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Green Smoothies

Until recently, I seriously underestimated smoothies, epecially green smoothies. It sounded kind of gross to me, and even though I love greens, I didn’t know if I wanted to drink them. However, once I learned the health benefits and made some of my own, I can’t get enough of them! We recently went to the beach for a week with some friends and I would love to say that we ate perfectly primal, but that’s just not the truth. We did pretty well though and made sure to get our greens though smoothies. A pile of salad isn’t exactly easily portable for the beach. So green smoothies it was – a great hot weather food!

If you haven’t yet watched this video, I would HIGHLY recommend it. It’s about 18 minutes long and well worth your time. Dr. Terry Wahls is a former Tae Kwon Do champion who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. This progressive disease degenerates your brain and leaves you wheelchair bound.  She describes her transformative experience with a primal diet rich in leafy greens, fruits, vegetables, grass-fed meats, organs (I know, eww – I’m willing to try it though), and seaweed. If this doesn’t motivate you to take a serious look at what you eat, I’m not sure anything will!

I have always enjoyed salads and eat them fairly often. After watching this video, however, I started wondering if I was getting enough. Green smoothies are the perfect way to ensure that you get your in your greens and are a great change up from a daily salad. You can also freeze them for a treat in the morning. I will take one out at night, put it in the fridge and it is ready to drink in the morning (great for busy, rushing out of the door mornings).

Leafy greens (spinach, kale, collards, arugula, lettuce, swiss chard, etc.) are a great source of magnesium, calcium, potassium, manganese, folate, and betaine (helps maintain liver health). So, where to begin in making your green smoothie?You really can just throw in your favorite ingredients and taste test along the way. Here is my favorite way to add green into my smoothie:

1 cup plain yogurt (usually greek)

1 cup orange juice, or 4 fresh squeezed oranges

2 big handfuls of greens (spinach, mixed greens, kale, etc.)

1 ripe avocado (adds some healthy fats)

1 banana (I cut up some and have them in the freezer at all times for easy access)

1 cup mixed berries (I get a huge bag of frozen organic blueberries, blackberries, and rasperries at Costco for about $11)

Ice, until you have reached your desired consistency

Makes about 2 very generous servings or 4-6 smaller servings.

Add the liquid and yogurt to the blender along with the greens. You want to make sure you get the greens mixed well with the liquid before you start adding too many ingredients to ensure that you don’t end up with green chunks. (You can ask my husband how that tastes, haha. I almost turned him off of green smoothies for good with a chunky green one. Luckily I have perfected the recipe and now they are one of his favorite drinks.) After the greens are incorporated well with the liquid, start adding the rest of the ingredients. Pour and enjoy, knowing you are doing a favor to your body!

How do you make sure you get your greens? What is your favorite green smoothie recipe? 

What if you didn’t have to worry about fat? If you wanted that steak for dinner, no guilt. Those veggies covered in grass-fed butter – no problem. That full fat yogurt with berries on top for dessert, go for it.

You probably read that title and thought you were going to read a post about the dangers of saturated fat and how we should stay away from them at all costs. We all know about “artery clogging saturated fats” right? Quite the opposite. Contrary to what we have been told by almost all of the health organizations, saturated fat is not the enemy. Fat is not making you fat, carbs are. Now, there’s a new idea! Let me explain. (Note: I am not a health professional, but have done research on my own and have the personal experience to back it up.)

A little History Lesson

In the 1960’s a scientist named Ancel Keys published his famous Seven Countries Study. His hypothesis was that saturated fat led to heart disease. So, he studied seven countries and they all showed this conclusion, right? Well sort of. He actually studied 22 countries, but fifteen did not fit his original hypothesis so he threw them out! The graph below was his original data (taken from Mark’s Daily Apple). The red dots include three tribes well known for eating high amounts of saturated fat, but having low incidences of heart disease (the Masai, Inuit, and Tokelau).

 If you took any kind of science class in college, you’ve heard about the “lipid hypothesis”. Keys is the father of the lipid hypothesis, which states that saturated fat increases cholestorol, which leads to clogged arteries and heart disease. I’m sure this makes sense to you only because you have heard it for as long as you can remember. However, a closer look at Ancel Keys’ study, notes a correlation (not definitive or conclusive) with increased saturated fat and heart disease. But, he threw out countries that eat a lot of saturated fat and have little heart disease or countries that eat little saturated fat and have high rates of heart disease. All in all, this was not a conclusive or even a good study. But, he got rewarded by getting on the cover of Time magazine and becoming extremely wealthy!

Meanwhile, a scientist named John Yudkin was doing similar studies on sugar and heart disease, but his study gained no traction so you haven’t heard of him.

What is Saturated Fat?

Saturated fat is shelf stable, resistant to heat damage, and essential to bodily functions. It makes up roughly half of our cell membrane structure and is a great source of energy. Saturated fat increases your LDL (“bad” cholesterol) and HDL (good cholesterol). However, there is no correlation of increase in heart disease with increase in cholesterol! Carbohydrate consumption increases triglyceride levels, not fat. Most of the studies done on this aren’t controlled studies, but observational ones meaning they ask people to fill out questionaires of what they ate in the past year, 5 years, 10 years. Who could remember that?

Evidence

In the 1960s and 70s two different doctors working on two different studies decided to prescribe an all meat diet to their patients. This was before saturated fat and meat had all the negative publicity. I’m sure this study would be considered “unethical” by today’s standards. Dr. Blake Donaldson who practiced in Manhattan was trying to help his patients with severe allergies. Dr. Walter Voegtlin in Seattle was trying to figure out a better method of helping his patients with Crohn’s disease. Both of these doctors, independently of the other, found that when the saturated fat content of their patient’s diet increased, belly fat decreased! Not what they were originally looking for, but ground breaking nonetheless. They also found that increased saturated fat improved blood sugar and blood pressure, even in patients who had heart disease already!

7 reasons why you need saturated fat in your diet:

Below are reasons why adding things like fatty cuts of meat, chicken with the skin, bacon, eggs, butter, coconut oil, organic lard, and heavy cream should not be feared…

1. Improved cardiovascular risk factors

Saturated fat reduced lipoprotein(a) is what is associated with heart disease. There is no known medication that can reduce this actual artery clogging lipoprotein. Increased saturated fat has been shown to increase HDL (good cholesterol, you want this number to be high). And interestingly, in women who diet, those who eat more total fat lose the most weight! Now there’s a contradiction to the conventional wisdom that we are taught.

2. Stronger bones

Saturated fat is required for calcium to be effectively incorporated into bone.

3. Improved liver health

Saturated fat protects the liver from toxins (ie: alcohol, medications).

4. Healthy lungs

Lung surfactant, a substance which coats the lungs, is made up of 100% saturated fat. Many doctors believe that the increase in asthma in children may be due to saturated fat being cut from the diet.

5. Healthy brain

The brain is made of fat and cholesterol (mostly saturated fat).

6. Proper nerve signaling

Saturated fat is required for the nerves to function properly as messengers to the organs in the body.

7. Strong Immune system

Loss of sufficient saturated fat in the white blood cells hampers their ability to recognize and destroy foreign invaders. –fourhourworkweek

So there you have it. The truth for which conventional wisdom has been oblivious. You can have your steak and eat it too!

Feeding the Primal Baby

Lots of people ask me how they are supposed to eliminate grains from their kids’ diets. This is a hard topic to answer for me especially since I did not have any kids. It’s easy to give answers, but with no experience to back it up, it was hard to empathize. Now that my daughter is 6 months old and starting to eat solid food, I thought it might be helpful to write about her eating habits in an effort to give support to those moms out there trying to do their best nutritionally for their children, but unsure exactly where to turn. (Note: I am not an expert and you should talk with your child’s pediatrician about your choices.)

As my daughter began to approach the 6 month mark, I started thinking about feeding her solid foods. I was bound and determined to not give her anything but breast milk until the day she turned 6 months old, but her curiosity and impatience won out. Every bite of food I put in my mouth she was grabbing and trying to eat it and would stare at my food the way a begging dog does at your feet. So, a couple weeks after she turned 5 months I caved.

As I dove deeper in my research of baby’s first foods, almost everything I read suggested that I had to start with rice cereal. As you know by now, I like to question conventional wisdom and knew that this didn’t have to be the only way. The main reasoning I found for starting with rice cereal was that it is (theoretically) an easier transition for baby than real food (taste & consistency). However, if you wait until baby is closer to 6 months to start eating food, they have usually developed the skills to eat a more textured food. It isn’t even necessary to make separate baby food. There may be times when buying jars of baby food may be the most convenient, but when you think about the fact that a large part is water (to maintain consistency) it really may not be the most cost effective. I found that just picking a vegetable we were having for dinner and mashing it to a consistency she could handle was the easiest approach. It also keeps us accountable for what we eat. If we are eating fries and a milkshake, we will obviously not have food to give her from our dinner.

Her first bite of real food was avocado. This is a great first food because it is high in fat, which baby needs, and nutritionally puts a whole bowl full of rice cereal to shame. The first few bites were definitely video worthy – hilarious. But, after a few bites she became curious and seemed to really enjoy it. I knew that it was best to wait a few days after introducing a new food to make sure she did not have any allergies, so I waited a few days then fed her more avocado and some carrots. This time, it was like she knew what was happening, she couldn’t wait to eat! She ate about 1/8 of an avocado and some steamed carrots I had mashed up with my fork, and loved it!

So by 6 months she has eaten avocado, carrots, butternut squash, sweet potato, cauliflower, spinach, banana, and sucked on a piece of apple that I was eating by grabbing it out of my hand! She just had her 6 month check up and she is growing right on track!

More updates to come as she grows…

What was your experience with feeding your little ones? What were some good first foods you tried or things you may have done differently?

Parsnips

If you are like me, you haven’t eaten too many parsnips in your day. Recently, however, I came across a recipe from Sarah Fragasso from everydaypaleo which included these blonde looking carrots and I thought I would give them a try.

This native Eurasian root vegetable has been eaten since ancient times. A relative to the carrot, but unique in their spicy sweet taste, this winter vegetable requires low soil temperatures to acquire their flavor and is grown in sandy, silty, or rocky soil. While the root of the parsnip is edible, care must be taken when gardening them. Parsnips’ shoots and leaves contain a photosensitive chemical that can cause inflammation of the skin if protective clothing is not worn. The condition is a type of chemical burn which can cause redness, tingling, and blisters. So, as you enjoy the tasty vegetable you can be thankful for the gardener who endured this instead of you!

Although parsnips are a close relative of carrots, they are richer in vitamins and minerals, namely potassium and fiber. While they can be eaten raw, the most common uses are boiled or roasted. In some parts of the English speaking world, parsnips are a mainstay for a traditional Christmas meal and are often paired with the Sunday roast. They can also be fried or thinly sliced into veggie chips (definitely trying this soon!).

I found Sarah’s recipe Pan Seared Chicken with Curried Parsnips and of course did a little tweaking of my own and it was so good I made it 2 nights in a row!

So, now on to the recipe…

Ingredients

about 1.5 pounds of chicken thighs (I have started eating thighs more for the cost and they are much juicier and tender than breasts)

2-4 parsnips, peeled and chopped

2-4 carrots, peeled and chopped (optional)

1/2 yellow onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon curry powder

1 Bosc pear, peeled and diced (I didn’t have a pear the second time I made it and it was still very good)

1/2 cup chicken broth

1/4 cup full fat coconut milk

salt & pepper to taste

2-3 tablespoons coconut oil

Directions

1. In a large skillet melt the coconut oil.

2. While oil is melting cut up chicken thighs and season with salt & pepper. Once skillet is sizzling hot, place chicken into skillet and cook through.

3. Remove chicken from the pan and set aside.

4. In the same skillet, add another tablespoon coconut oil and add diced onions. Saute for 2-3 minutes.

5. Add parsnips (and carrots if using) and cook until parsnips start to brown (for me it was between 10-15 minutes).

6. Add garlic and pear and saute for another 2-3 minutes.

7. Sprinkle the curry powder all over the veggie mixture, pour in coconut milk and chicken broth, and stir well. Bring the mixture to a simmer and continue cooking until the parsnips and carrots are tender throughout and the sauce starts to thicken.

8. Top the mixture with chicken and let simmer for another few minutes.

Since I made it two nights in a row, we ate it by itself the first night and then with sauteed kale (in bacon fat, yum) the next.

Finished product!

Primal Living

Walking into any grocery store check out line you are immediately bombarded with new fad diets and how some celebrity lost 20 pounds by “just eating ____”. Well, as we all know, somehow it worked for them, but it never works for us. The reason is because anyone can lose weight by just eating some miracle food, but for how long and at what cost? These fad diets may help you lose weight, but you end up with no energy and food becomes boring. Who wants to eat just lettuce or beans or whatever? Wouldn’t you rather lose weight, feel great, AND enjoy your food at the same time? Keep reading…

What is the primal lifestyle?

In short: eat meat and plants. That’s it. Eating a primal diet is simple. However, in our modern age, we are so reliant on processed and convenience foods (including items like cereal grains, packaged breads, bagels, etc.: see below) that it does take a bit of a paradigm shift to actually do this.

Short history of wheat

It wasn’t until roughly 10,000 years ago that humans started eating grains. These grains were very different from the grains we consume today. As a result of human intervention and the need to produce more wheat per acre, we have “invented” over 25,000 types of wheat.

The way we eat today has changed more in the last 50 years than in the previous 10,000.  – Food, Inc.

The type of wheat we have been consuming over the past 50 years is the result of geneticist Dr. Norman Borlaug. This “dwarf” wheat is short, stocky, and fast growing. The problem is that this wheat was created as a result of genetic engineering and gene splicing ,which can’t even survive in nature without the use of modern fertilizers and pesticides.

Why you don’t want to eat wheat

Dr. Davis [Wheat Belly] recounts an experiment he conducted on himself to compare the different impacts of ancient wheat and modern wheat on his blood sugar. He managed to find some einkorn wheat [that most likely was eaten during biblical times] and made bread from it. Two slices of that bread raised his blood sugar from 86 mg/dl to 110. Not bad. Then he made bread from modern whole wheat – you know, the stuff the USDA says is the key to great health. Two slices raised his blood sugar from 84 mg/dl to 167. That’s diabetes territory. – Tom Naughton, Fat Head

That alone should raise a few eyebrows and cause you to turn away from wheat. If it doesn’t, here are more reasons. Wheat contains three anti-nutrients: lectins, gluten, and phytates.

Gluten is a protein found in grains that break down the lining of your small intestine. This break down eventually leeches food into your blood stream causing allergies, digestive issues, and autoimmune problems. Although some people noticeably suffer from this more than others (ie. Celiac disease), almost everyone has some sort of reaction to gluten. Lectins are mild toxins which inhibit the repair of your gastrointestinal tract. And phytates strip your body of nutrients. Wow, makes you want to grab that bowl of cereal right?

Today, as I said before we have convenience at our finger tips and greed has its hand in everything including the food industry. Just because the FDA puts their seal of approval on something does not make it gold. In fact, I might even question it more since they are funded by many of the food companies, so they often have a biased opinion.

Apart from maintaining social conventions in certain situations and obtaining cheap sugar calories, there is absolutely no reason to eat grains. – Mark’s Daily Apple

You are probably thinking: don’t I need the fiber? What about carbohydrates? How do you get your “whole grain”?

Fiber: You don’t need all the fiber you think you do. Ever wonder why that Fiber one cereal or extra fiber bread gives you stomach issues the rest of the day? It’s because the fiber you eat is actually banging up against the “cells lining the gastrointestinal tract and rupturing their outer covering” (study). Doesn’t sound too pleasant to me. You do need some fiber, but you get plenty from vegetables and fruits.

Carbohydrates: I’m sure you know this, but just in case: vegetables do have enough carbohydrates for your daily needs. It’s not just bread, pasta, cereal, and rice as the food pyramid tries to convince us.

Whole wheat: Many well intentioned people make the switch to whole wheat bread or whole wheat pasta thinking they have made a significant stride in their health when in actuality, it’s really a moot point; both contain lots of sugar.

“Two slices of whole grain bread increase blood sugar higher than table sugar, higher than many candy bars… This leads to higher and more frequent rises in insulin, which, in turn, creates insulin resistance, the condition that leads to diabetes… Wheat products elevate blood sugar levels more than virtually any other carbohydrate, from beans to candy bars.”                                 – William Davis, M.D. author of Wheat Belly

So, if you are feeling depressed after reading this, don’t. Once you eliminate grains from your diet, your tastes will change and you will no longer crave them the way you did before. It’s true! My taste for sugar has drastically decreased. I now drink unsweet tea (and being from the south that’s a big deal!) and even love the taste of plain greek yogurt! Trust me, as a recovering cereal-0-holic, several months into eliminating grains I had the urge to eat a bowl of cereal, cheerios and wheat chex, doesn’t sound too bad right? Not only did the taste not live up to what I remember, but within 30 minutes after eating it, I had a headache. Not worth it in my opinion!

So find some encouragement and take baby steps. I would suggest eliminating grains and wheat for 30 days and see how you feel. If you don’t notice a difference then you can go back to the way you were eating (I doubt that will happen), no loss there. I promise you won’t even feel like you are giving anything up after a while!

Almond Banana Pancakes

These pancakes are not only tasty, but nutritious and easy!

Ingredients

1 egg

1 banana, mashed into a puree

1 tablespoon almond butter

Directions

1. Heat a skillet until it sizzles when a drop of water hits it.

2. Mix all ingredients together while skillet is heating.

3. Melt a little butter on the pan and cook like pancakes! (note: it does take a little longer to cook than regular pancakes)

Eat them plain or top with butter, berries (I have Costco’s frozen ones on hand at all times) or drizzle honey or pure maple syrup on top. This recipe makes about 4 pancakes.

Variations:

I usually add a teaspoon each of vanilla and cinnamon

I’ve also made pumpkin pancakes by adding half pureed pumpkin and half almond butter – great Fall treat!

 

Hot Chocolate

Nothing is better on a cold day than curling up on the couch with a hot chocolate. But, do you know what’s in your run of the mill hot chocolate mix? Here’s the list from a company that shall remain nameless: Sugar, Corn Syrup, Modified Whey, Cocoa (Processed With Alkali), Hydrogenated Coconut Oil, Nonfat Milk, Calcium Carbonate, Less Than 2% Of: Salt, Dipotassium Phosphate, Mono- And Diglycerides, Carrageenan, Acesulfame Potassium, Sucralose, Artificial Flavor.

If you just got really confused and thought you were doing a science experiment, I’ll bring you back to reality. When you see how easy and tastier it is to make your own hot chocolate, you will have no need for the store brand powder. Here’s the simple ingredient list:

100% Cocoa powder

Milk (I use whole, much better taste)

coconut milk (lite) – key ingredient!

Honey to sweeten

Directions

1. In a medium sized mug pour half milk, half coconut milk. Heat in microwave for about a minute.

2. In a mixing bowl add 1 tablespoon cocoa powder and add milk mixture. Use a wisk to mix the two well.

3. Pour your mixture back in the mug and reheat for another minute. Add Honey to sweeten.

Done. How easy was that? No more questionable hot chocolate powder in your future!