Lifestyle fixes to keep your bones strong

The last two weeks we have explored why supplemental calcium is more harmful than helpful to your health (read it HERE) and the nutritional powerhouses that will keep your bones strong for a long time to come (read that post HERE). This week I will explain the lifestyle changes that will help prevent osteopenia and osteoporosis. 

Lifestyle changes for strong bones

  1. STOP DRINKING SODA. Period. Full stop. Soda is one of the worst things we can consume for so many reasons. A 12 oz can of an average soda contains 44 grams of sugar. That's 11 teaspoons of sugar in a single serving. All that sugar causes a rapid rise in blood sugar and an accompanying spike of insulin. This can lead to insulin resistance, diabetes and obesity and all of their related health disasters. (Diet soda is no better. Artificial sweeteners come with a host of health concerns of their own.)
    • The phosphoric acid in soda binds to minerals such as zinc, magnesium and calcium, critical nutrients for bone health. Once these minerals are bound to the phosphoric acid, they are passed out of the body via urine so can't be absorbed to help build strong bones or perform any of their other crucial functions in the body. Phosphoric acid has an even more directly detrimental effect on teeth. It is a powerful acid that can actually dissolve tooth enamel which is not able to be restored. 
    • Caffeine may also prevent the absorption of calcium and other minerals. It is also a diuretic, and may contribute to mineral loss by increased excretion through urination. Other beverages that contain caffeine and phosphoric acid are bottled coffee drinks, energy drinks and even some flavored water beverages. Stay away from all of them.
  2. Exercise. You know you should exercise. Every day. But do you do it? A major risk factor for osteoporosis is living a sedentary lifestyle. It's so easy to not move. But daily weight-bearing exercise such as walking, biking, yoga, jumping rope and lifting weights are highly protective against bone density loss. (Swimming is not a weight-bearing exercise due to the buoyancy of the water so not ideal for building bone strength. But it can help build muscle strength and improve cardiovascular function.) Need more inspiration and some tips to work daily exercise into your life? Read this post
  3. Get enough sleep. We all know the importance of a good night's sleep. Now you can add maintaining bone density to the long list of benefits. Our bones, like all the tissues in our bodies, are in a constant state of breaking down and building up. This is known as catabolism (breaking down and disposing of worn-out tissue) and anabolism (repair and building up of new tissue). Both are natural and necessary processes. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of anabolic processes take place while we sleep. This is the time when our bodies repair, clean out and rebuild. Lack of sleep means lack of adequate time for bones to repair and rebuild themselves (among many many other problems). Need some help getting a good night's sleep? Read this post.

It is possible to heave strong healthy bones well into your later years. They are literally the backbone of a healthy vital life. Follow the steps outlined in this series of posts about bone health and you will be well on your way to enjoying the health and vitality you deserve for a long time to come! 

If you are ready to take your energy and health to the next level in just six weeks, check out my ecourse "Six Weeks to Abundant Energy"

What you really need for strong bones

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In last week's post, I explained why taking supplemental calcium may be more harmful than helpful for the health of our hearts or our bones. (Read it here if you missed it!) Strong healthy bones are crucial to living an active life to its fullest well into our 80s, 90s and even beyond. Osteopenia and osteoporosis are very real threats to our bones, and there are many approaches to preventing these debilitating conditions. This week I'll give you nutrition tips on how to keep your bones strong and healthy for the long run. Next week's email will offer lifestyle tips for strong bones.

Nutritional approaches to maintaining healthy bones

So if calcium isn't the answer, what is?

  1. Vitamin K2: This fat-soluble vitamin is being extensively studied and gaining respect for its critical roles in:
    • reducing and preventing inflammation
    • working synergistically with other nutrients such as calcium and another fat-soluble vitamin D to help shuttle calcium to where it is needed, such as bones and teeth and keep it out of the places where it is detrimental, such as blood vessels and other soft tissues.
    • preventing atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and kidney stones due to its role in keeping calcium out of soft tissue.
    • increasing or enhancing insulin sensitivity, which helps stabilize blood sugar and lowers the risk of diabetes.
    • Unfortunately, Vitamin K2 is extremely difficult to get in sufficient quantities from diet alone. K2 is found in high-fat animal foods such as hard cheeses, liver, egg yolk, butter, and ground beef. It is also found in the Japanese fermented food known as natto. The problem with many of the animal sources is that they are not fed a nutrient-rich diet themselves and therefore may not provide substantial amounts of K2. Even pastured, grass-fed animals eating the diets they were meant to eat may not provide enough K2 because our soil has been so severely depleted through years of intensive farming practices that have eroded nutrients from the soil. K2 supplementation may be a helpful approach to getting enough. If you decide to go that route, look for the version of K2 known as MK-7. This is the type found in natto, which most people may find to be, shall we say, unpalatable. Be sure to eat plenty of nutrient-dense animal foods from pastured animal sources to round out your K2 intake, and always take any K2 supplement with healthy fats to help your body absorb it. (Read this post if you want to know what nutrient dense foods you should be eating.)
  2. Omega 3 fats. Omega 3 fatty acids are relatively well known for their many health benefits, such as reducing the risk of cognitive decline. (Want to learn more about how to keep your brain from shrinking? Read this post.) The two main essential fatty acids (EFAs) are DHA (Docosahexanioc acid) and EPA (Eicosepentenoic acid). They are found primarily in fish and fish oils. they may help increase bone mineral content, leading to stronger, healthier bones. While it is important to get enough Omega 3 EFAs, another factor is to decrease the intake of Omega 6 EFAs from sources such as industrially produced and rancid vegetable oils. These oils are cheap, very unhealthy and found in most refined, processed foods. The ideal ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 is roughly 1-to-1, but in the average American diet it can be as high as 20 or even 30-to-1 in favor of Omega 6. This imbalance can lead to inflammation and its many health challenges. Only increasing Omega 3s without decreasing Omega 6 intake won't get you to the vibrant health and energy you deserve. Omega 3s are easy to obtain by eating more oily fish such as salmon (always choose wild-caught and always avoid farmed fish!) or through supplements. 
  3. Vitamin D: This fat-soluble vitamin already mentioned above is another heavyweight nutrient with a host of health benefits. Among the many tasks vitamin D performs in your body are protection from cancer, depression, heart disease and cognitive decline. In terms of bone health, Vitamin D helps your intestines absorb the calcium you get through food. Calcium absorption may be increased by as much as 50% in the presence of adequate Vitamin D. the food sources of vitamin D are similar to those for Vitamin K2. Supplementation can be important in winter months or for anyone who doesn't get 15-20 minutes of sunshine on their skin most days. Our skin makes vitamin D form sunshine when we get enough sun for our skin to turn just pink. People with darker skin may need more time in the sun to make Vitamin D. 

Including these three nutrients in your diet will not only help improve bone health, they will have other far-reaching benefits for your overall health and well-being. Next week, I'll send you lifestyle habits to further enhance bone health and more! 

Is taking supplemental calcium really a good idea?

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Standard medical advice for women is to be taking supplemental calcium. But is that really a good idea? New research published in the journal Heart suggests that taking elemental calcium (such as is found in 90% of supplements) may be doing more harm than good. Much more harm.

The research reviewed two controversial studies on calcium supplementation and heart attack risk published in the British Medical Journal in 2011. The studies found a 24-27% increased risk of heart attack for people taking 500 mg a day of elemental calcium. The results of the latest review, involving 24,000 people between the ages of 35 and 64, were even more alarming. Participants in this review who took 500 mg of elemental calcium a day increased their risk of having a heart attack by 86% versus those who took no calcium supplements at all.

What are the risks of taking supplemental calcium?

Elemental inorganic calcium comes from limestone, oyster shell, egg shell and bone meal (hydroxylapatite). This type of calcium is not bound to the natural co-factors, e.g. proteins in the from of amino acids, lipids (fats) and glyconutrients, found in food (plants and animals) that are the natural delivery systems our bodies know how to use. Without this built-in delivery system, elemental calcium can end up in the wrong places, a process known as ectopic calcification. 

Ectopic calcification is a pathologic deposition of calcium salts in tissues or bone growth in soft tissues.

The body tries to rid itself of what it considers to be excess calcium (ie, calcium that cannot be utilized because it is in the wrong form) in the following ways: 

  • Constipation. Calcium is dumped into the bowels to be removed from the body.
  • Kidney stones. The calcium is pushed through the kidneys to be removed.
  • Hypercalcemia. Too much calcium in the blood can lead to abdominal pain, depression, abnormal heart rhythm and more. 
  • Hypertension. That's why calcium channel blockers are used to treat high blood pressure. (hint: diet, exercise and stress management are far more effective and safer ways to lower blood pressure.)
  • "Brain Gravel". An increasingly prevalent concern, brain gravel are pea-sized calcium deposits found in the brains, including the pineal gland, of autopsied individuals. 
  • Pathological microcalcification of the breast. Breast tissue is particularly susceptible ectopic calcification. Hydroxylapatitate crystals found in malignant breast tissue may be a cause, and not an effect, of breast cancer. 

Elemental calcium found in antacids are particularly problematic. Antacids such as Tums or Rolaids decrease the stomach acid needed to digest and absorb the calcium, so that even more can potentially end up in places where it can do damage.

So supplemental calcium is not a good idea for a healthy heart, kidneys or bones. Should you be eating pounds of spinach and drinking gallons of milk to get enough calcium? The answer to how to keep your bones strong and healthy throughout your life may surprise you. (Hint: it's not about the calcium.) 

Next Week: What you really need for strong bones.

 

The medicine cabinet in your backyard

 Oregon Grape, Mahonia aquifolium

Oregon Grape, Mahonia aquifolium

 Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale

Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale

 Stinging Nettles, Urtica dioica

Stinging Nettles, Urtica dioica

 Plantain, Plantago major

Plantain, Plantago major

The difference between a flower and a weed is a judgment.
— Wayne Dyer

Springtime. That magical time when Mother Nature throws off her winter cloak and dazzles us with emerald greens, jaunty yellows, iridescent blues and purples, outrageous oranges and flamboyant reds. While we are admiring the spectacular displays of color, the less-showy plants are quietly growing their potent medicine to help us clear out the stagnant winter energy and prepare our bodies for the change of seasons.

The Pacific NW First Nations’ people understood the powerful medicine that sprang up all around them every Spring. Today we may be less connected to our natural surroundings but the plant world still offers us incredible benefits if we know what to look for and how to use them. This short guide is a starting point for some of the more common herbs (what we call weeds) that are easily found in the Pacific NW. Be sure to look in areas as far from the road with car exhaust and gas fumes as you can.

Oregon Grape: Contains berberine – a strong antimicrobial - and is high in vitamin C. Treats infections, stimulates liver function, improves the flow of bile and is a blood cleanser. The bark and berries were also used to ease digestive problems.

There are two varieties that grow in the pacific NW. One is a shorter variety; you will mostly have to harvest the roots of this to get the healing portion. The second variety is taller and you can harvest the stems to get the healing yellow-orange layer. To make a tincture: gently strip the brown outer layer of a stem or roots to access the fibrous orange-yellow layer. Separate the orange-yellow layer of stem or root from the remaining base white portion. The orange-yellow layer has the medicinal properties. Add 90 proof vodka in a 2-1 ratio to the shavings of the orange-yellow layer. (For example, if you have 4 oz of stem cover with 8 oz of vodka.) Let steep for six weeks, shaking occasionally. After six weeks strain the mixture through cheesecloth and save the tincture in colored glass dropper bottles. Add two drops of tincture to hot tea and honey – too much can cause stomach irritation.

The dried stem can be made directly into a tea that has both internal and external uses.

For internal use, the bitterness of Oregon grape is valuable in itself. As bitter compounds touch your taste buds on your tongue they send messages to your brain – causing an increase in many digestive secretions including saliva, hydrochloric acid, pepsinogen and hormones that stimulate the gall bladder and pancreas. This leads to better and more efficient digestion down the digestive tract.  Try Oregon grape tea or tincture before meals as a bitter tonic to prevent indigestion. Oregon grape also stimulates liver function.

For external use on wounds, you can either make a strong tea and soak the wound in it, or you can saturate a dry sterile bandage or very clean cloth in the tea, then secure it on the wound. 

Stinging Nettles: Maybe one of the original superfoods, Nettles are a powerhouse of nutrition. Compared to spinach, Nettles are 29 times higher in calcium, 8 times higher in magnesium, and 3 times higher in potassium. Nettles are also exceptionally high in the trace minerals silica, chromium, cobalt, zinc, and manganese. Nettles support our liver and kidneys so they can flush waste products and function at an optimal level. Wear gloves when harvesting nettles! Once cooked or dried they lose their sting. Gather nettles to eat fresh when they are very young – usually about 4-8 inches tall. The whole above ground part can be eaten, stems and all. To dry nettles, bundle them and hang them upside down in a dark dry place. Store in a dry place like a glass jar, away from sunlight. They can be made into tea or added to green drinks or smoothies. Other ways to use nettles:

  • Boiling – boil fresh nettles for 5-15 minutes. The cooking  water can be drunk as a tea.

  • Sautéing – Sauté until they are fully cooked and tender, usually about 5-8 minutes.

  • Steaming – place nettles in a colander and steam for 5-10 minutes.

Cooked nettles can be eaten straight as a vegetable with some butter and a pinch of salt or added to quiches, casseroles, omelettes and more. Nettles can be blanched in boiling water for a minute or two and made into a wonderful pesto.

Dandelions: This common weed is a nutritious food and powerful medicine. The leaves are high in potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron and vitamins B and C . The roots are also highly nutritious, with bitter properties that stimulate digestion, support liver function and when used fresh have anti-inflammatory properties. How to use:

  • Young tender leaves can be rinsed and added to salads. As they get older and gather more sunlight, dandelion leaves become quite bitter. The bitterness is excellent for digestion. Steam or saute the older leaves to remove some of the bitter taste. Cooked Dandelion can be used the same way as nettles, listed above.

  • Dandelion root can be used fresh to make tincture, preserving its anti-inflammatory properties. It can also be dried and used to make tea. Tea made from dried dandelion root is excellent for digestion and liver support and is highly nutritious. Use the whole root and be careful not to damage it when harvesting, to prevent loss of the white sap inulin. Inulin is a soluble plant fiber that improves gut, heart and digestive health.

To dry dandelion roots, dig up in spring through fall. Wash thoroughly. With a long piece of string, wrap each root a couple times, let out 6 inches of string and wrap another root, making a long dandelion chain. Hang until completely dry. Use clippers to cut into small pieces and store in a glass jar.  

To make dandelion tincture, add 90 proof vodka in a 2-1 ratio to the dandelion root, either fresh or dried. (For example, if you have 4 oz of dandelion root cover with 8 oz of vodka.) Let steep for six weeks, shaking occasionally. After six weeks strain the mixture through cheesecloth and save the tincture in colored glass dropper bottles.

Plantain: This lowly little weed is one of the most abundant and widely available medicine crops in the world. Plantain has antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. It can soothe insect bites and superficial wounds, as well as prevent infections and accelerate healing. An active biochemical known as aucubin is mainly responsible for the antimicrobial action of the herb. Another substance allantoin in the herb helps with skin tissue regeneration.

Plantains also have an astringent property that has a cleansing effect on the body. It helps dry up excess secretions in the respiratory tract and the digestive system, thus being useful in treating colds and diarrhea. The astringency is moderated by the demulcent effect of the mucilage in the herb, so this herbal remedy is much gentler than other commonly used astringents.

The edible leaves of broadleaf plantain are rich in calcium and other minerals and vitamins, including Vitamin K. This vitamin helps stem bleeding from cuts and wounds. Tender leaves can be eaten fresh in salads, but older leaves can be cooked and eaten similar to both nettles and dandelion.  

Plantain is used to treat a variety of problems, from mosquito bites and skin rashes to kidney problems and gastrointestinal upset. Here’s how you can use this herb for healing other ailments:

Burns – Apply a poultice immediately and apply a bandage with leaves. Follow it up with a plantain salve.

Cuts and open sores – Stop bleeding from fresh cuts by applying crushed plantain leaves. Wash with plantain tea or diluted tincture (1 tbsp to a glass of water) to prevent infections and promote healing.

For sunburn – Apply fresh poultice liberally. Wash the area with the tea and then apply a plantain salve.

To improve liver and kidney function – Drink 1-2 glasses of plantain tea every day.

For relief from gastrointestinal inflammation – Take the tincture under the tongue or drink plantain tea.

For cold, flu, and respiratory infections – Take the tincture under the tongue or drink freshly brewed warm tea with honey.

To make a Plantain poultice: In case of an insect bite, bee sting, or poison ivy exposure, grab a few leaves, crush them between the palms, or pound them with a stone, and apply directly on the skin. If you are using it on yourself, just chew the leaves and use it as a poultice.

The mucilage from the bruised leaves will immediately soothe the pain while the anti-inflammatory effect of the herb reduces swelling and redness. The poultice will also draw the toxins from the sting, so it works best when applied immediately.

To make Plantain tincture: Fill a clean 16 oz Mason jar 1/3 to 1/2 full with dried plantain leaves. Filling half full will make a stronger tincture. Do not pack down. Add 90 proof vodka in a 2-1 ratio to the dried plantain leaves. (For example, if you have 4 oz of dried leaves cover with 8 oz of vodka.) Let steep for six weeks, shaking occasionally. After six weeks strain the mixture through cheesecloth and save the tincture in colored glass dropper bottles.

 

Note for anytime you are making tinctures: Always be sure to label your jars and bottles so you know what you are making and storing!

I hope this short guide gives you inspiration to make use of the many medicines available in nature. There are many more valuable plant medicines all around us. Enjoy!

 

 

Two easy steps to take care of your brain

Your brain is hungry. It represents only 2% of total body weight, but gobbles up 20% of our oxygen and caloric consumption. Even while asleep. 

Brain power on.jpg

So what is the best fuel for your energy-hungry brain? Eating meals rich in healthy fats and complete proteins, with a bit of low glycemic carbs, is the best way to maintain steady energy levels that keep your brain humming at peak performance. Eating too much sugar at once causes a huge sugar surge (and insulin surge to deal with the dump of sugar into the bloodstream) in the brain and body. Big sugar surges act like pouring gasoline on dry kindling - a quick burst of fire (energy) that ends up in smoke fast (the infamous post-splurge “crash"). Eating healthy fats acts like building a fire with big heavy logs; it will burn steady and hot for a long time. Hyperglycemia (too much sugar at once) in the brain has been strongly associated with greater risk of dementia and impaired cognitive function.  

Along with healthy fats (click HERE for a blog post explaining what those are), protein from animal sources is a critical component of good brain health. Animal proteins contain a complete array of amino acids, which are important in maintaining and repairing cell health. Animal protein also supplies tryptophan, which is readily converted to serotonin in the body. Serotonin has receptor sites in every cell of the body, although it is best known as a neurotransmitter that influences mood and behavior. (Prozac and other anti-depressant medications work as selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors, meaning they prevent the reabsorption of serotonin in the brain so that more stays in circulation.) Serotonin used in the brain must be made in the brain. Having an ample supply of tryptophan available to manufacture serotonin is important to maintain mood and focus. Serotonin is also a precursor to melatonin production, which is a potent antioxidant as well as necessary sleep hormone. More on the importance of sleep in a moment. 

Quality of the source of nutrients is exceptionally important for optimum brain function. (Click HERE for a post about what nutrient-dense foods are.) When one eats industrially produced, highly refined and denatured food-like substances, the body is not supplied with the necessary building blocks to create the neurotransmitters, hormones, and other chemicals that help our brains work their best. Furthermore, rancid, industrially produced vegetable fats (mainly corn and soy, but also canola and other generic “vegetable” oils) and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) wreak havoc on our blood vessels. These substances (they don’t qualify as food) along with a host of other synthetic additives and chemicals, cause massive inflammation in the body. This inflammation leads to the vast majority of chronic illness today, including arterial disease. (Cholesterol is NOT the culprit. Cholesterol is the body’s attempt to fix the damage wrought by the substances mentioned above. Inflammation causes weak areas and eventually “holes’ in the delicate lining of the blood vessels. Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is deposited by the body to plug up the holes. On-going inflammation leads to more and more arterial wall damage requiring more and more cholesterol to repair the damage.) When blood vessels (our bodies’ fuel lines) are not functioning at optimum capacity, our brains are not getting the optimal amount of oxygen and nutrition, and waste products are not being efficiently removed.

The Self-Cleaning Brain

Sleep is the time that our brains clean out, literally. Cerebro-Spinal Fluid (CSF) is pumped through the brain to nourish and protect the brain and spinal cord. While asleep, the brain’s neurons shrink by up to 60%. This shrinkage allows for greater space and therefore movement of CSF to wash away build up of bio-toxins that accumulate throughout the day. The brain is performing this waste removal all day, every day, but the deep clean happens while you sleep. While you can clean your house without moving the furniture, you will get a much cleaner house if you do move the furniture and clear off the shelves to dust.

One of the substances cleaned away is amyloid-beta (AB). In a healthy brain AB Is removed during sleep. If allowed to accumulate through lack of sleep, AB forms a sticky plaque that is implicated in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Not convinced that 8 hours of sleep is really necessary for brain health? Consider this: A study of 48 healthy 21 - 38 year olds with varying rates of sleep deprivation from the National Center for Biotechnology Information clearly delineates the impairment from prolonged sleep debt. “Chronic restriction of sleep periods to 4 h or 6 h per night over 14 consecutive days resulted in significant cumulative deficits in cognitive performance on all tasks.” In the conclusion to the study, the authors state: “Since chronic restriction of sleep to 6 h or less per night produced cognitive performance deficits equivalent to up to 2 nights of total sleep deprivation, it appears that even relatively moderate sleep restriction can seriously impair waking neurobehavioral functions in healthy adults. Sleepiness ratings suggest that subjects were largely unaware of these increasing cognitive deficits, which may explain why the impact of chronic sleep restriction on waking cognitive functions is often assumed to be benign.” 3 Meaning we are not even aware of the negative impacts inadequate sleep has on our own performance. 

To learn a few simple rituals to help you get better sleep starting tonight, read the post i wrote about it HERE

If you are ready to take your energy and health to the next level in just six weeks, check out my ecourse "Six Weeks to Abundant Energy"

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12683469?__s=ydiz7zsfehgiqsghoi2w

Super Food #2 You should be eating every day

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Before we get to the second critical Super Food you should be consuming daily, I have a confession: I am a zymurgist. Yup. I love fermenting. Probably best known for its starring role in the making of alcoholic beverages such as beer and wine, fermentation is also a process whereby foods can be made more digestible, nutritious and delicious. What’s not to love about that?

So what is Super Food #2? Fermented vegetables! Eating fermented vegetables, such as sauerkraut and kimchi, can be one of the best things you can do for your health. 80% of our immune system is regulated in our guts, and fermented vegetables are one of the best ways keep our guts healthy. And, eating fermented foods may make us happier! Serotonin (a neurotransmitter probably best known as a mood-regulator, but also essential to focus and concentration) receptors are found on every single cell of our bodies, not just in our brains. The largest concentration of these receptors are found in our guts. The term “gut feeling” has a scientific basis. Our guts are a major producer of the serotonin in our bodies (serotonin in the brain must be made in the brain; it cannot cross the blood-brain barrier). 

So what's so great about fermented vegetables?

  • Fermentation is a traditional means of preserving foods. Before there was refrigeration and chemicals to do the preserving for us, salt was used. The salt creates an environment for beneficial bacteria to proliferate while harmful bacteria can't get a toe-hold. 
  • Fermented vegetables are rich in probiotics, which are critical to the health of our guts. Our microbiome (the collection of bacteria in our intestines) outnumber us 10 to 1. That means that for every lung cell, liver cell, kidney cell and heart cell, etc. there are as many as 10 bacteria living in our guts. These beneficial bacteria are mini factories pumping out serotonin, B vitamins, vitamin K, immune system modulators and much more to keep us healthy. 
  • They contain prebiotics, which is the food that feeds the good bacteria.
  • Fermented vegetables contain enzymes, which helps our bodies digest and absorb the nutrients in our food.
  • The fermentation process creates lactic acid, (which provides the preservation aspect of fermentation). Lactic acid gives fermented veggies their signature sour flavor. and aids in digestion. It also helps produce more saliva, which is a crucial first step in the digestive process. 
  • The nutrients contained in the vegetables are enhanced and more easily absorbed. Cabbage, for example, is a nutritional powerhouse, but like many cruciferous vegetables can be hard for some people to digest. The process of fermenting cabbage into sauerkraut increases the nutrient profile, especially the amount of Vitamin C, while making it easy to digest, and oh-so-yummy!

If you take a probiotic supplement every day and think you've got your needs covered, it's important to note the many other benefits of eating fermented vegetables, as listed above. Additionally, probiotic supplements can't come close to matching the diversity of species present in fermented veggies. 

So what does it take to work this magic? Salt, vegetables, a brine, and time. Fermenting is a fun and ideal way to preserve your garden abundance. And kids love making - and eating! - it! Here's one of my favorite recipes:

Luscious Lemon-Dill Sauerkraut

Makes about ½ gallon of kraut

Ingredients:

3 lbs savoy cabbage, about 1 medium sized head

½ lb watermelon radish

1 small red onion

3 - 4 tablespoons dried dill

3 - 4 tablespoons sea salt

2 lemons, juiced

Preparation:

  • Shred the cabbage, watermelon radish and onion using a food processor or sharp knife. Put in a large bowl and sprinkle the salt over the veggies.

  • Using your (clean!) hands, massage the salt into the veggies until they get juicy. The cabbage should be translucent and have a good amount of juice in the bottom of the bowl.

  • Add the dill and lemon juice, and mix in well.

  • Transfer to a half-gallon mason jar or two quart size jars. Pour any liquid in the bowl over the veggies and cover with extra filtered water if necessary. (Chlorine and/or fluoride in the water will kill the beneficial bacteria we want in the ferment.) The veggies must be completely submerged to avoid mold growing on top.

  • Cover with a metal lid and let sit 4 - 6 weeks so your microscopic probiotic helpers can work their magic. A longer fermentation time leads to a stronger sour flavor. Try your ferment after 4 weeks and if you like the flavor, transfer to the refrigerator. If you like the flavor stronger, leave out for another couple weeks and try again. Enjoy!

The Two Super Foods you should be eating every day

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This is the first of a two-part series explaining the two super foods you should be eating every day. These are not "new" or "exotic" foods or "just discovered". They are simple, delicious, inexpensive and have stood the test of time as deeply nourishing for our bodies and souls. 

The first super food I want to tell you about is (drum roll please!): BONE BROTH! 

That’s right, bone broth. Bone broth (along with fermented foods, which I will cover in next week's article) is the original super food.  Check out some of the amazing things bone broth can do for you:

 

  • Helps you lose weight. Bone broth fills you up—without adding pounds. Bone broth and bone-broth soups are rich, hearty, and soul-satisfying meals.  Because bone broth is so nutrient-dense and mineral-rich, it is a deeply nourishing food that satiates your body’s need for nutrition and your spirit’s need for emotional satisfaction. 

  • Gives you younger, healthy looking skin. Bone broth is packed with collagen, which helps your body burn fat and form lean muscle mass, shaping your arms, legs, and core. Collagen is also an essential building block of our delicate skin tissue and tends to decrease with age. Supplying your body with easily-assimilated collagen slows down and can even reverse the formation of wrinkles, crows’ feet, laugh lines, and liver (age) spots. Collagen is also essential for healthy joints.

  • Detoxifies your body. Bone broth provides a complete array of amino acids. Two in particular, glycine and proline, aid your liver in removing toxins from your body. 

  • Heals your gut. Gelatin present in broth helps heal the gut lining and digestive system by battling problems like constipation, diarrhea, and gas. Bone broth contains copious amounts of glutamine, which helps maintain a healthy microbiome in our guts. A healthy digestive system is critical for healthy weight maintenance and minimizes the likelihood of diabetes, Alzheimer’s (dubbed Type 3 Diabetes), heart disease and much more.

  • Bone broth supplies you with easy to absorb essential minerals. Including calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus.

  • Bone broth aids digestion. Bone broth is hydrophilic, meaning it attracts and holds liquids, like digestive juices. This is another reason why it helps you digest food more efficiently.

  • Bone broth heals your joints.  Bone broth gives you a generous supply of glucosamine, chondroitin, Hyaluronic Acid and other glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) that help heal your joints. GAGs also help your body lay down collagen where it’s needed.

  • It’s anti-inflammatory.  When you heal that inflammation with nutrients like those concentrated in bone broth—including anti-inflammatory proline, glycine, and arginine—your weight starts to fall off. Many diseases are caused by an underlying problem of chronic inflammation. Heal the inflammation and seemingly unrelated illnesses and other issues start to clear up.

If you’re feeling motivated to start adding bone broth to your diet, and are heading to the store to pick up a few boxes of aseptic broth, hang on. These benefits are available from home-made broth. And luckily, it is super-easy to make! Just do this:

Get some bones. This is a place where quality matters! Be sure to buy meat and bones from 100% pasture-raised animals. A great way to start is buying a whole chicken (an easy way to save money on a few dinners!), roasting it, and saving the carcass for the Crock-Pot. The chicken can be roasted in the Crock-Pot with some veggies for a quick, easy delicious dinner. 

Put bones (1 chicken’s worth or 1-2 lbs of beef bones) in a Crock Pot or large stock pot. Cover with water, add 2 teaspoons of Apple Cider Vinegar to help draw out the nutrients, turn on to a low simmer and leave for 18-24 hours. (Boiling the bones will diminish the collagen content so keep them at a simmer.) You can add veggies to simmer with the bones (carrots, onions, celery, etc), herbs, or keep it simple and just go with bones.

Strain the broth and use! If you are feeling extra inspired, replacing a morning cup o’joe or tea with warm broth is a great way to start your day. Or make a soup, tomato sauce, enchilada sauce, and so much more. Here is a recipe from one of my favorite books, Nourishing Broth, to get you started:

Curry soup (Adapted from Nourishing Broth, page 209)

4 cups chopped chicken meat (2 breasts, 2 leg quarters)
¼ cup coconut oil
2 onions, peeled and chopped
2 Tbsp. peeled and grated fresh ginger
5 cloves garlic, minced
1½ tsp. ground coriander
1½ tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground turmeric
½ tsp. ground allspice
3 quarts homemade chicken stock
1 medium butternut squash, baked with seeds removed and flesh scooped out
2 bunches beet greens, stem removed and chopped into 1-inch pieces

  • Poach chicken breasts and leg quarters in pan large enough to cover them with water for 45 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from hot water and set aside. Once cooled, remove the skin and discard. Remove the meat from the bones and chop into ½-inch pieces. Chill until ready to use.
  • Heat the coconut oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and ginger and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, coriander, cumin, turmeric, and allspice and saute for one minute.
  • Add the stock and butternut squash, increase the heat to high, bring to a boil, and blend well with a whisk or handheld blender.
  • Add the greens, return to a simmer, and simmer for about 20 minutes until the beet greens are thoroughly cooked.
  • Add the chicken and cook to heat it through. Season with salt, ladle into bowls, and serve.

 

Vibrant Health is a Habit

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Life is not the sum of our circumstances; it is the sum of our choices.

There are a few core principles of health that deliver a lot of bang for their buck. These simple principles are the foundation of creating vibrant health and energy that will last you a lifetime. If you have less than the health and energy you want (and deserve!) then it's time to go back to basics and address the core issues. Lots of us take supplements and try crazy workout routines and go on the newest fad diet and spend a lot of money on books that promise "This is the ANSWER!" and then after a little while slip back to the previous routine that has you feeling less than awesome. (If you are one of those unicorns who has no idea what I'm talking about, then feel free to skip the rest of this post.)

So what are these keys to success?

1) Sleep: 7 1/2 to 9 hours every night. Yes, even on weekends.

2) Nutrition: Eat nutrient-dense foods and minimize edible food-like substances. 

3) Movement: Move your body. Every day. 

That's it. I can hear a lot of eye-rolling and groaning happening now, but before you click away and say "yeah yeah, I know", wait a minute. Ask yourself if you are actually practicing all three of these basic health habits every day. Sure, we all fall off the wagon from time to time, but are you deliberately and actively setting up your life in such a way that these three pillars of health are top priorities for you? They seem like common sense, right? Sadly, common sense is not common practice. 

If you know you *should* be doing more of these basics on a daily basis, but can't quite seem to make the leap, try this:

Choose one habit to reinvent for the next month. Just one. Maybe it's going to bed by 10 pm every night. Yes, even weekends. Do that for a whole month, and find out what going to bed earlier does for you. You might like it. 

Then, next month, choose another habit to recreate. Maybe it's finally weaning yourself off the soda, or committing to a 30 minute walk every morning, or ditching soda and drinking only water, or... You get the picture. 

The next month, choose another habit. And if it's not obvious, stick to the new habit you created in the first and second months. And in the fourth month, continue the first three habits and start a new one. Commit to six months of this and find out what changing six basic habits can do you for your life. For you Type A personalities who need more of a challenge, commit to a year. But stick with one habit per month.

If you think one habit a month won't make a difference, try it for even just three months and let me know how it goes. You just might thank me at the end...

So what habit are you going to work on first? Let me know in the comments!


If you are ready to dive in and create the habits in the four major areas of your life (Movement, Nutrition, Lifestyle and Mindset) that will skyrocket your health and energy, sign up for my e-course, "Six Weeks to Abundant Energy" now. Why wait any longer to get the health and energy you deserve?