By: Hillary Givhan, Contributing WriterLow FODMAP, histamine-free, gluten-free, anti-candida, nightshade-free, dairy-free, sugar-free — the list goes on and on. There are numerous therapeutic diets, and with more and more people facing food sensitivities, digestive troubles, and autoimmune disease, the need for these specialty diets is rising.For some, staying gluten, dairy, or sugar-free may be a permanent lifestyle choice or need. But for the more rigorous dietary guidelines, they are likely only necessary for a season of healing. Whatever the case, it can be daunting and even downright depressing for anyone to open their cabinet and realize their lifelong staples are no longer allowed. It can also be challenging if you find yourself unable to eat prepared foods or items you are used to using in your meal prep (flavorings such as onion and garlic, sauces, deli meats, canned soups, frozen meals, breads, etc.) However, with patience, experimentation, and perseverance, these therapeutic diets can be tasty, varied, and dare I say, a little fun. Below are 8 tips for making a big dietary shift a little easier:1. Glass Half Full: Write a comprehensive list of things you can eat. Rather than focusing on what you “can’t” have, adopt the glass half-full mindset by focusing on all that is still available to you.2. Make the Cut:Take stock of your pantry, refrigerator and freezer. Mark down the things you have that fit within your diet. If anything doesn’t fit the criteria and will go bad or tempt you, get it out of your house. Aside from throwing it away, you can give it away, put it in the freezer (or a friend’s freezer) for when you can eat it again, etc. This may be difficult, but it will help you stick to your goal.3. Gather Meal Ideas: If you’re working with a nutritionist or dietitian, ask for meal ideas. With specialty diets on the rise, there is a likely chance you will find recipes and food blogs specific to your needs online as well.4. Simplify your Meals: One way to make meal planning and prepping easier is to view meals as containing three categories: starch/grain base, protein, and veggies. This will help you break down your allowed foods list into meal pieces that can easily be combined.5. Take the Guesswork Out:Create a list of several breakfasts, lunches, and dinners that you think you’ll like. Underneath each meal, list all of the ingredients you will need. Each week, you can choose what meals you will make from here. This can act as your go-to shopping list, and it will take the headache out of figuring out what to eat every week.7. Take Notes: It’s likely you’ll have to do a lot of cooking at home on a therapeutic diet. If you aren’t used to cooking at home, or if your new protocol is unfamiliar, be sure to take notes as you make these recipes so that you know what you might want to change next time. 8. Go Easy on Yourself:Know which foods are the top priority to eliminate and start there if it’s too overwhelming. You can continue to refine your food choices as you go, but the key is to think of making progress, not perfection. Changing eating habits affects many areas of life- physical health, social habits, sense of normalcy, etc. It takes a lot of willpower to effectively practice a new way of eating. Remember that you are doing something hugely beneficial for yourself and your loved ones in the long-term. It will be worth it. If you slip-up here and there, it’s okay; just get back up and try again. The occasional mistake will do less damage if you are daily making consistent, positive decisions for your health.Therapeutic diets can be stressful, but they also push the bounds of creativity and skill in the kitchen as well as expose our taste buds to new worlds of flavor. Necessity is the mother of invention, and the greater the necessity, the more inventive you’ll become! We hope these tips have been helpful to you! Let us know if you have any tips you can add.
Home Sweet Home for the Holidays...
By: Ashleigh Stewart, Contributing Writer
Enjoying the holidays can be an experience for all senses--sight, taste, touch, hearing and smell. When we consider the scents of the holidays many of them are created from artificial air fresheners, fragrances and decorative candles. Surprisingly, these products can emit toxins into the air that we breathe in our home causing adverse health effects.
Many of you reading may have already made the effort to keep your home clean by choosing products that are labeled as 'green' or 'organic'. However, these products may still include fragrance as one of the ingredients. It has been reported that less than 10% of volatile ingredients are typically disclosed on air fresheners--conventional and organic--in an effort to protect fragrance formulations.
We are not only exposed to these volatile chemicals when air fresheners, candles and fragrances are in use. But, the toxins can latch onto the particles of our furniture, carpeting and even our furry friends leading to prolonged and harmful exposure.
The chemicals present in these products can lead to health concerns such as difficulty breathing, infant illness, mucosal symptoms, asthma attacks, and migraine headaches. Fragrances also include phthalates. Phthalates are a hormone-disrupting chemical that has been linked to cases of breast cancer and low sperm count.
So, this holiday season, choose simple, natural ingredients to spruce up your home such as spices, fruits, pure essential oils and herbs.
One of our favorite essential oil holiday blends includes rosemary, peppermint and sweet orange. You may even be able to find a pre-blended holiday essential oil set from your favorite carrier. These are incredible to diffuse throughout the day to spread the holiday spirit!
By: Dana McNaught, Contributing Writer
If you were to perform an internet search on what kind of impact sugar has on human health, you would find answers that range from ‘sugar is absolutely safe’ to ‘sugar is more addictive than cocaine’. Somewhere in the middle of these extremes lies the truth. For our intents and purposes, we will define sugar simply as refined carbohydrates. Some examples of sugar include cane sugar, maple syrup, raw sugar (turbinado, sucanat), honey, corn syrup, and agave nectar. Along with protein and fat, carbohydrates are a source of nutrients and energy (calories). Within the body, the form of sugar that is used for energy is glucose, and it is the brain’s preferred fuel source.
When we look at whole food sources of carbohydrates, even the sweetest options- fruits- have sugar packaged along with fiber. Since fiber slows the digestion of carbohydrates into simple sugars, it also slows the release of those sugars into the bloodstream. If you’re wondering where the idea of sugar being as addictive as cocaine could have originated from, it’s from brain scans that show sugar lighting up the reward centers of the brain, just as some illicit drugs do. However, when you consider the fact that the brain prefers glucose as an energy source, it makes sense that the brain receiving glucose would light up the reward centers, because your brain wants you to repeat the behavior that got it the fuel it needs to run on. However, not all sugar is created equally, and in nature, you could never access the amount of refined sugar being consumed by the average American each year- about 152 pounds! If you’re thinking that this sounds impossible- just consider the fact that Campbell’s tomato & sweet basil soup has 43 grams of sugar per serving, while a Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut has 10 grams.
For most people, sweeteners can be tolerated in small amounts, and you may want to consider choosing sweeteners with minimal processing (such as raw sugar, coconut sugar, maple syrup, and raw honey) wherever possible, as they may still contain some nutrients. The important thing to keep in mind is that you want to choose whole food sources of carbohydrates as a source of energy. Sometimes, artificial sweeteners are preferred by consumers because they lack calories and do not impact blood glucose levels the way that traditional sweeteners do. However, many artificial sweeteners contain chemicals that alter the population of our gut bacteria. Since our beneficial bacteria plays such an important role in weight management, this alteration has the opposite effect of what is intended by consuming zero-calorie sweeteners and actually leads to weight gain.
You probably have heard of the dangers of consuming high-fructose corn syrup. The issue is the unusually high amount of isolated fructose (‘high fructose’) that the body is unable to utilize. This ends up being stored as fat in the liver, and has even been linked to the development of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. The average fructose content in high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is 55%, but what’s often looked over is the fact that the fructose content of agave nectar is just as high. Fructose does not disturb blood sugar levels, so agave nectar can be marketed as a low-glycemic sweetener- meaning that it does not raise your blood sugar levels as much as table sugar. Being marketed as a low-glycemic sweetener automatically made space for agave nectar as a ‘healthy’ option, when it may end up being just as bad for us as HFCS. Stevia and Monk fruit are two non-caloric sweeteners derived from plants that do not impact your blood glucose levels and so far appear to not have adverse health effects, but always do your own research and pay attention to how your food choices make you feel.
You have the right to make informed decisions about how much or how little sugar you want in your diet. A few great options to keep in mind are:
Always check the nutrition label: There are no regulated definitions for ‘healthy’ or ‘natural’ in food production, so be sure to look past marketing tactics.
Stick to whole foods: When it comes to carbohydrates, your best option is to stick to whole food sources, like: whole grains (oats, brown rice, quinoa, millet) sprouted or whole grain breads and pastas, whole fruit, starchy vegetables (squash, sweet & white potatoes). This way, you get the carbohydrates, nutrients, fiber, phytochemicals, antioxidants, etc. that we could never replicate in food processing.
Eliminate sugary beverages: When we consume foods and beverages that have calories and flavorings but little-to-no nutritional value, our bodies recognize the lack of nutrients and increase our hunger in order to get the required nutrients for promoting life and well being.
Sage Integrative Health Center hosts a variety of workshops and activities, and you are welcome to attend, participate and ask your burning nutrition questions!
Basaranoglu, M., Basaranoglu, G., & Bugianesi, E. (2015). Carbohydrate intake and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: fructose as a weapon of mass destruction. Hepatobiliary Surgery and Nutrition, 4(2), 109–116. http://doi.org/10.3978/j.issn.2304-3881.2014.11.05
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