Tag Archives: whole foods

Now what was I coming into this room for???(musings on keeping your memory sharp)

What I am doing here? who is this???(compliments of "Menopaws"

What I am doing here? who is this???(compliments of “Menopaws”)

I would bet that most of you have experienced at least one moment of wondering why the heck you wandered into a room…..and then just stood there looking around in hopes that some sort of message would magically appear reminding you of your purpose. I cannot tell you how many times that has happened to me but I can say it has happened far too often.  I am also going to assume that most of you are concerned with memory loss and the possibility of dementia and/or Alzheimers as you age.  As many of us are destined to live longer lives, it becomes more likely that our minds will age along with our bodies: a scary thought indeed. Ah, but there are many strategies available to us in our quest to keep our minds and memories sharp as we age. Gracefuly aging in all aspects of our lives is the key to living a higher quality and quantity of life.

So let’s review some of the strategies that we have at our disposal to keep our minds sharp and our memories intact as we do begin to age.  I heard a wonderful piece this morning on NPR that talks about some of the latest research re: memory and the best ways to make sure that we stretch and grow new neuronal connections as we get older, which will enhance our ability to keep learning, stay vibrant and store new memories as well.

http://www.npr.org/2014/05/05/309006780/learning-a-new-skill-works-best-to-keep-your-brain-sharp?ft=1&f=3

Learning a new skill can help your brain be sharper and improve your memory

Learning a new skill can help your brain be sharper and improve your memory

In addition, getting regular exercise is another pillar of memory strength. I have always loved to work out in some form or another(running in my 20’s and 30’s, walking regularly since then, swimming, pretending to play golf(seriously that is one fun but frustrating sport!), hiking, and skiing.  I took up tennis almost 2 years ago and it has been a blast. There is quite a learning curve involved and I am definitely still climbing up that curve but it has forced me to think while I build new muscle memory. There have been some studies that promote this kind of thinking while exercising as one of the better ways to build memory, but any aerobic and active type of exercise enhances the brain’s potential for learning and storing new information. The most important thing is to just get out there and get active. Here is a link to the importance  between exercise and brain health:

http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/regular-exercise-changes-brain-improve-memory-thinking-skills-201404097110

Exercise is not only great for your body: it is also essential for your brain and memory…find something you love to do….another essential of balance

Exercise is not only great for your body: it is also essential for your brain and memory…find something you love to do….another essential of balance

Vitamin D also plays a role in brain health and cognitive strength. According to Dr. Oz, “Scientists hypothesize that improved cognition may be linked to the sun’s effect on the body’s internal clock; exposure to daylight(natural vitamin D) may boost the production of the neurotransmitter seritonin, which in turn spurs growth of the hippocampus, that part of the brain crucial to forming and storing memories.” He recommends( as do I) that every day we should go outside and spend between 15-20 minutes  before applying sunscreen so that our bodies can make Vitamin D ourselves. In general, we still do need to take additional vitamin D: more on that in a future blogpost. Bottomline, make sure you get outside every day possible as this will help both your brain and your mood.

Adequate sleep also clearly has an effect on our memory. Most of us(myself included, far too: often, mea culpa) get far too little of this precious activity most days.  In general, 7-8 hours of sleep is recommended to help our bodies and our brain to restore and rejuvenate. Think of sleep as time to recharge your battery. I imagine you have the same reaction that I do when I see that dreaded message on my cell phone: “less than 20% battery” and I have left my cord at home: panic! I usually feel the same way towards the end of a busy work day when I stayed up and out too late the night before and I am dragging, just not as sharp as usual. Note to self: get more sleep.

A baby seal taking a 'catnip' on the beach: ah, the bliss of a deep sleep…..

A baby seal taking a ‘catnip’ on the beach: ah, the bliss of a deep sleep…..

One more memory/brain potential robber: STRESS!!! We have touched on this in previous blogposts but briefly, when we are under stress(prolonged, frequent, unrelenting stress), cortisol is released to help our body fight “the attacker”, real or perceived.  Unfortunately, this adaptive response often leads to a maladaptive state, leaving our mind and body depleted. The result: poorer learning capability and difficulty storing new memories. Studies of inner city children, faced with the stresses of poverty, crime, poor nutrition and inadequate social support, have shown over and over how difficult it is to try to learn in school when under chronic stress. The same concept applies to all of us, whatever our stresses may be.  So managing your stress is something each of us must learn to do.  Think exercise, meditation, eating whole foods, making time for yourself, your family, your friends, take regular vacations, prayer…more work is not usually the answer…

Meditation, exercise, quiet time…all ways to manage your stress.  Be sure to find time each day for activities like these.

Meditation, exercise, quiet time…all ways to manage your stress. Be sure to find time each day for activities like these.

I haven’t touched on everything that can impact your memory but these are some of the more powerful things that you can work on.  Obviously eating whole foods diet and balancing your hormones are both essential for brain health as well. Hopefully that goes without saying if you have been reading our blog for awhile.

As always, we welcome your comments, thoughts and ideas . Stay tuned as Candace and I are getting ready to do some webinars together starting in July. We will provide the links for these so that you can log in and listen.

To building  great memories…..and remembering them, LOL.

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Essentials, Hormone Imbalance, Kyle Bell McAvoy, Whole Eating, Women's Health & Happiness, Women's Work/Life Balance

Gluten-free for 19 days and what have I noticed?

First of all, I cannot believe how quickly these last few weeks have gone by. The first day of my gluten-free journey I found myself at a wonderful Italian restaurant with my husband Joe and son Conor: dilemma #1: don’t reach for yummy warm focaccia and dip it into spicy extra virgin oil, as I would normally do. Temptation averted, the rest should be easy! I chose polenta and sausage for my entree, thus avoiding pasta and felt quite satisfied sipping on a glass of full-bodied red wine and walked away not feeling quite as stuffed.

Red wine, Pinot noir in particular, is rich in resveratrol, an antioxidant protector of healthy cells against aging. When taken in moderation (no more than one glass a day)  it also is known to have hormone balancing benefits.

Red wine, Pinot noir in particular, is rich in resveratrol, an antioxidant protector of healthy cells against aging. When taken in moderation (no more than one glass a day) it also is known to have hormone balancing benefits.

It’s those first few days of making a change that are always the hardest and most daunting but once I settled in to my new routine, I found it easier every day to not reach for the pretzels….or grab a piece of whole grain toast for breakfast….sneak a bite of a cookie that someone(usually me!) brought in to work….grab some pita chips to dip into my hummus….order pizza for dinner or bagel and cream cheese for breakfast(these are some of my favorite foods, by the way).  Instead I made up a big batch of quinoa which I would have for breakfast with some cheese or eggs( in lieu of toast) or some polenta to have with roasted veggies and some protein for lunch or dinner. I often had thin rice cakes with hummus or nut butter for breakfast and I found some very tasty quinoa chips at our local New Seasons Market.  It took a little bit of planning and an occasional , ” oh right, I can’t have that right now” moment but it has been  fairly easy to eliminate gluten and wheat from my daily diet.

So what have I noticed? I don’t feel as full or bloated after a meal, my waist is at least 1 inch smaller, I haven’t felt as hungry between meals, my blood sugar feels more even and I haven’t had as big an energy dip after lunch. That last one is huge as I usually get up at 4:30 am during the week so I can get to the gym and walk my dog before work…so when 2:00pm rolls around, the temptation to take a nap can be pretty big(those Latin cultures with their afternoon siestas are ONTO something). Sleep has also been deep and restful , another substantial  plus as we all know how important getting adequate sleep is for restoring our adrenals and keeping cortisol levels balanced, equating to less belly fat: wow , this stuff really does make sense, doesn’t it? Avoiding gluten/wheat not only helps to even out our insulin production but it also helps to regulate our cortisol levels, both of which then help to reduce that dreaded belly fat/muffin top/menopot which we all are trying to avoid or diminish.

That dreaded belly fat! Reducing consumption of gluten-containing foods can help you to lose it

That dreaded belly fat! Reducing consumption of gluten-containing foods can help you to lose it

Now that I can see the finish line of this experiment, I am left wondering how I will apply what I have learned from these 21 days to my future diet and lifestyle.  As I suspected, my digestion, mood  nor skin haven’t changed so I don’t think I personally have gluten intolerance.  But I do think I will benefit from minimizing its consumption on a regular basis so I will treat eating wheat and gluten-containing products like I do sweets: small amounts, occasional consumption more like a condiment than a staple of life. That way I can indulge in a piece of pizza, a nice hot piece of focaccia, a warm chewy cookie from time to time.f

And that is the way we should eat, the way Michael Pollan has so eloquently laid out for us: “Eat food(whole), not too much , mostly plants”. If we all followed this advice, our level of obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease , inflammatory diseases, and even mental illness would drop greatly. Adapting a whole foods, plant-based diet leads to optimal health and wellness, hormone balance and an improved quality of life. What could be better than that???

Spring is in the air and flowers are popping up everywhere: definitely adding to our quality of life...

Spring is in the air and flowers are popping up everywhere: definitely adding to our quality of life…

Leave a comment

Filed under Kyle Bell McAvoy, Whole Eating, Women's Health & Happiness, Women's Work/Life Balance

Going gluten-free: what you need to know

In my last post, I talked about some of the issues surrounding the consumption of gluten and wheat and why someone might consider going without for awhile. As you may remember, I am going to go gluten-free myself for 21 days starting on March 1st ,which is a mere 5 days away. Gluten tends to be rather ubiquitous, hiding in not only foods(like black and red licorice, I just discovered) but also in makeup, toothpaste, personal health care items and prescriptions.

In November, I attended an all-day seminar on gluten-related disorders put on by Nadine Grzeskowiak, a nurse who discovered that she herself had serious health consequences from gluten consumption. Once she eliminated it from her diet, her quality of life changed so much that she started to devote herself to educating others on this topic. You can find out more about her and her programs at http://www.GlutenFreeRN.com.

Going gluten-free can feel a bit daunting if you have never really thought about it but it is also extremely manageable to do so. Those of us who are fortunate enough to live in the Pacific Northwest are particularly lucky as we have a wide choice of health-conscious stores to choose from . During the past few weeks, I have been perusing the aisles and have amassed a nice selection of gluten-free grains(remember I love to bake and cook) and things that I can snack on. The choices are amazing!  I have ‘practiced’ going gluten-free for a few days at a time and I can honestly say that it has not been very difficult. I know that I will miss Italian focaccia bread dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, as well as New York style pizza….but I will live and not only that, I will thrive: of that I am certain. Perhaps I will even discover something without gluten that I will love as much: one can only hope.

Okay, here goes: the lists of what you can and cannot eat if you are choosing to join me. These lists are gleaned from “Wheat Belly” and Nadine’s workshop and may not include everything that you CAN eat but I believe that they do list everything that you cannot eat. I always advise my patients who are adopting this lifestyle change to pick up a book on this topic AND to take a ‘gluten-free’ tour in their local Whole Foods/ New Seasons -type grocery store.

What to avoid: Wheat, Spelt, Seitan, Semolina, Couscous, Durum,  Kamut, Bulfar, Farina, Emmer, Graham, Barley, Malt, Rye and Oats(there are gluten-free oats available by the way: more about that later)

What you CAN eat: vegetables, fruits, organic meats, fish, nuts, seeds, rice, corn , potatoes, beans, dairy , ‘safe grains’: this includes nut flours(such as almond, chestnut, coconut, pecan and hazelnut), grain flours(rice, corn, millet, sorghum , teff and quinoa), legume flours(peanut, lava and chickpea), seed flours(amaranth and buckwheat: yes buckwheat is NOT a wheat), tuber flours(potato, tapioca and arrowroot).

Some of the many choices available to bake with gluten

Some of the many choices available to bake with gluten

Something else you should know is that according to Dr. Davis(author of ‘Wheat Belly’),the tuber flours in particular can raise your blood sugar. This is particularly important if you already know that you have insulin resistance or are hoping to lose some weight by adopting a gluten-free diet. Before buying something, read the label and decide if this product is right for you.

If you are a baker, you can make your own gluten-free baked goods and know exactly what is in each item.  I am excited to try some new recipes in the gluten-free world as there are some delicious substitutes already out there. Here in Lake Oswego we have one of the best GF bakeries around: Kyra’s. The owner actually won a baking contest against bakers that cooked the traditional way. I have tasted her cinnamon rolls and cupcakes, which were simply amazing. Again, switching out sweets that are gluten-free for those that contain it will not be part of a weight-loss plan, but living without any treats forever is not a realistic goal for most of us and it is lovely to know that there are suitable choices for a gluten-free lifestyle.

There are some excellent mail-order sources for gluten-free products(like oats). Two that immediately come to mind are Bob’s Red Mill,located in Portland, and Lingonberries Market, which is located in Vancouver, WA. If you happen to live in the Portland metro area, take a trip to both of these stores to see the incredible selection of delicious gluten-free choices that are available. Otherwise, go to their websites and do your shopping online. Once you gain awareness of how many great choices you still have,  I promise that you will not feel deprived in any way.

Some of my new favorite snacks

Some of my new favorite snacks

So if you are joining me, take inventory of the things you have in your fridge and cupboards and make room for the new foods that you will be eating. I will be sharing some of my observations and recipes with you and I hope that you will do the same.  A toast(gluten-free of course) to healthy eating and living!

1 Comment

Filed under Essentials, Hormone Imbalance, Kyle Bell McAvoy, Women's Health & Happiness

This year is ‘the year’ that I am going to….

Happy 2014 to all of our wonderful readers and followers. Candace and I have been blogging together for 2 years and this is the year that we are hoping to take a synopsis of our book, with several chapters written  up in the format we think will be the most readable and visually lovely, to a perspective publisher and see what happens. We realize that there are scores of books written on the top of hormone balance but we think we have a unique perspective and style that is not only accessible, but that resonates with our readers. We have punted around many ideas(you have no idea how many!!) from publishing an e-book, to self-publishing, to throwing in the towel(gasp) ….But we keep coming back to the idea of a real, hold in your hand, prop on your shelf, cuddle up in your bed, kind of book as that is what WE like and what most of our friends/family members/patients/colleagues/acquaintance turn to for the kind of content we are offering. So we would like to hear from YOU: what do you like about our blog, what have been some of your favorite topics, what haven’t we covered that you want to know more about?? Of course we value your honesty as that will help us write a better book so please give us your ‘from the heart’ feedback. We will keep you posted as to our progress, but that is MP’s overriding goal for this year.

Oh no, we admitted our goal OUT LOUD…now that should motivate us(one technique towards reaching one's goals….)

Oh no, we admitted our goal OUT LOUD…now that should motivate us(one technique towards reaching one’s goals….)

What have YOU been saying that you hope to do, to change, to re-invent, to re-consider, to move towards or perhaps away from, in this coming year?  Every newspaper and magazine that I have opened this past week had something about weight loss, exercising more, eating cleaner, etc but one thing I did notice that was different this year was the wording of the articles. Almost every one alluded to the concept that our goals should be towards making sustainable changes, not radical ones. To do that , it helps to make small changes, ones that you can stick to (like our 10 day ‘consciousness cleanses’, something anyone can do and benefit from): not saying , “I will NEVER eat potato chips and sour cream again after work(one of my personal favorite guilty pleasures…)” because that is just never going to happen. It is so much more realistic to write down what you hope to accomplish and then identify the obstacles, your strengths, a timeline and then formulate a plan. We will keep coming back to this topic in the upcoming weeks and months but I just want to leave you with a few simple thoughts as you think about the year ahead.

1. It DOES matter what you eat. This is probably the single most important thing that you do each day in terms of supporting or hurting your body. You can exercise until the cows come home, but if you are eating a diet high in processed foods, sugary beverages, calorie dense/nutrient poor foods(most of these come in a box/can/or a wrapper, by the way), you will gain weight in all the wrong places and you will not achieve optimal fitness….or fit into those favorite pair of jeans.

Eat whole pieces of fruit every day, loaded with nutrients and full of fiber

Eat whole pieces of fruit every day, loaded with nutrients and full of fiber

2.Follow the wise words of Michael Pollan: “Eat food(WHOLE food), not too much, mostly plants”. Do this and you will see results, sustainable ones.

3. Spend a few minutes each day being grateful for the wonders of your body. Focus more on how your body feels and how it does whatever you ask it to do day after day, a miracle in and of itself.  Take care of your body: feed it whole foods, clean water, take it out for a walk, a jog, a hike, expose it to natural vitamin D and the elements like the wind, the rain, the snow. Take note of how alive you feel when you have spent some time outside or just being active. Your body will thank you by continuing to do what you ask of it and by sticking around for awhile.

Hiking with my wonderful black lab Riley: sitting at the top of the world and feeling like it

Hiking with my wonderful black lab Riley: sitting at the top of the world and feeling like it

4. Take time to sleep, to rest and to restore yourself. You need this more than you know(see Candace’s last post).

5. Make time for play, for love, for friendship, for prayer and meditation, for doing the things you love to do, for visiting someone who needs you to be there. Life often goes by in a blur so paying attention each day to the moments that matter and making time for the things that matter to you is crucial for living a life that has meaning.

Our conversation will continue. We look forward to writing to you and hearing from you in the upcoming year. Thank you for sharing your time and thoughts with us. We so appreciate all of you.

Take time to see and smell the flowers and other small wonders

Take time to see and smell the flowers and other small wonders

Leave a comment

Filed under Essentials, Kyle Bell McAvoy

Day 5: halfway there

Okay, so that went by pretty fast. Hard to believe that we are almost 50% through our fall cleanse. I have to admit that there were a few moments when I yearned for a bite of chocolate or a chunk of French bread dunked in some yummy olive oil, or a nice glass of a full-bodied red wine on one of these cold fall evenings we have been having this week. But it feels good to stay focused on eating and drinking in a cleaner way for this time, particularly with the coming of the holidays, when I know I will indulge from time to time!

As I was shopping at New Seasons today(our local healthy supermarket), I wandered around snapping photos of the wide array of choices that are available to consume. I have had fun experimenting with various kinds of squashes and just today I bought a persimmon: any thoughts on how to eat one of these??? Last weekend I bought 2 quinces after hearing someone on NPR talk about how she had made them for her children, who loved them. I tried to replicate how she prepared them and honestly, they taste great!

What is a quince, you might wonder? Me too actually until just a few days ago. I have heard of them in English novels but honestly, I cannot remember ever trying one. So I took the 2 quinces home, washed them and placed them in a pot, covered them with water , brought it to a boil and cooked them until they were quite tender. Quinces when raw are quite hard and super tart and not very palatable, I would imagine. However, once they are cooked through(give it at least 30-45 minutes), it is easy to cut off the stem and remove the small seeds. Next I placed them in a food processor, added 1/4 cup of coconut sugar, a 1/2 tsp of cardamon and 3/4 tsp of cinnamon, pureed them and voila!  a lovely fruit sauce, similar in texture to applesauce but with a completely unique and wonderful flavor.

Of course my curiosity led me to do a little research on the benefits of quince: wow! These are some power-packed little fruits. They were known as ‘golden apples’ in ancient times and are loaded with nutrition and vitamins, minerals and disease-fighting substances. Quinces are full of fiber(I kept the peel on in the recipe that I just shared: no reason to peel it, by the way), tannins that bind to cancer causing chemicals in the intestine(helpful in fighting colon cancer, inflammatory bowel disease and diverticultis), vitamin C, copper and many other minerals and it is believed to very beneficial in fighting allergies and inflammation. Who knew?

That is one of the many benefits of paying closer attention to one’s consumption: it forces us out of our comfort zones and gently encourages us to try new things. I hope you have had some of your own food adventures this past week. Looking forward to the next  5 days.

Wishing you health and balance and lovely foods to eat.

SQUASH: a lovely autumn treat: delicato is fast becoming one of my favorites

SQUASH: a lovely autumn treat: delicato is fast becoming one of my favorites

My produce bowl: the persimmon is the light orange fruit: what to do with it???

My produce bowl: the persimmon is the light orange fruit: what to do with it???

Leave a comment

Filed under Essentials, Kyle Bell McAvoy, Whole Eating, Women's Health & Happiness

Cleanse eve: again….

Okay, this is it…eat, drink and be merry tonight for tomorrow we go back to a cleaner, more conscious and healthier way of eating and drinking. Here is a quick recap:

Peppers are a colorful and tasty choice

Peppers are a colorful and tasty choice

~Focus on whole foods, as close to their original state as possible.  This means you will be shopping the perimeter of most stores(this may be obvious to most but in case you haven’t noticed, produce, dairy, and fresh foods like fish, meat and poultry are all around the sides of the store: boxed and canned foods are all in the center aisles)

~Eat organic foods whenever possible. If cost is a limiting factor, at least be sure to buy organic versions of the fruits and veggies on the “dirty dozen list”. Go to http://www.mnn.com/food/healthy-eating/blogs/2013s-updated-dirty-dozen-produce-list for a complete list of ‘clean and dirty’ food.

~Avoid white sugar. You may have small amounts of honey(organic, locally grown), agave and of course stevia.

Whole grains galore! Be imaginative and try new ones.

Whole grains galore! Be imaginative and try new ones.

~Avoid white flour(choose whole grains), white pasta(pick whole wheat), white potatoes(choose sweet, yams and purple), and white rice(choose brown and black)

Avoid alcohol. Choose herbal teas, organic fruit juices, kombucha and the like. I will republish a recipe for a wonderfully satisfying elixir that you can sip on each evening in lieu of that glass of wine, beer or cocktail.

Some of my favorite teas

Some of my favorite teas

Avoid caffeine. I know, this is the hardest for many of you. If you are seriously addicted to it and going without would cause terrible withdrawal headaches, you have several choices: one, gradually cut down by 1/2 the amount you consume each day or two until you are completely off or two, do the best you can.  Try new herbal  teas: there are SO many choices! I have over 15 types in my kitchen cupboard so that I never get bored. Oh, and let’s be clear: green tea does have a small amount of caffeine but it is so incredibly healthy for you, go ahead and include it during the next 10 days.

For some of you, it might be wise to eliminate gluten if you think you may have some issues with its consumption(common ones are bloating, weight gain, fatigue, eczema). For others, dairy might be a problem: gassiness, diarrhea, bloating, and abdominal cramps are common symptoms of lactose intolerance.

We have heard from a bunch of you and we are excited that you will be joining us during the next 10 days. Remember we will be giving away a copy of “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin to one of our participants. All you need to do to be eligible  for the drawing is to be sure that you are signed up as a follower of our blog and write two comments about your progress/thoughts/etc on the cleanse. 

Looking forward to hearing from you, as always.

Bon appétit and Namaste.

Sunset over Willamette

2 Comments

Filed under Kyle Bell McAvoy, Whole Eating, Women's Health & Happiness