Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Seed Cycling Update

Guys, I don’t even know how to begin this post because so much has happened in the last 46 days. Let me start off by saying two things about seed cycling:

1. It’s working. *knock on wood* (I feel like every time I talk about something good happening with my health, I jinx myself. Let’s hope it’s not the case this time!)
2. I’m shocked… to the point where I actually called my OB/GYN, before I even started the seed cycling protocol, to ask her to prescribe me another birth control pill, just in case my mood swings were brutal and acne popped up all over my face. I really didn’t think it was going to work. Plus, after being diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis in 2011 and trying every diet protocol and supplement under the sun with NOTHING ever working, I just figured seed cycling wouldn’t work either. (Mrs. Optimistic over here.)

On Day 1 of seed cycling, I started a journal to track all of my symptoms, including my waking temperature, moods, skin changes, energy levels… honestly, anything that was new, different, or changing. Taking the time each day to sit down and reflect has been a huge benefit to understanding what is going on with my body. Additionally, reading Taking Charge of Your Fertility was key to making sense of it all. It’s seriously the best book ever. It’s taught me so much, and I honestly can’t believe I waited until I was 37 years old to learn some of these things, like tracking your waking temperature (and other changes) to predict fertility. (FYI: I bought this basal thermometer.) It’s made navigating these past several weeks so much easier because I understand what’s happening to my body – and it’s so cool. It’s like a fun body experiment! 🙂 Anyway, I think having this knowledge and frame of reference will definitely help me moving forward, especially if I start to encounter any sort of unwanted symptoms.

Speaking of symptoms, let’s get right into them because I’m still shocked and, of course, pleasantly surprised by my experience with seed cycling. So much has changed in a short amount of time!

  • Overall mood and well-being. Ok, this is how I knew for sure the pill wasn’t for me. Within just a few days of stopping it, I felt like a whole new person. It felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders – even Mal noticed right away. I was in a much happier mood, and I didn’t snap at him about random dumb stuff. I actually explained it to him as feeling like I was “hangry.” When I get super hungry, I’m able to function at a normal level, but if anything bothers/annoys me, it sets me off more than usual. I just felt like I was on edge all the time when I was on the pill, so coming off of it has made me a much more peaceful and chill person – like I used to be! This “lighter” mood has pretty much carried though the past 46 days with just a few days that I felt anxious or emotional, which was right before my period. (I cried in my car after I dropped Quinn off at school.) I honestly didn’t realize how messed up my moods were until I came off the pill. When I started the whole pill “game” about a year ago, trying to find the right one, I started on a low-dose pill and then move my way up to higher and higher levels of hormones. The change was gradual, so I didn’t realize just how much the hormones were changing my mood and outlook until I stopped taking them. I actually feel kind of terrible that I put my family through months of terrible moods, short tempers, and, well, bitchiness. I’ve since apologized, but, man, hormones can do crazy things to you!
  • Acne. Before going off the pill, I contacted my primary care doctor about prescribing me an acne medication, just in case my face exploded with acne. She prescribed me Clindamycin, which I initially used twice a day, morning and night. I’ve since reduced my use to once a day or once every other day because *knock on wood* my acne has stayed away. In addition, I used to struggle with dry spots and even eczema on my forehead, chin, and neck, but my skin has definitely changed for the better. When I first stopped taking the pill, my skin immediately got oily, which, of course, I thought would lead to breakouts. The oiliness eventually mellowed out and my skin has been soft and smooth since. In fact, it’s weirdly good right now. I’ve struggled with acne on and off since puberty, so this is a big surprise for me. I also think switching to safer beauty products has helped my skin calm down and regulate itself. (And, hopefully, I didn’t just jinx myself!)
  • Night sweats. Night sweats have plagued me for years now. And they’re usually brutal, waking me up 3-4 times a night to change my clothes because I’m completely drenched. They’d typically last for one week out of the month, but there were times when I’d have them for 2 weeks or more. Ugh, it was awful. I was so tired from waking up to change my clothes all night long. Since going off the pill, I’m happy to report that my night sweats have been considerably reduced. There were a few nights last week that I woke up a little sweaty, but nothing like before – I didn’t need to change my clothes once! And, silver-lining, the minor night sweats let me know that my period was coming (drop in estrogen). The rest of the month/cycle, I was totally night sweat-free! I’m still amazed.
  • Weight. Since stopping the pill, I’ve lost 7 pounds! Isn’t that nuts!? I knew the pill was causing me to gain weight. I always felt bloated and puffy when I was on the pill, so I’m glad to know that it wasn’t just in my head!
  • Energy levels and motivation. This kind of goes back to my overall mood mentioned above, but I feel like myself again. I’m typically a go-go-go type of person, who is pretty much always motivated to get things done, but I really struggled at times when I was on the pill. I just couldn’t focus or felt blah about getting simple tasks done. Since stopping the pill, I feel so much better!

Overall, I’m happy with my seed cycling results so far. Kelli and I chat a couple of times a week (I always have a zillion questions for her), and she thinks my body is responding so well to the protocol because of the work I’ve done with reducing inflammation via the LEAP Diet and eliminating chemicals that can mess with my hormones. (I’ve switched most of my beauty products to Beautycounter, use Crystal Essense Deodorant, and swapped all of our plastic containers for glass ones.) I’m only on cycle #2 (yep, I got my period after 39 days, which is kind of on the long side, but the pill might have delayed ovulation), so I’m planning to continue the same seed cycling protocol for the next few months and then slowly wean off the seeds/supplements.

That’s it for now. Never in a million years did I think seed cycling would work so well, but I’m a believer now. If you’re struggling with wacky hormones, I highly recommend giving it a try. You never know if it’ll work, and it’s seriously so easy to do! 🙂 If you have any specific questions, just let me know. I love taking about this hormone stuff – it’s so interesting!

The post Seed Cycling Update appeared first on Carrots 'N' Cake.

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Are Natural Flavors Really That Bad? (MUST WATCH)

Are Natural Flavors Really That Bad? (MUST WATCH)

I have a confession to make. My once in a while processed food meltdown is with Annie’s Chocolate Bunnies. Once I crack open the box, I literally cannot stop eating them. (And thinking about them right now, is making my mouth water.) It’s insane! I’ve noticed when I make homemade cookies I don’t get the feeling that I need to eat the entire plate… but with those Annie’s Bunnies, man, I really can’t stop. Why is it that they’re so addicting? Is it all the sugar? There’s actually more to it than that.

I recently sat down with Mark Schatzker, the author of The Dorito Effect – a must read book for all you foodies out there who read ingredients and care about what you’re eating. You know how addicting Doritos are…well, the stories he tells in this book about food and flavor are out of control incredible. I highlighted my copy like crazy and immediately reached out to Mark because I was so impressed with the investigative work he has done. You can watch my complete interview with Mark here:

The main topic of our discussion was “natural flavors”. If you read ingredient lists you know these are EVERYWHERE…listed on almost every package in the aisle at the grocery store. Here are some highlights from our interview…

  • Flavor in nature doesn’t come without nutrition. Why does real food have flavor in the first place? Why does an apple taste like an apple? Our brains associate a flavor with its nutrients. Foods naturally taste amazing to us because they contain the nutrients we need. Flavors are the cue that tells us where to find the nutrients we need.
  • For example – the flavors that humans love in tomatoes are synthesized in tomatoes from essential nutrients like beta carotene, amino acids, and omega 3’s. The flavor in tomatoes is a chemical sign that tells your brain there’s good stuff in here – you should eat me. Our stores are full of food that taste like all kinds of different things, but don’t come with those nutrients. You can create a food that tastes like a tomato without the nutrients in a tomato – and that’s a problem.
  • Flavors make you eat things you wouldn’t normally eat. Soda without flavors is just carbonated water and sugar. No one would drink that without the flavors. It’s not just the sugar… flavor is missing piece of puzzle.
  • The first Doritos were just salted tortilla chips. No one really liked them until they added flavoring, and you had Taco Doritos – which took something that no one really ate to something we literally can’t stop eating. It works, it works really well.
  • Something with “Natural Blueberry Flavor” means they pulled some flavor from actual blueberries. Does that make it better than other “natural flavors”? No – You are really just extracting the tiniest tiny bit of blueberry to make the flavor, but leaving behind all the good stuff that makes blueberries healthy – the antioxidants, polyphenols, fiber – all those things are missing.
  • This is a way for the food industry to use fewer real blueberries and trick consumers into thinking they are getting nutrition that isn’t there. They’re pulling a fast one on us! A good example is Gogurts… lots of sugar and flavor, but no fruit.
  • Natural flavors aren’t toxic. What they do is cause people to eat foods they wouldn’t normally eat. We all think we have the mental ability to control what we eat, but flavor technology makes us crave foods we wouldn’t normally go near. These foods (like unhealthy soda) can make you sick and even eventually kill you.
  • When looking at your food, as yourself: Did someone engineer this to be delicious or did nature engineer this to be delicious?

All of this is why I don’t eat things like RX Bars or drink La Croix canned water on a regular basis…

LaCroix is mostly just carbonated water… but I don’t consider food and drinks that are synthetically flavored (vs. being flavored with real food) a healthy everyday item. I don’t want to screw up the signals in my body that allow me to crave something because it has the nutrients I need. I also don’t want to eat foods that trick my tastebuds into downing almost a whole box in one sitting (like those Annie’s Bunnies!) I like to know exactly what I’m eating, and with “natural flavors” I’m left in the dark. Sticking with real food is just simpler, healthier, and oftentimes cheaper too. 

If you’re really hooked on RX Bars, I’m joining GMO Inside and asking them to go organic and to remove natural flavors!

What do you think about all this? Are you going to be more on the lookout now for natural flavors in your food? Let me know in the comments. Share this video with all your friends… 



P.S. You’ve got to pick up a copy of Mark’s book, The Dorito Effect – he goes much more in depth into this topic and really opened up my eyes to the link between flavors, food cravings, and nutrition. You can find it here.


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8 Tips for Cooking Vegetables

Roasted fruits and vegetables on wooden tableThis spring when I asked what nutrition topics folks would be interested in reading about on the blog, the subject of vegetables came up repeatedly. Specifically, several readers wanted more ideas for how to cook them—with a mind to preserving (or enhancing) both nutrition and taste. As much as I love my big-ass salads, I get it. Sometimes you need to mix it up, and moving toward the cooler seasons only underscores the point.

With that in mind, let me offer a few points that help folks have their vegetables and a hot meal, too. See what you think and if it might offer some ideas for this week’s Primal dinners.

Don’t Overcrowd the Skillet

Almost any vegetable can be prepared by slicing the vegetable thinly, heating oil in a pan over medium-high heat, and then sautĂ©ing it until tender. Add a little garlic if you like, and finish with sea salt. Easy, right? However, if you want the sautĂ©ed vegetables to be genuinely tasty instead of mediocre, here’s the trick you need to know: Don’t overcrowd the skillet.

Use a wide skillet and only sautĂ© a single layer of vegetables at a time. Vegetables release water as they cook, especially softer vegetables like zucchini and mushrooms. If you put too many veggies in a pan at once, they’ll steam and turn to mush in their own liquid instead of sautĂ©ing to golden brown.

The same goes for roasting vegetables. Don’t pile vegetables on a sheet pan. Spread them out evenly in a single layer. Take the plunge and buy another sheet pan so you can make more at a time.

Try Roasting

If you’re not in the mood for a big pot of “clean out the fridge soup” then the easiest way to use up vegetables is roasting. Make a habit of roasting a sheet pan’s worth every week, using any vegetables that are past their salad prime. Roasted vegetables are a delicious side dish for any meal, and they’re great added to any Big-Ass Salad you pack for lunch the next day.

Here’s the best way I’ve found to roast veggies:

Peel if needed, then cut all the vegetables into pieces that are basically the same size so they’ll cook at the same rate. Group the vegetables by texture and/or type, so that shorter cooking veggies are on one sheet pan and longer cooking veggies are on another. (For example, root vegetables, squash and potatoes can be grouped together, and cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts can be grouped together, and onions, zucchini and bell peppers can be grouped together.)

Coat the veggies generously with avocado oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper (or your favorite spice blend). I like fresh rosemary, but I use a lot of herbs depending on my mood.

Spread the vegetables out evenly in one layer on a sheet pan, with a little room to spare. Don’t overcrowd the sheet pan. (For easier cleanup, line the sheet pan with parchment paper first.)

Roast in the oven at 425Âş F for 20 to 45 minutes, depending on the type of vegetable. Veggies are done when they can be easily pierced with a fork and are lightly browned on the edges.

Mix the vegetables only once or twice while they roast. Use a rimmed baking sheet, so the veggies don’t fall off the pan when you mix them.

Better Steaming

Simple and quick, steaming vegetables is perfect for busy weeknights. The great risk with steaming is sogginess (unfortunately how most of us think of steamed vegetables), so always set a timer. Stop steaming the veggies before they’re completely soft; they’re done when still slightly firm in the center. Most veggies take 5 to 10 minutes. Harder ones like sweet potatoes, carrots and squash steam in 10 to 20 minutes. For the best results, steam different types of vegetables separately.

A collapsible steamer basket is an inexpensive kitchen investment, and most rice cookers and Instant Pots have a steamer tray. Or, if you have one, use the microwave. Put cut-up vegetables in a bowl, add about 3 tablespoons water, and cover the bowl with a plate. Cook 2 ½ minutes, then check for doneness. Be careful of hot steam when removing the plate. Or, try this method of microwave steaming with wet paper towels.

Hands down, the most delicious way to flavor piping hot steamed vegetables is a generous pat of salted pastured butter. Once chilled, steamed veggies are a convenient add-in for salads, and also great dipped in Primal Kitchen® Mayo or dressings.

Grilling Isn’t Just for Meat

If you’re firing up the grill for meat, it makes sense to cook the entire meal on the grill. From zucchini to sweet potatoes (and even kale), vegetables are amazing with the smoky flavor and charred edges that only a grill can impart. It’s true that some vegetables are easier to grill than others, but with a few tips, you can expertly grill almost anything non-animal.

Heat-stable oil and salt should always be used, lightly coating the vegetables before grilling, then pouring on more oil and salt when the veggies are done. For even more flavor, marinate veggies in vinaigrette before grilling, or drizzle vinaigrette over warm, grilled vegetables.

Softer vegetables, like mushrooms, zucchini, onions and bell peppers are easy: Cut into smallish chunks and skewer, or cut into long, wide pieces that won’t fall through the grates. Grill until tender and lightly charred.

The easiest way to grill hard vegetables is to give them a head start. Firm vegetables can be brined before grilling. Or, simply parboil the vegetables before grilling. Potatoes (regular and sweet), carrots, beets and other root vegetables can be cut into medium bite-sized pieces and boiled in water until just barely tender. Drain the vegetables, toss with oil and salt, then finish on the grill to char the veggies and cook to full tenderness.

Stalks of kale and Swiss chard, even wedges of Romaine lettuce, can be transformed on the grill into smoky, charred versions of their raw selves. Coat lightly in oil and salt, and grill the leaves 4 to 6 minutes (leaves can be ripped from the stalks before or after grilling)

For the least amount of fuss, place single layers of thinly sliced vegetables on a large, lightly oiled piece of foil, then fold the foil around the vegetables like a loose packet. Grill the packet 8 to 12 minutes for quicker cooking vegetables, and 12 to 15 minutes for things like potatoes and onions.

Cooking Dark, Leafy Greens

This doesn’t just mean kale, Swiss chard, and collards. Radish leaves, beet greens, turnip leaves…they’re all edible. As mentioned above, greens can be grilled, but sautĂ©ing is the most common cooking method.

SautĂ©ing is easy. Greens + oil + garlic is all you need. The challenge is coaxing greens into tenderness so you don’t end up with a pile of chewy leaves.

Try this technique: Tear the leaves off the stems. Stack the raw leaves in a pile, roll the pile up, and use a large knife to slice the leaves into thin ribbons. Heat olive oil and garlic over medium, then add the sliced greens by the handful, until it all fits in the skillet. Add 1/3 cup stock, water, or coconut milk. Turn heat up to medium-high and cover. Cook 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the lid and cook 2 to 3 minutes more until the liquid has evaporated.

Frozen Greens and Flavor Cubes

Despite good intentions to eat more greens, who among us hasn’t thrown away a limp bunch of kale after ignoring it all week? What about a soggy bag of baby spinach?

Instead of wasting greens, blend them. Put handfuls of greens in the blender. Add a little water or coconut milk if necessary (to keep the blender moving) until the greens are pureed into a smooth consistency. Pour into an ice cube tray. Freeze, then remove and store cubes in a sealed plastic bag. Throw frozen green cubes into smoothies, soups, stews, and chili.

For savory flavor cubes try this:

  • 3 handfuls loosely packed herb leaves (mix herbs like basil, cilantro and parsley, or just choose one herb)
  • 3 handfuls baby spinach or other chopped green
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger (optional)

Combine herbs, greens, garlic and ginger in a blender until smooth, adding a little water or chicken stock as necessary, again, to keep the blender moving. Pour the puree into an ice cube tray. Freeze, then remove flavor cubes and store in a sealed plastic bag. Instantly add flavor to your meal by melting frozen flavor cubes in a hot skillet of sautéed vegetables or meat, or melt a flavor cube into a bowl of hot cauliflower rice or soup.

Using Frozen Vegetables

Fresh, seasonal produce is best, but when it comes to convenience, frozen vegetables are a part of modern life, especially if you’re looking to do Primal on a budget. They don’t need to be washed, sliced, or prepped, and they cook in a matter of minutes. The importance of convenience can’t be underestimated. If keeping frozen veggies on hand means you eat more veggies, then stock up the freezer.

Frozen vegetables are usually picked at peak ripeness and flash frozen, preserving all the nutrients. The best way to cook frozen vegetables is to steam, microwave, or simmer them for just a few minutes. For soups and stews, add frozen vegetables straight from the freezer in the last minutes of cooking.

Making Vegetable Stock

Dedicated makers of vegetable stock keep a gallon Ziploc bag in the freezer and fill it throughout the month with veggie scraps from cooking (stems from greens, nubs of carrot, celery, onion, etc.) The rest of us can simply scavenge the crisper drawer for veggies about to turn bad.

Throw veggie odds and ends into a stock pot. Any mix of veggies will do, just make sure you’ve included 1 onion (quartered), 6 garlic cloves, a few stalks of carrot and/or celery, and a handful of fresh herbs (leaves and stems). Cover with water, sprinkle in salt, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, and partially cover. Simmer 1 to 2 hours. Drain and discard solids. Add salt to taste. There you go….

Now let me turn it over to you all. Got some cooking tips or favorite vegetable recipes to share? Let’s hear ’em! Thanks for stopping by, everybody.

The post 8 Tips for Cooking Vegetables appeared first on Mark's Daily Apple.

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Nighttime Checklist For A Peaceful Morning

This post is sponsored by Quaker Oats, but all opinions are my own.

So much about getting organized in life is about timing. Because no one can predict what interruptions or spontaneous events pop up, it’s always best to prep for as much of your life in advance as you can. That goes for meals, packing for a trip, making lunches, and work tasks (like putting together a presentation). In college, I once read an entire textbook over the summer so I could be uber prepared for a busy senior-year semester. #nerdalert !

I absolutely hate feeling rushed and consider myself one of the biggest anti-procrastinators out there. Anything that I can do in advance, I will. To get ahead, you must work doubly hard once to create the time to get ahead, but once you do, you’ll be doing the same amount of work just on a different schedule.

When Mazen started school three years ago, I learned what works best for us is to do the most important tasks first and the most fun ones last. So, we always got dressed and “out the door” ready before breakfast so that we could enjoy breakfast ’til the last minute. After re-ordering our routine, mornings went much smoother.

There are still a handful of tasks I do every night so that I can wake up with a clean slate each morning. I never like to come downstairs at 7:00 a.m. to find last night’s dishes or clutter strewn about. Here is my nightly checklist of tasks I do each evening so that my mornings are as peaceful as possible.

1. Pack lunch

If I am really on top of my game, I pack Mazen’s lunch as soon as he gets home from school. While he’s having his after-school snack, I empty his backpack and re-pack it for the morning. I also clean out his lunchbox and prep lunch for the next day. On busier days this happens in the evening, but I never wait until the morning to pack lunch!

2. Make coffee 

This task falls mostly on Thomas’s list because he’s the coffee guy, but we both check to make sure the coffee pot is prepped and programmed to brew first thing in the morning.

3. Prep (or make) breakfast

When Mazen started school, I had to shift my breakfasts from extravagant to efficient. (The usual displays of oatmeal, French toast, and pancakes became more efficient meals, like overnight oats, smoothies, power toast, or quick eggs.) We do still make pancakes and hot oatmeal from scratch on weekdays if we wake up on the early side, but not every day because most of the time we are on the clock to get out of the door!

Overnight oats are the ultimate busy-morning breakfast, and the new Quaker Overnight Oats make it even easier because the dry mixing is already done for you! Just add the milk of your choice to the line and cold-steep overnight in the fridge. I even have Thomas hooked on these! Check out my first post about them for all the details.

4. Clean kitchen (and put dishes away)  

I never go to bed with dishes in the sink, unless a pan absolutely needs to soak. This is a hard rule! Sometimes I will leave a tea mug in the sink, but nothing from dinner or anything that is ant-attracting dirty. I also wipe down the counters and vacuum if the floor is particularly crummy.

5. Tidy the living room (and chop pillows)

Once the kitchen is closed, I tidy up the living room, straighten pillows, and put away anything that is left out (usually a stray water bottle, pair of shoes, or tea mug). Pillows get a nice chop so they look perky for morning time!

6. Put out clothes 

Before relaxing for the night, I usually check on sleeping Mazen, give him a kiss, and put out his outfit for the next day. (He has a nightlight in his room, so it’s easy to see what I’m doing.) If I am going to the gym for an early morning class, I set out my gym clothes as well so they are easy to find and put on in my 5:30 a.m. stupor.

7. Me time (relax with tea)

If I’m efficient, the above takes me 30 minutes or so and I can spend an hour watching TV, talking to T, or doing another evening activity (like folding laundry while watching TV!) I usually have a cup of tea too.

8. Read in bed (and count sleep backwards)

Depending on what time I have to get up the next morning, I count back 8 hours and get in bed. I try to read on my Kindle for 10-15 minutes (and longer if I’ve skipped TV earlier) but most nights I crash in 5 minutes or less! 🙂

Cheers to a happy morning!

Thanks to Quaker Oats for sponsoring this post and making overnight oats even easier!

The post Nighttime Checklist For A Peaceful Morning appeared first on Kath Eats Real Food.

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Episode 372 – Gretchen Rubin – The Four Tendencies

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This episode we have Gretchen Rubin back on the podcast. Gretchen is the author of several books, including the blockbuster New York Times bestsellers, Better Than Before, The Happiness Project and Happier at Home. In Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, she provides surprising insights and practical advice drawn from cutting-edge research, ancient wisdom, and her own observations, about how we can make our lives better than before.

Listen in as we talk about her new book The Four Tendencies, what it means to be an Upholder, a Questioner, an Obliger, or a Rebel, and how to use that to better your own life and motivation.

Download Episode Here (MP3)

Take the Quiz here: happiercast.com/quiz

Happier Podcast with Gretchen Rubin
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30 Day Guide to the Paleo Diet

Want some extra help? Have you been trying Paleo for a while but have questions or aren’t sure what the right exercise program is for you? Or maybe you just want a 30-day meal plan and shopping list to make things easier? We’ve created a getting started guide to help you through your first 30 days.

Buy the book


Wired-to-Eat-RenderDon’t forget, Wired to Eat is now available!

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, iBooks

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