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. 

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!


The New Fab 5

In the Functional Nutrition analogy of the Fab 5, Karamo is totally probiotics, Antoni is SCFA, but who would Jonathan be??

While most of us think of Queer Eye when we hear of the Fab 5*, in functional medicine nutrition model this refers to a different group of fabulous:

1) Omega-3 fats

2) Fat soluble Vitamins (A,D,E,K)

3) Glutathione (a master antioxidant and major component of liver detox)

4) Probiotics

5) Short Chain Fatty Acids (SCFA)

These five tend to be sorely lacking in the modern body and are best influenced by dietary intakes. Fatty cold water fish, cultured foods, loads of vegetables (esp. crucifers for glutathione) and organ meats can have you covered here, and exercise can also increase probiotic diversity, SCFA production in the gut and raise glutathione levels (who knew??)
While supplements are extremely helpful for those who are extremely depleted or chronically ill, starting with the foundation of a healthy diet and exercise is the cheapest, most impactful way to get you there. Here’s how:

A) Include organ meats 1-3 times a week; pate, heart, gizzards, mixing liver in meatballs or burgers, and drinking bone broth are great ways to do this. Organ meats are a great source of fat soluble vitamins and trace minerals. I FINALLY found a pate recipe that I really enjoy (I detest liver) after years of looking in Mickey Trescott’s Nutrient Dense Kitchen. It has been a total game changer.

B) Get a combination of high intensity, high impact movement and more relaxing, low intensity movement weekly. Walk as much as you can (our ancestors easily did 8-10 miles daily) and aim for short, high intensity intervals of 30 minutes or less 2-4 times weekly to boost glutathione levels and promote healthy gut bacterial diversity.

C) Consume cold water fish 3 times a week or supplement with omega-3 fatty acids (including a GLA to ensure appropriate balance of fatty acids when supplementing). Omega 3 fats preserve brain and heart health and keep inflammation at bay.

D) Consume cultured/fermented veggies daily from a variety of sources to easily introduce billions of probiotics into your body. Start with 1 tablespoon and work your way up to 1/2 cup depending on your needs. Kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, kim chee, and many other options are out there! These foods promote healthy gut flora and crowd out opportunistic infections. Buyer Beware — if these foods are not refrigerated, they do not contain active, live cultures. They must be refrigerated to prevent exploding jars of ferments, so if you see a shelf stable kraut know it is a dead kraut.

E) Fat soluble vitamins are prolific in your cold water fish, organ meats as well as egg yolks. Vitamin E is found in nuts, seeds, and olive oil. Vitamin K is most abundant in green vegetables, so load those plates high! Check you levels of Vitamin D in both summer and winter so you can determine appropriate supplementation, if needed. These vitamins are crucial for immune health, bone health, cancer prevention and more.

F) Focus on vegetables! Population studies indicate that the healthiest people consume more vegetables, with 10 or more servings of produce daily demonstrating the greatest benefit. Vegetable fibers directly feed gut bacteria, and they in turn produce short chain fatty acids, which serve as fuel for the cells that line the gut wall. These cells directly impact immunity, gut health and brain health, but lack of integrity in the gut is associated with disease throughout the body, from Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s to heart disease and osteoporosis. 

A diet rich in fermented, raw and cooked vegetables, nutrient-dense organ meats and seafood, with appropriate levels of exercise can keep you strong, energized and vibrant for all the years of your life. Increased levels of environmental and social stressors coupled with decreasing nutrient density from poor soil and increasing carbon dioxide rates have loaded extra demands upon the body, requiring even more attention to nutrient density to maintain health than was needed just 20-30 years ago. 

That said, increasing demands upon our time and energy can make it even harder to accomplish this. Lack of familiarity with foods like organ meats, or poor experiences with vegetables growing up make it incredibly difficult to bring these foods back into regular fare, even when we know we should. My generation experienced a great deal of gym class trauma and soggy canned spinach that turned many of us away from the very things we needed to thrive. But now we are all adults, and it is up to each of us to overcome our history to serve our future. It took me five years to find a way to eat liver that I enjoy, so don’t give up! Where there is a will there is a way.(A special thank you to Dr. Eric Dorninger for introducing me to the power of the Fab 5!!)

Need help making the changes you want to? Book a Complimentary Discovery Call to see if Vibrance can support you!

 
 

Why I Aim for 10 a Day

My goal every day is to get 10 servings of vegetables.

I know – that sounds insane, right? Especially if, like 87% of Americans, you aren’t meeting the government recommended 5 a day for vegetables and fruits.

When I began studying nutrition over 25 years ago, it was to justify my position as a vegetarian to concerned family members. It was the first time the concept of ‘food as medicine’ had ever been presented to me. I was blown away that this was not common knowledge, not discussed, and that so much suffering (both animal and human) could be avoided.

While I am no longer a vegetarian I have never wavered from my interest in how we can use food to prevent, mitigate, and recover from disease. Food is still the most potent medicine we have available to us, and yet it is still the most overlooked for much of the population. Whether or not one is a vegetarian or vegan, plants remain the most potent, healing foods available to us.

Researchers who study populations are now saying that the 3-5 a day that is recommended is not enough if our goal is to be healthy and vital for the duration of our lives. They are now recommending 10 servings a day of fruits and vegetables. The populations who regularly consume this much are the ones who have the least risk of disease and live the healthiest into their elder years. While the industrialized nations have looked to science and technology for sustaining life, those in traditional, poorer cultures have maintained what we long for by consuming abundant produce. Once you get past the challenge of clean water, proper sewage and the immediate dangers of war, the key to a long, happy life is community and a diet rich in vegetables.

A study published in 2010 demonstrated that just 4-6 servings of produce reduced your risk of stroke by 32%! So if you get your 5 a day, as recommended by the USDA, you are doing very well! You are making a definite impact in your quality of life, and probably feel that benefit. These same researchers also looked at folks who consume 6 or more servings of produce daily. Their stroke risk was reduced by 69% over those who consumed less than 3 servings a day. There’s similar, consistent evidence for vegetables preventing 9 of the top 10 causes of death in the United States (the exception being unintentional accidents). The more produce we consume, the less chances we’ll die from Alzheimer’s, heart disease, stroke, chronic lung disease, kidney disease, cancer, diabetes, even pneumonia and suicide. The research is there.

None of us know how much time we have on the planet. I want as many years as possible to be vital, mobile, alert, and pain-free. The diseases that knock out most of us are expensive, chronic, and take decades to finally kill us off. Those last 15-30 years are not easy ones….and the new generation is being diagnosed with some of these diseases (like type 2 Diabetes) before they are even old enough to vote. I’d rather avoid such diseases altogether, and like my great-grandmother, remain active and engaged in my community until mere months before I pass.

Do I get 10 servings of vegetables a day? Sometimes. When I am aiming to, I reliably get between 7 and 10 servings. When I get caught up in life I get about 4-6. However, before I committed to seeking out 10 a day getting caught up in life meant I only managed 1-2 servings in a day. The difference I personally feel maintaining a minimum of 4-6 instead of 1-2 is remarkable. My clients express the same outcome. It shows up differently for different people – most of us find our digestion to be more regular and, dare I say it, delightful. Some also get the added benefit of improved moods and better energy. Some find chronic pain disappears. Others are able to come off blood pressure meds and find their blood sugar back within normal limits. One of the adventures of taking people on a journey to increase their veggies is that we don’t know what the outcome will be – only that it will be good. It’s a fun trip to take!

 

Regardless of whether you ascribe to a vegan, paleo, Mediterranean or even ketogenic diet, you need an abundant of produce to thrive. And nearly all dietary modalities attributed to reversing chronic disease, such as heart disease or multiple sclerosis, have their root in a diet high in produce. Vegetables provide antioxidants that protect cells from pollution as well as the wear and tear of daily life. They provide fiber to help regulate bowels and feed the beneficial bacteria that produce certain vitamins as well as help regulate the immune system, mood, and maintain healthy cholesterol levels.

 

 

Park, Y. (2010). Intakes of vegetables and related nutrients such as vitamin B complex, potassium, and calcium, are negatively correlated with risk of stroke in KoreaNutrition research and practice4(4), 303-310.

Aune, D., Giovannucci, E., Boffetta, P., Fadnes, L. T., Keum, N., Norat, T., … & Tonstad, S. (2017). Fruit and vegetable intake and the risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer and all-cause mortality—a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studiesInternational journal of epidemiology46(3), 1029-1056.

 

Blasphemous Thoughts on Sports Nutrition

NOTE: This post was authored by Aimee Gallo and originally appeared in the Athleta Chi Blog in 2013. It has been slightly edited from the original post.


Chocolate Milk is Crap.

Yes – I said it!  I think chocolate milk is crap. The recovery food hailed by the world as the perfect post-workout replenishment falls far short of it in my book. Before I fully step upon my soap box, let me explain why chocolate milk rose to fame.

The key nutrition components to a complete recovery can be summed up in two categories: 1) nutrition repletion and 2) hydration. Here’s why the Dairy Council and many coaches and sports nutritionists are pushing milk at the finish line:

  • Chocolate milk contains the ‘ideal’ ratio of carbohydrates to protein. The 1:3 – 1:4 ratio not only replenishes glycogen, but also provides protein for tissue repair and transport of the carbohydrates more effectively into the cell walls.
  • Chocolate milk is liquid – therefore it contributes to rehydrating the body.
  • Chocolate milk is tasty – I mean, really! Who on earth doesn’t like chocolate milk?!?!
  • Chocolate milk is cheap, convenient and accessible. You can find it anywhere – even along a highway in rural Kansas at a truck stop or gas station.

The above facts are exactly why you are thinking chocolate milk sounds good right about now! However, I take the viewpoint that the human body is a miraculous vessel. When you think about all it does for you and all it puts up with, it’s not hard to understand on some level that it is an incredible machine – not unlike a Ferrari, Tesla or Lamborghini. Chocolate milk is like putting the cheapest diesel fuel you can find into your half-million dollar sports car. Here’s why:

  • Chocolate milk is a dairy food – and dairy foods come with a host of potential problems. They are highly allergenic (an estimated 60-75% of the adult human population exhibits signs of dairy intolerance) and often laced with excessive hormones from the conditions in which cattle are raised. Excess estrogen is already of great concern to many individuals as it is linked to hormone imbalances and possibly cancer in humans. Dairy products may exacerbate that. (My former teacher Dr. Mark Hyman has a compelling piece on dairy and the Food Guide Pyramid here if you want more info.)
  • Chocolate milk’s carbohydrate source comes exclusively from lactose (potential allergen) and high fructose corn syrup or sugar. HFCS is strongly suspect as being a contributor to diabetes and non-alcohol related fatty liver due to how it is digested in the body. Corn syrup and table sugar are, of course, the most nutritionally devoid form of carbohydrate on the market. Regardless of where any nutritionist or dietitian is on our highly political food spectrum, we all agree that sugar and corn syrup are not ideal sources of carbohydrate. So my question to you is, are they the sources you want to be pumping into your cells to repair them after a hard workout? Do you want the construct of your muscle tissue to come from vitamin-devoid sweeteners?

This stance alone has some of you wanting to squeeze the remainder of your milk carton in my face. I get it. I’m not taking a popular stance here. If milk judgment were my only offense, you might forgive me. But I have more blasphemy for you.

CARB LOADING

Our mainstay and go-to, the absolute foundation of endurance sports nutrition lies in carb loading. I cannot tell you how many hundreds of pancake feeds, pasta feeds, thai food feasts, and other meals I’ve had after long runs over the last 15 years. This was a myth I bought hook, line, and sinker. It made sense. It was widely backed by research. The entire sports nutrition community did it and backed it. And pancakes and pasta sound AWESOME after two to three hours on the road. Another easy sell! I began to question this logic though when it became more and more challenging to maintain my weight. I struggled to prevent weight gain when my training was at its highest – ten hours a week or more! At 5’2″ my stomach doesn’t hold enough food to make up for the calories I was losing, yet I was still challenged. Working with other endurance athletes – I saw the same struggles in them. It wasn’t until I understood the hormonal impact of carbohydrates in relation to fat burning and left the caloric model completely that I was able to lose the seven pounds I gained for my last races in 2010 AND be able to help other runners and triathletes lose the spare tire that refused to go away.

Looking around we all know that some people stay slender and others have to fight for it. The answer, however, isn’t in hours logged and miles run so much as it is in the food choices we make on an hour-to-hour basis. I, and other endurance athletes, find better results in carbohydrate moderation rather than continued carbohydrate loading. I discovered that there was no need to carb-up to the extent that I had been taught. Many runners will only lean out when they start moderating the quantity and timing of their carbohydrate intake. If you are burning loads of calories and still struggling with weight you’ll want to explore this possibility immediately. This holds especially true for females, as our cycling hormones heavily impact how we utilize carbohydrates during different times of the month and carbohydrate utilization changes again (not in our favor) after menopause.

My final blasphemy for the day is a hybrid of the above two. The pre-race spaghetti feed. For races less than two hours long, it is unlikely you will need to consume extra carbohydrates than you typically do unless you are on a carbohydrate-restricted diet. For many events such a feed is simply unnecessary. Events lasting longer than two hours are best fueled with moderate carbohydrate consumption the day before and with amino acid and carbohydrate replenishment during the event. Another consideration with the pre-race pasta meal again lies in food intolerances and digestive upset. Gluten intolerance is very common in my practice and increasingly common in the general population. Thus the pasta feed can lead to digestive upset during the race, increased inflammation and decreased recovery, poor moods, decreased alertness and motor skills (I kid you not), and overall lowered performance. Many clients have had a significant shift in performance simply by shifting the pre-race meal to sushi, brown rice pasta with loads of vegetables, or including a baked yam or potato with dinner the night before. Give it a try before your next race and see if you feel a difference! If you already have a gluten-free pre-race meal, I’d love to know what it is so I can share with my gluten-free athletes!

It is not my intention to create enemies with this post – only to open up the possibility for alternatives if what you are currently accepting as appropriate is, in fact, not working for you. Each person is unique and therefore requires a unique formula to achieve success on and off the trail.

For more insights into race recovery (including my favorite recipes), fat loss for endurance runners and using real foods to fuel you active lifestyle, sign up for our newsletter and receive tips directly in your inbox!

The Scoop on Protein Powder: Processed Junk or Useful Life Hack?

Protein powder.

Some people swear by the stuff. Others can’t stand the thought of choking down a gritty, highly processed powder and calling it a ‘meal’.

As one who is a staunch proponent of food first, I completely understand those who take the latter position. The reality is all protein powders are highly processed. Whether it is whey from a cow or sprouted hemp seeds, what you buy in the jar no longer resembles its original form. It has been radically altered to be shelf stable, dissolvable in water, and somewhat palatable to boot.

That does not make it inherently bad though.

We live in a culture that asks us to fill our days with tasks other than cooking. Certainly, one’s boss isn’t likely to approve of saying you’ll be into work an hour later than expected because you need to make breakfast (and clean the kitchen afterwards). Protein powders have a place in the diet not so much because they are a superfood, but because they offer a very effective solution to common challenges such as:

1) I don’t have time for breakfast.
Skipping breakfast, or grabbing a coffee instead, can exacerbate hunger and cravings later in the day and perpetuate a cycle of overeating or excessively snacking at night. This is bad for cholesterol, inflammation, and weight. A protein-rich breakfast in the morning will often completely decimate food cravings for the rest of the day. Since few people have the time to make a frittata or whip up some turkey sausage and eggs in the morning, a smoothie made with protein powder can get slow-burning, appetite stabilizing nutrition in first thing in the morning. And that is a net win, my friends.

2) The narrow window athletes have for optimal refueling.

After a workout our cells are primed to receive nourishment. The sooner we feed them the greater the impact on post-workout strength, recovery, and energy. My clients who run marathons and refuel immediately with at least 20 grams of protein coupled with quality carbohydrates feel a huge impact on the following 48 hours post-race. Often times this means bringing protein powder along with you to consume after crossing the finish line. Post-race snacks provided are so focused on carbohydrates that the key component of protein is often left out. Men have a 45-60 minute window to refuel and women only have 30 minutes to get the most bang for their buck. Therefore protein powder is my top choice as an athletic recovery food on race day.

3) Mid-day munchies

This is another time of day when it is very easy to get up from one’s desk and grab a quick sugar-laden snack or coffee drink to power through the rest of the work day. Protein and some fruit is often a better choice, but requires more planning and prep than running across the street to Starbucks. Using protein powder instead for a quick shake does a much better job at restoring energy and clarity to finish the work day strong and saves time to boot.

So let’s say you decide that having protein powder around is a useful thing for you. Not all proteins are of equal quality and not all proteins provide the same benefit.

Some things to consider when choosing a protein powder:

A) Protein powders have wildly varying quality of ingredients. You can head to the local supplement shop and pick up WEIGHT GAINERZ 2000 in a tub the size of your torso and take home a hodgepodge of cheap milk proteins, artificial flavors and sweeteners. You can also find organic, grass-fed whey from New Zealand goats who grazed on pristine pasture for the duration of their lives and are never separated from their offspring for the sake of milking. Quality varies wildly, so educate yourself and be a savvy consumer who inspects the label rather than falling prey to marketing tactics.

 

B) What’s the Best Protein Source for My Needs? 

If you are looking to gain muscle or body weight you’d do best with a high quality whey protein containing at least 2 grams of leucine per serving after a hard workout and a casein protein to take in the evening. Whey is absorbed pretty rapidly and is perfect for refueling while casein provides a slow burning protein source that can be used to fuel growing muscles while you sleep.

If you do not consume dairy products my best advice is to try single serving packets of various proteins from egg or vegan sources until you find one that works for both your tastebuds and your digestive system. This can take a while. Of note – leucine is an amino acid especially high in undiluted whey protein that stimulates muscle growth and recovery. If you are a vegan or you are dairy-sensitive and looking to build muscle your best bet is to supplement with branched chain amino acids containing at least 2 grams of leucine after your workout and using your protein of choice as well for refueling or energy stabilization. Some vegan proteins, like VegaSport, add branched-chain amino acids to their protein for athlete’s needs. Just check the label for the leucine amount to ensure it is adequate.

A third option is what is called ‘Medical Food’. These are protein powders with specific supplements added to them to essentially provide a drinkable supplement. Offered by high-quality supplement companies like Thorne and Metagenics, their medical foods are designed to help stabilize blood sugar, assist in the body’s detoxification pathways, lose weight, or curb systemic inflammation (depending on which you are prescribed). They are typically only available from healthcare providers and are an excellent alternative to taking handfuls of pills each day for a specific medical condition or health goal.

 

What’s your take on protein powder? For those of you who consume it regularly – do you have a favorite brand?

 

Rubber Duckies and Mac & Cheese

These Have More than Color

My Facebook wall lit up last week with this piece from the Seattle Times, discussing the finding of phthalates in boxed macaroni and cheese. Phthalates are an industrial chemical used to soften plastics. Many of us grew up unwittingly consuming phthalates as we chewed on plastic teething rings and hot drank bath water in which our rubber duckies swam. Phthalates were banned from children’s products in the USA over a decade ago. Despite this ban, our children are still exposed – now from foods, beverages, and pharmaceuticals, likely due to machinery in the food processing industry and the soft plastics that encase our beverages and, in teens and adults, the lids on our to-go lattes in the morning.

Phthhhh, you may say. Why should I be concerned about the mac and cheese I had as a kid? Why should I be concerned about my kids’ occasional mac and cheese treat?

Phthalates act as endocrine disruptors in the body, which means they interfere with normal hormone functioning in humans and animals. In the case of Phthalates, research shows that they bind to steroid nuclear receptors and steroid binding proteins. This can then inhibit a message to the cell’s nucleus to do any number of things a hormone would signal a nucleus to do (think fundamental actions at the DNA level that will impact cell growth, differentiation, and changes in gene expression) or prevent a hormone from sending a message to other areas of the body.
Estrogen, testosterone, progesterone, estradiol (all are sex hormones), aldosterone (blood pressure), and cortisol all utilize steroid receptors. If phthalates bind to the receptor then these hormones cannot bind to the cell to send a message the body needs to receive.

What does this look like in real life? Phthalates are believed to disrupt male hormones like testosterone and have been linked to genital birth defects in infant boys and learning and behavior problems in older children. It may also disrupt cortisol and progesterone balance by binding to Corticosteroid-binding Globulin (CBG). One study shows that parents with higher levels of phthalate metabolites in urine who have difficulty conceiving appear more likely to give birth to low-weight infants (via IVF).

This article from Slate suggests an occasional box of mac and cheese isn’t going to kill anyone. And while that is true, this argument completely fails to acknowledge that exposure is coming from multiple sources – some of which we cannot easily control. Because phthalates soften plastic, they are used in thousands of products, such as:

  • building materials
  • household furnishings
  • clothing (especially plastic rain coats)
  • cosmetics and personal care products (nail polish, soap, shampoo, hair spray)
  • pharmaceuticals
  • nutritional supplements
  • herbal remedies
  • medical devices
  • dentures
  • children’s toys (especially imported from outside the USA)
  • glow sticks
  • modelling clay
  • food packaging
  • automobiles
  • lubricants
  • waxes
  • cleaning materials
  • insecticides

We consume phthlates via direct ingestion, inhalation, intravenous injection and skin absorption. Products containing phthalates result in exposure through direct contact and use (like hair spray), indirectly through leaching into other products (the mac and cheese), or general environmental contamination (when your neighbor sprays for insects).

At the end of the day, whether or not we buy boxed mac and cheese is one exposure we can easily eliminate. Considering phthalate levels were up to 4 times higher among all boxed mac and cheese (even organic) when compared to a block of cheddar cheese, this becomes an actionable step to reduce exposure. Stopping my organic boxed mac and cheese habit and AquaNet addiction is easier than getting my neighborhood and city to stop using insecticides in public spaces and more realistic than refusing to use vehicles for transportation. Those with dentures or medical devices can reduce additional exposure by these means as well and use dietary changes to help their body process and eliminate existing exposure.

While we may not be aware of all the chemical exposures our bodies have to work around we can change our diet and lifestyle to reduce exposure and make sure our body has the best chance to detoxify what it comes in contact with. Beyond reducing exposure to environmental pollutants and processed foods, consuming a diet rich in vegetables (especially greens and cruciferous veggies) can ensure your body has the necessary components for efficient detoxification. This is especially important if you or your family have a history of infertility, hormone imbalances, or cancer, or if you or a family member suffers from autoimmune disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes and there is no family history of such illness. Our genetics outline a future if we take the past of least resistance, yet lifestyle and environment determine whether or not we succumb to genetic predisposition. If you have an illness that is unheard of in your family history it may mean that you’ve been exposed to something unique your parents and grandparents have not which triggered genes to promote disease. Much can be done to reduce damage and in some case, put such illnesses into remission and your food choices ALWAYS have an impact on the outcome of your diagnosis, regardless of disease. If you’d like to learn how diet can affect your health or disease management, schedule a complimentary call with VIBRANCE to discuss how you can take control of your health.

 

Sources and More Info:

An excellent post discussing phthalates and the mac and cheese study in more depth: (Examine.com)

Messerlian, C., Braun, J. M., Mínguez-Alarcón, L., Williams, P. L., Ford, J. B., Mustieles, V., … & Hauser, R. (2017). Paternal and maternal urinary phthalate metabolite concentrations and birth weight of singletons conceived by subfertile couples. Environment International107, 55-64.

Sheikh, I. A., & Beg, M. A. (2017). Endocrine disruption: In silico interactions between phthalate plasticizers and corticosteroid binding globulin. Journal of Applied Toxicology.

Schettler, T. E. D. (2006). Human exposure to phthalates via consumer products. International journal of andrology29(1), 134-139.

Lowering Your Cholesterol with Food

Which Foods Lower Cholesterol-Bile acid sequestrates (Questran, Prevalite, Colestid, Welchol), known as BAS, are utilized to lower elevated LDL cholesterol and are often prescribed for those with elevated cholesterol levels. LDL cholesterol is known as the ‘bad’ cholesterol because it is responsible for bringing cholesterol from the liver into the bloodstream where it has potential to be deposited along the arterial walls.

Many dietary alternatives do exist which can decrease levels of LDL cholesterol without the common side effects of BAS, which include GI distress, gallstones, and heartburn. Soluble fiber is one such well-known supplement that has been proved to reduce cholesterol. Oat fiber, psyllium, and pectin have all shown to reduce levels; 10-30 grams of soluble fiber per day can decrease LDL by 10% (Brown, Rosner, Willett, & Sacks, 1999; Rosenthal, 2000), which can be the difference between one’s doctor pushing for medication vs. offering congratulations for some people. 1/4 cup of oat bran contains 4 grams of fiber, of which 3 grams are soluble. Add 2 tablespoons of ground flax seeds (6 grams of soluble fiber) and you are well on your way to a healthier cholesterol ratio!

Plant sterols are believed to lower serum cholesterol by inhibiting absorption. To make plant sterols more accessible to the public, a margarine containing sitostanol ester was manufactured and has been studied. 2-3 servings of this margarine per day appear to lower LDL levels by 14% after a year of consumption and was well-tolerated by subjects (Miettinen, Puska, Gylling, Vanhanan & Vartiainen, 1995). While the study was well executed, it is unknown if funding for this research was supplied by the margarine manufacturer, which may influence data. Also of note, these products often contain corn syrup as well as trans-fatty acids, both of which increase inflammation and can contribute to disease over time. However, plant sterols are also found in wheat germ, wheat bran, peanuts, vegetable oils (corn, sesame, and olive oil), almonds and Brussels sprouts. Smaller amounts are found in other vegetables, but it is a challenge to get enough plant sterols from foods, which is why this margarine was created in the first place. That said, plant sterols are available in supplement form; you’ll want to talk to your healthcare provider before taking a phystosterol supplement, however.

Olive oil, while not directly lowering LDL levels, may offer complementary benefit by changing the composition of LDL particles in the body. 50 grams of olive oil a day (about 4 tablespoons) appears to reduce the risk of LDL oxidation, which can reduce the potential of LDL to lead to atherosclerosis (Aviram & Eias, 1993). Oxidation is a big factor in whether or not cholesterol will remain benign or turn deadly; the best way to prevent oxidation is to include lots of green vegetables, olive oil, and choose slow cooking methods for meats over grilling or frying. 

 Resources:

Aviram M., Eias K. (1993) Dietary olive oil reduces low-density lipoprotein uptake by macrophages and decreases the susceptibility of the lipoprotein to undergo lipid peroxidation. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, 37(2), 75-84.

Brown L., Rosner B., Willett W.W., Sacks, F.M. (1999) Cholesterol-lowering effects of dietary fiber: a meta-analysis. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 69(1), 30-42.

Miettinen TA, Puska P, Gylling H, Vanhanan H, Vartiainen E. (1995) Reduction of serum cholesterol with sitostanol-ester margarine in a mildly hypercholesterolemic population. New England Journal of Medicine, 333,1308–1312.

Rosenthal, R.L. (2000) Effectiveness of altering serum cholesterol levels without drugs. Proceedings (Baylor University. Medical Center), 13(4), 351–355.

Are Your Supplements Full of Shit?

Supplement quality is a constant challenge here in the United States for many reasons. One of the main challenges is that the FDA, the government agency responsible for ensuring safety and efficacy of supplements, is heavily employed by individuals with significant ties to commercial supplement interests.  Another challenge is that funding for the FDA is limited enough that reliable, consistent enforcement of existing laws is laughable, at best. There is simply not enough manpower to enforce current laws on the books, so it takes significant consumer harm and backlash to get investigations underway.

Despite this, the New York Attorney General conducted an investigation in 2014 and 2015 on common supplements one can purchase over the counter. The degree of label misrepresentation was astonishing and, quite frankly, morally reprehensible.

screenshot-2016-09-28-21-25-11

In the graphic above, you can see that most of the supplements tested had no traces of DNA matching the labeled material being tested. There is some argument that the method used (DNA barcoding) may be inaccurate as an extracted, dissolved, crushed or otherwise altered plant may have altered DNA that was not detected as it was compared to whole plant DNA.  Even if this were so and it accounted for the Attorney General’s findings, it does not excuse the fact that GMP standards (the standard by which supplement companies are supposed to adhere to) were not met in over 50% of the 450 companies inspected by the FDA. Note that the FDA does not even have enough resources to inspect all operating facilities in the USA.

The GMP stands for ‘Good Manufacturing Practices’. This is the absolute basic level of quality a manufacturer is expected to adhere to – maintaining sanitary facilities, preventing cross contamination, documenting of procedures, the ability to trace batches and systems to recall products if necessary, etc. The GMP has no enforcement of quality of the product or the raw materials in the product. Over 50% of tested facilities had violations ranging from no written formula available for their product and no concerns for cross contamination of major allergens to products contaminated with rat feces. So yes, you supplement may literally be full of shit.

Basically in the GMP we have a set standard that is unenforceable and so it can’t even assure us that what is on the label is in the label. Investigations consistently show that there are major problems with the supplements most Americans have access to. Consumer Labs reports 1 in 4 products has a major problem – from significant deviation of the amount in the product vs what is listed on the bottle, to rancid oils and products that won’t break down in the body – the ‘expensive urine’ you’ve been warned about.

What on earth do you do?!?!

Well, according to the graphic above, it would seem best not to get generic supplements available from big box stores.

Beyond the FDA are some consumer watchdog groups that are our best bet for quality assurance – many of these were created before the GMP standards came into play, but remain a higher quality than what the FDA can assure us right now:

ConsumerLabs.com is a for profit company. A supplement company can pay them to have their product tested for quality and carry the Consumer Lab seal of approval. If that product fails to meet criteria it will not be listed on the website. However, if Consumer Lab purchases the supplement from a store and the supplement fails they will post results on their website. So it’s a ‘give us money and you can choose to post results or not’ situation, unless they purchase the product from a store, much like you would, and test it themselves.

A Consumer Labs seal of approval will assure that:

  • contains the key ingredients listed on the label in the declared potency and amounts; it does not contain harmful levels of specified contaminants using stringent limits, for example, California Proposition 65.
  • Product disintegrates or dissolves per USP standards (75% or more dissolves in less than 60 minutes time)
  • The product contains the tested ingredients listed on the label in the declared amounts and of high quality; any health claims must comply with FDA regulations.

USP – United States Pharmacopeia. This third party non-profit tests ingredients, finished products and conducts facility audits. Learn more about the USP here.

A USP certification assures that:

  • The product contains the ingredients listed on the label in the declared potency and amounts; it does not contain harmful levels of specified contaminants; and it has been manufactured according to FDA current GMPs and USP GMPs.
  • Absence of ingredients with known safety risk; appropriate allergen labeling; meets acceptable levels of specified contaminants, based on toxicologic concerns; testing per California Proposition 65 for labeling purposes.
  • Product disintegrates or dissolves per USP standards.
  • Product label has an accurate list of ingredients in the stated amounts. All claims of fact, either stated or implied, must be supported by data, consistent with USP program requirements. Any health claims must be within FDA regulations.

NSF – the NSF is a non-profit organization that tests a variety of consumer products. The NSF dietary supplements certification program assures the following:

  • Label claim review to certify that what’s on the label is in the bottle
  • Contaminant review to ensure the product contains no undeclared ingredients or unacceptable levels of contaminants, including >200 athletic banned substances for Certified for Sport products; it has been manufactured according to FDA’s current GMPs.
  • All claims of fact made for the product, either stated or implied, must be accurate, consistent with NSF program requirements, and meaningful in terms of the benefits offered.

Therapeutic Goods Administration of Australia – considered the most stringent and vigorous of certifying bodies, the TGA requires the same amount of testing for supplements as done for pharmaceutical drugs, as Australia does not distinguish between supplements or drugs. Down under, your multivitamin is considered ‘complimentary medicine’. Very few companies in the USA are certified through TGA. This is considered the gold standard worldwide.

Make sure that the company you use has the final product being tested to ensure that what is on the label is in the label, that contaminants are absent. You can contact them directly and ask them what they are doing for quality assurance and ask for proof if you do not see it on their website or you can check out Consumer Labs.

Thorne Research is a company that has transparent, clear quality assurance that they openly share with their customers. Many companies will not have their quality assurance clearly listed on the website, nor will they even have a number to call to get information! Pharmaceutical grade supplements that are available from practitioners will often meet these higher standards, share them openly, and remain consistent in testing to assure quality. This is precisely why licensed professionals use them; a quality standard is essential to producing reliable results for patients. You can read Thorne’s Quality Assurance here. Other supplement companies with pharmaceutical grade quality include Metagenics, Pure Encapsulations, Xymogen, Douglas Labs and Seeking Health. These are typically not found in supplement stores, although if there is a Pharmaca near you you may find some of these companies there.

If you would like shop for supplements that are GMP certified and practitioner grade check out the VIBRANCE Nutrition Dispensary. You can find many supplements available only at your doctor’s office, such as Pure Encapsulations, Seeking Health, Metagenics and more. Sign up for our newsletter and email me if you’d like a 10% discount on all supplements through Fullscript!

Purchase products through our Fullscript virtual dispensary.
Resources:

Knight, Peter, ND. (2016). Whole Foods Nutrition and Supplementation: Week 10: Lecture 2: Quality Issues in the Dietary Supplement Industry [class notes]. 

O’Connor, Anahad. New York Attorney General Targets Supplements at Major Retailers. New York Times, FEBRUARY 3, 2015. Accessed online 27 September 2016

THE EDITORIAL BOARD. Conflicts of Interest at the F.D.A. New York Times, APRIL 13, 2015. Accessed online 27 September 2016.

Unknown. (2016). Quality Certification Programs for Dietary Supplements. JOURNAL OF THE ACADEMY OF NUTRITION AND DIETETICS. Volume 116 Number 9

Inflammation Can Make You Fat

Obesity is associated with chronic, low-level inflammation. In some cases it can be hard to determine if obesity or inflammation came first, as each condition feeds upon the other. For the purpose of this brief article I will exclusively discuss inflammation’s role in obesity promotion.

Inflammation can promote obesity through disrupting the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar. An effect that many cytokines have on the body over time is insulin resistance. Cytokines are a normal, natural response to inflammation in the body. They act as signalers to other cells to alter the immune response. TNF-α and IL-6 are cytokines that specifically promote insulin resistance in the body (Wellen & Hotamisligil, 2005). One study (Hotamisligil eta l., 1993) demonstrated that administration of recombinant TNF-α to cultured cells or to whole animals inhibits the action of insulin; this action is supported in a later study observing obese mice without TNF-receptors having better insulin sensitivity over their wild-type brethren (Uysal, 1997).
When the body is in a state of insulin resistance, additional inflammatory markers such as IL-1 can be increased, perpetuating inflammation and the cascade of cytokines system-wide. Untreated, chronically elevated insulin levels also make weight loss more difficult and drives cravings for foods which exacerbate weight gain, such as refined carbohydrates (Heller, 1994).

An anti-inflammatory diet is one that is rich in vegetables, fruits, unprocessed whole grains and lean proteins. It focuses on these foods, thus crowding out foods which elevate insulin such as white sugar, white flour, corn syrup, and processed food products. By focusing on reducing inflammation rather than counting calories, some individuals can regain mobility, energy, and improve their overall health while they lose weight without focusing on common weight-loss tactics which have a high risk of failure.

RESOURCES:

Heller, R.F. (1994) Hyperinsulinemic obesity and carbohydrate addiction: the missing link is the carbohydrate frequency factor. Medical Hypotheses, 42(5):307-12.

Hotamisligil, GS, Shargill, NS, Spiegelman, BM. (1993) Adipose expression of tumor necrosis factor-alpha: direct role in obesity-linked insulin resistance. Science, 259:87-91.

Uysal, KT, et al. (1997) Protection from obesity-induced insulin resistance in mice lacking TNF-alpha function. Nature, 389:610-614. 

Wellen, K.E., Hotamisligil, G.S. (2005) Inflammation, stress, and diabetes. The Journal of Clinical Investigation, 115(5):1111-1119. doi:10.1172/JCI25102.