Pre & Probiotics: Necessary for Gut Health?!

70% of the immune system takes place in the gut.

  • Do you eat foods that contain nutrients to boost your immune system?
  • Do you ever think of the food you eat and how it affects your body?
  • Do you ever feel bloated or experience discomfort after you eat?

PROBIOTICS are currently one of the hottest topics in the health industry. Working with hundreds of different clients I often hear reoccurring questions such as:

  • Should I take a probiotic supplement?
  • What are the benefits of taking a probiotic?
  • Are probiotics in food?
  • What are prebiotics?
  • What should I look for on a probiotic label?

First and foremost, let’s get a solid understanding of what prebiotics and probiotics are.

Prebiotics are natural, non-digestible food ingredients that are linked to promoting the growth of helpful GOOD bacteria in your gut. That’s right, not all bacteria are bad! Prebiotics may improve gastrointestinal health as well as potentially enhance calcium absorption. Want to include more prebiotics in your diet? Prebiotics are commonly found in foods that contain a fiber called inulin: bananas, onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, artichokes, soybeans and whole-wheat foods.

Prebiotics are naturally found in fruits and veggies, so one would think that Americans have no trouble getting these suckers into their diet, right? WRONG. Unfortunately, surveys have shown that most people don’t eat enough dietary fiber each day and therefore aren’t eating adequate amounts of prebiotics. The average American eats just 15 g of fiber per day, when the recommendation for adults is 25 to 38 g per day. There we have it folks, most of us can benefit from increasing their fiber intake, which will then in turn raise our prebiotic intake. But why do we need prebiotics…?

Prebiotics are food for probiotics…

Probiotics are actually the “good” bacteria —or live cultures— just like those naturally found in your gut. These active cultures help change or repopulate intestinal bacteria to balance gut flora. This functional component may boost immunity and overall health, especially GI health. Some strains of these live cultures may help prevent specific allergy symptoms, reduce symptoms of lactose intolerance, decrease symptoms of irritable bowl syndrome, and regulate the overall digestive system. However, effects can vary from person to person. What to include more probiotics in your diet? Try sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, yogurt, or kefir.

Never tried kimchi (or even heard of it)? No worries, we got your covered. Click the button below to get a FREE, simple, and delicious kimchi recipe right to your inbox!

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“My doctor recommended I take a probiotic supplement, so what should I take?”

Science may suggest that probiotics support immune health but that doesn’t mean every product labeled “Probiotic” is created equal. Probiotics found in sparkling kombuchas are very different from the strains found in yogurt which are also different from the strains found in the pill (or capsule) form. If a product in the grocery store has the word “Probiotic” marketed on the front of the package, it does not necessarily mean that there is scientific evidence supporting that specific product.

Yes, there are tons of hot products “Containing Probiotics”. I’m talking granolas, cereals, juices, cookies, in addition to the typical dairy products such as yogurt and kefir. Keep in mind that these companies can use the word “probiotics” on their packaging, without any regulations or standards behind the word.  The food industry loves to confuse the day lights out of us…

Sharon Palmer, RD, a contributing editor at Today’s Dietitian and a freelance food and nutrition writer based in southern California, does a great job referencing probiotics…

“My strongest recommendation is to use probiotics with good-quality evidence behind them. But it can be hard to see benefits with immune health in consumers who are generally healthy anyway. Since there is a good history of safety with probiotics from genera such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, I don’t see anything wrong with people trying products out to see if they work for them,” advises Sanders. “If consumers choose probiotics in foods, they may see a reduction in being sick with GI or upper respiratory illnesses, and they can also benefit from the nutrients in the product, such as calcium and protein in yogurt. When it comes to specific applications in certain illnesses, such as immune-suppressed individuals, the science is emerging, so stay tuned. Be familiar with the research and look at the quality of the studies.”

So what’s the final say? Eat a balanced diet high in foods that naturally contain prebiotics and probiotics! Food is nature’s medicine. Allow your body to reap the nutritional benefits that food has to offer. If you are thinking of a taking a probiotic supplement, check with a registered dietitian (we’d be happy to help) to ensure that the product is safe and has been found effective! Remember, 70% of your immune health is found in the gut; take care of your digestive tract…you only get one!

Anti-Inflammatory 411

          Has your doctor recommended an anti-inflammatory (A.I.) diet? Have you heard of an A.I. diet but don’t know where to start? We are going to breakdown the A.I. diet and showcase nutritional superfoods that will allow your body to thrive. An A.I. diet can be beneficial to people of all ages with a variety of dietary needs. The diet is composed of fiber-rich foods that help reduce inflammation by supplying naturally occurring A.I. phytonutrients found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. First, let’s discuss the foods that are considered inflammatory causing foods. These foods increase inflammation, increase your pain from the inflammation, and may also raise your risk for chronic disease. The following foods should be consumed in moderation (or not at all).

Inflammatory causing foods:
-Junk food
-High-fat meats
-Processed meats (nitrates)
-Fast food
-Saturated Fats/Trans Fatty Acids
-Found in high fat meats, dairy products, fried foods
-Nightshade family of plants (potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplant)

Below, is a list of foods to focus on when following an A.I. diet. These foods decrease inflammation and provide multiple nutritional benefits.

Anti-Inflammatory foods:
-Fruits and vegetables
-Mono and polyunsaturated fats and oils
-Olive Oil, rice bran oil, grape seed oil, and walnut oil
-Omega-3 essential fatty acids
-100% Whole Grain Carbohydrates

When it comes to fruits and vegetables, there are some that are “better” options when looking to decrease inflammation. The number one fruit recommended for A.I. diet is pineapple. Pineapple contains bromelain, an enzyme that digests proteins. It is often used to treat muscle injuries and as a digestive aid. Bromelain has also been used in many anti-aging studies because it is a natural anticoagulant that works by breaking down the blood-clotting protein fibrin. Pass the pineapple, please!

Looking for other A.I. produce options? Try apples, berries, citrus, onions, ginger, peppers, and avocados. Many of these fruits and veggies contain flavonoids, which support connective tissues and relieve inflammatory symptoms. What else contains flavonoids? Black tea, red wine, and dark chocolate! Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean we get to guzzle a bottle of red wine and eat 3 dark chocolate bars every night. Remember: serving size, serving size, serving size!

Foods containing omega 3 fatty acids are extremely beneficial in regards to an A.I. diet. Omega 3’s can reduce joint stiffness, tenderness, and fatigue. Omega 3’s are found in fish oils, salmon, mackerel, tuna, olive oil, canola oil, avocado oil, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, and flax seeds. Flax seeds MUST be ground in order to receive their nutritional benefits. You can buy flax seeds already ground or buy them whole and grind them yourself. All nuts and seeds contain Vitamin E which has also been shown to relieve pain and stiffness. Here are some of our favorite ways to add omega 3’s into your everyday diet include:

-Sprinkling pumpkin seeds in whole grain cereal or on top of Greek yogurt
-Making no bake chia energy bites (combine: oats, chia seeds, almond butter, raw honey, and cinnamon)
-Mixing walnuts into a healthy trail mix with whole grain cereal and freeze dried fruit
-Making homemade salad dressing with olive oil, lemon juice, and oregano
-Mixing ground flaxseeds into oatmeal

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Lastly, look for high fiber foods, greater than 5g of fiber per serving. When choosing bread or pasta, look for the words “100% whole wheat”. The first ingredient should be whole wheat flour, NOT enriched white flour. Try some fun, funky whole grains like farro, freekeh, quinoa, amaranth, or teff. These grains are usually found in the “Rice Aisle” of the grocery store and cook similar to rice, but contain way more protein and fiber. Fiber aids with digestion and helps keep your bowl movements regular.

All in all, the A.I. diet is not much different than a healthy, balanced diet that contains fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein. Key points to remember:

1.) Make sure to eat many different colored fruits and veggies. The more colorful the produce, the more nutrients it contains.
2.) Add healthy fats and oils into your diet.
3.) Make sure at least half of the grains you consume each day are whole grains.
4.) Avoid processed/junk foods.

The Coconut Craze: Why is everybody so NUTS for cocoNUTS?

Coconut water, milk, oil, flour, OH MY! Where is this coconut craze coming from? Is it really all it is hyped up to be? Do you have coconut oil in your pantry but have no idea what to do with it? Not to fear, your favorite dietitians are going to set the coconut record straight. Whether you are drinking coconut water at the finish line, substituting coconut milk in your morning cereal, sautéing your dinner side dish in coconut oil, or incorporating coconut flour into your baked goods…we want YOU to know the facts. As dietitians, you will hear us saying “everything in moderation” time and time again. This quote stands especially true when it comes to coconut products. Are there nutritional benefits? Yes, absolutely. Can coconut products have negative health effects? When consumed in excess, yes. Let’s break it down product by product…

Coconut Oil is made up almost completely of saturated fat (just like butter or lard). One simple way to differentiate types of fat is the consistency. If it is solid and must be scooped with a spoon, it is a saturated fat. If it is a liquid that can be poured, it is primarily made up of mono and polyunsaturated fats. Coconut oil contains a mixture of saturated fatty acids, some of which don’t adversely affect cholesterol levels. Coconut oil does however contain lauric acid, which has been shown to raise HDL (good) cholesterol but also raise LDL (bad) cholesterol. Raising LDL cholesterol can increase the risk of heart disease.

So why are these tropical oils such a craze? They are advertised as healthful choices due to their high proportion of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). Most of the research on MCTs that can be related to heart health was done on saturated fatty acids with eight or ten carbon chains. The majority of MCTs found in coconut oil are actually 12 carbons long. Unfortunately, that means that most of the research concluded about MCTs and heart health does not pertain to coconut oil.

If you have high cholesterol, we do not recommend consuming coconut oil on a regular basis or in large quantities. Have it sitting in your cabinet at home? It makes THE BEST skin topical. Slather it on your face as a moisturizer before bed…you’ll wake up with silky, smooth skin.

Coconut Milk is made from a delicious concoction of coconut meat and water. Don’t confuse coconut milk with coconut water (see below). These are two entirely different products. Coconut milk is rich, thick, and has a cream-like consistency. Coconut milk contains a whooping 450 calories and 48 grams of fat (43 grams saturated) in 1 cup. If you are baking and your recipe calls for coconut milk, you can substitute “lite” coconut milk. This will trim two thirds of the fat but still give you the rich, coconut flavor you are looking for.

Coconut Water has gotten a lot of buzz for being a “natural” sports drink. It is a great hydrator for light workouts, as 1 cup serves up more than 10 percent of your daily dose of potassium—an electrolyte lost through sweat. Although coconut water provides electrolytes, it also provides 45 calories per cup. Keep that in mind if trying to lose weight. It is unnecessary to drink your calories when water will suffice. Coconut water is great to add to homemade smoothies. That way you aren’t consuming the entire bottle in one sitting.

How about coconut water at the finish line? When we sweat, we lose up to 10 times more sodium than potassium. Coconut water contains only 30 mg of sodium per cup, whereas sports drinks usually deliver about 110 mg. For elite athletes, we recommend a sports drinks over coconut water to provide the adequate amount of carbohydrates and electrolytes.

Coconut Flour is a great to add rich flavor to baked goods. Coconut flour is considered a high fiber product, packing in 5 grams in only 2 tablespoons. Coconut flour is low in saturated fat and is naturally gluten-free. If you or a family member has celiac disease or gluten intolerance, coconut flour is a great substitute for healthy (and delicious baking). It can be found in the gluten free section or baking section in your local grocery store.

Overall, there is no profound reason to go NUTS for cocoNUTS. Yes, there are nutritional benefits. Yes, they can be a delicious addition to a recipe or meal. But remember…everything in moderation. There is such thing as “too much of good thing”. What do learn how to use coconut products? Click the button below, enter your email, and a FREE recipe will be sent to your inbox. Coconut banana pancakes….YES PLEASE!


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The Truth About Cleanses


Cleanses have been around for decades, but recently have moved to the front of the pack when it comes to diet aids, and health strategies.  It is thought by many that with all of the junk we put in our bodies, we can have up to 25 pounds of “sludge” in our gut that needs to be cleaned from time to time.  Unfortunately, it is a mixture of part pseudo-science and part myth that detox diets physically remove toxins from your body. If you Google search “detox diet”, you’ll get a range of results from fasting for days to extremely strict and absurd meal plans containing less than 500 calories per day. Let’s be honest, who ACTUALLY enjoys restricting calories? I know I sure don’t, and it’s extremely bad for your body (and metabolism) as well.  Most of these detoxes use exaggerated science and make overblown claims promoting the benefits of detoxing. So what is the scientific based truth?

Our body has it’s own natural detox system that takes place in our liver. Although other systems of our body are involved, the liver is powerhouse of the natural detox system.

There are two main phases of detoxification that take place in our liver. The first phase, or functionalization phase, consists of enzymes partially breaking down of fat-soluble toxins that result in free radicals. In the second phase, or conjugation phase, free radicals are converted via enzymes into water-soluble toxins that can be excreted in waste (urine, bile, and feces). If one phase is not working properly or out of sync, this throws the whole system for a loop. Which leads us to part 2 of the cleansing myth…

Myth 2: Multiple day juice cleanses will “re-set” your body. The reality is that there is no scientific evidence that drinking certain juices for a few days (whether it be 3-day, 5-day, or 7-day cleanses) will re-boot your entire digestive system.  Your liver (powerhouse), kidneys, lungs, colon, and skin are all organs of elimination. When we take care of these organs along with our entire body, these organs can function to the best of their ability. And how do we take care of these organs do you ask? You guessed it—proper nutrition and hydration! Depending on which cleanse you choose, you may make yourself even more deficient in the enzymes needed to keep your detoxifying ability efficient!

STOP! Now before you go into your refrigerator and throw away all of your pricey juice cleanses, please know that some of these can easily be implemented into a balanced diet. What you want to be most conscious of is the sugar content.  Most juice cleanses contain large amounts of fruits and vegetables that have been juiced down into a small quantities of liquid. Some bottled juices have more than 60g of sugar per serving. Just to give you some perspective that is 15 TEASPOONS of sugar. No one in their right mind would drink 15 teaspoons of sugar when they are trying to detox, but unfortunately many consumers are unknowingly taking part. Some of my favorite juices are OLUS + and Evolution Fresh. For example: Evolution Fresh Green Devotion checks in at only 8g of sugar for the entire bottle. Lesson Learned? Make sure you are reading your nutrition facts labels and aware of what you are putting in your body.

Now that you have mastered the science, here’s what you can conclude. Enzymes need the help of specific vitamins and minerals to breakdown toxins efficiently. Hear me when I say there is NO end-all, cure-all instant detox that will be a remedy for poor eating habits.  A healthy, balanced diet along with proper hydration and sleep is all you need to naturally and continuously detox your system!

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There are certain dietary and lifestyle habits you can incorporate into your day that will put your body in a constant state of detoxification. You don’t want to put your body through any unnecessary stress and wear out these important organs. Here are some basic pointers to help keep your body clean:

  • Limit processed foods with artificial additives, preservatives, colorings, and sweeteners.
  • Limit refined grains, sugars, and hydrogenated oils.
  • Avoid alcohol in excess.
  • Avoid processed and fried foods.
  • Consume plenty of foods found in their wholesome, natural state: fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, lean meats, and whole grains.
  • Strive to make half of your plates full of colorful fruits and vegetables—the more colors equal more nutrients.
  • Drink a minimum of 64 ounces of water per day. Consume more if you are physically active.
  • Eat foods that are considered “high fiber”—containing more than 5g of fiber per serving.
  • Strive for 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
  • Get moving! Aim to get 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity—whether you are gardening, walking the dog, cleaning the house, or running a 5K race…all activity counts!




2015 Holiday Gift Guide

The holidays are here, and several of you have asked for healthy gift ideas for your loved ones. We can all use a little help in the healthy category, so here is a list of some of my favorite things in 2015!

1. Meal Delivery Service. Cost: $8-14/meal. There is nothing better than coming home from work and knowing dinner is already prepared! Fortunately for us in Jacksonville, there are many great companies that offer healthy meals to be delivered to your door weekly! Your loved one can choose from calorie limits, gluten free, vegan, paleo, etc. My personal favorites are Kathy’s Table ( and J.William Culinary (
2. CSA membership. Cost: $27 (feeds 2-3)- $47 (feeds 5-7) per delivery. Local food harvested 24-48 hours prior to delivery! Fruits, Veggies, and fresh bread from local farms are picked and delivered to your door either just once, weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. My favorite is Local Fare Jax (, which allows you to adapt your bags for allergies or taste preferences as well as supplies recipes for the produce that is delivered.
3. A Garden! Cost: Varies. A lot of us would love a garden, but don’t know where to start, or have the space. Two companies in town can help! Garden of Eatin’ (386-972-1891) can come build a raised garden specializing in whatever herbs/fruits/veggies your loved one likes; or if they are limited in space, can supply you with a tower garden.
4. Cooking Classes. Cost: $40-200. Gift the gift of learning to cook! Classes are offered from the basics to the upscale. You could give a class to learn basic cooking techniques, or to learn a favorite chefs’ recipes. Prices range depending on location, and amount of classes. My favorites are Publix Aprons Cooking School Classes (~$40/class) and online, Top Chef University Courses ($25 for one month, or $200 for the year) There are also chefs in our area that will come to your home to teach a class, or do a tour of farmers market!
5. Dinner in a Box. Cost: $10pp-30pp. Do you have someone on your list who loves to cook, but doesn’t have the time or know how to shop? Several companies will now deliver a recipe and all of the fresh ingredients to your door, many times being locally sourced. My favorite companies are Hello Fresh, Blue Apron, and Plated. Meals typically take 30 minutes to cook.
6. Lunch Box. Cost: $35- 60. Make Lunch eco, easy and awesome! Get a non-toxic, BPA free, stainless steel lunch box that guides portions and has a 5 year warranty! You can build a kit with different sized lunch containers, bags, and bottles. (
7. Veggie Spiralizer. Cost: $15-40. Become a pro at low carb/gluten free/or Paleo meals turning veggies into “pasta” with a veggie spiralizer. (You can always keep some pasta and just add the veggies for fiber too!) Three different blades will make apples, zucchini, potatoes, onions, carrots, beets and more easy to incorporate into your meals. My favorite is the Spiralizer Tri-Blade Vegetable Spiral Slicer which is a little more durable than the “as seen on tv” brands of a cheaper price.
8. Fruit of the month club. Cost: $20-35/month. Give the gift that gives year round with a fruit of the month club. Harry & David, The Fruit Company (organic), and Golden State Fruit are just a few you can pick from.
9. Vitamix or Nutribullet. Cost: $120(nutribullet)- $400-700(Vitamix). Both of these are “the Hulk” when it comes to blending/mixing. You can make smoothies, juices, soups, dressings, etc. The Vitamix has a bit more power and ease of use, but for the cost, Nutribullet may be best for gift giving option for you. You can also consider getting a refurbished Vitamix to lessen the cost as well.
10. Gift of Giving. Cost: $6- $250. Through the Food Bank of North Florida, a $250 donation will send a kid home each Friday with a backpack full of food for the weekend through the schoolyear (or $6/week)! Donate in your loved ones honor (
11. Wine Trax. Cost: $20. We all know America is not good with portions, and this includes wine! If you have a friend or loved one that thinks a bottle of wine only holds 1-2 servings, this may be the gift for them! This wine glass marks where the perfect portion would land on the glass, ensuring you are counting all of your liquid calories correctly!
12. Magazines. Cost: $10-20. Yes, the world has gone digital, but there is something about flipping through a health magazine while on a treadmill or soaking in an Epson salt bath. A yearly subscription to Men’s Health, Cooking Light, Shape, Food & Wine, Eating Well, or Fitness Magazine won’t break the bank, but will be a great gift that gives year round.
13. Herb Garden Starter set. Cost: $10-150. Know someone that WANTS to have a green thumb, but doesn’t know where to start or doesn’t have the yard space? This kit is for them! Choose from different kits to have fresh herbs for cooking that can grow inside or out!
14. Oil Mister. Cost: $15-30. Keep oil handy for different cooking applications, enhance your grilling, or add a hint of flavor to foods with this gadget.
15. Water bottle. Cost: $20. It is not safe (or appealing) to keep reusing the Aquafina water bottle that lives at the bottom of your gym bag! Check out the Camelbak Groove ( It not only is a great water bottle, but it has an on-the-go filtration device to allow you to keep refilling no matter where your loved one works out.
There you have it. My 15 Favorites for 2015. Have a Healthy, Happy Holiday Season!

Why You Gain Weight Over the Holidays

The average American gains 5 pounds between Halloween and New Year’s. FIVE POUNDS! And, this five pounds comes from three main sources. So, what are these three main sources of weight gain?

I’m sure you can guess at least one of them! The number one cause of weight gain over the holidays is an increased caloric intake. It takes 3,500 extra calories to form one pound of fat. Sadly, there are 3,500 calories in that ONE meal you had at Thanksgiving (as well as the breakfast of pecan pie and sweet potato casserole the next day, and the 3 pomegranate martinis & fried calamari at yesterday’s holiday party). That coupled with the second source of weight gain during the holidays, decreased activity, can put an extra pants size on your next shopping list. The last source of weight gain during the holidays is SAD, seasonal affective disorder. This is when a lack of sunlight leads to a depressed/lethargic state, and although those in the northern hemisphere are most affected, southerners are at risk as well.

Good news! There is still hope for you. YOU can actually not only survive the holiday season, but actually thrive during it! What do all three of the above sources of weight gain have in common? Two things, lack of planning, and hormone imbalances. Let’s first talk about the hormones.
We used to think that some weight gain over the holiday season was due to hormone regulation to encourage “hibernation”, or upregulating hunger and cravings and down regulating energy in order to increase fat for the winter months. This hypothesis has since been squashed, but hormones are still at the root of much of our holiday weight gain.

What does the holiday season bring? Joy, excitement, family,… excessive anxiety, stress, sleep deprivation… all of which affect our adrenal glands. Excessive anxiety and stress can lead to increased cortisol levels. Sustained cortisol production can lead to increased food cravings and binge eating (i.e. increased calorie intake over the holidays). It can also alter our glucocorticoids which regulate blood sugar and insulin release (possible fat storage).

Sleep deprivation (from holiday parties, online shopping, or excessive binge watching of Christmas lifetime movies) throws off melatonin production, the chief hormone for our circadian rhythms and our hunger time-clock. The chronic sleep deprived have a 15% increase in ghrelin release (one of our hunger hormones) and an overall decrease in leptin (our satiety hormone). End result: more over-eating!
So should you just throw in the towel and grab another pint of Ben & Jerry’s? NO! With a small amount of planning, we can better regulate your stress, your sleep, your hormones, your activity level, and your waistline!

Let’s talk about a successful holiday life plan first. Step one will be to better plan eating habits over the next 30 days. Get your daily planner out. Mark down all of the holiday parties, the movie nights, the overscheduled shopping trips. Look at the next 30 days realistically. Make a meal plan for the days you will be eating at home. Include a grocery list and when you can go to the store. Schedule lighter meals for the days you will be partaking in higher calorie dinners or parties. Start researching healthier alternatives for “treats” you may normally prepare for parties or get-togethers. Create or purchase healthy snacks/ bars for your purse or car for those extra-long days of work or errands. Have a start and stop point when it comes to alcohol at parties- maybe limit how many days/week to include alcohol. Keep a daily food log for accountability. (I love & its free app.) Snack before parties, you will be less likely to overeat. Then, at the party, only eat off of a plate, and socialize away from the buffet line. No matter what, always have a plan. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

Ready to take it a step further? Add in foods that will help eliminate or prevent adrenal fatigue, balanced hormones during the holiday season it a must. Foods high in caffeine, sugar, and processed or refined flours will exacerbate adrenal fatigue. Instead, focus on nutrient dense foods like salmon (anti-inflammatory properties), grass fed beef (B vitamins), seaweed (Vitamins A, B, Sodium, potassium),wild rice (quality carbohydrates, fiber for energy), figs, blueberries, blackberries (anti-oxidant properties), and avocado, chia,or flax seeds (omega -3s to decrease inflammation). Lastly, don’t forget about the water! Dehydration not only leads to fatigue, but also to overeating and a lowered ability to burn fat. (Alcohol dehydrates you for 72 hours.) Drink at least half of your body weight (pounds) in ounces of water daily.

Other ways to decrease adrenal fatigue and ensure your best effort for not just weight maintenance, but weight loss this holiday season:
• Rest when tired (I know! But all of our cells regenerate when sleeping, most notably the hormones needed for glucose (sugar) metabolism.
• Laugh, Have fun… daily!
• Minimize stress (this goes back to planning. Look at the week ahead of you. What can you do ahead of time, what can you delegate out?)
• Eat on a regular schedule (eating every 3-4 hours will better regulate insulin levels, energy, & overall hunger)
• Exercise! Minimum 30 minutes every other day- preferably in the sunshine!
• Avoid negative people and self-talk. Energy is contagious.
• Take an Epson salt bath to release toxins and enjoy some “you” quiet time.
• Seek support if this is a particularly emotional time of year for you.
• Have a “trigger” exercise. When you feel a stress “trigger” take 5 minutes to meditate, talk to a friend, walk outside, have a picture of your happy place,etc.

For more tips on how to survive the holidays, visit my website, to schedule an appointment. Happy Holidays!

Sweet or Sour: How Sugar Affects Your Health

Did you know that 80% of food items in the (US) grocery contain added sugar? In fact, even if you are reading labels, looks can be deceiving, with nearly 50 different names disguising sugar on labels.  Because of this, it is not surprising that the average American will consume 165 pounds of sugar this year (that does not include artificial sugars).  And with all of this sugar consumed yearly, the subject of sugar- both natural and artificial brands- always seems to be controversial.

Sugar, in general has a bad reputation because sucrose offers energy (calories) but no nutritional benefits (vitamins & minerals). The main type of sugar people are familiar with is table sugar, also known in the food industry as SUCROSE, but sugar can be found in many different forms from “natural” types like agave & honey to manufactured types like stevia. The American Heart Association suggested women consume no more than 6 teaspoons (25 grams) of added sugar and men no more than 9 teaspoons (37.5 grams) each day1. (Hint: 1 can of Coke contains 39 grams of sugar!!!) More than that has shown to lead to tooth decay, poor nutrition, weight gain, increased triglycerides, & some types of cancer.

So, if we are ingesting too much sugar overall & this is leading to obesity, heart disease, and diabetes, should you switch to the artificial sugars? Maybe. The FDA has approved six non-nutritive (zero calorie) sweeteners for use in the United States: acesulfame-potassium (Sweet One), aspartame (Equal/ NutriSweet), luo han guo (Nectresse, Monk Fruit), neotame, saccharin (Sweet n Low), sucralose (Splenda), & one natural low-calorie sweetener, stevia (Truvia).

Unlike sugar, artificial sweeteners generally don’t contain calories or raise blood sugar levels because they are not carbohydrates, they are generally hundreds of times sweeter than sugar, so you can use less. Win, Win, Right? Not so fast.

Because artificial sweeteners are hundreds of times sweeter than table sugar, our taste buds adapt. Overstimulation of sugar receptors on our tongue can lead to naturally sweet foods (fruit) becoming less appealing and unsweet foods, such as vegetables, downright unpalatable. Unfortunately, studies are finding, bland food is not our only concern.

When it comes to obesity, participants in the San Antonio Heart Study who drank more than 21 diet drinks per week were twice as likely to become overweight or obese as people who didn’t drink diet soda2.

When it comes to metabolic disease states, the Multiethnic Study of Atherosclerosis found daily consumption of diet drinks was associated with a 36% greater risk for metabolic syndrome and a 67% increased risk for type 2 diabetes2.

Also, animal studies suggest that artificial sweeteners may be addictive. In studies of rats who were exposed to cocaine, then given a choice between intravenous cocaine or oral saccharine, most chose saccharin

What about Cancer you ask? Many people avoid artificial sugars due to cancer speculations that have lingered for years. This stems from a study done in the 1970’s on lab rats, where they linked saccharin intake (the equivalent of 9-200 servings a day) to bladder cancer. This study has since been disregarded due to inconsistencies and errors in protocol. The cancer link was re-introduced when a 1996 report suggested that an increase in the number of people with brain tumors between 1975 and 1992 might be associated with the introduction and use of aspartame in the United States. After analysis, it was found that cancers began to rise in 1973, 8 years prior to the approval of aspartame, and continued to rise until 1985.

Artificial sweeteners must be reviewed and approved by the FDA before being made available for sale. Before approving the current seven sweeteners, the FDA reviewed more than 100 safety studies that were conducted on each sweetener, including studies to assess cancer risk. The results of these studies showed no evidence that these sweeteners cause cancer or pose any other threat to human health3.

One artificial sweetener, Cyclamate has been banned. Rat studies suggested that cyclamate might increase the risk of bladder cancer in humans, & the FDA banned the use of cyclamate in 1969. Since then, additional data has shown that cyclamate was not a carcinogen or a co-carcinogen (a substance that enhances the effect of a cancer-causing substance), but it has not been re-introduced because the FDA has further concerns that are not cancer related.

At this point in time, there is not a strong concern linking cancer with artificial sweeteners, however, if you have worked with me in the past, you will know my stance: moderation. We can fit anything into our diet as long as it is done in moderation. Will one packet of sweet n low in your coffee each day give you cancer, or lead to obesity. Probably not. If you drink 8 diet cokes a day will you get cancer? Possibly, but it may be more of a lack of anti-oxidants from the foods you are replacing with the soda over the actual artificial sweetener. I have the same stance regarding real sugar. If you drink one soda a month, go for the real thing! Enjoy it! However, be aware of ALL of the sugar you are taking in. As I mentioned above, 80% of our grocery store items have sugar in them. If you take a good look at your day to day consumption, you may find your sugar intake is much higher than expected. And that WILL lead to diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and obesity.

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1AHA Scientific Statement Circulation. 2009; 120: 1011-1020

2Artificial sweeteners: sugar-free, but at what cost? Harvard Health Publications July 16, 2012 Holly Strawbridge.

3Artificial Sweeteners and Cancer. National Cancer Institute Position on Sugar. Aug.5, 2009.