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

 

 

 

In Honor of Jack LaLanne

I was first introduced to health and exercise when I joined a Jack LaLanne Health Spa at 16 years old.  In looking back I really don’t know what made me do that but it did start me on the path to health I have been on every since. 

Over the years I would reflect on Jack and his teachings.  As I have gotten older I have tried to motivate other people in considering to choose health as an alternative way of living.  I had dreams of teaching health in corporations in hopes that people would see that eating well really isn’t that difficult and yet the rewards are great.  I even emailed Jack LaLanne last year to see how he inspires others.  I was told to just keep on the path.

I was struck, in going to his website at that time, by how he essentially was preaching the same basic nutrition advice 50 years ago that is still true today – eat real food and exercise regularly.  Times really haven’t changed in what is healthy for us and yes it does take discipline but is so worth it!

So in honor of Jack and a life filled with the desire to motivate others to live a healthy full life, I salute him.  Here are just two videos showing just how amazing he really was…

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!

Is Your Farmer’s Market All Organic?

I have been traveling a great deal to Pasadena, California to take care of my mother this year.  She has been battling cancer which I am glad to report seems to be in remission!

 

While I have been there I discovered there was a Farmer’s Market on Saturdays near where she lived.  I was so delighted to find it since I am totally addicted to our Boulder Farmer’s Market and rarely miss a Saturday during season.  I did notice when I went to the one in Pasadena that they had a big sign saying the produce was local but didn’t mention organic.  Consequently I made note of which stands specifically mentioned organic or ‘not sprayed’ as in the case of one of the strawberry stands and purchased from them.  It made me appreciate the Boulder market even more as I assumed it was totally organic. 

This week my friend Rowan Rozanski from Jay Hill Farm, where I buy all my greens every week, sent out an email on the entire organic subject.  I was sad to learn that not all is as seems, even in our Boulder Farmer’s Market.  I have asked her to share the following with you so as to better educate you about your local farmer’s market.  I hope you find it as enlightening as I did!

From Rowan…

This last bit is… well… a rant.  Feel free to skip it, but I think this is something that applies to anyone who tries to buy local and organic.  🙂   

One of our long term customers, Christine, recently asked:  

“On a completely different note, I read an article this morning about California Farmers’ Markets where the vendors are supposed to be growing their produce organically— but do not.  There’s simply not enough oversight to ensure they are meeting organic standards.  How does the Boulder Farmer’s Market ensure that all vendors are selling organic produce?”

She was referring to this article, which ran in the Huffington Post last week: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/07/09/california-organic-food-s_n_640654.html

She is not the first person to ask this question.  While the Boulder County Farmer’s Market, as my father and other early board members envisioned it, was to be an organic and local vendor’s dream, much of the dream has disappeared for the sake of plentiful vegetables and fruit.  While still local, there’s very little focus on Certified Organic growers.  Many of the new vendors over the last few years have in fact been the antithesis of what my family and I stand for.  

Please understand, this is not a rant about the market, it’s a problem of perception throughout many communities in America.  Farm stands around the country have been known to prevaricate as well.  “Family”, “Local”, “Home Grown” are all phrases that mean absolutely nothing. It is ILLEGAL to claim your produce is organic unless you are certified by the USDA and the state of Colorado or unless your yearly farm income is less than $5,000 a year. 

Many of the farms at BCFM are NOT organic.  ASK! When you hear a sentence like “we don’t spray”, that means absolutely nothing.  You don’t have to spray nitrogen, miracle grow, or any other substance to add it to the soil, ground water and produce.  Once of my biggest gripes with the market was that you can only use “Organic” on your sign if you’re certified, but nothing says you have to say “not organic”  Most people simply assume it’s all good, and go for the lower priced items that are not organic.  This is unfair and harmful to those of us who are certified. Yes, our prices are higher, but there’s a reason for that! 

The organic certification process is over 60 pages of documentation, almost $1000 a year, and requires a 3-5 hour inspection by a certifier once a year.  We buy organic seed (NEVER treated) when available at a high (sometimes more than double) premium, and make sure our compost and nutrients meet federal standards.  It’s a grueling, expensive process that is necessary, and worthwhile, for your peace of mind and ours.  *sigh* 

If you would like to see what farms in Colorado ARE certified, you can check at:

http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/Agriculture-Main/CDAG/1216022437979 (click on certified organic producers). 

Please understand that this rant is not to inveigle you into buying more produce from Jay Hill Farm.  Buy wherever you want! It’s so that folks understand the difficulties faced by those of us who give our word to you and your families that we are doing our best to grow locally, sustainably, and with as much care for the earth and our fellow man as we can. 

Thanks for your understanding and time! 

Cheers, 

Rowan

Using Food to Normalize Weight

By Dan Butterfield

This is not about a diet to lose weight, then go back to your regular diet.  This is about a relationship to food that we can be faithful to for life, that will keep us healthy and help maintain a normal weight.

What helps most to lose weight?  Diet or exercise?  Diet is the most important piece of the weight loss picture.  Exercise, while important for health, is less important for weight loss.  In other words, you can be inactive and lose weight.  But if you don’t have food working for you, it takes a lot of exercise to lose weight, and depending on how you exercise, it may actually cause you to lose more lean body mass than fat.  When we lose weight, we want that weight loss to be fat, not lean body mass.

Why are we fatter?  Not just Americans, but worldwide obesity is rampant.  There are a number of reasons; we eat too much; don’t exercise enough, our foods are denatured from industrial farming and food processing, our metabolisms are stressed and we’re too toxic to lose weight.

For now, I’m going to focus on one thing, the hormone insulin.  Our DNA, our anatomy, our physiology and our nutritional needs are virtually unchanged in the past 40,000 years.  If you compressed all of human history into one year, we’ve only been farming and eating grains for the past day.  We’ve only been eating vegetables oils for the past ten minutes.  We’ve not yet adapted to these foods.

Humans evolved in a carbohydrate poor environment.  The hormone insulin is designed to maximize the effects of the few carbohydrates that were available to enable us to survive.  Insulin helps us store excess energy as fat.  Now that we live in a carbohydrate rich environment, eating far more carbohydrates than were ever available to humans before, insulin still maximizes the effects of abundant carbs into abundant stored energy in the form of body fat.

There is only one teaspoon of sugar in our entire blood supply.  Our bodies maintain tight control over blood sugar, as a little too much or too little blood sugar and we will pass out and die.  So the pancreas secretes two hormones, insulin and glucagon, which have opposite effects, ideally balancing our blood sugar.

So when we have a breakfast of cornflakes with some sugar, two pieces of toast with jam, a big glass of orange juice and 3 cups of coffee or tea with a spoonful of sugar in each one, if those 20 teaspoons of sugar went right into our blood stream we’d drop into a diabetic coma then die.  But the pancreas secretes insulin to first carry glucose into any cells that need energy then converts any of the excess to storage as fat.

Most cells in our body have thousands of insulin receptors, in which a molecule of insulin is required to bring a molecule of glucose into the cell.  When there is a chronically high intake of carbohydrates, specifically sugars and starches, which turn into sugar very rapidly, insulin levels stay elevated, eventually causing insulin receptors to shut down, making it more difficult for the body to dispose of extra glucose.  This is called insulin resistance causing more bodyfat, and sooner or later high blood sugar, leading to diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other inflammatory disorders.

This is known as metabolic syndrome or insulin resistance.  Insulin resistance is one of the main reasons that as we age, it becomes more difficult to lose weight.  Our cell walls are damaged.  Out metabolisms are damaged.

So what do we do to repair our cell walls and our metabolism?  As Michael Pollan says “Eat real food.”  But more specifically, eat foods that don’t stimulate the secretion of insulin.

A low fat diet really means a high carbohydrate diet, an insulin stimulating diet, putting our metabolism into fat storage mode.  The low fat fad of the past 20-25 years has stimulated the tide of obesity and diabetes.

Dietary fat does not cause an insulin response.  Protein causes insulin release, but a corresponding release of glucagon, insulin’s partner, which tells the body to burn fat.  Sugars and starches however do cause insulin release, and no glucagon release.  Dietary fat does not make you fat.  Carbs do.  To heal our cell membranes, our metabolisms, our organs, our bodies and minds, we need to give them the foods that our bodies evolved on.  That means moving in the direction of our ancestral diets, sometimes called the Paleolithic diet or Paleo diet for short, for the time in human evolution when carbs were scarce, or infrequent, keeping in mind that our nutritional needs are unchanged in 40,000 years.

So what does a paleo breakfast look like? 

First of all, if you don’t eat breakfast, or mostly carbs, you end up eating yourself for breakfast, especially your muscles and bones – also called lean body mass.  We all wish that we’d burn bodyfat if we skip a meal, but what we burn is lean body mass.  And to make it worse, the next meal we have after a skipped meal, the body doubles the insulin release, increasing energy storage, because skipping meals, especially breakfast, tells the body that food is scarce, better store more fat.

A paleo breakfast is protein and fat abundant, carbohydrate poor.  Eggs, sausage, bacon, free range of course, or grass fed beef, bison or lamb.  Fresh fish for breakfast.  This is the most important meal to have protein.  Fat and protein will elevate our metabolism and keep insulin low and hunger at bay.  If you are hungry between meals, that means your insulin is elevated.  Fat and protein for breakfast gives us more long lasting energy and stable blood sugar the rest of the day.  When we have a carbohydrate breakfast, or no breakfast, our blood sugar is on a roller coaster all day, and we are trying to medicate it with coffee or sugar and other carbs.

We do want some carbohydrates at breakfast and every other meal as well.  We want low glycemic carbohydrates.  These are the above-ground vegetables.  Especially dark green leafy vegetables, such as kale, broccoli, chard, spinach and collards. 

What did I have for breakfast?  Two eggs, local pork sausage and kale, stir fried in coconut oil.   When we sit down to a paleomeal, our plate should be 3/4 produce, and 3/4 of that should be above ground vegetables, the rest root crops and fruits, but fruit must be restricted because of the sugar content, and most of our fruits should be berries.

The other 1/4 of our plate is protein, preferably animal protein such as grass fed meats, wild caught fish, and high omega 3 eggs.

How do we apportion our calories between fat, protein and carbs?  Just as this varied in the thousands of different paleo diets that human evolved on, depending where on the planet they lived, it will vary with each of us as well, depending on where we live and our individual needs.  But, if you need some numbers, 40-60% of our calories should come from fat, 20-35% from protein, and 10-20% from carbohydrates, as vegetables and fruit. 

This way of eating, reduces insulin secretion, and fat storage.  It encourages the body to use fat as fuel.

All of our foods should be nutrient dense.  That means more nutrients per calorie.  Above ground vegetables and animal and seafoods and fats are the most nutrient dense.  Brown rice? whole wheat? quinoa? Lots of calories as starches, few as protein or fat or other nutrients.

Here are some basic guidelines to use food to lose weight and maintain a normal weight:

Eat breakfast.  Eat protein for breakfast.  Eat three meals daily.  Have protein and fat at every meal.  Eat a high produce diet, mostly above ground vegetables.  Eat a low glycemic diet, avoiding sugars, starches and grains.  Don’t snack between meals.  If you are hungry between meals, you might not have had enough protein or fat, or you had carbs the previous meal, or as I said earlier, you are hungry because you are insulin resistant.  So if you become hungry between meals, first drink one or two glasses of water.  If you must eat between meals, make it protein and fat, such as a hard boiled egg, jerky, or nuts.  Avoid fruit juices and dried fruit as they are high in sugar.  And lastly, don’t eat before bed.

Let me make a few comments about fruit.  Fruit is high in sugar, especially fruit juice and dried fruits.  Fructose is readily converted to fat.  If you are trying to reach a normal weight, avoid fruit.  Keep it to one serving daily, and make that one fruit serving berries, especially blueberries, raspberries and blackberries.  These still have some sugar, but are more nutrient dense than other fruits.  So keep this formula in mind – fruits equal sugar which equals stored body fat.

Here’s another formula to keep in mind – starches equal sugar which equals stored bodyfat.  So, chips, crackers, pasta, breads, cookies and grains of all forms, including whole grains, all turn into sugar, much of which becomes stored bodyfat.  Every farmer knows that if you want to fatten an animal, give it grains.

Fat and protein produce the most satiety, the absence of hunger, we feel like we’ve had enough to eat.  Carbs do not produce satiety.  That’s why it’s so easy to eat that whole bag of chips or cookies.  They never truly satisfy.

For most people, it is easier to make dietary changes gradually.  Begin by removing processed and packaged foods.  Day by day, reduce sugars, starches, dried fruits, fruit juices and grains replace these things with leafy greens.  Slowly increase protein and healthy fats.  Above all, enjoy shopping, cooking and eating.

Dan Butterfield is a regular contributor to the Health and Nutrition Experts blog.  To learn more about Dan VISIT HIS WEBSITE.  

This lecture was also recorded with additional questions regarding Glycemic Index / Glycemic Load and questions for the vegetarian.  I am hoping the podcast will be up here soon!  Come back and check. 

For more information on the Glycemic Index, check out THIS SITE.

January Cooking Tip – Enhancing Flavors in Soup & Chili

If you would like to make your soups and chili’s more flavorful, here are two simple things you can do that really make a huge difference:

  1. Finely chop any vegetables.  When vegetables are cut into small, uniform pieces, they cook more quickly and evenly, and also release a good deal more flavor, than large irregular cuts.
  2. Prepare the day ahead.  The nice thing about this is that you can plan ahead and make a soup or chili ahead of time for one of those nights (or breakfasts) that you don’t have the time to cook.  In addition, by allowing time, the flavors will have a change to integrate and become richer.