product on the shelf, but potentially pose a huge threat.

We currently have very little data on the long-term impact of altering the genetic code of some of the world’s largest and most essential crops.  Yet, most of the corn and soybean grown in the United States today come from genetically modified seeds.  And these products enter our food system on multiple levels – we consume them directly and indirectly when they are fed to our sources of meat

Among other issues, GM crops have been modified to withstand the powerful herbicide Roundup, produced by Monsanto.  These crops therefore contain Roundup which has been proven to cause infertility, mammary tumors, kidney damage and liver damage in animals.  The effects of this on humans are likely to be just as serious as it is on rats, but long term data is still being researched.

Worldwide many nations have banned, regulated, or enforced labeling on GMO’s. The European Union led the way with laws demanding labeling in 1998, followed by Japan, New Zealand, then Australia, China, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Indonesia, Russia, India, Chile, Taiwan, and South Africa.   The most notable exceptions are the United States and Canada, which produce huge amounts of GMO crops not currently regulated by any government agency.  Very few states and municipalities have enacted laws requiring labeling, so most consumers in these countries are really on their own.

Big agriculture and its lobbying efforts have managed to keep the food industry from having to label its products, and many consumers are now voicing their outrage and demanding a change.  This is a good time to insist your local and state governments pass laws requiring the food industry to identify these foods.  In the meantime, when possible, eat organic and source your food locally where you have knowledge of the farming practices. Stick with plant based whole foods and avoid processed foods.  Change is on its way – but you can make it now!


Eating Well, Shopping & Markets


September 24, 2015

The word fat still conjures up a negative image with most people; however, “fat” in our diet is not just essential as a macronutrient, but new evidence shows that “healthy” fats ( saturated and unsaturated) in our food has been overwhelmingly underrated and admonished.

The thinking of “eat fat gain fat” is giving way to a new, more nuanced understanding of dietary fats.  Here are some facts: The body needs fat for many important cellular functions; Fat facilitates the absorption of certain fat-soluble vitamins, such as A and D; Fat is a source of energy for our body, it insulates us, and it provides cushioning to our organs;  Fat is a building block of our cell membranes. (think of how dry your skin would be without it); and, fat  increases metabolism and  fat-burning, decreases  appetite, and does not cause spikes of insulin.  And surprisingly, new evidence is showing there is no link between dietary cholesterol and heart disease as we were taught in the past.

In addition to the many benefits of fat, shortages of fat can lead to problems, such as, hormone deficiency, depression, dry skin, fatigue, and poor recovery after exercise.  For the average person, 30% of daily caloric intake should be from fat -ideally, omega 3’s- the rock star of all fats.  Animal fats should be kept to about 1/3 of that 30% intake (10% of daily intake), with the balance of fat coming from plant-based foods (e.g., nuts and oils)

Here are my top choices for healthy fats in your daily diet:


Red meat- grass fed                                                         Olive oil

Coconut oil                                                                       Canola oil

Butter                                                                                Nuts

Milk                                                                                   Avocados





Eating Well, Shopping & Markets

Soda and the American Diet

April 9, 2015


Recent studies have shown that almost 90 percent of kids and 50 percent of the US population drink soft drinks at least once a day. And only one can per day increases a child’s chance of obesity by 60 percent and increases an adult woman’s chances by 82 percent. So, with over one billion cans of Coke alone sold daily, it is safe to assume the number one cause of obesity is sugar sweetened beverages. Clearly, the benefits of removing both regular and diet soft drinks from the American diet are innumerable.

When your biology is affected by drinking too much sugar two things happen. First, your body becomes insulin resistant, and you have to pump out more insulin to keep your blood sugar normal. Diabetes occurs when the body cannot produce enough insulin and glucose levels in the blood increase. Since liquid sugar (fructose from soda) is absorbed more quickly and mainlined to the liver, blood sugar and insulin are increased. The second biological response is that the body becomes leptin resistant. Leptin is the hormone produced by fat cells that tells the brain we have had enough food. Leptin resistance means your brain stops being able to read those signals and you just keep eating with increased cravings.

Believe it or not diet sodas are worse. Even more addictive than regular soft drinks, artificially sweetened drinks are hundreds of times sweeter than regular sodas. Artificial sweeteners trick the metabolism into thinking real sugar is on the way and causes the body to pump out insulin, which also leads to belly fat. Artificial sweeteners slow down your metabolism, which causes you to burn fewer calories, make you hungry and increase your cravings for more sugar and starchy carbs. And the average diet soda drinker tends to consume 3 sodas per day! The bottom line is that diet sodas are no substitute and actually worse for you than regular sodas in the fight against diabetes.

To put it simply, regular and diet soft drinks are no longer acceptable in the American diet. They should be removed in order to improve our health and avoid the numerous health issues associated with obesity.

Eating Well, Shopping & Markets

My Top Positive Weight Loss Tips

December 16, 2014

1. Take measurements at the start of your weight loss program and weigh yourself regularly. Be sure to use the same scale and weigh only in the morning without clothes. Use this as your start and continue to monitor until you have met your goal. Chart your loss and your size changes.

2. Don’t shop hungry. Carry plenty of protein rich snacks to keep you feeling satisfied throughout the day. Almonds would be a great choice. Be sure to portion your nuts (15 almonds) and keep handy for when hunger hits.

3. Get a calorie counter. Whether it is an app or a book, you need to understand food’s nutrient breakdown and keep track of calories consumed when trying to reduce your weight.

4. Get plenty of sleep. Lack of sleep is a stressor, which raises cortisol, a hormone that causes your body to store fat around the middle. Lack of sleep also lowers your serotonin (a neurotransmitter) and low levels are associated with cravings and overeating.

5. Exercise. Weight loss only works when combined with an exercise program.

6. Clean out the kitchen cabinet. Get rid of processed foods and road blocks that will derail all your hard work. Remember: Healthy food taste great! If you are filling your body with nutrient rich satisfying foods the junk cravings will disappear.

7. Drink water. Repeat. Drink more water.

8. Eat breakfast every day. Even if you are someone who does not like to eat in the morning a protein smoothie will be appetizing. When you skip breakfast your insulin release intensifies at the next meal and your blood sugar is destabilized. You will be much more likely to be subject to cravings.

9. Be mindful and conscience when you are eating. Turn off the TV, put down the paper and enjoy the food you are eating. Chances are you will eat less.

10. Keep a journal. Seeing your success on paper, preferably logged online, will be encouraging as you strive to meet your goals.

11. No eating after 7:00. When trying to loose weight most of your calories should be consumed spread out throughout the day, the evening meal should not be your biggest portion.

12. Protein at every meal. This keeps the blood sugar stable and eliminates spikes and lows of energy.

13. No more juice, soda, or high calorie drinks. These can be loaded with sugar and throw a healthy day right out the window. Drink water, sparkling water with a splash of juice, or green tea.

14. Pack your lunch. Avoid eating out and consuming hidden calories in restaurant food. Plan your week ahead and portion out your own meals.

15. If eating out, skip the bread!

16. Roast large trays of vegetables and always have them in the refrigerator for adding to your packed lunches. Roasting makes any vegetable taste good.  No more excuses, even the pickiest of eaters will enjoy.

17. Read your labels and look for added sugars and fats. Become an advocate for you!

18. Reward yourself with something other than food. Splurge of something entertaining at small milestones. This is a journey and slow and steady wins this race.

Eating Well, Shopping & Markets

Helpful tips on reducing the amount of sugar in your diet

November 14, 2014

“Sugar is inflammatory, and inflammation is now believed, correctly, to be connected to all degenerative disease. Diets that are lower in sugar and processed carbs will reduce inflammation, blood sugar, insulin resistance, and triglycerides.” Dr. Jonny Bowden

Here are some helpful tips on reducing sugar in your diet.

1. Don’t add sugar to your foods. Sounds basic but eliminating adding sugar to your cereal, coffee, tea, or morning grapefruit, is the first place to start.

2. Sugar is sugar, become a food detective. Don’t be fooled by “healthy” names such as raw, brown, or turbinado. They are all fancy words for sugar.

3. Reduce processed carbohydrates. Processed carbs such as breads, bagels, crackers, and snacks, are loaded with white flour that quickly converts to sugar once it is ingested. That sugar then gets stored as triglycerides, a nice way of saying fat.

4. Stay away from “fat free” marketing. This usually means they have removed the fat (more on that later) and added loads of sugar. Read your labels!

5. Reach for low-glycemic fruits and vegetables. Load your grocery cart with lots of choices of fruits and vegetables so they are available when you are craving something sweet. Out of sight out of mind can work in your favor when it comes to wanting something sweet and making the right choice.

6. Read your labels. Look for sugar on your packaging, it’s disguised in many ways. Glucose, sucrose, maltose, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup are all different forms of sugar and can be used multiple times in one product.

7. Reduce the amount of fruit juice. I have always been a fan of eating your fruit for breakfast instead of drinking it. 100% juice is a real sugar hit and should be consumed moderately. Healthy choices such as unsweetened pomegranate and cranberry are a good alternative but should also be diluted with sparkling or regular water as a refreshing but not heavy juice drink. Remember there is no better alternative to water for thirst.

8.. Don’t turn to artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners can increase cravings for sugar and carbohydrates. They can also deplete the bodies stores of chromium, a nutrient crucial for blood-sugar metabolism.

Eating Well, Seasonal, Shopping & Markets

Fall Superfoods to build your Immune System

November 6, 2014

                                                   Fall’s produce fortifies the body, it’s full of nourishing vitamins and bursting with nutrients

Now is the time to really get nutrient dense super foods packed into your daily diet to build up your defenses against the impending cold and flu season. When shopping the last of the fall farmer’s markets be sure to incorporate these foods with your purchases.

Dark Leafy Greens and Kale  It seems everywhere you turn a shout-out goes out to dark leafy greens and for good reason. These include kale, spinach, collards, mustard Greens, and many others.  These nutritional super foods are packed with vitamin A (1 cup = 600 percent of daily requirement), Vitamin K,  and vitamin C.  Make a large fresh salad every day one of your fall goals!

Pomegranate  Pomegranates are a great source of antioxidants such as cancer fighting polyphenols.  They are also an excellent source of  vitamin C and potassium.  Use them to add a sweet flavor to salads or throw them into your smoothies for added color and a shot of vitamin C.  The challenge of getting the seeds out of the pomegranate has been discussed many ways,  I usually cut it in half and “beat”the back of the fruit with a wooden spoon.  It seems to do the trick!

Brussels Sprouts and Cauliflower  Brussels Sprouts  and Cauliflower offer two and a half times the daily requirement of vitamin  K  in one cup, along with well over your daily requirement of vitamin C.  They also contain folate, B6,  and a high dose of  fiber.  They both store well in the refrigerator for long periods of time and can be roasted together on a high temperature with heart healthy olive oil ,  sea salt and pepper.  For an added immunity boost roast along with  a large fresh chopped onion.

Pumpkin and Squash  High in B vitamins that protect your heart, pumpkins and squash also are loaded with potassium for bone support and beta carotene (the orange color) which is good for cancer prevention.  Start with a hearty pumpkin soup, the recipe is posted and easy to manage.

Onions and Leeks  Part of the allium family these are two immunity boosters I am never without.  I mange to get cooked onions into recipes at least five nights of the week and I credit this super food to warding off sickness, and aiding my bodies immunity with powerful antioxidants and Vitamin C.


Eating Well, Shopping & Markets

Choosing the best oil for different foods

October 28, 2014

When it comes to cooking oils the choices seem to be limitless when staring at the variety now presented in your local grocery isle.  Here are my top pics with a simple guide for choosing the best oil for eating, roasting, baking, and frying.  These 6 stars are usually always in the pantry.

1. Coconut oil:  86 percent saturated fat means it is solid at room temperature (do not be concerned this is a super healthy oil).  Relatively heat stable and resistant to rancidity.

Go for virgin coconut oil which means it has been extracted without chemicals.  Great for baking.

2. Walnut oil:  Rich nutty taste.  Not recommended for cooking because of its low heat index,  but great on salads and for use in marinades.  Helps to reduce resting blood pressure. Big on flavor. 

3. Canola oil:  Great vegetable oil with a high smoke point.  Commonly used for frying and baking. It’s price point makes it a good oil to use for the bulk of your cooking where you do not want the flavor of the oil to interfere with your food.  Try to choose the organic label if possible to avoid genetically modified seed.

4. Grapeseed oil:  A little on the pricey side but a wonderful, healthy oil to use for frying or roasting meats and vegetables.  It has a high heat index and a very subtle flavor that is plant based.  Also delicious in salad dressings.

5. Avocado oil:  Just like olive oil, avocado oil is 70 percent monounsaturated.  It has been on the heart healthy list for a long time and for good reasons as it it rich in Omega 3’s.

Gives a rich taste to salads or drizzled over foods, with its deep color characteristic to avocados. Can also be used for cooking with its high smoke point. 

6.  Olive oil:  The mediterranean wonder.  I keep several types in the pantry for all varieties of use.  Great for salad dressing, dipping bread, roasting meats and vegetables.  Adds a wonderful flavor to food as it is applied.  It has a low smoke point so remember with olive oil to always heat your pan first, then add oil and heat oil before adding your food.  It is not recommended for frying. 

Where I buy my oils:
Coconut oil: Trader Joes’s
Grapeseed oil: Safeway
Olive oils: Trader Joes’s and Whole Foods
Canola oil: Whole Foods (organic)
Avocado oil: Safeway
Walnut oil: Whole Foods