The Power of Your Breath. How to BreathE for Radiant Health and Energy!

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Most of us have never been taught to breathe correctly because it’s so fundamental, even a baby can do it! Or so it seems. Learning to breathe correctly can have immediate and profoundly beneficial effects. It’s your most underutilized tool to chill out, think clearer, sleep better and more. Taking a deep breath can enliven us in the moment, get us centered and grounded, and help us clear the fog and cobwebs of a stressful day. Certainly, deep breathing might feel good and have short-term benefits, but is it the healthiest and most natural long-term approach to breathing? 

There are two key factors that comprise breathing – volume and frequency. Volume is the total amount of air breathed in and out within a period of time. Frequency is the breathing rate within that time period. Advanced meditators and yogis, martial art masters, and highly trained athletes, all naturally breathe only a few times per minute (3 – 5 breaths / min.) with low total volume of air (2 L / min).

On the other hand, a person under distress (sick, stressed out, anxious, scared, etc) breathes rapidly (20 – 30 breaths per minute) while drawing in a large volume of air (~20 L / minute). Although there is a high volume of air moving in and out of the lungs in this state, body tissues can become hypoxic, (a condition where bodily tissue is deprived of adequate oxygen supply) literally suffocating without enough oxygen. Our bodies can all too easily habituate to this way of breathing, so that it comes our default pattern of breathing. And, our breath can become a negative feedback loop. When we are stressed and anxious, our breathing speeds up. When our breathing is too fast due to habitual over-breathing, it causes us to be anxious and stressed, leading to fast breathing, leading to anxiety and stress, leading to... You get the idea.  This high volume, rapid breathing tends to be done through the mouth, which has its own set of negative impacts, as will be explained shortly.

When we are relaxed and calm, our breath is naturally very light with a low volume of air being moved in and out of our lungs per minute. How can breathing slower with less volume be healthier than deep breathing ? A central key to vibrant health and longevity is high oxygenation of our tissues, vital organs and brain. Yet, a healthy level of oxygen in our cells can only occur if there is a healthy concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) present in both our lungs and blood. CO2 is not a toxic by-product of breathing. It is actually a primary factor in the process of releasing oxygen from the blood (via hemoglobin found in erythrocites, or red blood cells, RBCs) to our cells and in the regulation of our blood pH. (Breathing and CO2 regulation is a far more effective regulator of the body’s acid/alkaline balance than food.) This is called the Bohr effect, which describes the process of how hemoglobin releases oxygen to tissue based on CO2 levels in the blood. Levels of CO2 in the lungs and consequent levels of oxygen in our cells are directly related to our daily breathing patterns. Low CO2 levels are called hypocapnia and can lead to lower oxygenation levels in the blood. 

Habitual overbreathing and hyperventilation (for example, due to stress, poor diet, and/or chronic  mouth breathing regardless of the cause) and regularly low oxygen levels in our tissues is scientifically correlated to heart disease, cancer, asthma, chronic fatigue, and other diseases including psychiatric disorders.

Furthermore, when you take a deep, forceful breath, you will have a correspondingly big exhale, which releases large amounts of CO2. CO2 relaxes smooth muscles in and around blood vessels, so breathing out CO2 and reducing the CO2 concentration in your blood causes your blood vessels to constrict. This in turn impairs blood flow (especially to the extremities) and reduces cells’ ability to take up oxygen. If you suffer from cold hands and feet it may be sign that you are over-breathing!

In the later half of the 20th century, a Russian doctor, Konstantin Buteyko scientifically showed the health benefits of breathing lightly like the yoga masters compared to modern society’s disease linked “over-breathing”. As Dr. Buteyko’s years of research showed, through regular practice of slower, lighter breathing, we gain more tolerance to higher concentrations of carbon dioxide in our blood, which in turn allows for optimal amounts of oxygen to be released to tissues and cells throughout the body.

So what is the best way to breathe?

The two most important factors to breathe in a healthy manner long-term are:

  1. Breathe lightly, quietly and gently through the nose only.

  2. Breathe slowly, smoothly and deeply.

There are several reasons to breathe through the nose only:

Endothelial NO synthase (ENOS) helps regulate vascular tone and platelet aggregation, among other things, making it essential for a healthy cardiovascular system.
  • Breathing through the nose leads to slower, deeper breaths. This helps quiet the mind and relieve stress.

  • Mouth breathing engages mostly the upper lungs and chest. However, the greatest concentration of blood tends to be in the bottom lobes of the lungs, due to gravity. Nitric oxide (NO) in the nose and nasal sinuses are carried to the lungs when you breathe through the nose. NO shifts the blood from the lower lobes to the upper lobes of the lungs, which allows for better perfusion (transfer of oxygen to and carbon dioxide from the blood vessels).

  • Mouth breathing leads to poor oral health. Breathing through the mouth can dry out delicate tissues in the mouth, leading to dry mouth, sensitive teeth and gums, and greater risk for cavities and gum disease. Read this post to learn more about natural oral care solutions. 

  • Breathing through the nose activates the diaphragm, which in turn stimulates the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is a major player in the healthy functioning of your parasympathetic nervous system, or the Rest-And-Digest nervous system. The vagus nerve reaches from the back of the brain all the way down to the colon, branching off to the lungs, heart, stomach, spleen, kidneys, liver and more. Correct breathing is critical to the health of this wandering nerve. For more ways to overcome the damaging effects of stress, read this post

  • Increasing NO is important for other reasons. NO is an important cellular signaling molecule. It helps modulate vascular tone, insulin secretion, airway tone, and peristalsis (the movement of food through the digestive tract), and is involved in angiogenesis (the development of new blood cells) and neural development. Endothelial NO synthase (ENOS) helps regulate vascular tone and platelet aggregation, among other things, making it essential for a healthy cardiovascular system. Neuronal NO synthase (NNOS) is likely important in memory and learning. NNOS has many other physiological functions, including regulation of cardiac function and peristalsis and sexual arousal.

  • NO in the sinus cavities and nasal passages helps to sterilize incoming air. Also, breathing through the nose warms and humidifies incoming air, and small particles of dust and pollution are prevented from making their way to the lungs. Both of these actions of nose-breathing mean cleaner, healthier air reaching the lungs which leads to less irritation of the delicate mucosal lining of the lungs.

What about when I sleep?

If you find yourself waking up groggy and sleepy most (all) mornings, if you snore, have sleep apnea or wake up with a dry mouth and/or sore throat then you are likely a mouth breather when you sleep. Some helpful hints for nose-breathing at night include the following:

  • Try specially designed tape to gently keep your mouth closed while sleeping. After all, you can't control how you breathe while you're asleep because you're, well, asleep. This general first aid paper tape* works great for a fraction of the cost of the specialty tapes.
  • nasal dilators* are available to help you breathe through your nose at night. These items may take a bit of getting used to, but getting a good night's sleep is one of the foundations of vibrant health and energy.
  • Practicing calm, slow, mindful, light breathing during the day (as part of a meditation practice or just as its own endeavor) is a great way to be a better breather during sleep.  
  • Read this post for more tips on how to get your best night's sleep, starting tonight! 

More tips to breathe correctly

  • Use a Neti pot on a regular basis. It is a simple saline wash for the sinuses and nasal cavities. This will help you breathe through your nose.

  • Breathe through your nose! I know, I know, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Mouth breathing is a habit. Change the habit to breathe through your nose. As you become used to breathing through your nose, you will find that your sinuses are more open and it becomes easier to breathe. NO that is released in the sinus cavities helps to open the airways. When you breathe through your nose on a regular basis this NO is circulated and helps keep airways in the nasal passages as well as the lungs clear.

  • Get some exercise. Our sedentary lifestyles (too much sitting, poor posture while staring at screens, lack of regular vigorous movement) set us up for poor breathing patterns. Now you can add better breathing to the long list of benefits we experience from regular movement.

 

*Please see my Affiliate Disclosure for full details about affiliate links on this website. 

DIY Strategies to optimize oral health... and brain health!

Last week I explained in detail how using commercial oral care products may be doing more harm than good to your teeth, gums and brain! In this post I outline simple DIY strategies to optimize oral health and therefore brain health (and all other body systems as well):

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Stop consuming industrially processed foods full of chemicals and sugar. We all know sugar is bad for our teeth (it causes an acidic environment in the mouth that allows damaging bacteria to flourish). But sugar causes a host of other problems for the mouth as well. One way sugar damages the health of the mouth is by inhibiting the flow of dentinal fluid, or dental lymph. Teeth are living tissue and need nutrition just like every other living cell of the body. Many cells in our body are supplied with the nutrients they need to thrive by blood. In teeth this nutrition is provided by the dentinal fluid (DFT). The flow of DFT is controlled by parotid hormone, which in turn is inhibited by sugar and refined carbohydrate consumption. While sugar may indeed be present in cavities, the formation of cavities is a systemic problem indicating malnutrition and other imbalances. Sugar is not the underlying cause of the cavities. (Check out this post to learn more about the many dangers of consuming too much sugar). 

Stop mouth breathing. Mouth breathing can be caused by sinus issues, certain medications, or cranial and sinus imbalances from head injuries or previous dental work. Mouth breathing in children changes the shape of their jaw and mouth development, leading to a wide array of dental problems and increasing the potential need for braces. In adults mouth breathing can lead to sleep apnea and the need for CPAP machines to sleep. Mouth breathing in people of all ages dries up the saliva in the mouth and leads to dry mouth, creating an environment for cavities and disrupted mouth microbiome to flourish.

Stop phytic acid consumption. Phytic acid is an anti-nutrient that leaches phosphorous from the body. Phosphorous is a critical nutrient for strong bones and teeth. Proper preparation by soaking of grains and nuts reduces the phytic acid content of those foods. Soak nuts overnight in a salt water solution and drain. They can be used raw once they have been soaked in smoothies or dehydrated for a super-nutritious and delicious crunchy snack.

Heal leaky gut problems. Health of the guts and the intestines are inextricably bound to the health of the mouth. Read this article and this article to learn strategies to take care of your gut.

Remove mercury fillings. To get mercury out of your mouth, it’s important to go to a holistic or biological dentist with experience in removing mercury fillings. On a side note, the Journal of Dental research notes that chewing gum can increase mercury vapor release by 1500%! Chewing gum is problematic for a number of reasons and now you can add mercury release to the list if you have silver fillings.

Want a step-by-step approach to instilling these oral health habits, as well as daily habits in nutrition, movement, lifestyle and mindset, in your day-to-day life to live your most energized life? Sign up today for my ecourse "6 weeks to Abundant Energy"

Stop using commercial oral care products with ingredients listed in this article. Instead, make a simple toothpowder with equal amounts of non-iodized salt, baking soda and xylitol. simply sprinkle a bit of the mixture on your toothbrush, add a drop of peppermint essential oil for extra zing, and brush as usual. Both baking soda and salt (be sure your salt is not iodized as the iodine is antibacterial and will disrupt the health of your oral microbiome) are alkalizing and will create an environment that is inhospitable to pathogenic bacteria. PRO TIP: Swish a bit of water and a pinch of baking soda in your mouth after eating to create the healthy alkaline environment for your mouth.

Seal and heal the gums using herbs and essential oils. Download this guide to effective herbal treatments for healthy gums and teeth. 

Try Oil Pulling. This should be done first thing in the morning, before brushing your teeth or eating/drinking anything. Start by putting about 2 teaspoons of coconut oil in your mouth. Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, but it will melt after a few seconds. Swish the oil around in your mouth, sucking and pulling it through your teeth. After 2 - 20 minutes (longer is better, but start with the shorter time to get used to the technique) spit the oil in the garbage, not the sink or toilet. It could re-solidify and plug up your plumbing. Rinse your mouth with plain, warm water.

Tongue Scraping. A tongue scraper can be bought at most pharmacies and health-food stores, or online, for about $5 or under. Use it after brushing to remove residue and other “gunk” from your tongue.

Do you use a homemade toothpaste or herbal oral care recipe? Let me know in the comments below! 

 

Healthy Teeth = Healthy Brain

It probably comes as no surprise that brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing once a day are good steps to avoid cavities. Turns out that keeping your teeth clean and healthy plays an important role in keeping your brain healthy too. Problem is, most commercial oral care products may be doing more harm than good to your teeth (and therefore your brain too).

In this post I will explain how most commercial oral care products are likely doing the opposite of what you want them to do. I will also cover why oral health and brain health are so closely linked. Next week I will give you a comprehensive guide to natural and effective oral care. 

The first thing to know is that your mouth, like your gut, has a microbiome that is critical to the overall health of your teeth and gums. (Read this post to learn more about the importance of the microbiome to your health.)

The oral microbiome is a collection of trillions of bacteria that, when they are in balance, help reduce the bacteria that cause plaque and can lead to tooth decay, receding gums, periodontal disease and more. When the microbiome is unbalanced (a state known as dysbiosis) it can lead to all the problems just mentioned, as well as cause infections that can seep into the bloodstream via the pockets caused by receding/bleeding gums, and cross the Blood Brain Barrier (BBB, or the filtering mechanism of the capillaries that carry blood to the brain and spinal cord tissue, blocking the passage of certain substances). These oral infections that travel to the brain have strong links to Alzheimer's Disease (AD) and dementia. 

Another link to AD and dementia are the "silver" amalgam fillings used to treat cavities. Silver fillings are an amalgam of silver, tin, copper and mercury. These heavy metals can wreak havoc in the body in numerous ways, one of which is by accumulating in brain tissues. This is one of the links between oral health and brain problems such as AD and dementia.

People with AD have been in shown in studies to have mercury levels up to 4x higher than people without AD.

The number one cause of high mercury levels is silver dental fillings. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mercury is a cumulative toxin, meaning it is not easily removed from the body. It can pass through the BBB, binds to tissues all over the body, (the brain and thyroid are particularly sensitive to mercury toxicity), it alters DNA, cell membranes, nerve function and mitochondria (the energy generators of the cell). On a local level, mercury in the mouth has been shown to contribute to receding and bleeding gums and periodontal disease. It also disrupts the oral microbiome by being toxic to the beneficial bacteria in the mouth while creating an environment where the pathogenic bacteria can get a strong foundation in the mouth. Mercury is a perfect food for many of the pathogenic bacteria that reside in the mouth. In a healthy mouth, these bacteria are outnumbered by the “good guys”: and so don’t cause problems. But a mouth with silver fillings is not a healthy mouth.

Other problems caused by mercury include digestive problems and nutritional deficiencies. Mercury prevents the absorption of many nutrients so even the healthiest diet won’t provide you with the nutrients your body needs if mercury is present.

To get mercury out of your mouth, it’s important to go to a holistic or biological dentist with experience in removing mercury fillings. On a side note, the Journal of Dental research notes that chewing gum can increase mercury vapor release by 1500%! Chewing gum is problematic for a number of reasons and now you can add mercury release if you have silver fillings to that long list of problems.

If you're thinking at this point that you want to go grab your Colgate and brush your teeth and rinse with Listerine after, hold on a sec! Using most commercial toothpastes and mouthwashes can be counterproductive. They may give the illusion of fresher breath and whiter teeth, but the harsh chemicals and antibacterial ingredients can actually lead to receding gums, opening pathways for undesirable bacteria to get into the bloodstream. Receding gums also lead to gingivitis and exposes dental enamel that is softer and less durable than the tooth enamel above the gumline, leading to greater decay and potential cavities.

Mouthwash has been shown to cause 36,000 cases of oral cancer per year.

Mouthwash has been shown to cause 36,000 cases of oral cancer per year. The exact mechanisms have not been identified, but a big part of the reason is because these products strip the beneficial bacteria out of our mouths. These beneficial bacteria keep the pathogenic microbes in check. Other ingredients in mouthwash that disrupt the microbiome balance are:

  • Triclosan. An antibiotic that severely disrupts the oral microbiome.

  • Coloring. FD&C red #5 and other artificial colors

  • Propylene glycol. Used in antifreeze for cars and to de-ice. Known to irritate skin and gum tissues.

  • Fluoride. But fluoride is supposed to be good for teeth! Unfortunately it’s not. Fluoride irritates gum tissue leading to gingivitis, disrupts collagen production. Reduces enzyme activity, accumulates in the pineal gland, lowers IQ, and forms deposits in the brain related to AD. It also stiffens soft tissue and makes bones brittle.

  • Alcohol. Dries out the delicate gum tissue making it more susceptible to receding and disease.

  • Ethanol, artificial sweeteners, surfactants, sodium laurel sulfate, carrageenan (has been shown to disrupt the gut microbiome) and more. All of these are known microbe mutators, meaning that they can change the DNA expression of the beneficial bacteria in your mouth.

Up Next week: Strategies to optimize oral health and therefore brain health (and all other body systems as well). 

 

Satisfy your Sweet Tooth with healthy choices this summer!

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Ahhhh summer time. Ice cream, S’mores, sweet iced tea: sweet treats that spell S-U-M-M-E-R. We love our sweets. According to the USDA, the average American consumes up to 170 lbs of sugar every year. I know you are probably thinking "I don't consume that much!" But sugar hides in nearly every refined, denatured, industrially processed food that is on grocery store shelves today. So unless you are making the vast majority of your own food, you are likely consuming far more sugar than you realize.

Read this post to learn how the industrial food manufacturers hide sugar in their products and why that is so harmful for your health. 

While many of us may not be aware of the sheer volume of sugar hiding in packaged foods, most of us worry about the effect of sugar on our health and waistlines. And with good reason: Highly refined white sugar and High Fructose Corn Syrup, and other “conventional” sweeteners, are stripped of any nutritional value, grown with heavy use of pesticides and herbicides, are GMO crops, spike our blood sugar levels and cause many health problems (insulin resistance, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and more). The good news is there are alternative sweeteners that retain their nutrients, contain more complex sugars, are absorbed more slowly and are less likely to disrupt blood sugar stability.

Below is a list of healthy options to satisfy your sweet tooth. The sweeteners listed here have been chosen for nutrient-content and low-blood-sugar impact. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list, rather a guide to start experimenting with different ways of introducing healthier options into your nutrition routine.

Honey: Honey is heavenly in beverages and homemade ice cream. The healthiest honey is raw, not heated. It’s important to get honey from a trusted source, because much of the honey that comes in those cute little squeeze bears has been heat-treated and likely has corn syrup added. Local honey is a great choice if you have access to it. One of my favorite brands is YS Honey, if you can’t find a local source. Honey has a rather pronounced flavor, so if you are new to using honey as a sweetener, start with a lighter honey. Darker honey tends to have more robust flavor, and is definitely worth a try if you are feeling adventurous. 

Honey is a rich source of enzymes, which aid digestion. Try this cool refreshing lemonade on a hot day:

Juice of 1 lemon, freshly squeezed

3 cups of filtered water

2 tablespoons raw honey

A handful of ice

Put in the blender and blend until honey is dissolved. The fresh lemon adds an extra boost of enzymes. Sprinkle a pinch of grated lemon zest on top and enjoy!  

Or try this wonderfully refreshing beverage:

Steep a generous handful of fresh mint leaves or 3-4 peppermint tea bags in 2 cups of freshly boiled water for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, squeeze the leaves or tea bags to get all the minty goodness out of them.

Add another 2 cups of cool water to the tea. Add 2 – 4 tablespoons raw honey and stir to dissolve the honey. (The tea is cool enough for the honey if it is cool enough for you to comfortably put your finger in it. Liquid at above 110 degrees or so will burn your skin, and will reduce the health benefits of the honey.)

Pour over ice. Add a sprig of fresh mint leaves for an extra fancy touch!

Maple Syrup: This is another sweetener that has a strong, distinct flavor. It is also a less-refined choice that retains some nutritional value. Maple syrup is available in sugar form (it’s just dehydrated maple syrup). There are different “grades” of Maple Syrup. Grade A syrup is lighter in color and taste, Grade B is darker in color and has a more robust taste. There are no other differences other than that. Buy organic to avoid residues of formaldehyde and other chemicals used to keep tap holes open longer.

Investing in an ice cream maker will go a long way towards having healthy sweet options available.

Try the same lemonade recipe as above but substitute maple syrup for the honey.

Investing in an ice cream maker will go a long way towards having healthy sweet options available. All you need is whole milk and cream (Preferably raw if available, definitely organic), some honey or maple syrup, a touch of vanilla and you will be amazed at how easy and delicious homemade ice cream can be. There are thousands of recipes available if you want to get fancier with your ice cream flavors, but simple is great too. And it’s easier on the wallet than buying ice cream at the store.

To use alternative sweeteners in baking, there are a few important caveats to know. Less-processed sweeteners behave differently in baking, and have different flavors than the neutral sweetness we have learned to expect from white sugar. One option, in recipes calling for white sugar, is to substitute some applesauce or mashed ripe banana, puréed dates, raisins or prunes — adjusting the amount of liquid. They’ll add fiber and create a delicious, moist texture.

I don’t recommend using honey in baking because heating it destroys the health benefits. Stick with using honey in cold beverages or ice cream, or other sweets that don’t require heating.

To use maple syrup in baking, use the following guidelines:

1 cup sugar = 1 cup of maple syrup or maple syrup sugar. Reduce other liquid by 1/3 to ½ cup if using syrup, or add 3-4 tablespoons of flour if no sugar is called for in the recipe.

Other good options for baking include:

Cane Sugar: Made from sugar cane that’s crushed mechanically to extract its juice, Organic, whole cane sugars are unrefined and unbleached and retain natural trace vitamins and minerals. The molasses is not separated from the sugar stream. Raw cane juice is filtered and heated to syrup, then dried. Rapunzel sieve-grinds its dried juice for a very fine granular texture (formerly called Rapadura sugar). Wholesome Sweeteners stirs its syrup to produce larger grains (called Sucanat). Whole cane sugar has a robust, molasses flavor.

Turbinado sugar is made by heating sugar cane juice, then spinning it in a centrifuge or turbine to extract moisture and molasses for large, golden crystals. It’s closer to refined sugar than whole cane sugar, and has a correspondingly less strong taste.

1 cup sugar = 1 cup of any form of cane sugar

Date Sugar: A whole-food sweetener made of dried, pulverized dates, date sugar is rich in iron, potassium and vitamins, while the high fiber content slows absorption. Date sugar does not dissolve, but is delicious in baking and crumb toppings. It burns easily, so bake with care.

1 cup sugar = 1 cup date sugar

Coconut Sugar: Made from the sap of the coconut tree, Coconut Sugar is another less-processed alternative that retains some nutrients and fiber. It tastes more like brown sugar than it does coconut, and because it has a darker almost earthy flavor, it's wonderful in baking recipes using chocolate or warm spices.

1 cup sugar = 1 cup coconut sugar

Note that Date Sugar and Coconut sugar are both less sweet than refined sugar. These are good choices to start getting your taste buds used to less sweet tastes. After using these healthier sweeteners for a while, you may find that other sweets you used to enjoy taste too sweet.

Now it’s your turn: What are your favorite summer time sweet treats? Do you have a favorite alternative sweetener? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Sugar by any other name...

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In this post I outline healthy sweeteners to incorporate into your nutritional habit. But how do you make informed choices about what to eat when you are not able to make your own treats? Learning to read nutrition labels is an important step in taking control of your health and energy. Food companies use many different names for sugar on nutrition labels.

The reason for using lots of different names is that ingredients are listed in the order of how much of the ingredient is in the item, compared to the rest of the ingredients. Therefore the most abundant ingredient is listed first, but by using different types and names of sugar, food manufacturers can put it lower down on the list. So in a granola bar for example, the first ingredient may be oats, which seems healthy, but there may be 2 or 3 or even 4 kinds of sugar listed after it! 

Here's the ingredient list of a real-world bar aimed at kids. The ingredients are organic, which is a step in the right direction. But there is a lot of sugar in this list:

Oat blend (Rolled oats, oat flour, oat fiber), Tapioca syrup, Cane syrup, Fig paste, Cane sugar, Cocoa, Unsweetened chocolate, High Oleic Sunflower Oil, Natural Flavors, Cocoa Butter, Sea Salt, Baking Soda, Soy lecithin, Vanilla extract.

After the oat blend, the next four ingredients listed are all forms of sugar. Why do food manufacturers use so much sugar? Because eating foods loaded with sugar gives us a quick rush but doesn't satiate us for very long, so we are hungry again quickly and reaching for another sugary snack.

Download my son Paul's favorite granola bar recipe HERE. Just 5 simple ingredients to make a bar that is moist, delicious, filling and sustaining. What's not to love about that??

How much sugar is safe? 

Before diving into the plethora of aliases for sugar, let's talk about how much sugar one should be consuming in a day. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends no more than 9 teaspoons (38 grams) for men and 6 teaspoons (25 grams) for women per day. Children, depending on their age, should consume no more than 3 - 6 teaspoons, (12 - 25 grams) of added sugar daily. For perspective, one 12 oz can of Coca Cola (any regular soda will fall into this category and diet sodas are not a better choice) has 39 grams of sugar, mostly from high-fructose corn syrup, a particularly damaging from of sugar. Many foods most people would consider "healthy" have large amounts of added sugar, such as granola bars, flavored yogurts, fruit juices, and so called "heart-healthy" cereals. 

Quick side note: I'm not a fan of the AHA (read this post to find out why) but I think their guidelines for sugar intake are reasonable. 

So what if I eat too much sugar?

Americans consume an annual average of 170 lbs of sugar per person? That’s almost half a pound of sugar per person every day, or about 35 teaspoons, or 140 grams of sugar. That’s about 3 1/2 12 oz cans of Coke every single day. 

We all know that eating too much sugar can lead to weight gain and cavities. No surprise there. But eating too much sugar over the long-term (years and decades) has been shown to dramatically increase the risk of many other serious health consequences, including but certainly not limited to insulin resistance, obesity, heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes, Alzheimer's (known as Type 3 diabetes), cancer and more. In the shorter term, chronic over-consumption of sugar causes brain fog, fatigue, anxiety, acne, and accelerates the aging process. So avoiding added sugars is a wise strategy for long-term health.

What am I looking for?

So what should you be looking for on nutrition labels? Here is an incomplete list of different names for sugar you might find on nutrition labels:

Barley Malt, Barbados sugar, Beet sugar, Brown sugar, Cane juice, Cane sugar, Caramel, Corn syrup, Corn syrup solids, Dextrose, Diastatic malt, Diastase, Ethyl maltol, Fructose, Fruit juice, Fruit juice concentrate, Galactose, Glucose, High Fructose corn syrup, Honey, Lactose, Maltodextrin, Maltose, Malt syrup, Mannitol, Rice syrup, Sorbitol, Sorghum or Sorghum syrup, Sucrose, Sugar, Turbinado sugar. 

Anything ending in -tol (Sorbitol or mannitol, for example), is a sugar alcohol that is hard to digest and can be detrimental to your microbiome, the collection of gut bacteria that works to keep you healthy. Keep in mind that even so-called "healthy" sugars (honey or cane sugar, for example) are likely highly processed and refined and any healthy aspects have been stripped out of them during the industrialization of the food-like substance that results at the end of the process. Most other sweeteners are derived from beets or corn, both of which are crops grown mostly from Genetically Modified Organisms, engineered to withstand high amounts of glyphosate, a toxic weed-killer that does enormous damage to our microbiome. Organically grown crops cannot be sprayed with glyphosate, so organic is always a better choice for that reason alone. 

Artificial sweeteners do not help you lose weight!

And never ever choose a food-like substance that contains artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners are known neurotoxins that damage your brain and can lead to migraines, insomnia and other sleep problems, joint pain, depression, anxiety, memory loss, and more. And artificial sweeteners do not help you lose weight! They trick your body into thinking you ate something sweet, triggering an insulin response, and when there is no actual sugar to utilize, you are left feeling hungrier than before you consumed the artificial sweetener. 

Just eat real food. And if you are ready to learn the nutritional habits that will form the foundation of health and energy for the rest of your life, check out my e-course "Six Weeks to Abundant Energy" HERE.

How to make crunchy homemade pickles

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Ahhh summertime! Time for outdoor fun-in-the-sun, gardening and barbecues. And crunchy, tangy, cool pickles! It's a great time to start preserving the garden bounty that is bursting forth. If you don't have a garden, you can get everything you need from your local farmers' market. Homemade fermented pickles are one of the easiest places to start. Here is a recipe that I love, and my kids devour. 

Per one quart canning jar, you will need:

Small fresh firm pickling cucumbers, usually 3 - 4 will fill a jar. It is tempting to use slicing cukes, but resist the urge! The slicers are prone to becoming mushy, which defeats the whole point of a crunchy pickle! Starting with the freshest, firmest cukes you can get your hands on is the single most important step to crunchy pickles. 

Filtered water to cover the cukes

2 tablespoons non-iodized sea salt (I like Real Salt brand salt)

Optional: Grape leaves or horseradish leaves to  add tannins which help make crunchier pickles

Also optional: You can add a clove or two of fresh garlic, a bay leaf, and/or some fresh dill. But simple is great too!

Here's what you do:

  • Rinse the cukes and place in the jar.
  • Cover with water, making sure the entire cukes are covered and leave about an inch from the top of the jar.
  • Dissolve 2 tablespoons of salt in a little hot water and add to the jar,
  • Add grape or horseradish leaves. and any other flavorings.
  • Screw a metal 2-piece lid on till just tight.
  • Wait a week before transferring to the fridge, where they will keep for 3 - 4 months. assuming they don't get devoured before that!

The brine is delicious and super good for you to drink when the pickles are all gone. Or use it to inoculate your next batch of fermented goodness. 

For first-time fermenters, here are some things to keep in mind:

1) The brine will get cloudy. That's perfectly normal.

2) The brine may fizz. That's a sign that the friendly bacteria are working their magic on the pickles! 

3) Jars can leak. I learned this the hard way. The carbon dioxide created by the fermentation process can cause expansion and the jars to leak. this is also perfectly normal, and can be avoided by not over-filling the jars. Just to be safe, I always put my jars on a plate or in a pie dish to catch any overflow. 

4) These pickles will have a pleasant sour taste, unlike vinegar-pickled cucumbers. The sour flavor is a sign of the health benefits, and it's delicious! 

Want to learn more about the many benefits of eating fermented vegetables? check out this post for all the details. Enjoy! 

 

Two simple steps to dramatically increased energy

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What if you could make two simple changes starting today, that wouldn't cost you any money, don't require any special equipment or knowledge, and could dramatically increase your energy, decrease your weight (if you need/want that) and improve your overall health? Would you be interested? In this article I outline the two steps you can start taking today to achieve these benefits. 

The first step is known as Time Restricted Feeding (TRF), or Intermittent fasting (IF). This concept is based on the idea that when you eat is as important as what you eat. First, let's look at some of the science behind why this simple concept can have such powerful effects:

  • TRF enhances autophagy. Autophagy is the cellular process of regeneration and renewal. Through the normal day-to-day process of keeping us alive, our cells go through tremendous wear and tear. Through autophagy, our cells clean out the damaged, worn-down organelles ("little organs" of the cells). They are chemically digested and reassembled into new, healthy cell parts. The same process applies to mitophagy, which takes place in the cells' energy centers, or mitochondria. Both autophagy and mitophagy are critical to healthy, well-functioning cells. When these processes don't work well, our cells stay damaged and get diseased, leading to illness and aging. In fact, a widely accepted theory of aging is known as the "mitochondrial theory of aging", and it states that aging happens as a result of damaged, malfunctioning mitochondria. This damage accumulates because of the decreased action of autophagy and mitophagy, both of which can only happen when our bodies are in a fasted state for many hours. 
  • Autophagy and mitophagy can only happen when our bodies get an extended break from digesting food. Most of us have an extended eating window, or number of hours we eat during the day, and therefore a very short fasting window, or number of hours without eating. Many people eat throughout the day from the time they wake up till the time they go to bed. If one wakes at 7 am and starts consuming anything that requires digestion (coffee with cream and/or sugar counts), they have effectively closed their fasting window and started their feeding window. Oftentimes, we are eating right up till we go to bed, even if it's small snacks or "just a little something". If you go to bed at 11, that's a feeding window of 16 hours, which is not enough time to allow the process of autophagy to effectively take place.
  • Digestion is a very energy intensive process and disruptive to our sleep cycle. Eating less than 3 hours before bed time can lead to impaired sleep, impaired digestion, and heartburn or acid reflux. We all the know the feeling of going to bed with a full stomach. It's not comfortable or pleasant. Even small snacks in the evening can lead the the aforementioned problems, even if we don't "feel" uncomfortable from them. It takes our bodies time to digest food, and snacking in the evening (especially when it's done mindlessly while sitting in front of the TV) can lead to not actually finishing the digestion process before sleeping.
  • We are diurnal creatures (from an evolutionary perspective, our circadian rhythm or internal body clock wants us to be awake during the day and asleep at night, even if our lifestyles don't lend themselves to that cycle) meaning that our digestive process is stronger earlier in the day and slower at night because we are preparing to sleep, not use the food we have just eaten. So our stomach produces less hydrochloric acid (HCL) which is our main digestive acid, our pancreas produces less insulin, our liver produces less enzymes and our digestion in general is much less efficient at night. This is also a set up for metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance, which can lead to obesity, diabetes and other chronic illness. 
So what is the second step to dramatically increase your energy? Drink water first thing in the morning. Here's why it's so important:
  • Autophagy and mitophagy clean out and regenerate our cells, and in the process they create metabolic toxins. These metabolic toxins are a normal and natural part of being alive, but if allowed to accumulate they can make us sluggish and have detrimental effects on our health. Drinking 16 OZ of water first thing in the morning, at least half an hour before consuming anything that requires digestion, helps to dilute these toxins and flush them our of our system. The half hour (or more) is important because once we start to eat, we shut down autophagy and the reduce the ability to rid our bodies of the accumulated toxins. 

To recap: 

  1. Have a shorter eating window and a longer fasting window. For example, eat only between the hours of 9 am and 7 pm, or 10 am and 8 pm. That's a 10 hour eating window and a 14 hour fasting window.

  2. Stop eating anything at least 3 hours before bed. If you go to bed at 10 pm, stop eating by 7 pm. If you go to bed at 11 pm, then don't consume anything (except water) after 8 pm. 

  3. Drink 16 OZ of water first thing in the morning, at least 30 minutes before consuming anything that requires digestion.

One last point worth mentioning. A recent study showed that just reducing your eating window reduced fatigue by 45% in eight weeks. Study participants did not change what they were eating, only when they were eating it, and almost doubled their energy levels. So if these steps seem too simple to be helpful, give them a try for just eight weeks and find out for yourself how you can dramatically increase your energy and vitality! 

If you are ready to take your health and energy even further, check out my e-course Six Weeks to Abundant Energy and learn the simple strategies and habits to make your energy levels skyrocket!

 










     
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Join me for another live class this Sunday! Learn to make kefir and kvass!

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Join me this Sunday, June 24 for another installment of "Fabulous Fermentation: Kefir and Kvass”. 3 to 5 p.m. at Wild Island on beautiful Orcas island. 

Kefir is a traditionally cultured dairy product that is one of the most probiotic-rich foods known. Join me to learn more about the many health benefits of traditionally fermented kefir and kvass. Participants will get hands-on experience in making dairy and coconut water kefir and will take a home their own kefir grains.

The homemade version is easy to make and far outweighs store-bought kefir in terms of health benefits. Store-bought kefir often contains added sugars and does not contain the diversity and abundance of beneficial bacteria and yeast that homemade kefir boasts.

Kefir has been shown to provide the following benefits:

*Boosts Immunity

*Improves Bone Strength

*May Help Fight Cancer

*Supports Digestion and Helps Combat IBS

*Improves Allergy Symptoms

*Improves Lactose Intolerance Symptoms

Like traditional dairy kefir, water kefir is made from “grains” of bacteria and yeast, also commonly known as a SCOBY. As the name implies, it is made from water. The water needs a source of carbohydrates to feed the SCOBY, usually from sugar or fruit juice. Water kefir made from coconut water is particularly rich in potassium and enzymes. The SCOBY produces a lightly fizzy beverage that is low in sugars and contains many beneficial probiotics

Beet kvass is another traditionally fermented drink. As chopped beets mix with sea salt, the sugar and starch convert to lactic-acid perfectly preserving the kvass. The finished drink is full of beneficial enzymes, friendly probiotic bacteria, and increased vitamin levels. Learn how to make your own traditional dairy kefir at home, as well as coconut kefir, water kefir and beet kvass at this fun workshop.

Register today to save your spot! Admission price is $25 for Orcas Food Co-op members and $30 for the public. The cost is half price for kids. If you have any questions, call 360-376-2009 or email info@orcasfood.coop. I hope to see you there! 

 

Lifestyle strategies to prevent brain shrinkage and get smarter!

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In a recent post I looked at lifestyle factors that cause brain shrinkage. (Missed it? Check it out HERE.) In this post, I dive into the lifestyle strategies that not only prevent brain shrinkage, but can help make you smarter, too! (Read this post to learn the nutritional tactics that help you achieve these goals.)

Humans have a high-degree of neuroplasticity, which is the "brain's ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Neuroplasticity allows the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to compensate for injury and disease and to adjust their activities in response to new situations or to changes in their environment." (definition courtesy of medicinenet.com.) This is good news. We can harness this neuroplasticity to our advantage. Our brains thrive on novelty and learning new things. By engaging our senses and our curiosity we can create habits that will help keep our brains humming and our cognitive abilities sharp for many many years. 

So how do we do it?

Lifestyle Strategies to make you smarter and keep your brain full size: 

  1. Get enough sleep. I've written at length about the importance of sleep (go HERE to read my most recent article on the topic), and mentioned it in last week's article on causes of brain shrinkage. It's so important that I'm talking about it again here. In terms of brain health, sleep is important because it is when our brains clean out, through the glymphatic system. In particular, sleep is the time the brain cleans out a protein called beta-amyloid (BA). BA is implicated in the development of Alzheimer's disease. Sleep deprivation leads to impaired attention, focus, and retention. Sleep is when our brains perform memory consolidation, which is the process of moving short-term memories to long-term retention. Sleep loss can lead to or aggravate depression and anxiety, 
  2. Get smarter while you brush your teeth. If you've ever broken your dominant arm, you know how awkward using your non-dominant hand can. But did you know it was making you smarter? Your brain is divided into two halves, a right hemisphere and a left hemisphere. The two hemispheres operate both independently and in concert with each other. The left hemisphere is known as the logical, rational side (and controls the right side of your body) and the right hemisphere is known as the more creative, intuitive side (and controls the left side of the body). The middle part of our brain that joins the two together is called the Corpus Callosum. When you use your non-dominant hand for routine activities (like brushing your teeth or using your computer mouse), you strengthen the corpus callosum and grow new neural connections, better integrating the two halves which in turn leads to better communication between the two. The reason this works is because the controlling half of the brain for your dominant side is active when using your dominant hand (ie, your left brain is active when using your right hand if you are right handed), but both sides are active when using your non-dominant hand! So use your non-dominant hand for brushing your teeth, pouring drinks (be prepared for a mess the first couple of times!), opening jars, learn a new musical instrument, and using the mouse or remote control. 
  3. Dance! In this study from Stanford, the authors state that "Dancing integrates several brain functions at once — kinesthetic, rational, musical, and emotional — further increasing your neural connectivity." Dancing also helps release serotonin (the "feel good" neurotransmitter that is responsible for runner's high) and decreases stress. From the Stanford study: "The essence of intelligence is making decisions.  The best advice, when it comes to improving your mental acuity, is to involve yourself in activities (such as dancing) which require split-second rapid-fire decision making, as opposed to rote memory (retracing the same well-worn paths), or just working on your physical style. Do all kinds of dancing lead to increased mental acuity?  No, not all forms of dancing will produce the same benefit, especially if they only work on style, or merely retrace the same memorized paths." Learning new things (in this case, learning new dance moves or styles) is the key to neuroplasticity. Being good at dance is not the point, it's the process of learning that is critical. Other studies have shown that freestyle social dancing is the best for improving cognitive function, because you have to coordinate with and respond to other people's moves. So go find a dance class and shake your groove thang to a new beat. Your body and mind will thank you! 
  4. Vary your routine. Habits are important for us to function at optimal levels (they are activities that run on autopilot, freeing up valuable brain energy for tasks requiring more though and concentration). But habits can turn into ruts. If you do the same things the same way day after day, you may be treating your brain of the novelty and stimulation it needs to thrive. Variety helps stimulate new/underutilized areas of the brain and grow new neural connections. You can literally grow your brain. Varying your routine requires that you have a healthy routine to begin with. If your morning routine consists of hitting the snooze button three or ten times before jumping out of bed, gulping a cup of coffee and grabbing a donut on the way to work, then creating a healthier morning routine is needed before varying it. That said, doing things in a different order (exercise in the afternoon if you usually so it first thing in the morning for example), driving to work along the scenic route (which may require you to get up a bit earlier than usual), try a new form of exercise (try yoga if you always run the same three miles, or try CrossFit if all you've done is yoga for the last five years).
  5. Watch (a little!) TV. Turns out that watching a short amount of TV, such as a half-hour comedy show, can actually make you smarter. Strange, but true. Sitting in front of the TV for hours every day will definitely not make you smarter, but using it as an occasional tool to relax and de-stress can be an effective way to utilize this ubiquitous object. Stress is notoriously bad for our brains, decreasing focus and attention. So next time you feel like vegging out with a (short!) TV show, instead of feeling guilty, enjoy your time knowing you are actually doing something good for your brain.  
  6. Meditate. Maybe you've heard meditation has many health benefits, including reduced stress, lowered blood pressure, and improved sleep. Now you can add increased brain size and improved memory to the long (and growing) list of benefits from regular meditation. Meditation increases density (as seen in MRIs) in the areas associated with learning and memory, compassion and empathy and sense of self. MRIs also show that the grey matter of the amygdala actually shrinks at the same time as the memory and learning centers are growing. The best news of all is that you don't have to become a monk to gain these benefits. Studies show improvement occurs in as little as 30 minutes a day in just eight weeks. 

This is not a complete list, but a good starting point for improving your brain function and keeping your cognitive abilities strong for years and decades to come. 

Click HERE to learn the Nutritional Strategies to make you smarter and keep your brain full size. 

 

 

Join me for a LIVE fermentation class this Sunday!

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If you are not yet eating lacto-fermented vegetables on a regular basis, you are missing out on one of the most cost-effective, nutritious and delicious ways to improve your gut health - and therefore your overall health - you have available to you. Join me THIS Sunday, June 10th, on beautiful Orcas Island to learn how easy it is to make one of the original superfoods, Sauerkraut. 

Click THIS LINK to learn more. 

If you are not familiar with the health power of fermented foods, here is a quick list of the many benefits:

  • 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. The beneficial bacteria found in our guts 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 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!

  • Check out this post for a more in-depth look at the many ways lacto-fermented foods support your health and happiness. 

If you want a hands-on class to learn step-by-step how to make this delicious traditional food, join me on Sunday June 10th at Wild Island, 3 pm to 5 pm. Participants will take home a jar of organic sauerkraut made during the class. I hope to see you Sunday! 

San Juan Islands: An epicure's delight!

The San Juan Islands are an archipelago of verdant gems nestled in a corner of the Pacific NW. Our temperate climate allows a wide variety of fruits and vegetables to grow here, and our farmers take great pride in growing everything from spicy radishes and arugula to bright green cabbage, fat onions, juicy apples, crisp carrots, sweet corn, tomatoes, peas, strawberries, dozens of herbs, wild-foraged greens, broccoli, kale, squash, chard and more! Whew! And to round out your meal, you can choose from an impressive selection of locally-raised, grass-fed and pastured lamb, beef, chicken and eggs, as well as goat and cow dairy products. These tasty morsels can be found at Farmers' Markets on all three islands, as well as at grocery stores including the Orcas Food Co-op.

Locally grown produce is fresher (and therefore better tasting) than its counterparts grown in far-away places that often have to be shipped hundreds or even thousands of miles. Long transportation can often lead to lower nutrients due to the amount of time the produce has to sit around in warehouses and shipping trucks. But as with all good things, even our lovely and delicious produce has to end at some point. And that is where the magic of fermentation comes in handy. Lacto-fermentation is the perfect way to preserve the vibrant but fleeting abundance of the San Juan’s growing season.

First, let me tell you that 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.

Additionally:

  • 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. The beneficial bacteria found in our guts 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 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 want a hands-on class to learn step-by-step how to make this delicious traditional food, join me on Sunday June 10th at Wild Island, 3 pm to 5 pm.

Cost is $25 for Orcas Food Co-op members, $30 for non-members and all participants will take home a jar of organic sauerkraut made during the class. For questions or to register, email info@orcasfood.coop.

Are "vegetable" oils healthy... or Toxic?

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Almost a year ago, the newspaper USA Today published an article condemning coconut oil as having "never been healthy". The proof for this statement? None. Zip. Zilch. It is based on an extrapolation of decades-old data that the American Heart Association trots out every so often to revive the tired old Diet-Heart hypothesis. The hypothesis states in a nutshell that saturated fat raises Low density lipoprotein (LDL) which, in turn, causes heart disease. Problem is, that's simply not true. This hypothesis was based on flawed epidemiological studies and has been proven wrong. (For an excellent book on the subject of how the faulty diet-heart hypothesis became so firmly entrenched in our medical establishment and the science behind why it is wrong, check out The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz. Spoiler alert: saturated fat is good for you, so is cholesterol. In fact, both are vital for long-term health and energy.)

So what does the Diet-Heart hypothesis have to do with vegetable oils? Back in the 1950s, the medical establishment started to promote the idea that saturated fat is bad for us, based on the Diet-Heart hypothesis. Saturated fat is found in foods like butter, cream, fatty meat, lard, eggs and more. These foods were the staple of the American diet for a very long time. However, margarine, Crisco, corn oil, canola oil and other generic vegetable oils (all low in saturated fat and high in polyunsaturated fats, PUFAs), were being praised as more "heart-healthy" than these traditional foods. (Newly revealed documents have shown that the sugar industry was involved in promoting the diet-Heart hypothesis as far back as 1965. Sugar is one of the main culprits in coronary heart disease, and pointing the finger at saturated fat as the demon took the heat off the sugar industry. Read this New York Times article for the sordid details.)

PUFAs are easily damaged by oxygen and heat and can become quickly rancid and oxidized, leading to a number of health problems when we consume them. PUFAs can cause mutations in cell membranes, as well as free radical damage throughout our bodies, including damage to the skin causing wrinkles and potentially even skin cancer. Free radical damage can lead to inflammation, autoimmune disease, premature aging, dementia and more. 

Most of us are aware that highly processed sugars and carbohydrates cause serious health issues; the same is true of highly processed oils.

Most vegetable oils sold today are rancid, highly processed foods that contain enormous amounts of toxic chemicals. Corn oil, soy oil, canola oil and “vegetable” oil are usually made from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that have been heavily treated with herbicides and pesticides and go through a series of chemical processes to make them edible. Unlike butter or coconut oil, these vegetable oils can’t be extracted just by pressing or mechanical separation. They must be chemically removed, deodorized, and altered. These are some of the most chemically altered foods in our diets.

Let’s look at the process to manufacture Canola Oil, an oil often promoted as a healthy alternative to butter or other saturated fats. Canola oil is made from the rapeseed. Rapeseed oil contains high amounts of the toxic erucic acid, which is poisonous to the body. Canola oil is an altered version, also called Low Erucic Acid Rapeseed (LEAR).

Canola (modified rapeseed oil) is produced by heating the rapeseed and processing with a petroleum solvent to extract the oil. Then another process of heat and addition of acid is used to remove nasty solids (wax) that occur during the first processing.

At this point, the newly created canola oil must be treated with more chemicals to improve color and separate the different parts of the oil. Finally, since the chemical process has created a harsh smelling oil, it must be chemically deodorized to be palatable.

This is the typical processing that all industrially produced vegetable oils go through. Compare that to the process for making butter:

1)      Milk the cow.

2)      Separate the cream from the milk.

3)      Shake or whip the cream until it becomes butter.

4)      Rinse.

5)      Enjoy!

That’s a simplified look at the butter-making process, of course, but it illustrates the point that industrial processing requires a lot of chemicals to achieve the end result. This processing leaves toxic residues in the end product, BHA and BHT for example. BHA and BHT (Butylated Hydroxyanisole and Butylated Hydroxytoluene) are artificial antioxidants that help prevent food from oxidizing or spoiling too quickly. These chemicals have been shown to produce potential cancer causing compounds in the body, and have also been linked to liver/kidney damage, immune problems, infertility or sterility, high cholesterol, and behavioral problems in children.

Vegetable oils also contain residues of the pesticides and chemicals used in their growth and manufacture and most often come from genetically modified sources. These pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals used in the manufacture of vegetable oils are lipophilic, meaning that they adhere to fat and are therefore highly concentrated in vegetable oils. 

Another issue with vegetable oils is the high Omega-6 content, which is a pro-inflammation essential fatty acid (EFA) in the body. When Omega 6 EFAs are out of balance with the inflammation-reducing Omega 3 EFAs, our health suffers in many ways. Many people try to increase their intake of Omega 3s to even out the balance, but a healthier approach is to reduce the Omega 6s, which are found in abundance in industrially processed vegetable oils. (Omega-6 EFAs are not "bad" for us. They are an important player in the necessary and healthy acute inflammatory response. The problem comes from the ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 EFA. Most of us consume far too much Omega 6 and far too little Omega 3.)

So what to eat?? Eat the Good Fats!

High quality fats are an efficient, slow-burning fuel that provide steady long-lasting energy. Here is a list of healthy fats you can consume freely. When you nourish your body with healthy fats, your appetite will naturally regulate itself, making it easy to maintain a healthy weight and avoid the many health dangers associated with eating too much sugar. 

  • Coconut Oil and Palm Oil: These fats contain Medium Chain triglycerides, which is very efficiently utilized by the body. They are anti-bacterial and anti-viral, have immune-boosting properties and taste great.
  • Butter: Yay Butter! Butter from grass-fed cows is a great source of fat-soluble vitamins A & D, and a lesser-known fat called Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA). Vitamins A & D are important to the health of our hearts, brains and immune systems among many other benefits. CLA is a potent protector against cancer, inflammation, diabetes and heart disease to name just a few benefits, as well as helps the metabolism work efficiently and maintain a healthy weight. Plus, butter is delicious!
  • Organic Cream: also a good source of healthy saturated fat, organic heavy cream is essentially liquid butter, and is great served whipped on top of fruit, in desserts or in cream based recipes.
  • Oily fish: Salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines are rich sources of Omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce systemic inflammation. The omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs) found in fish are in the form of DHA and EPA. Both of these EFAs are critical for optimal brain function and health. Farmed fish is very low in the critical EFAs, so be sure to get wild-caught fish from reputable sources.
  • Lard, beef tallow and duck fat: These are very stable high-heat cooking oils that are rich in the crucial fat-soluble nutrients vitamins A, D, E and K. Quality matters! Buy only meat products from 100% pastured animals.
  • Eggs: According to “conventional” wisdom, the versatile and delicious egg has a double-whammy against it: fat and cholesterol. Turns out, cholesterol is an important nutrient in the body, and the saturated fat found in eggs is very healthy. In addition, egg yolks are a rich source of choline, which aids in proper neuronal signaling (ie, improved communication between neurons). Choline is a precursor to acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that supports learning and memory, as well as deep sleep. And, if all those health benefits are not enough, egg yolks provide ample quantities of Vitamins A, D, E and K. Be sure to eat eggs from pastured chickens for the most health-bang from your food buck.
  • Olive Oil, Avocado Oil and avocados: Healthy oils that should not be heated. Use in salads and dressings.·      
  • Flax seed, Walnut, Macadamia and other nut oils are good choices for occasional variety. These oils should also not be heated and instead used in dressings or drizzled on vegetables after cooking for flavor.

Want to learn more about what foods you should and should not be eating to maintain high energy levels? Check out my six-week e-course, “6 Weeks to Abundant Energy”.