Knowledge is power! From our blog archives, this is a great one for you to read if you haven't already. I spell out the BASICS of current nutritional science, to help you both prevent and heal a myriad of health conditions. Very handy.
Does nutrition information sometimes seem overwhelming?
Especially if you are seeking to improve a complex health condition, you may feel like you need to acquire a PhD in order to find your way! Your doctor doesn’t have all the answers, NOBODY seems to have all the answers, so you may feel like it’s on all on you.
Allow me to assist.
Yes, there are lots of studies out there, and yes, we’re all different and there are lots of customizations possible. But starting with the food science basics can take you a LONG way towards elevating your health.
I call it the 4 legs of the stool.
Do you ever worry about the health of the people you love — and wish they ate healthier food? If you’ve tried to help others move in a positive direction, has it ever felt as if you were banging your head against a brick wall?
If you know my story, you might think I can’t relate. After all, I grew up eating a whole foods, plant-powered diet in the home of one of the world’s best-known proponents of healthy, plant-based eating (my dad is Food Revolution Network co-founder and president John Robbins, author of many books on health, nutrition, and social and environmental justice, including the 1987 bestseller Diet for a New America.) How could I possibly have any idea what family conflict around food is like?
Hear me out.
When I was a kid, we had our fair share of food conflicts in our extended family. My grandpa Irv, the co-founder of Baskin-Robbins, wanted nothing to do with our “hippie” eating style. He ate the standard American diet with gusto — including, of course, lots and lots of his favorite ice cream.
When my mom, dad, and I would visit my dad’s parents, we sometimes stayed in a rented condo because sharing meals could become such a point of friction. At one point, my grandma Irma famously declared, “You will NOT cook tofu in my kitchen!” She was clear who was in charge in her domain, adding: “When you’re in my house, you will eat what I serve.”
Since my grandma wasn’t exactly a black belt in flexibility, we did not try to convince her to let us cook our simple, plant-based meals in her kitchen. Instead, we prepared most of our meals separately in our condo kitchen.
We didn’t want differences over food to keep us from being a family. But because those differences were based in very different realities and values systems, we struggled with the conflicts and separations they caused.
Blood Can Be Thicker Than Ice Cream
If there’s one common problem that every inhabitant of the Earth is currently facing, it’s climate change.
Those two words sound innocent enough: “climate change.” And maybe that’s part of the problem; with everything that’s going on right now, thinking about the climate changing in 10 or 50 or 80 years just isn’t that much of a priority for most of us.
But that’s got to change. Because really, what’s happening isn’t just climate “change”, it’s climate chaos. And as crazy as things have gotten, unless we change course, we are barely seeing the tip of the iceberg of what’s coming.
But already, climate chaos is beginning to unfold, and it’s not looking good.
With unprecedented heat waves in unlikely places, like Seattle, Washington; Portland, Oregon; and even British Columbia; unprecedented flooding in Germany, Belgium, and China; unprecedented droughts and wildfires in the Western US and around the globe; the first rainfall on the peak of Greenland’s ice sheet for the first time in literally ever — and a truly alarming new scientific report on the now-unavoidable impact of global warming on our world, we can’t keep acting as if this isn’t an urgent matter of life or death.
So here’s the latest update on the crisis — and on one of the most important things we can do to turn it around (that almost nobody is talking about!).
Treating your body with kindness isn’t just about doing what feels good in the moment. In fact, truly caring for the needs of your body is often much more about thinking long-term. It’s no secret that even in the short term — but especially over time — eating junk food can take a serious toll on the body.
Too much sugar can make you feel sluggish, processed meats can increase your risk of cancer and salt can elevate your blood pressure. Alternatively, there are so many foods that you can use to fuel your body for healthy longevity and immunity. There are so many amazing, natural sources of nutrients that you can turn to — from the fresh and sweet to the savory. Here are a few of those foods that can truly have a profound impact on your life and your body.
In simpler times, a chemist discovered a substance vital to human health that the body could not produce and called it a “vitamine,” a portmanteau of “vital” and “amine” (due to a mistaken belief that this substance was an amino acid). Things got slightly more complicated when another such substance was found, but the scientists handled it with aplomb: they proclaimed the first “vitamin A” and the second — do you see where this is going? — “vitamin B.” Then came C, and D, followed by E, and then K, as several compounds in a row (F, G, H, I, and J, presumably), didn’t pass vitamin muster.
But then things started getting messy. When researchers began to realize that vitamin B was actually an entire family of substances, similar in form and function, but unique in the roles they play in human health. Instead of adding more letters (there weren’t that many left, and who knew where this proliferation of Bs was going to end), the namers turned to numbers: B1, B2, B3, B5, and so on.
A few things here. First, there’s no B-4, which you could charitably chalk up to not wanting to be responsible for the following hypothetical conversation:
Parent: “Did you take your B-4?”
Child: “Did I take my what before?”
Thank you, science.
Second, while there are eight B vitamins, there are no B batteries, which feels suspicious to me.
"And here’s the thing, you can eat a perfect diet and take all the right supplements, but if you’re not sleeping well and managing your stress, all bets are off. I see this every day in my private practice."
Chris Kresser, 9 Steps to Perfect Health, p. 34
I also see it every day in my private practice. I work with people who work very hard to be healthy. They eat all organic foods. They tune into what kind of eating plan is right for them – vegan, vegetarian, Mediterranean, Paleo, modified Paleo, and so on. They exercise regularly. They might even sleep well most of the time. But they are still not healthy. They still hurt. They still have low energy, fatigue, and low immunity. What is the problem?
Time and again, I discover that the main problem is how they manage stress.
In our current culture, stress is inevitable. We can't completely do away with stress, but we can learn how to manage it in ways that promote our health rather than destroy it.
I used to be one of those people who didn't manage stress well. I would get anxious a lot. I often felt angry or down. I carried a lot of tension in my body. And I was not well.
I read everything I could find on health. I ate really well – all organic, no processed foods, no sugar. Still, my health was going down – until I started to practice Inner Bonding.
If you Google “broccoli summer camp,” “kale summer camp,” and “cauliflower summer camp,” you’ll come up empty. You’ll find summer recipes for these cruciferous stars, sure, but no weeklong vacation event dedicated to them.
When you search for “bacon summer camp,” by contrast, you’ll discover that there is such a thing. With speakers, cooking tutorials, panel discussions, butchering demos, and even a bacon film festival, Camp Bacon caters to one of the hottest foods of the past decade.
And that’s just the tip of the strip, if you will. Someone spent enough time and energy to figure out that 62% of US restaurants have bacon on the menu. The average American consumes almost 18 pounds of bacon per year – and if you don’t, then someone out there is eating 36 pounds to keep the average up. There’s a National Bacon Day in the US. And bacon has gone from breakfast meat to ubiquitous star ingredient in everything from bacon-wrapped hot dogs and steaks to desserts like cupcakes and ice cream. And if I haven’t yet convinced you that bacon makes people highly irrational, there’s a Seattle company that sells bacon-scented underwear for men and women.
These days, whenever an animal-based product becomes hugely popular, plant-based versions aren’t far behind. Thanks to a growing market, new technologies, and social media experimentation, there are now plant-based bacon alternatives that are getting closer and closer to the original. According to the online food ordering company Grubhub, users ordered vegan bacon 113% more in 2019 than the year before.
And it’s a good thing, too! Bacon comes from pigs, the vast majority of which (approximately 95%) are raised on factory farms, which carry a whole host of ethical and environmental problems. And that’s not even mentioning the health effects of bacon, which is a highly processed meat.
So in this article, we’ll take a look at vegan bacon: why it can be a much better alternative to the stuff that comes from pigs, how you can make it yourself, and recipes that use plant-based bacon.
Although it may not be as revered as the apple, banana, or even tomato (at least in the western world), the mango is one of the most commonly eaten fruits worldwide. And production has gone up around 17% in the last few years globally, averaging over 55 million mangoes per year.
This luscious, juicy, sweet fruit that has won fans the world over originated in India, where it has a long and revered history. One of the central rituals of Hinduism, the puja ceremony, uses water infused with mango leaves to create the proper resonance for honored deities. Indian poets also use mangoes to evoke emotions like lust and love. And contemporary Indian novelists like Arundhati Roy and Anita Desai draw upon mangoes to symbolize abundance, sweetness, and possibility.
The mango is the national fruit of India, which produces more than half of all the mangoes consumed worldwide. Other top growers include Thailand, Mexico, and the tropical regions of China. In the US, mango trees can thrive in Hawaii, Florida, and parts of California.
With billions of fans and centuries of great PR, you’d think that mangoes have it made. But due to their high sugar content, mangoes are often vilified by low-carb enthusiasts. And because they’re exported around the globe, some environmentalists express concern over their carbon footprint and sustainability.
The current fitness and wellness market are literally flooded by a broad range of vitamins you can buy for prices ranging from “mind-blowing expensive” to “fantastically cheap.” Liquid vitamins, powdered supplements, special energy formulas, energy bars, are just some of the many different products currently available on the market.
There are many factors to consider before choosing the right supplement or vitamin for your health, and you should seek your doctor’s opinion first and foremost. However, we all know it’s not always possible to schedule an appointment with your family doctor to just ask him which one is the best vitamin you need.
Which ones are really good for your health, and how can you choose the ones your body really needs?
In this article, we won’t provide you any advice on the specific vitamin brands available on the market. We will just focus on the most important vitamins that can help you stay healthy at all times. Feel free to browse the Internet to find what’s the best supplement that suits your needs!
Tomatoes are popular today, but that wasn’t always the case. Until the mid-1800s, people in the United States and Europe avoided and even feared them. Tomatoes are a member of the nightshade family of plants, which many Europeans historically considered to be toxic. (To be fair, eating the leaves and berries of one of the members of this family, Belladonna, will give you hallucinations and delirium if they don’t kill you first.)
Add the strong aroma of the tomato plant itself, and the scandalously red skin and juices, and those not familiar with the tomato’s culinary upsides might be forgiven for thinking that it was not fit for human consumption.
Early tomato marketing in the US didn’t help. A gardener from Massachusetts described them as “disgusting” sometime in the 1820s. Another chronicler of public opinion estimated that no more than 2% of the population would try that “sour trash” a second time following initial exposure.
It wasn’t just that tomato was an acquired taste that the populace hadn’t acquired. There was downright terror of tomatoes through the middle of the 19th century. One myth, widely believed in Europe, was that the mere touch of the green tomato worm could result in death.
I want this article to start a different kind of food revolution. You see, when I write about foods you might want to include in your diet, I generally focus on those that you can easily obtain: fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, legumes, and so on.
Today, I want to convince you to pay attention to one of the most nutritious and eco-friendly plants ever studied, even though the only way you can get it in most parts of the US and Europe is as a powdered supplement. Why? Because not only is the moringa tree an incredible source of nutrition, it also has the potential to reverse global warming, provide food for the starving, create thriving agricultural economies in some of the poorest places on earth, and even remove toxins from drinking water.
So, I hope you’ll indulge me a little until there’s enough of a market to get the attention of entrepreneurs, importers, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and environmental and justice-oriented nonprofits to make moringa wide-spread.
More than a year into the global pandemic, there’s a lot we still don’t know about COVID-19. But here’s one thing we do know: People who are obese, have hypertension, cardiovascular disease, or diabetes, fare far worse if they become infected. They are much more likely to be hospitalized. And they are far more likely to die. In fact, according to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 94% of COVID-19 deaths are linked to other “comorbidities.” Only 6% list COVID-19 as the sole cause of death.
Since many of these comorbidities are largely preventable (and often reversible) with a whole foods, plant-based diet, it is not an exaggeration to say that the standard American diet has turbocharged the pandemic.
The United States has less than 5% of the world’s population, but in the first year of the pandemic, had 20% of the world’s reported COVID-19 deaths. How could the world’s wealthiest country, with arguably the most advanced (and certainly the most expensive) healthcare system on the planet, have fared so poorly?
The sober reality is that the United States has experienced the most deaths by far of any country in the world from COVID-19. The mortality rate from COVID-19 in the US is about 40% higher than in Europe. Is it a coincidence that the obesity rate in the US is also about 40% higher than in Europe? Or is it a clue to something we urgently need to understand?
“Inflammation” is one of those health words that is bandied about all the time… but do we really know what it means?
We think of swelling and the color red… we know it’s not a good thing, and that we want less of it… but the rest is a bit mysterious.
After my recent online Kitchen Chat about Fighting Cancer -- with Food! (you can get the recording here), one attendee wrote, “I wish you could have spent a whole hour talking about inflammation!” Quite right. It’s THAT important. Especially how FOOD fits in, and how we can use food to tone inflammation down.
Let’s take a look.
First, definitions. At it’s best, inflammation is a normal response of the body to injury and infection and an important component of healing.
Soybean, a legume whose origin is East Asia, has grown to be one of the world's most consumed products today. Some people eat them as a whole, while others eat them as processed products, including soy sauce, soy flour, soybean oil, tofu, and soy milk. The product, which is often mixed with other foods or making soups, has many health benefits, like preventing further health issues. It’s good to taste, and health benefits have contributed significantly to its popularity.
Imagine if the different organs and systems in your body weren’t on speaking terms. If you ate a big meal, your stomach might keep that news to itself, and your intestines wouldn’t release enzymes to digest that meal. Your brain would hoard the knowledge of an oncoming car, and neglect to alert your heart to pump more blood into your extremities so you could leap out of the way safely. You might be staggering from fatigue but your pineal gland couldn’t get the other systems in your body to allow you to sleep.
All these communications, and millions more, occur so rapidly that it seems like they’re not even happening. The time from someone sneaking up behind you and popping a balloon to you going into full-on fight or flight appears not to exist — it just happens all at once. In reality, the different organs and systems in the body are in constant communication, all the time. And all that data transfers thanks to little chemical messengers known as hormones.
Hormones are involved in almost all of your bodily processes and are vital to your health. They keep your body functioning optimally. And big changes in their production can trigger or signal a physical transition from one stage of life to another. But sometimes hormone levels can be thrown out of balance. Depending on the cause, hormonal imbalances can be temporary or chronic. And while modern medicine tends to treat them with medications, it turns out there’s often a lot you can do to balance hormones naturally.
What Are Hormones?
A reader recently asked: what does your plate look like? Great question, and one I can answer in a word — veg-centric.
We could all be eating more vegetables. Tons!
The science is crystal clear that eating MORE vegetables can do each of us a WORLD of good. Increasing the vegetables on our plate points us in the direction of more vibrant health, no matter what our age, gender, ethnicity, or current health conditions.
But isn’t it hard to incorporate more vegetables into your diet?
No! It’s surprisingly easy to fall in love with vegetables and find great ways to use them, because there are a VAST variety of types, colors, textures and flavors to choose from. It becomes more and more exciting the further you explore!
Will I actually feel better if I eat more vegetables?
Yes! And you may be surprised by how fast you actually FEEL better.
At Food As Medicine, where I was Executive Chef for a decade, we offered luncheon buffets full of colorful, organic, largely plant-based dishes. Attendees were often amazed to experience health improvements, some within 24 hours. Elimination might improve dramatically! Focus, mental clarity and overall energy might be discernibly better. Quite impressive results for veg-centric eating in only a few days.
By Naveen Jain and Deepak Chopra™, MD
It is fair to say that the exploration of the microbiome has turned out to be the most exciting prospect in medicine since the discovery of DNA. Most people have at least heard the term “gut microbiome,” which applies to the trillions of microbes, chiefly bacteria, that live in the human digestive tract. Awareness has risen to the point that taking probiotics—over-the-counter additives of microbes to supplement and balance the gut microbiome—has become a global $5 billion-dollar market.
We’ve reached the point, after a decade of intense investigation, where the ABCs of the microbiome are known. These facts provide the groundwork for what you can do, or cannot do, to improve your own gut microbiome (the word “gut” is necessary because we have multiple microbiomes in our mouth, groin, and armpits as well as over the surface of our skin).
Salt has long occupied a prominent place in human history. But do you have the all the facts on sodium?
For thousands of years, people who didn’t live near the ocean would travel great distances to trade for salt. Salt has been the center of many battles, often referred to as The Salt Wars. And a few British towns that end in “wich” (like Droitwich, Middlewich, Nantwich, Northwich, and Leftwich) were named for and associated with their salt works (the cognate wic sometimes related to salt works, although wic’s usual meaning was “dwelling, place, or town”). Isn’t history neat?
Our esteem for salt goes back to Biblical times. When you call someone “salt of the earth” to indicate that they embody integrity and composure in difficult situations, you’re actually quoting from Matthew 5:13. Salt was valued so highly that it was equated with currency, as you can hear in our modern word “salary,” or “payment in salt.”
But why? What made salt worth journeying, sometimes killing, and occasionally dying for throughout history?
Why We Like Salt So Much
It starts with the “p” word — and that would be “plants.”
A flood of new and surprising research is emerging about the role that plants play in brain health. For example, a study on the MIND diet — a combination of the Mediterranean and DASH diets — published online in Alzheimer’s & Dementia, The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association — concluded that people who eat more dark, leafy greens at least once a day have substantially slower cognitive decline with age than those who eat the Standard American Diet (SAD). Bingo!
Here I am on my soapbox again, talking to you about the importance of plants — for a reason! Whether it’s cancer, longevity, brain health or heart health, you’re going to find that the optimal diet has a lot of the color green in it. Why?
Self-care should be uppermost in our minds during the COVID-19 crisis, for several urgent reasons. Self-care returns a sense of control over your own life. It gives you an integrative approach to mind and body. It aligns you with the best knowledge currently available about who is more at risk for developing acute symptoms after being infected.
Your immune status is complex, and in mainstream medicine the chief determining factor is traditionally considered to be genetic. However, there are strong links to underlying low-level chronic inflammation connected to lifestyle that is found in most if not all common disorders including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and even obesity. COVID-19 has a mortality rate that increases with age and pre-existing conditions, as we all know by now.