Why I do What I do – My First Radio Interview

I’m excited to share my first radio interview! Well, technically this is my second one, as I spoke with a public radio station in Houston, TX when I was 18 years old and trying to promote my first full-length folk-rock album, but that’s a story for another time.

If you follow me on Facebook, you may have already seen my mention of the radio interview I did with Suma of the Wise Health show on PLV Radio. If you don’t follow me (you should start now!), or if you haven’t had a chance to listen to it yet, I’ve made it easy for you by sharing the interview here! Suma is a holistic healer out of Nevada who interviews all manner of alternative practitioners for her show. She found me via LinkedIn, and after checking out my work on both of blog sites I run, (here’s a link to the other one), she asked if we could make some time to talk.

When you first started reading this blog, you may have visited my “about page” and learned a bit about my background and what has motivated me to move into this awesome field of health and wellness. You might have also recently read about my miracle acne cure. What you might not know about yet is the work I do every day to serve the employees of a major public hospital chain in Alameda County, what drives me to keep moving forward, and where I want to go next, both personally and professionally. This interview will answer all of those questions — plus you can listen to it while you’re making something delicious in the kitchen this weekend like my Guilt-Free Adult Brownies. 🙂

 

[INFOGRAPHIC] What Are You Missing Eating Factory-Farmed Eggs?

Eggs have endured years of controversy. Demonized for their cholesterol and saturated fat content, eggs (especially yolks) have been stricken from the diets of heart patients and diabetes patients for decades. Despite shaky evidence (at best) that dietary cholesterol and saturated fat lead to heart disease or weight gain, this treatment of eggs has become the convention in the biomedical world.

The truth is that the egg is a magical, wonderful, complete food. It’s a great source of important nutrients that should be part of any healthy diet including omega 3s, fat-soluble vitamins, and antioxidants. In fact, cholesterol and saturated fat should ALSO be part of any healthy diet, contrary to popular belief, as they are vital for proper brain function, hormone production, and cellular integrity.

Unfortunately there’s a catch.

Not all eggs are created equal. Some eggs are far superior to others in the density of the nutrients I just listed, while the inferior eggs are laid by mistreated, debeaked hens who are literally fed insecticides to mitigate their atrocious living conditions (insecticides that surely end up in your grocers’ conventional egg cartons).

The Pastured Egg

You may have noticed a new category of eggs gracing the shelves of your local market — the pastured egg. Chickens laying eggs on pasture are not just free to roam inside a crowded barn with dirt floors (cage-free); they’re free to bask in the sun, scratch at the dirt to find grubs, eat green plants, and walk away from their own excrement at their will. They are not debeaked, fed antibiotics or insecticides, forced into ridiculously tight quarters, or denied sunlight (vital for vitamin D production in the eggs). Eggs laid by chickens on pasture are several times more potent in nutrients than their factory-farmed counterparts, because they are living the lives a chicken is meant to lead, eating the foods a chicken is meant to eat.

Take Charge

Knowing where your food comes from is a major step in taking charge of your health. Too often we’re so far removed from food production that when we get to the market, we let only the price tags guide us. I encourage you to stop and think about the practices employed to get food on your table each day — especially animal products — and to use THAT as your guide instead. At the end of the day, the slightly higher price will right itself 20-fold in the form of less doctor’s visits and a reduction in chronic diseases that require expensive maintenance.

Check out this infographic to find out how these delectable bright orange-yolked eggs measure up to their factory-farmed counterparts. You might be surprised at what you learn. (click on the infographic to open it in a new window)

Be sure to check back next week for an awesome frittata recipe that features pastured eggs from backyard chickens in Santa Rosa!

pastured eggs

Typically you can find pasture eggs at farmers’ markets, but it’s also a good idea to make friends with someone who raises chickens in their backyard, find a local farmer who raises chickens (easy to find on the side of the road in many parts of rural California), or order them from a farm like this one. When I buy eggs at the store, I look for Vital Farms eggs — here’s a great map tool to help you find Vital Farms eggs near you.

Have you seen pastured eggs at your local grocery store? If not, do you know where to find pastured eggs in your area?

Rainy Days at Home — What to do?

This weekend is going to be a wet one, and as I pulled on my rain boots and opened up my umbrella this morning, I was reminded of the value of forced relaxation.

What the heck does that mean?

photo source linked

photo source linked

Forced Relaxation is a potential that can arise at the times when we can’t do what was on the schedule due to outside forces, like rainy weather, catching a cold, or a store being closed that had the one tool we needed to finish a project.

If gardening, hiking, or mowing the lawn were in your plans for this weekend, they’re probably out now.

So what to do instead? There’s always house work: dishes, laundry, organizing your shoes (some of us need this more than others!) … but why not take advantage of this rainy weather to regain some stamina? Why not relax into it or do something creative?

Do you have a covered porch where you can sit outside and listen to the rain cozied up with a blanket and a book (and maybe a pet on your lap)? Or could you open a window for the same effect? Is there a movie you’ve been wanting to see, but just haven’t found the time to watch, or a fun or relaxing project you’d like to finish indoors?

What do you think your weekend would look like if you kept your laptop closed and committed to a rejuvenating experience at home, no work, no surfing the web? Would you open up an old photo album? Would you bake a treat with your kids? Would you stay in bed an extra hour and listen to rain beating on the roof?

This weekend, I plan to see a movie, work on my bedroom painting project, hem two pairs of pants, and relax on the couch with my favorite furry friend. That’s it. I’ve intentionally left the weekend open to sleeping in and whatever possibilities could arise for fun and creativity.

Now it’s your turn:

How often do you pause in those moments when the universe gives you a sign that it’s time to slow down? How do you plan to take advantage of the grey skies this weekend? Share with me below!

Be Yours, Not Mine – Taking Back Valentine’s Day

I have to admit, I think Valentine’s Day is a little silly. The history of the actual figure, St. Valentine of Rome, is vague at best, and the holiday we know today is little more than a boon for the vendors of greeting cards, diamonds, flowers, chocolates, and teddy (Have a look at this ridiculous ad and tell me that this holiday hasn’t reached out-of-control proportions.)

Do we put too much pressure on Valentine’s Day? I would answer that with a resounding YES.

The stated goal of the holiday is to show someone you care about them. But If we don’t have a partner, if we are upset with our partner, if we can’t afford diamonds, if we don’t care about flowers, if we can’t get the perfect reservation … you get the point. It’s too much pressure for those IN a relationship and too depressing for those NOT in a relationship. How has a holiday that was meant to encourage love and affection turned into this chaotic, one-upping mess?

Be Yours, Not Mine – I’m saying that today to encourage you to take back Valentine’s Day. Make it about loving yourself, about treating everyone around you (including yourself) with love and respect, and take the commercial and material expectations out of it.

If you are not in a relationship, take yourself on a date; treat yourself to a night of relaxation at home with a book or movie; invite friends over for a potluck.

If you are in a relationship, agree that today isn’t about gifts or expectations, and instead do something extra around the house or offer a foot massage, or just be your usual, amazing self.

Loren and I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day, because we feel that it’s important to show each other appreciation, love, and devotion year-round, and that material gifts on a day when it’s expected aren’t necessarily the best way to do that.

This Valentine’s Day, I challenge you to remove yourself from the hustle and bustle and redefine the holiday into something with less pressure and expectation.

Let me know what you come up with — we could start a revolution!

 

 

Not-So-Healthy Health Claims

As a health and wellness advocate and self-proclaimed foodie, I pride myself in keeping my finger on the pulse of food and nutrition trends. For me, doing this serves multiple purposes: 1) it reinforces the good things I’m already doing, 2) it provides new information that might contradict what I’m doing and prompt me to research it further, 3) it informs me of the garbage that’s being propagated as health food or healthy supplements.

This little bag of lies lives in that third category:

A few weeks back, I attended a party and saw these on the counter. Being the huge coconut fan that I am, I picked them up to take a look.

First red flag: The advertisement of how many mg of coconut oil were in each chew

Second red flag: Health claims in GIANT font accompanied by asterisks (the asterisks, of course, refer to the note on the back that says that these statements have not been approved by the FDA)

I flipped the bag over and continued reading.

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Ok, not terrible Supplement Facts. Yes, there are more grams of carbohydrates and sugar than there are in actual coconut oil (actual coconut oil has zero grams of carbs or sugar), but I am letting that slide for a minute. We’ll get back to Supplement Facts shortly.

And then I read the most important information on any packaged food item: the Ingredients list.

CYMERA_20140112_173616

By law, ingredients must be listed in order from highest to lowest percentage by mass. The first ingredient is the most prevalent ingredient in the product. So in this product, there is more corn syrup and sugar than there is coconut, and there is more dairy fat than there is coconut fat

WOW. So let’s go back to the health claims on the front of this package and do a quick ingredient reconciliation:

  1. Promotes Healthy Metabolism:
    Yes, pure coconut oil promotes healthy metabolism, because of the short- and medium-chain fatty acids that are present in it. However, corn syrup, sugar, and soy do just the opposite. Corn syrup and sugar (both essentially sugar) disrupt a healthy metabolism by spiking blood sugar and flooding the blood stream with insulin, a process that, when done to often and in extremes, ultimately helps keep us fat. Soy contains phytates, which disrupt the absorption (and therefore the metabolism and proper utilization) of important minerals necessary for proper sugar metabolism, sleep (essential for weight loss), bone health, and brain function. (These minerals are zinc, magnesium, and calcium.)
  2. Helps Control Appetite:
    Yes, the saturated fat in coconut oil helps control appetite. However, as I just stated, corn syrup and sugar do just the opposite by spiking blood sugar, which causes a flood of insulin and the return of your appetite (often more voracious than before).
  3. Natural Energy Source:
    This one I love, because it applies to basically everything we put in our mouths that contains calories. Calories=energy. Nothing about this product is special in terms of providing energy, except that coconut oil itself is a very dense source of high-quality calories. It’s true that coconut oil is great for our brain function, our memory, and our ability to remain alert, however that’s not the claim they’re making. In essence, they’re saying, “this product contains energy from calories” — indeed, a useless piece of information.
  4. Supports Immune System:
    Coconut oil is a wonderful thing — it contains lauric acid, which acts as an anti-fungal and helps keep problems like yeast and candida under control. It has antibiotic and antiviral properties. In that way, I suppose you could claim that it supports the immune system by helping it fight off invaders. However, GMO foods like corn, sugar beets, and soy are linked to total gut disruption and dysbiosis. They contain glyphosate, one of the active ingredients in Roundup, which destroys the bacteria in our gut responsible for the bulk of our immune system. So again, the ingredients in this product (2 out of 3 of which are more prevalent in the product than coconut oil itself), do exactly the opposite of this health claim.
    Dr. Mercola has some great things to say about glyphosate and GMOs in case you’d like to read more: “What’s worse, glyphosate preferentially affects beneficial bacteria, allowing pathogens to overgrow and take over. At that point, your body also has to contend with the toxins produced by the pathogens. Once the chronic inflammation sets in, you’re well on your way toward chronic and potentially debilitating disease…”

Products like this infuriate me. It’s true what Michael Pollan says in his book Food Rules: “Generally, it is the products of modern food science that make the boldest health claims, and these are often founded on incomplete and often bad science.” — Put more simply, if you are concerned about your health, avoid foods with health claims.

This brings me back to the Supplement Facts. Don’t they seem pretty harmless? Only 2 grams of sugar, 4 grams of carbohydrates. That doesn’t sound so bad, does it? It doesn’t sound so bad because it’s not real information. Supplement Facts tell us basically nothing except for reductionist information about a serving size of whatever’s inside the package. It doesn’t tell us anything about quality or substance; it simply measures macronutrients, and often inaccurately to how people will consume the products. Look closely on the right side of that picture again. Do you see the recommendation of how to eat these chews? “Adults enjoy 1-4 chews daily.” It makes it sound like medicine, and it’s SUGAR! It’s a farce! And if you consume the chews as directed, you’re potentially quadrupling those numbers! 2 grams of sugar and 4 grams of carbs increases to 8 and 16.

As I said before, if you’re considering food that comes in a package, look at the INGREDIENTS. Skip the Supplement Facts. You’ll be surprised what’s lurking in your cabinets. Hopefully it’s not Coconut Oil Chews.

 

My Response to the Wall Street Journal Multivitamin Article

An article was recently released from the Wall Street Journal entitled, “Multivitamins Found to Have Little Benefit: No Effect Seen in Preventing Cognitive Decline, Heart Disease.

Having worked for a vitamin company as the nutrition specialist, previously as the supplement specialist at Whole Foods Market, and also having earned a Masters in Integrative Health Studies, of course I have an opinion about this article and the way it was written. A friend and I were discussing it via email, and she suggested that I post my opinion on my new blog. I agreed, so here it is. It’s a little bit of a rant, but these things get me fired up.

Studies like this come out every once in a while that slam vitamins in a very broad, overreaching way. Using Centrum brand as the multivitamin variable in these studies greatly weakens the credibility of the studies and demolishes the right to state that:

Multivitamins offer almost no benefit in preventing chronic disease “and they should be avoided.”

The variance in quality and potency among vitamin and supplement brands on the market is huge, and Centrum is on the lower end of the spectrum. Because the FDA doesn’t regulate supplements, there’s no “official” way to differentiate quality.

That being said, I totally agree that in an ideal world, people would eat a healthy enough diet that no one would need a multivitamin. Unfortunately, not only does that not happen in impoverished countries that have greatly benefited from certain enriched foods, but it also hasn’t happened in our own country, past and present (this is why we iodize salt, this is why we enrich wheat, this is why we add calcium to orange juice). I’m not saying that eating those enriched foods is the best thing for you either, I’m just saying there’s a reason the food industry started enriching back in the day. Most people don’t eat enough kelp for iodine, liver for B vitamins, or bone broth/sardines/etc for calcium. Today, with the ever-rising incidence of chronic disease in this country, I agree with the article that the best bet is to quit smoking, exercise, and lose weight. If only it were that easy.

Are multivitamins the answer to chronic disease? Absolutely not. I don’t necessarily think, having worked in that industry from multiple points of view, that multivitamin companies are purporting to be the answer to chronic disease (like heart disease and cancer in the studies listed in the article). There are many reasons to take a multivitamin, and many reasons to take individual vitamins, minerals, and supplements. I think it’s interesting that they point out how dangerous high doses of vitamin A are (can be true in certain instances), while failing to mention that prescription drugs like Accutane are precisely megadoses of vitamin A.

Truth be told, unfortunately our food supply isn’t as stellar as it once was. Most soils on commercial farms are depleted and don’t impart the levels of certain nutrients into the food that they once did. Not everyone is as lucky as we are to live in a place where organic food, farmers’ markets, and backyard gardens are so plentiful. Most Americans/Westerners sustain on food that’s easy to warm up or easy to take-out. Until that changes, multivitamins may still have a place at the table to “fill in the gaps.”

I don’t know that reputable research will ever be done that differentiates between the quality of something like Centrum or something like SuperNutrition or New Chapter, because no one would pay to fund that study, but in my mind, quality and potency make all the difference.

Furthermore, lumping “most supplements” in with Centrum Silver and making a broad statement that they should all be avoided is irresponsible and stupid. I myself don’t take a multivitamin, but am perfectly happy to take cod liver oil, fish oil, extra vitamin D in the winter, extra vitamin A (under doctor’s supervision) for acne issues, herbal supplements for sleep, minerals for sleep or digestive issues, to open up a vitamin E capsule and rub it on a scar, and the list goes on. There is no way any one (or two) study(ies) could cover all the possible benefits of vitamins, minerals, or other supplements at varying potency and quality.

Publications that reach as broad an audience as the Wall Street Journal should think twice before creating alarm around a multifaceted issue that requires far more unpacking than can be done in any one (or two) study(ies). It would make far more sense to address the fact that the massive industry is not as regulated as it should be. I’m certainly not suggesting that a government entity as flawed as the FDA get involved, but because vitamin and supplement companies cannot and do not make any health claims on their packaging, far more is allowed in than should be (i.e. the garbage that’s inside the capsules of many weight loss and body building products). That topic alone could fill 20 blogs and veers in a whole new direction, so I’ll stop there.

Rant over. 🙂 I’d love to see any opinions on this from the blogosphere, so please comment!