All posts by Keegan Sheridan

About Keegan Sheridan

Dr. Keegan Sheridan is a nutrition, marketing and communication specialist to the natural food and health industries. She's also a naturopathic physician, mom and evangelist for people and planet health. Keegan speaks and writes about the science, politics and evolution of natural food, health and medicine.

Two Recipes to Personify the Winter Season

Screen shot 2013-12-09 at 11.19.44 PMThere are so many things to love about winter: soft, fluffy scarves to bundle up in, holidays to celebrate with loved ones, and of course all the many traditional dishes filled with hearty ingredients and warm spices.

The ingredient that personifies this time of year more than any other for me is ginger.  It’s a spicy spice in the best kind of way one that warms you from the inside out.  It works in everything from a Thanksgiving cranberry chutney recipe to a simple herbal tea.  And ginger is not just about flavor and spice, it’s also one of the most well studied herbs in botanical medicine, with an impressive body of research to support its use for a variety of health conditions including improvement in muscle and joint pain, nausea due to pregnancy or chemotherapy and a variety of other conditions where inflammation plays a role (which is almost everything).

Fun fact: Dried ginger is ten times more healing than fresh

Here are a couple recipes with ginger that I love to make this time of year:

Simple Ginger Tea

I make this tea when I’m feeling cold and a bit lazy.  It leaves me feeling instantly warm and healthy.

  • Thoroughly wash a chunk of fresh ginger rhizome (root) and use a carrot grater to remove the outer skin
  • Slice lengthwise into two or three thick pieces and add one to two slices to a cup of very hot water or tea (green or raspberry leaf are some of my favorite choices)
  • Steep for 3-4 minutes and enjoy

Superfood Muesli

I’ve modified this recipe from one I was introduced to while in naturopathic medical school.  I love it because you can make a big batch that will last for weeks and it’s fun to get creative with different spices and ingredients.  Although this dish can be eaten warm or cold, I like to warm it up in the winter for a stick-to-your-ribs breakfast that provides excellent whole-food nutrition and energy.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups rolled grains (e.g. oats, rye, barley, and/or rolled rice flakes)
  • 2 cups oat bran
  • ½ cup dried, unsulphured fruit (e.g. raisins, dates, blueberries, cranberries)
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds and/or pumpkin seeds (can be ground)
  • 1 cup raw nuts (e.g. walnuts and almonds)
  • 1 cup seeds (e.g. ground flax seed, chia)
  • 1 tsp each of one or more of ground ginger

Combine all ingredients, mix well and store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.  To make a single serving, scoop a ½ cup into a bowl and add 1 cup liquid (e.g. water, nut milk or dairy milk are all good options).  Soak overnight and then heat in microwave in the morning or, to prepare right away, heat in a saucepan until grains are soft and ingredients have absorbed all the liquid.

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Image by Muy Yum

Transparency is the New Marketing

Screen shot 2013-11-06 at 10.37.23 PMI write this post while anxiously waiting for confirmation on the passage or failure of WA State Initiative 522 that would require labeling of food products using GMO ingredients sold in the state.  Numbers are still rolling in from yesterday’s vote and even though many say it doesn’t look good, it’s still officially too close to call.  It’s no surprise the race is close – it was another David and Goliath battle, similar to the version in my own home state of California last year.  The No on 522 Campaign spent a record-setting $22M to defeat the bill.  The fact that the race is close given this statistic alone is in some way a sign of success for advocates of GMO labeling regardless of the ultimate outcome.

As I’ve said in previous posts on the issue of GMO, questions of technology and safety are, in my mind, less significant to the issue of transparency.  GMO may be good, it may be bad (if my opinion counts, I think it’s probably a mix of both), but without transparency about where it’s being used we cannot engage in a fair, thoughtful and productive debate.

To me, GMO is just an excellent poster child for the issue we are really talking about here…(Read the rest on KeeganSheridan.com)

Your Seasonal Guide to Food as Medicine: October Produce

King Estate winery pumpkin harvestIt’s no coincidence that the shift to shorter days and harsher conditions coincides with the emergence of hardier fruits and vegetables.  Thicker skin, more substantial leaves and, most relevant to this article, produce that is absolutely packed with health-promoting compounds is the feature of this month’s food as medicine post.  As a naturopathic doctor, I believe food is one of our most powerful medicines.  And what a treat October turns out to be, with some of the most impressive fruits and vegetables in season to enjoy.  If you’d like to start at the beginning, you can find my first food as medicine post here.

As I mentioned in my September food as medicine post, what’s in season will vary from state to state.  I recently discovered this great interactive map by Epicurious that allows you to see what’s in season where you live and I encourage you to check it out.

Broccoli – This hardy green is just one of six modern vegetables derived from the same wild plant, called colewort.  Collard, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale and cauliflower have also been selectively bred from colewort and it’s for this reason that these vegetables have a similar flavor profile and medicinal qualities. The Brassica vegetables have many nutrients and biochemical substances, such as vitamins, minerals, fiber, carotenoids, bioflavonoids, sulfur, dithiolethiones, and glucosinolates. More importantly, these vegetables enhance the body’s cancer-fighting abilities, possess antioxidant effects, and remove harmful chemical additives, such as radiation.  According to the American Cancer Society and Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating, it is recommended to include the Brassica vegetables in the daily diet, especially in women, because of their nutritional value and medicinal properties.

Brussels sprouts – Although they look a bit different, Brussels sprouts are a sibling of broccoli and part of the same colewort family.  A more similar sibling, at least in appearance is cabbage.  In fact, Brussels sprouts are just the lateral buds of the same plant, where larger cabbage is the terminal bud.  Brussels sprouts contain more than 80 micronutrients and make a nice complement to the more traditional antioxidants (A, C and E) and phytochemicals found in fruit, as the compounds in Brussels sprouts have their greatest action in the liver, the body’s detoxification center.  From a preventative perspective, combining a spectrum of cellular antioxidants plus liver protective compounds is a powerful combination to any chronic disease pathway from cancer, to diabetes and aging.

Pomegranates – One pomegranate delivers approximately 40 percent of an adult’s daily vitamin C requirement and is high in polyphenol compounds. These compounds are thought to reduce “silent inflammation,” which research has suggested is at the root of diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.  Preliminary research also suggests that pomegranate may be beneficial as an antioxidant and as a treatment for atherosclerosis, erectile dysfunction, high cholesterol, and prostate cancer.   An interesting caution to keep in mind with this fruit is that, similar to grapefruit, pomegranate contains compounds that inhibit the CYP450 pathway in the liver.  This pathway is critical to the metabolism of many prescription drugs and for this reason, these fruits should be taken away from many prescription medications.

Pumpkins – A cup of cooked, mashed pumpkin contains more than 200 percent of your recommended daily intake of vitamin A, delivered in the form of beta-carotene, a compound that avoids the toxicity risks of vitamin A as a standalone compound. Another interesting fact about pumpkins: a cup of cooked pumpkin has more potassium than an equivalent cup of banana.  Potassium works in partnership with sodium as an important electrolyte in the body and is critical to maintaining healthy muscle and heart function.

Pumpkin seeds – If you’ve heard about the sleepy compound, l-tryptophan, found in turkey, beware of pumpkin seeds as well which also happen to be a significant source of this amino-acid.  L-tryptophan also happens to be a precursor to the hormone serotonin which is one of the major mood influencing chemicals in our brains.  Pumpkin seeds also provide significant levels of magnesium, vitally important for the creation of energy in the body and zinc, which supports immune system function, sleep, mood and insulin regulation.  Finally, pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of the essential fatty acid ALA that promotes a healthy inflammatory response in the body.

Star fruit – This is a truly beautiful star-shaped fruit that makes a wonderfully crisp and visually appealing addition to any autumn-inspired salad.  And this fruit is not all about looks, a cup provides a full 62 percent of the daily value of vitamin C.  Interestingly, however, if you have impaired kidney function, take note.  High levels of a compound called oxalic acid in this fruit can accumulate in the kidneys and become toxic.  Star fruit intoxication can develop in patients with kidney failure after eating as little as one half of a fruit or drinking less than eight ounces of star fruit juice.  Symptoms of star fruit intoxication include persistent hiccups, nausea, vomiting, agitation, insomnia, mental confusion and convulsions that occur within one to five hours of eating the fruit.  Unfortunately, sometimes the medicine found in food is not always positive.

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photo by: Don Hankins

Soy: Is it Safe for Me? A Cautionary Tale for People and Planet

shutterstock_121423399-e1361475949317I came across an article this week, written by Barry Boyd, MD, a board certified oncologist and hematologist, that does an excellent job of summing up, once and for all, the myths and facts around soy as it relates to breast cancer.  Fortunately, I think we’ve finally gotten to a point in science that we can confidently stand on one side of the fence when it comes to soy and this issue.  If you’re at all confused about soy and breast cancer, I recommend you give his article a read.

But, before you go and grill up your next soy veggie burger, you should know that there’s another cautionary tale to be told about this plump little legume.  It turns out much of the soy we eat today is not plump or even all that soy-like.  Thanks (or not) to advances in food technology, much of the soy we eat today is either genetically modified, washed and extracted with a neurotoxic petro-chemical, or both.  So, with Dr. Boyd’s talents for history telling as inspiration, allow me to tell you a bit of a story…

Soy is actually quite a deserved celebrity when it comes to beans.  It’s an excellent source of soluble and insoluble fiber, contains heart healthy unsaturated fats, and is a rare vegetarian source of complete protein (a protein is considered complete when it matches the composition of the protein found in an egg).  If you’re a vegetarian, finding complete sources of protein is a big deal.  It’s also planet friendly as it’s grown domestically and has a much smaller carbon footprint than eating an equivalent amount of protein from an animal source (thus the veggie burger reference).  Maybe it’s because of all these positive attributes that soy has been such a point of focus for food scientists.  The fact that it’s a subsidized crop that US farmers are heavily incentivized to grow in mass quantities doesn’t hurt either.

Although all the aspects of a soybean are compelling, it’s really the protein that’s become a focus for the packaged food industry.  High protein diets are a bit of a nutrition fad if you haven’t noticed.   Although most of us have stepped back in recent years from the extremes of the Atkins Diet, more still seems to be better and what better ingredient to bump up protein levels in food than inexpensive and abundant soybeans?

So then, it should be no surprise that soy can be found in almost every packaged foods category.  From crackers to energy bars, ice cream to frozen waffles, soy boosts the protein levels of an incredible number of foods and can be found in more than 60% of processed foods in the marketplace today.

But here’s the thing: just as protein is an established fad, fat is an equally established phobia.  Mother Nature rarely creates food without a balanced mix of nutrients – some fat, some protein, some fiber and likely some antioxidants thrown in for good measure.  Ten grams of protein and zero grams of fat?  Nope, not found in nature and certainly not in a soybean.  So, to meet our demands for protein without all the scary fat, scientists developed a method to separate the two. Hexane is a petro-chemical that is drilled out from deep down in the earth.  When washed over soybeans it causes the fat to separate from the protein.  It’s incredibly efficient at what it does, much more so than mechanically pressing out the oil (the way expeller-pressed oils are extracted).  What you get at the end of the hexane washing process are two new ingredients, isolated soy protein and soybean oil.

Hexane is a pretty scary chemical. The Environmental Working Group classifies it as… [read the rest on KeeganSheridan.com

Celebrating a Practice That’s Changing Medicine

NaturopathicMedicineWeekNaturopathic Medicine Week is October 7-13th

I am a naturopathic doctor.

I represent a community of approximately 4400 practicing physicians in the United States.  We may be small in number, but what we lack in size we make up for in a passion and commitment to the philosophies we took an oath to honor:  that our bodies’ have an inherent wisdom of how to be well and our primary job as a doctor is to remove barriers to health in order to honor this ability, that at our core we are teachers and in order to truly cure, we must empower our patients to become active participants in their healing process, and that treating symptoms is not the end game, but merely clues to identify and treat the causes of disease.

When you’re small it’s often hard to be seen.  That’s why the recently passed Senate Resolution 211, establishing this week, October 7-13th, as national Naturopathic Medicine Week is such a big deal.

From the authors of the resolution,

“…naturopathic medicine provides noninvasive, holistic treatments that support the inherent self-healing capacity of the human body and encourage self-responsibility in health care”

They go on to state,

“That the Senate recognize the value of naturopathic medicine in providing safe, effective, and affordable health care; and encourage the people of the United States to learn about naturopathic medicine and the role that naturopathic physicians play in preventing chronic and debilitating illnesses and conditions.”

Awareness about what naturopathic medicine has to offer couldn’t come at a better time.  As a society, we’re really, really sick.  Two-thirds of us are overweight or obese, leaving us at risk for the development of serious diseases such as cardiovascular disease, arthritis and depression.  88 million of us have high blood pressure and 25 million have insulin resistant diabetes.  A full 75% of our national health care costs are focused on these chronic, yet largely preventable, diseases.

Naturopathic doctors (NDs) are specialists of diet and lifestyle-based treatments and it’s exactly these treatments that are proven to be the most effective medicine for the prevention and treatment of these chronic illnesses.  We receive an average of 70 hours of nutrition education and an additional 130 hours of training in therapeutic diets compared to an average of just 19 hours of basic nutrition education in conventional medical programs.  We look at the physical, emotional, environmental and social influences and approach each patient as the unique person that they are, using the least invasive (and often less expensive) treatment possible.  In addition, we tend to set up shop where we’re needed most, a full 50 percent of us work with underserved populations.

I believe naturopathic medicine is an essential part of the solution to our health care crisis.  We are a medicine that is changing medicine and it’s for this reason that I am celebrating Naturopathic Medicine Week.  To learn more about naturopathic medicine and find a naturopathic physician near you, please visit our national association, The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians.

***

For more from Keegan please visit her website and make sure you follow her on Twitter

The Best Grab-N-Go Superfood Breakfasts

tumblr_mj4j59lg5R1rnp953o1_500If you’ve read some of my recent articles, you’ll know that I not only believe breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but that it should also be the largest. Not just for the reasons you likely heard as a child (i.e. improved mental focus and test scores), but because a big, nutrient-dense meal at breakfast also supports things like:

  • A healthy body weight
  • Stable energy due to less fluctuation in blood sugar levels throughout the day
  • Improved digestive function (a.k.a, stimulation of a regular, healthy bowel movement)
  • Manifesting your modern day superpower (mine happens to be finding decent parking spots)

Most days, I don’t have the luxury of a leisurely breakfast, and more days than I’d like to admit, breakfast happens while driving in my car. So, after many years of perfecting my need for grab-n-go breakfast options that meet my nutrition requirements, I landed on a few favorite options that give me everything I need to feel great and get my day off to a healthy start.

Superfood Muesli 

This is a recipe I was given while in naturopathic medical school. It can be eaten warm or cold, and it’s super easy to make. You can store a big batch for weeks and then place a scoop in a Pyrex dish the night before so you can literally grab it out of your fridge and go. I like to use soy milk as the liquid and add some honey for sweetness. It is incredibly dense and gives you a “stick to your ribs” kind of feeling which is great if you have a busy day ahead.

Superfood Smoothie 

One of the reasons I love smoothies is that I can throw supplements like vitamin D, fish oil and multivitamins into the mix to streamline my morning ritual even more. This recipe was my go-to breakfast almost every morning through both of my pregnancies. I’d often grab a handful of peanut butter pretzels as well to balance out some of the sugar from the fruit. Tip: Put all your smoothie ingredients into a large mason jar before going to bed so all you have to do in the morning is take it with you (if you happen to have a blender at work), or blend at home and then put back into the mason jar to use as a travel container.

Nut Butter Balls 

I came across this recipe while looking for snack options to have on-hand for my boys to eat. It turns out this recipe is not only easy to make and kid-approved, but a great on-the-go breakfast option. I like to add lots of goodies like chia seeds, flax seeds and fresh shredded coconut. You can make a big batch and keep in a large Pyrex container (create layers in the container using wax paper) for up to a week. Two or three of these balls and you’re satisfied until lunch, no problem.

Nut Butter Toast

When your best attempts at planning and prepping don’t manifest, there’s always basic nut butter toast. I like to trade between almond and sunflower butter, and when I know I have a big day planned, will make this into a toasted sandwich using two slices of stone-ground bread with a thin layer of jam. Basic and perhaps a tad boring? Yes. Super fast to make and easy to eat while driving? Absolutely.

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Photo credit: Instagram @riiaberg

Your Seasonal Guide to Food as Medicine: September Produce

Apples on treeOver the past few weekends, my sister-in-law and her family have made over 20 gallons of cider from some of the pie apple trees that grow on the pasture of our family’s Iowa farmland. Nothing says autumn like apple cider! And so it is here…the end of summer. Luscious berries and delicate flowers are fading as hearty leaves and roots make their entrance into our farmers markets and recipes. Whether you are in Arizona or Maine, I’m sure you’re noticing the changes all around you.

However, because the expression of the seasons is not the same in every state, what’s “seasonal” in terms of produce can vary quite a bit. I recently came across this interactive map that allows you to choose your state and see what’s in season where you live. There are lots of tools like this out there, but this one happens to be especially easy to use.

For this month’s seasonal guide to food as medicine post, I’ve chosen to focus on some of the edible herbs that also act as common botanical medicines and then, of course, I must talk about the amazing properties of apples. If you’d like to start at the beginning of this series, you can find the first article here.

Horseradish – A hardy root that’s been cultivated for over 2000 years with long list of traditional uses for everything from acting as a blood cleanser to treating headaches. From a modern science perspective, compounds in this spicy root have shown benefit as an antibiotic. In a 2006 study, a constituent of horseradish was found to decrease symptoms from acute sinusitis, bronchitis, or urinary tract infections as effectively as standard antibiotic therapy. From my own personal experience, I also believe a nice-sized bite of this raw root does an excellent job of opening up congested sinus passages!

Lemon balm – This herb gets its common name due to its lemon scent although it’s not related to the citrus fruit itself. An edible plant, the leaves show promise as an anti-viral medicine, specifically indicated for the virus, Herpes simplex, as well as showing benefit for symptoms of anxiety. You can crush up the leaves to make a hot tea or find dried versions in capsule form at your local health food store.

Borage – This plant is native originally to Syria, although it has spread throughout the Middle East and Mediterranean and can be grown in many temperate climates. The leaves and beautiful lavender flowers may be eaten, but it’s the seeds that get the most attention in the natural medicine community. According to a retrospective review of more than 2,000 supplement and medication records for elderly Americans (60-99 years), borage oil supplements are one of the most popular herbal products among elderly women, likely due to their relatively high level of gamma-linolenic acid, an essential fatty acid linked to improvements in inflammatory conditions and menopausal symptoms.

Elderberry – This plant has an incredibly long and impressive history as a medicinal plant. Native Americans used elder for infections, coughs, and skin conditions. Ancient Egyptians even used elder flowers to improve complexion and heal burns. From a modern science perspective, elderberries show promise as an anti-viral medicine, decreasing viral load in the body as well as improving flu-like symptoms.

Apples – Last but not least, apples! We all know the famous apple saying relating to health, and it’s true that this little miracle from Mother Nature is packed with goodies like fiber and vitamin C. However, what I find especially exciting about apples are some of the amazing compounds, called phenolic phytochemicals, found primarily in the skin of the fruit that are currently undergoing scientific investigation. An emerging theory is that these phenolic compounds may protect against certain neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s by acting as an antioxidant in brain tissue.

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How I’m Moving Forward in the GMO Food Debate

Bosworth Battlefield (2)

A few weeks ago I wrote a post, “The Genetically Modified Food Debate”, which introduced a series of articles by Nathanael Johnson, a Grist.org writer that’s taken on the big task of sorting through the GMO debate to provide the straight story on where the science, politics and implications to people and planet truly stand.

As someone who’s followed the topic of GMO for many years, I’ve often wished for a series of articles just like this. It’s a heroic effort and having the opportunity to go on an exploration of sorts through these articles has helped me crystallize what I believe are the biggest issues and necessary next steps in the GMO food debate. If you’d like to read Johnson’s series, you can start here and find links to subsequent posts at the bottom of each article.

As I’ve mentioned before, I believe that as humans we are hard-wired to experiment, research and evolve our understanding of the world. Given what I know of evolution and farming, biotechnology seems like a logical place for exploration in science. It’s in the application of this science that things can get complicated. My sense is that, like most things, the best scenario for people and planet as it relates to genetic modification is toward the center from either side of the extreme.

My primary concern about genetically engineered food crops is not so much about the study of biotechnology in plants, but the ripple effect the application of these crops is having on current farming practices and our global food community. Here are some of the things I find most troubling:

  • GMO are often bred for resistance to herbicides and pesticides. As a result, weed-killing herbicide use on genetically engineered corn, soybeans and cotton increased by 383 million pounds in the U.S. from 1996 to 2008.
  • GM crops support the practice of mono-cropping (growing only one type of agricultural product in a large area of land, year after year). This approach has an economic benefit in that it simplifies farming operations and decreases labor costs. However, mono-cropping depletes nutrients from the soil and decreases crop-yields over time creating a need for increased synthetic fertilizer use. Although there may be a short-term economic gain, there’s a larger long-term cost to the health of the planet.
  • Implementation of GMO and mono-cropping practices in developing countries has impacts that go beyond just human and planet health. Traditional knowledge about how to farm the land, what indigenous plants provide nutrients of need and seed saving techniques to maintain biodiversity…all this wisdom that is passed from generation to generation may be lost and maybe more importantly, be seen as inferior to modern conventional methods.

The biggest hurdle to finding a path forward that is acceptable to groups on both sides of this issue seems to sit within science. Through Johnson’s articles, it’s clear that the methods we have to determine safety and the impact to human and planet health are flawed. The questions we’re asking through testing simply do not provide the answers many people are seeking to understand. This is an issue that’s much bigger than just GMO, but yet one that is effectively stalling the ability of the food community to find consensus about how to move forward. Until we evolve both the methods of testing and what we’re testing for, I don’t see how we’re going to come together.

So, what to make of all this? Well, as for me, I plan to keep looking [read: hoping] for an evolution in testing, particularly in the form of support from our government to investigate new approaches to better answer the valid concerns around GMO’s impact to people and planet health. In the meantime, as we continue to navigate our way to better answers, I believe the right thing to do is provide as much transparency and through that, education, as possible. We don’t have the answers, and until such a time that we do and this matter is settled, why not let people make their own decision? Let’s label GM foods, raise awareness and hopefully get to a place where we can argue towards solutions.

If you’re interested in doing some digging of your own into this issue, Johnson also did a recent article that provides a “Cliff’s Notes” version of some of the most popular books on GMO. You can read this article here.

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Weight Loss Tip: Eat Your Dinner for Breakfast

GirlEatingDinnerFor many years, I operated a private practice as a naturopathic doctor in Southern California, specializing in the treatment of digestive diseases and side-effects of cancer treatment. Although weight loss support was never a service that I proactively marketed, it was an all too common issue that I found myself needing to address with my patient population. Really, this wasn’t a surprise to me, given that close to 70% of all adults in this country are overweight or obese. Every doctor, no matter their specialization, can likely relate to my experience – given the epidemic of overweight and obesity in our country, the need to treat these diseases is fundamental to successfully addressing the vast majority of other symptoms and illnesses plaguing our society today.

The weight loss protocol that I created was conceptually quite simple and consisted of two basic recommendations:

  1. Decrease reliance on packaged and fast foods and increase consumption of whole foods
  2. Make breakfast the biggest meal of the day, lunch the next largest and dinner the smallest

I consciously avoided complicated rules and trends such as those found in diets like “The Zone” or “Atkins”.  My goal was to create a mental shift in my patients from seeing a diet as a temporary thing to do to lose weight to a life-long way of approaching food in a healthy manner. Personally, I don’t have the time or interest to count calories, weigh my meals or eat the same frozen dinners over and over. Perhaps it was my own irritation with these trendy plans that played the biggest role in the advice I ultimately shared with patients.

To get started, I would often suggest a patient make one simple change: eat their dinner for breakfast and their breakfast for dinner. So, if they typically ate a chicken breast, green salad and slice of bread with butter for dinner and a bowl of cereal for breakfast, they’d just switch them up, simple as that. Although the idea of eating chicken breast and salad for breakfast was often a bit of a mental struggle, it was about as easy a change as you could make…no modifications to your grocery shopping list, no new recipes, no calorie counting.

More times than not, when I would see them at their next appointment, they had lost weight…amazing but true. With the idea planted (and some nice weight loss results as motivator), I would then work with them to find more suitable meal ideas grounded in whole food ingredients that followed the same approach of eating the largest meal at breakfast and the smallest meal at dinner.

Last week when I came across a study recently published in the journal Obesity that followed this same approach I was incredibly excited. I was even more excited when I read the results of the study that found significant weight loss as well as other improvements in fasting glucose, insulin and triglyceride levels in the treatment group. How wonderful it was to see this approach studied and to see it demonstrate such positive and measurable results.

I have often joked that I discovered the next diet fad and have even come up with a few potential names, “The Dinner-Fast Diet”, “Eat Steak but Only at Breakfast Diet” or maybe, “The Upside Down Diet”. Too bad I don’t have a publishing deal…it seems like I really may be on to something!

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Your Seasonal Guide to Food as Medicine: August Produce

Mmmmm Harvest... - Fort Collins, Colorado
photo: gregor_y
August is arguably the pinnacle of summer.  If you have a vegetable garden, things are shooting and crawling all over the place.  If you outsource your farming (as I am very thankful to do) famers markets are like an exploration in paradise.  When everything is at its peak, just enjoying the pure flavor of a fruit or vegetable alone and in the raw can be divine.

As a naturopathic doctor, I’m always looking at food as medicine.  It turns out many of the colors that make plants so beautiful and many of the compounds that make them so flavorful are also powerful medicines for everything from cardiovascular support to cancer prevention.  For the past few months, I’ve been creating a seasonal guide to fruits and vegetables through the lens of food as medicine.  If you’d like to start at the beginning, you can find my first post here.

Sweet Basil – This delicate green leaf has a distinct flavor and is a staple spice in cuisine from Thailand, India and Turkey.  Research to investigate health promoting compounds and activity is broad for this plant and although research to date is not well-established, basil does show some anti-viral and anti-bacterial activity.  Perhaps most interestingly, sweet basil is traditionally used in by some communities in India as a toothbrush by folding the leaves and rubbing them against the teeth…I suppose if you ever find yourself in a pinch without a toothbrush you can pick up some basil as a substitute!

Mangoes – This fruit is the official fruit of my family.  My husband spent a few years as a child living in Kenya, and along with a long list of other things, brought his deep affection for mangoes home with him.  From a nutrition standpoint, one cup of chopped mango provides an excellent source of vitamins C, beta-carotene (vitamin A) and folate.  From a medicine perspective, the bulk of the research to date is focused on the seed.  Although typically not considered a food, fiber from the mango seed may provide benefit for weight loss.

Eggplant – A beautiful vegetable (which is actually a fruit), eggplant provides a nutritional punch with fiber, magnesium and a range of other vitamins and minerals.  In addition to the nutritional nutrition profile, eggplant contains chlorogenic acid that may help to promote healthy cholesterol levels.

Tomatoes – This post could easily have been dedicated only to tomatoes.  The body of research on lycopene, a carotenoid compound found in tomatoes with antioxidant and anti-proliferative (slows tumor growth) properties, blows all the plants from in this month out of the water.  Most famously, lycopene has been researched for its ability to slow benign prostatic hyperplasia and prostate cancer growth.  However, it is also showing promise for a long list of other conditions as well: asthma, atherosclerosis, breast cancer prevention and diabetes type II (just to name a few!).  Another interesting tip about tomatoes and lycopene, is that in contrast to most active compounds founds in plant, lycopene becomes more potent and bioavailable the most it is processed.  So, although you should absolutely bite into a fresh beautiful heirloom this month, a generous squirt of organic ketchup on your next veggie burger isn’t a bad idea either.

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Image by See-ming Lee

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