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NTI blogs by Ntischool - 3w ago

Last month we promised you a special recipe using preserved lemons. The options for using preserved lemons, we mentioned, are endless. Many recipes you’ll find call for using only the rinsed, preserved rind of the lemon, but the pulp is useful, too – after rinsing it well, chop up the lemon pulp and add to soups, stews, dips, salsas, and hummus. Preserved lemon rind lends more of a floral flavor to dishes, while the pulp uplifts dishes with its refreshing kick of citrus.

Which brings us to this month’s recipe for Spring Greens Jam by Paula Wolfert. Wolfert is considered an authority on Moroccan cuisine. Her books have transported home cooks to North Africa with their authenticity and well-researched methods gathered by Wolfert herself over the years she spent living and working in Morocco. While spring herbs and greens are in season, this is the perfect dip to make now. Choose any mix of greens that you find or are growing yourself. If, for example, you find dandelion greens, definitely use those in your mix. If you don’t find them, use more baby spinach. Wolfert also recommends nettles and purslane.   

Why we love this recipe:

  • Spring greens help support cleansing of the blood and the liver.

  • The addition of lemon enhances the bioavailability of the iron in the greens.

  • It’s adaptable: any combination of spring greens works in this recipe.

Spring Greens Jam (Paula Wolfert’s recipe, with minor adaptations)

Ingredients:

  • 16 ounces of greens (try any mix of baby spinach, dandelion greens, arugula, beet greens, or Swiss chard)

  • 1-2 big bunches flat-leaf parsley leaves (about 1 cup total)

  • 3 garlic cloves, unpeeled

  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro leaves, chopped (about ½ cup total)

  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt

  • ¼ cup avocado oil

  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin

  • ¼ teaspoon sweet smoked paprika

  • pinch of cayenne pepper

  • pulp from ¼ of a preserved lemon

  • rind from ¼ of a preserved lemon

  • Optional: 12 oil-cured black olives

Directions:

1) Stem the greens and herbs and chop coarsely (discard stems).

2) Fill a large pot with a steamer basket and add enough water so that it comes just under the base of the basket.

3) Bring the water in the pot to a boil.

4) In batches, add the greens, garlic cloves, and parsley. As soon as one batch softens, push it to the side with tongs and add more greens.

5) Once all the greens are added, cover the pot, and let them steam until the garlic is soft and the greens have tenderized. This will take about 10-15 minutes total.

6) Set the pot off the heat and remove the steamer basket. Let the contents cool enough to be handled. Then squeeze the greens dry with a hand towel and chop them finely.

7) In a food processor or high-speed blender, pulse the garlic, cilantro, salt, and lemon pulp until a paste forms. Add a tiny bit of avocado oil to help things liquefy.

8) Then, heat a large skillet with 2 tablespoons of the avocado oil and gently cook the garlic paste with the paprika, cumin, and cayenne. Keep stirring and cooking for about 30 seconds. Add the chopped greens and continue cooking for about 10-15 minutes, until all the liquid evaporates.

9) Transfer cooked greens to a bowl and let cool to room temperature. Add more oil and mash until the jam is smooth and creamy. Cover and store in the fridge for at least an hour and up to four days.

10) Before serving, top with optional black olives and chopped preserved lemon rind. Serve with crackers, flatbread, and a mixture of colorful raw vegetables.  

 
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Lemon pickle is so ubiquitous in Moroccan cuisine that you’d be hard-pressed to find a local home kitchen without a jar. We love using condiments from around the world. Simple, flavorful condiments can add a punch of nutrition and a certain je ne sais quoi, elevating the food you cook to something people talk about long after the meal is finished. Preserved lemons do that to dishes. Think of how a squeeze of lemon adds zip to a piece of grilled fish or a plate of roasted vegetables. Preserved lemons add complexity, and they get better the longer they ferment. Meyer lemons are most commonly used, but you could substitute regular lemons. Meyer lemons have a more delicate, floral-flavored peel that’s somewhere between an orange and a lemon. Whatever lemons you use, make sure they are organic, as the peel is the part you eat. Stay tuned for a special recipe next month using preserved lemons, and in the meantime, make these, so that they have time to pickle while you wait.   

Why We Love this Method:

  • Preserving lemons is a wonderful way to use the peel in recipes. Lemon peel contains limonene, a potent chemoprotective compound found to have antitumor properties and to assist in liver detoxification of carcinogens.

  • When eaten raw (not heated), fermented foods contain loads of probiotics that improve immunity and gut and brain health.

  • When eaten raw (not heated), fermented foods help curb sugar cravings, fight intestinal yeast, and help recolonize gut microflora.

  • Preserved lemons are versatile; use them in salad dressings, grain bowls, stews, soups, stir-fries, meat braises, guacamole, fish tacos, whipped sweet potatoes, hummus, and everywhere else you use salt.

  • They take 15 minutes to make and can last up to one year.

How to Preserve Lemons
Ingredients:

  • 1 clean, dry pint-sized glass jar with tight fitting lid

  • Sharp paring knife

  • 4-6 Meyer lemons, depending on size

  • Coarse unrefined sea salt

Directions:

1) Pour two teaspoons of salt in the bottom of your clean jar.

2) Lop off the very ends of a lemon. Make two slits down the lemon ¾ of the way lengthwise, as if you were going to quarter it.

3) Stuff the slit lemon with a teaspoon of salt.

4) Put the first lemon at the bottom of the jar, then repeat steps 2 and 3 with the remaining lemons, stuffing each on top of the other in the jar.

5) When you can’t fit any more lemons in the jar, slice one more lemon and squeeze its juice into the jar so that all lemons are submerged in lemon brine. Leave about ½ inch of space between bottom of lid and top of lemons.

6) Cover jar and leave at room temperature for at least 3 days and up to 3 weeks, then move jar to the refrigerator to slow the fermentation process.  

7) Allow lemons to ferment for at least two weeks before using. Longer is better!

To use preserved lemons, remove one from jar and scoop flesh from rind. Discard the seeds. Rinse the rind and flesh and slice thinly or mince before adding to your recipe.

 
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Mammography’s…what are we to do, screen or not to screen?! In case you haven’t yet had the experience, the procedure involves placing each breast on a flat X-ray plate while a compressor pushes the breast down to even out the thickness of the tissue. The equipment uses ionizing radiation to take images of the breast tissue, allowing the radiologist to identify calcifications and masses that could be breast cancer. The amount of radiation exposure varies based on the type of equipment used and the density of the breast tissue.

We know that radiation is not a good thing, but is the amount used in mammography a concern? To answer that question, it’s important to understand that we are all exposed to some amount of background radiation in the environment that comes from naturally occurring radioactive materials such as radon as well as cosmic radiation from space. The amount of radiation exposure from the average mammogram is roughly equivalent to 7 weeks of background radiation exposure. Estimates have stated that the lifetime risk of cancer death due to bilateral mammography in a woman aged 40 years is one in 70,000, with the risk decreasing with age. The American Cancer Society states that mammograms should be optional for women aged 40 to 44, then done annually from 45 to 54. Women 55 and older should switch to mammograms every other year, continuing as long as they are in good health and expected to live at least 10 years. There is a cumulative effect of radiation exposure, and because mammograms sometimes need to be repeated due to questionable results, this could have an impact on risk.  

Any medical procedure has benefits and risks, so the question is whether there is good reason not to follow the American Cancer Society’s recommended mammography schedule. This is where the discussion of over diagnosis and overtreatment is more pertinent than radiation risk. Numerous studies have shown that mammography does not reduce cancer death rates as much as previously thought. And what’s more troubling is that mammograms find masses that in some cases may never grow or spread, but doctors currently do not have a reliable way of knowing which masses fall into this category, and the current protocol is to treat all cancerous masses rather aggressively. False positives are also extremely common, with about half of the women getting annual mammograms over a 10-year period having a false-positive finding. This overdiagnosis leads to overtreatment, subjecting patients to surgery, radiation, and/or chemotherapy to treat something that was never life-threatening in the first place. A breast cancer diagnosis creates a tremendous amount of stress for a woman and her family, which we know contributes to other health problems. Not to mention the enormous risks that are associated with the treatments, such as infection, pain, heart and lung problems, development of secondary cancer, infertility, osteoporosis, and nerve damage. Furthermore, most women are not aware of the risk of overdiagnosis and overtreatment when consenting to a mammogram. A recent study found that women’s awareness of overdiagnosis (16.5%) and overtreatment (18.0%) was low, and women under age 40 were least likely to have heard about overdiagnosis. 

While early detection is the goal of mammography, what is the potential harm caused by overtreatment or non-life-threatening cancers, and how common is it? A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine last year provided a pretty shocking statistic: for every woman in whom mammography detected a breast cancer that was potentially life-threatening, about four are diagnosed and treated for a tumor that never would have harmed them. In other words, the relatively small benefit associated with mammography comes at the price of unnecessarily subjecting more women to disfiguring, risky, and oftentimes harmful procedures. The lead author of the study, Dr. H. Gilbert Welch, recorded a video in which he summarized the findings of his study into four main points:

  1. Death rates from breast cancer are decreasing largely because of improved treatment, not early detection

  2. While screening mammography does help some women by providing earlier diagnosis of cancers that were destined to grow larger, more often it finds small cancers that never would have caused harm

  3. There may not be a benefit of early diagnosis for small cancers that are destined to grow, because they are equally treatable at either size

  4. Screening mammography is a choice, and women should feel equally good about the choice to have a mammogram or not to.

The Swiss Medical Board has taken a stringent stance on mammography and recommended that no new systematic mammography screening programs be introduced and that a time limit is placed on existing programs. The reasoning cited is that for every breast cancer death prevented for U.S. women over a 10-year course of annual screening beginning at 50 years of age, 490 to 670 women are likely to have a false positive mammogram with repeat examination; 70 to 100 an unnecessary biopsy; and 3 to 14, an overdiagnosed breast cancer that would never have become clinically apparent.

If you choose not to have a mammogram but still want to proactively screen for breast masses, there are several other options to consider. Breast self-exams are a quick and harmless way to regularly “check in” with your breasts, making it easier to identify changes as soon as they arise. One survey found that 43% of breast cancer survivors detected their cancer either during breast self-examination or by accident by themselves or by their partner. There are many resources available online to learn how to perform regular breast self-exams. Ultrasonography is another screening tool that has similar cancer detection rates when compared to mammographyand is useful in assessing changes in breast tissue, especially in women with dense breasts. Ultrasounds are able to distinguish between fluid-filled cysts and solid masses and do not use any radiation. However, just like mammography, there is still a risk of false positives that could lead to more tests and treatment. Many women prefer ultrasounds over mammograms because they are more comfortable, don’t use radiation, and can be more beneficial in screening dense breasts. Some states have passed laws that require physicians to offer ultrasonography to women with dense breasts and mandate that health insurance companies cover the screening. To find out if your state has passed legislation regarding breast imaging, visit http://www.diagnosticimaging.com/breast-imaging/breast-density-notification-laws-state-interactive-map.

Another tool that is gaining traction in the holistic health community is thermography. Thermography seeks to assess a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer by using digital infrared images to visualize vascular and metabolic activity in breast tissue. The goal of this technology is to find thermal indicators that suggest a pre-cancerous state or early tumor that is not yet large enough to be detected by other types of imaging and to teach the patient lifestyle interventions and strategies to reduce their risk of developing breast cancer. Thermograms are generally not covered by insurance and are offered in a direct-to-consumer fashion with your provider working with you one-on-one to interpret the results and provide next steps. Many patients appreciate that this tool is virtually risk-free and allows them to take charge of their own health by making more informed decisions about the need for further evaluation or screening measures.

Whatever you decide, it’s important to know that we have choices and to be an informed consumer when it comes to breast cancer screening. All women (and men, to a lesser degree) are at risk of developing breast cancer, so it’s something to be taken seriously. And above all, know that your dietary and lifestyle habits have a profound effect on your risk level for developing any type of cancer.

Cadie Berrian, BA, MNT

 
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This is a classic Chinese dish that makes something special out of an otherwise humble head of cabbage. It is everything you want in a hot, sweet and sour recipe - don’t be surprised if you find yourself licking the juices from the bowl once the cabbage is gone! Though Savoy cabbage is versatile and can be included in anything from salads to soups to casseroles, it’s an often-overlooked vegetable in Western markets. This recipe allows it to shine for the short duration of its season. Look for a head with tight, lacy leaves that are vividly green and deeply crinkled.

Hot and Sour Stir-fried Cabbage
adapted from Chris Thile’s method in “A Recipe for Cooking”

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 Savoy cabbage

  • coarse Celtic sea salt, to taste

  • ¼ cup coconut oil, divided

  • 2 teaspoons minced ginger

  • 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes

  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

  • 2 tablespoons water

  • 2 teaspoons coconut sugar

Directions:

1)  Split the cabbage down the center through its core. Cut each half into thirds for a total of 6 wedges. Trim the core from each wedge and discard.

2)  Slice each wedge into ½ inch ribbons, then put into a colander and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of sea salt. Toss and let sit for about 30 minutes – the cabbage will wilt and drain a bit. After 30 minutes, give a quick rinse to the cabbage and squeeze dry.

3)  Meanwhile, mix together the ginger and red pepper flakes in one bowl and the apple cider vinegar, water, and coconut sugar in a separate bowl.

4)  Heat a large skillet and add 2 tablespoons of coconut oil to melt.

5)  Add half the ginger and red pepper flakes and stir until fragrant. Add half the cabbage, stir quickly and cook for 3 minutes.

6)  Then add half the apple cider vinegar, water, and sugar mixture.

7)  Continue cooking and stirring constantly, about another minute or two, until cabbage is tender. Taste, and if you think the cabbage needs more vinegar, add a capful more to finish.

8)   Repeat steps 4-7 with the second half of the cabbage.

9)   Serve hot or chilled alongside fish, pork, or chicken. Add to grain bowls, tacos, or to salads. Will keep for a few days in the fridge – in fact, it’s even better after a day or two of rest.

 

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February is the month of love, and few things are more loving than a couple choosing to bring a new life into the world. But before trying to conceive, it’s important to insure that both parents are in the best possible health. Since 55% of pregnancies in the United States are planned, there is a tremendous opportunity for parents to influence the future health of their children by optimizing their nutrition status prior to conception. Many expecting moms don’t begin to think about their diet until that first prenatal appointment, when they are directed to begin taking a prenatal vitamin and told which foods and drugs to avoid during pregnancy. But we can do better than that. Research tells us that optimizing the diet of both mom and dad prior to conception increases the likelihood of a successful pregnancy and results in healthier offspring. Nutrition therapy can help balance hormones, address deficiencies, and prepare the body for undertaking the huge transition involved in growing a human being. Show some love to your future baby by adding these top nutrients and foods to your diet, ideally at least six months prior to trying to conceive.

 

B vitamins

All of the B vitamins, but most importantly B6, B12, and B9 (folate) are critical in increasing the probability of conception, preventing early pregnancy loss, and insuring proper development of the baby. Because up to half of the population has a genetic mutation known as MTHFR that prevents the body from properly converting B vitamins into usable forms, it’s especially important that women of childbearing age determine their MTHFR status and check their B vitamin levels to ensure they are adequate, and if not, supplement where needed. There are nutrition therapy practitioners who specialize in MTHFR and nutrigenomics and can help guide mom and dad-to-be in finding appropriate supplements. Proper levels of B6 prior to conception can help stave off dreaded morning sickness and can also be used during pregnancy to treat this very common pregnancy symptom. Folate is crucial for neural tube development, which occurs in the first few weeks of pregnancy, so the mom-to-be needs to insure her levels are adequate before becoming pregnant. B12 deficiency, which is more common in vegetarians and vegans, can lead to preterm delivery and birth defects, and can be avoided by regularly consuming fish, red meat, poultry, and eggs.

 

Healthy fats and fat-soluble vitamins

A woman’s body produces more estrogen during a single pregnancy than it does during the rest of her non-pregnant life. Pretty incredible, right? Fats are needed to regulate the production of sex hormones, so loading up your diet with nuts and seeds, oils (coconut, avocado, olive, fish or cod liver), avocadoes, butter from pasture-raised cows, and eggs will help with fertility. If you consume dairy, make sure that it’s full fat, not low or reduced fat. Omega-3 fatty acids from fish are especially important for the development of baby’s brain and eyes, so enjoy your sushi and low-mercury fish as you prepare for pregnancy. Fat in your diet will help with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins D, K, A, and E, which all play a role in fetal development. Vitamin D is needed for calcium absorption and to help build baby’s skeleton, brain, and lungs. Maternal vitamin D supplementation even helps to prevent gestational diabetes and is associated with a lower risk of type 1 diabetes in offspring. Vitamin A, especially when obtained from food sources like cod liver oil and eggs, helps support the immune system during pregnancy. Vitamin E, which is abundant in sunflower seeds, almonds, and spinach, boosts sperm health and helps prevent ovulation decline, which is especially important for more mature women who are hoping to conceive.

 

Magnesium and zinc

Almost half (48%) of the U.S. population consumes less than the required amount of magnesium, and this deficiency can contribute to many chronic diseases as well as infertility. Adequate magnesium levels are required for progesterone production, which is crucial for maintaining a pregnancy. You can get more magnesium in your diet by consuming beans (pinto, black, navy) seeds (pumpkin, sesame, sunflower) and greens like spinach, Swiss chard, and beet and turnip greens. Another wonderful way to up your magnesium is by soaking in Epsom salt baths or applying magnesium oil directly to the skin. Zinc is a fertility booster for both men and women, improving sperm count and motility and helping to produce healthy eggs. Zinc deficiency in pregnancy has been associated with a number of adverse outcomes, including low birth weight, premature delivery, labor and delivery complications, and congenital anomalies. The best source is oysters along with other seafood such as clams and lobster, but zinc is also found in beef, pork, beans, and nuts. Be aware that proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) often used for acid reflux impair the absorption of both magnesium and zinc, so it’s best to avoid long-term use of these drugs if you are trying to conceive.

 

Probiotics

Research regarding the impact of the maternal microbiome on fetal outcomes is ongoing, but we know that the composition of a baby’s microbiome is directly related to that of its mother. Consumption of probiotic foods during pregnancy has been associated with lower rates of preterm birth and preeclampsia. Foods that provide natural sources of probiotics are yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, fermented vegetables, miso, and apple cider vinegar. One study reported that the incidence of gestational diabetes was significantly reduced among women supplemented with probiotics vs. dietary alteration alone, so adding a probiotic supplement to your preconception regimen is a great idea.

If you have been using birth control pills, pay special attention to consuming foods that are good sources of B vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium, and zinc, all of which are depleted when taking oral contraceptives. While you are incorporating these foods and nutrients into your preconception diet, there are also some things you should make an effort to eliminate or greatly reduce to improve fertility and the health of your future baby. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals such as phthalates (found in fragrance added to cosmetics, cleaning products, and plastic food containers), BPA, pesticides, fluoride, and heavy metals (lead, mercury, arsenic) can decrease fertility. Many of these chemicals are contaminants in public drinking water supplies, so be sure to filter your water or use spring water for drinking and cooking. Purchase organic food as much as possible to decrease your exposure to synthetic pesticides. Harvard researchers published a study in the JAMA Internal Medicine last year reporting that women who ate organic food had reduced risk of pregnancy loss and increased fertility. While it is easier said than done, stress should also be minimized and managed as much as possible due to its negative effects on the endocrine system. So, don’t feel guilty about saying “no” to extracurricular activities, taking naps when you need them, or practicing self-care routines such as yoga, hot baths, or getting a massage or pedicure. What a great way to celebrate Valentine’s Day by showing yourself some love while preparing your body to give your baby the greatest gift of all…good health!
 

Cadie Berrian, BA, MNT

 
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We decided to feature a fresh and crunchy kale recipe for February because it embodies the essence of what we study at NTI. Though we crave rich, warm, and hearty meals during winter, our cravings shift toward foods that are fresher and crisper as spring approaches. Keeping our food choices aligned with the seasons is part of nutrition therapy practice.      

With nutrition therapy, we want the biggest bang for our buck every time we eat. We aim for foods that are nutrient-dense and packed with restorative vitamins and minerals specific to the concerns we’re addressing. We target foods that invite us to feel amazing – and not just in the short-term. A salad of iceberg lettuce and out-of-season tomatoes smothered in ranch dressing is, by definition, a salad. But when it comes to our bang-for-buck philosophy, there are bigger and better options to discover.

Our body is incredibly intelligent, and it deserves intelligent foods with which to communicate and derive precious information. Intelligent recipes are full of intentional ingredients that can speak a common language with the body. It’s easy to identify these types of foods: they’re whole, unprocessed, and naturally delicious without added any sugars or flavors.

This is one smart salad!

Why We Love this Recipe:

  • Kale tastes sweeter when picked after a frost, and sweeter kale tastes delicious in raw salads.

  • The ingredients make it ultra meal-prep friendly. Double the recipe and store the chopped kale and carrots in separate airtight containers. Keep the avocadoes whole until it’s time to make the salad. Mix up the dressing in a glass jar and store in the fridge. Ten minutes of prep time for quick salad assembly all week.

  • Folate, beta carotene, and phylloquinone are believed to play a role in maintaining cognitive health as we age. This salad is full of all three.

Kale Energy Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch kale, either curly or Tuscan, chopped

  • ¼ cup carrot, chopped

  • ½ to 1 Tablespoon kelp flakes

  • 1 avocado, cubed

  • ¼ cup dried cherries (or substitute raisins or dried cranberries)

  • ¼ cup toasted sunflower seeds

Dressing:

  • ¼ cup tahini

  • Juice of 1 ½ lemons

  • 2 – 3 teaspoons honey

  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

  • ¼ cup water

  • ¼ olive oil

Directions:

  1. Whisk tahini, lemon juice, honey, salt, water and olive oil until all ingredients are evenly blended.

  2. Pour tahini dressing over kale, carrots, and kelp flakes. Toss gently and, if desired, let sit for an hour to soften the kale.
     

  3. Top with diced avocado, dried fruit, and sunflower seeds.

 

Check out MORE delicious kale recipes:

Savory Kale with Pine Nuts

Cashew Mint Kale Salad

 
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If one thing is for certain in the world of nutrition, it’s that there is more than one way to achieve optimal health through the food, beverages, and supplements we consume. At NTI, we often discuss the concept of bio-individuality, the idea that each of us has unique metabolisms, genetic predispositions, energy needs, and preferences, and as such, nutrition is not one-size-fits-all. That being said, it becomes important to look at the science behind any dietary trend to assess whether it can be beneficial or harmful for a particular person. One trend that’s been getting more attention of late is intermittent fasting.

Generally speaking, intermittent fasting is the concept of consuming meals during a shortened time frame instead of all throughout the day. This usually entails skipping breakfast and finishing evening meals by 7 pm, although there are several different protocols to consider. For generations, many religious groups and cultures have practiced forms of fasting for the cleansing of the body and mind, so this idea is not new. The goal is to take advantage of the way our bodies were programmed by our ancient ancestors, who did not always have round-the-clock access to food as we do now. Before we had modern agriculture, grocery stores, refrigerators, and food preservation methods, it was not unlikely for humans to go through periods of scarcity, missing meals or even whole days of eating. This scarcity evolved the human body into a survival machine that is adapted to handle alternating periods of abundance and shortage, and unique biochemical processes occur as a result. Some of these processes may actually help with fighting inflammation, maintaining a healthy weight, protection against chronic diseases, and improving cognitive function.

So, just because we can go without eating for intermittent periods of time, does that mean we should? This is where it’s interesting to look at how taking advantage of our bodies’ ability to survive in the absence of food may actually produce great health benefits. Here’s a sample of what the scientific literature says about how intermittent fasting can be used therapeutically.

  1. Weight loss and reduced cravings

This is probably the number one reason why folks first become interested in intermittent fasting, and rightfully so. There is a tremendous amount of research that demonstrates how intermittent fasting can switch the body from burning primarily carbohydrates for energy to burning fat. It is also more effective than traditional calorie restriction in achieving weight loss without losing muscle mass. Furthermore, intermittent fasting has also shown promise in preventing type 2 diabetes, which is associated with weight gain. Intermittent fasting also has a psychological component of teaching you how to be mindful of and control your hunger cues, which will naturally help you avoid overeating.

  1. Greater longevity

Can skipping meals actually make you live longer? More than 20 years ago, scientists discovered that mice placed on calorie-restricted diets lived longer than their well-fed counterparts. Until recently, it wasn’t understood what the mechanism behind this phenomenon could be. A recent Harvard study published in Cell Metabolism revealed that it comes down to how mitochondrial networks relate to longevity. Mitochondria, the sites of energy production within cells, exist in networks that can change shape as cells age. As we age, our mitochondria have a declining ability to produce energy, which leads to age-related disease. The researchers in this study found that by restricting the diet of nematode worms, mitochondrial networks stayed in a “youthful” state and these youthful networks increase lifespan by modulating fat metabolism.

  1. Improved memory and learning capabilities

Fasting enhances a process called autophagy (literally “eating of self”), which is how the body rids itself of damaged proteins and organelles as well as pathogens. Autophagy plays a key role in staving off neurological diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. In mouse studies, eating only every other day resulted in the mice actually growing new neurons and synaptic connections.  They were also more alert and demonstrated greater activity in the areas of their brains responsible for learning and memory. This phenomenon hasn’t yet been proven in humans (although trials are likely not far away), but anecdotally, many fans of intermittent fasting have reported greater mental clarity and alertness.

  1. Lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease

Studies have shown that intermittent fasting can lower your risk of coronary artery disease by improving cholesterol levels, triglycerides, and blood sugar levels. It can also reduce blood pressure and increase insulin sensitivity, thus improving cardiovascular health.

  1. A stronger immune system

One study demonstrated that intermittent fasting can actually regenerate your immune system, which may have positive implications for those with immune system deficiencies or autoimmune diseases. It may also help mitigate the damaging effects of chemotherapy for cancer patients.

If you choose to give intermittent fasting a try, keep in mind that while this lifestyle focuses on when to eat and not what to eat, it’s still important to focus on everything else we already know about holistic nutrition, such as recognizing the importance of good sources of fats, plenty of nutrient-dense vegetables, high-quality protein, and complex carbohydrates. There is more than one way to approach this lifestyle, so if it’s something you’d like to try for the new year, here’s an article that outlines different implementation approaches.

Also, note that this diet is probably not a good choice if you are pregnant or breastfeeding or have a history of or tendency towards eating disorders. For weight loss purposes, it has been suggested that intermittent fasting is more effective in men than women, and anyone with any type of hormone or blood sugar dysregulation should also consider refraining from fasting or choosing a protocol with fewer fasting days. As with any dietary change, you will benefit from working with a medical professional and/or nutrition therapy practitioner to insure safety and effectiveness.  

Cadie Berrian, BA, MNT

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This month, we give you a straightforward and delicately flavored recipe to help balance a season of heartier holiday meals.

Arctic char has a similar texture to salmon and a milder, cleaner flavor. A gentle sauté in olive oil helps preserve the fish’s fatty acids. Serve next to a mound of lemony arugula and steamed grains.   

Why We Love this Recipe:
  • We might not automatically think of pairing fish with raisins, though the combination is classically Mediterranean. The slightly saline flavor of Arctic char stands up beautifully to the fruity raisins. Earthy, herbal thyme adds an element of interest without overpowering.

  • DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) are Omega-3 essential fatty acids found in high concentrations in cold-water fish like Arctic char. Both EPA and DHA are critical for brain and retinal health. EFAs play an integral role in the synthesis and function of brain neurotransmitters. Our bodies don’t produce essential fatty acids, so they must be obtained from the diet.

  • In one study comparing the phytoprotective properties of grapes, sundried raisins, and golden raisins, golden raisins were found to have the highest antioxidant capacity and phenolic content. Antioxidants protect our cells from free radicals and their potentially damaging effects.

Arctic Char with Raisins and Thyme

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces sustainably sourced Arctic char

  • 3 T olive oil

  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme (make sure to use fresh; dried is too strong for this recipe)

  • handful of golden raisins

  • sea salt to taste

  • fresh black pepper to taste

Directions:

1)  First, prep your fish. Rinse and pat dry with paper towels. Then, gently remove any pin bones with a pair of tweezers. Chop char into 1-inch pieces and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

2)  Then, add raisins to a bowl and cover with hot water to allow them to plump up and soften.

2)  Pour olive oil into a cold sauté pan and turn heat to medium-low.

3)  Once olive oil has had a chance to heat, add thyme sprigs and Arctic char to sauté pan.

4)  Gently sauté char until it is just barely cooked through, stirring a few times to cook all sides evenly. Keep heat to medium-low. Oil should never come close to burning.  

5)  Once fish is cooked, remove from pan with a pair of tongs, leaving any extra olive oil behind.

6)  Place cooked char on a plate, drain raisins, and scatter them over top of the char.

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Fad diets are all the rage these days. Some people claim to lose hundreds of pounds, while others claim they’re useless. The truth is probably somewhere in between. The fact of the matter is that there is no one size fits all approach to losing and managing weight. We are all different in our biology, lifestyle, sociocultural and economic factors. The biggest part of any “diet” is really your mindset about your day to day life and what you want to accomplish. I use “diet” in quotations mostly because it is an incredibly oversaturated word. A diet is really just what you eat on a daily basis. To me, a true diet is changing the way we relate to our food and how it actually affects our health mentally, emotionally, and, of course physically.

With the millions of diet programs out there, I figured I’d shift the dialogue a little bit and give three tips on choosing what and how to eat on a daily basis.
 

You Will Mess up, so Plan for It

First, do a search for “Precision Nutrition.” This is a fantastic and holistic program by Dr. John Berardi that is generally directed at athletes, but is valuable for anyone looking to optimize their health through nutrition. One of his rules of thumb is to aim for 90%. This is fundamental. Fad diets often lead to a crash and burn effect where you are so strict that the minute you go off your program, you completely derail. We all know this feeling. You’re so good for a week, and then the weekend comes and you go out with friends and all of a sudden you’re filling up on fried food. It happens. But what happens after the weekend? Do you completely give up on what you accomplished, or just come back and get back on track? With the 90% rule of thumb, you don’t have to be perfect all the time. It gives you the freedom (guilt free no less) to get off track and maybe even plan when you will derail. This keeps people sane and happy on the diet without guilt or pressure. Try it out.

Look Forward, Not Behind

Number two we just touched on: going on a diet doesn’t include immediately cutting out everything that’s bad for you to the point where you’re eating just chicken and vegetables every single day. Sure, that can be delicious. Will it be sustainable? No way. Reframe the way you’re thinking about what you’re cutting out, avoiding, and missing, to getting excited about what you get to eat. Enjoy local meats and fresh vegetables. Enjoy looking up a new recipe and cooking it at home. Play a little bit, and you’ll have a lot more fun and with that, a lot more success.

There is No Pressure

Finally, the art of the meal prep. The biggest thing you can do for your health (and wallet by the way) is cooking and eating at home. Meal prepping is such an intimidating pair of words. It’s like if you don’t cook 7 meals on Sunday, you are a complete failure. This couldn’t be further from the truth. It does help to have sauces or soups prepped in a big batch that you can use throughout the week, but that’s not the only way to do it. The simple act of making 2-3 times as much as you’re going to eat in one sitting, so you have some for tomorrow or the next day is enough. Plus, it’ll be many times fresher than the 7-day old meal. Meal prep is about mentally planning out your meals one or a couple of days in advance. Meal prepping is also a lot more fun with a friend. This way you can share on groceries and kitchen equipment and share recipes. Again, this is not a diet, it’s about lifestyle. Don’t dread. Enjoy!

Enjoy it; It’s Your Life

This last tip brings up one or two bonus pieces of advice. First, food is social. It’s not for pounding down in the car on your way home from work. Sit down with friends and family, turn off your phone and the tv. Eat, and savor each bite. You worked hard for it and it’s gonna work hard for you. Trust me.

Let me know of any other tips or mindset shifts you may have that help you to experience the healing, vitalizing and fun aspects of food. What I’ve written is just a start!

 
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This month, we give you a straightforward and delicately flavored recipe to help balance a season of heartier holiday meals.

Arctic char has a similar texture to salmon and a milder, cleaner flavor. A gentle sauté in olive oil helps preserve the fish’s fatty acids. Serve next to a mound of lemony arugula and steamed grains.   

Why We Love this Recipe:
  • We might not automatically think of pairing fish with raisins, though the combination is classically Mediterranean. The slightly saline flavor of Arctic char stands up beautifully to the fruity raisins. Earthy, herbal thyme adds an element of interest without overpowering.

  • DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) are Omega-3 essential fatty acids found in high concentrations in cold-water fish like Arctic char. Both EPA and DHA are critical for brain and retinal health. EFAs play an integral role in the synthesis and function of brain neurotransmitters. Our bodies don’t produce essential fatty acids, so they must be obtained from the diet.

  • In one study comparing the phytoprotective properties of grapes, sundried raisins, and golden raisins, golden raisins were found to have the highest antioxidant capacity and phenolic content. Antioxidants protect our cells from free radicals and their potentially damaging effects.

Arctic Char with Raisins and Thyme

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces sustainably sourced Arctic char

  • 3 T olive oil

  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme (make sure to use fresh; dried is too strong for this recipe)

  • handful of golden raisins

  • sea salt to taste

  • fresh black pepper to taste

Directions:

1)  First, prep your fish. Rinse and pat dry with paper towels. Then, gently remove any pin bones with a pair of tweezers. Chop char into 1-inch pieces and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

2)  Then, add raisins to a bowl and cover with hot water to allow them to plump up and soften.

2)  Pour olive oil into a cold sauté pan and turn heat to medium-low.

3)  Once olive oil has had a chance to heat, add thyme sprigs and Arctic char to sauté pan.

4)  Gently sauté char until it is just barely cooked through, stirring a few times to cook all sides evenly. Keep heat to medium-low. Oil should never come close to burning.  

5)  Once fish is cooked, remove from pan with a pair of tongs, leaving any extra olive oil behind.

6)  Place cooked char on a plate, drain raisins, and scatter them over top of the char.

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