Have you heard of “skinny starch”? It is also called “resistant starch” – because it resists digestion. What that means is that it moves slowly through the digestive tract – so it helps to keep your blood sugar more stable, it is a prebiotic – meaning that it serves as “food” for the good bacteria in our colon. It is called the “skinny starch” because it can improve digestion, blood sugar, energy, and gut bacteria – all of which could potentially mean flatter bellies and weight loss. But before you run out and eat a lot of skinny starch – realize that like any fiber – especially a prebiotic one – you want to begin to incorporate it slowly, or it could potentially cause digestive upset.
One of the best sources of resistant starch in my opinion comes from a small tuber called a tiger nut. You can eat the nuts whole, or I like to add tiger nut flour to my daily smoothie. Resistant starch can also help you sleep – so this Tiger Nut & Cashew Horchata drink is a nice thing to have before bedtime. I also like to add tiger nut flour to desserts – like this raspberry tart!
“Sugar Cookie” Crust:
Put all the ingredients into a food processor, process until still crumbly, but starting to come together.
lightly grease a tart pan, and press the crust into it (I like to use my fingers to spread it around, then a flat bottom measuring cup to get it even. Press it so it comes up about halfway up the sides of the tart pan.
Put into freezer for about 20-30 mins.
Put all of the above into the Vitamix, and blend until combined.
Take crust out of freezer, and pour filling onto the crust – spread with a spatula or spoon. Return to freezer to set – at least 2 hours, up to a day ahead. Remove from freezer before you want to serve, add the raspberries, and whipped cream if you like (see below).
Coconut Whipped Cream (optional)
Put the coconut milk in refrigerator the day before you want to make the cream. Open the bottom of the can, and pour off the coconut water (reserve for smoothies, or another recipe).
Scoop out the coconut cream and put it into a bowl with the other ingredients, using a electric mixer – whip it up. Taste and adjust. Spoon onto slices before serving.
Want to learn more about Resistant Starch and get more delicious recipes – including “skinny starch” chocolate nut butter cups and cookie dough balls? Take my Resistant Starch eCourse!
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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.
©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.
If you struggle with anxiety and stress, you are not alone. One of the most common complaints that I hear from clients – kids and adults alike – is feelings of anxiety.
We are all under so much pressure day in and day out, and running from one thing to the next – it is easy to feel like a hamster running on those hamster wheels all day long!! And with to do lists a mile long, presents to buy, travel and parties, bills piling up…the stress & anxiety levels can definitely go up during the holidays.
Excess stress can lead to elevated blood pressure, and overtime it can also cause elevated cholesterol levels, weight gain, hormone imbalances, digestion issues, mood imbalances, blood sugar issues, and can even be a trigger for diseases. A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, showed a 4.2 % increase in heart-related deaths between December 25th and January 7th, some of which could be attributed to elevated stress levels – read more.
But fortunately, there are several natural and healthy ways to deal with and reduce anxiety and stress all year long.
I love a good cup of Joe, but if you are trying to reduce your stress levels – that might not be the best way to start your day because it can amp you up too much and make you jittery and anxious. You might be thinking – “But, Sara! I need my caffeine to get going in the morning!” The perfect solution is the switch your morning cup of coffee for a cup of matcha tea. Matcha tea has just enough caffeine to give you a nice energy boost, without making you jittery. And the bonus – matcha tea also has a compound called L-Theanine – which is an amino acid that helps to promote a calm focused feeling. L-Theanine is such a powerful way to reduce anxiety and promote calm feelings, that it is sometimes called “Nature’s Xanax“. It does this by enhancing the brain’s alpha waves – which creates a deep feeling of relaxation without any sedation or drowsiness. L-theanine may also help to clear excess free glutamates from the brain, which may contribute to anxiety (free glutamates are found in processed foods, especially those which contain monosodium glutamate – so I always tell clients with anxious kids to skip the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and Doritos – and any other foods which contain MSG)! If you want the benefit of the L-theanine without the caffeine – you can take an L-theanine supplement too – which is nice to do in the evening to calm down before bedtime. L-Theanine does not contain caffeine, so you can take it any time of day. Although it won’t make you feel sleepy, the calm feeling L-theanine provides, can enhance sleep at night. A 2004 Australian study found L-Theanine to be more effective at inducing relaxation than Xanax!
I find that L-Theanine can even be an effective replacement a glass of wine for taking the ‘edge off’, it can also help to lower blood sugar, and ward off sugar cravings too.
Magnesium is a mineral, a very important mineral at that – it is responsible for over 350 biochemical processes in the body – from glucose regulation to ATP production, bone & heart health, hormones, and much more. Most people are already deficient in magnesium – and stress only makes us more depleted. Magnesium is often called “the calming mineral, or the “chill pill” – so if we are deficient, it is no wonder we could be feeling anxious. To increase your magnesium, you could eat more magnesium rich foods like nuts, seeds, leafy greens, and….chocolate!! But go for the dark chocolate, because it is raw cacao where the magnesium is found, and dark chocolate has less sugar than milk chocolate. You can also take a magnesium supplement – just know that not all types of magnesium are created equal – some are poorly absorbed, and some can have stool softening effects. So it is important to choose the right form of magnesium – I avoid the oxide form, which is poorly absorbed, and has a laxative effect. I prefer these forms of magnesium: malate, glycinate, orotate, and citrate (citrate is highly bioavailable, but it can also cause loose stools, so start with a low dose like 150 mg). Magensium can also be absorbed through the skin, so soaking in a bath with magnesium-rich epsom salts can boost your magnesium levels. Or you can spray a magnesium oil on your skin too. When I am under stress, I find that increasing my magnesium supplements can help me feel a lot calmer. This is the magnesium supplement that we take at our house: Designs for Health Magnesium Malate.
Believe it or not, essential oils can have a very powerful effect on our mood. I like to diffuse them, use them topically, and I even will put a couple drops of lavendar into my foot soak and onto my pillow for a calming effect at night. Interested in learning more about essential oils? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Whenever someone tells me they have anxiety – I ask how their digestion is, because believe it or not – many cases of anxiety begin in the gut. Our gut has actually been called our second brain! So addressing gut issues is a great tool for dealing with anxiety. One thing I like to recommend is trying to add a high quality probiotic. I usually recommend a specific strain – called Bacilius coagulans – because it is it is a soil based probiotic – which means it helps to “seed” your gut with good bacteria and crowd out the bad. It is also generally very well tolerated and doesn’t tend to cause bloating. So that is my favorite strain, and it is not the most common one either. You can also eat fermented foods and drinks too – that will help to tip the balance of good bacteria back in your favor too. I have heard that just doing this has helped people reduce their anxiety levels. This is the probiotic I take and recommend: Pure Prescriptions’ Digestive Defense.
Our gut is connected to our brain via something called the Vagus Nerve. The vagus nerve plays a critical role in our parasympathetic nervous system – the side of our nervous system that is responsible for relaxation, rest, and recovery. When the sympathetic nervous system is turned on all the time – we are stuck in a stress response – this can lead to anxiety, poorly controlled stress, and can cause our digestion and hormones to get out of balance. When there are problems with the vagus nerve, it can lead to all kinds of issues – ranging from anxiety to focus, and even digestion issues like slow motility. When we have out of control stress levels for long periods of time, our vagus nerve can get weak. In order to get it working again and doing its’ job to calm us down, we need to stimuate it. One way to stimulate the vagus nerve is by gargling – very vigorously several times a day. Singing loudly can also stimulate the vagus nerve, and so can the gag reflex- although some people may not wish to gag repeatedly every day. If those things don’t sound appealing to you – you might want to consider the Nervana device. I recently found and started using this amazing device called Nervana – it looks like a music player – but really what it is doing is stimulating the vagus nerve. Kind of like a workout for the vagus nerve!! I have been using it twice a day, and I have found that my digestion and mood have definitely benefitted.
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.
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:
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.
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).
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.
Fermentation is quickly becoming one of the hottest new trends in the food industry. Perhaps it is the health benefits, the complex and deep flavors, the energy boost fermented foods and drinks offer; or maybe it is that you feel like you have stepped into your own science lab when you are making them.
Watch this Fox 5 Segment about The Health Benefits of Fermentation
What is fermentation?
Fermentation is the chemical breakdown of a substance by bacteria, yeast, or other micro-organisms; the process of fermentation converts carbohydrates into lactic acid. The process of fermentation is a method of preserving foods that not only keeps the minerals and vitamins alive, it can even manufacture new ones! Foods that have been fermented contain beneficial bacteria, enzymes, and vitamins that can improve our digestion, boost our immune systems, and provide energy. Fermentation can turn regular foods into superfoods!
In contrast, much of the food found in today’s big grocery stores is basically dead. When food is processed most of the natural minerals, fibers and vitamins are removed, so it is then “enriched” to put back some vitamins and minerals. Processed foods are often filled with other things our bodies do not need such as chemicals, preservatives, colorings, and additives.
The Health Benefits
The process of fermentation creates foods and drinks that are filled with bacteria, and sometimes yeasts. Why would we want to eat foods that will introduce bacteria into our bodies? The human body has more bacterial cells than human cells, with over 3 pounds of bacteria in the digestive system alone. According to this article, “The human body should have 20 times more beneficial bacteria than cells to maintain a healthy intestinal tract and help fight illness and disease.” Read The Importance of Good Bacteria to learn more.
Fermenting also breaks food down into more easily digestible compounds. For example, some people who lack the ability to digest milk, are able to digest yogurt or kefir – because fermentation turns lactose into Lactobacillius, a type of lactic acid bacteria that assists in the digestion of milk and other foods.
Fermenting boosts some of the vitamin content of that food, creating new nutrients that were not there before. For example, fermentation can produce vitamin K, which is important for calcium absorption and bone health; it also produces several different B vitamins, which provide energy and are important for manufacturing neurotransmitters. Fermentation also preserves foods, and can remove some of the ‘anti nutrients.’ Grains, beans and soybeans all contain phytic acids, which block mineral absorption and interfere with digestion. Fermentation removes phytic acid and breaks them down to improve digestion and absorption.
Rich Cultural History
Fermentation has been around for centuries, it was a natural way to preserve foods. In 1850, scientist Louis Pasteur was the first to study fermentation. Many different cultures around the world use fermented foods.
How Are Foods Fermented?
Almost any food can be fermented, and there are several methods for fermenting. Some methods of fermentation require a starter culture that contains certain strains of bacteria and/or yeasts. Wild fermentation does not require a starter culture, generally it relies on salt and the exchange of air to ferment. Kombucha is different, as it uses a mother culture called a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast), that is sometimes referred to as a mushroom – although my son says it looks like a big flat jellyfish. Each time a new batch of kombucha is made, it produces a new SCOBY, called a baby. To make kombucha, you brew tea (generally black), and add in sugar. The sugar is not to sweeten the tea however, it is the food for the SCOBY! So the longer the kombucha ferments, the less sugar that is left! I like to also do a second ferment with a little fresh pressed ginger and mango juice, or fresh berries. The second ferment is put into bottles and sealed and left to ferment about 3-5 more days. The second ferment is what makes the kombucha bubbly. It creates pressure inside the bottle, so be careful opening it – I have experienced a geyser in my kitchen after letting the second ferment go a day too long (so now I open them outside usually!)!
What is the Difference Between Pickling and Fermentation?
Foods that are pickled are cured in vinegar, and must be heated, which destroys the live enzymes of the foods. Whereas vinegar is created as a by-product of fermentation, and there is no heat applied (with some exceptions such as yogurt – because the milk is heated, and sourdough breads – which are baked). Because you have to wait for the fermentation to happen, it takes longer than pickling. So take pickles for example. Most pickles were made by combining salt, vinegar and cucumbers, and heating. They also sometimes add preservatives, and a surprising number of them also contain artificial colors. So those pickles do not contain any beneficial bacteria, and are not a health food. But fermented pickles are extremely healthy, and one of the easiest things to make.
Good things come to those who wait….
In an era of fast food, eating on the go, and processed and packaged snacks; food that takes days (sometimes weeks) to prepare sounds like an oddity. Fermented foods and beverages take time to create. Who would want to make something that could not be enjoyed right away? It turns out that a lot of people are becoming interested in fermentation. I decided that not only is it good for my gut, immune system, and energy – it is also good for my character, because I have to practice patience while I wait for my kombucha and fermentations to mature. They are worth the “wait” and their weight in gold.
For devotees that want to go the route of instant gratification – stores like Whole Foods have dedicated whole cases to kombucha and other fermented drinks, and also offer several different brands of raw sauerkraut and fermented cabbages. But a growing number of people are getting into creating their own fermented vegetables, kimchi, kombucha, and yogurts at home.
Beware of Imposters
Not surprisingly, the processed food industry is trying to get in on all the hype. This recent article in the Wall Street Journal revealed that fermented “flavors” are starting to sneak into snack foods like chips. But trying to recreate these complex flavors in a lab is proving difficult, and even if they can get the flavors close – these processed foods offer none of the same benefit as real fermented foods.
Fermented Cabbage Slaw:
For the fermenting “newby”, fermented cabbage is a great place to start, because all you need is cabbage, a jar, some salt, and some time. If you want to make something a little more layered, add some herbs and spices, or try this recipe:
Prepare vegetables, and put into a large bowl. Put in salt, and stir to combine. Allow to sit a few minutes, and then begin to massage the salt into the veggies, squeezing and pressing as you go. They will begin to release water. Keep doing this for quite a while (about 5 minutes), until the veggies are significantly smaller in volume than before, and a considerable amount of liquid is released, the liquid is your “brine.” Put the cabbage into a wide-mouthed jar, and firmly press down the veggies for a few minutes. Keep pressing, you want the brine to be above the vegetables. I like to place a couple of cabbage leaves on top, and then put one of the cabbage stems on it to help the veggies stay under the brine. The vegetables should be at least 1 inch from the top of the jar to allow for expansion. Put the top of the jar, cover with a cloth, and let ferment for 3-8 days (depending on how much fermentation you like). Check on it periodically to make sure the veggies are under the brine. You can also test it after a few days to see if it is how you like it.
The above recipe is a variation of Fermented Carolina Slaw from the book Real Food Fermentation. Written by Alex Lewin, it is a wonderful resource for anyone looking to get a good basic understanding of how to ferment foods and drinks, as well as a nice variety of recipes.
© copyright 2017 Sara Vance