Contact Us

Use the form on the right to contact us.

You can edit the text in this area, and change where the contact form on the right submits to, by entering edit mode using the modes on the bottom right. 

         

123 Street Avenue, City Town, 99999

(123) 555-6789

email@address.com

 

You can set your address, phone number, email and site description in the settings tab.
Link to read me page with more information.

Explore All

 

 

Filtering by Category: Nutrition

Getting Enough Iron During Pregnancy

Rachel O'Reilly

Iron is one of those buzzword nutrients that almost every woman knows about. Groups at highest risk for iron deficiency include teenage girls, women of childbearing age, pregnant women, children under 2 years of age, and the elderly. According to the World Health Organization, iron deficiency affects a large number of children and women in developing countries and is the only nutrient deficiency that is also significantly prevalent in industrialized countries.

Some degree of iron deficiency occurs in 35-58% of healthy women of childbearing age. But why does this occur? Mostly due to inadequate dietary intake, blood loss, lack of iron absorption/utilization, increased demand by the body (such as during pregnancy), or a combination of all these factors.

Iron deficiency anemia is one of the common nutrient anemias that can occur during pregnancy (others are a deficiency of folic acid and B12). Symptoms include:

  • Extreme fatigue

  • Dizziness

  • Shortness of breath

  • Paleness of skin, fingernail beds, and mucous membranes

  • Loss of appetite (especially past the first trimester)

  • Heart palpitations

  • Gastrointestinal disturbances such as constipation and abdominal pain

  • Frequent colds or infections
     

Iron’s role in the body

Iron plays an important role in transporting oxygen from the lungs to the body’s tissues, and carbon dioxide from the tissues to the lungs. For this reason, sufficient iron availability allows for optimal oxygenation of fetal tissue. Additionally, iron is a key enzyme in metabolism and DNA synthesis. The body’s need for iron will increase dramatically during pregnancy, as well as lactation, and proper optimal iron levels leads to adequate iron stores for the newborn.

Food Sources of Iron

There are two types of iron, heme and nonheme. Heme iron is found in animal sources, and is the most efficiently absorbed form of iron. Non-heme refers to iron found in plant foods, and is poorly absorbed.

Here’s an example of foods containing bio-available iron (heme):

  • 3 oz clams (cooked) 23.8 mg

  • 3 oz beef liver 5.3 mg

  • 3 oz Sirloin steak 2.9 mg

  • 3 oz shrimp 2.6 mg

  • 3 oz lean ground beef 2.3 mg

  • 3 oz turkey breast 1.3 mg

 

Other heme iron food sources include:

  • Poultry such as chicken, duck, and turkey

  • Meats such as beef, pork, and lamb

  • Seafood including sardines, anchovies, and oysters

 

Non-heme food sources: (in plant sources, ~17% of iron is absorbed)

  • 1 cup lentils 6.6 mg

  • 1 cup cooked spinach 6.43 mg

  • 1 cup cooked quinoa 5.3 mg

  • 1 cup kidney beans 5.2 mg

  • 1 cup cooked beet greens 2.74 mg

  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds 2.62 mg

  • 5 figs, dried 0.85 mg

Other sources include:

  • Blackstrap molasses (also has a lot of sugar, so use sparingly as a sweetener)

  • Nettles (tea)

  • Kelp (seaweed - kombu and dulse)

  • Nutritional yeast  

  • Organic, unsulphured dried fruits including raisins, prunes, black Mission figs, apricots, and cherries)

 

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of iron during pregnancy is 27mg, and 9-10 mg during lactation.  Keep in mind that the RDA is a guideline that was originally created in 1941 and was designed to reduce the rates of severe nutritional deficiency disease, such as scurvy. In other words, consider the RDA the minimum amount necessary, and these amounts will not take your individual need into consideration. To check your individual iron status, talk to your healthcare provider; they will be able to run a CBC test, or complete blood count, and interpret the results for your needs.

Can I get all my iron needs from food?

Even for women who eat a healthy, whole foods diet, and have reasonable iron stores prior to conception, supplementing (via your prenatal vitamin, not as a single supplement) will ensure sufficient iron levels during pregnancy, as well as for a good length of time postpartum. Supplementation may also be helpful in protecting against iron deficiency in subsequent pregnancies . Always talk to your health care provider and/or midwife before supplementing.

 

Honey Iron Syrup

Ingredients:

Raisins

Black Mission figs

Dried dark cherries

Dates

Carob pod

Directions: 

  1. Mix equal parts of each to add up to 1 cup

  2. Place in a 1 quart canning jar

  3. Pour honey to fill and cap the jar

  4. Place into a hot water bath, and heat gently for three hours.

  5. Let sit at room temperature for 1 week

  6. Can strain or use as is

Dose: 1 tablespoon per day, in Nettle herbal tea. To bump up the iron levels even more, use a combination of nettles, yellow dock, and dandelion root. 

Herbs for Pregnancy

Rachel O'Reilly

By: Erica Favela

As many people are becoming aware and questioning the safety of synthetic and prescription drugs, the interest in alternative medicine or more “natural” remedies is rising. For many, this looks like turning to herbs or herbal infused products. Herbs are powerful and have been used for centuries. They’ve been a mainstay in folk medicine, and many cultures around the world continue to use them.

How do we know what's safe for pregnancy?

Botanical medicine is not included in the training of physicians and pharmacists. Furthermore, the risk of using herbs during pregnancy has not been scientifically evaluated, mostly due to the ethical considerations of clinical investigation on humans during pregnancy. Therefore, most of what is considered safe to use during pregnancy is based off of historical, empirical, and observational evidence. Although most herbs have a high safety profile, especially if used in modest amounts and in simple home remedies, lack of proof of harm does not always equate to safety, especially for women who are pregnant. During pregnancy, you should always discuss the use of herbs with an experienced herbalist, midwife, or physician trained in the use of botanicals.

As you do your research on herbs, you may find that some herbs have been identified as generally safe, while another source may put that same herb as unsafe. For instance, in China dong quai is prescribed as a blood tonic for pregnant women, however, Western scientific research on this same herb concludes it to be unsafe during pregnancy. Additionally, the safety of herbal use during pregnancy can also depend on the dosage and form in which it is taken. Fresh parsley as a garnish on food is generally safe for pregnant women, however parsley in an herbal supplement form has been deemed as contraindicated.

Pregnancy is not a time to test any herbs that you have had no experience with and that are not considered safe via clinical trials. A very judicious approach to using herbs during pregnancy is: avoid them during the first trimester (unless medically indicated), and then afterwards, using herbs that are scientifically proven as safe or historically known to be safe during pregnancy. Here are a few other things to take into consideration before turning to herbs:

  • If you are taking any medications, make sure you research if there are any contraindications between the herb and your medication. Some combinations of herbs and pharmaceuticals can be dangerous or cause undesirable side effects.

  • Be aware of source and quality. If you’re interested in taking herbs in supplemental form via pill, capsule, or tincture, do your research about the manufacturer. If buying herbs in bulk, check that they were grown organically. Be aware that the word “natural” is not synonymous with safe; many botanical products can contain other pharmacological substances.

  • When considering the use of herbs, they are best used in smaller doses and with gentler herbs as a preventative measure or for use before a symptom becomes advanced.

  • During pregnancy, the body goes through many physiological and metabolic changes, which may influence the impact of an herb in the body. For instance, licorice may be considered safe if used short-term during mid-pregnancy, yet long-term use of the herb has been associated with preterm birth.

  • Herbs are potent plants, and some have the ability to affect hormones, stimulate the uterus, or promote menstruation (known as emmenagogues). For these reasons, some herbs should be completely avoided during pregnancy, including:

  • Angelica

  • Arnica

  • Black walnut

  • Blue flag

  • Black/blue cohosh

  • Catnip

  • Chicory

  • Comfrey

  • Dong quai

  • Ephedra

  • Elder

  • Feverfew

  • Henbane

  • Licorice

  • Lobelia

  • Wormwood

  • Mugwort

  • Red clover

During pregnancy, herbs should be used as gentle forms of nourishment, or as general health promoting tonics. There are many herbs that can provide additional vitamins and minerals to your diet, and also act as gentle aids in strengthening the digestive system, nervous system, liver, womb, and urogenital tract. Because they are naturally biochelated, their high vitamin/mineral content is easily assimilated. In most cases, smaller doses are best, and in general, herbs that are considered food or tonic herbs are safe to use during pregnancy. For example, dandelion, raspberry leaf, oat straw, and chamomile.

Always ask a qualified herbalist or health professional when introducing herbs during your pregnancy.

The following list of herbs have been deemed safe to use during pregnancy. Many of the following comes from one of my favorite go-to herbal books, Maria Gladstar’s Herbal Healing for Women.

 

The Classics:

  • Red Raspberry leaf (rubus idaeus and related species) - perhaps considered the herb for pregnancy, this is safe to use throughout all nine months; nourishes uterine muscles, high in iron, can help increase milk flow, restore the system after childbirth.

  • Chamomile flowers (matricaria chamomilla/matricaria recutita) - gentle, relaxing tea; can be combined with ginger for digestive disorders or morning sickness.

  • Ginger Root (zingiber officinale) - excellent for morning sickness and digestive problems.

Excellent nutritive aids:

  • Dandelion greens and root (taraxacum officinale) - potent source of vitamins and minerals; mild diuretic and can help eliminate excess water from the system; the root is primarily for digestive disturbances and for cleansing/toning the liver.

  • Nettle leaf (urtica dioica) - rich in vitamins and minerals, including calcium and iron. Can be good for energy for those who have chronic fatigue due to low iron.

  • Alfalfa - contains many nutrients and trace minerals, including Vitamin K, which is necessary for blood clotting. Many midwives advise this herb to help prevent hemorrhaging, decrease postpartum bleeding, and to increase breastmilk.

For soothing the nervous system, uterus, liver, and more:

  • Black Haw (viburnum prunifolium) - can help relieve leg cramps, calm uterine muscles.

  • Blessed Thistle (cnicus benedictus) - liver tonic, stimulates blood flow/enriches flow of mother’s milk.

  • Cramp Bark (viburnum opulus) - recommended by herbalists as preventative for miscarriage due to stress and anxiety; antispasmodic (relieves muscle cramps).

  • Lady’s Mantle leaves (alchemilla vulgaris) - tones the uterus, can help with morning sickness, and may help in preventing hemorrhaging during childbirth.

  • Lemon Balm leaves (melissa officinalis) - can help calm and relax the system, and digestive. Can be combined with nettle for those dealing with allergies during pregnancy.

  • Oat straw stalk and unripe fruit (avena sativa) - helps soothe the nervous system, can be a safe remedy for yeast infections during pregnancy.

  • Squaw vine (mitchella repens) - traditionally used by Native American women; often combined with red raspberry for toning the uterus.

Natural Remedies for Morning Sickness

Rachel O'Reilly

 

By Erica Favela 

Nausea and vomiting of pregnancy (NVP), also known as “morning sickness,” occurs in approximately two-thirds of pregnancies. In most cases, this occurs during the first trimester, but only about half of women are free from this symptom by week 14. In most cases, it is resolved by week 22

Regardless of how sick you may feel, you can rest assured that having morning sickness is not associated with negative affects on your growing child. Although many theories about nausea and morning sickness exist, the cause of NVP is still a mystery that even our advanced scientific research has not been able to consistently conclude. It can stem from a myriad of things, including nutritional imbalance, hormonal changes, altered thyroid function, stress, emotional blocks, and lifestyle habits.

Easing nausea and the general discomfort during the beginning months of pregnancy should be handled specifically to your unique lifestyle and health history. Because we still do not have conclusive evidence about the cause, it’s worth trying multiple things. All aspects should be considered here, both physiologic and psychological factors. As is the case with many things, there’s usually not one sole culprit. Rather, self-care and dealing with these symptoms can come from a mind, body, spirit approach.

For instance, was the pregnancy a surprise? It’s natural that with such news, feelings of fear, ambivalence, resentment, or other unresolved conflicts can arise, and our emotions can take on physical manifestation. Or consider your environment - do you work in a place where toxicity exposure should be considered? Are you feeling stressed or anxious about the future? Acupuncture and acupressure have been shown to be great aids of alleviating NVP, and are also excellent ways to slow down and de-stress.  While this post will only focus on nutritional aspects, be aware that food is only one part of the equation, and don’t forget to nurture your mental and emotional sides too.

Whether you’re already in the thick of NVP, or just want to know how you might handle it when the time comes, here are some nutrition basics:

Nutrient density. As previously mentioned in other posts, and probably obvious, eat a balanced, nutrient-dense, whole foods diet. This includes fresh vegetables, especially dark leafy greens, proteins, whole food fats like avocados, complex carbohydrates like summer/winter squashes, and plenty of fiber (which will naturally come in whole food form). Although nausea and vomiting are common, symptoms like these are the body’s way of coming back into balance. Eating foods that are unprocessed, organic, and in their whole form, will support the body with the raw materials it needs. 

Drink plenty of fluids. Dehydration can contribute to nausea and vomiting. Aim for at least half your bodyweight in ounces, and focus on fresh water or herbal teas (not juice, coffee, sodas, or other bottled beverages). Avoid large amounts of liquid at meals, as this can dilute digestive juices. Try ginger tea right upon waking in the morning. 

Aim to eat smaller meals more frequently. Eat in a relaxed state, and chew your food completely. This will help the stomach from emptying and blood sugar from dropping. Both of these are associated with nausea and vomiting. You may want to try eating first thing in the morning. 

Reduce high-fat foods. During pregnancy, bile (which is used to digest fats) can reduce, making high-fat foods harder to digest and potentially causing nausea. This does not mean you need to completely eliminate fatty foods, such as pastured butter, avocado, etc. Fats will be excellent in keeping blood sugar stable, and avoiding low blood sugar is helpful in preventing nausea. If fats are causing nausea, try eating your meal/snack with sour fermented foods, which can help digest the fats.

Take a prenatal multivitamin. This can support an already-healthy diet and due to restoring certain vitamins and minerals may help reduce NVP. If this is nauseating, try taking your vitamin during or after your meal.

Ginger. Ginger is well known for its long tradition of being used for reducing nausea, and clinical trials demonstrate its effectiveness during pregnancy. When enjoying ginger, you’ll also get the bonus of its carminative effects, which helps relieve gastrointestinal distress.  An easy way to enjoy the benefits of ginger root is in tea form. Grate 2-3 teaspoons of fresh ginger with hot water, adding honey and or fresh lemon juice to taste. Upon waking, sit up slowly and enjoy your tea. An alternative to fresh ginger tea, is this one by Yogi.  Other great herbs to try include raspberry leaf, mint, or chamomile tea.

Snacks. Keep easily digestible snacks on hand to keep blood sugar normal.

Consider Vitamin B6. This vitamin is essential for maintaining hormonal balance, proper immune function, chemical transmitters in the nervous system, and a deficiency in this vitamin is often associated with nausea and leg cramps. Clinical studies have shown that supplemental B6 can be helpful in conditions such as premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and morning sickness. Before supplementing, get enough of this nutrient via food from salmon, cooked spinach, avocado, poultry, gluten-free whole grains, legumes, bananas, seeds and nuts, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. If considering supplementing, ask your healthcare provider or midwife about a high quality B6 supplement. 

Vitamins K and C. The effectiveness of these two vitamins occurs with their synergy - when used together, they have been shown to be clinically effective. A study cited in The Clinician’s Handbook of Natural Medicine reports that in one study, 91% of patients had complete remission of NVP in seventy-two hours.

 

 

Spring Menu

Rachel O'Reilly

By Erica Favela 

When the seasons shift, it’s a great time to see where else in our lives we can make some adjustments or take on a new frame of mind for the next few months. Spring represents newness, birthing, and laying the seeds that will sprout into future crops. We also get to welcome lighter days, and after a restful winter, you may be experiencing more energy, or an urge to move swiftly forward with goals and projects. This is a great time of year to see where you can initiate or even trailblaze. We can use food as a helpful tool for shedding both the physical and mental/emotional/spiritual heaviness of winter, and as a way to initiate feeling fresh and enlivened for the next season.

Spring is also a time when people cleanse and detoxify. In fact, you’ve probably seen plenty of marketing going on for juice cleanses or detoxes. If you’re pregnant or nursing, remember that programs like these may not be ideal for you and your baby’s needs, so always speak to your midwife or other partner in natural healthcare before jumping on the “cleansing” bandwagon. If breastfeeding, resist the urge to do something drastic to get back to pre-baby weight; significantly dropping calories and consuming simple sugars from a juice cleanse will not be healthful for breast milk production.

In general, the best foods for spring include foods that will disperse waste (support the liver’s detoxifying abilities), reduce heat and move stagnation (more raw foods), reduce weight (which will naturally come as you move more with longer, lighter days), and cool or refresh (think seasonal fruits like grapefruit and Valencia oranges).

Here’s an example of what a few days of Spring-inspired eating might light look (no juice fasting required!). Start each morning with tongue scraping, and 1 cup warm lemon water upon waking.

Day 1

Breakfast: 1 cup plain yogurt with 1/2 cup berries with 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds and generous sprinkle of cinnamon

Lunch: Kale salad (4 cups kale), 1/4 cup cherry tomatoes, dulse flakes, plus a few slices of chicken breast

Dressing:

  • 2 tbsp lemon juice

  • 2 1/2 teaspoon olive oil

  • fresh pepper

  • dash salt

Dinner: Vegetable mineral broth or bone broth and Quinoa Tabbouleh (recipe)

Day 2

Breakfast: Smoothie with greens (kale, spinach) 1 cup berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries), with boosters such as green powders or maca, coconut or almond milk base, 1 tablespoon almond butter, and plant-based protein such as pea protein.

Lunch: Pineapple avocado gazpacho with large mixed green salad with 1/2 cup garbanzo beans or sprouts. Dressing for the salad: lemon, garlic, dulse, and basil

Dinner: Asparagus and veggie tempeh (or other preferred protein) stir-fry over kelp noodles. Try this recipe from Dr. Mark Hyman.

Day 3

Breakfast: 1 cup fresh mixed berries with coconut chips, 1-2 tbsp hemp seeds, in 1 cup nut milk

Lunch: Red Leaf Lettuce salad, thinly sliced basil (or other fresh herbs), black olives, and thinly-shaved red onion. Add protein such as sliced chicken breast or cooked salmon.  Dress with 1 part apple cider vinegar to 2-3 parts olive oil and crushed garlic

Dinner: Miso soup with 1/4 cup Adzuki beans and 1/2 cup brown rice with steamed broccoli

Other foods to incorporate or use as snacks:  

  • nuts/seeds & their milks

  • bone broths

  • sprouts

  • fresh melons

  • vegetable juices (no carrots or beets)  

  • moderate amounts non-gluten grains like quinoa or brown rice  

  • leafy greens and other non-starchy vegetables

  • algae, seaweeds, fermented veggies

  • water and herb teas


Recipes

Easy Pineapple Avocado Gazpacho

Makes 1 large, or 2 small servings

  • 2 cups pineapple, diced small

  • 1 avocado, diced small

  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

  • juice of 1 lime

  • fresh sprouts or cilantro (garnish) 

  1. Set aside about 1/4 cup pineapple and 1/4 of the avocado

  2. Add rest of the ingredients except garnish to blender

  3. Blend just until smooth

  4. Pour into a bowl and fold in pineapple and avocado pieces (to chew!)

  5. Garnish with sprouts or cilantro

  

 

Quinoa Tabbouleh

makes 3-4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa

  • 1 tsp chopped parsley

  • 1/4 cup currants

  • 1/4 cup chopped raw almonds

  • 1/2 cup diced carrots

  • 1/4 cup chopped mint

  • 1/4 cup scallions diagonally cut, thin

  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley

  • 1/4 cup lime juice

  • 1 tsp honey

  • 1/2 tsp cumin

  • 1 tsp sea salt

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

  1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl and let sit for 20 minutes (to allow flavors to blend) before serving.

  2. Enjoy with zucchini hummus and raw vegetables! (celery, cucumber, carrots, red bell pepper, etc.)

 

Best Foods for Folate

Rachel O'Reilly

By Erica Favela 

One of the most widely known nutrients that is known to be important for pregnancy is folate. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend folic acid supplementation for all women of childbearing age because the biggest need is during the first trimester.

Folate works with vitamin B12 in many processes. It is especially important during pregnancy because of it’s role in DNA synthesis and cellular division. Right from conception, growth and cellular division begins. New DNA is required for new cells, and mother must increase her red blood cells, which requires folate.

Research has found that adequate supplies of folate can:

Folate comes from the Latin word folium, or foliage. This may help you remember that folate is found in green leafy vegetables including spinach, kale, beet greens, and swiss chard. Folate is naturally found in food, while folic acid is the synthetic compound often used in supplements or fortified foods. 

Try to eat these greens in their raw form, as folate is heat sensitive and cooking will diminish this nutrient. Here’s some examples of how to get in these greens:

  • Spinach salad tossed with pesto, sliced cherry tomatoes, and slice of salmon on top

  • Massaged kale salad with pine nuts and currants

  • Throw any combination of the above listed greens into a smoothie (see recipe below)! 

Here are some other go-to foods that have good amounts of folate (per 3.5 ounces) :

  • Black-eyed peas (prepared from dried beans, not canned) 440 mcg

  • Kidney beans 180 mcg

  • Mung beans 145 mcg

  • Asparagus 110 mcg

  • Lentils 105 mcg

  • Walnuts 77 mcg

When choosing any of the above beans, opt for dried beans that you soak and then cook. Canned beans will have gone through processing and manufacturing that can lower their nutritional content. For instance, once cup of cooked garbanzo beans (prepared from dried beans) versus the same amount of canned garbanzo beans will offer around ~275 mcg vs. ~75 mcg of folate, respectively.

Again, remember that nutrients work synergistically. Folate absorption is affected by zinc status, so don’t forget to eat high zinc foods. Foods that are highest in zinc are shellfish, oysters (cooked), and red meat. Others include nuts, seeds, eggs, and chicken. If you’re thinking that you need detailed charts that outline the varying amounts of different nutrients in all foods, and measuring so that you get everything you need, please reconsider!


The purpose of taking a deep dive into nutrients like folate is simply to showcase the powerful effects that nutrients have on our bodies (and growing babies), and to encourage you to do the planning that’s necessary for creating whole food meals, rather than quick-and-easy meal replacements or ready-made dinners that frequent many grocery store aisles. If you’re having trouble getting whole food meals on the table, check out Meal Planning 101

 

Mama's Go-To Green Smoothie

Here's an easy way to get some folate-rich greens in your day. This recipe also includes ginger, which is an excellent remedy for nausea. If struggling with digestion/constipation, add a tablespoon of chia seeds or fresh ground flax seeds. 

  • Large handful spinach or kale 

  • 1 cup water or coconut water 

  • 1/2 cup frozen mango chunks

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil 

  • 1/2 inch grated ginger 

  • 1 scoop protein powder of choice or 1/2 cup full fat greek yogurt

  1. Add greens and water first. Blend 20 seconds. 

  2. Add the remaining ingredients and blitz until smooth. 

To make this into a "smoothie bowl," add 1/4 - 1/2 avocado for a thick texture and pour into a bowl. Top with toasted coconut flakes and sunflower seeds. Chewing helps with digestion and nutrient absorption. 

 

Flu Season 101: Do's and Don't

Rachel O'Reilly

While getting sick is never fun for you or your children, coming down with a cold can be the body’s clear message to slow down. More often than not, we push ourselves to the limit, take care of others before ourselves, or don’t check in with our bodies, and then we get sick. Or, if it’s your child who’s getting sick, maybe they’ve been eating less than optimally, eating pre-packaged snacks and high sugar juices, or they’re being exposed to other bacteria/viruses from others kids in their classroom. Regardless of the cause, we can use signs of illness as a reminder to help our bodies come back into balance and harmony.

What NOT to eat: sugar and alcohol

Most people are very aware that commercial, processed sugar offers no benefits to health, and the same holds true with sugar’s impact on the immune system. Studies have found that sugar reduces the effectiveness of neutrophils, a type of immune cell that is one of the first to travel to the site of an infection. Sugar can also reduce lymphocytes, which is a problem because the immune system depends on large numbers of lymphocytes to create an effective immune response. Furthermore, high sugar consumption causes urinary excretion of several important minerals that are important for immune function, such as zinc. 

Remember, sugar is sneaky!

Alcohol

Studies of immune function in alcoholism show a profound negative impact on most parameters of immunity. For instance, alcohol directly promotes bad gut bacteria, which is important since ~70% of our immune system resides in the gut. And even acute consumption of alcohol can impair cellular immunity, leaving the immune system less prepared to deal with inflammation or infections.

Should I really stay away from dairy?

Many people suggest staying away from dairy when sick, however there is inconclusive medical evidence that dairy consumption causes an increase in mucus in the respiratory system.

Dairy is one of those “gray area” foods because people will respond to it differently. Many individuals don’t know how they truly respond to dairy unless they’ve done a strict elimination diet and then reintroduction, or have taken food intolerance/sensitivity tests (multiple tests would be good to cross check, as many are unreliable). For instance, in susceptible individuals, casein (found in cheese) can cause an immune system reaction called a histamine response. When dealing with a cold, or even when you notice the beginning symptoms of a cold, you don’t want to put any extra demand on the immune system. 

Other factors:

Many lifestyle behaviors will affect the immune system, including:

  • Smoking

  • Irregular meals

  • Simple carbohydrate consumption

  • Excess weight

  • Excessive alcohol consumption

  • Poor or inadequate sleep

  • Inactivity

How to Support the Immune System

When going the natural route with a cold or flu-like symptoms, do not expect a quick fix or immediate relief. You are assisting your body in doing its work, and this is going to take a little more time than the suppressing actions of a drug, which will just work to control the symptoms, not the root cause. While you may experience uncomfortable symptoms, the total length of the illness can be shorter lived when healing through natural remedies and food.

This is simple, but one of the most important things to do when dealing with a cold or flu symptoms is to prioritize rest. Go to bed earlier, sleep in if you can, ask for help with your children, or learn to say no. Prioritizing at least 7-8 hours of sleep can be one of the best things you can do for your body.

Also remember to drink enough liquids. Ideally, drink water in the amount of at least half your bodyweight in ounces. This will maintain a moist respiratory tract that can help repel a viral infection. Other liquids include bone and vegetable mineral broths, and herbal teas. Stay away from juices, even orange juice. As mentioned above, sugar can greatly reduce the white blood cells ability to kill bacteria. If you want to go for juice, keep it to 4-8oz, or dilute it by 1/2 or 1/3 water. Alternatively, opt for a juice that’s made fresh from 100% vegetables, and diluted.

Specific Immune Boosting Foods

Garlic - garlic has long been considered a medicinal plant. It is anti-viral and anti-microbial, due to many of its sulfur-containing compounds, such as allicin. 

Mushrooms - Some of the most commonly used mushrooms in Chinese medicine are maitake, shiitake, reishi mushrooms. The chemical profiles of mushrooms are quite complex, and even common button and portobello mushrooms offer healing and immune boosting effects.

Jerusalem artichokes - due to their high content of inulin, Jerusalem artichokes can enhance the immune system by helping to neutralize viruses, reduce destructive bacteria, and increase movement of white blood cells to sites of infection. Medicinal herbs such as echinacea and burdock root are known for their immune enhancing effects due to inulin, and Jerusalem artichokes offers one of the richest forms of inulin.

Immune-enhancing Herbs

Any herb that enhances the body’s stress response will be a good choice. These herbs are known as adaptogenic herbs, and a couple notable examples include cat’s claw and licorice root. Here are a few more of the herbal super stars:

Echinacea - perhaps on the most popular herbs known for the common cold is echinacea. There are hundreds of scientific investigations on echinacea, specifically its polysaccharides,  and its effects on immune function. In addition to immune support, echinacea also exerts direct antiviral activity and helps prevent the spread of bacteria. The main consideration for echinacea, as well as other herbs used medicinally, is that its effect is highly dependent on quality. Any herb is only able to be effective if it can deliver an effective dosage of active compounds. Make sure you use an echinacea product from a trusted manufacturer that can guarantee the level of active ingredients.  

Astragalus - a traditional Chinese medicine used for viral infections. This herb can help reduce the duration and severity of symptoms in acute treatment of the common cold. In addition, astragalus has been shown to possess anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, adaptogenic, cardiotonic, and liver protective properties.

Elderberry - Elderberry can be traced back to ancient Greece. It has a long history of use for the common cold and flu. Elderberry extract can provide antimicrobial activity against pathogenic bacteria that cause upper respiratory infections and against certain strains of  influenza virus.

Don’t forget that culinary herbs and spices (cilantro, parsley, turmeric) also possess immune-boosting properties! Many herbs are rich in vitamin C, flavonoids, and carotenoids, which can add a helpful edge to a whole foods diet.

Immune-Boosting Soup

What’s more comforting than a warm bowl of soup when you’re feeling under the weather. This soup brings out the medicinal properties of mushrooms, so be sure  not to skip them! You can find kombu and astragalus at your natural health food store, or Asian market. To bump up the healing properties even more, I suggest using a bone broth base.

Medicinal Mushroom Soup

Makes 6 servings

  • 2 teaspoons coconut oil

  • 2 onions, thinly sliced

  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed or grated with a microplane

  • 3 tablespoons ginger, grated

  • 10 cups broth 

  • 2 cups shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced

  • 2 carrots, thinly sliced on the diagonal

  • 4 stalks celery, thinly sliced

  • 2 pieces astragalus root

  • 1 piece kombu (about 4 x 6 inches), rinsed

  • 2-3 tablespoons coconut aminos (coconut-based soy sauce, or use tamari)

  • 2 cups broccoli or cauliflower florets, chopped into small pieces

  • 1 small bunch dandelion greens, roughly chopped

  • ½ cup scallions, sliced on the diagonal

  1. In a large stock pot, heat the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until translucent.

  2. Add the garlic and ginger, constantly stirring for 30 seconds.

  3. Add the stock, shiitake mushrooms, carrots, celery, astragalus root, and kombu. Bring to a low boil, then reduce and let simmer 20-30 minutes.

  4. Add the broccoli/cauliflower florets and dandelion greens, and cook until tender, about 2-3 minutes.

  5. Remove the astragalus root and kombu and discard.

  6. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with sliced scallions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other sources:

Bauman, E. & Friedlander, J. (2014). Immune bandits and heroes. Therapeutic nutrition, part two. Penngrove, CA: Bauman College

Murray, M. & Pizzorno, J. (2005). The encyclopedia of healing foods. New York, NY: Atria Books.

Pizzorno, J.E. & Murray, M.T. & Joiner-Bey, H. (2008). The clinician’s handbook of natural medicine, second edition. St. Louis, MO: Churchill Livingstone.

 

Benefits of Fermented Foods

Rachel O'Reilly

 

The process of fermenting food is a long practiced tradition that has been enjoyed by cultures around the world. In Japan, miso and natto are two types of fermented soy that are central to the cuisine. Throughout eastern and Central Europe, kefir is a widely consumed. And in Indonesia, tempeh is a traditional food. Today, foods like kimchi and sauerkraut are gaining as much attention as bone broth, and for good reason too! 

What is fermentation?

Fermentation is a process by which the starches and sugars in fruits and vegetables are transformed into lactic acid by lactobacilli, a type of bacteria present on the surface of all living things. Lactic acid is a natural preservative that prevents putrefying bacteria.

When fruits or vegetables are fermented, they become more digestible, and promote the growth of healthy flora in the gut.  The lactobacilli produce numerous helpful enzymes, antibiotic and anti-carcinogenic substances. They also support a healthy immune system, 70-80% of which resides in the gut.  A healthy digestive system will ensure optimal absorption of nutrients, and proper cleansing of metabolic waste and toxins. Among other things, healthy gut microbes:

  • promote normal gastrointestinal function
  • protect against infection
  • regulate metabolism
  • house the majority of immune cells

How it’s helpful for pregnancy  

Incorporating fermented, probiotic rich foods is important for anyone who wants optimal health, as it serves as the foundation for everything from having a strong immune system, to maintaining a healthy weight and happy mood. Women who are interested in getting pregnant, or who are already pregnant, will benefit from the strong foundational support that a healthy digestive system and flora can provide as their body takes course in the building of another human. Additionally, many mothers are often warned of harmful bacteria that can jeopardize pregnancy, such as listeria monocytogenes from soft unaged cheeses, for example. But having a healthy flora, especially if implemented prior to conception, can make susceptibility to these types of bacteria low. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut or lacto-fermented vegetables can also serve as a great source for women who crave sour foods. As an easy snack, enjoy some sauerkraut and diced avocado on gluten-free rice crackers, or wrap it up in a lightly toasted nori sheet. 

How to start incorporating into daily life

For many people, the taste of fermented foods is an acquired taste (remember the first time you tried beer?). The good news is, fermented foods are meant to be eaten as condiments, so you can start out small until you begin to like it.You can begin to support a healthy digestive system and flora with the following foods and beverages:

Dairy based:

- Look for those that are labeled “live and active cultures”

- Best to obtain from grass-fed cows and organic.

- Found from a local farmer would be ideal!

  • cultured butter/cream cheese/sour cream
  • kefir
  • lassi
  • yogurt (always get plain, full fat)

Vegetable based

- Should be labeled raw, and should be carried in the refrigerated section

  • Kimchee
  • Sauerkraut

Grain or Legume based

Note: heating and cooking will reduce living bacteria; choose organic/ non-GMO when possible

  • Miso
  • Natto
  • Tempeh

Other:

  • Kombucha
  • Water kefir, Coconut kefir
  • Beet kvass

 

Easy suggestions for daily intake:

  • 1-2 tablespoons of sauerkraut or kimchi with each meal
  • 1/2 cup of kombucha in the afternoon for a pick-me-up
  • 1/2 cup of live, active yogurt or kefir (try it in a smoothie)

 

Cooking Oils: High Omega 6

Rachel O'Reilly

C90A0963.jpg

By Erica Favela 

Small Change, Big Impact: Reducing Omega 6 Consumption by Switching Cooking Oils

One of the easiest ways to improve your health in a big way is to pay attention to your cooking oils. While vegetable oils may seem like a logically healthy food (oils that come from vegetables?), they’re actually one of the biggest culprits of promoting inflammation in the body.

Vegetable oils, or industrial seed oils, are oils that have been extracted from the seeds of plants. These seed oils have been stripped of their health-promoting antioxidants through refinement, and most refining processes include being bleached and deodorized with chemical solvents. Because these oils are so refined, they’re very unstable and sensitive to heat, oxygen, and light. The problem with these oils is that they have very large amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids and high amounts of omega-6 fatty acids.

Omega-6 is an essential fatty acid, meaning we cannot produce it on our own and we have to get it from food. There’s nothing inherently bad about omega-6 fats; however, we need them in the proper ratio to omega-3s in order to be beneficial, and too much omega-6 can cause a variety of health problems, including inflammation. Opinions about the ideal ratio of omega 3:6 varies from about 3:1, or at least 1:1. However, most people eating a typical standard American diet have a ratio that ranges from 1:10 to 1:25! 

Omega-6s and inflammation in a nutshell:

  • Because of our industrialized diet, most people get plenty omega-6 fatty acids from seed oils.

  • Too much omega-6 (without enough omega-3s) leads to systemic inflammation.

  • Systemic inflammation contributes directly to insulin resistance, diabetes, heart disease, weight gain and more.

Which cooking oils to avoid

Our food industry is inundated with refined vegetable oils. Oils such as sunflower oil, soybean oil, canola oil, and corn oil are the cheap and therefore standard in all pre-made foods, including salad dressings, sauces, marinades, spreads, etc. These low-cost oils are also commonly used in restaurants, fast-food establishments, and processed food items.

Common refined vegetable oils to avoid:

  • Canola

  • Corn

  • Cottonseed

  • Peanut

  • Rice bran

  • Safflower

  • Sunflower

  • Soybean

Which fats/oils to use for cooking

When considering a fat source for cooking, take into consideration if you will be using it for low, medium, or high heat cooking.

Best fats for medium/high heat cooking: These products are high in saturated fats, which makes them more stable for higher temperatures and less likely to be oxidized.

  • Butter/ghee

  • Tallow (beef fat, from grass-fed cows)

  • Lard (pork fat, from pastured pigs)

  • Duck fat

  • Avocado oil

  • Palm oil (organic, from an environmentally safe source)

  • Coconut oil (medium)

Best fats to use cold: These fats have more unsaturated fats, and are moderately stable at very low temperatures. Alternatively, add these fats to foods once they have been removed from heat.

  • Macadamia oil

  • Walnut oil

  • Flax seed oil

  • Extra Virgin olive oil*

*Unlike the fats listed in the medium/high-heat cooking list, extra-virgin olive oil contains more monounsaturated fats than saturated fats, so some believe it is less ideal to cook with at high temperatures. However, researchers have shown that olive oil may be able to stand up to the heat due to its polyphenol and tocopherol content, which help to protect the oil from oxidation. In the case of olive oil, quality may make a difference, since the more polyphenols, the less prone to oxidation it will be.

 

 

The Importance of Full Fat

Rachel O'Reilly

 

Many people are surprised when I encourage full-fat dairy over nonfat yogurt, real butter over vegan butter, or full fat coconut milk. Of course, this is understandable. It seems logical to think, I don’t want to be fat, so therefore I shouldn’t eat foods that are high in fat.

Good fats and bad fats

When it comes to choosing full-fat foods, it is crucial to distinguish between health-promoting fats and rancid, corrupted fats.

Fats usually go from “good” to “bad” when they undergo some process of refinement. Oils and fats are often heated at high temperatures, oxidized through exposure to light/air, or polluted by commercial farming methods. High heat processing, for instance, removes healthful nutrients like Vitamin E and alters lipid compounds that the body cannot use for healthy cell building.

Here are a few common examples of “bad” fats that are highly refined:

  • Margarine and vegetable shortening

  • Hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats (read ingredient labels!)

  • Refined vegetable oils such as soybean oil, safflower/sunflower oil, cottonseed oil, canola oil, etc.

  • Fried foods

  • Artificial trans fats (found in processed foods like doughnuts, biscuits, pie-crust mixes, etc.)

Good fats have not been refined, and all types of fat, whether saturated, monounsaturated, or polyunsaturated, play a role in supporting a healthy body. Examples of foods that contain good fats include:

  • Avocados

  • Butter - organic, pastured

  • Coconut

  • Eggs - organic, pastured

  • Fish (especially salmon and sardines)

  • Olive oil (unrefined!)

  • Nuts and seeds

Why full-fat foods are better than low- or reduced-fat foods

Low- and reduced-fat products have gone through a refinement process. This process often removes the valuable nutrients that make that food so great to eat in the first place! Additionally, when products are refined to low-fat or reduced-fat, the flavor often diminishes, so more sugar is added to make up for taste. That means the fat is simply replaced by sugar (and excess sugar in the body just turns into fat). 

Some of our favorite full-fat foods

Coconut milk: Full-fat coconut milk is full of medium chain triglycerides (MCT). MCTs can actually increase the body’s metabolic rate. These types of fats are more readily accessed for energy, meaning they are burned, not stored. Full -at coconut milk also contains lauric acid, which is antiviral and antibacterial. When full fat coconut milk is reduced to low-fat, much of the MCTs are removed, and therefore many of the benefits are lost. When choosing full-fat coconut milk, opt for the canned variety that is BPA-free and contains no additives. 

Yogurt: In most cases, low-fat yogurt includes added emulsifiers and industrial fibers so that it will mimic the creamy texture of full fat yogurt, not to mention added sugar to make up for flavor. The fatty acids found in full-fat yogurt, though, are quite beneficial. Yogurt made from organic, pasture-raised cows contain conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and phytanic acid. CLA has been found to be protective against heart disease and cancer, and phytanic acid has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity. Additionally, full-fat dairy from organic, grass-fed cows will offer a good source of fat soluble vitamins like Vitamin A (in its active form, retinol) and Vitamin K2; two important ingredients that are difficult to obtain elsewhere in the diet. Several studies show that full-fat dairy is not associated with risk of cardiovascular death, such as this one that found a 69% lower risk of death compared to those who ate the least amount of full-fat dairy. 

Most people, especially pregnant/breast-feeding women and growing children, can benefit from more full-fat food sources, rather than refined low and reduced fat products. Even though it might feel counterintuitive, eating the right fats will not promote unnecessary weight gain. In fact, the opposite is true: healthy fats help the body build the right hormones and induce satiation so weight loss is a common result. Do your best to stay away from refined fats and processed foods containing hydrogenated fats, and instead opt for traditional foods like extra-virgin olive oil, coconut, egg yolks, and pastured, organic butter. 

Do you have any other questions about full-fat foods or good vs. bad fats? Let us know in the comments and we’ll do our best to answer!

 

Easy Breakfasts for the Week

Rachel O'Reilly

By: Erica Favela

Get your morning off to a smooth start with these three easy breakfast ideas. All of these recipes can be made ahead of time, and of course can be catered to individual tastes and preferences.

Sun-dried Tomato Egg Muffins

If you struggle with cravings, try a protein rich meal, like these egg muffins. They’re basically a crust-less quiche in bite-size form, perfect for grab-n-go or for a mid-afternoon snack.

  • 6 large eggs 1/2 c coconut milk, full fat*

  • 1/4 c water or chicken/vegetable broth

  • 2 tsp oregano

  • 1 1/2 tsp salt

  • 1 tsp pepper

  • 1 green onion, sliced small

  • 1/4 c chopped sun-dried tomato, packed in olive oil

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a bowl, beat the eggs.

  2. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until combined.

  3. Pour all ingredients in a muffin tin, dividing evenly, about 1/2 - 3/4 of the way full in each.

  4. Place in the oven and bake 15-20 minutes.

*full fat coconut milk will separate, so blend briefly to mix the fat and water

 

 

    Vanilla Chia Seed Pudding

    3-4 servings

    This pudding can serve as a great snack or dessert.Try infusing it with different flavors such as unsweetened cocoa powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, or any other of your favorite spices.

    Using full-fat coconut from the can will give you creamy, decadent pudding. The full fat version will separate in the can, so make sure you blitz in a blender, just briefly to combine. You can use other milk alternatives too, the pudding just may be thinner, and you may need to add more chia seeds.

    Ingredients:

    Pudding base:

    • 1 cup coconut milk, full fat

    • 1/2 cup water

    • 1 tsp vanilla extract

    • small pinch sea salt

    • 2 dates

    • 2.5 tablespoons chia seeds

    Example Toppings: use what you have or what’s in season!

    • Chopped nuts/seeds

    • Coconut flakes

    • Pomegranate seeds

    • Chopped fruit (apple, kiwi, banana)

    • Raisins, currants, or other dried fruits

     

    Directions:

    1. Add the coconut milk and water to a blender and mix until just combined.

    2. Add the vanilla extract, dates, and pinch of sea salt and blend until the dates are fully pulverized.

    3. Pour milk into a bowl.

    4. Add in chia seeds, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring constantly with a spoon as you pour them in.

    5. Let sit for 5 minutes, then mix again.

    6. Cover and store in the refrigerator for at least four hours or overnight.

    7. Once settled and chia seeds have expanded, add more milk or water if you want it thinner, then add desired toppings.

     

    Quinoa Porridge: Sweet or Savory

    Women from the South American Andes used to eat quinoa due to their belief that it increased breast milk. Although often referred to as a grain, quinoa is a pseudocereal, and with proper preparation can offer great nutrition. It is gluten-free, and contains all the essential amino acids, and is a great source of magnesium and manganese.

    To make quinoa easiest to digest, soak it overnight in 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice or vinegar, then rinse before cooking. Not only will this make quinoa easier to digest, but it will also remove any bitter taste from saponins. Once cooked, choose how you want to flavor it.

    Sweet Quinoa Porridge

    Ingredients: 

    • About 1 cup pre-cooked quinoa
    • 1/2 - 3/4 cup non-dairy milk (almond or coconut) 
    • Spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice, as desired
    • Tiny pinch of salt 

    Toppings: 

    • de-pitted and chopped dates 
    • lightly toasted and chopped walnuts, almonds, or sunflower seeds 
    • seasonal fruits chopped small, such as pears, persimmons, pomegranate, apples, etc. 

    Directions. 

    1. n a small pot over low heat, add the quinoa and milk of choice. Gently warm.
    2. Add in desired spices and stir. 
    3. Remove to a small bowl and add any of the toppings as suggested or whatever else you have on hand.  

     

    Savory Quinoa Porridge

    Ingredients: 

    • 1 teaspoon ghee 
    • About 1 cup quinoa
    • 1/2 - 3/4 cup vegetable broth, chicken broth, or bone broth
    • Tiny pinch of salt 
    • splash of tamari or coconut aminos, optional 

    Toppings: 

    • fried egg  
    • lightly toasted sesame seeds 
    • kimchi/sauerkraut 
    • chopped green onions 

    Directions:

    1. n a small pot over low heat, add the ghee, quinoa and broth. Gently warm.
    2. Add in the optional tamari (gluten-free soy sauce) or coconut aminos (soy-alternative) and salt. Stir. 
    3. Remove to a small bowl and add any of the toppings as suggested or whatever else you have on hand.

    Omega 3’s for a Healthy Pregnancy and Postpartum

    Rachel O'Reilly

    By Erica Favela

    You’ve probably heard by now that salmon is good -- no, great -- for you. But do you know why? In addition to being an excellent source of lean protein, salmon and other types of fish offer some very beneficial fats known as Omega-3 fatty acids.

    Omega-3s are a type of polyunsaturated fat, and two of the most important types of Omega-3 fatty acids are docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenioc acid (EPA). Omega-3s play important roles in the brain, including enhancing memory and performance, and they’re also critical to retinol (eye) health. Omega-3s can also help combat inflammation, and many studies find they play an important role in reducing the risk of chronic health conditions such as heart disease, cancer, arthritis, autoimmune disorders and more.

    As if that wasn’t enough, DHA also plays an important role in fetal cognitive development, in addition to protecting moms-to-be against postpartum depression.

    During the last month in the womb, the fetus will draw upon a mother’s stores of DHA. This nutrient will be used for a myriad of things, including the development of the baby’s nervous system, the brain and neurons, and eyes. Studies have found that infants’ cognitive and motor development are closely linked to DHA concentration in the umbilical cord blood at the time of birth, which highlights the importance of this nutrient in the prenatal stage.

    In addition to the health of the baby, getting sufficient amounts of EPA and DHA may helpful for preventing postpartum depression. Maternal stores of DHA can be reduced as much as 50% during pregnancy. Breastfeeding will continue to draw on Omega-3s, so for some women, pre-pregnancy levels of DHA can take up to 6 months to restore.

    A good goal to strive for is about three servings of 4 oz. of fish per week. Excellent sources of Omega-3s include sardines, salmon, mackerel and anchovies. Ideally, incorporating these types of fish into the diet before getting pregnant would be ideal. For extra support, talk to your healthcare provider about a high quality fish oil supplement.

    C90A1052.jpg

    Sardines

    I’ll admit that opening a can of tiny, whole fish can be intimidating (and the smell doesn’t help). BUT, I got over it, and it’s worth it, because these little guys are one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet.

    Ounce for ounce, sardines provide more calcium and phosphorus than milk, more iron than spinach, more potassium than coconut water and bananas, and as much protein as steak. One can of sardines contains 313mg EPA and 688mg DHA Omega-3 and is an ample source of vitamin B12, vitamin D, and selenium
    — Wild Planet

    You read that right - more protein than steak! One tin provides nearly 25 grams of protein! AND the ratio of omega6:3 is an ideal ratio of 1:2 (1:1 would be good, or 1:3 would be best). Most of us get plenty of Omega-6 fats (found in nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils) but not nearly enough of the anti-inflammatory good-for-almost-everything Omega-3s.

    I always buy my sardines from Wild Planet. This brand is recognized as one of the best for sustainability by multiple environmental organizations. Also, you don't have to worry about mercury toxicity (as you might with other fish) because these small friends don't even live long enough to accumulate build up. Another win!

    Sardine Pâté

    Ingredients:

    • 2 cans sardines (Wild Planet)

    • 2 tbsp lemon juice

    • 2-3 tbsp red onion, minced

    • 5-6 Kalamata or green olives, pitted and roughly chopped

    • 1-2 tbsp dijon mustard

    • 1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (omit if already packed in olive oil)

    • pepper, to taste

    • fresh rosemary or fresh basil, for garnish

    Directions:

    Place all ingredients in a food processor and combine. (If you're afraid to look at the little fishies like I was at first, close your eyes and just do it!)

    Enjoy on top of a salad, or with cut veggies like celery, carrot, and bell pepper.

    What's for dinner? Meal Planning 101

    Rachel O'Reilly

    By: Erica Favela 

    I recently sat down with one of my aunts, Tia Paulina, to pick her brain about meal planning. She’s a busy mother of four, and has been raising her children gluten-free for their entire lives.

    Here’s her process: At the beginning of each week, she pulls out a calendar that’s specifically dedicated to meal planning.

    Then, she takes out a few cookbooks, and flips through the pages until something jumps out at her.

    Next, she writes the title and page number of each recipe into the planner, taking into consideration leftovers, and special nights during the week when she’ll need something made ahead of time.

    Lastly, she makes a grocery list based on the recipes of the meals she’s chosen. She does this every week, on either Sunday or Monday. Sometimes she cooks nightly, or every other night, but it always depends on the type of week she and her family will have.

    What I love about her process is that it’s simple. Yes, she has a special planner for meal planning, but all that’s written in the planner is a recipe title and page number! The important thing about her planning is that she prioritizes it because, well, she has to. One of her kids has a gluten allergy, so to make it easier, the entire family eats gluten-free.

    If you’re interested in getting pregnant, currently pregnant, or already have a family, you’re probably motivated to eat healthy, nourishing food. Here are a few ways to make sure you’re set each week with a plan.

    Create a process that works for you

    There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to this, so try out a few strategies until something sticks.

    How comfortable are you in the kitchen? Do you need recipes, or can you wing it?

    If you feel like Top Chef at home, or you’re the type that just likes to put everything into a pot and see what happens, plan for bulk and mains, and switch things up with seasonal produce. Choose 2-3 protein options, and always grab your basic fresh produce, like lettuce, herbs, avocados, etc.

    Here are a few other ideas if you’re more of a free spirit in the kitchen:

    • Plan 2-3 protein choices that can be used multiple times throughout the week. Consider a whole roasted chicken that’s pre-cooked if you’re in a pinch, or utilize a slow cooker (think slow cooked pork shoulder = pulled pork tacos, Mexican-style burrito bowl, or added to salad).  

    • Consider 1 large batch of grains to be used all week; great gluten-free grains include brown rice, quinoa, millet, and buckwheat.

    • Pre-chop raw veggies, like celery and peppers, for snacks. Cutting them before storing may increase your likelihood to eat them.

    • When roasting vegetables, do a few types of veggies at a time!

    • For quick prepping and convenience, buy lettuce pre-washed, use frozen fruit for smoothies, or buy sauces pre-made (but read ingredient labels).

    • Always make multiple servings and freeze for future use; stews, spaghetti sauce, and chilis all freeze great.

    For those of us who like a bit more structure and just need inspiration, here are a few ideas to consider:

    • Cookbooks: If you feel more comfortable following recipes, then plan straight from a recipe book, similar to how Paulina plans for her family of six. Don’t forget to check out your local library for recipe books! You can put books on hold, and always have a new book for different ideas.

    • Get a magazine subscription. Next time you’re waiting in the grocery store line, flip through some food-centered magazines and see what style you like best. Examples include Real Simple, Bon Appetit, Paleo Magazine, etc. Every month you’ll receive fresh ideas, which are mostly seasonal. And remember, recipes are suggestions, so feel free to swap ingredients for healthier ones, or make replacements for what’s in season where you live.

    • Try a Meal Delivery Service. There are several services now that will deliver all your recipe ingredients, even measured out, and all you have to do is put them together! This is a good option for whenever you’re lacking inspiration, or want a fun bonding experience. Making it a weekly event could be a great way to bring all members of the family together. Some popular services include Blue Apron, HelloFresh, or Plated.

    My Favorite Meal Planning App

    I’ve tried several meal planning apps, and the Real Plans App is by far my favorite. I like it because it’s completely customizable to your own diet. For instance, you can choose a paleo diet with or without dairy, and specific food groups or ingredients to include or exclude. It also creates a food prep timeline based on the meals you choose, so you don’t forget to defrost something the night before if need be. Also, in the app you can access your shopping list, and mark things off as you add them to your basket. The shopping list also tells you which recipe each ingredient is for, and exactly how much of it you need. Two people can have the app on their phone, so when my partner says he’ll go to the grocery store, I choose the meals and he does the shopping from the list.

    Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

    Sometimes the thought of doing something is more stressful than actually doing it. Planning what to cook every week might sound like a big ordeal, but it doesn’t have to be - and will make your life easier down the road. Step into it with the intention of nourishing yourself and family. Begin with the planning and everything will fall into place.

     

    Seasonal Fall Foods

    Rachel O'Reilly

    What to Eat This Fall

    We all have daily, monthly and seasonal cycles that help us ebb and flow, rest then renew, or let go and call in. Likewise, mother nature is always in cycle; the waxing and waning moon, or long summer days, followed by shorter winter days. These cycles can prevent us from getting stuck in ruts. So as we’re saying our slow goodbyes to summer, we get to welcome the refreshing changes of autumn. Part of this transition includes our food choices and eating patterns.

    Luckily, if you’re shopping locally or at your farmer’s market, there’s not much work to do on your part; simply become inspired by the new colors and produce showing up. If you’re unable to shop at small grocers or farmer’s markets, below are some of the delicious foods that are in season this time of year.

    Some examples of seasonal foods from September to November include:

    Fruits:

    • Apples

    • Berries (especially blackberries and raspberries)

    • Pears

    • Pomegranates

    • Grapes

    • Passion fruit

    • Kumquats

    Vegetales:

    • Squashes such as butternut, acorn or delicata

    • Root vegetables such as carrots, beets and turnips

    • Brussels sprouts  

    • Cauliflower

    • Cabbage

    • Artichokes

    • Sweet Potatoes

    • Green beans

    Depending on where you are, seasonal foods for autumn will vary. If you’re around the Bay Area in Northern California, you can get excited for special items such as persimmons, or maybe even abalone! To keep up with seasonal foods specific to your area, check out http://www.localfoodswheel.com/ for a handy food wheel.

    General Direction

    With only a few months left in the year, the transition into fall is a great time to recommit to healthy eating habits. Setting intentions and knowing your direction is a great way to begin the season, especially before the holidays hit. Here are a few guidelines and ideas for what to eat this fall:

    • While summer and spring are especially good for cleansing and detoxifying, fall and winter are better for hearty, balanced meals. This means not shying away from all the nourishing carbohydrates that root vegetables will bring, or opting for a warming soup or stew made with healing bone broth and hard squashes (think butternut squash soup with a bone broth base).

    • This fall, embrace all those hard squashes coming into season. These vegetables may be intimidating to cut, but just make sure you have a good, sharp knife and they’ll be no match for you! You can also consider buying these vegetables pre-cut, then simply toss them in cooking fat, season with salt (and/or cinnamon, curry, etc.), and roast until tender.

    • As the weather begins to cool down, stay warm with soups made from your favorite vegetables of the season, such as pumpkin, acorn squash or cauliflower.

    • It’s also the perfect season for canning! The beginning of fall is a great time to capture the bounty of late summer foods, which will keep well into winter if canned. Or, get ready for the plethora of apples and pears for things like applesauce or apple/pear butter. Throw a canning party, then give them away as gifts!

    Inspired yet? Here are some more simple fall food pairings:

    • Roasted sweet potato, dressed with coconut oil and cinnamon, or pumpkin pie spice

    • Diced butternut squash, tossed in butter/ghee, seasoned with Moroccan inspired seasonings like Ras Al Hanout, or simply curry powder

    • Try adding seasonal leeks to your favorite butternut squash soup recipe

    • Cook down apples and/or pears, then top with full-fat yogurt and cinnamon/nutmeg for a delectable breakfast

    • Arugula greens with pomegranate and/or persimmons and toasted pecans

    Did we miss anything? What are your favorite autumn foods or recipes?

    Gut Health Gummies

    Rachel O'Reilly

     

    These Gelatin Gummies are an excellent snack that are truly health-promoting! Their gummy texture is made from gelatin which, unlike common Jello, contains amino acids that promote healthy growth. Store-bought Jello or similar products have artificial sweeteners and colors. However, high quality gelatin can be a super healing addition to almost any diet, especially for those aiming to improve gut, mental, joint or skin health.

    Get the Glow

    Gelatin is cooked collagen, and it contains large amounts of the amino acids glycine and proline. Both of these amino acids are critical for our body's production of collagen, a major structural protein found everywhere in the body. Collagen can be softer (cartilage) or more firm (tendons). Since collagen is a primary element of skin, gelatin is excellent for skin health, and often recommended for reducing wrinkles and attaining a radiant “glow” to the skin. Gelatin can be found most commonly in slow cooked bone broths, as well as in supplemental form.

    Amino Acid Glycine

    The glycine found in gelatin aids in the metabolism of methionine, which is found in high amounts in meat. Too much methionine (without sufficient glycine) can lead to toxic levels of homocysteine, which has been associated as a high risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Glycine is also excellent for blood sugar support, reducing sugar cravings, improving cellular energy production, inhibiting muscle spasms, and for liver detoxification support.

    Gut Health and More

    It must also be highlighted that gelatin is super soothing to the gastrointestinal tract, which is why it’s often used by those with intestinal permeability, or leaky gut syndrome. It helps to restore healthy mucosal lining in the stomach and enhance gastric acid secretion. Furthermore, gelatin helps to keep fluid in the digestive tract, allowing for nice-n-easy bowel movements. The collagen in gelatin is also helpful for joint and musculoskeletal health. As mentioned, ligaments, cartilage and tendons all contain high levels of structural protein collagen.

    Who Should Consider Gelatin

    I would recommend gelatin-rich foods for anyone recovering from surgery/injury, dealing with joint conditions like osteoarthritis, or for athletes/anyone who exercises frequently. Additionally, because glycine plays such an important role in building and growing the body, gelatin is important for both pregnant women and children. As pregnancy progresses, the demands for glycine also increase. Children grow at an especially rapid rate, so glycine will continue to play an important role in building a strong body as they get older.

    Last but not least, gelatin can be a great dietary supplement for soothing the nervous system. Personally, I’ve found a warm mug of bone broth to be gently grounding and stress-relieving.

    Getting it in the Diet

    The best way to add gelatin-rich foods to the diet is in the form of slow-cooked bone broths, or by way of supplemental gelatin. I believe bone broths are just now beginning to make their way back into our modern kitchens, and several companies and restaurants are beginning to catch on. While bone broths from pasture-raised animals would be ideal, I’m offering an alternative via Gelatin Gummies! These little gummies are so easy to make and can be less intimidating than bone broth. They’re an excellent treat for kids, as the texture is just like jello and can be sweetened naturally with fruit or honey.

    The brand of gelatin I like is Great Lakes, and this is the one that gels nicely for gummies like the ones below. As a note, whole protein gelatin will gel, while hydrolyzed collagen will not gel but can be used to easily add to smoothies, cold liquids, etc.

    Simple Raspberry Mango Gelatin Gummies

    • 2 cups raspberries*

    • 1 whole mango, peeled and roughly chopped  

    • 1 cup filtered water

    • 3 tbsp high quality gelatin

    • 1-2 tbsp honey (optional)

    1. Blend the raspberries, mango, and water until smooth. *Note: For the raspberries, I just buy frozen ones, then let them defrost before blending.

    2. Strain the blended mixture through a fine mesh sieve, or using a nut milk bag, into a medium pot. If you don't mind the tiny seeds from the raspberries, you can skip this step.

    3. Gently warm the pot on the stovetop. Do not let it get to a boil. Once warm, whisk in the gelatin 1 tbsp at a time. Make sure the gelatin you've added is thoroughly dissolved before adding the next tablespoon.

    4. Pour the gelatin mixture into an 8x8 inch glass pan, or pour the mixture into silicone molds. Place in the fridge for at least 2 hours. Once solidified, cover tightly and keep stored in the refrigerator. Gummies will last 3-5 days.

    Variations:

    There are so many variations you can do with this recipe. Try adding in lime, lemon, or ginger juice. Or, use different fruits like orange and pineapple.

    On-The-Go Snacks

    Rachel O'Reilly

    In a perfect world we would all have time to sit down and enjoy our food, but inevitably life gets busy and nourishing ourselves doesn’t get prioritized, especially for new parents. Having on-the-go snacks will keep you energized, inhibit cravings and prevent impulse candy buys in the checkout line. Just a little planning and preparing will go a long way; all of these snacks can be made in one day and last at least a week!

    Cherish_snacks_Trailmix.jpg

    Homemade Coconut Trail Mix

    Making your own trail mix is a great idea because most pre-made trail mixes have sneaky sugars (like those delicious M&M's). Or, if purchasing trail mix with roasted nuts/seeds, they're mostly likely roasted in unhealthy oils. This homemade trail mix is simple and the variations are endless. The coconut in this trail mix offers satisfying fats (and toasting your coconut flakes beforehand really adds a nice flavor). 

    Ingredients:

    • unsweetened, toasted coconut flakes

    • sunflower seeds, raw

    • goji berries

    • raw cacao nibs

    • pinch of salt

    • dash of cinnamon

    Directions:

    To toast coconut flakes, heat oven to 300 degrees. Spread coconut evenly on a cookie sheet, and toast around 5-7 minutes, checking frequently, until just golden around the edges.

    Mix remaining ingredients in a large bowl with salt and cinnamon. Add in any other nuts/seeds or dried fruits you enjoy, such as almonds, cashews, hemp seeds, currants, golden raisins, etc. 

    Energy Bars

    5-7 servings

    Homemade nut bars are a great snack with enough healthy fats to hold you till your next meal. There are several variations to this, so use whatever nuts and seeds you have on hand!

    Ingredients:

    • 1 cup unsweetened, toasted coconut flakes

    • 1/3 cup cashews or other nut (macadamia, almond, pecan, etc.)

    • 8-10 medjool dates, pitted

    • 1/2 -1 tsp cinnamon

    • pinch of salt

    Directions:

    1. To toast coconut flakes, heat oven to 300 degrees. Spread coconut evenly on a cookie sheet, and toast around 5-7 minutes, checking frequently, until just golden around the edges.

    2. Chop nuts in food process until fine. Remove into a bowl.

    3. Add dates to food processor. Pulse until broken down well, and a ball just begins to form.

    4. Add nuts, coconut flakes, cinnamon, and sea salt to date mixture in the food processor. Pulse again until mixture sticks together.

    5. Remove the mixture from the food processor, roll into a large ball, then place between two sheets of parchment paper and press into a rectangle. You can also place the parchment paper in a glass food storage to make it easier to form. 

    6. Once pressed to desired thickness, remove parchment and cut into squares. If your dates are especially sticky, place in the refrigerator for at least an hour before cutting. 

    7. Store in an airtight container. 

    Curry Spiced Cashews

    A little goes a long way when it comes to nuts, so just about ¼ of a cup is a good portion. It's also helpful to pair with a piece of fruit, such as an apple, for a more filling sensation in the stomach and extra fiber.

    Ingredients: 

    • 1 ½ - 2 cups cashews, raw

    • 2 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter)

    • 1-2 tsp cumin

    • ½ - 1 tsp coriander

    • ½ - 1 tsp cinnamon

    • salt, few pinches

    Directions:

    Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Melt the ghee in a skillet. Place cashews in a bowl and drizzle the ghee over the cashews. Add the remaining spices and mix with a spatula. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. Spread the spiced cashews on a baking tray and place in the oven for 20-30 minutes. Remove and let cool, then store in the refrigerator. To make this recipe even easier, just use curry powder as the seasoning! 

    Here are some other simple, no-prep snack ideas. I always recommend pairing a carbohydrate with a protein or fat to make the snack balanced and stabilizing for blood sugar. 

    • Full fat, plain yogurt with seasonal fruit or berries (blueberries, strawberries, blackberries)

    • Dates stuffed with toasted walnuts with a light sprinkle of cinnamon, cardamom and salt

    • Almond butter single squeeze (like Justin’s) with apple or banana

    • Pre-made guacamole with mini bell peppers or carrot sticks

    • Mary’s Gone Crackers or celery sticks with hummus dip

    • Bars with few and recognizable ingredients, such as LarabarsKind BarsPure Bars, or Epic Bars

    • Small handful of olives with cherry tomatoes and basil