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Filtering by Tag: nutrition

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.