Bee Pollen: Nature’s Perfect Food

March 14th, 2019 | no comments

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Have you ever wondered about bee pollen? Other than the so-called “health freaks”, who else is consuming this stuff? Is it something you should consider taking and if so, why? Moreover, what the heck do you even do with it? 

These are all questions I once had too and my goal is to answer them for you in this post.

Years ago I purchased a little container of bee pollen from a local farmer’s market stand. I have to be honest, I only bought it because it made me feel cool…to say that I take bee pollen stroked my little dietitian ego. But of course, it’s only cool if you actually take the bee pollen.

There is sat, staring at me on my kitchen counter (for what felt like a month), daring me to step into my awesomeness and join the other tree-hugging, bee pollen-eating health freaks.

Eventually I sprinkled a little in my smoothie, and…nothing happened.

I felt NO different.

Another month went by and I tossed it in the trash.

YIKES! Those poor little bees. All of that work for nothing! Did you know it takes a honey bee a full month, working 8 hours each day, to gather one teaspoon of bee pollen?

 

What exactly is bee pollen?

Bee pollen is made from a combination of the saliva of worker honey bees, packed with field-gathered flower pollen (the male seed of flowers required for the fertilization of the plant) and nectar. It serves as the primary food source for the hive. And talk about power…one tiny little pellet of bee pollen contains over two million flower pollen grains!

 

Bee pollen can be purchased either in the granule/pellet or ground form. Whatever you do, make sure it is 100% raw and free from pesticides and chemicals. Both Beekeeper’s Naturals and Bareorganics are trusted and reputable options. 

 

Check out this video of honey bees collecting pollen. Notice how they store the pollen in baskets (called corbiculae) situated on the tibia of their hind legs.

And you thought your job was important!

I don’t know about you, but I simply can’t watch this video without being convinced that a magnificent force beyond my comprehension is responsible for all of this. Nature is a wondrous mystery, isn’t it?

 

Bee pollen nutrition

These miraculous little pellets are one of nature’s most nourishing foods, housing nearly all nutrients required by humans to thrive.

Bee pollen is:

  • Over 35% protein, half of which is in the form of free amino acids (meaning the body can use it directly).
  • Rich in B-vitamins and folic acid, which are essential for energy.
  • Full of important minerals like calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, iron, copper, selenium, and zinc.
  • An abundant source of live enzymes when consumed in the raw form.

 

5 Benefits of bee pollen. But first…

You may be thinking: Big deal Mel! You still haven’t told me anything compelling enough to turn me into a tree-hugging, bee pollen-eating health freak. Can’t I just take a multivitamin and eat a piece of meat and get the same nutrition?

Sure, but you’ll be missing out on many benefits specific to bee pollen. Before I get to that, I want to share something I learned that left me in awe. According to Dr. Joseph Mercola:

One of the most interesting facts about bee pollen is that it cannot be synthesized in a laboratory. When researchers take away a bee’s pollen-filled comb and feed her man-made pollen, the bee dies even though all the known nutrients are present in the lab-produced synthesized food. Many thousands of chemical analyses of bee pollen have been made with the very latest diagnostic equipment, but there are still some elements present in bee pollen that science cannot identify. The bees add some mysterious “extra” of their own.

Again, nature is miraculous indeed!

Here are five ways bee pollen can support your health:

  1. Relief from seasonal allergies when taken six weeks before the season begins and then throughout.
  2. Decreases inflammation and boosts your immune system. This is due to its antioxidant, antibacterial and antifungal properties.
  3. May decrease menopausal symptoms in breast cancer patients (1).
  4. Relief from pain caused by injury (2).
  5. Reduction of stress and elevation of mood! Bee pollen improves blood supply to nervous tissue, which can improve your stress response and overall mood.

 

Bee pollen: What the heck to do with it!

I think the easiest way to include bee pollen in your diet is to add one teaspoon to foods you’re already enjoying. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Sprinkle on top of a peanut or almond butter sandwich or fruit dipped in your favorite nut butter
  • Stir in yogurt, cottage cheese, or steel cut oats
  • Add to your favorite Peace of Health shake recipe
  • Mix in no-bake energy bite/nutrition bars (see this week’s recipe for Un-bee-lievable Protein Bars)
  • Sprinkle on top of salads

Remember, just like anything that’s good for you, too much of it isn’t!

 

You should not take bee pollen if you…

Bee pollen is safe for most people, but it can be harmful for those individuals who:

  • Suffer from pollen allergies
  • Are allergic to bees
  • Are pregnant (may stimulate the uterus and threaten pregnancy)

If you are as inspired as I am by Mother Nature’s gift of honey bees, you will love this podcast episode from Revolution Health Radio. Host and functional health practitioner Chris Kresser, interviews Carly Stein—an ex-Goldman Sachs financial analyst-turned beekeeper— on the amazing products created naturally from honey bees. 

Other resources:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4377380/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30839214

 

Mel’s weekly recipe pick: 
Un-bee-lievable Protein Bars

 

 

 

 

 

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Un-bee-lievable Protein Bars

March 14th, 2019 | no comments

Like peanut butter fudge with a kick!

Made with either plant-based or bone broth-based vanilla protein powder, peanut butter, bee pollen and a handful of other simple ingredients, these bars store well in the freezer and can get quite soft if left out too long (i.e. you may need to eat it with a fork!). 

Bee pollen is one of nature’s most nourishing foods, housing nearly all nutrients required by humans to thrive. It’s rich in protein, folate, B-vitamins, minerals, and live enzymes.

You can buy bee pollen in either granule or ground form, but whatever you do, make sure it is 100% raw and free from pesticides and chemicals. Both Beekeeper’s Naturals (granules) and Bareorganics (ground) are trusted and reputable options. For this recipe I would recommend using ground bee pollen.

Print Recipe
Un-bee-lievable Protein Bars
Made with either plant-based or bone broth-based vanilla protein powder, peanut butter, nutrient-rich bee pollen and a handful of other simple ingredients, these bars store well in the freezer and can get quite soft if left out too long (i.e. you may need to eat it with a fork!). 2 Earthfoods per serving ♥♥
Course Bars
Prep Time 10 minutes
Servings
bars
Ingredients
  • 1 cup smooth or crunchy peanut or almond butter (only ingredient should be peanuts/almonds; salt is OK too)
  • 2/3 cup (or 2 packets) vanilla protein powder Vanilla Bone Broth Protein or Garden of Life Smooth Vanilla both work well
  • 1 tbsp. chia seeds
  • 2 tsp. ground bee pollen
  • 3 tbsp. almond flour
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp. unsweetened plant-based milk almond, coconut, cashew, flax, hemp all work well
Course Bars
Prep Time 10 minutes
Servings
bars
Ingredients
  • 1 cup smooth or crunchy peanut or almond butter (only ingredient should be peanuts/almonds; salt is OK too)
  • 2/3 cup (or 2 packets) vanilla protein powder Vanilla Bone Broth Protein or Garden of Life Smooth Vanilla both work well
  • 1 tbsp. chia seeds
  • 2 tsp. ground bee pollen
  • 3 tbsp. almond flour
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp. unsweetened plant-based milk almond, coconut, cashew, flax, hemp all work well
Instructions
  1. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl until well combined. It should be thick and tough to mix. If too runny, add a little more protein powder or almond flour. If too thick (can't mix at all), add a splash more milk.
  2. Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap. Using clean hands, press mixture into a large rectangle shape. Freeze for one hour then cut into 8 bars. Wrap each bar individually in plastic wrap and store in a freezer bag in the freezer. Bars soften at room temperature. Enjoy!
Recipe Notes

Nutrition Facts per servingCalories: 230Total Fat: 18 g; Saturated Fat: 2 g; Sodium: 150 mg; Potassium: 300 mg; Total Carbohydrate: 7 g; Dietary fiber: 4 g; Net Carbohydrates: 3 grams;  Sugar: 1 g (0 grams added sugar); Protein: 14 g

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Hack Non-Hunger Eating Now!

March 7th, 2019 | no comments

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Ever find yourself reaching for food when you aren’t even hungry? It’s like a hidden force, a compulsion of sorts. You don’t know why, nor can you pinpoint an exact emotion; you just feel driven to eat, and if food is nearby, you usually do!

Maybe it’s a piece of candy or some leftover pastry sitting on the counter. Or, it can even be a food that’s good for you, like almonds or blueberries. But I’ll tell you something: if you’re eating those almonds or blueberries out of a nameless, unconscious, non-hunger urgency, it isn’t good for you.

 

Mel’s confession: “I have episodes of non-hunger eating”

People tend to think I have no issues with food, that I have it all figured out and eat mindfully, healthfully and on purpose 24-7 (ha, ha…that’s so cute! 🙂 ).

We are all here to help one another on some level, so who would I be if I kept this confession from you out of fear that you would see me as imperfect?

 

Well guess what? I AM imperfect…perfectly imperfect, even/especially in the area where I’m supposed to be the expert.

 

Not long ago I was struck with a profound realization about myself. It was one of those a-ha, this-changes-everything moments where a hidden (yet comfortable) layer of myself was suddenly exposed…and I was forever changed. I couldn’t unlearn what I discovered at that moment, nor would I ever want to.

I believe at our core, human beings are inherently the same, especially when it comes down to certain drivers of behavior. See if you can recognize my non-hunger eating pattern in yourself:

On my way to a meeting in downtown Cleveland, I run into some unexpected traffic. My GPS now shows a delay, changing my ETA and making me late. Although not a terribly stressful situation, it was something I wasn’t happy about.

Staring at me from the passenger’s seat was my lunch bag, packed with sliced apples, a nutrition bar, and an assortment of raw vegetables. The moment I realized I wouldn’t make it to my meeting on time, I immediately reached for the apples and started eating.

Now, you may be thinking: What’s wrong with that? Apples are healthy!

Did I mention it was 8:00 am and I just ate breakfast an hour earlier? So I wasn’t the least bit hungry…at least not physically.

 

Non-hunger eating: a profound realization (this changes everything!)

As I was mindlessly munching away on those apple slices, like a ton of bricks it hit me: whether it’s a traffic jam, a moment of procrastination, feelings of anxiousness or indecisiveness:

Any time I experience that which I wish were different than it presently is, I feel an uncomfortable emptiness inside and am strongly compelled to fill this void with food—to make it comfortable again.

Even though 99% of the time I’m filling this void with Earthfood, it may as well be a chocolate chip cookie, because I’m eating it mindlessly, and for the wrong reason. I’m not even tasting the food. In fact:

Eating (and really tasting) a single chocolate chip cookie in a state of pure mindfulness, purpose, and enjoyment, would be a much healthier choice. Seriously.

 

A profound (yet simple) SOLUTION for non-hunger eating

If you use food to fill those uncomfortable “voids” in your life, first it’s important to be alert and present enough to recognize what triggers you. Be careful! It’s easy to turn a blind eye to your triggers because your response to them (food) can be quite inviting and comforting. I mean let’s face it, there’s nothing off-putting about blueberries, almonds or chocolate chip cookies. What I’m saying is, you may not even realize you are being triggered because the “reward” feels so damn good.

I’d be willing to bet my cat George (and I LOVE him with all of my heart) that if you really dig deep, you will find your root trigger boils down to: any situation you are in that you wish were different than it is. 

For example:

  • An argument with your significant other or child (“Why can’t they see it my way?”)
  • A dreaded work project with a tight deadline (“Ugh! I don’t even know where to begin with this project!”)
  • A demotion or loss of job (“What am I going to do about my bills? I can barely make ends meet as it is!”)
  • An overwhelming to-do list (“There’s no way I’m going to get all of this done!”)
  • Illness or death of a loved one (“The emotional pain is just too much for me to bear”)
  • A rainy day (“I wish the sun was out”)
  • A challenging coworker (“OMG—I’m at my wits end with this guy. Why does he have to be such a jerk?”)

Any one of these can be a trigger, causing you to reach for food. Of course the impossibility of eradicating unwanted circumstances should be obvious, for that would mean the end of life as you know it! But what if maybe, just maybe, you could fill this void with something other than food? Something pure, necessary, life-sustaining…and free?

What if you could successfully fill the void with a single breath?

 

Transcend undesirable states…without food

Although three slices of cheese pizza may offer momentary bliss, after the last bite, you will still be left facing the undesirable.

You can never outeat the undesirable. Remember, Domino’s is just a phone call away! 

As uncomfortable as it may seem, the only true way out of an undesirable experience is to go within and allow yourself to experience the moment as it is. Yes, I know pizza is a much more attractive option, but I promise this won’t kill you. 

To experience this moment as it is requires you to be fully present in your body, completely alert and aware of all the raw feelings and emotions that are bubbling up. Yet it’s impossible to be fully present when you are consumed with the past or future (which is how most of us live our lives); you can only be present when you bring your attention into the now. It is here in this very moment, in the now, where you are able to tap into your greatest power. 

 

The present moment is where all of your power lives; your life-giving breath is the key that unlocks the door to the present moment.

 

Surely you don’t have to think about breathing, but when you stop and pay attention to your breath, you automatically transport yourself into the present moment, the now. Think about it: you can only breathe in the now. Go ahead, I double dare you to breathe in the past or future.

 

Hack your non-hunger eating now (in the now)

Let’s put this into practice.

  1. Think about an undesirable situation you are faced with on a regular basis. It doesn’t have to be anything big, just something you wish were different than it is.
  2. Take a deep breath in and let it out. Without judgement, allow yourself to be here now, with whatever is. If your mind wanders, bring it back with another conscious breath in and out. 
  3. As you shine the light of presence on the situation, you should feel the dark energy of the unwanted begin to lift slightly. Take another breath, settle into your body and feel it breathing. Your energy should feel a bit lighter still, as the void is being filled with the power of your sweet, life-sustaining breath.

Most of us automatically try to fight the situation by complaining further about the undesirable; then we instruct ourselves not to eat the food. This not only adds fuel to the fire of the undesirable, it gives a tremendous amount of power to the food. And I’ll bet my cat George, that under these conditions, you will eat the food. 

The beauty of being human is that if you are open and willing to take a long, loving look at yourself, there’s no limit to what you can discover…and transcend.

 

Mel’s weekly food pick: 
Pederson’s Breakfast Sausage

A great on-the-go breakfast solution, Pederson’s Breakfast Sausage is free from preservatives (including nitrites and nitrates), antibiotics, hormones, added sugar and artificial ingredients.

All of their products are Certified Humane Raised & Handled®. This is the only farm animal welfare and food labeling program in the U.S. dedicated to improving the welfare of farm animals in food production and include all stages of the animal’s life.

Available in spicy or mild, Pederson’s Breakfast Sausage is fully cooked, so all you have to do is heat it up (I like to heat mine stove top versus microwave). 

Check out the full list of what’s inside:

INGREDIENTS: PORK, WATER, LESS THAN 2% OF: VINEGAR, SALT, SPICES (RED & BLACK PEPPERS, SAGE, GINGER, NUTMEG, SPICE EXTRACTIVE [CAPSICUM]).

For a tasty and nutritious breakfast, check out this week’s recipe pick below for Triple-Layer Avocado “Toast”. Pederson’s Breakfast sausage is one of the layers!

If you prefer chicken sausage, another great product is Applegate Naturals Chicken & Apple Breakfast Sausage Patties.

Mel’s weekly recipe pick: 
Triple-Layer Avocado Toast

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Triple-Layer Avocado “Toast”

March 6th, 2019 | no comments

This recipe was inspired by a breakfast that I recently enjoyed at a local restaurant: avocado toast with egg and sausage.  It was so full of flavor and nutrition, but I knew I could boost the wholesomeness just a little more by substituting sweet potato slices for the bread.

Add a little lemon juice to the mashed avocado and you can prepare this ahead of time, then just heat and enjoy!

I used organic, free-range eggs and Pederson’s Breakfast Sausage— free from preservatives (including nitrites and nitrates), antibiotics and hormones, this sausage is fully cooked and made with no added sugar or artificial ingredients. Another tasty breakfast sausage is Applegate Naturals Chicken & Apple Breakfast Sausage Patties. 

I like to add a couple squirts of hot sauce for a little extra spice and serve it with a side of fresh berries. 

Print Recipe
Triple-Layer Avocado "Toast"
Sweet potato slices in place of toast, topped with mashed avocado, hormone and antibiotic-free sausage and a sunny-side up egg. Make ahead of time and heat and serve when ready to eat. 1 Earthfood per serving ♥
Course Breakfast
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
serving
Ingredients
  • 1 large sweet potato (you will have leftovers) sliced lengthwise into 1/4" thick slices
  • 1/4 large avocado, peeled, seeded, and mashed
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 breakfast sausage patty, heated I like Pederson's or Applegate Naturals
  • 1 large organic, free-range egg
Course Breakfast
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
serving
Ingredients
  • 1 large sweet potato (you will have leftovers) sliced lengthwise into 1/4" thick slices
  • 1/4 large avocado, peeled, seeded, and mashed
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 breakfast sausage patty, heated I like Pederson's or Applegate Naturals
  • 1 large organic, free-range egg
Instructions
  1. Place sweet potato slices in toaster or toaster oven on high for two to three cycles. You can also bake in the oven on a baking sheet at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until tender (but still a bit firm).
  2. Lay two sweet potatoes on a plate or small oven-safe container. Season mashed avocado with sea salt and pepper (mix in a sprinkle of fresh lemon juice if planning to eat at a later time) and spread on top of sweet potato slices. Top with cooked sausage patty.
  3. To cook egg sunny-side up, heat a teaspoon of Kerrygold butter or coconut oil in a small frying pan over medium heat. Crack egg in a small bowl or ramekin and add to pan. Cover with a tight lid and cook until the whites are completely set but the yolks are still runny (about 2 to 2 1/2 minutes). Slide the egg out of the skillet onto sausage patty. Season with fresh ground pepper and salt to taste. Add a dash or two of hot sauce if you'd like! Yum 🙂
Recipe Notes

Nutrition Facts per servingCalories: 385Total Fat: 21 g; Saturated Fat: 6 g; Sodium: 350 mg; Potassium: 420 mg; Total Carbohydrate: 20 g; Dietary fiber: 5 g; Net Carbohydrates: 15 grams; Sugar: 3 g (no added sugar); Protein: 15 g

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Gas: What Causes It and How to Reduce It

February 28th, 2019 | no comments

Photo by Mark Daynes on Unsplash

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Picture it: I’m sitting at the local Panera, enjoying a cup of coffee. Out of the corner of my eye, I catch the “gentleman” sitting next to me (I’m talking like right next to me), engage in what he thought was an inconspicuous “one cheek sneak”.  I so badly wanted to be appalled…but all I could do was laugh. 

Let’s face it, gas is funny!

We all have it, so why pretend it doesn’t exist? Let’s clear the air and talk about Mother Nature’s most audible (and sometimes silent-but-deadly) display of her wild sense of humor!

Yes, this post is all about gas:

  • How it’s created
  • Foods that make it worse
  • Conditions that can worsen it
  • Tips to help relieve excess gas and bloating

But first, some flatulence fun facts.

 

Fun facts about gas that’ll make you chuckle🙂 :
  • Most of the gas you expel out of your back end is odor-free. Only 1% stinks, and that’s due to the small amount of hydrogen sulfide present in the mix. FYI: I’m the only living exception to this rule because mine smells of fresh baked cinnamon rolls :). The rest of your gas is made up of nitrogen, hydrogen, carbon dioxide and methane (in some individuals). 
  • Not all farts are flammable. Those who produce methane can light their farts on fire…although I wouldn’t recommend testing this theory. Gentleman…I’m talking to YOU! 
  • The average person toots about 12-25 times per day or more depending on their diet.
  • The word “fart” originates from the Old English word “feortan”, which means “to break wind”. 
  • You pass more gas when you sleep.
  • Men versus women and young versus old: the amount of gas produced is the same across the board (although women are much more discreet).
  • If you’re in the mood for a gut-busting laugh, check out this post for 150 different words for breaking wind (#7 and #82 are my personal favs!).

 

What causes gas?

Intestinal gas is caused when bacteria in your large intestine breaks down undigested food, mainly carbohydrates. It also occurs when you swallow air, which happens as a result of chewing gum and drinking through a straw. 

Generally, gas-producing foods are those abundant in fiber; more specifically, it includes those rich in:

  • Sulfur: wine, beer, garlic, onion, cruciferous veggies (cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage).
  • Sugars: like fructose and sorbitol (found naturally in fruits like apples, pears, peaches, apricots, cherries, figs, prunes, and raisins).
  • Sugar alcohols (polyols): lends sweetness to products like baked goods, candy, gum, jelly, nutrition bars, cereal, cough drops, and chewable vitamins. The body can’t digest sugar alcohols completely, which can cause gas and upset stomach. They are labeled as: sorbitol, maltitol, mannitol, lactitol, isomalt, xylitol, erythritol, or hydrogenated starch hydrolysates (HSH). 
  • Soluble fiber: beans, nuts, apples, and oats.
  • Insoluble fiber: fruit skin, brown rice, and whole wheat bread.
  • Raffinose: a complex sugar that humans can’t digest; found in: beans, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, asparagus, and whole grains.

Other foods and beverages that can cause you to toot your own horn include:

  • Dairy products
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Fried foods

 

Conditions that can worsen gas 

Certain conditions can make gas and bloating even more pronounced. These include: lactose intolerance, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, colitis, and fructose malabsorption.

 

Ease into fiber…otherwise you’ll pay! 

In my 19 years as a dietitian, one thing I can tell you is this:

When you eat more dietary fiber than your body is equipped to handle, you WILL be uncomfortable. You’ll also stink out your family and friends.

But it won’t kill you…maybe socially, but not physically. 🙂 

Dietary fiber recommendations are between 25-35 grams per day. Sadly the average American eats only 10-15 grams. There’s lots of room for improvement here, especially since dietary fiber is linked to:

  • Normal bowel movements
  • Better bowel health: including less risk of developing hemorrhoids, diverticular disease, and colorectal cancer
  • Lower cholesterol levels
  • Lower blood pressure and inflammation
  • Healthy blood sugar levels: fiber slows the absorption of sugar and helps improve blood sugar levels
  • A healthier weight

But please don’t attempt to go from 10 grams to 30 overnight, otherwise you’ll pay a smelly price! Instead, ease into it by gradually increasing dietary fiber by 4-5 gram increments over several weeks. This looks like any of the following:

  • 1/2 cup cooked beans (black, kidney, pinto, etc.)
  • 1/2 cup fresh raspberries
  • 1 cup cooked Brussels sprouts
  • 1/4 cup raw almonds
  • 1 tbsp. chia seeds
  • 1 medium apple

To prevent constipation, as you up your fiber it’s important to also increase the amount of water you drink.

10 Tips to relieve excess gas

If you’re still experiencing excess gas (remember, the average person toots between 12-25 times per day), here are ten additional tips to help you:

  1. Eat smaller portions; eat slowly; chew your food thoroughly.
  2. Drink peppermint or chamomile tea before meals.
  3. Try activated charcoal: a type of charcoal processed to make it more porous, which allows it to trap toxins and chemicals in the gut, preventing their absorption. Studies report that activated charcoal may help reduce gas production after a gassy meal. Because activated charcoal can reduce the absorption of certain medications, be sure to check with your healthcare provider before taking it or any other supplements. 
  4. Eat vegetables cooked versus raw. Be sure they still maintain their crunch, however! 
  5. Dilute one tablespoon of Bragg apple cider vinegar in eight ounces of water and drink before meals. Apple cider vinegar aids in the production of stomach acid and digestive enzymes, both of which help reduce gas.
  6. Add a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice to your water and drink before meals. Lemon is a digestive aid that can reduce gas and bloating!
  7. Eat probiotic-rich foods every day or take a daily probiotic supplement. Probiotics are live bacteria that replace or add to the beneficial bacteria normally present in your gut. Maintaining a healthy microbiome—the collection of more than 100 trillion organisms living within your intestines, mouth and nose—is critical to good health, including normal digestion and elimination. 
  8. Take an enzyme with your meals! Enzymes enable your body to break down the food you eat you so can use it. 
  9. Add a teaspoon of bee pollen to your food; it contains thousands of natural enzymes! Don’t use if you are allergic to bees. 
  10. Eat enzyme-rich foods! These include: bananas, kefir, raw sauerkraut, tempeh, miso, papaya, pineapple, kiwi, apricots and avocados.

Shout out to Mr. Cheek-Sneaker Panera guy for inspiring this post. I never know exactly where I’ll get my material…that’s what makes life so spontaneous, fun…and funny! 🙂 

 

Mel’s weekly food pick: 
Brussels Sprouts (Brassica oleracea)

 

Speaking of gas-producing foods, Brussels sprouts are at the top of the list of foods known to bring out our “musical” side. But that doesn’t mean you should avoid them or other cruciferous veggies, like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale. 

Your body will handle them much better when you:

  • start slow (once or twice a week)
  • keep your portions small (about a half cup)
  • enjoy them cooked rather than raw

Once you get used to this small amount you can increase your frequency and portions as tolerated.

So why is it so important to eat Brussels sprouts and other cruciferous veggies?

Cruciferous vegetables are a class of low glycemic (gentle on the blood sugar), non-starchy vegetables that are loaded with all sorts of good stuff. 

Take the Brussels sprout for example: a good source of vitamin A, folate, magnesium and iron, and an excellent source of:

  • vitamin K: important for blood clotting, bone strength and reducing inflammation
  • vitamin C: an immune system-booster
  • fiber: 4 grams per cup
  • protein: 4 grams per cup (which is unusually high for veggies)

A noteworthy nugget that’ll have you rushing to the grocery store: Brussels sprouts contain glucosinolates and isothiocyanates, two phytochemicals that induce detoxification enzymes and fight oxidative stress, thereby decreasing the risk of certain cancers (most notably colorectal cancer).   

Yes, they can have a bitter taste and “gassy” smell, but that’s due to the presence of sulforaphane, a sulfur-containing isothiocyanate that inhibits the enzymes involved in the progression of certain cancer cells.

Not bad for something that looks like a baby cabbage. 

Roasting is a deliciously wonderful way to reduce the bitterness and gassiness of Brussels sprouts and also brings out their naturally sweet flavor. Check out this week’s recipe pick for Simple Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Resources:

https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/sulforaphane#section=Top
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21535814
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7728983
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7554064
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22578879

 

Mel’s weekly recipe pick: 
Simple Roasted Brussels Sprouts

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Simple Roasted Brussels Sprouts

February 28th, 2019 | no comments

Roasting is by far my favorite method of cooking vegetables…especially Brussels sprouts. I think it’s fair to say that I crave them!

I despised Brussels sprouts growing up. Like many kids, I was forced to eat them in the form of over-boiled, mushy, bitter baby cabbages bathing in butter. Yuck! 

I can remember the very first time I tasted a roasted Brussels sprout…I swear I heard harps playing overhead. The crispy texture and almost sweet flavor was a symphony of culinary music to my taste buds. Now I enjoy them once a week using this simple recipe.

I use avocado oil to roast because of its high smoke point. Sea salt and pepper are a must. If you’d like to experiment with different flavor profiles, you can:

  • drizzle with balsamic vinegar or hot sauce when hot out of the oven
  • top with toasted nuts or seeds
  • serve with roasted red pepper hummus
  • sprinkle with pomegranate seeds
  • mix with minced garlic
  • roast with other veggies like sweet potato chunks or chopped onion 
Print Recipe
Simple Roasted Brussels Sprouts
A deliciously simple recipe that you will make time and again. Avocado oil is used because of its high smoke point. Feel free to drizzle with balsamic vinegar or sprinkle with toasted nuts or seeds when hot out of the oven! 1 Earthfood per serving ♥
Course Side Dish
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35-40 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
  • 1.5 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half
  • 3 tbsp. avocado oil
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
Course Side Dish
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35-40 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
  • 1.5 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half
  • 3 tbsp. avocado oil
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place trimmed Brussels sprouts in a bowl and drizzle with avocado oil. Stir with a spoon to evenly coat.
  2. Spread on baking sheet in single layer and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.
  3. Roast in oven for 35-40 minutes, shaking the pan and flipping the sprouts halfway through. I like mine brown and crispy, which usually happens around the 40 minute mark!
Recipe Notes

Nutrition Facts per servingCalories: 145Total Fat: 11 g; Saturated Fat: 2 g; Sodium: 320 mg; Potassium: 430 mg; Total Carbohydrate: 10 g; Dietary fiber: 4 g; Net Carbohydrates: 6 grams; Sugar: 2 g (0 grams added sugar); Protein: 4 g

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What’s Up with Celery Juice?

February 21st, 2019 | no comments

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Have you heard about the latest nutrition trend out there? Celery juice is the new king in town and everyone (well almost everyone) is drinking it! Celebrities from Gwyneth Paltrow to Sylvester Stallone are singing its praises and downing the bitter green drink like water. 

Should you drink the green “Kool-Aid” or is it just a bunch of hype?

First, let’s take a look at the benefits of whole celery.   

 

Health benefits of whole celery

A good source of fiber, manganese, magnesium, potassium, calcium, B vitamins, and vitamins A, K and C, celery is oh so much more than “crunchy water”. Interestingly, the celery leaves contain the most vitamin C, calcium, and potassium, so please don’t discard them like I used to do! 

The abundance of vitamins, minerals and other anti-inflammatory properties in celery can:

  • Promote the health of your gut lining
  • Help regulate digestion
  • Offer cardiovascular support

Eating whole celery offers the benefit of added fiber too, which can really help to keep you full…especially when it’s filled with fresh ground almond butter.  

 

What about celery juice? 

First let me say, I have no problem with celery juice. In fact, those who’ve built a habit of drinking celery juice every morning report better digestion, less bloating and brain fog, and more energy.

 

But I’ll bet they aren’t eating a cheeseburger and fries for lunch. 

 

It’s difficult to say if these reported benefits are due to drinking celery juice, or because they are likely making healthier food choices throughout the day and overall.

Would I much rather catch you drinking a glass of celery juice instead of orange juice? You bet! Because of its super-high sugar content, orange juice will spike your blood sugar like a rocket to the moon (why do you think it’s given to someone suffering from dangerously low blood sugar?). 

Remember all of those abundant vitamins and minerals in whole celery? They are concentrated in juice form!

It’s important to note however, that most studies on the health benefits of celery juice—including lower blood pressure and chronic disease prevention—are animal studies, so we can’t just assume it will have the same effects in humans.   

 

Are there any downside to drinking celery juice? 

Making your own celery juice can be time-consuming. Although celery is relatively inexpensive, it takes about 12 stalks of celery (about one bunch) to make 16 ounces of juice. Buy it from the local juice bar and it’ll cost you between $7.00-$8.00 for that same 16-ounce serving.

You could get three bunches of celery for that price! 

Plain celery juice has a bitter taste, which can tempt even the most well-meaning person to add sweetener. Mint, cucumber, lemon, ginger, or green apple can all make it taste better…just please don’t add sugar

Celery juice isn’t a good idea for those on certain prescription drugs like anti-anxiety, cholesterol-lowering and blood pressure-lowering medications. Just like grapefruit, celery contains natural chemicals that can raise blood levels of these drugs. If you take any of these medications, check with your healthcare provider before drinking celery juice.   

 

Ideas for adding whole celery to your meals

I’m not a juice girl. Mostly because I don’t feel any better after consuming even the greenest of green juices…in fact, I feel hungrier! I would much rather eat the whole fruit or vegetable or throw it into my smoothie. 

Here are a few fun ideas to help you incorporate more celery into your daily diet:

  1. Snack on grown-up “ants on a log”: Fill 3-inch stalks of celery with fresh ground almond butter, top with fresh blueberries or raspberries, then sprinkle with hemp hearts, flax or chia seeds! Add a sprinkle of cacao nibs for extra crunch and antioxidants. Want a little sweet? Drizzle with just a touch of raw honey! Mmmmmm.
  2. Add a stalk to your smoothie and blend.
  3. Chop and add to egg, tuna, or chicken salad, along with chopped red peppers and onions. For a little fiber boost, I like to also add kidney beans or lentils.
  4. Add celery sticks to a 3-cup container of raw veggies and snack on it throughout the day when you get hungry. For a little sweet, add chunks of pear or apple to the mix!
  5. Add celery leaves to your salad.
  6. Stir diced celery into stews, soups, stir-fries and casseroles.
  7. Mix in salsa or guacamole.
  8. Make a celery salad—see this week’s recipe pick for Celery, Date & Almond Watercress Salad.

 

Mel in the media!

 

Mel’s weekly recipe pick:
Celery, Date & Almond Watercress Salad

 

 

 

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Celery, Date & Almond Watercress Salad

February 21st, 2019 | no comments

A good source of fiber, manganese, magnesium, potassium, calcium, B vitamins, and vitamins A, K and C, celery is oh so much more than “crunchy water”. Interestingly, the celery leaves contain the most vitamin C, calcium, and potassium, so please don’t discard them like I used to do! 

There are so many different ways you can incorporate celery into your meals. One of the easiest is to make a celery salad! It doesn’t sound that appetizing, I know…but wait till you try this simple recipe.

It uses whole celery (including the leaves) and is tossed with chopped watercress, toasted almonds, a bit of shaved Parmesan cheese, and chopped dates. A simple dressing of lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil is all it needs to bring out the delicious flavor and allow for maximum nutrient absorption. 

I served it for dinner alongside gluten free avocado toast topped with a sunny-side up egg and a dash of hot sauce. 

This recipe was inspired by bonappetit.com.


Print Recipe


Celery, Date & Almond Watercress Salad

This recipe uses whole celery (including the leaves) and is tossed with chopped watercress, toasted almonds, a bit of shaved Parmesan cheese, and chopped dates. A simple dressing of lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil is all it needs to bring out the delicious flavor and allow for maximum nutrient absorption. 2 Earthfoods per serving ♥♥

Course Dinner, Lunch

Prep Time 10 minutes

Servings
servings


Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup raw almonds
  • 8 large celery stalks, thinly sliced on a diagonal separate leaves and set aside
  • 4 cups watercress, chopped
  • 3 pitted dates, chopped
  • 3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 ounce Parmesan cheese, shaved
  • 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Course Dinner, Lunch

Prep Time 10 minutes

Servings
servings


Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup raw almonds
  • 8 large celery stalks, thinly sliced on a diagonal separate leaves and set aside
  • 4 cups watercress, chopped
  • 3 pitted dates, chopped
  • 3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 ounce Parmesan cheese, shaved
  • 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil


Instructions
  1. To toast almonds, you can use your toaster oven or toast in a 350° preheated oven. This will take a few minutes in the toaster oven or about 8–10 minutes in the oven. Stir occasionally, until golden brown. Watch carefully because they can burn in an instant! 🙂

  2. Toss almonds, celery, celery leaves, watercress, dates, and lemon juice in a medium bowl; season with salt and pepper. Add Parmesan and oil and toss gently.


Recipe Notes

Nutrition Facts per servingCalories: 395Total Fat: 32 g; Saturated Fat: 6 g; Sodium: 475 mg; Potassium: 1030 mg; Total Carbohydrate: 18 g; Dietary fiber: 7 g; Net Carbohydrates: 11 grams; Sugar: 11 g (0 grams added sugar); Protein: 12 g


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Intermittent Fasting: Is it for You?

February 13th, 2019 | no comments

Photo by Elisa Michelet on Unsplash

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Fasting has been practiced for thousands of years—dating all the way back to the ancient Greeks.

Admittedly, I used to hold up my hand when someone would approach me with the topic of fasting…and that’s because I was completely ignorant of the benefits. It wasn’t until I began exploring solutions to help manage my rising blood sugar, that I was open to the idea.

When you think of fasting, I’ll bet images of days passing without a morsel of food come to mind. While that is one form of fasting, it’s not the one I’m referring to in this post, nor is it a method I recommend. Intermittent fasting is a “light” and safe approach to fasting that can be practiced by most healthy people.

 

What is intermittent fasting?

Truth be told, anytime you aren’t eating, you are fasting. So, while asleep, you are in fact fasting…which is why your first meal of the day is called breakfast (“breaking the fast”).

Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern where you alternate between periods of fasting and eating. The different types of intermittent fasting are based on the number of hours you spend in the fasting state. I have found the approach that works best for my health and lifestyle is a 14-16 hour fast most days of the week; this is known as a 14:10 (or 16:8 fast):

  • 14:10 fast: Fast for 14 hours with a ten-hour eating window
  • 16:8 fast: Fast for 16 hours with an eight-hour eating window

My day looks like this during a 14:10 fast:

8:00 am breakfast   12:30 pm lunch  5:30 pm dinner  6:00 pm begin fast  8:00 am end fast with breakfast

That’s not so difficult is it? Essentially it means I just don’t eat after dinner. Keep in mind, this approach works well for me because I go to bed pretty early…I’m talking no later than 9:00 pm.

On a 16:8 fast—which is less typical for me—I will eat breakfast at 9:00 am and finish my last meal at 5:00 pm, allowing for a 16-hour fast (5:00 pm to 9:00 am).

Water is recommended—and encouraged—during the fasting period. Supplements, black coffee and unsweetened tea are OK too! Just make sure you aren’t adding any zero-calorie sweeteners, such as Splenda, Sweet’N Low, Equal, or stevia-based products.  

If you are new to intermittent fasting, I would recommend easing your way into it. Start with a simple 12-hour fast: last meal ends at 7:00 pm; breakfast is 7:00 am. You can then increase the fasting window at your own pace and comfort level.

The above types of intermittent fasting are gentle enough to be practiced every day if you desire.

 

Benefits of intermittent fasting

You may be asking why anyone would want to fast in the first place. Great question! It’s one I asked myself for years, until I experienced the benefits firsthand. Some of the physical benefits of intermittent fasting include:

  • Changes in hormones to boost metabolic rate, burn fat, and facilitate weight loss—especially fat loss around the mid-section where dangerous visceral fat lives.
  • Lower insulin levels: insulin, also known as the fat-storage hormone, is stimulated every time we eat. Canadian nephrologist and leading expert in intermittent fasting, Dr. Jason Fung, has this to say about the effects of fasting on insulin and body fat: Insulin levels fall, signaling the body to start burning stored energy as no more is coming through food. Blood glucose falls, so the body must now pull glucose out of storage to burn for energy. He goes on to say: If you are constantly eating, as is often recommended, then your body will simply use the incoming food energy and never burn the body fat. You’ll only store it.
  • Increase in production of human growth hormone (HGH): HGH deficiency in adults can lead to higher levels of body fat, decreased lean body mass, and lower bone mass.
  • Increased release of the fat-burning hormone norepinephrine.
  • Longer life span.
  • Higher levels of energy and alertness.
  • Decreased insulin resistance and therefore lower blood sugar levels.
  • Decreased inflammation.
  • Lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.

 

What to eat during your non-fasting window

Intermittent fasting answers the question of when to eat; but how about the what? Specifically, what should you be eating during your non-fasting window? You could be a diligent, gold star-earning intermittent faster, but your efforts will be for crap if the quality of your food is not up to par.

To read more about my simple meal planning strategy, check out last week’s post HERE and scroll down to the section on: How to Make a PeaceMeal.

 

Intermittent fasting is not for everyone

Although intermittent fasting is safe for most individuals, it is not recommended for individuals who are:

  • Under age 18
  • Underweight (BMI of 18.5 or lower)
  • Suffering from an eating disorder
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding

If you are on insulin, diabetes medication, or any other prescription drug, please check with your doctor before trying intermittent fasting. Also, those with gout or increased uric acid may need supervision, as dehydration raises the level of uric acid in the blood. This is another reason why drinking plenty of water is important during periods of fasting.

If you’d like to give intermittent fasting a try, remember: start with a simple 12-hour fast and then increase the fasting window at your own pace and comfort level.

Resources:
The Effects of Intermittent Energy Restriction on Indices of Cardiometabolic Health
Beneficial effects of intermittent fasting and caloric restriction on the cardiovascular and cerebrovascular systems
Metabolic Effects of Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting interventions for treatment of overweight and obesity in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis
Early Time-Restricted Feeding Improves Insulin Sensitivity, Blood Pressure, and Oxidative Stress Even without Weight Loss in Men with Prediabetes
Intermittent Fasting for Beginners

Mel’s weekly food pick:
NuttZo Bold BiteZ Bar

A couple of weeks ago, I shared my top six favorite nutrition bars on the market. Another great bar to add to your list, the NuttZo Bold BiteZ bar is a perfect blend of a variety of nuts and seeds (cashews, almonds, Brazil nuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds) and lightly sweetened with either honey or maple syrup.

Choose from four varieties: Peanut Pro + Collagen; Power Fuel + Collagen; Power Fuel Maple + Matcha (vegan); Peanut Pro Cacao Nibs + Probiotics (vegan). 

These low-glycemic bars contain between: 12-13 grams of healthy fat; 7-9 grams of net carbohydrates (with 5 grams or less of sugar); and 9-12 grams of protein. Enjoy a NuttZo Bold BiteZ bar along with a 3-cup container of raw veggies and a sliced apple with the skin on…a perfect high-fiber, satisfying, on-the-go lunch!

 

Mel’s weekly recipe pick:
Chocolate Chip “Surprise” Muffins

 

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Chocolate Chip “Surprise” Muffins

February 12th, 2019 | no comments

I’m a cake and muffin girl. Cookies, I can take or leave them.

I chuckle when I think about my idea of a healthy breakfast in the late nineties: a fat-free raisin bran muffin from the local coffee shop, eaten proudly while sipping a sickeningly sweet, fat-free vanilla cappuccino. Oy vey!

I just knew I had to try this recipe when I ran across it on Pinterest.  A muffin that actually tastes good, not too sweet, and actually good for me? Smear a little natural peanut butter, almond butter, or NuttZo nut and seed butter on each half and you’ve got yourself a quick breakfast!

Check out these ingredients:

  • Avocado
  • Raw cacao powder
  • Pure maple syrup as a sweetener
  • Almond flour
  • Unrefined coconut oil

Next time I’m adding chopped walnuts to the batter. Yum!

This recipe was inspired by: paleoglutenfree.com


Print Recipe


Chocolate Chip "Surprise" Muffins

I just knew I had to try this recipe when I ran across it on Pinterest.  A muffin that actually tastes good, not too sweet, and actually good for me? Smear a little natural peanut butter, almond butter, or NuttZo nut and seed butter on each half and you've got yourself a quick breakfast (plus an extra serving of Earthfood)! 1 Earthfood per serving: ♥

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25-30 minutes

Servings
muffins


Ingredients
  • 2 cups almond flour
  • 1 cup avocado about one and a half large avocados, peeled and seeded
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 6 tbsp. raw cacao powder
  • 1/4 cup unrefined coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp. water
  • 2 large organic free-range eggs
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. Sea salt
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25-30 minutes

Servings
muffins


Ingredients
  • 2 cups almond flour
  • 1 cup avocado about one and a half large avocados, peeled and seeded
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 6 tbsp. raw cacao powder
  • 1/4 cup unrefined coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp. water
  • 2 large organic free-range eggs
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. Sea salt
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips


Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a muffin pan with coconut oil or line with parchment cups. In a food processor blend all ingredients until smooth (except chocolate chips).

  2. Fill the muffin pan with batter, then sprinkle with chocolate chips and bake 25-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle of muffin comes out clean.


Recipe Notes

Nutrition Facts per muffinCalories: 285Total Fat: 21 g; Saturated Fat: 8 g; Sodium: 120 mg; Potassium: 135 mg; Total Carbohydrate: 22 g; Dietary fiber: 5 g; Net Carbohydrates: 17 grams; Sugar: 13 g ; Protein: 6 g


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