Miraculous Magnesium

swiss chard 1.11.16

As I was harvesting some Swiss chard from my winter garden this morning, it reminded me of how often overlooked and yet valuable the mineral magnesium is.  I realize this isn’t something we think about on a regular basis yet it is not only an essential mineral in our diet but we often tend to be deficient in it.

Magnesium is such a major player in our health.  It is the single most important mineral for maintaining proper electrical balance and is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body.

It is estimated that 60%-80% of Americans aren’t getting enough magnesium in their diet due to lack of vegetables, poor food choices and farming practices.  Supplementation is definitely something to consider and yet the first step really should come from our diet.  Amongst the best sources of magnesium are leafy green vegetables, seeds, nuts and legumes.  Here are some of the top foods:

  • Spinach
  • Swiss Chard
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Cashews
  • Summer squash like zucchini or crookneck
  • Avocados
  • Black beans

As for the benefits of magnesium, there are plenty:

  • Creates and maintains bone health
    • 50%-60% of magnesium is stored in the bone and consequently plays a significant role in bone metabolism
    • Adequate magnesium in your diet improves bone mineral density
  • Enables energy production as it is a vital component in the production of ATP, a high energy molecule found in every cell
    • Low levels of magnesium can be one of the factors in low energy or fatigue
  • Maintains a healthy nervous system by working with calcium in forming an electrical current
    • Low levels can result in anxiety, irritability, agitation, insomnia and confusion
  • It is a vital nutrient in the prevention of chronic inflammation as it modulates cellular events involved in inflammation
    • Studies indicate that low levels of chronic inflammation are the cause of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma and more
  • Enhances control of blood sugars
    • Magnesium is a co-factor in over 100 enzymes involved in controlling blood sugar and glucose metabolism

Magnesium is becoming more and more recognized as a vital macro nutrient that we just don’t get enough of.  Even medical researchers are recommending increasing the RDA to almost double current amounts.

To start you in the direction of adding magnesium to your diet, here is an easy and delicious salad that will give you lots of magnesium.  Quantities are not listed as they will vary based on the number of people enjoying this delicious salad.

Dressing:

  • 3 parts Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 part Champagne Vinegar or high quality, aged Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 tsp or more Fish Sauce*
  • Fresh ground black pepper

Place above ingredients in a jar with fitted lid.  Shake thoroughly.

Salad:

  • Swiss chard, ribs removed
  • Kale, ribs removed
  • Parsley leaves
  • Spinach
  • Pumpkin seeds, toasted
  • Avocado, sliced
  • Red bell pepper, cut to desired shape
  • Zucchini, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • Dried apricots cut into long strips

Clean and tear into bite size pieces the first 4 greens and place in salad bowl.  Drizzle salad dressing on, mix and set aside for at least 30 minutes.  Note:  Since these leafy greens are a bit tougher than regular lettuce, this will allow them time to soften and get sweeter.

After 30 minutes add the balance of the ingredients and toss salad.  Serve and enjoy!

*Fish sauce is found in most markets in the Asian section and provides the dressing with umami, a savory taste.  You don’t need to use a lot.  It will have no ‘fish’ taste and yet will give the dressing a more rounded, pleasant taste.  Try it, you‘ll love it!

This is just one way to add some wonderful healthy food sources of magnesium into your daily routine.  Be creative and see how you can start adding more to make 2016 be even a healthier year!

In health,

Julie

 

 

 

Going Green for Your Carbohydrates

Suffer from joint pain?

Do you have chronic inflammation?

Want to lose a few pounds?

If you have answered yes to any of these questions then you might want to read on…

If you have read any of the articles in my blog, chances are you know about how I feel about carbohydrates – especially simple ones.  By ‘simple’ I mean those items that have been processed to create a product such as scones, pasta, breads, cookies, cakes, and more.  Let’s face it, these aforementioned foods are yummy and addictive!  I know as I go through periods of time when I crave them just like the rest of America.

Usually I am pretty good at avoiding them on any regular basis but occasionally I slip.  This last weekend was a perfect example.  I was visiting my mother in California for a long weekend.  She has been recovering from Ovarian Cancer and is doing amazingly well for an 89 year old woman – has regained 23 pounds, is back to all her social events, going to the gym and even walking her ‘old 2 mile route’ that she did for years.  Yes, she is a trooper!

While in California, at the 1 mile marker of her ‘route’ lays a small town called Sierra Madre.  On the main drag is a coffee shop called Bean Town.  Well, they have the best cranberry scones ever.  Of course a visit to see mom always involves a day of going to Bean Town but this time it got out of hand.  We ended up going there all three mornings in a row!  Now I did vary one day and have their cinnamon coffee cake instead but… well you get the picture.

By starting each day out this way, lead to wanting more carbohydrates throughout the day.  Consequently I ended up eating bread as well as crackers rather than just the usual huge salads.  I even had a cookie one day!  This is a lot of these types of food in a very short period of time for my body.  Normally having one of those things every week or two wouldn’t really make a difference but the quantity and frequency played havoc on me and it got me to thinking how this has such a huge impact on peoples’ health.

By the time I got home late Monday evening, my joints started screaming.  By Tuesday morning, when I did my usual hike up Mt Sanitas, my knees were so cranky it took the pleasure out of the hike.  At first I couldn’t figure out what was going on but then it hit me… all those simple carbohydrates!!!  I had already started back to my usual eating habits of vegetables and protein so was on the right track yet it actually took until this morning (Friday) to start feeling normal again.  So let’s look at what happens…

First, simple processed carbohydrates are acid producing.  By this I mean that when they are broken down in the body, they create ash that is of an acid nature.  Not only is all disease found in an acid environment but so is inflammation.  Our bodies are always healthier in an alkaline environment and yet our tendency is to eat foods that are acid producing including all the refined foods I’ve already mentioned.  Now the foods themselves do not cause the inflammation but rather it is our body’s response to them when they are broken down.  Foods that have a high glycemic index and consequently convert into sugar quickly alter our body’s normal hormone balance.  This imbalance can result in an overproduction of such things as C-reactive protein (CRP); a protein designed to be produced during acute stages of trauma, infection and inflammation.  Although we need CRP produced in acute phases we certainly do not need it to be continually produced.  Just this one protein has a huge impact on the health of our cardiovascular system.  And this is just to name one of the many negative results of eating refined foods.

The picture gets even more involved as those same yummy foods lead to an increase in weight.  When we eat foods that break down quickly into sugar our body MUST burn it off rapidly or it is converted into fat, especially belly fat.  This belly fat in turn causes an increase in the production of CRP by the liver and the inflammatory response is again increased.  As you can see it is a vicious cycle.

Unfortunately as our society gets more and more addicted to these foods our bodies become sicker.  We begin to become accustom to our joints hurting.  We think it is normal to carry around an extra 5 or 10 or 50 pounds of body fat.  We tend to accept all of this as a normal process of aging. 

Well for me, I don’t buy it!  When I am eating a healthy, high alkaline diet and staying away from process foods most of the time, I feel SO different.  I feel energetic and happier.  My joints don’t ache.  I don’t have an issue with excess weight because I am utilizing the foods I eat so they aren’t storing as fat in my body.  Overall I am more vitalized. 

You shouldn’t buy it either!  I hope you will consider altering your diet to see how all this affects you.  It won’t happen overnight if you’ve been eating poorly – even just part of the time – but it will change.  I encourage you to give it a good 3 or 4 months and keep a journal of how it has created positive changes in your life.

As for carbohydrates, think of using vegetables as your main source.  Vegetables, especially leafy green ones, not only contain a healthy amount of carbohydrates but they contain so many nutrients and antioxidants.  They are our vitality foods.  Our cells will be healthier, our hormones will stay more balanced and generally our bodies will stay younger.  Of course there is also the benefit of keeping your weight down by eating vegetables.  Just read Jim’s story here:

“I’m a 55 year old male. Since I was 25 I have worked out a minimum of five times a week for at least one hour per session.  When I was younger, that meant running 40-50 miles per week.  Now my workouts involve running three times a week and lifting weights 3-5 times.  My total mileage is 13-18 miles per week.  This has been my regime for the past ten years.  I never worried about what I ate as my workouts kept me at my high school weight of 168 pounds.  It’s true that the past decade has seen a pound or two increase in my weight each year.  New Years Day 2010 was my epiphany, as the scale read 180+.  I cut out all the non-vegetable carbs the first two weeks of this year and have limited my carb intake to less than 20 grams a day (all right so I cheated on Easter Sunday, I indulged with pastries at brunch and of course a Cadbury egg).  Today I weight 168.  I sleep better, my digestive system works much better and seeing the scale at 168 is a huge mental boost.”

So think about your diet and see if you too can’t offer your body the many benefits of eating foods that are more nourishing to your entire system.  Here are some guidelines to follow:

  • Eat a minimum of 70% of your diet from the alkaline side of the food chart.  For a copy of the chart, download this pdf.
  • Eat at least 80% of the time healthy; saving the ‘not so good’ foods for special occasions rather than daily. 
  • Make a journal or chart of not only what you eat now but how you feel so you can track the changes.  This is a great motivator when you are falling back into those bad habits.
  • Even if you think you eat well, you might be surprised just how often you ‘cheat’ and eat some of those processed foods more regularly than you ever thought.
  • Last, be gentle with yourself.  It is not an easy thing to change addictive behaviors and even easier to allow them back in.  When you fall off the health wagon, note it but don’t beat yourself up about it.  Simply get back on the right track and move forward.

I hope this has motivated you to make choices and changes.  You deserve it!