All posts by Aimee Gallo, Vibrance Nutrition

Turmeric Roasted Carrots with Carrot Top Harissa

This recipe emerged from a recipe for a Roasted Carrot Soup on the What’s Cooking Good Looking blog, but I like to chew my food and am a somewhat lazy cook anyway, so I opted out of turning the ingredients into a blended soup and created a side dish of them instead.
MY, OH MY, this did not disappoint!

Enough harissa was made to be used on grilled chicken, salmon, and other proteins throughout the week. Carrot tops are often thrown out before they get to market, but if you find a batch of carrots with tops attached, grab them and get crackin’ on this recipe!

Carrot tops are rich in vitamin A, and are rumored to have decent amounts of calcium, phosphorus, Vitamin C, iron and zinc. Carrots are a member of the same family as parsley and cilantro, and these two herbs are nutrition powerhouses so it stands to reason carrot tops may also provide a wonderful source of vitamins and minerals. 

Make this recipe on a chilly night or any time you feel your meals are lacking a little excitement. This will reset our palate and remind you how delightful vegetables can be!

Turmeric Roasted Carrots with Carrot Top Harissa

Ingredients:

for the turmeric spiced carrots:
2 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon of turmeric
1 teaspoon of cumin
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
a pinch of cayenne
2 tbsp. of olive oil

for the carrot top harissa: 
1 cup of green carrot tops, chopped
1/2 cup of cilantro
5 mint leaves
2 small garlic clove, sliced
the juice of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon of cumin
1/4 teaspoon of salt
about 2 tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil

Make the spice rub, and roast the carrots:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 400º. 
  • Make the turmeric spice rub by placing all of the ingredient for the rub into a food processor and pulse until you have a consistent mixture. 
  • Place the onions and carrots onto a parchment lined baking sheet and rub them with the spice mixture. Roast for about 30 minutes, until the carrots are very soft/fork tender. 

While the carrots are roasting, make the carrot top harissa:

  • Place all of the ingredients for the carrot top harissa into a food processor (except for the oil). Pulse a few times, and then drizzle in the oil in a slow stream while the food processor is running, until you have a consistent mixture. Set aside until you’re ready to serve. 

Remove the carrots from the oven and lay them out of a platter. Serve with Harissa and extra lemon wedges, if desired. 

Instant Pot Easy Pumpkin Chicken Curry

Left with half a can of pure pumpkin after making pumpkin chia pudding, I decided to add it to a Chicken curry I was planning on making that evening. The result is a generous boost of carotenoids and a nice thickening of the curry sauce. Take it a step further by adding 1 lb. of fresh pumpkin or butternut squash, diced to 1 ½ -2 inch chunks, to the Instant Pot before cooking.

1 small onion, halved and sliced lengthwise
2 zucchini, sliced into half-moon chunks
1 red pepper, cut into chunks
2 lbs chicken thighs, skinless/boneless, cut into chunks
1 cup bone broth or chicken stock
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp. red curry paste (I use Thai Kitchen brand often)
½ cup full fat coconut milk
7 oz. canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix; use 100% pure pumpkin)
10 oz. frozen spinach, defrosted & squeezed out liquid
2-3 tbsp plain dairy or coconut yogurt

Blend coconut milk, pumpkin puree, stock, curry paste, tomato paste in blender.
Put in Instant Pot with chicken, onion, and pumpkin chunks. Set to manual for 12 minutes. Once completed, release pressure immediately. Stir in spinach and then serve with a dollop of yogurt.

STOVETOP:

Blend coconut milk, pumpkin puree, stock, curry paste, tomato paste in blender and set aside. In a large sauté pan, sauté onions and chicken in oil of your choice until chicken is seared. Add red pepper, zucchini, and curry sauce to the pan. Cover and simmer on medium for 10-15 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. Stir in spinach and let sit for a couple moments to warm through. Serve with a dollop of yogurt, if desired.

Client Success: Jacob Turns His Back to Heart Disease Risk in just 12 weeks!

Jacob came to me at the recommendation of his wife. Not even 30, his doctor had prescribed a statin after recent bloodwork was done. His strong family history of heart disease, cholesterol level of 260, and recent episodes of dizziness had made this a logical and prudent choice from a physician’s point of view. Once he learned about the side effects of this lifelong drug, this young father decided to try diet and lifestyle changes first.

Initial labs showed that aside from cholesterol, Jacob’s triglycerides and glucose levels suggested diabetes was a likely diagnosis within 2-5 years’ time if nothing changed. His basic labs also revealed a B vitamin deficiency that is often overlooked/unknown in conventional care. We began a simple, yet effective dietary protocol to allow his body to better reflect his chronological age.

Here’s what happened within 12 weeks:

  • Triglycerides plummeted from 290 to 87 (now normal!)
  • Glucose fell from 95 to 87 (now optimal!)
  • HDL increased from 29 to 37 (still low, but better!)
  • Total cholesterol dropped from 260 to 215 (still high, but better!)

To address Jacob’s health, we focused on a high produce diet rich in lean proteins and healthy fats to keep hunger and cravings at bay. Rather than go keto or low carb, we opted for a moderate amount of carbohydrates from quality sources and kept treats like pie and soda for 1 day a week. Jacob was a food-planning boss and kept interest high with a variety of spices and seasonings and switched out the morning grab-and-go Starbucks sandwich for a smoothie, instead.

Over our short time together, energy improved significantly and dizzy spells disappeared. After looking at follow-up labs, Jacob’s doctor was content to let him continue using lifestyle to manage his disease risk.

Way to go, Jacob!

While conventional care relies upon statins and metformin to bring labs to normal levels, the same impact can often be accomplished through lifestyle changes alone. Jacob’s youth was definitely on his side, but similar results can be obtained in more established adults in 6-8 months or less. Additionally, the pharmacological route does not impact energy, mood, and quality of life the way lifestyle change does. It is worthwhile to note that, as of yet, utilizing medication as primary intervention has failed to remove heart disease as the leading cause of death in industrialized nations.

The power of our health lies within our hands.

Recipe of the Moment: Under the Seafood Avocado Dip

Diving deeply into nutrient density and exploring how to replenish key nutrients that tend to run low in my diet has inspired me to tweak and alter recipes to boost their nutrient value, often with delicious results.  This dip is currently in my fridge regularly (or some alteration thereof) and it’s become my go-to snack or quick breakfast when I don’t want to take the time to prepare something filling and nutrient-rich. I use this dip with crudités (cucumber and red peppers are my favorite), wrapped in a chard or romaine leaf as a wrap, or atop plantain chips or Mary’s Gone Crackers. Despite not growing up with a lot of seafood and not having a strong affinity for it, I never seem to tire of this dip!

Originally adapted from a dip I found to use for a tin of smoked herring, I’ve replaced the trout with canned salmon with bones to boost Omega-3s, Vitamin D, and calcium and added oysters for their impressive zinc, selenium, B12 and iron levels. Avocado adds fiber and more healthy unsaturated fats and all that lemon adds a delightful refreshing flavor and some vitamin C. Seafood as a whole provides some of the most nutrient-dense edible options available and are a reliable way to boost trace minerals and healthy fats. Obtaining quality fresh seafood can be difficult if you live inland, but using canned salmon and oysters here eliminates that problem.

If you are looking for quick, easy ways to create a nutrient dense diet give this recipe a try and let me know what you think!

Under The Seafood Avocado Dip

  • 7 oz. canned salmon with bone, wild-caught Alaskan preferred, liquid drained
  • 3.5 oz. can of oysters, drained
  • 1 canned, smoked Anchovy filet (optional; adds flavor)
  • 1/2 Avocado, cubed
  • Zest from 1/2 lemon
  • Juice from one lemon
  • 1 tbsp Mayonnaise, Store Bought
  • 1 tsp Hot Chili Sauce, Sriracha
  • 4 Scallions or Spring Onions, thinly sliced
  • 0.5 tsp Salt
  • Several twists of freshly ground Black Pepper

Place drained seafood into a medium bowl. Add salt, lemon zest, lemon juice, sriracha and mayonnaise and mix well with a fork, smashing the oysters beneath the tines so that all becomes well incorporated.

Stir in the scallions then gently fold in the avocado. Serve with vegetable crudités or crackers. Will keep for 2 days, but is unlikely to last that long!

Do We Need to Be Concerned About Sugar in Beets?

Like other root vegetables, beets sometimes become maligned for their carbohydrate content. Low carb zealots will chuck beets and yams into the same camp as white bread and licorice whips. This is utter nonsense.

Looking simply at total carbohydrate or even Glycemic Index misses the nuance of our foods. Just as you would be insulted if someone took a single aspect of your personality and used it to completely define you, so too do I imagine these vegetables slighted when they get blanketly demonized.

While Glycemic index was an initially helpful tool to assess the impact of carbohydrates, it was far too simplistic to be realistically applicable. More applicable is the glycemic load, which takes into account a true portion size. You can read more about key differences between glycemic index and load here (note the sample menu leaves a lot to be desired IMO).

While beets score a 65 on the glycemic index (which is medium-high) it would take about 4 cups of diced, cooked beets to impact your glucose levels in this fashion. A serving of cooked beets, which is 1/2 cup, has a glycemic load of 6 (low). Per serving, beets don’t contain a lot of sugar (6 grams, to be precise), and the fiber helps mitigate the rise in blood sugar that would occur if you consumed the same amount in pure cane sugar.

Additionally, beets contain Alpha-lipoic acid and induce nitric oxide, both of which appear to have a positive impact on blood sugar regulation.

Cell and animal studies show that alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) can increase the ability for glucose to get into the cell, alleviating the negative impact of insulin resistance in diabetic animals (4). A meta-analysis indicates ALA supplementation can reduce fasting glucose and insulin levels (2). It’s important to note, however, that many supplements contain far more ALA than one would get from eating beets. I was unable to find a source indicating how much ALA one can expect to consume in a normal dose of beets.

However, nitric oxide, which beet supports, has also demonstrated benefit in insulin resistance (3). One study showed that consuming beet juice with glucose reduced the severity of blood sugar response compared to glucose alone (1). It was postulated that the increase in nitric oxide availability from nitrate-rich beet juice may play a role in increased insulin sensitivity, at least in the obese individuals studied.  

Given that beets contain a low glycemic load, induce nitric oxide synthesis and contain some alpha-lipoic acid, there is no reason to fear consuming them. If you have diabetes, you can always test your individual reaction to beets by using your glucometer after a beet-rich meal to see precisely how your body responds to beets.

1) Beals, J. W., Binns, S. E., Davis, J. L., Giordano, G. R., Klochak, A. L., Paris, H. L., … & Bell, C. (2017). Concurrent beet juice and carbohydrate ingestion: influence on glucose tolerance in obese and nonobese adults. Journal of nutrition and metabolism2017.

2) Akbari, M., Ostadmohammadi, V., Lankarani, K. B., Tabrizi, R., Kolahdooz, F., Khatibi, S. R., & Asemi, Z. (2018). The effects of alpha-lipoic acid supplementation on glucose control and lipid profiles among patients with metabolic diseases: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Metabolism87, 56-69.

3) Sansbury, B. E., & Hill, B. G. (2014). Regulation of obesity and insulin resistance by nitric oxide. Free radical biology and medicine73, 383-399.

4) Rochette, L., Ghibu, S., Muresan, A., & Vergely, C. (2015). Alpha-lipoic acid: molecular mechanisms and therapeutic potential in diabetes. Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, 93(12), 1021–1027. doi:10.1139/cjpp-2014-0353

Jon’s “Latin Beet” Nalsa

This recipe comes from Jon, the partner of a VIBRANCE client who is a whiz in the kitchen and enjoys preparing meals for the family. His tomato-free salsa is an absolute blessing to those who have negative reactions to tomatoes. If all nightshades are off the table for you, omit the green peppers and the jalapeño and use avocados instead for a creamier pico-de-gallo style salsa.

NALSA
makes 4 cups.

  • 1 ½ c Red Bell Peppers, diced small (about 2 med sized)
  • ¾ c -minced Green Onion (white & green parts).
  • ¾ c -minced Cilantro(leaves & stems).
  • ½ c grated carrots (use younger fingerlings if you can find them).
  • ½ cup grated Orange Beet (w/ skin).
  • ⅓ c -fresh squeezed Lime juice (2-3 med size).
  • 1 Tbs -minced Jalapeño (include seeds for spiciness).

MIX all together in a bowl.
Adjust ingredients to taste. Transfer to metal or glass container. Stores up to a week or so. SERVE as is. Can be mixed in with eggs, consumed with chips, and added to soups for a latin flare!

For a more salsa-y texture & look, or to freshen up the taste, turn out a portion from storage onto cutting board, or food processor, and mince all together then eat it up!

 

Options to Make It Your Own:

  • Use Red Beet (great, but, turns the nalsa pink after a short time!)
  • Wasabi can be added for a spicy kick if you can’t eat jalapeños
  • Add Salt
  • Cumin powder
  • Chipotle powder
  • Chili powder
  • Fresh garlic
  • Avocado chunks
  • Guacamole

Beet Juice – Is it the performance enhancer everyone’s been waiting for?

Beet juice supplementation has been all the rage in the running community the last few years. It’s easy to see why – it’s totally natural, healthy, and when you down a shot of beet juice it has quite a punch! It makes you feel like you’ve really done something significant.

Now, I’m a fan of beets. Not only are they adorable, but they are rich in antioxidants, folate, manganese and fiber. Research is strongly in favor of beets as an ally in prevention of high blood pressure and heart disease and is being investigated as a possible protector against dementia as well.

 

Beet juice contains nitrates (not to be confused with nitrites which are used to preserve meats). These nitrates can be used by the body to increase nitric oxide (NO), which dilates blood vessels (called vasodilation) and improves oxygen consumption. Beets are pretty darn awesome for many reasons, this being just one. That increase in vasodilation and NO production is why beets have a beneficial impact on hypertension, cardiovascular risk and athletic performance.

A study on male soccer players showed beet juice supplementation not only increased sprint speed but kept heart rate lower during exertion. With an increased ability to utilize oxygen, exercise becomes easier. While there’s no absolute in science, numerous studies seem to support the role of beet juice in sports performance among well-trained and recreational athletes.

It is, however, crucial to note that as of 2018 – only 2 studies on beet juice included women, and neither of these studies reported women’s hormonal status. A woman’s estrogen levels significantly impacts dilation and constriction of blood vessels and has significant impacts in day-to-day activity.  Endothelial-derived nitric oxide synthase, which controls BP response and promotes relaxation of blood vessels, is HEAVILY influenced by estrogen, so a woman’s hormonal status and whether or not she is on hormonal birth control is important to know.

1 study in early 2019 looked at endurance and resistance training on women taking oral birth control (OBC). The conclusion of this well-controlled study is that there was no performance effect despite vasodilation response. Supplementing with beet juice nitrates had no effect on time trials, aerobic capacity, or power output for women.

The supplement industry makes its recommendations based upon research that has been done on men. Men have more blood volume, hemoglobin, and lean mass than women which also impacts vasodilation response and endothelial response to beet juice, hormone differences aside.

For these reasons, and the fact estrogen increases vasodilation and can lower blood pressure, we cannot use research on beet juice done on men and apply it to women.  What is observed in the field is that women who are supplementing with beet juice nitrates experience excess vasodilation and more orthostatic hypotension if supplementing with beet juice, whether they are on oral birth control or cycling naturally. This can lead to increased dizziness and fainting.

I caution all my active women about the beet juice craze and encourage them to be mindful of how they feel, especially when they hit the post-ovulation, high hormone phase of their cycle. If she is taking oral contraceptive pills, I advise against beet juice supplementation altogether. It’s just not worth the risk, given that preliminary research shows women can’t expect the same results as men do.

Have you tried beet juice? What’s your experience been?

Before You Start Your “New You in 2020” Diet – Ask Yourself These Questions:

This week, and for the next 2-3 weeks, there’s going to be a lot of posts, emails, and marketing pushing different detoxes, diets, fitness challenges, and “New Year, New You” type programs to help you make 2020 your best year ever.

The problem is, when we select a diet, challenge, or program based upon what is trending or what worked really well for Cousin Eddie, we don’t necessarily set ourselves up for success. Unique attributes such as work, family demands, lifestyle, ability/enjoyment of cooking, time, food intolerances and genetics play a huge role in whether or not any diet or exercise program will be successful.

When conducting an initial consultation with a potential client, we always drill in on their past successes and struggles, personal preferences, and lifestyle in order to determine how to best support them through change and to determine what they will best need for success. It also helps us establish whether or not we will be the right health team for them to achieve their goals. At the end of this meeting, everyone in the room has clarity on next steps and what will be foundational to success. If continuing with us in not in their best interest, we do our best to refer them to someone who can better meet their needs.

When considering any program, it’s essential to do a self-assessment to determine if it is even worth your attention. Doing a self-assessment clarifies your individual needs and qualities and will allow you to identify the best plan that will get you to your 2020 goals. To get started, consider the following:

1. What are your food/movement preferences?

2. Is it more realistic for you to follow a specific meal/exercise plan or stay more flexible? 

3. What struggles have hindered you in the past?

4. What are your main obstacles to eating more healthy/getting fit? 

5. What have you tried in the past has yielded the most success? Why?

6. Do you do your own grocery shopping?

7. Do you do your own cooking?

8. Do you have any specific dietary requirements?

9. Do you prefer to exercise at a gym, home, or outside?

10. How much time do you have available to dedicate to the change needed to achieve your goals?

 

Don’t make the mistake of jumping into a program just because it’s popular with others. True success depends upon finding a plan that is based upon your individual needs, dietary preferences and exercise habits. When we jump on the current trend, we aim to fit ourselves and lives into an artificial construct that never took us into consideration to begin with. When it doesn’t work out, it enforces feelings of failure and grinds in ugly beliefs about our abilities, willpower, and overall success as human beings that seed doubt and do lasting damage. All of these plans work for some people, but no structured plan will work for all people. For your health, sanity, and happiness, find what works for you and stick to that. It’s not the easiest solution, but it’s the only one that will work.

Need some help? Contact us for a quick Discovery Call or an Initial Consultation and let us help you find what will work for you in 2020 and beyond!


Low dose BPA exposure jacks up brain chemistry and impairs memory and learning.

To explore developmental neurotoxicity of environmental bisphenol A (BPA) exposure for infants and children, rats were exposed to differing levels of BPA during early life were tested to determine if BPA inhibited brain development.  Researchers observed that both the lowest and highest exposed groups needed more frequent ‘lessons’ and longer times to learn than the control group which was not exposed to BPA.

Additionally, 5-HT levels were decreased (this is a precursor to serotonin) in both sexes and male rats also experienced a decrease in the neurotransmitter (NT) GABA and an increase in glutamic acid and acetylcholine. GABA is an inhibitory NT that produces feelings of calm and relaxation. Glutamic acid and acetylcholine are an important part of brain plasticity and learning/memory. Learning and memory disruption is also seen in primate studies.


We can’t translate rats to humans, but we also cannot be intentionally exposing human infants to specific doses of a known pollutant to ascertain certainty.  However, initial observational research shows that human children are likely impacted. 

Because chronic low doses are as impactful as high doses you don’t have to be living near a plastic plant to be concerned. Every day exposure is enough to cause problems, and research is loaded with multiple associations observed in conjunction with everyday exposure such as infertility, behavior and memory issues, hormonal disruption, and even estrogen-related cancers.


Where do we get exposed to ingesting BPA?

    • canned foods
    • Foods wrapped in plastic
    • printed receipts
    • feminine hygiene products
    • dental filling sealants
    • takeout coffee cups
    • Plastic Bulk bins


Eliminating chronic plastic exposure is a challenge. Clearing your home of plastics and bringing your own glass or metal containers for food and beverage can reduce exposure significantly. While BPA-free products are on the rise, this doesn’t mean any other plastic is safer. Assume it is not. Other plasticizers are linked with hormonal disruption and any new plastic they come out with will have unknown effect for decades as there is no requirement for long-term safety testing with these chemicals. Eliminating plastic from our lives is a years’ long process, so be patient and consistent and you will make a significant dent in your exposure.

Additionally, a diet high in vegetables (you knew I would get here eventually) will provide you with valuable fiber to facilitate the excretion of these compounds and prevent them from being reabsorbed and stored in the body. Polyphenols, a class of numerous plant compounds found in veggies, fruits, herbs, and spices, may actually reduce the damaging effects of multiple plastic compounds by reducing DNA damage and cellular stress.

A healthy diet rich with adequate protein and abundant in produce will be the best diet to support the body’s ability to detoxify and eliminate not just BPA, but other toxicants as well. Saunas and exercise, which increase sweating, may also be a route of BPA elimination. While the number of chemicals we are exposed to continues to rise, our lifestyle can give our system the best chances to reduce impact. Additionally, genetic testing to assess whether or not there are specific detoxification enzymes which are inhibited may provide additional information as to how you can specifically optimize your ability to breakdown and eliminate pollutants and toxicants.

 

Zhang, H., Kuang, H., Luo, Y., Liu, S., Meng, L., Pang, Q., & Fan, R. (2019). Low-dose bisphenol A exposure impairs learning and memory ability with alterations of neuromorphology and neurotransmitters in rats. Science of The Total Environment697, 134036.

Hong, S. B., Hong, Y. C., Kim, J. W., Park, E. J., Shin, M. S., Kim, B. N., … & Cho, S. C. (2013). Bisphenol A in relation to behavior and learning of school‐age children. Journal of child psychology and psychiatry54(8), 890-899.

Deb, P., Bhan, A., Hussain, I., Ansari, K. I., Bobzean, S. A., Pandita, T. K., … & Mandal, S. S. (2016). Endocrine disrupting chemical, bisphenol-A, induces breast cancer associated gene HOXB9 expression in vitro and in vivo. Gene590(2), 234-243.

Żwierełło, W., Maruszewska, A., Skórka-Majewicz, M., Goschorska, M., Baranowska-Bosiacka, I., Dec, K., … & Gutowska, I. (2019). The influence of polyphenols on metabolic disorders caused by compounds released from plastics-review. Chemosphere, 124901.

Hodges, R. E., & Minich, D. M. (2015). Modulation of metabolic detoxification pathways using foods and food-derived components: a scientific review with clinical application. Journal of nutrition and metabolism2015.

Genuis, S. J., Beesoon, S., Birkholz, D., & Lobo, R. A. (2012). Human excretion of bisphenol A: blood, urine, and sweat (BUS) study. Journal of Environmental and Public Health2012.

Read more:

Mother Jones, 2014: That Takeout Coffee Cup May Be Messing With Your Hormones

World Health Organization, 2011: Toxicological and Health Impacts of Bisphenol, A. 

 

Carrot Top Chimichurri

Chimichurri is this amazing flavor enhancer that goes well on pretty much everything. A Argentinian staple, this recipe deviates from the original by replacing the parsley with carrot tops. This is by far my favorite way to use delicate carrot fronds. Chimichurri puts a touch of sparkle into eggs, chicken, pork, salad dressing, steak, roasted vegetables, and black beans (among other things I’m certain). Add a dollop to tacos, an omelet, your salad, or hummus and prepare for a flavor explosion! Thanks to rosemarried.com for the idea!

Cilantro & Carrot Green Chimichurri

  • 1 large handful of cilantro
  • Carrot greens (from 4-5 carrots)
  • 1 serrano chili, stem and seeds removed
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • The juice of 1 lime
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

To assemble the chimichurri, pulse the garlic cloves and serrano chili together in a food processor or a Vitamix. Add the carrot greens, cilantro, salt, pepper, and lime juice and process while pouring the olive oil in a steady stream. Blend until the mixture is well combined. (I prefer my chimichurri to have a little bit of texture, so I’m careful not to over-blend.)

This also makes an excellent marinade! Enjoy!