Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Om Is Where The Heart Is

Hydrangeas are one of my favorite flowers! I just love how bushy and colorful they are. I wish these would last all year. They are fresh, but do any of you use fake flowers? I feel like you either love or hate fake flowers, but I have seen some really pretty ones in stores.

When I don’t have fresh flowers around, this candle brings all the good smells. I got it in the gift bag for the Supper at the Settlement dinner I went to with Virginia Tourism and it’s made locally by Sydney Hale Co, which supports dog rescue. (Speaking of dogs, this had me in tears laughing!))

Also new in our living room?! The newly upholstered chairs!

If you recall, these were black and white floral from the 90s, and they are welcomed to the new Millennium with stain-guarded linen Sunbrella. I love them!

I spent the morning working on blog things with The Bachelorette on in the background. I am loving this season! Really like Peter and Alex. Bryan and Will seem nice. So over the Kenny/Lee feud.

At noon I went to a yoga class at Let It Be Yoga, which is owned by my new friend Kristin. After 3 soccer games in 48 hours, I really needed a good stretch and recovery day.

This was my first time to the studio, and it had a great relaxed vibe. I loved the combination of music and motivational words Kristin shared during class. She rocks.

Afterwards, I stopped into The Juice Place for the BEST caprese panini ever and a green juice! This tasted so good.

Have a great afternoon!

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Coconut Oil Is Going to Kill Us All (or Maybe Not…)

Coconut oil and coconuts on a black backgroundI was beginning to rest on my laurels. It had been months since the inbox had flooded with upset readers asking me to address the latest episode of the conventional establishment’s attack on healthy food and living. Until last week, when people starting freaking out about the American Heart Association’s attack on coconut oil. As USA Today put it, “Coconut oil isn’t healthy. It’s never been healthy.”

I was surprised. While I get most of my scientific references from USA Today (the “Works Cited” section of my upcoming keto book is just a single link to USAToday.com), and they’ve never let me down in the past, I didn’t know what to make of their coconut oil claims.

Had I entered an alternate timeline? Did the Tokelau people of the South Pacific obtain 50% of their calories from PUFA-laden soybean oil, and not saturated fat derived from coconuts? Did the Kitavans thrive on an admittedly high-carb diet not by supplementing it with coconut cream and meat, but by dousing their yams and fish in Unilever margarine shipped in from across the ocean?

I did some digging, revisited some other sources I’ve used in the past. Turns out I wasn’t crazy. Everything was the same. The Tokelau people really did show zero signs of heart disease despite eating a 50% coconut fat diet. They really did start getting fat and diabetic and heart diseased only after the introduction of wheat, sugar, and vegetable oils. And the Kitavans did eat a high-coconut oil, high-carb diet and thrived while doing it.

I could probably stop this post here. I mean, 50% of calories from coconut oil and pristine health is about as resounding a debunking of the AHA’s position you could produce. Let’s keep going, though….

When it boils down to it, the AHA’s condemnation of coconut oil is just another salvo in their futile war against saturated fat consumption. They focus only on the tendency of coconut oil to increase LDL and ignore everything else it does, even referring to coconut oil’s lack of “offsetting favorable effects.”

LDL has something to do with heart disease. Maybe it’s the LDL particles. Maybe it’s the oxidized LDL. Maybe it’s all that and more. I just wish the AHA would branch out a bit is all. For example, you’d think the American Heart Association would find it interesting that PUFA metabolites are actually biomarkers of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (fatty liver + liver inflammation). If you want a non-invasive way to diagnose it, just look at how much PUFA they’re metabolizing. They don’t. Maybe they haven’t seen the research.

It’s hard to blame them; their entire world rests on the foundational axiom that LDL cholesterol drives heart disease. If they question that axiom, everything starts falling apart real fast. Their continued existence depends on them not noticing “offsetting favorable effects.” 

About those supposedly missing favorable effects, coconut oil does many different things besides raise LDL, many of which are “good.”

Coconut oil consistently raises HDL in humans who eat it. Higher HDL is linked to protection from heart disease, and higher HDL:Total cholesterol ratios are often the best predictors of protection from heart disease, beating the AHA’s favorite HDL:LDL ratio in predictive power.

It even improves cardiometabolic status in heart disease patients—the group the AHA is convinced coconut oil will kill. Patients who ate coconut oil saw reductions in waist circumference and body weight and increases in HDL. Another study also found that coconut oil reduces waist circumference, albeit with the biggest effects seen in males. That said, an even earlier study found that overweight women were able to reduce abdominal fat using dietary coconut oil. Seems to be good for goose and gander, even if the geese have heart disease.

To the AHA’s credit, a doctor quoted in the USA Today article noted, “You can put it on your body, but don’t put it in your body.” You just got permission to rub it on your skin as lotion, make it into deodorant and apply it to your armpits, and use it to condition your hair. 

Personally, I put stock in actual clinical research into the topical effects of coconut oil—without the same fear-mongering around its dietary intake.

In hair, the shorter-chained fatty acids allow coconut oil better penetration to the hair proteins. This protects them from sun damage and results in less hair protein loss when compared to mineral oil or sunflower oil.

On the skin, coconut oil performs admirably against mineral oil in the treatment of scaly skin. It also beats mineral oil in dermatitis patients.

Oil pulling with virgin coconut oil (swishing it around in your mouth, making sure to get between the teeth, before brushing or eating in the morning) reduces the presence of cavity-causing bacteria in the saliva. Just don’t swallow.

The late Seth Roberts eliminated toenail fungus with virgin coconut oil. He applied a thin layer to the affected foot each day, then covered them with socks. This is just an anecdote, but we know that lauric acid—one of the primary fats in coconut oil—is antimicrobial.

In the interest of fairness, I’ll follow up with some negatives. Coconut oil isn’t a panacea.

It’s terrible for frying eggs. Maybe I’m doing something wrong, but my eggs always stick when I try to use coconut oil as the frying medium. No, I’m not adding the eggs too early. This doesn’t happen with other fats. The taste isn’t great with eggs, either, to be honest.

Coconut oil is not the same as whole coconut. The cultures that did so well on high-coconut fat diets weren’t eating spoonfuls of refined (or even virgin) coconut oil. They were by and large processing and using the whole coconut—flesh, juice, fiber, and all. It’s one of the reasons why I’ll often turn to coconut butter over oil, like if I’m making a curry. Coconut butter is flesh and fat and fiber. If you intend on emulating the Tokelau diet with 50% of calories from coconut fat, stick to whole coconut, not straight oil.

It does raise LDL. This doesn’t worry me, especially given all the “offsetting favorable effects,” but it may be an issue for certain people. Anytime you make a big dietary change—like suddenly eating a bunch of coconut fat—you should track changes to your physiology and biomarkers.

I will say this for the AHA: At least we can dispense with the accusations of conflicts of interest. After all, the coconut industry of America just pledged to donate up to $500k from coconut seed sales to the American Heart Association. For the AHA to come out strongly against coconut oil after getting such a sweet deal only confirms the objectivity of the assessment. Even if they’re wrong, they’re not biased.

Oh, wait. It was the soybean industry that pledged to donate the money to the AHA? Never mind.

Anyway, that’s my take on the latest AHA attack on coconut oil. What’s yours?

Thanks for reading, everyone. Take care!

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5 Tasty Recipes to Cure What Ails You

Between the demands of work and family, life can get you stressed, upset and zap your energy. Luckily, there are foods you can eat to help feed your mind, body and soul. So the next time you’re feeling fatigued, stressed or your skin looks a mess, consider these recipes to cure what ails you.

Stay Energized

Instead of turning to candy which will give you a quick-fix sugar high, turn to fiber-filled whole grains like sorghum, quinoa and farro. Whole grains take longer to digest, giving you long-lasting energy. They also provide a boat load of energy-boosting B-vitamins.

Recipe: Grilled Scallops with Orange-Scented Quinoa (pictured above)

Maximize Happiness

Lean beef provides the amino acid tryptophan, which assists in the production of serotonin. This hormone has been shown to help boost mood. Lean cuts of meat include lean ground beef (at least 90% lean), top round, sirloin tip, eye round and boneless strip steak.

Recipe: Beef Taco Salad with Chunky Tomato Dressing

Relieve Stress

Spinach and other leafy green vegetables provide magnesium. Taking in sufficient magnesium can help control and limit your body’s release of the hormone cortisol, which increases during times of stress.

Recipe: Lemon Herb Chicken Pasta with Green Peas, Snap Peas and Spinach

 

Boost Skin Health

Foods high in omega-3 fats can help prevent inflammation, including puffy skin. These heart healthy oils also keep skin nice and shiny. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that elderly folks who ate more fish and veggies throughout their lives ended up with fewer wrinkles.

Recipe to try: Chopped Nicoise Salad

Feed Your Brain

Between a lengthy to-do list and packed social calendar, you’re bound to forget things once in a while. To keep your mind sharp, serve her up a dish with berries. The MIND Diet identifies healthy brain foods including berries which have been linked to better cognitive function.

Recipe: Yogurt-Berry Parfait

 

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.



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Curried Cauliflower Salad

Back when I was a kid, I really didn’t like cauliflower. It had zero flavor to me! Looking back, I think I just didn’t give myself enough courage to try different dishes and now I really love it. I make all kinds of things with cauliflower… soups, “rice”, roasted veggies, and I even sometimes blend it into … Read More

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Tips for Keeping Your 3 Year Old Entertained on a Road Trip

Hi, guys! Happy Hump Day!

We had such an awesome time at Stowe Mountain Lodge. What an amazing place. I seriously can’t wait to tell you guys all about it! In the meantime, I wanted to share some of our tips and tricks for keeping a tiny human entertained on a road trip. It look us about 4 hours to drive to Stowe and nearly 7 hours to get home. Ya, I know. It was a lonngggggg ride home, which involved hitting rush hour/stop and go traffic —> Qman getting car sick —> vomit —> taking a pit-stop at Bertucci’s to clean him up. Poor kid. He was totally fine after he puked, so we grabbed dinner before making the rest of the journey home. Anyway, now that summer travel is upon us, here are some ideas to keep your little one entertained when they’re trapped in a car seat for hours!

  • Plan your travel around nap or bedtime. This is probably a bit of a duh tip, but it’s definitely a good one!
  • Give your little one a new toy right before they get into the car. It totally doesn’t need to be something extravagant. Even picking up a few small items from the Dollar Store or Target will keep them entertained for awhile. Similarly…
  • Create a “knick-knack jar.” It’s literally a jar with random items from around your house and/or the Dollar Store that they can explore. We did this for Qman, and he loved it!
  • Let your kiddo photograph your road trip with an old point-and-shoot camera or your cell phone. They can snap shots of what’s happening both in and outside the car.
  • Play silly games. We typically make them up on the spot (they’re so ridiculous sometimes), but two of our favorites from this trip were “I Spy” and “Fire and Ice.” <— You freeze someone by pointing and saying “ice.” They can’t move until someone else unfreezes them by saying “fire.” Quinn thinks it’s hilarious!
  • Enjoy a family singalong! Play your kid’s favorite soundtrack. We love Moana right now, so we belted out a number of songs during our road trip!
  • Feed ’em. Pack lots of snacks and drinks.
  • Plan stops around kid-friendly attractions or search for nearby playgrounds, so your tiny human can run out some energy before getting back into the car.
  • Utilize a tablet or DVD player to play games or watch movies. Obviously, this isn’t a great option for us since Quinn gets car sick easily, but I know this works well for a lot of families!

Question of the Day

What’s your favorite tip or trick for keeping your little one(s) entertained on a road trip?

 

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While I Was Sleeping

Rise and shine! For breakfast, I had a leftover pancake, microwaved egg (a little experiment that worked out quite well!) and summery raspberries. Plus coffee!

How did you guys sleep last night? I have a new product to tell you about that tracks your health while you sleep!

There’s something kind of strange and exciting about getting a report about what your body was doing while you were asleep! EarlySense Live sent me their new Live Health & Sleep Monitor that you don’t have to wear it goes right under your mattress while you sleep. The extra sensitive monitor measures your heart rate, breathing, stress levels, and sleep cycles all night long and sends you a detailed report via its app in the morning.

I find this all so interesting! Note that I was reading in bed for about 15 minutes before I fell asleep, so that alters my Total Sleep Time and Time to Fall Asleep just a bit. I am glad I was out of bed 0 times during the night! It would have been eerie if it said 3 and you didn’t remember getting up! I think overall it looks like I have pretty good sleep cycles. My heart rate and breathing looked good too. I am curious to see how these change based on activity, alcohol, big meals, sickness or other factors. The app allows you to take notes on lifestyle factors so you can track trends. You can also set this up for remote monitoring for an additional monthly fee, so if you have a child or an older person who you are monitoring, the reports and night alerts can bring peace of mind. This sensor is ideal for anyone who has the need to track sleep-related health.

Thanks to EarlySense Live for sponsoring this post. 

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