Monthly Archives: April 2014

Eliminate Sugar Cravings with Bitter Foods

Dandelion Greens with Wehani Rice Dandelion Greens with Wehani Rice, image permissions

Oftentimes people try to eliminate sugar cravings by increasing their consumption of naturally sweet foods, such as fruit, dates, and natural sweeteners such as honey and maple syrup.  While these foods are certainly better choices than refined sugar, I find that this switch alone isn’t effective at eliminating the crushing sugar cravings that many sugar-addicted people experience.  In fact, only switching to naturally sweet foods can make sugar cravings worse.

One of the most effective tips I’ve witnessed in my clients in eliminating even the worst sugar cravings is to increase consumption of bitter foods.  In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) sweet and bitter are viewed as opposite flavors – yin vs. yang.  Eating too much sugary and sweet foods places the body in a state of imbalance and causes a snowballing of sugar cravings.  The best way to balance the body is therefore to increase the consumption of bitter foods – think about balancing an old-fashioned scale with weights on both sides.

Bitter foods also have the advantage of being some of the most detoxifying and nourishing for the body.  This article written recently by Dr. Andrew Weil describes how important bitter foods are in the diet and their many benefits.

Add bitter foods, such as arugula, dandelion greens, endive, green tea, and even unsweetened cocoa nibs (the stuff chocolate is made from) to your diet several times per day to decrease your overall sugar cravings.  Eating a teaspoon of cocoa nibs or drinking a cup of green tea is a very effective and immediate cure for acute sugar cravings.

As time passes and you continue [...]

Sweet Potato Tacos with Black Beans and Corn

Sweet potato, black bean and corn tacos Sweet Potato Tacos with Black Beans and Corn

These sweet potato tacos are as delicious as they are beautiful to look at.  Taco night really is awesome: tortillas keep easily in the freezer and thaw quickly, toppings are generally easy to throw together, and everyone can assemble their own tacos the way they want them- practically the definition of family friendly!

I love traditional tacos with savory and satisfying ground meat, blackened fish, and even shrimp.  But I wanted to try something a little lighter – still savory, but a little sweet as well.  So I browsed around for inspiration and found these Honey-Lime Sweetened Sweet Potato, Black Bean and Corn Tacos at cookingclassy.com.  I adapted the recipe a smidge – reducing the sweetness and adding a jalapeno for flavor and spice.  The results were delicious and surprisingly fast to prepare.  I remember looking at my clock and thinking I had a good 10 minutes of empty space to fill before I needed to call the kids to the table (at this point in life that feels like practically an eternity, and it’s not a feeling I have often while preparing dinner!).  

My husband doesn’t like sweet potatoes, so I simply pulled some of the bean and corn mixture aside before mixing in the sweet potatoes.  You could certainly do the same if you have a sweet potato non-eater.  Again, the beauty of tacos!

Tasty Taco Toppings Tasty Taco Toppings

Sweet Potato Tacos [...]

Does Sugar Make You Sick?

Sugar in various forms

Sugar in various forms

Will your intake of sugar make you sick?  A new book, “Year of No Sugar: A Memoir”, was written after the author watched a popular video discussing how devastating sugar is to the body.  As a result the author devoted an entire year to abstaining from eating processed sugar in nearly any form – not just for herself, but also her husband and two young children.

What is the value in such an extreme experiment?  From the author’s perspective, she appeared to be equally curious about the health effects of sugar as she was excited about an extreme challenge.  I know how pervasive sugar is, and a year without any added sugars is a lot to take on.

But it’s not without value.  From my perspective as a health coach, giving up all sugars for a period of time is extremely effective at accomplishing two goals.  First, it forces people to become hyper-vigilant, read all labels, and ask questions about the foods they’re eating in restaurants.  This provides a lot of information and great perspective about what’s really in purchased food.  My clients and participants in cleanses are nearly always amazed at how much sugar is hidden in their foods – especially foods that we don’t think of as sweet.

Secondly, as long as the experiment is done for at least 2 weeks, people get to experience the physical benefits of eliminating sugar.  Sugar affects people differently, but cutting down or eliminating it virtually always improves overall energy and mood, and can also improve your hormonal balance, reduce headaches, improve skin quality, improve digestion and immunity, and even alleviate allergies, [...]

Maple Spiced Buckwheat Pancakes

maple spiced pancakes

I love making pancakes on weekends and buckwheat pancakes are my favorite.  Buckwheat has a wonderful nutty flavor and stays moist and tender in pancake form.  And I don’t know what it is, but I just feel good after eating buckwheat.  In this recipe I mix in some oat flour, which provides some natural sweetness that balances out the nuttiness of the buckwheat.  Cinnamon and maple syrup provide the subtle spice and sweetness and contribute to the beautiful golden color.

Buckwheat is technically a fruit seed, not a cereal grain, and isn’t at all related to wheat (therefore it’s completely gluten-free).  High in nutrients including an array of phytonutrients such as lignans, which can protect against heart disease and cancer.  For a full list of the health benefits of buckwheat, click here.  It is one of my favorite super foods.

I rarely write down my pancake recipes – I make them so much I have a general formula memorized and on any given day I tinker with it a little, adding this or that – pancakes are pretty hard to screw up.  But the buckwheat pancakes I made this weekend were especially good – lightly spiced but not in a holiday-y kind of way.  They were moist and fluffy yet filling, and a just a tad sweet, making them pleasant to eat on their own but not so sweet that they’d be too sugary with syrup on top.

When you go to buy buckwheat flour make sure you buy 100% buckwheat flour.  Sometimes buckwheat mixes contain a majority of refined white flour with only a little bit [...]

Roasted Pork Tenderloin and Pineapple with Barbecue Glaze

Roasted Pork Tenderloin and Pineapple with Barbecue Glaze Roasted Pork Tenderloin and Pineapple with Barbecue Glaze

I just made this Roasted Pork Tenderloin and Pineapple with Barbecue Glaze last week, and I already want to make it again.  It went quickly in my house – I think my husband took care of the leftovers before I had a chance to.

I post a lot of vegetarian and vegan recipes on this blog, which I love, but I do eat meat a couple of times a week in small quantities.  I tried being vegetarian once and I just felt…deficient.  So I’ve accepted that this is what I need for now and I buy naturally-fed meat from ethically-raised animals from our local farmer’s market and feel pretty good about it.  As a health coach I find it’s important to honor what your body needs.  The reality is that we evolved eating animals and on an intuitive physical level many of us may just need it to thrive.  Traditional Chinese Medicine recognizes the importance of meat in building strength and vitality.  True story: at my first appointment with an acupuncturist the doctor said, “I don’t have to worry about you becoming a vegetarian, do I?” (I did make the vegetarian attempt not too long after that, with short-lived and totally unsuccessful results).

Many of us in the holistic nutrition world may feel pressure to be vegetarian, or vegan, and as I said it is important to listen to your body.   Some thrive on a vegetarian diet and I’ve seen others actually become more ill after becoming vegetarian!  That said, most Americans will benefit [...]

Artichoke Pesto Pasta with Spinach and Mushrooms

Artichoke Pesto Pasta Artichoke pesto on pasta shells with sauteed spinach and mushrooms

In thinking of some ways to use Spring’s first exciting produce items, namely artichokes and asparagus, I decided to try an artichoke pesto recipe.   I’m glad I did because I liked it as much if not more than regular pesto (which I love)- definitely more on pasta.  It has more body to really coat the pasta, and the tang of the artichokes was a really nice complement to the unami of the pecorino romano and sauteed mushrooms.  And dang, it was easy!

This is a great recipe to make in advance, because it truly does taste better after it sits and the flavors meld for a bit.  Unlike basil-based recipes the pesto won’t discolor, so no worries there.  And with this sitting in the fridge you’ll have a lightning-fast dinner ready in no time!  It’s just a bonus that your pasta sauce basically contains a servings worth of vegetables.

I adapted a recipe from Giada DeLaurentiis, whose recipes I find to be lovely and approachable.  You could certainly use this pesto as an appetizer or side, as she does by putting it on crostini.  I also used it to top some poached salmon, which was super, super delicious.

For more great health-boosting recipes and time-saving shopping lists and weekly planners be sure to check out the Eat Happy Meal Plan.

Here’s the recipe for the pesto:

Artichoke Pesto
Adapted from Artichoke Pesto on Ciabatta, Giada De Laurentiis
Total Prep Time: 15 minutes
Active Time: 10 minutes
Serves:  4

Ingredients
8 ounces of frozen [...]

New Study Shows Broccoli and Kale Can Lower Inflammation

broccoli

A new study has put some specifics around how broccoli and kale can lower inflammation in the body.  Check out any good anti-inflammatory food pyramid and you’ll see that vegetables make up the base, meaning they’re the foundations of an anti-inflammatory diet.  Yet there aren’t a ton of scientific studies demonstrating just how vegetables actually lower inflammation.

So it’s great to see this study, which shows just how powerful cruciferous vegetables are.  Cruciferous vegetables are those in the cabbage family, and include all cabbages, Brussels sprouts, kale, mustard greens, collard greens, broccoli and cauliflower.  Research was led by Dr. Gong Yang  at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee.  Read below for an overview of his methods and findings:

“Yang and colleagues analyzed signs of inflammation in the blood of 1,005 middle-aged Chinese women who filled out questionnaires about their diets as part of the Shanghai Women’s Health Study.

The participants included in the new analysis were generally healthy, and had an average age of 58. Yang and his colleagues divided the women into five groups based on their daily intake of cruciferous vegetables.

The median intake of cruciferous vegetables was just under one cup per day, with women in the lowest fifth consuming about half that amount. The women in the top fifth of consumption took in about 1.5 cups of cruciferous vegetables every day.

The researchers then measured levels of signaling molecules involved in causing inflammation in the women’s blood. Blood levels of three important inflammatory molecules – tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a), interleukin-1beta (IL-1b) and [...]