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, whose 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 We Overwhelming Our Kids’ with Sugar & Processed Foods?

January 24, 2015
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Categories: ADHD, Kids, Nutrition, Sugar

Thank you to Coronado SAFE for inviting me to speak at your 3rd Annual Parenting Conference!

Recently someone whose child has been dealing with a bunch of health issues asked me “Why does kids’ health have to be so complicated nowadays?”  He has a point:

  • 1 in 10 kids currently has fatty liver disease (40% of obese kids).
  • Adult onset diabetes is now called Type 2 Diabetes, because it is increasingly affecting kids.
  • 1 out of every 2 Latina or African American girls is expected to develop diabetes in their lifetime.
  • 1 in every 3 kids has one of the 4 “A”s (asthma, autism, allergies, ADHD).
  • Thirty percent of kids today are overweight or obese.
  • We are seeing more autoimmunity, metabolic issues, skin conditions, digestion issues, hormone imbalances, anxiety, depression and other health issues in today’s youth.

The statistics are so grim that  experts worry that in a few decades there may not be enough healthy individuals to take care of the sick individuals.  In fact, this may be the first generation of kids which may not outlive their parents.

I think the question we all have to ask is –

Take a walk down the aisle of your average grocery store, and you will see hundreds and thousands of brightly colored and flavor-blasted sodas, chips, cookies, cereals, bars, yogurts, candies, energy and sports drinks, mac n cheese cups, frozen pizzas and dinners, refrigerator doughs, ice creams, and a wide variety of foods specifically designed and marketed towards….our kids.

Seventy four percent of these foods contain added sugars.  And far too many of these foods contain artificial colors, flavorings, flavor enhancers, preservatives, monosodium glutamate, trans fats, GMOs, and other ingredients that we don’t recognize or know what they are there for.

The question remains – is this even food?  Or is it a science experiment?  And do we want our kids to be lab rats in a giant experiment?

I know all too well how tempting all this junk food can be for a kid.

Can you guess who that girl is in this photo?

Yep – that was me. I think I was around 12 years old then. And one of my favorite foods was hot dogs.

If you had told that girl that she would one day write a book, speak in front of large audiences, and go on TV regularly – all to share her knowledge about nutrition and health – she would have laughed herself silly. You see, when I was that age, I didn’t realize that what I ate affected everything – from my energy, to my moods, brain function, digestion, immune system, and my weight.  All I cared about was how food tasted.  And I frequently reached for things like hot dogs, candy, sodas, cookies, cakes, and chips.

Sure, they might taste good – but in the long term all that junk food can cause tremendous mental and physical pain.

But I am one of the lucky ones – because the majority of overweight children grow up to become overweight/obese adults.

The thing is – it doesn’t have to be this way.

NO ONE HAS TO BE A STATISTIC.

I am living proof.

So what can we do to stop this trajectory?  The answer is surprisingly simple:

Eat Real Food. 

Although it may be simple, it might not be so easy.

Because if you are eating packaged and processed foods, you are getting a lot more sugar, chemicals and GMOs in your diet than you realize.

Here are 5 Tips to Help you Improve Your Family’s Diet: 

1. Cut way back on added sugar – read Are Our Kids Eating Toxic Amounts of Sugar? for more info.

2. Avoid anything with partially hydrogenated oils (this means there are trans fats).

3. Get the artificial colors out.  If it has a color and a number after it, it is an artificial color.  Artificial colors have been found to affect attention and behavior in some kids.  In fact, in the United Kingdom – if a food has an artificial color, it has to have a label on it that says:

‘may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children’

So instead of putting on that label, most manufacturers will use natural colorings instead.  For example, if you buy Kraft mac n cheese in the UK, it is made with natural colorings, while the blue box in the US contains artificial colors.  There are many other examples of this kind of double standard.

4. Avoid chemicals in foods like mono-sodium glutamate (MSG), flavor enhancers, and preservatives.    If you can’t pronounce it, or don’t know what it is – it probably is a chemical.

5. Eat more plant-based foods – especially vegetables.  Studies show that eating more plant-based foods can lower your risk of disease and prolong your life.  Shoot for between 7 and 9 servings of plant based foods every day.  Or try to fill up half your plate at least twice daily.

Want to learn more about nutrition and health?

Below are some additional resources:

Download my Free Cooking with Superfoods eBooklet

Videos/Ted Talks:

Websites:

Apps:

Documentaries:

Other:

Books:

Articles:

Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, whose 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 Our Kids Eating Toxic Amounts of Sugar?

January 5, 2015
cupcakes
Categories: Kids, Nutrition

4 Reasons to Cut Back on Sugar & 4 Tips for How to Do It

As parents, we know sweets and treats are not healthy, but our kids love them, and we want to make them happy. After all, a little sugar can’t hurt? It’s ‘just a cupcake,’ soda, or a candy bar, right? Why not indulge our children once and a while?

Four Reasons to take a hard look at the amount of sugar our kids are really eating:

1. It is not really a ‘once in a while’ thing.

An occasional treat sweetened with natural sugars is not a big deal for a healthy individual that is exercising regularly and eating a healthy whole foods-based diet. But kids today are getting way more than an occasional treat – a bowl of ice cream for dessert every night, sodas every day, candy after school, and treats in the lunchbox.

But even kids who aren’t eating dessert and soda every day are getting too much, because it is hidden in “healthy options” like juice boxes, sports drinks, snack bars, and things like fruit flavored yogurts. Sugar is in virtually every packaged foods, according to Dr. Robert Lustig, Professor of Pediatrics at UCSF, “There are 600,000 food items in American grocery stores, and 80% of them have added sugar.” So in addition to the obvious culprits (like candy, cookies), there are the hidden sources of sugar that we don’t even count that are adding up (granola bars, yogurts, cereals).

2. Sugar is (like) a drug.
Studies show that sugar affects the brain much in the same way that cocaine does: What Happens to Your Brain on Sugar, Explained by Science. Sugar delivers a double whammy, it is highly addictive and stimulates the appetite. So the more sweet foods a person consumes, the more they want – creating a self-fulfilling cycle.

bigstock-Amusement-park-rides-19603847The Sugar Roller coaster

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, when our energy and mood crashes – we tend to reach for more of what gave us that burst of energy and the happy feeling – and the cycle happens all over again. I call this the “sugar roller coaster,” and it is easy to get stuck on it!

3. Sugar’s Impact on Health
When we are on the sugar roller coaster for a long period of time, the body becomes less able to process sugars as efficiently as it used to. So blood sugar stays elevated longer, and the body needs to release more and more insulin to lower it. This is referred to as insulin resistance, which leads to obesity as well as increases our risk of heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, fatty liver disease, and a recent study out of UCLA found that diets high in sugar negatively impact our memory and brain function. New research is now implicating sugar in the dramatic rise of Alzheimer’s disease – now being referred to as Type 3 Diabetes, because the plagues in the brain are similar to those seen in diabetes. Many of these diseases were thought to affect adults, but new evidence is finding that kids are increasingly affected.

It Happens Fast
Sugar doesn’t take long to make a mark. A new documentary called That Sugar Film chronicles a man who ate a “healthy low fat diet” with a high sugar content for 60 days, and measured it’s impact on his health. He ate no candy, sodas, or cookies, just “healthy” items like low fat yogurts, granola bars, fruit juices, and cereals – the kind of things that fill our kids’ daily diet. The results were shocking – he gained 4 inches of fat around his waist, developed fatty liver disease, and suffered from serious mood imbalances. This was in just 60 days! He wasn’t eating a whole lot more than the average teenage boy.

Watch the Trailer for That Sugar Film:

Permanent Damage
According to Dr. Mark Hyman, excess sugar is damaging kids’ livers – and increasingly to the point of no return. The liver is a very resilient organ, if you cut a chunk off, it can literally regrow back if there are enough healthy cells to do so. But there is a tipping point with the liver – where you can cross over to permanent damage. Dr. Hyman says that we are seeing a rise in the demand for liver transplants for tweens, due to diets high in sugar – particularly soda consumption.

4. We also have no idea how much is too much.
Excess sugar is linked to an increased risk of almost every disease – including heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, Alzheimer’s, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Because of this, the American Heart Association has come out with some very stringent recommended limits of added sugar based on the child’s age and caloric intake:

  • Preschoolers: Up to 4 teaspoons per day.
  • Ages 4 to 8: Up to 3 teaspoons a day (elementary aged kids need more nutrition than preschoolers, so they have less room for discretionary calories like added sugars)
  • Pre-teen and teens: 5 to 8 teaspoons per day.

Considering the fact that one soda contains approximately 10 teaspoons, you can see how easy it is to shatter the above recommendations every day. In fact, on average, Americans consume 4 times the recommended amount of added sugar each day. Teenage boys are getting the most – almost 30 teaspoons a day! Over half of all 8 years olds drink one soda each day, and one third of teenage boys are drinking 3 cans of sodas per day. In these amounts, sugar is not harmless calories – far from it.

25 years ago when this doctor was a resident, he rarely saw patients with Type 2 diabetes, now half of all the patients in his clinic are Type 2 Diabetics. Sugar is not just empty calories, and it is not just a special treat anymore. It is making up nearly 20% of our total caloric intake because it is in 75% of all packaged foods – including “healthy” options. Excess added sugar can make your liver look like that of an alcoholic – which is why 1 in 10 kids now has fatty liver disease (40% of obese children). It is time for a change.

Four Tips for Breaking Free from Sugar:

1. Follow my “Rule of Three”
Certain foods help to level out the blood sugar. So when we eat them, we are less likely to spike the blood sugar as high as simple carbs and sugar. So I recommend that each time you eat make sure to get at least one or more of the following:

  • Healthy fats* – avocados, coconut oil, grass-fed butter, nuts, chia seeds, hemp hearts, fatty fish, fish oils. (Make sure to avoid products with damaged fats like trans fats (partially hydrogenated oils) and unhealthy GMO oils like soy, canola, and cottonseed oils.
  • Fiber – vegetables & whole fruits, non-gluten grains, quinoa and chia seeds. For example, eating a whole orange is better than drinking orange juice – because the whole fruit contains the fiber.
  • Protein – high quality organic animal products, quinoa, wild fish, chia seeds, hemp hearts.

By getting healthy fat, protein or fiber each time you eat, you will stay off the sugar roller coaster and feel more satisfied and energized between meals. When your blood sugar is more stable, you will crave less sugar.

So instead of grabbing one of those 100 calorie snack packs – reach for apple slices with almond butter, or hummus and veggie sticks.
* Fat is Your Friend – Fat is a special case, because for decades we have been told that fat is what is making us fat and causing diseases, and the truth is – sugar and simple carbs are much more to blame. In fact, getting more healthy fats (like avocado, coconut oil, nuts, seeds, and grass fed butter) is one of the critical steps we need to take in order to get off that sugar roller coaster. One of the things that I have found with just about everyone that has an issue with sugar is that they are not getting enough healthy fat in their diets. Many people who are stuck on sugar got there because they have been trying to be healthy – and have been following a low fat diet. But here is the kicker – a low fat diet is not healthy. Our bodies need healthy fats to keep you blood sugar level, to suppress our hunger hormones, and to absorb fat soluble vitamins. Without sufficient fats – we are more likely to be hungry all the time.

2. Ditch the Artificial Sweeteners
“Diet” sodas are an oxymoron – because they do not help you to reach or maintain a healthy weight. Studies show that they raise the risk of diabetes, negatively impact our gut bacteria (linked to weight gain and much more), and are linked to weight gain (not loss). Plus – they stimulate your sweet tooth even more than sugar, so they make you crave and eat more sweets and carbs. And perhaps worst of all, artificial sweeteners are made from chemicals which can be cytotoxic to the brain – not good for anyone, and certainly not kids.

3. Shop Smarter.
As parents of young children, we buy the groceries – so if we just stop buying the sugar and junk, then at least it won’t be in the house for kids to eat. It is amazing how they might start to reach for healthier choices like whole fresh fruit when there isn’t an alternative. Plus, taking a short break can effectively “reset” your sweet tooth. Skip the sweets for a week, and your taste buds become more sensitive – so those candies are too sweet, and the apple is just right. Your kids might surprise you with what they choose for dessert after a few days!

4. Keep it in Balance & Set a Good Example
If mom or dad is eating lots of sugar, then they will be more likely to follow our lead.
So if mom and dad are making healthy choices and setting a good example for the kids, they will be more likely to follow suit. If you are struggling with getting the sugar out of your diet – consider taking Sara’s Break Up with Sugar eCourse – which will be available again in late January.

Just remember, it is next to impossible to eat ZERO sugar – so focusing on small amounts of natural sources and buying less packaged and processed foods will go a long way towards lowering your sugar intake. Plus when you make something from scratch – you can use less and better sources.

Want to learn more about how to help your family be healthier this year? Join Nutritionist and Author Sara Vance, at the Coronado SAFE Parenting Conference on January 24th to learn more about How We are Overwhelming Our Kids with Processed Foods. Sara’s talk will cover some key ingredients to look for/avoid, how these things could be impacting their health now and later, and some healthy swaps and tips for how to keep it all in balance.

Further Reading:

Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, whose 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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Immune System Superstar – Vitamin D!

October 13, 2014
Enjoyment - free happy woman enjoying sunset. Beautiful woman in

I don’t think that Vitamin D gets enough credit for how important it is for our immune system to properly work, and in the fight against the flu and other viruses.  Optimizing your vitamin D is perhaps is the #1 step to take to prevent the flu!!!  Studies have shown that low levels of vitamin D could increase your risk of getting influenza.  An estimated 70% of the population is deficient in vitamin D, and because the sun is the best source – Winter and Spring tend to be when it dips the lowest (it should come as no surprise that is when colds and flu spike too!).  Vitamin D is very important for cancer prevention, and also shows some promise for asthma symptoms and several skin conditions too.

Vitamin D is very important for the immune system – without sufficient Vit D, our T cells (important immune cells) can’t be activated properly.  This is important for fighting the flu, and also for prevention of cancer – it is estimated that 75% of breast cancers could be prevented simply by optimizing vitamin D levels.  Vitamin D also is found to be effective in preventing and treating skin conditions like eczema, psoriosis, and even recurring infections like Staph, and MRSA as well.  Other signs of deficiency can be muscle aches and pains, fractures, depression, blood sugar issues, and more.

According to studies optimal Vitamin D could also benefit asthma sufferers. Asthma makes kids particularly susceptible to getting more serious complications of flu and Enterovirus. 

How to get it?  Sunshine is your best source – which is why it is called the sunshine vitamin.  But you can also supplement – make sure your supplement has the D3 form (cholecalciferol), which is better absorbed than D2 (ergocalciferol, which is a cheaper form, and also the kind added to milk).

How much to supplement?  It depends.  The right amount will depend on your blood levels of vitamin D, so it is a good idea to have your vitamin D levels checked this time of year. Ideal blood levels are between 40-65 ng/dl.  If your levels are really low, your doctor might prescribe a high dose to quickly boost your levels. But generally, adults can very safely take 2,000- 2,500 IU daily, and studies show that 1,200 IU for kids ages 6-15 benefits the immune system.  The RDA is 600 IU for kids, and 800 IU for adults, but many physicians and experts feel that those amounts are not high enough to get levels to where they need to be.  Talk to your doctor or practitioner about getting your vitamin D checked, or ask how many IU that they recommend that you/your family supplements.  Also – magnesium is needed for absorption, so make sure you are getting plenty of leafy greens, pumpkin seeds, raw cacao, nuts, or taking magnesium supplements (avoid the oxide form which is poorly absorbed).

Recommended reading:

Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, whose 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, whose 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 Top 5 Supplements (Pretty Much) Everyone Needs

June 28, 2014
Vitamin D

A very common question that comes up a lot is – “Am I getting all the nutrients I need from my regular diet?”

The short answer is – probably not.

I am a big proponent of obtaining the majority of our nutrients from foods, because they contain a synergistic combination of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals – all of which enhance the absorption and utilization by the body. In some cases, eating certain foods together can even magnify the benefits of nutrients, read Eat Your Sunscreen to learn more.  But there are a number of reasons that we might not be getting all of the nutrients that we need on a daily basis.

One reason for nutrient deficiencies is simply that we simply might not be eating enough nutritious foods.  The Standard American Diet (SAD) tends to be too high in packaged, processed and fast foods which is probably lacking in some key nutrient.  And to make things worse – processed foods also tend to deplete nutrients within the body, because the body uses them up trying to metabolize foods that are high in sugar, trans fats, and preservatives!  So they are a double-whammy!

But even people who eat a high quality diet rich in plant-based foods could have deficiencies for any of the following reasons:

  • Poor soil quality. Even if you get the most stellar diet full of plant-based foods; because soils are increasingly becoming depleted, much of our food is becoming more depleted as well. Buying organic certainly helps, as organic food tends to be grown in better soil, and your body won’t have to deal with all the pesticides either.
  • Low stomach acid.  If you have low stomach acid, you might not be effectively breaking down and absorbing the nutrients you take in.  Low stomach acid becomes even more prevalent as we age.
  • Digestive trouble: Food intolerances, bacterial overgrowth, or another gut issue can also inhibit absorption and utilization of nutrients.
  • Anti-Nutrients.  Some compounds in foods prevent the body from absorbing nutrients, these are called anti-nutrients. For example, phytic acids which are in grains, nuts, and soy; bind to and prevent the uptake of important minerals like zinc and magnesium. Soaking, sprouting and fermenting can in many cases reduce or elminate phytic acids.
  • Missing Key Co-factors:  Did you know that in order to absorb fat soluble vitamins, that you need to have some fat with them as a carrier?  Or that in order to get calcium into the bone, that you also need vitamin D, magnesium and other key co-factors?  So even if you are drinking lots of green juice, if you are not getting enough healthy fat with it, a lot of the nutrients are not being absorbed.
  • Prescription medications. Some prescription medications can lead to vitamin, mineral and hormone deficiencies, read the book Drug Muggers by Suzy Cohen, RPh to learn which medications deplete which nutrients, and how to replenish them.
  • Genetic defects – having a genetic defect – such as a methylation defect – can lead to a reduced ability to convert certain nutrients into their useable form.  This can even lead to an increased risks for diseases such as elevated homocysteine.  If you want to know if you might have a genetic defect such as under-methylation, or a reduced ability to handle free radicals, a company called Neurosciences offers several genetic tests that are also very reasonably priced.

How Can You Tell if You Have Deficiencies?

There may or may not be symptoms at all, but nutrient deficiencies can show up in many different ways – ranging from fatigue, weight gain, migraine headaches, neurological symptoms, focus issues, and much more.

If you do decide to supplement, you might still have questions – which nutrients do I need, and how much should I take?  If you want to know exactly what nutrients you are deficient in, in order to more effectively target your supplementation – consider getting the SpectraCell Micronutrient test – which tests white blood cells to measure the functional levels of 35 nutritional components including vitamins, antioxidants, minerals and amino acids.

When supplementing, I always caution people against buying the cheapest option, or whatever is on sale. Poor quality supplements tend to be poorly absorbed, and worse – they might even do harm. For example, cheap calcium supplements that do not contain the key co-factors for absorption into the bone, can cause the calcium to migrate to where it should not go, potentially causing calcifications of the arteries, and an increased risk of heart disease.  Read: Dietary Supplements, Quality is Key.

But in general, there are 5 supplements that pretty much everyone can benefit from:

1. Vitamin D – the “sunshine vitamin”

Referred to as the “sunshine vitamin”, Vitamin D is not really a vitamin, but a fat-soluble pre-hormone that in synthesized from exposing the skin to the sun. Not surprisingly after years of slathering on the sunscreen – many Americans are now low in vitamin D levels. A study published in 2009 in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that 70% – 97% of Americans have insufficient blood levels of Vitamin D.

  • Why is Vitamin D deficiency a concern? I can not emphasize the importance of this nutrient enough – having optimal levels of Vitamin D could literally save your life!! It is estimated that a large percentage of breast cancers could be prevented with optimal levels of vitamin D. Insufficient levels of vitamin D raises our risk of fractures and osteoporosis, inflammation, leaky gut, MRSA infections, heart disease, and breast cancer. Vitamin D plays a role in cell growth and immune system function. It is so important to our immune systems, that vitamin D is shown to be more effective in preventing the flu than the flu shot. A 2012 University of Copenhagen study found a link between low vitamin D and heart disease, and a study at Oregon Health and Science University linked low vitamin D levels to multiple sclerosis.  Several studies have also found a link between low vitamin D status and difficulty losing weight. Read: Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D to learn more.
  • How to get it:  The sun is our best source of vitamin D.  And you don’t need a lot – 15-20 minutes most days of the week – should do the trick for most.  But because vitamin D is so critical, an insurance plan (supplementing) is a good idea.
  • If supplementing, you always want to buy vitamin D3 (not D2). Most adults can benefit from 2,000 IU of D3 a day.  But have your blood levels of vitamin D levels checked, because if they are low (below 30 ng/ml), your doctor might temporarily want you on a higher dose.  Below 20 ng/ml is the danger zone where fractures and cancer risks skyrocket!  What if you are supplementing and your D levels are not rising?  You could have a genetic defect that reduces your ability to convert Vitamin D.  Or you could be deficient in a very important mineral needed for the conversion of vitamin D – magnesium!

2. Magnesium: “The calming mineral”

Magnesium is another nutrient that could save your life – literally!  In emergency rooms they give magnesium to people who have suffered a heart attack, because studies have shown that IV magnesium after a heart attack offers protection to the heart muscle.

It is estimated that over 70% of the population is deficient in magnesium which is required for over 300 enzymatic reactions, including the synthesis of fat, protein and nucleic acids, muscular contraction and relaxation, nerve health, bone building, and heart health. Magnesium improves blood flow and plays a key role in serotonin production, protein building, and the metabolism of adenosine triphoshate (ATP). Magnesium helps rid the body of toxins and acid residues, and is also needed for the synthesis of vitamin D and absorption of calcium.

One of the most important minerals for our heart health, magnesium is also emerging as an important mineral for cancer prevention.  A study from Sweden reported that women with the highest magnesium intake had a 40% lower risk of developing cancer than those with the lowest intake of the mineral.

Heavy alcohol consumption depletes magnesium, which could be one reason that drinking more than two alcoholic beverages a day raises our risk of breast cancer.  About two thirds of all magnesium in our body is found in our bones.

Magnesium has been found in studies to stimulate the release of adiponectin, which is known as a “fat-burning hormone.”  So low levels of magnesium could be causing us to hang on to fat longer!  Magnesium has also been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, another important factor in a healthy metabolism. Low magnesium levels can lead to muscle cramping, migraine headaches, and could even be a factor in a sluggish metabolism.

Food sources of magnesium include leafy greens, seeds (like pumpkin), avocado, broccoli, and beans. But perhaps the best (and most delicious) way to get magnesium is from raw cacao – the main ingredient in dark chocolate, or try these yummy almond butter cups.
If supplementing, look for citrate, malate, orotate, glycinate (avoid oxide form, which is poorly aborbed and more of a laxative).

3. Omega 3s“Brain and mood food”

Two kinds of polyunsaturated fats – the omegas – are called “essential” because the body can not make them, so they must be obtained from the diet. Having the right balance of essential fatty acids is important in preventing inflammation. Ideally we should be getting a 1:3 ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fats in our diets.  But because most processed foods are made with cheap soy, cottonseed or vegetable oils; which are high in omega 6s we are getting closer to 1:20 ratio of omega 3s to omega 6s.  This sets us up for chronic inflammation.

Omega 3 fats are important for healthy brain function, to support a balanced mood, for heart health, and have even been studied by the US Military to be effective in treating post-traumatic stress disorder. Omega 3s are found in fatty fish, some nuts, chia seeds, hemp hearts, and also in grass fed meats, and pastured chicken eggs.  You can supplement with a high quality fish oil.  And I like to take chia seeds every day too. Omega 3s reduce inflammation in the body, which is very important for disease prevention.  This article can help guide you on choosing a high quality fish oil. (note: high doses of fish oil can thin the blood, so they should be stopped a few weeks before any surgery, and consult a doctor if on medication).

4. Probioticsfeeds the digestion and immune system

Humans have trillions of bacteria in our bodies, in fact we are made up of 10 times more bacterial cells than human cells, so technically we are more bacterial than human! Bacteria live in our digestive system, our skin, and mucus membranes – our bodies are literally teeming with them.  There are between 500 and 1000 different types of bacteria in our guts alone!  Bacteria play an extremely important role in our metabolism, digestive and immune system health. Perhaps even more than we currently realize.

When it comes to bacteria, it is all about balance.  Research shows that ideally we should have 20 times more beneficial bacteria than the unhealthy kind to maintain a healthy immune and digestive system.  A balanced inner ecosystem is very important for digestion, immunity, mood, and even has an impact on your weight. There is even some very good research suggesting that it could be a player in the fight against heart disease and diabetes.

You can get good bacteria from fermented foods like sauerkraut, kim chee, kombucha tea, and yogurt.  But most people do not get enough fermented foods, so I recommend that most everyone takes a high quality probiotic supplement to make sure to keep the good bacteria outnumbering the bad.

5. B Vitamins – the “Stress vitamins”

The B vitamins are critical for a healthy metabolism and are needed in order to convert our food into energy.  Often referred to as the stress vitamins, the B vitamins are water soluble, so they are not stored in the body for long, and stress causes us to excrete them more.  B vitamins are important for energy, mood, sleep, nerve function, detoxification, digestion, heart health, and more.  Here are some of the key ones:

  • Vitamin B12 is important for energy, mood, memory, and focus; a deficiency can cause anemia and nerve damage. Because B12 is naturally only available in animal proteins, it is very common for vegans to be deficient unless they are supplementing. Having inadequate levels of stomach acid can also cause a B12 deficiency. Food sources include: sardine, cod, tuna, chicken, beef, and salmon.
  • Vitamin B6 is important for metabolism of protein and sugar, sleep, anti-inflammation, gallbladder health, and hormone balance. A B6 deficiency can lead to PMS, low levels of serotonin or other neurotransmitters, and gallbladder trouble.  Taking birth control and hormone replacements depletes B6.  Food sources include tuna, turkey, chicken, salmon, beef, sweet potato, beans, and banana.
  • B9 (Folic Acid): Important for prevention of colon cancer, heart disease and stroke, and birth defects. Folic acid deficiency can show up as elevated homocysteine, which can damage blood vessels and raise the risk of heart disease.  This can happen despite adequate dietary intake of B vitamins if someone has problems with methylation (conversion of the B vitamins).   Poor methylators should take the active methyl forms of B12 (methylcobalamin) and folic acid (methylfolate).   There is a genetic test for methylation, talk to your doctor if you want the test – available through companies like Neuroscience, Inc.

Getting your B vitamins from a high quality multivitamin can be a good way to go, because you are getting a little insurance on the other key nutrients that could be missing as well.  Find one that contains the Methlycobalamin form of Vitamin B 12.  I prefer capsules or liquid over tablets – because they are better absorbed.

Other important B vitamins:

  • B5 (Pantothenic Acid) is important for skin and adrenal health, blood pressure and the thyroid.
  • B1 (Thiamine) is needed for carbohydrate metabolism and can be useful with digestive issues.  Food sources include animal proteins, fish, eggs, and dairy.
  • B3 (Niacin) is important for the production of hormones, including the stress hormones. Higher doses can be toxic to the liver.
  • B2 (Riboflavin) deficiencies could lead to migraine headaches.

Those are the top 5 supplements that I find that most people need.  You can either get them from a high quality multi-vitamin But below are some other common nutrients that can cause problems if there are deficiencies:

  • Iodine: Important for thyroid health and prevention of breast cancer, iodine is known to uptake heavy metals, which can interfere with thyroid health. One of the best food sources of iodine are the sea vegetables, particularly kelp.
  • Zinc: Important for hormones and growth, low zinc levels can lead to short stature and delayed growth/puberty in kids.  Zinc is also important for detoxification and immune health.  One sign that you could be zinc deficient is a lack of sense of smell or taste. Food sources include oysters and cashews.
  • Selenium: a very important trace mineral that is important for the immune system, thyroid health and even skin and breast cancer prevention.  One of the best food sources is Brazil nuts – in fact, they are so rich in selenium that you can eat too many of them. Just about 4 a day can get you to optimum levels of selenium.
  • CoQ10: Very important for energy production and cellular health, our production of CoQ10 declines with age.  Another thing that severely depletes our CoQ10 levels are taking Statins.  If you are taking a statin – ask your doctor about supplementing with CoQ10.
  • Calcium: Our needs for calcium vary throughout our lives, but one group that is probably not getting hitting their calcium requirements are teenagers, who need about 1,300 mg/day. But taking calcium alone is not going to get the job done.  Calcium needs to be taken with the co-factors magnesium, vitamin D, vitamin K, and trace minerals in order to be absorbed into bone.  Even milk is missing some of the key co-factors for absorption. Read Got Fractures? for more information about building strong bones in kids. The calcium supplement that I recommend is Algae Cal, because it is a foods-based calcium and contains the co-factors needed for absorption.  But make sure to still get your calcium from foods too – broccoli, sardines, sesame seeds, and dark leafy greens.
  • Iron: the most common deficiency worldwide, being a vegan increases the risk of iron deficiency anemia because the best food sources tend to be animal-based proteins like red meat.  But be careful, as some iron supplements can upset the stomach, and it is possible to get too much iron. There is also a genetic defect that causes iron to accumulate too much, which can be very dangerous to health – those people should avoid supplements with iron, and limit iron rich foods, and avoid alcohol which can worsen the problem.

Many people can benefit from some high quality supplements. But you also want to be careful to not overdo it – especially with vitamins that can accumulate in the body – like the fat soluble vitamins. And even if you do choose to supplement, realize that supplements alone can’t replace a healthy diet, and those taking prescription medications or who have an existing health condition should consult with their doctor first.

Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, whose 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 Pretzels Worse than a Candy Bar?

January 24, 2014
pretzels
Categories: Gluten Free, Nutrition

Ahhhh Pretzels.

Back in the day, I used to think pretzels were the perfect snack food: low fat and low sugar – and back then, we all thought that meant healthy.  I used to munch on them every afternoon, I “needed” my pretzels.  I can even remember stopping to buy them when I traveled after I landed in a new town.  I had to have my pretzels pretty much every afternoon….

But now, I call pretzels “appetite stimulants.”  It’s no wonder I used to go through several bags of them every week…because foods like pretzels don’t satisfy your hunger, they only make you hungrier.

Now I know better.  Looking back knowing what I know now, I realize that pretzels were one of “my sugars.” 

But you might be wondering – “they only have one gram of sugar. They are a low sugar food….how could they be your sugar?”

To understand that, I need to explain the glycemic index.

The Glycemic Index – What is it?

The “glycemic index” is the measure for how a food affects blood-glucose levels. Foods are given a number between 1-100 (or higher in some cases) on the glycemic index based on how the food will affect your blood sugar. The lower a food is on the glycemic index, the more gradually it rises the blood sugar and/or to a lower level. A glycemic index of 70 and above is considered high – the blood-glucose rises quickly and to a higher level. Medium glycemic index is between 56 and 69. A low glycemic index is under 55. The glycemic index was originally designed to help people with diabetes better manage their blood sugars. But now weight loss experts are using it to help people lose weight, and manage cravings. Recent research out of Harvard has demonstrated that eating diets with low glycemic foods can lower the risks for obesity and related diseases like coronary heart disease and diabetes.

  • Gatorade – 78
  • Colas – 65
  • Milk – 32
  • Ice Cream – 57
  • Yogurt, fruit – 36
  • Corn flakes – 93
  • Frosted Flakes – 55
  • Oatmeal (unsweetened) – 55
  • Instant oatmeal – 83
  • Baked potato – 111
  • Donut – 76
  • Pretzels – 83
  • Snickers Bar – 51
  • Table sugar – 64
  • Maltose – 105
  • Honey – 62
  • Fructose – 22
  • Apple – 38
  • Grapes – 46
  • Raisins – 64
  • French Bread – 95

Harvard Health has put together this list of 100 foods and their glycemix index (and glycemic load).

Are Some Carbs Worse Than a Candy Bar?

You might be wondering why are pretzels (baked potatoes and corn flakes) are so high on the glycemic index, when they are a low sugar food? In addition to foods with added sugars, white potatoes, white flour and processed grains like white bread, crackers, pretzels, and the like are of concern. Look for “enriched” flour on the ingredient list – enriched means the grains have been highly processed and are lacking fiber and nutrients. These foods convert very quickly into sugar when they enter our bloodstream.  They spike blood sugar levels, cause insulin to be released, and as a result, our appetite to spike.

But what about “healthy whole wheat?”
Turns out that Whole wheat is not so healthy after all, and it is not just the gluten.

Now you are probably thinking, wait just one minute Sara.  Isn’t whole wheat better for us because it has fiber? Yes, fiber is important for leveling out bloodsugar.  So common sense would tell us that whole wheat is better for us.

But let’s take a closer look…

First of all, a lot of breads labeled “whole wheat” are really made with highly processed enriched wheat flour (which barely resembles a whole grain anymore), and some even contain high fructose corn syrup.  And as we know, processed grains spike our blood sugar.  But that is not the whole story.

Second, the whole wheat of today is not the same as our grandparents.

And it is Highly Addictive

Dr. William Davis, author of Wheat Belly calls today’s wheat, “frankenwheat,” because it does not resemble the wheat of a couple decades ago.  This new wheat has a protein that is as addictive as drugs, causes us to eat more, and can even lead to other health problems.

Neurologist and author of the book Grain Brain, Dr. David Perlmutter says that gluten, wheat and simple carbs are all harming our brains – contributing to Alzheimers disease and other brain degeneration.

Let’s look a little closer….

Whole wheat* has three characteristics that are wreaking havoc on our metabolism:

  1. Gluten – is a protein in wheat and other grains like barley and rye – that gives it that soft & chewy feeling.  Many people think that gluten free is just a trend, and that it will go away someday.  But more and more people are realizing that gluten not only can have a negative impact on our digestion, but it could be harming our brain health (read: Grain Brain written by Dr. David Perlmutter – he says gluten and wheat are prime reasons for many neurological diseases – from Alzheimers to ADHD and more.)  Gluten creates inflammation in the gut and the body – and inflammation is linked to an increase in almost every health condition – ranging from cancer to heart disease and more.
  2. Amylopectin-A: is a “super-starch” that is in “modern wheat.”  It was not in the wheat of our grandparent’s generation, but because of hybridization, wheat has been changed over time and now has this super starch that causes our bloodsugar to spike higher than a spoonful of sugar.
  3. Polypeptides – When wheat comes into contact with stomach acids, it is broken down into short chain amino acids called polypeptides.  These polypeptides cross the blood-brain barrier and act kind of like opiates on the brain.  This gives us a little “high.”  Anytime something gives us a high, it can be addictive. There have also been studies linking schizophrenia, autism, and other neurological conditions to wheat and gluten.  And considering that these polypeptides cross the blood brain barrier, that is not too surprising.

One More thing to consider….Our Livers

As if that all weren’t enough, there is one other condition that is linked to diets high in sugar, flour, and carbs – and that is non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.  It is estimated that 90 million Americans have it, and the scary thing is that most don’t even know it! We are even seeing 12 year old kids with it!!  Here is an article/video from Dr. Mark Hyman about it.

SO…are pretzels really worse than a candy bar?

I am not sure that one is worse than the other. The point of this article is to educate that even low sugar foods can spike your bloodsugar, causing an insulin response (which when done repeatedly leads to a dangerous condition called insulin resistance), and contributes to an unhealthy metabolism.  I am not suggesting that you swap out your afternoon pretzel snack for a candy bar (well, unless it is a few squares of 70% or higher dark chocolate).  What I am suggesting, is that you replace it with nutrient dense foods – consider reaching for carrots and hummus instead.  Or apple slices with almonds.  And see if that satisfies you longer.

Is there a better pretzel?

And if you just really don’t want to give up your pretzels entirely.  Consider upgrading them.  I like a product called Mary’s Gone Crackers.  They make a yummy gluten free pretzel that is not full of starch (like many gluten free foods are) and contains superfoods like chia seeds.  They will not spike your bloodsugar as high as regular pretzels and will satisfy your hunger longer. Pair them with some protein or healthy fats and you have a nice snack.

Want to Learn More?

The above article is an excerpt from Sara’s Perfect Metabolism Break Up with Sugar – 7 day eCourse.  Interested in learning more information like this, and learning how to break free from sugar (and pretzels)?

Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, whose 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
bigstock-chia-seeds-in-a-rustic-oval-wo-40769023

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, whose 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, whose 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 Amazing Artichoke!

May 6, 2013
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Artichokes do not get the credit that they deserve as a superfood.  But their antioxidant capacity puts them in the top four vegetables and seventh overall according to a study conducted by the  U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. The Artichoke, also known as cynara, is a member of the thistle family, a group of flowering plants that have sharp leaves (and also Winne the Pooh’s friend Eeyore’s favorite food!). The edible part of the plant is the flower base which if allowed to blossom, can create a beautiful huge purple flower.  

A wonderful spring vegetable that are packed with phytonutrients, artichokes were prized in Ancient Roman times as an aphrodisiac. A wonderful natural remedy for elevated cholesterol, the artichoke doesn’t just lower cholesterol, it optimizes it – lowering LDL levels, and raising HDL levels. A double-blind placebo controlled German study found 1,800 mg of artichoke extract to lower LDL by 22.9% in just 6 weeks (compared to 6% in the placebo group), read more!  Artichoke is also supportive of liver detoxification, which is important for healthy cholesterol levels, hormone regulation, and much more. 

Although most people’s favorite part of the artichoke is the heart, the leaves contain the vast majority of the cynarin, which offers the powerful health benefits.  You can buy the extract, or artichoke supplements, but one of the best ways to extract the nutrition is to make organic artichoke tea.

Artichoke tea:
The green liquid left in the pot that most people throw away after you cook an artichoke is basically artichoke tea!

  1. I always start with an organic artichoke, because I don’t want to be drinking pesticide tea. Non-organic artichokes are heavily sprayed with pesticides.
  2. Rinse the artichoke off well to get rid of any dirt or critters, and cut off the very bottom of the stem.
  3. Slice it lengthwise down the middle into 2 parts, put them into a large pot of fresh clean filtered water, and bring it to a boil.  Optional – you could add a quarter sized slice of peeled fresh ginger root, and even a peeled turmeric root.
  4. Once it reaches boiling, lower the temperature and cook for about 20 mins on a very low simmer.
  5. Turn off the stove, and remove the pot from the heat and allow to cool for about 20-30 mins. Take out the artichoke – and eat it.  I like to save some of the leaves, see below.  The leftover water is your tea.
  6. Now you have artichoke tea!  It can be consumed warm or cool.  Add a touch of your favorite natural sweetener if you like it sweetened.  I also like to add in fresh squeeezed lemon juice too.
  7. Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator for up to 3 days (before you put it into the refrigerator, make sure it has cooled to room temperature first).

Note: if your tea is a drab brownish green color, you might have overcooked it.  Sometimes, the tea will start out a lightish green and will brighten in the refrigerator over a few hours.
Artichoke tea supports the liver to cleanse by enhancing the excretion of unwanted toxins in bile. When the liver is better supported, it can help to improve hormone regulation, and improve the quality of the skin:

  • Drinking 1-2 cups of artichoke tea daily is a nice remedy to try for the treatment and prevention of acne.
  • After you cook your artichoke, store the leaves in the refrigerator.  You can cut them into little half moon slices, which you can put under the eyes to help to reduce inflammation – similar to how you might use a cucumber.  They will last about 4 days in the refrigerator. Note: You can store them in the freezer to make them last longer – but make sure to completely thaw them out before putting them on the tender skin under the eye first.

The above recipe is from Sara’s Perfect Metabolism book, which is coming out in 2015.  She also offers 2 Perfect Metabolism eCourses, which are self-paced online classes.

Note:  Persons taking prescription medications or with an existing health condition should consult a doctor before taking the above foods, herbs, vitamins or supplements to be sure there are no interactions.  Do not stop taking your prescription medications without consulting your doctor.

Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, whose 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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