Category Archives: Supplementation

A Blueprint: 10 Steps to a Clean, Anti-Inflammatory Diet

BlueprintI realize these first few posts have been a bit heavy on theory. Thank you for indulging me.

See, I felt the need to light a fire. To take you to school for a minute, if you will. I’m driven to teach why these clean eating, anti-inflammatory principles are so important. I am called to shift paradigms, even as I realize the challenge it will be, given the misguided mainstream messages we’re fed.

I have – and I will share – a lot more background on what to eat, what not to eat, and why. But I’m sensing many of you are ready for some more applicable insights. Something tangible for those of you who might be thinking, “Great info, now what the hell am I supposed to do with it?!”

So this week I’m channeling my inner architect, and giving you a blueprint that you can use to build your health from the inside out. Think of this as your guide to cleaning up your diet, reducing inflammation, and gaining momentum towards feeling a lot better.

Please note: these are VERY GENERAL recommendations. It’s important to keep in mind that this information – diet and supplementation – does not replace the individualized guidance you should seek out from a qualified practitioner.

1. Eat organic whenever possible.

This will significantly limit your consumption of genetically modified ingredients and  pesticides. Both have been shown to cause systemic damage to your body. At a minimum, use the “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15” guides from the Environmental Working Group to shop. Please see my resources page for printable, easy-to-use guides and links to more information.

2. Clean up your water and salt.

Water: Since you drink about eight glasses a day (right?), it makes sense to make sure it is from a good source. Drink filtered water (either purchase a quality water filter or buy outside filtered water). Avoid tap water that can contain arsenic, aluminum or traces of discarded medications. And avoid BPA plastic bottled water (it might just be tap water you’re paying for).

Salt: Switch out your chemical-laden, over-processed, aluminum-containing table salt for sea salt. Unlike table salt, sea salt retains many vital minerals, like magnesium and potassium, which balance the level of sodium. So, when you choose the better, unrefined source, salt is no longer the enemy to run from, it is actually a healthful, essential part of your diet. Make sure you are choosing a Himalayan or Celtic sea salt or choose an iodine-fortified brand if appropriate (iodine plays a big role in thyroid function), like Hain.

3. Eat more dark green veggies.

Steam them, smoothie them up, eat or drink them raw – but get these verdant vitals down the hatch.

This class of vegetables is a nutritional powerhouse, providing many essential vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin E (a potent inflammation-fighter), B-vitamins, disease-fighting phytonutrients, and calcium (a great source, especially if you are dairy-free).

If eating your greens doesn’t come easy for you – logistically or just out of pure distaste – I feel your pain. FULL DISCLOSURE: This self-diagnosed “super taster” had a previous aversion to any green vegetable and didn’t try a tomato until college.

Yeah, I know.

That said, here are a few tried and true ways to sneak the green into your diet:

  • Kale & fruit smoothies (you don’t taste the kale, really). Kids freaked out by the color? Buy some opaque cups, lids and straws.
  • Cold-pressed green juices. If you gag on the taste, try sucking it down with a straw. (I speak from experience.)
  • A supplement you can add to non-dairy milk like Amazing Grass Green Superfood Drink. They also make some kid-specific flavors. This is not an official endorsement, but I’ve tried many and this is one that, ironically (and thankfully), doesn’t taste like grass.

4. Choose wisely when eating off the farm.

If you consume meat and/or dairy, there are some guidelines you can follow to keep it clean. Labeling is a big can of worms (that I will open later), but in the name of simplicity, I’m going to usher everyone on the farm under this umbrella statement:

Choose “organic” and/or “grass-fed”, “pastured” or “pasture-raised” beef, bison, poultry, dairy and eggs.

“Organic” ensures no pesticide or genetically-modified feed is getting into the animal. “Grass-fed” or “pasture-raised” means the animals are eating high Omega-3, inflammation-fighting grass (instead of corn), have the most room to roam, and have higher levels of the important, fat-soluble Vitamins A & D in their system (which means you will, too).

5. Eat organic, cold-pressed, extra-virgin, unprocessed fats (and use them at their correct temperatures).

Yep, I said it. You should eat fat. Listen, you’re ready to give salt a chance…now it’s time to welcome another new friend into your life. You can do this. Here’s how.

Instead of using chemically processed, possibly genetically modified fats (think, canola, corn, soy or vegetable oil and partially hydrogenated margarines), opt for oils and fats that are pesticide- and GMO-free and minimally processed. This eliminates the use of toxic chemicals and helps them retain their vital nutrients and delicate flavors. And remember to pay attention to limits on smoke points (should be listed on the bottle) to avoid free-radical forming oxidation.

Some examples of good choices:

Liquid: Organic, Cold-Pressed Extra Virgin Olive, Macadamia, Flax, and Avocado Oils                   Solid: Coconut Oil, Organic/Grass-Fed Ghee or Butter (only if you can tolerate casein), and pastured sources of animal fats.

If you’re sticking to the above guidelines, you’re doing your body a huge favor. But the better news is that now you can stop freaking out about consuming too much fat.* Because guess what?

Eating the right kind of fat aids in brain and eye development, regulates blood sugar, promotes tissue healing, is critical for Vitamin D synthesis, promotes proper immune function, and carries and delivers to your body fat soluble vitamins (A,D,E,K) and nutrients like phytonutrients (believed to play a role in cancer prevention and serve as anti-inflammatories).

*fat may need to be limited with gallbladder issues or other concerns that would affect fat metabolism

6. Consume fish oil.

In addition to the above recommendations on fats, you also need to make sure you are getting the correct balance of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fats. Historically, American diets used to be close to a ratio of 1:1. But with our current Standard American Diet (SAD), the balance is way off, currently estimated at 15 (Omega 6): 1 (Omega-3).

And this skewed RATIO – not the TOTAL fat – is what is causing the inflammation that can lead to serious conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and autoimmune disease (to name just a few).

Because there is an overage of Omega-6 fats in our food supply (all those processed oils I mentioned in number 5 fall into the category, but they are also found in other, healthier choices like seeds and nuts), the best way to get back in balance is to get adequate amounts of Omega-3 via fish oil (or flax oil if you prefer a vegan option), or through consumption of wild fish (like salmon). Alternatively, and this is what I do, take a high-vitamin (both A & D), fermented, cod liver oil capsule (capsules = no gagging!).

7. Take a good probiotic and/or eat fermented foods.

In the last two posts I mentioned a couple of important things about your digestive system:

  • When your gut bacteria (aka microbiome) is out of balance, i.e. there is more bad bacteria than good (aka dysbiosis), fat storage is promoted.
  • This dysbiosis of your digestive tract can also make it all too easy for undigested food particles or harmful ingredients to enter your system (known as intestinal hyperpermeability, or more commonly, having a “leaky gut”). And this leads to – you guessed it – inflammation.

But here’s some good news. Consuming probiotics can help you re-balance. You can take a probiotic supplement, or eat whole, fermented foods (kimchi, kombucha, homemade fermented vegetables). A general recommendation for a probiotic supplement is to choose one that has at least 25 billion strains (containing at a minimum Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium) and choose one that is refrigerated, unless purchasing a professional grade supplement specifically designed to maintain potency at room temperature.

8. Reduce your processed sugar intake.

I think we should all be “Fed Up” by now, so I won’t expand too much on this one. But just know that refined sugar is one of the most damaging ingredients you can consume, and that it has effects on your entire system.

Ideally, all forms of sugar should be reduced as much as possible – but natural forms are safer: stevia, Lakanto sugar (expensive, but magic), maple syrup and raw agave. Switch to these, then try to reduce the amount you need, gradually.

9. Address food sensitivities.

If you have autoimmune, skin, mood or digestive issues or have unresolved chronic symptoms, this is definitely worth looking into. See a qualified practitioner to healthfully remove gluten from your diet and assess other food sensitivities (and your entire diet plan, ideally). While gluten and dairy are often the biggest culprits, food sensitivities can be from many different food categories (e.g. phenols, oxalates, grains, specific types of carbohydrates) and be a big cause for inflammation.

If you’re ready to take this step, I happen to know a girl…

10. Cook more.

Obvious, I know. But when you are working, traveling, kid wrangling, or otherwise performing in your own personal circus, this can be tough. It takes a conscious effort to plan and make it happen consistently. This is something I am continually working on, because juggling while balancing on a tightrope isn’t always easy to do in front of a hot stove.

But if cooking is your Achilles heel too, let’s break it down into bites you can chew. Try to plan your meals for one week (or one day…I don’t judge). Swap out a couple of your packaged foods for fresh ingredients. Prepare one new recipe per week (and if it goes over well, double it next time and freeze half!).

That’s it, people. You are ready to build.

But before you do, let me acknowledge something: we are all actual humans. By no means would I expect you to incorporate all of the above suggestions in one fell swoop (unless you are extremely motivated, and then absolutely “lean in” my friend). So if you are just dabbling in clean eating, or the current mainstays of your diet are frozen pizza and Big Macs, then a slow start is probably a good idea. Maybe choose one new goal now. And in a couple of weeks, choose another (or two).

Baby steps will get you there.

And speaking of babies, you should know I’ve got a couple. One of them is a 2-year-old boy. I’m confident he has a successful career in the WWF ahead of him. I have about 30 seconds to prep before that guy scales the wall and jumps in the oven, so I get it. Life happens and when it does, sometimes a shortcut is the only way – and that’s okay too.

Don’t let yourself be overwhelmed by your detailed blueprint. (My inner architect is very thorough.) It’s true, developing better health from the inside out is more complicated than organizing your closet, but the rewards are epic.

And besides, I have a feeling you’re capable, driven, and you want to feel good. Sometimes having a plan is just what you need to spring into action. So give it a go, just one choice at a time, and get ready to thrive.


 

References:

  1. Morrell, Sally. “The Salt of the Earth.” Weston A Price. Weston A Price Foundation, 4 Jan. 2011. Web. 19 Jan. 2015.
  2. “Agricultural Marketing Service – Grass Fed Marketing Claim Standards.” Agricultural Marketing Service – Grass Fed Marketing Claim Standards. USDA, 29 Sept. 2008. Web. 20 Jan. 2015.
  3. Enig, Mary G. Know Your Fats: The Complete Primer for Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils and Cholesterol. Silver Spring, MD: Bethesda, 2000. Print.
  4. Fallon, Sally, and Mary G. Enig, PhD. “Cod Liver Oil Basics and Recommendations.” Weston A Price. Weston A Price Foundation, 9 Feb. 2009. Web. 19 Jan. 2015.
  5. Simopoulos, A.p. “The Importance of the Ratio of Omega-6/omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids.” Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy8 (2002): 365-79. Web.
  6. Challem, Jack. The Inflammation Syndrome: The Complete Nutritional Program to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, Arthritis, Diabetes, Allergies and Asthma. Hoboken, NJ: J. Wiley, 2003.

 

Clean Eating Defined – A Paradigm Shift

I’ve learned (the hard way) that when I find myself up against a brick wall time and again, I’ll get to where I’m going faster if I stop pushing against what won’t move, and instead turn around and find a new path. We’ve all been there, right? Closing our eyes and planting our feet defiantly…and when we open them again, Karma is standing there with a smile, telling us to try something else. We fight our way through frustrating traffic only to realize we’ve been going in the wrong direction. We work all night putting together a presentation, and wake to find we dutifully prepared it for the wrong client. And we have been diligently counting calories and fat grams in an attempt to gain control and lose weight, but it’s time to learn that what really helps us achieve overall wellness (and drop the lb’s) is something altogether different.

A Paradigm Shift

Conventional theory has taught us to believe that eating healthy means counting calories, carbs and fat grams. So, dear reader, if this is your first venture into the clean eating movement, this is your chance to refocus on the bigger picture – and get back to common sense in many ways.  It’s time to put away the calculators. And it’s definitely time to stop buying and consuming over-processed, bastardized versions of food in a misguided attempt to eradicate everything we’ve been told is “bad” from our diets.

Because good nutrition is more about the quality of the food we put into our bodies, and less about a limited quantity. For some people, this can be a hard-to-grasp shift from a widely accepted paradigm. With calories, fat grams, scales, and calculators, things are in our control – or so we think – and we like that. Evidence proving that the quality of our food affects our health (and our waistline) does exist. But shifting perspective away from the numbers game can still seem like a leap of faith. We need to start thinking in terms of what kinds of foods motivate our bodies to work well for us. What are the nutrients in that food that are going to help our systems work better? Likewise, what’s in our food that’s going to piss off our bodies and make them turn against us?

Sometimes those instigators are the obvious ones – ingredients you can’t pronounce that sound like they could be involved in making a chemical weapon. They are misleading because they can keep the calories and fat down (think Splenda), which can give you an immediate sense of victory. But feeding your body chemicals doesn’t mean you’re beating the system – it means you’re beating your system up. Even harsher than what those ingredients do to your body, is the realization that sometimes, the ingredients that do the most harm are the ones you have known and loved for ages. Familiarity makes them seem innocent, but these dirty bastards are the “best” friends you wish you never had.

Eating Clean Defined

So, what is all this hype about “clean eating” and what exactly does it mean?  It has become quite the go-to term for everything relating to healthy eating. If you Google “eating clean” or “clean diet” you can probably find 100 different answers – everything from eating only organic and local, to juicing, to going vegan, to advising that we never eat anything that comes in a package. (I think we can all agree that last rule was clearly set by someone who doesn’t have kids…or a demanding job…or a hectic travel schedule…or all of the above.)  And what’s with all the food allergies – why can’t we have peanuts on the plane anymore? Why does bottled water now have a gluten-free label?

Well, I’d like to offer up a high-level definition of clean eating that will be the guiding principles throughout the content and the services provided on this site.

Clean eating involves enjoying foods that:

  1. Aren’t likely to present sensitivities (e.g. gluten/wheat, dairy, corn, soy, yeast, peanuts or other food additives and categories). Most people don’t even realize they have sensitivities to such foods because symptoms can be so elusive. But regularly consuming foods that your body reacts to, even slightly, can put you in a constant state of inflammation. And this inflammation is a trigger for a laundry list of chronic diseases. This topic is getting a bit overexposed in the mainstream media – with a particularly strong backlash on gluten – but know that these principles are supported in strong scientific evidence and that simple diet changes can have DRAMATIC, positive effects on your health.
  2. Without pesticides, antibiotics, hormones or genetically modified organisms (GMO’s). This subject deserves a blog post (or 10) to itself, but the net net is that regularly ingesting such various toxins causes free-radical damage (read: premature aging of cells), hampers the immune system, decreases the nutritional content, can be carcinogenic, and prevents weight loss.
  3. Are nutrient dense. This is the “what can you do for me” category. Items 1 and 2 above are all about avoiding, but there has to be balance – sidestep the empty, inflammatory stuff while still getting plenty of necessary nutrients. Think organic, bright-colored fruits and veggies, whole (gluten-free) grains, and unprocessed oils that provide critical vitamins, trace minerals, fiber and inflammation-fighting essential fatty acids. This category also can include fermented foods and supplementation to repair the underlying issues causing any food sensitivities.
  4. As fresh and unpackaged AS POSSIBLE. In doing so, you avoid many of the pitfalls listed above as well doing what is best for our environment. However, that “as possible” is a big disclaimer for me. I’m in no way denying that it would be optimal if all of our foods were local, seasonal and completely unprocessed. Wouldn’t it be amazing to grow your own vegetables and herbs, raise your own chickens, and have grass-fed cows grazing in the back yard? However, I presume most of you live on planet Earth like I do. I’m a girl on the go with two arms, 10 fingers, and 5,000 balls in the air at any given time. You do the math. We can only do what we can do, right? So, if there’s a respectable company out there who has already done the work for me, and can show me a clean ingredient list (and packaging), I’m going to saddle up that horse and ride it into my time-saving, clean eating sunset.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding the nutrition principles involved in restoring your health. We will dive much deeper into each category in later posts; however, it is important to get your mind right before taking action. If you’re still gripping tightly onto that can of diet soda or container of [pasteurized, cow’s milk] low-fat yogurt, this may take some time to embrace. So, I leave you to marinate on these high level principles for now.

In the wise words of Maya Angelou, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better”