Are You Worried About Your Cholesterol?

As a health coach and nutritionist, I often deal with clients who have “high cholesterol”. They are told to avoid foods that have this “deadly” substance, and 9 out of 10 times those same foods have NEVER been apart of there normal diet. Cholesterol has be vilified in the health and medical industry for years due to out dated research, which has led to many people being prescribed cholesterol lowering medication that simply puts a band-aid on the real underlying issue. They are put on inappropriate diets, which further compounds the issue in the first place. Well, new research has shown that dietary cholesterol has no impact on the cholesterol levels in your body, and no association with heart diseases (1,2).

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is an extremely important fat-like substances found in animals products, including beef, eggs and shellfish. Humans are also animals, which means our bodies naturally produce cholesterol. Our livers produce more than 80% of the cholesterol found in our blood, and less than 20% comes from the food that we eat.

Cholesterol is a key component of every cell in your body. It is needed for the formation of Vitamin D and vital hormones (testosterone, estrogen, cortisol, aldosterone, progesterone etc.). Cholesterol is also needed so that your body can actually absorb important fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) (3). Cholesterol does not mix well with liquids (blood), so it is packaged with lipoproteins, creating what we know as LDL “bad cholesterol” and HDL “good cholesterol”.

The production of cholesterol in the body is actually inversely related to the amount of cholesterol that you consume. The more cholesterol you eat, the less is produced from the liver and the less cholesterol you eat, the more is produced (4).

Generally, when someone has high cholesterol their doctor will prescribe them with the latest cholesterol lower drug. When you artificially lower your cholesterol, your also lowering your bodies ability to make important sex hormones (testosterone for men, estrogen for women), absorb essential vitamins and compromising the structure of your cells.

The Cholesterol Myth

For a long time now, the consensus has been that if you consume foods high in cholesterol, you will have high LDL “bad cholesterol” which leads to clog arteries and heart disease.

The Truth About Cholesterol

Another one of the very important rolls of cholesterol is to heal and repair damaged cells. Where ever there is inflammation or damage, you will find cholesterol at the site helping to repair and rebuild new cells. So the real culprit is actually damaged arteries and chronic inflammation. In a healthy person, when there is injury or damage in the body, a signal is sent to the liver to release cholesterol. The cholesterol works to “cover” the damaged site and form a scar, or “plaque”.

Cholesterol is also important in the formation of fat, in a process known as lipogenesis. Lipogenesis is the process of creating fat in your body, and is stimulated by a high carbohydrate diet (5).

So, when your body is under constant stress and chronic inflammation your liver is constantly producing cholesterol to help heal and repair the damage that is occurring to your arteries. In the early research, doctors saw a patient with heart disease and noticed a bunch of cholesterol in the blood and arteries. In earlier research, doctors made the conclusion that cholesterol is causing heart disease. It’s the same conclusion that we can make when we go to the scene of a burning building. The building is on fire, there are a bunch of fire fighters in and around the building, so we can conclude that the fire fighters started the fire. Does that make sense??

Foods that Cause Inflammation

Foods that cause inflammation and damage to our bodies should be avoided at all cost. If consumed on a regularly bases, you’ll be contributing to inflammation and increased levels of cholesterol in your blood. Below are a few of the major culprits, and actually make up a majority of the foods that are typically consume by the average american.

  • Sugar
  • Fast Food
  • Fried Foods
  • Processed Foods (Snacks, Meats)
  • Cereals
  • Dairy Substitutes (margarine, “can’t believe it’s not butter” etc.)

Summary

The real culprit of many chronic diseases, including heart disease is chronic inflammation and damage to our cells. Cholesterol plays a vital role in keeping our bodies healthy and functional. Humans can not function without cholesterol, and artificially lowering this important component leads to many life threatening issues. The underlying issues that need to be addressed when dealing with elevated cholesterol levels are lifestyle habits. We need to look at a person stress level, eating habits, environmental factors, quality of drinking water, access to healthy foods, etc. What have you heard about cholesterol? Is this your first time hearing that we actually need and benefit from it? Leave a comment below!

High Fiber Healthy Purple Smoothie

Who does not love a delicious healthy nutrient-packed smoothie!? Did I mention it was delicious??? This high fiber, protein packed smoothie can be enjoyed as a snack throughout your day or can even sub as a meal replacement if you’re busy and on the go. A little dark chocolate on top as an added bonus and treat, you just can’t go wrong! This smoothie packs protein from collagen powder and hemp seeds, fiber and omegas from chia seeds, antioxidants and the deep purple from wild blueberries. How many calories? Macro-nutrient breakdown? Doesn’t matter, eat clean and healthy, move a little and forget about the details.

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup Organic Almond Milk
  • 1 Cup of Wild Blueberries
  • 1 Tbsp. Organic Chia Seeds
  • 1 Tbsp. Organic Hemp Seeds
  • 1 Scoop Grass-fed Collagen Protein Powder
  • 1 Serving of Amazing Grass Green Powder
  • 2 Squares Organic 85% Dark Chocolate ( shaved for garnishing)

Instructions:

Throw all ingredients into high powered blender, and blend on high. Pour into mason jar, top with dark chocolate and enjoy.

Try out this recipe and leave a comment below to let me know what you think!

Is Everything We Know About Eating Plant-Based Diets Actually Harming You?

Today more than ever, everyone seems to be focused on which diet is best for you. Is it plant-based, paleo or keto? What’s interesting is that the main stream consensus seems to be set on plant-foods being absolutely essential and good for you. On the other side of the spectrum is a majority consensus that your level of meat, cholesterol and saturated fat consumption are the absolute factors that determine whether or not you basically die!

What you won’t hear about is the actual effects that consuming plants have on your body, and that specific plant-foods consume regularly are actually harming you. Say it ain’t so!? Just think for a minute…did the creator of the universe actually put plants on this earth merely to be eaten by humans and other animals? Are plants just these organism that have absolutely zero defense mechanisms? The answer is NO, they do have defense mechanism that can kill YOU! Now, we are all well aware of things like poison Ivy and poisonous berries. Even the traditional Jamaican breakfast made with a fruit named ackee, can make you really sick if eaten before it’s ready.

Plants absolutely have defense mechanisms built into there structure, designed to keep predators (like humans) from eating them. One of these possible defense mechanism are called oxalates.

What are Oxalates?

This compound first starts out as oxalic acid, which comes from plant-foods that we eat. Our bodies also make it based a few contigencies (i.e. levels of B6 in your body, levels of vitamin C). When consumed, it binds with minerals and becomes Oxalates. It crystalizes and forms salts; sodium oxalate, potassium oxalate, magnesium oxalate, calcium oxalate. Most kidney stones contain formations of calcium oxalate.

What Foods Are Highest In Oxalates?

  • Spinach
  • Swiss Chard
  • Beets
  • Potatoes (Regular & Sweet Potato)
  • Peanuts
  • Almonds
  • Blackberries
  • Rhubarb
  • Figs
  • Kiwi
  • Black Pepper
  • Cumin
  • Turmeric
  • Cocoa
  • Beans
  • Grains
  • Nuts & Seeds

For a full list of foods with levels ranging from low/medium/high/very high, check out this link – downloadable Excel sheet from Harvard University published in 2007.

How Are Oxalates Harming You?

As mentioned earlier, kidney stones are one of the notable concerns surrounding oxalates. But, this only scratches the surface and research is continuously being done to fully understand the negative affects. Oxalates are known as mineral thieves, because they bind or lock up minerals as they move through your body. High Oxalate foods prevent mineral absorption

For example, spinach is high in calcium and oxalates, so when we eat it our bodies do not absorb a majority of the calcium (1). When high oxalate foods are consume with high fiber foods, the absorption of key mineral are also very limited.

Mineral deficiencies causes bones loss, reproductive issues, and even heart problems (2).

According to health educator and nutrition researcher Sally K. Norton, MPH consuming foods high in oxalate can trigger inflammation. Inflammation in the body is responsible for a whole host of issues including:

  • Nerve cell damage, pain, and functional problems associated with the brain and nerves
  • Dysfunction of cells, organs and glands
  • Cell communication problems (autoimmunity, hormonal issues, neurological issues).
  • Joint pain & aches

What Can You Do About It?

For anyone concerned with the affects of oxalate rich foods, below are strategies that can help limit your exposure and the toxicity of certain foods:

  1. Limit oxalate to 50 mg per day: Choose a variety of nutrient-dense animal and plant sources that are low in oxalates (see list here).
  2. Boil high-oxalate vegetables: Boiling vegetables can reduce their oxalate content from 30% to almost 90%, depending on the vegetable (17). After you boil, be sure to throw out the water immediately.
  3. Drink plenty of water: Aim for a minimum of 2 liters daily. If you have kidney stones, drink enough to produce at least 2.5 liters of urine a day (6).
  4. Get enough calcium: Calcium binds to oxalate in the gut and reduces the amount your body absorbs, so try to get about 800–1,200 mg per day (116).

There is still a lot of research that is being done on the affects of oxalates on human health. The professionals that are leading the charge are within the functional medicine field, which isn’t as mainstream as conventional practices. This concept challenges popular beliefs and goes against the norm. But, I’m here to offer both sides or multiple sides when it comes to nutrition, so that you the reader can make educated decisions about your health. I AM NOT against plant-foods, and I actually feel great and enjoy eating a big fat salad everyday! But, it’s important that I bring you information that you otherwise wouldn’t hear about.

Thanks for reading, and please leave a comment, tell a friend and follow for more nutritional knowledge bombs. Also, if you need help navigating the nutritional jungle or losing weight, please reach out and set up a free consultation.

5 Things To Do Right Now To Cleanse Your Mind & Spirit

Health and fitness is not only about what you do in the gym, and what kind of foods you consume. It’s also about being fit mentally and emotionally. In today’s society, there are a lot of things that demand your energy and attention. We are constantly on the go, constantly working towards a promotion, a degree or just trying to get ahead in life. We sometimes forget to stop, take a few deep breathes and slow down.

Being overwhelmed and stressed all the time can absolutely hinder any weight loss goals that you may have, and even physically break your body down and promote sickness. There is a little hormone called cortisol, known as the stress hormone, that is responsible for this. But, we’ll get into the details on that in a later post. For now, here are 5 things you can do right now to cleanse your mind and spirit.

1. Positive Affirmations

An affirmation is sort of like a pep talk that you give yourself everyday. It can be a phrase, or simply words that reflect something you want to achieve. For example, “I am strong, motivated, determined and I WILL lose weight”. Whatever your affirmations are, take a few minutes in the morning before you get your busy day started to internalize this.

2. Surround Yourself With Positive People

I know you’ve heard the various terms, “birds of a feather, flock together”, or “you are the average of the five people you hang with”. There are dozens of other little sayings like this, and they couldn’t be more true. Stop making time for people who are not on the same page as you, or that don’t have the same mindset as you. Remove the people who always negative, have “bad energy”, still with the same mindset and attitude that they had a year ago. These people are toxic, and you’ll find yourself being a part of the complaining, the stagnation and making zero progress in life and your goals.

3. Gratitude

All too often we are in the always wanting more frame of mind which is great, but we must also be grateful. Every morning when you wake up, take about 5 minutes to think about the things that you are truly grateful for. Even the little things like having a glass of water to drink. Don’t take it for granted, and realize how lucky you are to have it.

4. Deep Breathes

Next time that you are around a sleeping baby, take a look at how they breathe (you definitely do not want to be a creeper staring at a strangers baby). Notice how when they breathe, they’re bellies expand first and then their chest. That is actually the proper way to take a deep breathe. Try taking 6 deep breathes when you feel anxious, or stressed and watch how your energy shifts. When you take these deep breathes, think about the anxiety or stress you want to release and visualize it leaving your body as you exhale. Do it now!

5. Journal

I know some of you used write in a diary about your special crush back in middle school, or about the girl/guy you just can’t stand. Well, writing your thoughts and emotions that you experience throughout the day in a journal is actually extremely helpful. At the end of your day, grab a journal and write down some emotionally charged events that happened that day. This allows you to reflect on your reactions and really be able to determine whether they were appropriate and aligned with your true character, or if you could have handled it differently. You’ll be able to detox your brain and bring closure to the day.

So there you have it, 5 things you can do right now to help cleanse your mind and spirit. These are simple, yet extremely effective at helping you channel your energy to the right places. Try at least one of the practices listed, and see how you feel. This list is by no means exhaustive, and there are many other techniques that you can employ to help deal with the stresses in life. Leave a comment and let me know what practices or activities you do to help calm your mind and spirit.

Don’t Drink Coffee Without Adding This First!

If you haven’t heard yet, the new craze in the coffee world has been what is called “Bulletproof” coffee. What in the world is “Bulletproof” Coffee?. Basically, you take some high quality coffee, some grass-fed butter or ghee, and some MCT oil and blend it all up into a delicious frothy cup of magic. There are many variations that can be done to spice this up, but for starters you’ll want to keep it simple.

Why add all of this to your coffee?

I’m going to give my view on the subject matter based on the original company “BulletProof” and there product. I say original because I was first introduced to this special concoction about a year ago, walking through my favorite place on earth..Wholefoods. So, below are some of the benefits that you can expect to experience, after sipping one of these bad boys!

  • Suppressed hunger. Brain Octane Oil balances ghrelin and CCK, your hunger hormones, keeping you feeling full longer. You can read more about the science behind BP Coffee and hunger suppression here.
  • Steady lasting energy. The saturated fat in grass-fed butter slows the absorption of caffeine, which gives you even energy for several hours instead of a caffeine spike and crash. No jitters, either.
  • Mental clarity. Brain Octane rapidly converts to ketones, a type of molecule that your brain uses more efficiently than carbs or sugar. Pair ketones with the slowly releasing caffeine and you can literally feel your brain turning on.

For the full article, and more information about BulletProof coffee click here. If you decide to try out a “BulletProof” coffee, comment below with your thoughts! Let me know how you felt, and if you added any other ingredients to spice it up.

Physical Activity or Exercise: Which is best?

To exercise or not, that is the question. I read a post from Dominique Gummelt, PHD on acefitness.org which was very telling of the importance of movement. I deal with this dilemma a lot when coaching my older clients. They sometimes wonder if exercise is going to get them injured, and what they can do instead. This article shed some light on the significance of both physical activity and exercise, and also the difference between the two. What’s important is that we all get moving in whatever way we feel comfortable. Whether it be dancing, gardening, bodybuilding or jumping through fire at a Crossfit event… just move!

CHECK OUT THE ARTICLE HERE!

3 Reasons Why You Should Eat A Big Fat Salad Every Day

You know “they” say, a salad a day keeps the doctors away, right? Seriously though, if you want to make sure that you get your 6-8 servings of veggies a day, you might want to consider having a big “fat” salad. I honestly don’t like the word salad, because it carries a non-appealing connotation with it. When people hear “salad”, they think lettuce and maybe some tomatoes. But, I want to change that word to something more a long the lines of “vegetables bowl”. Because veggie bowls should be colorful, nutrient dense and filling. I sometimes challenge myself and throw in as many different vegetables, nuts and seeds that I can. So let’s take a look at 3 of reasons why you should include “a salad a day”.

1. Quick & Convenient

Making a “salad” requires virtually zero culinary skills, and can be prepared in as little as 5 minutes. You can get creative which makes it less likely to become boring and redundant. Just grab some of your favorite veggies, slice and dice, toss some home-made dressing and your good to go. You throw a salad in a glass bowl, in a mason jar and even in a bag if that’s your thing. The point is it’s quick and convenient, and you can take it on the go.

2. Nutrient-Dense

Eating a big fat salad everyday can ensure that you are getting a variety of nutrients in one shot. Depending on what you put in it, you’ll surely get a heavy dose of fiber, micro-nutrients and macro-nutrients. The salad pictured above contains a base of arugula, which is loaded with vitamins A, K and C, folate, calcium, iron, potassium, and magnesium. Orange bell peppers contain healthy doses of vitamin c and B6, as well as fiber to help things move along. And let’s not forget the super-food known as hemp seeds, which contain an array of minerals and great protein rich food. The point is, having one of these bad boys a day will give your body the raw material it needs to function at its best.

3. Satiating (a.k.a very filling)

People tend to think that they’ll be hungry after eating a salad. But, when done properly with a bunch of “fats” tossed in there, you get a highly filling and satisfying meal. What I mean by fats? I’m talking nuts, seeds and good old extra virgin olive oil. My salad pictured above contains pumpkins seeds, which add great texture to your salad and are also good sources of magnesium, potassium, and calcium. Nuts and Seeds are also high in essentially fatty acids, omega-3 and omega-6. Normal consumption of these fatty acids have been linked to reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes and liver diseases (1).

The best use for extra virgin olive oil is drenching your salad with it! Olive oil contains compounds with antioxidant, anti carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and anti-hypertensive properties (2). This seems to be one of the Holy Grail fruits that we should all regularly consume. Adding healthy fats like nuts, seeds and olive oil will have you feeling fuller longer after your meal.

Summary

In today’s world, everything is about convenience. You can order virtually anything at the click of a button, especially food. But let’s be honest, if you’re going to use Uber Eats or Seamless, the last thing you’re probably ordering is a salad. So I challenge you to take a day, head to the grocery store, pick up some of your favorite veggies and prepare a big “fat” salad. You’ll be able to get a large amount of raw material that your body can use to help you in a number of ways. Making small healthy changes every day, can lead to major benefits over time. It’s super important that you do your best to give your body the things that it needs to function optimally. Comment below with some of your favorite salad recipes and ingredients. Let me know how you get your daily dose of nutrients!

Sweet Potato Hash Browns: Easy, Quick & Delicious

One key to maintaining a healthful eating habit and lifestyle is to add variety and flavor! Get creative in your kitchen when you have the time, and try new recipes. Below is simple, but delicious sweet potato hash brown recipe that you can have for breakfast, lunch or dinner. ENJOY!

Here’s a real picture of how mine came out…delicious!

Servings:  1 (makes about 3 small hash browns)

Ingredients:

1 medium sweet potato, grated

1 tbsp unrefined coconut oil

Sea salt, to taste

Black pepper, to taste

Cumin, to taste

Cinnamon, to taste

1 pastured egg on top

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, grate sweet potato and place in napkin to squeeze excess liquid
  2. Add sea salt/black pepper/cumin/cinnamon & egg…mix well
  3. Heat skillet on high heat for 2 minutes and reduce to medium heat
  4. Add oil to skillet and let it get hot
  5. Add about 1/3 sweet potato mixture and spread thinly
  6. Cook 5 minutes on each side, continuing to flip every 2 minutes until golden brown and crispy on both sides
  7. Place on a plate and ENJOY!

Add other flavorful ingredients that you like when trying this recipes out. Comment below after you’ve tried the recipe, or with your version of sweet potato hash.

What You Need To Know About Food & Product Labels

There are many different forms of foods and products on the shelves at grocery stores, convenient stores and bodegas, with labels ranging from organic all the way to natural. How food is processed, packaged, shipped, stored and preserved all affect the quality. So what are these labels, and what do they mean anyway? Can you trust that the products you are buying are safe, or regulated? Read on to find out how you can make the best decisions when shopping for things to eat.

Organic

Refers to anything grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, hormones, chemical fertilizers, sewage, sludge, GMOs, trans fats, or other synthetic and toxic substances. The USDA Standards in the National Organic Program have a strict policy, that says any “Certified Organic” products have to be at least made up of 95 percent organic ingredients.

Natural

Products labeled “natural” are not regulated by the FDA or USDA – except for meat and poultry. Natural meat and poultry cannot contain artificial flavors and colors, preservatives, or sweeteners. But this label says absolutely nothing about how the animal was raised or treated. For other products, the “natural” label basically means nothing.

Conventional

This is what you don’t want to buy on a regular basis. Food grown, raised, and manufactured with the use of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, hormones, chemical fertilizers, and other synthetic and toxic substances. This includes GMOs and heavily processed foods. During heavy processing, most of the nutrients are lost and producers then “fortified” the product. The method is cost efficient for the manufacturer, but detrimental to your health.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

These are products or foods that have been altered genetically, either by the insertion, mutation, or deletion of genes. Foods like corn, soybeans and alfalfa tend to be GMOs foods, unless otherwise stated. The purpose is to create different, more desirable, or more hardy crops. These GMO crops become resistant to certain pesticides, and undesirable to typically pests. There are no long term studies that tell us the health impact of consuming GMO foods.

Processed Foods

Processed foods have been transformed from their raw and natural form into foods or “food-like” substances that are packaged and altered to look and taste good. These foods come with many additives, preservatives and dyes that are toxic. Processed foods have very minimal nutrient value and tend to be high in salt, sweeteners, and unhealthy fats. What is crazy is that 70 percent of the average American diet is made up of processed junk.

Don’t be fooled by fancy labels, and colorful packaging when shopping for you and your family. If it comes in a box, and has more than 5 ingredients then its not real food. If the label has to scream all of the “health” benefits and nutrients that it contains, then most likely they are trying to hide the fact that it’s probably not that healthy for you. Read labels, and always try to eat real food with 1 ingredient (i.e. beef, avocado, asparagus).

What other food labels are you guys used to seeing? Comment below!

12 Foods You Must Buy Organic: EWG Dirty Dozen & Clean Fifteen

Every year the Environmental Working Group releases a report titled “Shopper’s Guide To Pesticide In Produce” which let’s consumer know which fruits and vegetables have the highest and lowest contamination of pesticides residue. The test are done by the USDA, and include over 40,000 produce items across the country and major grocers. Samples are tested after they have been prepared to be eaten by the consumer. This is an important factor, because this means that after the produce have been thoroughly washed, cut and peeled in some cases, there is still pesticide residue on the fruit or vegetable.

What Are Pesticides Anyway?

Directly from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences website, “A pesticide is any substance used to kill, repel, or control certain forms of plant or animal life that are considered to be pests. Pesticides include herbicides for destroying weeds and other unwanted vegetation, insecticides for controlling a wide variety of insects, fungicides used to prevent the growth of molds and mildew, disinfectants for preventing the spread of bacteria, and compounds used to control mice and rats”.

Why Should You Be Concerned?

Heavy pesticide use in conventional farming practices have been linked to cause a wide range of negative health affects in humans and animals. Some population-based studies link pesticide exposure to serious health effects such as cardiovascular diseases (62), negative affects on male reproductive system (63) and on the nervous system (58), dementia (67), and also a possible increased risk for certain cancers (68). Specific pesticide prenatal exposure have even been correlated with decreased gestational duration (69) and neurological problems occurring in children (70).

More studies are being done to assess the short term and long term health affects of pesticides in our foods. We should all do our best to avoid exposure of these toxic chemicals as much as possible. Also, don’t be fooled if you come across studies that suggest there are no differences in nutritional value between organic and non-organic foods. This is an effort to get your attention off of the fact that non-organic foods contain these toxic chemicals and are detrimental to your health. Stay woke!

Now, let’s get to the EWG’s Dirty Dozen & Clean Fifteen List:

Dirty Dozen: Buy These Organic

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale
  4. Nectarines
  5. Apples
  6. Grapes
  7. Peaches
  8. Cherries
  9. Pears
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Celery
  12. Potatoes

Hot peppers didn’t make the cut, but have been test for high amounts of pesticide residue, so get these organic as well.

Clean Fifteen: These Don’t Have To Be Organic

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet Corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Frozen Sweet Peas
  5. Onions
  6. Papaya
  7. Eggplants
  8. Asparagus
  9. Kiwis
  10. Cabbage
  11. Cauliflower
  12. Cantaloupe
  13. Broccoli
  14. Mushrooms
  15. Honeydew Melons

Although I recommend to buy organic, local and seasonal when possible. Eating fruits and vegetables over processed junk foods is always recommended even if buying organic is not an option for you. It will always be much healthier to choose conventional fresh fruits and veggies over chips, prepackage “healthy” foods usually packed with additives and preservatives, or fast food garbage.