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.

The Ultimate Guide to Successful Meal Prep & Planning

Meal preparation and planning doesn’t have to be hard. The below guide and tips will equip you with all the information that you need so you’ll be setup for success. You’ll get tips on what to do when your at the grocery and to how to best position yourself for a healthful week of eating. Let’s jump in!

Create a Menu

Before you head out to do your weekly grocery shopping, think about what kind of meals you want to have for the week. This helps in two ways:

First, you’ll have a grocery shopping list and know exactly what you need to buy. If you get tempted to buy “fake food”, you’ll have a list already created to keep you on track. Secondly, the having helps you to be organized and not susceptible to impulsive buying of items you don’t need.

Have a Designated Weekly Shopping Day

You have your menu planned out and your designated grocery shopping day. This takes the stress out of what to buy and when to buy. If you don’t like crowds, google search your grocery store and they’ll list the busiest time and less crowded times from open to close. You may even want to go shopping alone to avoid influences from friends or family members who aren’t on the same dietary plan as you.

Shop the Perimeter & Avoid Eye Level Products

The Whole foods and fresh meat products tend to be on the perimeter of grocery stores. This is where you want to do most if not all of your shopping. The aisles tend to be where the processed junk foods are, and things placed at eye-level are designed to catch your attention.

Have a Weekly Prep Day

National Prep day is usually on Sunday’s, but you can choose whatever day you like to get your healthy meals prep. From your menu, cook healthy meals in bulk and store in the fridge, preferably in glass containers. When your on the go, or just too tired to cook you know you have your meals prep for the week or a couple days. You’ll avoid the uber eats and can stay on a healthy track.

If your not prepping for the week, tried to at least chop all your veggies. Dicing onions and peppers are time consuming, and probably the last thing anyone wants to do at the end of a long day.

Keep Your Meals Simple

When preparing meals in bulk, trying to create fancy dishes every week can feel more like a chore as opposed to getting prepared for a week of healthy eating. Create some go-to dishes that you wouldn’t mind rotating through week to week. Have a day of the week that you do try your hand at a little something fancy. Healthy eaters tend to stick with small variety of foods that they eat on weekly basis.

Plan For Tomorrow

When you get going crushing life and your career, you’ll be extremely busy throughout the week. Grab one of those healthy meals and have it packed and ready to go the night before. The last thing you want to do is spend hours prepping, and then forget to grab your lunch as you rush out of the door in the morning.

Maximize Your Leftovers

After you prep all your meals for the week, there may be some leftover veggies. Throw those bad boys into an omelet in the morning if you have time. For my soup lovers, you can even throw leftover veggies and chicken and make yourself a nice warm bowl of chicken soup.

Get Familiar with a Slow Cooker

Slow cookers are revolutionary. You can literally grab a bunch of veggies, some fresh herbs a nice piece of the cheapest cut of meat you can find. Throw all ingredients in that bad boy, and you’ll have something delicious after an hour or two, or more. This can make cooking a breeze with little to no standing around cooking time.

I hope this guide was helpful and that you got a few tips on meal prepping and maximizing your efforts. It’s really not that difficult to create a well-balanced healthful eating routine, even for the busiest person. With a little planning, some sweat equity in the kitchen, you can be setup for success each and every week.

5 Foods To Eat Right Now To Boost & Protect Your Brain

Your brain is a demanding little organ requiring more than 20 percent of your body’s daily energy needs or calories. For you to stay focused throughout the day or learn and remember things, your brain requires certain nutrients like Omega-3’s and antioxidants. Omega-3’s help to build and repair brain cells, and antioxidants protect cell’s against stress and inflammation.

This is why it is extremely important that you give it the right kinds of foods to support its functions. Let’s take a look at some foods that you should definitely include in your daily diet:

1. Berries

Many berries contain an antioxidant group called Flavanoids, which are known for reducing inflammation and oxidative stress (damage to your cells). Some types of these antioxidants are called catechins, and anthocyanins which studies show have a number of beneficial affects on the brain :

Benefits Include:

  • Helps brain cells form new connections, which boost learning and memory
  • protect against age-related neurodegenerative brain disease or decline
  • Reduce inflammation throughout the body
  • Helping to improve brain function

Berries that are high in antioxidants and can boost brain health:

  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Blackberries
  • Mulberry

2. Oily Fish

Oily fish are great sources of Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3’s are a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid and are essential fatty acids, meaning our bodies cannot make them and we have to get them from the foods that we eat.

Omega-3’s are essential for proper brain function, nerve signaling and the structural support of your cells, specifically brains cells. In a recent study, omega-3’s fatty acids showed to have protective affects against Alzheimer’s disease. This suggest that we make sure to include omega-3 rich foods in our daily diets to help against neurodegenerative diseases.

Oily fish high in Omega-3’s:

  • Salmon
  • Mackerel
  • Sardines
  • Herring

If your dietary preference excludes meat, then you can get less bio-available forms of omega-3 fatty acids from nuts and seeds, like flax seeds and walnuts.

3. Eggs

Although there have been a few studies blaming eggs for causing cancers, cardiovascular diseases, high cholesterol, and probably even global warming (just kidding), it just doesn’t add up. Eggs are a powerhouse of nutrients, and I’m not only talking about the egg whites. If you do opt to include eggs in your diet, go for pastured organic eggs and stay away from anything conventionally farmed.

Eggs are a B vitamin powerhouse and contain healthy doses of B6, B12 and Folate. There have been many studies that show the brain boosting, cognitive protecting affects of these vitamins. Eggs are also a great source of choline, which is an essential nutrient that supports brain development, nerve health, energy & metabolism and key neurotransmitter Acetylcholine.

Eat your eggs…the whole egg!

4. Avocados

When it comes to a super food, avocados are definitely top of the list. These bad boys are packed with nutrients, and an absolute must in any healthy diet.

Here’s what you get in an avocado:

  • Vitamin K: 26% of the daily value DV
  • Folate: 20% of the DV
  • Vitamin C: 17% of the DV
  • Potassium: 14% of the DV
  • Vitamin B5: 14% of the DV
  • Vitamin B6: 13% of the DV
  • Vitamin E: 10% of the DV

What some people may not know is that avocados are fruits, not vegetables. They are packed with fiber, have more potassium than a banana (per serving), and contain a wide range of minerals including manganese, magnesium and copper. All of which contribute to proper brain function. This study details the incredible brain boosting benefits of specific nutrients like potassium, B-vitamins, Vitamin E and others which are all jam packed into this little fruit.

Avocados can be enjoy in salads, as a side dish or simply on its on with a little sea salt and red pepper flakes!

5. Dark Chocolate

Now who can say no to chocolate?? And when I say chocolate, I don’t mean a candy bar or some kind of chocolate cake. It’s specifically dark chocolate which contains cocoa. Cocoa contains flavonoids, a type of antioxidant that protects cell against oxidative damage.

Our brains are very susceptible to oxidative stress, which can cause brain disease and cognitive decline.

Dark chocolate contains cocoa, also known as cacao. Cacao contains flavonoids, a type of antioxidant. According to 2013 review , cocoa flavonoids may help to stimulate blood flow to your brain, which can lead to neuron and blood vessel growth, improving memory and learning.

But, be sure to eat dark chocolate that is no less than 70% cocoa. Otherwise, you might be getting chocolate filled with sugar, additives and preservatives. I tend to stick to at least 85% just to be extra clean.

Summary

There any many nutritional components that are super essential for brain health and proper function. The list above is by no means conclusive of all the brain boosting foods that are out there. But, if you want to make sure that you are giving you brain and body the best chance to fight off disease and functionally optimally, you may want to consider adding some of the foods here into your daily diet regiment.

Why the Keto Diet Is Actually Harming You, and What You Should Do Instead!

So we’ve all heard about the craze around the Ketogenic Diet. Here are a few of the glorified benefits that this new diet has promised:

  • Rapid weight loss & Mental Clarity (6)
  • Improved Insulin Sensitivity (7)
  • Reversing metabolic syndromes (i.e. high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high triglycerides), that can lead to a reduce risk of cardiovascular diseases (5)
  • Treatment or management of Alzheimer, Epilepsy, Parkinson’s Disease and even Cancer (1, 2, 3, 4)

What is a Ketogenic Diet anyway?

The Ketogenic Diet is a very low carb, high fat and moderate protein diet. You will typically see macro nutrient (fats, protein, carbs) breakdowns that look like this: 70%/20%/10% or 70%/25%/5%. This diet involves drastically reducing your carbohydrates intake, and drastically increasing your fat intake. Over a period of time, your body will revert to using it’s primary source of energy from glucose to fat. This is known as nutritional ketosis. Your body will become extremely efficient at burning fat or ketone bodies made from fat, for energy. To simplify things, the average person can restrict carbohydrates to 50 grams or less per day, eat .5 to .7 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day, and fill in the rest of your calories with fats. After a few days, your body will rely on fat and ketones for energy.

What NOT to Eat on the Ketogenic Diet

Here’s a basic list of foods that you will need to EXCLUDE from your diet in order to get into nutritional ketosis:

  • Grains
  • Legumes
  • Most Fruits
  • Starchy Vegetables
  • Sugars
  • Candy
  • Breads
  • Milk
  • Pasta
  • Baked Goods
  • Potatoes

Dangers of Ketogenic Diets

Most of what you’ll get on a quick google search for “Ketogenic Diets” will turn up a bunch of ” how to’s” & recipes guides telling you to eat nothing but butter, bacon, buffalo wings, steaks (I actually love steak..grass-fed, grass finished), and oils. Do this, and you’ll be on your way to weight loss and all of the other amazing benefits of being in ketosis. But pursuing this diet the way popular media outlets portray it, is a great way to actually get high blood pressure, and damage your body. You may see some weight-loss due to the carbohydrate restriction, but you’ll be depriving your body of massive amounts of micro-nutrients (vitamins, minerals). Micro-nutrients are extremely important in helping your body do all the metabolic process required on a daily basis. Without these, your body will surely break down and you may experience health issues that you thought you were being protected against on a ketogenic diet.

The Alternative: The Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet

If you want to explore a low-carb and high fat diet, there is a great book by Robert Santos Prawne, MS RD titled “The Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet” where he discusses the benefits of combining a ketogenic diet with a Mediterranean diet in order to achieve the same great benefits in a more healthful way. The basis of this diet is still grounded in restricting carbohydrates in order to achieve nutritional ketosis. But, as opposed to eating foods with no nutritional value you’ll be eating foods high in micro-nutrients and healthful fats.

The majority of foods that make up this diet are non-starchy vegetables, fatty fruits, nuts and seeds, eggs, dairy (excluding milk) fish and other meats. You’ll basically include all vegetables excluding potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots and corn. Eating in this fashion will get you into ketosis, and also help you avoid some of the pitfalls of the main stream keto diet “bs”.

There is so much more that goes into a ketogenic diet that will require a separate post. You should have the basics covered here and if you would like more details, please send me an email! You’ll want to make sure that whatever diet you choose to follow is safe, you have all the right information, and it’s something that you can do for life and not just short term.

Why you should stop taking Vitamin B12 Immediately!

Vitamin B12, or Cobalamin may be the most important of all B vitamins. A few nick names for this specific vitamin are “The Longevity Vitamin” and ” The Energy Vitamin”.

Here are some of the major benefits of Vitamin B12:

  • Essential for proper nerve function & nerve cell growth
  • Helps to form red blood cells
  • Decreases levels of homo-cysteine
  • Synthesizes neurotransmitters responsible for mood, energy, sleep, appetite and motivation

So where does B12 come from? This vitamin is made by bacteria in the intestines of animals, in a process called microbial synthesis. If this vitamin is so important, then why should you stop supplementing with it? You shouldn’t…but, what you should be aware of is the type of Vitamin B12 you are taking, or the specific form that is included in your multivitamin.

Let me explain…

What the manufacturers of supplements don’t tell you is the specific form of any given nutrient they use to formulate their product. For example, your vitamins can contain synthetic forms of specific nutrients or natural forms. Animal based vitamins, or plant-sources vitamins as well. Some are way less bio-available when ingested…ever wonder why your pee was neon green after taking a vitamin? Now, if you follow any specific type of diet or lifestyle (i.e. Vegan, Vegetarian) then you may want to do your research if you are taking supplements.

In addition to certain vitamins or nutrients being plant or animal derived, they are also packaged together with other substances. If you are taking a multi-vitamin, grab your bottle and read the supplement facts label. For the purpose of this post, scroll your finger down and read the Vitamin B12 line. It may read something like this “Vitamin B12 (as cyanocobalamin)“. This is a synthetic form of the nutrient, Cobalamin, that we are looking for, attached to something called Cyanide. If you paid attention in CHEM 101 (I definitely didn’t), you would know that cyanide is a highly toxic chemical. The reason why this is approved or legal, is because someone deemed it safe on the premise of our kidney’s being able to separate and filter out the cyanide. We can only assume this is happening, and that over time our bodies aren’t building up small amounts of toxic cyanide.

Here are a few ways to ensure that you can avoid toxic build up in your body:

  • Buy multivitamins that have a more bio-available and natural form or Vitamin B12, which is Methylcobalamin
  • Be sure to drink plenty of water (at least half you body weight in oz)
  • It’s recommended that you “detox” regularly so that your organs get a break, and a chance cleanse
  • Sweat: Exercise regularly, get some sauna action,
  • Sleep (7-8 QUALITY hours)
  • And of course eat as best you can (organic, non-processed, etc.)

If you enjoyed this post and got valuable insights, please tell a friend or family member who will benefit from my content to come check it out!