New Guidelines for Preventing Heart Disease

July 8, 2015

Time Magazine - wrong about fats

Thought of as a man’s disease, heart disease doesn’t discriminate – it is the #1 cause of death in both women & men. In fact, since 1984, more women have died from heart disease than men (Read article in Forbes magazine).

 

Heart Disease’s Fast Track to #1:

Heart disease hasn’t always been the #1 killer.  In fact, if we look back a little over a hundred years ago – just before the turn of the 19th century – heart disease was virtually non-existant, occurring in a small % of the population.  But by 1921 – it had become the leading cause of death!
How could this have happened, so quickly? Researchers set out to find the answers – and one man by the name of Ancel Keys had a theory.  He believed it was due to consumption of saturated fats and cholesterol. He set out to prove his theory – and published his 7 Countries Study – which showed that for the people living in these 7 countries – there was a correlation between heart disease, and intake of cholesterol and saturated fats.

 

There were two problems with the 7 Countries Study:

  1. Keys had actually studied 22 countries – but he selected the 7 countries that fit his theory.  Several of the countries that he conveniently choose not to include in his results – actually disproved his theory!
  2. His research was based on correlation, not causation.  This is an important distinction.  Correlation means that there is an association – only.  It does not prove causation.  Kind of like umbrellas are correlated with rain, and band aids are correlated with cuts.   In fact, it could have been an entirely different food or environmental factor that was the real culprit behind the rise – more about that in a sec.

 

But despite these flaws, Key’s 7 Countries Studies started a nutritional revolution.  The American Heart Association told the public that cholesterol and saturated fats would raise our risk of heart disease, and later, the USDA published guidelines to limit them both from the diet.  And every year after that for many decades – Americans believed that low fat meant healthier and reduced risk of disease.

 

It is an interesting story. I write extensively about the history behind the “Low Fat Myth” in Chapter Two (“Fix Your Fats”) of my book The Perfect Metabolism Plan. I also I highly recommend this fascinating must-watch documentary featuring a number of doctors and experts that discusses these “dietary villains” – The Heart of the Matter – this is part 1 (approx. 30 mins long).

 Heart of the Matter

 

Why is Heart Disease Still #1?

So if we have made so many advances in prevention and treatment of heart disease – why is it still the #1 cause of death?  In addition to heart disease, the incidence of diabetes has tripled since the 1980s (the height of the low fat era).   Plus, we are seeing an increase in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, cancer, and Alzheimers disease – which is now being referred to as “Type 3 diabetes” (because the plaques in the brain are so similar to the diabetic plaques). All of these diseases do share a common link, more about that later…
Fortunately – the way heart disease is being diagnosed, treated, and prevented is beginning to evolve.  There have been some pretty significant changes in the past few months:

 

1. Dietary Cholesterol Exonerated

The long-standing recommendation to limit the amount of dietary cholesterol has just recently been officially lifted from the nutritional guidelines.  This is huge, and has been a long time coming. Despite being told that there was good scientific evidence to back it up – the scientific studies actually did not show a causative link between dietary cholesterol and heart attack!  One study looked at 130,000 people and found that nearly 3/4 of patients hospitalized for heart attack had what was considered to be normal cholesterol numbers. In fact, research shows that in the elderly population (over age 81) – lower cholesterol levels actually raised the risk of mortality, and equated to lower memory scores.

What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Heart DiseaseDr. Mark Houston, author of What Your Doctor May Not Tell you About Heart Disease says that “elevated cholesterol is not a sure sign of heart disease, any more than low levels are a sure sign of heart health.”  Dr. Houston says in his book that heart disease begins with endothelial damage or dysfunction, which progresses through 7 different pathways (inflammation, oxidative stress, autoimmunity, dyslipidemia, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and obesity).  The good news?  Many of the above pathways can be affected by nutritional and lifestyle factors. I highly recommend Dr. Houston’s book if you want to understand how to get control of your heart health naturally.

2. Saturated Fats Not to Blame Either

Experts are also calling into the question the recommendations on saturated fats – because like cholesterol, there is a lack of scientific evidence linking saturated fats to heart disease.  But the push to remove the saturated fat limit is still being met with a lot of resistance, so it will likely not be changed in the official nutritional recommendations until the next time they are changed – which is in 5 years.  Don’t believe me about saturated fats not being bad for you?  Read this Time Magazine piece titled “We Were Wrong About Saturated Fats.” (Notice that is Ancel Keys on the left hand cover).

Time Magazine - wrong about fats

3. Trans fats banned. 

Another exciting development that happened recently – is the FDA finally took a stronger stand against trans fats.  Back in 2013, they removed the GRAS (generally recognized as safe) classification, because of the link between trans fats and coronary artery plaque formation.  And just last month they took it a big step further – they banned the use of trans fats in foods entirely.  This is great news, but since there is a 3 year grace period for compliance – we all need to be aware of all the places trans fats are hiding in the meantime.  Basically – the majority of trans fats in our diets come from “convenience foods.”

Trans fats are liquid fats that have been altered by partially hydrogenation, making them solid/more stable at room temperature.  Trans fats extend the shelf-life of a product, so that is why manufacturers love them.  An interesting historical note is that Crisco – which is partially hydrogenated vegetable oil – was brought to market in 1911.  Check out this Illustrated History of heart disease for other interesting facts and historical notes (from 1825-2015). 

Spotting Trans Fats –

Just because a label says “no trans fats” does not mean it doesn’t contain them.  That is a label loophole, and just means that there is less than half a gram of trans fats per serving.  Just know, if it says “partially hydrogenated oil” on the ingredient list – it has trans fats.

Trans fats are found in:

  • Coffee creamer packets – I call these little packets of trans fats. You are better off with a splash of real Foods with trans fatscream, or better yet – go black.
  • Margarine – I remember when I was a kid, all of sudden our butter got really yellow.  How ironic that we were actually told that these sticks of trans fats were actually healthier! Just get back to real butter (go for grass fed).
  • Refrigerator pie dough, biscuits and rolls – Yep, convenience foods.  From scratch made with plain real butter is better.
  • Processed & grocery store bakery items, donuts
  • Many fried/fast foods
  • Canned frosting
  • Some frozen confections
  • Many reduced fat items
  • Microwave popcorn
  • Frozen dinners 

Heart Health Connected to Our Gut?

There is a lot of really exciting research that has been happening about the human microbiome (the bacterial cells in and on our bodies).  With some new research linking  the heart to the microbiome in the gut. Check out these articles to learn more about the connection:

Could Autoimmune Disease be to Blame for Some?

There is emerging research to support a link between autoimmune diseases and heart disease.  It is well-known that there is a link between chronic/systemic inflammation and heart disease.  So it makes sense that having an autoimmune disease, which leads to chronic and systemic inflammation – could be one potential underlying cause/contributing factor for heart disease.  Because of this, it is a good idea for anyone with heart disease to be tested for celiac disease/gluten sensitivity (especially if there are other potential symptoms of autoimmunity – such as psoriosis, eczema, or other skin conditions/rashes, sun sensitivity, thyroid disease, chronic aches & pains/arthritis, stress fractures, slow wound healing, low white blood cell count, etc).

So back to the question – if cholesterol and saturated fats are not the culprits in heart disease, then what is?  

There is a lot of overwhelming evidence pointing to poorly controlled blood SUGAR.

Although not likely the whole picture – excess sugar increases inflammation, and is linked to increased risk of heart attack and death.  Chapter One of my book The Perfect Metabolism Plan goes into detail about how sugar impacts our metabolism and health – and all the sneaky ways it is getting into our diet.

AHA Recommends Added Sugar Limits

Because of the link between sugar and heart disease, the American Heart Association recommends limiting sugar intake to less than 9 tsp for men, and 6 tsp for women.  But with 75% of all packaged foods containing added sugars – this is not easy to do.  Sugar is sneaking into our diets all day long – even in seemingly healthy choices like cereals, yogurts, salad dressings, sauces, snack bars, etc.  You do not have to eat one cookie, one spoonful of ice cream, or one soda to get more added sugar than the recommended limit.  It is no wonder that the average American gets about 3 times more than the recommended amount every day (and I personally think that number is underestimated).

Skip the Sodas & Sweet Drinks

One of the fastest way to get too much sugar is by drinking it. One 12 oz. soda has about 10 tsp of sugar, and a 9 oz. frappuccino has about 8 tsp.  One medium FruiTea (organic green tea from Wendy’s) has 18 tsp!!  That drink alone is 3 times the amount a woman should have all day long!!  And before you run out to buy diet sodas – know that two or more diet sodas a day has been linked to a 30% increase for a heart attack (read this article to learn more).

Read these articles for more info:

Testing:

One way to stay on top of our heart health is to get some tests run.  But which ones? Contrary to popular belief – just knowing your cholesterol levels is not enough – as more than half of all heart attacks happen in people who have what are considered normal cholesterol levels.

The Spectra Cell Cardio Metabolic test is a comprehensive test to help you assess your risk of metabolic syndrome.  Learn more about the test here  – or ask your family doctor or cardiologist to run these tests for you.

The Healthy Heart Summit – July 13th (it’s FREE)

There is an exciting opportunity to learn from over 30 of the top experts in the area of heart health next week!   The Healthy Heart Summit (begins on July 13 and it is free!!). Register here today, and attend each day for free.

Healthy Heart Summit

In addition to attending the Summit, I also highly recommend the following books:

  • What Your Doctor May Not Tell you About Heart Disease.  – by Dr. Mark Houston, Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Director of the Hypertension Institute and Vascular Biology, and Medical Director of the Division of Human Nutrition at St. Thomas Medical Group.  In this innovative and well-written book, Dr. Mark Houston helps readers discover the real causes of heart disease, and how to prevent and treat its debilitating effects via nutrition. He also discusses nutritional supplements, exercise, weight management, and lays to rest to various heart health myths based on numerous scientific studies and medical publications.
  • The Great Cholesterol Myth. By Dr. Steven Sinatra & Jonny Bowden.  This is a fascinating book that dispels some of the common myths of heart health, and many ways to support a healthy heart.  Dr. Steven Sinatra is a board-certified Cardiologist with 40 years of experience.

 

This article is not to be construed as medical advice.  I highly recommend that you discuss the information presented in this article and at the Healthy Heart Summit with your medical provider.

Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book
The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.

*This article is for educational purposes only. The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content as how it relates to them, should contact their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medications.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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Are you “Giving” Your Health Away? Five Tips to Get it Back!

May 7, 2015

bigstock.stressedoutmom

Being a mom is one of the most rewarding jobs of all – but it also requires a lot of giving and sacrificing, which can mean that mom frequently ends up at the bottom of her own priority list. Overtime, this can end up taking a toll on her health.  And although this situation is common with moms, it can really happen to anyone, especially if you are a:

people pleaser, doer, giver, over-achiever, go-to person, or superwoman (or man).

We know ‘em and love ‘em.  Doers are the ones that we can count on to just get stuff done. They just “show up,” and do the work. Important members on any committee, they are the top performers in a sales department, and often are very compassionate people who enjoy contributing and making a difference in the lives of others. This is all great!  But just remember:

“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.”  – Jack Kornfield. Author of The Wise Heart

You see, the more you do and give, the less energy you have left over to take care of yourself.  Overtime, this can cause your health to slide.  This is one of the most common reasons that people come to work with me actually!  Because allowing work, life, school, extracurricular, and family commitments to push our health off the list of priorities can eventually show up years later as – weight gain, lowered immunity, an aching back, mood imbalances, digestion issues, adrenal fatigue, headaches, and even an increased disease risk.

Some Signs You Could be “Giving” Your Health Away:

  • Do you find yourself saying “yes” to things that you wish you hadn’t?
  • Do you end up with projects that seem to take over your life and require you to stay late and work weekends?
  • Do you (or others) have unrealistic expectations of yourself?
  • Do you feel guilty when you take time to do what you like to do, or when you (try to) relax?
  • Do you find that you have no time to exercise or eat healthy meals?
  • Have you been suffering from too much stress and a lack of sleep?
  • Are you feeling resentful of your work or other people in your life?
  • Are you finding that you just don’t have the energy or joy that you are used to?
  • Have you fallen sick more than usual lately? Or maybe even you are dealing with a serious health issue.
  • Are you suffering from digestion issues?
  • Do you go to work when you are sick?
  • Are you struggling to keep up with all your responsibilities?
  • Have you noticed that you have gained weight, which seems stuck right in your midsection?

Five Tips to Get Your Health Back on Track:

  • MAKE time & plan for health. Let’s be honest – it’s not that we don’t have time for our workouts or healthy cooking – the truth is, we are not making time for it. I can fall prey to this one too if I do not schedule it and plan ahead.   Before I know it, the day has gotten away and I haven’t gotten in a workout, walk, or yoga class. When I put it into my calendar – and make it a priority – then it happens.  The cool thing about exercise – is a little bit here and there really adds up. Studies show that just 10-15 of minutes a day can benefit the metabolism. In fact – you are better off not doing cardio for 2 hours – because that can raise your stress hormone cortisol- which can backfire and lead to weight gain! For those days that are just too busy to even find 10 mins to workout – just park farther away, take the stairs instead of the elevator, or stand up and pace around the room next time you are on a conference call.  I find that planning ahead is also important for eating healthy meals.  If I don’t plan, that is when all of a sudden it is 6:00 and the kids are tapping my shoulder asking what is for dinner. When I plan ahead and decide what to cook for the week, make sure to get to the store and do some prep ahead of time – I notice that I am actually looking forward to cooking, and not dreading it.  There still will be those days when I don’t have the time (or energy, ingredients, inspiration) to cook – so we have a number of healthy go-to restaurants that don’t break the bank that are our go-tos for easy weeknight meals.
  • INVEST in our health.  A common complaint about eating healthy that I hear is that it is too expensive. Again, it comes down to our priorities – we have no problem dropping $100-200 bucks to get our hair done, spend thousands of dollars to go on vacations, drive the nicest cars, and wear beautiful clothes. But do we balk at spending a little more for the organic strawberries, organic green juices or for the organic/grass fed meats? This can differ from country to country – Europeans generally spend more on their food than Americans – it is just something that they prioritize.  In my mind, I would rather skip the vacation than eat cheaper food for a year, because it is cheaper to pay the grocer now, instead of paying the doctor later (anyone that has seen a hospital bill lately can attest to this).  Check out this video called The Organic Effect – it is about a family that was not eating organic and the amounts of pesticides that were in their system, and how just 2 weeks of eating organic impacted the amounts of pesticides in their systems!  When we invest in something – we make a commitment to it.  Other ways to invest in your health include – joining a gym, hiring a trainer or a Nutritionist. Some more economical options are to buy an exercise video, a healthy cookbook or nutrition book, or to participate in an online program or a group cleanse.
  • Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 4.29.25 PMSTOP overcommitting. Learn to say “no.”  This is a big one for people pleasers, and something that I have been working on for years. Although I have come a long way, I still struggle with it. But I keep reminding myself that when I say “yes” to everything – I spread myself too thin, and then I don’t do any one thing really well.  My friend Chassie Bell of Forkin’ Healthy and I were chatting about this yesterday, and she recommended the book Essentialism-The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, which is all about getting more done in less time, by focusing on what is really important. I ordered it, and am excited to get more focused and effective.  Just remember – if someone asks you to do something, it is okay to say “no.”  It sounds so obvious – but for people pleasers – this is not easy!  Instead of saying “no” right away, you can say “let me check my schedule and I will get back to you.”  People appreciate it when you don’t commit to something that you don’t have the time or energy to put in your best effort on.  Find out if the deadline is flexible, because perhaps you could take it on – at a later time.  Just note – if you have been someone that says yes to everything, it will take some time to adjust. But learning to say no and paring down, can be life-changing, and perhaps even life-saving because it reduces our stress and allows us more time for ourselves.
  • TAKE time for ‘soul food.’ I am not talking about the black beans and rice kind of soul food. I mean taking time to incorporate joy into your life. Soul food is something that you do just because you enjoy it, not because you should. Maybe it is reading, or writing, taking yoga class or going for walks.  Maybe it is spending time with family or friends.  Take a moment to write down 3 things that you like to do – that brings joy to your life. The thing is, if you are a people pleaser, or a Yes person – you might not even know what your soul food is anymore!!  So take some time, figure out a variety of things that bring joy into your life – and try to make sure you are making time for it regularly.
  • Get Good Information – that actually works!!  One of the biggest issues today with our health is that there is really a lot of bad information outbook-blog-image there. It is no wonder so many of us are frustrated with our weight and our health!!  How can you get good results from bad information?  Trying to lose weight and get healthy by counting calories and cutting fat – is not going to get you results – in fact, it could be making your metabolism worse!!  Have you been eating less and exercising more, and frustrated with the excess weight in your midsection?  Have you been trying to eat healthy, and have no idea why your blood sugar is elevated?  I understand – I have been there too.  None of those are the answers to our weight and health issues – that is why I wrote The Perfect Metabolism Plan – to give you the good information that really works – to finally get your health and weight in balance.  It is not a diet book.  It outlines the 10 keys needed to reboot your metabolism – which is the real secret to reaching a healthy weight and achieving vibrant health.   From fixing your blood sugar issues to reducing stress and getting hydrated – The Perfect Metabolism Plan is so much more than a diet book – it is a book that can change your health.

Prioritizing your health doesn’t mean that you still can’t be a doer, a giver, or an overachiever – it just means that you need to remember to save some time and energy for yourself – so you don’t end up in the midst of a health crisis.  When we prioritize our responsibilities, and invest in our health, we take better care of ourselves, and we can be more effective in all areas of our lives.

Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book
The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.

*This article is for educational purposes only. The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content as how it relates to them, should contact their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medications.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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Announcing the Perfect Metabolism Plan!

February 27, 2015

book-blog-image

Are you one of the millions of people that is doing everything you have been told to do to lose weight, but nothing seems to work?

Or maybe you can manage to lose a few pounds, but just can’t seem to keep it off for the long term?

It is not your fault – it’s your metabolism!

We wouldn’t put a broken arm in a sling without resetting it first, so why should we try to lose weight without resetting the metabolism?

DIETING AND CALORIE COUNTING ARE TEMPORARY SOLUTIONS, THEY WILL LAST ONLY AS LONG AS OUR WILLPOWER LASTS. 

And when the metabolism is out of whack – our willpower, hunger hormones, insulin, and cravings are all working against us. It is an uphill battle. Just like we need to reset a broken arm, the real secret to lasting weight loss is to get to the root of the problem –and reset the metabolism.

I wrote The Perfect Metabolism Plan because I knows so many people are working hard to get healthy, they are counting calories, cutting fat, eating less and exercising more. And they are blaming themselves when it doesn’t work. But the truth is – many of these approaches are exactly the opposite of what we need to do to reach/maintain a healthy weight, and are very likely making our metabolism AND OUR OVERALL HEALTH worse! I was there myself too –for years I felt like a failure because I just could not control my weight or cravings.

The Perfect Metabolism Plan provides the information you need to get to the root of the issue and get your metabolism working for you again. It is organized into 10 keys that are needed to reset and reboot the metabolism (plus an extra chapter with some “hacks”).

The 10 Keys to a Perfect Metabolism:

  • Break Up with Sugar – balance blood sugar
  • Fix Your Fats – eat healthy fats, avoid harmful ones
  • Heal Your Gut – boost digestion and balance gut bacteria
  • Identify Food Intolerances – foods that could make you foggy, fatigued, sick, and fat
  • Lose the Toxins – in foods, household products, body care products,etc.
  • Put Out the Fire – reduce inflammation
  • Stop the Madness – lower stress
  • Ditch the Convenience Foods (even the so-called healthy ones) – key nutrients for the metabolism
  • Hydrate! – Dehydration is making us sick and fat
    Exercise Smarter (not harder) – the right and wrong kind of exercise for the metabolism.
  • Plus Metabolism ‘Hacks‘ – some tricks of the trade to hijack the metabolism and kick it into gear.

The Perfect Metabolism Plan also includes over 50 recipes and a plan for putting it into action. It bust the myths that have gotten so many of us into a state of low energy, poor health, and weight gain – and teaches people what really works to reach and maintain a healthy weight and improve their overall health.

ORDER YOUR COPY TODAY!!

Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book
The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.

*This article is for educational purposes only. The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content as how it relates to them, should contact their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medications.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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Heard About “Liquid Gold?”

January 30, 2015

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– It’s the Hottest New Sports Nutrition Drink!

Athletes looking to gain energy, speed, endurance, stamina, improve bone density, and speed up their recovery time, might want to consider drinking the hottest new sports nutrition drink – Liquid Gold, or more commonly known as bone broth.

Did she just say bone broth?  Yep, bone broth is all over the news lately – The Today ShowThe New York TimesMens Journal, and ESPN – just to name a few. Everyone from athletes to executives seem to be filling up their coffee cups with this glistening golden liquid slowly simmered with organic chicken or beef bones.

So what exactly is bone broth?  And what is so magical about it anyway?  Bone broth is made by simmering organic chicken or beef bones in water with some stock vegetables, and a tablespoon or two of raw apple cider vinegar for 12-24 hours. Doing this creates a deep golden liquid rich in collagen and gelatin – which can give it a little bit of a gelatinous feeling – but is incredibly healing to the joints, connective tissue, and gastrointestinal tract (plus as a bonus, offers amazing anti-aging benefits to the skin). Simmering bones in broth for hours also extracts important vitamins and minerals – including calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, sulfur, and chloride (yep – smart athletes will recognize those as important electrolytes that need replenishing after a long, hard training session). And the broth is also rich in amino acids – important for muscle building, detoxification, and recovery.  Season it with some high quality Himalayan or Celtic sea salt, and you add in sodium and additional trace minerals – all important for hard working athletes, and healthy adrenals.

Why is this slowly simmered broth so popular?  Just ask Kobe Byrant – who according to this article from ESPN, has been drinking bone broth daily for about 3 years. Kobe has learned how important high quality nutrition is for his performance as he has gotten older.  But the question is, does Bryant think drinking bone broth helps his game? “It definitely contributes,” Bryant said to ESPN. “I think it’s a balance of a lot of things, but I think doing the small things all together, it makes a big difference.”  Bone broth devotees say that it gives them energy, boosts immunity, improves recovery, digestion, and much more.

But not everyone is jumping on the bone broth bandwagon – this Today Show contributor tried it for a week, and will be happy to never sip or smell the stuff again.  Maybe one week is not enough?  I say if it is important enough for the Lakers to have bone broth waiting for them in every city that they travel to – then it might be worth a try!!

So what can you do if you want to give it a go, but you don’t have 12-24 hours to make bone broth? There are bone broth windows cropping up in New York City, and you can even buy organic chicken broth by the cupful at Jimbos Natural Grocery, or in the freezer section at Jimbos or Seaside Market, which is made right here in Carlsbad by Lance Roll, also known as “The Flavor Chef”. You can order his broth online at the Brothery.com too.  You can also find slightly less expensive boxed bone broth sold in the cooking stock area of Whole Foods from brand Pacific Foods, which I like to use in recipes that call for stock.  Besides sipping, bone broth can be used to make rice, quinoa, and can be transformed into other soups – like this delicious Creamy Broccoli soup (also dairy free).

So what do you think?  Will you give bone broth a try?  Not sure?  Read this article from the Wellness Mama to learn more – she also includes her recipe for chicken bone broth (yep – hers includes the feet for extra collagen and gelatin, but if you aren’t sure about the feet – you can start with just the other bones first and work your way up to the feet)!

Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book
The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.

*This article is for educational purposes only. The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content as how it relates to them, should contact their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medications.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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5 Key Performance-Enhancing Superfoods

November 21, 2014

athlete

I just watched the Showtime documentary Stop at Nothing the other night, this powerful film profiles Lance Armstrong’s obsession with winning, fame, and power.

Watching that film got me thinking about the one thing that all serious competitive athletes have in common is – they have a very powerful desire to win.  In order to win, an athlete knows they need to set goals, train hard, and that means that they need to be able to push through pain and overcome adversity.  Often they have to make sacrifices in other areas of their lives to truly commit to their chosen sport.

The better an athlete gets at their sport and the tougher the competition gets – the harder it gets to stay on top.  I understand the immense pressure Lance Armstrong and other serious athletes are under to win.

Unfortunately, Lance chose to take the illegal and unethical path of using banned substances to gain an unfair edge. It eventually cost him everything – his Tour de France titles, all his lucrative contracts, and the respect of the world.  His actions and choices led to disgrace. I hope one lesson that young athletes can learn from Lance’s mistakes, is that it is not worth compromising your character to win, and that trying to rely on the “quick fix” might come back to bite you in more ways than one.  Because even some of the legal substances that athletes think will help them gain an edge can potentially lead to deficiencies in other areas of performance or recovery, and potentially even serious health trouble (ranging from dehydration to cramping and even organ dysfunction).  Just because a product might make your muscles look bigger, does not mean that they are necessarily stronger, or will make you be able perform better.

The good news, is there are a number of natural and healthy ways for athletes to gain a competitive edge today. One area that all too often gets overlooked is the power of using foods to improve performance and recovery. And the cool thing about nutritional approaches?  Beyond the performance & recovery benefits, they can also offer other health benefits ranging from disease prevention to brain function and balancing mood.  The first step is simple –

Just get the junk out!

Realize that the majority of people (yes, even athletes too) are eating way too many processed foods and getting too much sugar (read about what happened to a man who ate 40 teaspoons of sugar a day in just 60 days – which is a little more than the average teenage boy gets).  The more processed foods in your diet – the more energy the body has to expend on detoxification, the more bogged down the body will become, and the less energy you will have for your training. Processed diets are nutritionally deficient – and athletes need nutrients to perform and recover. Another thing that happens to the body when the diet has too much sugar or processed ingredients – inflammation.  An athlete’s enemy, inflammation leads to swelling, pain, and can degrade performance, range of motion, flexibility, and recovery. Inflammation raises our risk of overuse injuries, asthma, and almost every major disease.  Simply cleaning up the diet and staying properly hydrated, and getting more plant-based foods, high quality grass fed or organic proteins, and cutting out the junk – will give an athlete an edge over the competition.

Got a clean diet and ready to take it a step further?  Check out these superfoods to see if they can help to take you and your performance to the next level.

5 Performance-Enhancing Superfoods:

1. Mushrooms

Although not typically the first thing that comes to mind when talking about athletic performance, mushroom’s are one of nature’s most powerful superfoods – and could be an athlete’s secret weapon.  Mushrooms are a type of fungi, or bacteria that can offer a wide range of health benefits ranging from immune-boosting to performance-enhancing effects. They have been used medicinally in Asia for thousands of years.  Although you will get health benefits from adding a few button mushrooms into your omelette, for performance enhancement, athletes will want to look to medicinal-grade mushrooms like cordyceps, reishi, turkey tail, and lion’s mane. An ideal way to incorporate them into an athlete’s diet is with certified organic mushroom powders, which can be added to things like smoothies, soups and drinks.  Interested in seeing how mushrooms can boost your performance?

A local company called Mushroom Matrix, offers organic mushroom powders, and have extended a 10% off coupon for me to share with you, enter: rebalancelife at checkout to get your 10% discount. Some Mushroom Matrix organic powders to try:

  • Cordyceps, is one of the best mushrooms for athletes, because it boosts oxygen delivery and ATP synthesis – which is critical for energy production. Cordyceps support energy, stamina, recovery, and endurance. Discovered by Tibetian herdsman, cordyceps mushrooms are unique in that they grow on insects.  Other potential benefits of cordyceps include: reducing inflammation, supporting a healthy mood, a healthy weight, healthy cholesterol levels, as well as anti-tumor effects, and blood sugar management.
  • Reishi mushrooms are adaptogenic, which means they adapt to help support the body recover from physical and mental stress.  Often called “the mushroom of immortality,” reishi mushrooms support the immune system and the cardiovascular system.  They support aerobic capacity and recovery.
  • “Fit” formula, which combines both Reishi and Cordyceps powders into one to create a powerful formula to support respiration, endurance, and recovery.

Make sure to choose organic when purchasing mushrooms or mushroom powders/supplements.

2. Beetroot juice or powders 

Google beetjuice and performance, and you will find a plethora of articles touting the benefits – “beets are like legal blood-doping” and “like taking performance enhancing drugs.”  At the Olympic training center in London – athletes were eschewing the brightly colored sports drinks and downing bright pink cocktails of beet juice, pineapple, ginger and orange juice instead. The benefits of beet juice come from their high content of nitrates, which are converted in the body into nitric oxide – which causes blood vessel dilation, and improves energy production and usage – which makes the body more efficient, and supports the heart to do it’s work.  You can juice whole organic beets, or buy a beetroot powder. I recommend if you do incorporate beets/use a powder, to make sure it is non-GMO or organic. Add some spinach, chard and celery to your drink too – as they also are high in nitrates.  One example of a organic beet powder to try is Superbeets organic beet powder, just 1 teaspoon is equivalent to eating 3 organic beets.

One thing to point out with beetjuice – it can change the color of your stool and urine.  So don’t freak out the day after trying beet juice when your toilet water looks pink.

3. Chia seeds

From the book Born to Run: “In terms of nutritional content, a tablespoon of chia is like a smoothie made from salmon, spinach, and human growth hormone.” An ancient Aztec superfood, chia seeds may rival mushrooms as one of the oldest performance-enhancing foods. Chia seeds gave the ancient Aztec warriors the long-lasting energy and endurance they needed to go into battle.  Chia seeds boost endurance, energy, hydration, focus/attention, and reduce inflammation.  Chia seeds are an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids, and are also high in fiber, protein, and have a number of minerals including calcium, magnesium, and potassium – all important for athletes.  Omega 3s are shown to lower inflammation – critical for recovery and injury prevention.  Unlike flax, chia is rich in antioxidants, which means it will not go rancid after grinding, and helps to prevent free radical damage.  Chia seed are uniquely hydrophillic, so when they come in contact with water, they form a gel-like substance.  This chia gel slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, helping to level out bloodsugar and maintain energy/endurance.  Chia gel also holds on to water, which helps to maintain hydration – very important for an athlete.  Always make sure to consume chia seeds with plenty of water or liquids to prevent dehydration, I like to soak the chia seeds for about 5 minutes before consuming to ensure they are hydrated.  Add chia seeds to your smoothie, or make chia pudding.

4. Virgin Coconut Oil

Medium chain fatty acids (MCTs) which are found in coconut oil have been known in the body building industry for a few decades as a superior form of fat.  Medium chain fatty acids are more readily converted to energy by the body, so it is also less likely to be stored as fat. Coconut oil is more easily digested, so it is less likely to cause stomach upset than other fats. Taking coconut oil in the morning helps to train the body to use fat as fuel, instead of glucose.  If an athlete can get their body out of sugar-burning mode – that can be a key advantage over the competition.   I recommend adding a teaspoon or two of coconut oil to your morning smoothie, chia pudding, or oatmeal.  A 1978 study also found that coconut oil increases the body’s production of hGH within 30-90 minutes of ingesting it.  Coconut oil has some other key advantages – first, it is a m

5. Goji berries

Another ancient superfood with a rich history, the goji berry is a small red berry that has a slightly tart flavor.  Also known as wolfberries, they can be eaten raw or made into a tea. Goji berries are known to naturally increase the body’s production of human growth hormone – which is known to improve performance and also has anti-aging effects.

Using nutrition is a healthy and ethical way for athletes to improve their performance, endurance, and recovery.

Note: although some foods can impact performance immediately, others will take longer to build up into the system – so allow up to 4 weeks of consistently taking them to reach the full benefit. Also, some people might notice a difference/benefit from adding superfoods, while others may not.

The other benefit of adding superfoods to your diet – is that they can offer many benefits beyond just performance and recovery enhancement – ranging from immune-boosting to disease-prevention.

A final word of advice to gain an edge? Don’t undervalue recovery.  Like all things in nature, the body has a yin and yang, and in order to perform at your best – you need to be allowing your body the time to recover in order to perform at your best (read: The Yin and Yang of Sports Recovery and  Are you Headed for Performance Burnout?).

Some links to studies/articles:

Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book
The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.

*This article is for educational purposes only. The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content as how it relates to them, should contact their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medications.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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Got Anxiety? Consider Your Second Brain

September 26, 2014

Anxiety

You know the feeling that you get when you are nervous?  Like there are butterflies in your stomach?  Have you ever had that “sinking feeling” in your gut after you made a big mistake?  Sometimes we have those “gut reactions” to situations – where we can’t really explain it, but we just feel like something seems amiss.  It is totally normal to experience some nervousness, anxiety, fear, and even panic occasionally. In fact – we should learn to listen to our gut, because sometimes, our gut feelings can guide us in ways that our brain can’t.

But what about when these feelings start to become chronic, overwhelming, and negatively affect someone’s life?

Whenever someone tells me that they have a lot of anxiety or a related mood disorder – my first question is “how is your digestion?”  The typical response is, “terrible – but what do my digestive issues have to do with my anxiety?”  It is all about the second brain.

Our Second Brain

Our gut and our brains are connected so closely that Dr. Michael Gershon coined our gut “the second brain”. Lined with a complex and extensive set of neurons, called the enteric nervous system, “gut reaction” helps to explain what our second brain does – it guides our feelings, moods, certain behaviors, and reactions.

Our enteric nervous system/gut is responsible for manufacturing important neurotransmitters that play a role in our mood and brain function. So when there has been a gut imbalance or a leaky gut, there often can be mood imbalances and neurological manifestations, because the gut is no longer able to effectively absorb nutrients or convert them into these important brain chemicals. For example, over 90% of our serotonin, often referred to as “the happiness hormone,” is found in our guts. Low serotonin can lead to depression, anxiety, and other mood imbalances. Other neurotransmitters that can be involved in anxiety include GABA, dopamine, and epinephrine.  So you can see how gut issues can affect our emotions.

Digestive Issues Very Common

The trouble is – gut imbalances are rampant – 1 in 5 Americans regularly suffers from digestive complaints.  They are so common that we often just suffer through them, thinking that is just “normal” for us, and that there is nothing that we can do. But it is important to not ignore digestive issues because the gut is the foundation of our health. If allowed to continue, gut health issues can develop into other problems – affecting the brain, mood, joints, skin, thyroid, immune system, and more.

Digestive troubles over time can lead to poor absorption, which can develop into nutrient deficiencies, imbalances in neurotransmitters and amino acids – all of which can drive depression, anxiety, mood disorders; and other problems like ADHD and even addictions.

Getting Relief

Although this may not work for everyone, there are a number of things to try if your second brain is causing you anxiety:

Heal the root cause, the gut:

  1. Identify & remove food intolerances, chemicals, and other key foods that could be contributing (such as MSG, sugar, etc).
  2. Take probiotics – there is mounting evidence that bacteria in the gut has a powerful effect on emotions. Taking probiotics can help to decrease the bad bacteria that can lead to anxiety and other mood disorders.  Read this article to learn more.
  3. Heal the gut – organic bone broths and key supplements can help to rebuild the mucosal barrier. A healthy gut has a strong mucosal barrier, which prevents toxins and proteins from leaking out of the gut.
  4. Consider some other supplements – omega 3 fatty acids such as those found in a high quality fish oil supplement can be very helpful for mood and brain function. Vitamin D can be helpful – it is often referred to as the “happiness vitamin.” A high quality multi-vitamin with methlyated forms of the B vitamins are important for the creation of neurotransmitters.  I also find that adaptogens such as Ashwaganda can be very helpful with anxiety and mood disorders (ashwaganda is also supportive of the thyroid too).

Get some relief from the symptoms:

Until the gut is healed, it might not be effectively making neurotransmitters, which can cause someone to feel imbalanced, unfocused and anxious. Often, this is one reason that can drive people to abuse drugs and alcohol – they are trying to correct or self-medicate these imbalances.  It is possible to test the neurotransmitters and take supplements that can help the body to produce more of the depleted neurotransmitters to feel more balanced.

  1. Test – one single urine collection at home is taken and sent in and can be tested to see which brain chemicals are out of balance.
  2. From that test, key amino acids and other key supplements can be identified that will help to rebalance the neurotransmitters and provide some relief to the symptoms.

The Gut & the Immune System

The gut is also the foundation of the immune system, so someone that frequently gets colds or infections, might want to look at improving their gut health to boost their immune system.  One food that heals the gut and boosts the immune system is organic bone broth – so there is truth to the Old Wives Tale that chicken soup heals a cold (also helps to prevent one too).

Further Reading:
This is a very in-depth topic.  If you are interested in learning more about how the gut affects the brain, mood, and other areas of health, here are some additional articles:

Our gut is the foundation of our health.  As Hippocrates so wisely said over 2,000 years ago:

All disease begins in the gut.”

Please note: If you are experiencing extreme stress, anxiety or overwhelm – please seek out help from a mental health practitioner right away. The national Suicide Hotline can help you to find the necessary resources if you are in a mental health crisis: 1-800-273-8255.

Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book
The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.

*This article is for educational purposes only. The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content as how it relates to them, should contact their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medications.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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15 Superfoods for Peak Performance

January 21, 2014

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The other day I drove into a Rancho Santa Fe gas station, and just as I was about to jump out to go pump my gas, the nice attendant came up and asked me “I’d be happy to pump your gas for you.  Premium fuel today?”  Yes, please, I respond and get back in the drivers seat. “Wow, they have good service at this gas station,” I say to my son. I glance back at the pump and notice that they also have 100 octane fuel, I had never seen that before, and boy is it expensive – over $6 a gallon!  I think to myself, that must be the super premium fuel for all those Ferrari’s and other high performance cars that you see zipping around Rancho Santa Fe all the time.  It stands to reason that the higher performance car you have, the higher quality of fuel it needs.

That stop at the Rancho Santa Fe gas station got me thinking about sports nutrition.  Athletes are kind of like high performance cars.  Just as we expect sports cars to perform better than an average car, athletes put higher demands on their body and seek superior performance.  Putting the wrong gas into a Ferrari can mean lower performance, and overtime could land it in the shop for repairs or even create damage to the motor/inner workings.  The same is true for young athletes – if they are choosing lots of junk food, they might not end up with optimal performance, or over time could end up with chronic inflammation and be plagued with injuries.

Endurance and elite athletes burn a significant amount of calories, so they can and need to regularly eat a lot of calories to replenish their energy reserves.  But just because they can polish off a box of donuts or a large soda and a couple 20 piece nuggets and still not gain weight, does not mean that they should.  Just like a Ferrari, athletes should consider putting in the best possible fuel if they want peak performance.

Because of the extra demands they put on their bodies, it is important for athletes to consume a diet rich in plant-based foods, high quality (ideally grass-fed) protein sources, plenty of healthy fats, and limit nutrient-deficient and inflammation-causing foods (foods that contain a lot of sugar, trans fats, or too many omega 6 fats – found in vegetable oils, soy oils, etc).

One of the best foods an athlete can add to their training regime are superfoods.  Superfoods are highly nutrient dense foods that provide an abundance of nutrition and can potentially improve performance and overall health…kind of like “super premium” fuel.

At the top of my list of functional foods for athletes are these 15 superfoods.

15 Superfoods for Peak Performance:

  1. Chia Seeds – Without a doubt, chia seeds are my number one recommendation for athletes. An ancient Aztec superfood, chia seeds gave the Aztec warriors the long-lasting energy and endurance they needed to go into battle.  Chia seeds are an essential addition to the athletes’ diet, boosting endurance, energy, hydration, focus/attention, and reducing inflammation.  Chia seeds are an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids, and are also high in fiber, protein, and have a number of minerals including calcium, magnesium, and potassium – all important for athletes.  Omega 3s are proven brain and mood food, which can help athletes with focus and attention – to keep their head in the game. Omega 3s are shown to lower inflammation – which is helpful to reduce inflammation – critical for recovery and injury prevention.  Unlike flax, chia is rich in antioxidants, which means it will not go rancid after grinding, and helps to prevent free radical damage.  Chia seed are uniquely hydrophillic, so when they come in contact with water, they form a gel-like substance.  This chia gel slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, helping to level out bloodsugar and maintain energy/endurance.  Chia gel also holds on to water, which helps to maintain hydration – very important for an athlete  Always make sure to consume chia seeds with plenty of water or liquids to prevent dehydration, I like to soak the chia seeds for about 5 minutes before consuming to ensure they are hydrated.
  2. Raw Cacao – Exercising increases the formation of free radicals, so a diet high in antioxidants is important for athletes.  One of the most nutritionally complex foods on earth, cacao has an oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) score of 95,500 per 100 grams, making it one of the best sources of antioxidants, which is helpful in preventing free radical damage. But perhaps what is even more important for athletes is that cacao is one of the best food sources of magnesium. Magnesium is required for over 300 enzymatic reactions, including the synthesis of fat, protein and nucleic acids, muscular contraction and relaxation, cardiac health and bone building. Magnesium improves blood flow and plays a key role in the metabolism of adenosine triphoshate (ATP), critical for aerobic and anaerobic functions. Cacao is also rich in potassium, iron, polyphenols, flavanols, theobromine, and proanthocyanidins.  Cacao offers a long list of health benefits including reducing heart attack and stroke, lowering blood pressure, boosting mood and brain function, lowering stress, relaxing muscles, boosting our skin’s internal SPF, and much more.  A recent Journal of Physiology study suggests that antioxidants in cacao may help bolster exercise endurance. Try this Choco-Banana Super Smoothie – which contains 5 Superfoods for Performance (chia seeds, cacao, coconut water, pink Himalayan salt, and banana).
  3. Coconut water – often referred to as nature’s Gatorade, coconut water is an excellent hydration tool, naturally rich in electrolytes and also a source of natural quick energy.  When athletes sweat, they lose fluids and electroytes, coconut water helps to replenish the lost fluids, electrolytes, and also provides a natural source of carbohydrate to replenish lost glycogen (energy) stores.
  4. Himalayan Sea Salt – along with fluids, athletes lose sodium and other minerals when they exercise and sweat, which need to be replenished.  High quality air dried sea salts or pink Himalayan salts contain beneficial minerals and trace minerals that are missing from table salts.  Table salts also contain anti-clumping additives which are not in natural sea salts.  I recommend that athletes use only the highest quality salts when they are making foods at home – put a pinch of Himalayan salt into smoothies (it brings out the sweetness and flavors too!), and always cook with high quality salts, which along with the sodium contain a number of important minerals that the body needs.  Sometimes when we crave salty foods, our bodies are seeking minerals – which are lacking in processed and packaged foods.
  5. Bananas – are a an excellent complex carbohydrate to consume 30 minutes before a race, one banana contains approximately 467mg of potassium, an energy-supplying electrolyte which provides protection to the cardiovascular system. Green tipped bananas contain a prebiotic which aids in digestion and the body’s ability to absorb calcium.  High in vitamin B6, bananas help to support sleep, neurotransmitters (brain chemicals), and white blood cell formation. Bananas are also known for minimizing muscle cramping.  Slice them and top cereals, oatmeal, or add them to smoothies.
  6. Coconut Oil – might seem like an odd food to include in a list of superfoods for athletes.  But it is a very unique fat that can offer athletes a lot of benefits.  First, it is a medium chain fatty acid, which is more readily converted to energy by the body, so it is also less likely to be stored as fat.  Coconut oil is more easily digested, it is less likely to cause stomach upset than other fats. Coconut oil is also a natural antiviral and antibacterial, which supports a healthy immune system.  It can be used topically as well to help with skin irritation and dryness. I recommend adding a teaspoon of coconut oil to your morning smoothie, or oatmeal.
  7. Sweet Potatoes – Despite their naturally sweet taste, sweet potatoes have a low glycemic index which means they can be absorbed and used gradually, preventing the blood sugar from spiking and crashing. Sweet potatoes have been shown to improve blood sugar, even in Type 2 Diabetics. One of the best sources of beta-carotene, sweet potatoes raise our blood levels of vitamin A, which is a fat soluble vitamin and is best absorbed when eaten with some dietary fat, so don’t be afraid to put a little grass-fed butter on them!  That will help you absorb the nutrients!  Sweet potatoes are a good carbohydrate source for athletes and also helpful in preventing inflammation, which aids in recovery.
  8. Teff – The word teff means ‘lost,’ a reference to the fact that the grains are so small that if you dropped them, they will be nearly impossible to find. An ancient North African cereal grass, teff has an good balance of B vitamins, amino acids/protein, calcium, zinc, and is an excellent source of iron to help prevent anemia. Teff has as much protein as an egg, is gluten free, and has a nutty, molasses-like flavor.
  9. Berries – Eating foods high in antioxidants is critical for athletes, who can suffer up to 200 times the free radical damage compared to their less active counterparts.  Scientists have found that a diet rich in antioxidants may help with exercise recovery by reducing muscular damage. Blueberries, acai, pomegrante, and goji berries are all good sources of antioxidants.  Berries are also a good source of fiber.  Snack on them, or toss them into a smoothie or on top of your cereal.  Dried berries are a good addition to trail mixes.
  10. Almonds – a good source of vitamin E, magnesium, potassium, manganese, copper, riboflavin, monounsaturated fats and protein; almonds are nutritional powerhouses.  A small handful of almonds a few times a week can be helpful in lowering cholesterol, and preventing heart disease.  Almonds are useful in nervous system and muscle recovery. Other tree nuts are also beneficial, such as cashews, walnuts and Brazil nuts.
  11. Kale – High in nutrients like vitamin K, magnesium, vitamin C, calcium, folate, zinc and iron, kale is one of the most nutritious vegetables on the planet. Sneak some into your smoothie, or chop it up and add it to soups, or omelettes – kale packs a big punch.
  12. Quinoa – Often considered a grain, quinoa is not a grain, but a seed.  Naturally gluten free, quinoa is a good replacement for grains.  It contains high levels of both carbohydrates and protein, with all nine essential amino acids, which are critical to many biochemical functions. Quinoa has a rich history as a sports nutrition tool. The Incas used it to increase the stamina of their warriors, helping them to run long distances at high altitudes. Quinoa is a good source of manganese, magnesium, iron, zinc, potassium and calcium.
  13. Raisins – offer a quick source of concentrated energy, and are also a good source of potassium and magnesium, which helps to balance our body’s pH, and also is important for athletes to replenish when they work out and sweat.  Raisins also contain calcium, and a substance called boron, both of which are important in building strong bones.  Athletes need to make sure they are getting plenty of bone-building nutrients to prevent stress fractures and breaks.  Raisins also contain fiber, which helps promote good digestion.
  14. Hemp Seeds – an excellent vegan source of easily digested protein, hemp seeds contain all 10 essential amino acids. Just 3 Tablespoons of Hemp Seeds = 11 grams of protein. Hemp seeds provides an array of minerals including zinc, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium and iron. Hemp seeds contain a healthy ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. In addition, hemp seeds contain an especially beneficial type of omega-6 fat called GLA (gamma linolenic acid), which supports anti-inflammatory hormones and facilitates fat-burning.
  15. Avocados – are full of healthy fats that help to reduce our inflammation, boost the absorption of certain vitamins (fat-soluble ones), and are actually a high fiber food. Avocados are a good source of carotenoids, vitamin K, vitamins B5 & B6, vitamin c, folate and potassium. Avocados promote bone and heart health, and help manage blood sugar.  Adding avocados to smoothies can make them light and fluffy and boost the fiber, vitamin content, and help to keep you satisfied longer.

Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book
The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.

*This article is for educational purposes only. The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content as how it relates to them, should contact their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medications.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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The Halloween Sugar Rollercoaster

November 5, 2013

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Halloween is over, so while is your sweet child acting like a little monster…?

In the weeks that follow Halloween parents might notice that their child:

  • Is a little grumpier
  • Is having trouble sitting still
  • Has caught another cold or virus
  • Has been having trouble in class with his behavior or focus

Don’t worry – it could be the Halloween candy!

Between all the sugar and artificial colors, it is no wonder our kids’ aren’t their usual selves. All that candy has them on the Sugar Rollercoaster!

What is the Sugar Rollercoaster?

When we eat sugar, it goes surging into our bloodstream, giving us a burst of energy.  But that energy is short-lived, and followed by a crash.  So naturally, we tend to reach for more of what gave us the burst of energy, and the cycle happens all over again.  I call this the “sugar rollercoaster,” and it is easy to get stuck on it!  The blood sugar crash causes moodiness, increased hunger, low energy, and can even lead to shakiness.

Sugar and Immunity

Sugar also lowers our production of white blood cells, which reduces our immunity, not what we need this time of year when colds and flu season is coming into its’ peak.

More Addictive Than Cocaine?

A recent study found that sugar was more addictive than cocaine, so it is not surprising that once you get started, it is hard to stop.

What about the Artificial Colors?

In addition to the sugar, one packet of Skittles contains 9 (yes NINE) different artificial colors. Many parents might not realize the impact that all those colors can have on their kids.  Artificial colors has been shown to negatively affect behavior and attention in certain susceptible kids. Europe has recognized this, and all products with artificial colors must contain warning labels.  So most brands use natural colorings in Europe, while they use the brighter and cheaper artificial colors in the U.S.  Watch this Halloween Candy Controvery segment on the Today Show to learn more.

So how much sugar does Halloween really add to the average kids’ diet?

Did you know that the average kid collects about 100 pieces of candy on Halloween night?  Well, Screen Shot 2013-11-05 at 8.32.53 AMthey are just fun-sized candies – so it is no big deal right?  Well, a fun sized packet of Skittles contains 11.4 grams of sugar, which amounts to just under 3 teaspoons of sugar.  Two packets of fun sized Skittles, and your child has already met their recommended added sugar intake for the whole day!!  That leaves no room for the added sugar that is coming in their yogurt tubes, cereals, sports drinks, snack bars, fruit juice, flavored milks, or the barbeque sauce they dip their nuggets into (a surprising number of BBQ sauces’ first ingredient is high fructose corn syrup)!

It Really Adds Up

Let’s assume that on average, each fun sized candy has about 2.5 teaspoons of sugar, and if a kid brings home 100 pieces, that will add up to 250 teaspoons of sugar or 3,700 calories of pure sugar!  The average teenage boy already eats over 500 calories a day of sugar on average (not considering Halloween candy in the mix).  So just 5 fun sized candies each day will add an extra 12.5 teaspoons of sugar (that is 1/4 cup!), which is an extra 187 calories of nutrient-void candy.  If they are eating 5 pieces a day, it will take them 20 days to eat the 100 pieces – so that is an extra 3,700 calories of sugar in less than 3 weeks!!

What’s a Parent to Do?

American kids already are getting way too much sugar in their daily diets. But trick or treating really takes them over the edge.   So what is a parent to do about all that candy laying around?

  • Invite the Switch Witch to come for a visit! The Switch Witch is like the Tooth Fairy – she comes in the days after Halloween to trade candy for a toy.  I loved the idea of the Switch Screen Shot 2012-10-17 at 10.28.33 AMWitch, but I wondered why she trades candy for a toy, so I decided to write an eBook last year about why she does this – and that is how Serena the Switch Witch was born!!  It is available for Nook and iPad on Lulu.com for just $1.99!!   My sister did all the art for the book too.   Kids can choose a couple of peices to keep, and then leaves the rest for the Switch Witch, and she will bring them a toy in it’s place!
  • Bring the candy to a Candy Buy Back program – a lot of pediatric dentists have these – they will give you a small sum of money for each pound of candy you turn in.  Then they send the candy along with toothbrushes to the troops overseas.  Go to www.halloweencandybuyback.com to find a candy buy back location near you!
  • If the kids decide to keep the candy, make sure they are not keeping it in their room.  If it is in their room, they will be more likely to eat it all day long, and you might just find a few dozen wrappers under their bed next time you clean.
  • Pool the candy together in a “movie stash,” and hide it away somewhere the kids won’t find it, and is very inconvenient for you to sneak it too.  We have done this in the past, and then when we go to the movies, I let my kids pick out one or two Halloween sized candies for the movie.  It is a fun treat, and then you don’t pay the movie prices, or end up with the movie sized candy boxes.
  • If you do keep the candy, get rid of everything that has artificial colors in it, because that can contribute to hyperactivity and focus/attention problems.
  • Do science experiments with the candy!!  Such as making this colored rainbow… I think putting artificial colors in our bodies is kind of like doing a science experiment anyway, so why not do an ACTUAL science experiment that your kids can learn from (not get all hyper from)??

Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book
The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.

*This article is for educational purposes only. The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content as how it relates to them, should contact their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medications.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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8 Natural Cold & Flu Prevention Tips

September 15, 2013

bigstock-Little-girl-blowing-her-nose-i-38609692

he cold and flu season is looming upon us, and has already started for some.  But you don’t have to feel like a sitting duck, there are some natural ways to boost immunity and prevent colds and flu (that don’t involve getting a shot)!

As the expression goes “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  Here are some tips to help you stay a step ahead of colds and flu this year.

8 Natural Cold & Flu Prevention Tips

1. Call in the Troops!

Our bodies are teeming with bacteria, in fact, according to scientists, we have 10 times more bacterial cells than human cells!  And it is important for us to remember that some of those bacteria are the “good guys,” which are important not only for our digestion, but also for our immune system, and even our mental healthStudies show that probiotics are a very powerful tool in the fight against infection. So if you want to boost your immune system, increase the good bacteria in your gut.  According to this article, “a healthy lower intestine should contain at least 85% friendly bacteria to prevent the over-colonization of microorganisms like E. coli and salmonella. Replenishing the healthy bacteria in our gut is especially important after a course of antibiotics – critical really – because they wipe out ALL the bacteria – good and bad.  So although antibiotics can help to get rid of an infection like strep throat, they can leave your immune system vulnerable to future infections.  Read The Importance of Good Bacteria to learn more.

2. Wash Up!

Whenever you put a bunch of kids together in a room, you increase the chances that viruses and bacteria can spread.  One of the best ways to prevent germs spreading around is to simply wash them off!  Do your kids do the ‘quick rinse’ in the sink without soap?  I know a lot of kids do – they are far too busy to wash with soap.  But a quick rinse with water might not get all the germs off.  So hands should be washed with soap and water after using the bathroom, before eating, and after handling things in public places (ie: playground, museums, grocery stores, health clubs).  But just say no to the antibacterial soaps!  Studies show that use of the anti-bacterial agent Tricolsan  (found in many antibacterial soaps, gels, and wipes) could be creating resistant strains of bacteria.  So don’t forget to wash hands, but stick with regular soap.

3. Get Your Sunshine Vitamin

Vitamin D is not really a vitamin, but a pre-hormone produced in the skin after exposure to the sun’s UVB rays.  So vitamin D levels typically drop in the Fall/Winter months when we get less sun exposure. A study published in 2009 in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that 70% – 97% of Americans have insufficient blood levels of Vitamin D.  Vitamin D is known for it’s role in building strong bones, but it also plays a significant role in our immunity.  Some research shows that vitamin D is more effective in preventing the flu than a flu shot.  So the Fall is a good time to supplement with vitamin D3. To learn more, read: Immune System Superstar-Vitamin D, and Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D?

4. Get Some Natural Vitamin C

Ever since Nobel prize-winning scientist Linus Pauling wrote the book Vitamin C and the Common Cold in 1970, the debate about whether or not it can help prevent the common cold has raged on with billions of active strains.

2. Take some natural antibacterials – load up on the garlic and oregano. Oregano oil is a powerful antiviral and antibacterial – if you catch it early enough, it can really nip a cold in the bud!  I also like to take Immune Shield from Sun Warrior.  Immune Shield contains ionic liquid silver and gold in a fulvic acid base. Silver is also a very effective natural anti-bacterial.  If you catch it at the early stage – taking natural anti-bacterials can help to prevent a virus from taking hold, or progressing into a more serious infection.

3. Take a homeopathic cold remedy.  These will help to manage the pain and inflammation, and help to drain the mucous membranes.  Some can be found over the counter at your local health food store (such as UMCKA Cold+Flu, or Boiron ColdCalm), or look for a practitioner that offers homeopathic remedies.  Start these at the first sign for best results.

4. Boost the Vitamin D, zinc, and natural Vitamin C. To get my vitamin C, I like to stir some camu camu powder into water or my smoothie, it is the best food source of vitamin C!

5. Make a big batch of chicken soup, or buy some organic chicken bone broth!!

6. Take some olive leaf extract.  Great for prevention of colds and flu this time of year, Olive leaf is a powerful antioxidant immune support with an ORAC score of 7608.  The use of olive leaf extract to support health dates back to ancient Egypt. You can buy liquid, capsules, and even a throat spray – which is great at the first signs of a sore throat, often the early stage of a cold or flu.

Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book
The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.

*This article is for educational purposes only. The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content as how it relates to them, should contact their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medications.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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Hydrating Foods to Beat the Heat

August 5, 2013

watermelon

As the thermostat goes up, so does the body’s requirement for fluids.  Dehydration can occur when the body loses fluids, does not take in enough – or a combination of the two.  When the body loses a significant enough amount of fluids, lost electrolytes should also be replenished along with the lost water.  Electrolytes are minerals that carry an electric charge and are important for the proper functioning of nerves, muscles, and to maintain proper fluid levels in the blood and cells. The minerals sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, chlorine and phosphate are all electrolytes.

 

According to some recent studies, certain plant-based foods hydrate better than plain ole’ water, because in addition to their high water content, they come paired with natural electrolytes, minerals, and vitamins.  So eating plenty of plant based foods, or having a glass of freshly pressed organic juice is a great way to rehydrate the body on a hot day.

 

Move over Gatorade, and make room for these naturally hydrating foods:

 

  • Watermelon: Over 90% water, watermelons also contain many of the things the body loses with sweating – including natural sugars, calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium.  Rich in beta carotene, vitamin C and lycopene, watermelon is also helpful in protecting the body from free radical damage that comes with exercise and sun exposure. Lycopene was even shown to provide the body with a little bit of internal sunscreen (read more: Eat Your Sunscreen).
  • Celery: Crunching on celery sticks on a hot day can help to return lost sodium and potassium to the body.  Sodium gets a bad rap, but the body needs organic sodium – which is found in foods like celery, coconut, and high quality natural salts like pink Himalayan. Sodium works in conjunction with potassium to regulate fluids and nutrients in cells and is important for maintaining mineral balances, digestion, metabolism, nerve function, and more.  I also love to add a few celery stalks to my fresh pressed juice too!
  • Grapes: An excellent source of potassium and manganese, grapes can help us stay cool and hydrated. They also contain resveratrol – a nutrient associated with anti-aging, anti-inflammation, and many other benefits, so grapes can help keep us looking and feeling young.  There is almost nothing more refreshing than a handful of grapes on a hot summer day, except maybe frozen grapes!  Pop some grapes into the freezer – they are kind of like nature’s popsicle.
  • Cucumber: Another high water content vegetable, cucumbers are also a good source of vitamin C, and an anti-inflammatory compound called caffeic acid, which is why putting cucumber slices on your eyes can help reduce puffiness.  Cucumbers are a refreshing addition to a salad and are great in a fresh pressed juice.
  • Coconut water: Referred to as “nature’s Gatorade,” coconut water supports hydration with 5 different electrolytes – sodium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and calcium.  Coconut water so closely matches the profile of human blood, that it has been used as intravenous fluid in a pinch.  In addition to it’s hydrating properties, coconut water is a good recovery tool for athletes because it also contains natural sugars to help to replenish lost glycogen stores.

Some other foods, that despite not being high in water content, when paired with fluids, can help to rehydrate (and even prehydrate) the body as well:

  • Avocado: One regular avocado contains almost twice as much potassium as a banana! Avocados also contain phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, and zinc – which is important for carbohydrate and protein metabolism.  Avocados are rich in vitamins B, C, E & K, and are also surprisingly high in fiber – with 1/2 an avocado containing almost 7 grams!  The healthy fats in avocados can help us to feel satisfied, provide us with lasting energy, and are a great addition to a salad because they boost the body’s ability to absorb fat soluble vitamins.
  • Chia Seeds:  Chia seeds are not high in water content, but they are a great hydration tool because they are uniquely hydrophilic – meaning each little seed can absorb approximately 10-12 times of it’s own weight in water.  When chia seeds come into contact with fluids, it soaks them up and creates a gel. Chia gel can prolong hydration by retaining electrolytes in body fluids, making it an excellent tool for hydration.  Always make sure to take chia seeds with plenty of water, or they will soak up fluids internally, potentially increasing dehydration.  A great addition to a smoothie, athletes can use chia gel to pre-hydrate before their workout or competition.  Read Pre-hydrate with Chia to learn more.
  • Sea vegetables: Not your typical sports nutrition food, seaweed and other sea vegetables should be in more athletes’ bags!  Containing virtually all the minerals found in the ocean, when taken with water, seaweed is an excellent hydration tool for replenishing lost minerals from sweating.  Seaweed are rich in calcium, copper, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, vanadium, and zinc.  Perhaps best known for their iodine content – sea vegetables like kelp can be useful for boosting the function of the thyroid gland.
On hot Summer days, I love to start my day with a hydrating smoothie or chia pudding, and then refuel later with a refreshing and energizing fresh pressed juice.  Find my healthy chia pudding and “green lemonade” recipes in my free Cooking with Superfoods ebook.
Watch this segment on Hydrating Foods on Fox 5 San Diego, August 2013.

Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book
The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.

*This article is for educational purposes only. The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content as how it relates to them, should contact their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medications.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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