Saturday, February 20, 2016


By now you (having had a fiber challenge followed by a pooping challenge) have probably assumed I am either the most constipated woman in the world or the most obsessed with moving things along. This challenge may not change your mind.

I was thinking about doing a challenge this week featuring healthy oils but the more research I did the more confusing  and contradictory the information was.  As I thought about that I concluded that we are generally safest in our eating choices when we just stick with the food as God has provided it for us. Rather than using Sesame oil, eat the sesame seeds, Rather than cooking with sunflower oil eat the sunflower seeds etc. etc. I think in many cases we don't fully know the specific details concerning how all the parts of a fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds work together so that the nutrients can best be absorbed and utilized by our bodies. So as much as possible it’s best to consume them in their freshest whole form.

This week we are going to focus on seeds.  Seeds may be tiny, but they're packed with nutrients like protein, fibre, iron, vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids.  So yes our challenge will involve eating at least 1 tablespoon of healthy seeds every day this week!  I would prefer you eat a different seed every day but I understand if they aren’t accessible to you. I recommend going to a store like Whole Foods or Winco where you can buy just a tiny scoop of several types of seeds.  (Note it’s fine to include seeds not on this list. )

Here are eight mighty seeds to try in your diet

Seeds pack a nutritional punch
Healthy and compact, seeds are the latest food to receive plenty of nutritional buzz. Sarah Remmer, a Calgary-based registered dietitian and nutrition coach, gives us the scoop on six varieties of these healthy heavy hitters.

1. Chia seeds
Ready for a healthy surprise? The seeds famously celebrated in the ‘ch-ch-chia’ pets TV commercial pack a huge nutritional punch. Chia seeds – particularly the Salba variety - are high in iron, folate, calcium, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids and soluble fibre. “Iron and folate are both essential nutrients needed for health,” says Remmer. The calcium and magnesium promote bone and dental health, while the omega-3s help your heart by lowering triglycerides – the bad fats in your blood that can cause coronary artery disease. “The soluble fibre helps decrease cholesterol, stabilizes blood sugar levels and helps you feel fuller longer,” says Remmer.

How to use them: Never eat the seeds that come with a chia pet. Instead, purchase fresh seeds from a health food store. “Simply add them to a smoothie, yogurt, cereal, muffin recipes or sprinkle on a salad. Chia seeds are also gluten free,” says Remmer.

2. Hemp seeds
“Hemp seeds are very nutritious and a great source of complete protein,” says Remmer. “They have lots of fibre that helps with gastrointestinal and heart health.” Hemp seeds promote healthy hair and skin growth thanks to their omega-3 and 6 fatty acid content. Omega-3s also reduce inflammation and boost brain and cardiovascular health. Plus, hemp seeds contain phytosterols, plant-based compounds that help lower cholesterol levels. But don’t be worried about hemp’s relation to marijuana. While they’re both members of the cannabis family, hemp doesn’t contain THC, marijuana’s active ingredient, so you can’t become high from consuming hemp seeds.

How to use them: Remmer says that hemp seeds and their oil are both rich in heart healthy polyunsaturated fats. Use them in salads and smoothies. The seeds are also ideal for baked goods, shakes, yogurt and cereal. They’re gluten-free too.

3. Pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin seeds, also known as Pepitas, are a tasty source of B vitamins, iron, magnesium, zinc and protein. “The protein in pumpkin seeds is highly concentrated in an amino acid called Tryptophan, which helps lower anxiety levels. For this reason, they have been used to treat some anxiety disorders,” says Remmer. Pumpkin seeds also have high levels of essential fatty acids that help keep our blood vessels healthy and lower bad cholesterol.

How to use them: Raw or roasted pumpkin seeds make a healthy snack, or you can use them in baking, cooking, as a soup garnish, and in homemade trail mix or granola. Pumpkin seed oil makes a healthy addition to salad dressings, and dips, however, it’s unadvisable to cook with pumpkin seed oil as heat can destroy its nutritional properties.

4. Sunflower seeds
“Sunflower seeds are an excellent source of B vitamins including folate, which helps to support healthy pregnancy and promotes a healthy immune system,” says Remmer. “They’re also an excellent source of Vitamin E - an antioxidant that protects your cells from damage, helps maintain healthy hair and skin, and may help to prevent cancer.” These multitasking seeds are also rich in protein and heart-healthy fats.

How to use them: “Sunflower seeds can be eaten by themselves, or in cookie or muffin recipes. Add them to salads, stir-fries and trail mix,” says Remmer. But beware of salted sunflower seeds. The sodium levels in pre-salted seeds are quite high and excessive salt lowers the seeds’ nutritional value.

5. Flax seeds
Flax seeds are bursting with nutritional benefits,” says Remmer. A great source of soluble fibre, flax helps lower cholesterol, makes you feel fuller longer and aids in stabilizing blood sugar levels. Flax seeds are also packed with omega-3 fatty acid, so they’re beneficial to eye and brain health, and can help lower triglycerides in the blood. “Flaxseeds are also high in lignans (plant-based phytoestrogens),” says Remmer. Studies have shown that lignans may help prevent certain cancers.

How to use them: Flax seed shells are hard, so it’s important to grind the seeds in a blender or coffee grinder before eating them. If you don’t, the seeds can pass through your body undigested, hindering the absorption of the seeds’ valuable omega-3 content. Coarse or finely ground flax seeds can be added to smoothies, shakes, yogurt, oatmeal, cereal, casseroles and baking. Ground flax seed should be kept in an airtight container in your refrigerator.

6. Wheat germ

Wheat germ is the nutritional powerhouse of the wheat kernel. It’s loaded with protein, iron and B vitamins such as folate, plus its high fibre content helps prevent constipation and keeps your appetite in check. “It’s very low on the glycemic index meaning that it doesn't cause a blood-sugar spike. [You stay] fuller longer,” says Remmer.

How to use it: Wheat germ makes a great addition to smoothies, hot cereals, baking and cooking recipes. Be sure to store raw wheat germ properly. Its healthy polyunsaturated fats can quickly turn rancid. Remmer recommends keeping wheat germ in a tightly sealed container in the freezer for optimum freshness.

7. Sesame seeds

Not only are sesame seeds an excellent source of copper and a very good source of manganese, but they are also a good source of calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, vitamin B1, zinc, molybdenum, selenium, and dietary fiber.  

How to use it: Sesame seeds add a nutty taste and a delicate, almost invisible, crunch to many dishes. They are also the main ingredients in tahini (sesame seed paste) and the wonderful Middle Eastern sweet call halvah. They are available throughout the year

8. Quinoa (pronounced “keenwah”)

Quinoa is a seed that is harvested from a species of a plant called goosefoot. It is officially a seed and part of a group of pseudocereals, making it neither a cereal nor a grain, and more closely related to spinach and beets than to cereals or grains.

How to use it: Use quinoa just as you would any other grain, like rice or barley! It makes a fantastic side dish for almost any meal, especially if you cook it with broth instead of water and add a bay leaf to the pot. Quinoa can also be used in casseroles, breakfast porridges, and salads.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Weekly Bonus Challenge- Lovely elimination

“All living things eat, so Everyone Poops.” – Everyone Poops by Taro Gomi

       It seems a natural progression that we focused on increasing the fiber in our diet last week and are progressing natural elimination this week
      Yes, we all poop. It’s one of the few reminders we get about our health on a (hopefully) daily basis and yet, we may not be paying much attention to it.  But the truth is: if you’re not pooping right… something could be terribly wrong inside your body.
       Recent research suggests that your brain and the good bacteria in your gut communicate directly, influencing your mood, your immune system, and your inflammation.
       Also, there’s good short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) in your colon, which have anti-inflammatory effects and increase insulin sensitivity.
       Hopefully we are doing a good job of consuming fresh, healthy, whole foods.  But are we digesting them well?  Are we breaking down and absorbing those nutrients well?  The quality of your poop is a direct indication of how well you’re digesting your food.
     If you’re poop isn’t healthy, your digestive tract is either moving too slow or too fast… which can lead to an increased risk of developing chronic health conditions like neurological disease, autoimmune disease and chronic inflammatory conditions.
Where Does Your Poop Stack Up?
There’s four critical elements to a perfect poop.
1. How often do you poop?
Research suggests you should poop every day.  In fact, the range of “normal” is typically 1-3 times a day.  Poop is waste and it’s best to get rid of it every single day. I once took a Vegetarian cooking class in which the instructor suggested we should poop after EVERY meal. While that may sound excessive my dog manages to do that!  
The bottom line: If you find yourself pooping only a couple times a week… or going 5+ times a day, you’re at risk of health problems.
2. Are You Pushing Too Hard?
How easy is it for you to poop?  It’s normal in our culture to take a newspaper or read a magazine for a half hour, battling to win the poop fight. But the reality is that a “normal” poop shouldn’t take but a few minutes.  It should also be easy. This isn’t childbirth. Forceful pushing typically leads to hemorrhoids which are all too common today but not normal.
The bottom line: Normal poops strike a balance between not having to push or strain, but also not having so much urgency you barely can hold it. If you’re spending 10+ minutes on the toilet or running to make it just in time, you’re not having normal bowel movements.
3. Does Your Poop Look Like a Snake?
The most important part of a “normal” poop is the quality and the University of Bristol published a study in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology, gifting us with the Bristol Stool Chart (4).
Here it is for your inspection!
Start sizing up your recent BM’s with the knowledge that anything between a 1-3 is considered constipated, while 6’s and 7’s are considered diarrhea.
The bottom line: A “normal” poop is “like a sausage or a snake, smooth and soft."  If your poops aren’t looking 4ish… they’re not normal.
4: Are you getting it all out?
For some people this is a non-issue… but part of a “normal” poop is having what’s so eloquently referred to as a “full evacuation.” Are you getting all your poop out in one swift motion?  Do you have to keep coming back to finish the job? Or do you feel like there’s always something left behind lingering and making you feel uncomfortable?
The bottom line: A “normal” poop is a complete poop. If you never quite feel the relief of fully evacuating your bowels then you are missing the mark here.
How to Improve Your Poop
If your poop isn’t normal based on the quiz above, we know your digestive health isn’t what it should be. So here’s a few tips to improve your digestive health and get closer to perfect poops.
1.  Eat Real Food
Fast food, highly processed and refined foods, fried foods etc. can gunk up the system. Stick to eating fresh, real, whole food.  It’s one of the most important changes anyone with digestive problems can make.
If you’re someone who’s struggling with constipation or diarrhea. The most important thing you can do is listen to what your poop is telling you and continue to make changes to improve the food you’re eating.
2.  Eat Good Bugs
Our gut has a TON of bacteria, and a healthy gut flora is critical for healthy poop. Consume good bugs every single day. Try small amounts of foods like yogurt. Kefir, sauerkraut and kimchee  and see how well you tolerate them. A high quality probiotic supplement is another way to boost the immune system in the gut and improve digestive health.
3.  Eat More Fat
Fat has a direct impact on peristalsis… the waves our bodies make to get rid of poop.  Fat can be extremely helpful for people who are constipated.  Increase your healthy fats from sources like coconut oil, animal fat, olive oil, and fermented cod liver oil. 
4. Get enough fiber. Hopefully you spent some time focusing on that and have made permanent adjustments if needed in your daily diet.
Sufficient fiber in your diet makes stool bulkier and softer so it's easier to pass.  You should gradually increase the amount of fiber in your diet until you're getting at least 20 to 35 grams of fiber daily.
5. Drink more water  You should be drinking a minimum of 8 glasses of water a day. If you are still suffering from constipation try increasing it to 10.
6. Exercise regularly. Moving your body will keep your bowels moving. Aerobic exercise is key. While any type of movement will help, exercises that have a slight impact are best. Think running or rebounding. This type of exercise helps get things moving simply because of the force it puts on the intestines.
7. Get in Position- The squatting position for elimination is more natural and can help avoid colon disease, constipation, hemorrhoids, pelvic floor issues and similar ailments. Since you may not want to be squatting in your back yard garden try putting your feet on a stool while using the toilet to get your body in better position for elimination. Note: if you are brave enough for a video on the subject that some people find hilarious go to

I know, I know maybe the weirdest weekly challenge we have had. And no I’m not going to give you 5 points for every day you have at least one snake shaped poop. But you should be having daily regular bowel movements that resemble #4 on the chart. You earn 5 bonus points for every day that you use some of the methods mentioned in this blog post toward achieving that goal. And please I don’t want any pictorial evidence of success. (And yes you can even work on this on the Sabbath)

Monday, February 8, 2016

Fiber It Up

         You have probably guessed that I am a BIG FAN of By now you have learned to use it as a tool for tracking your calorie intake. But have you ever spent time studying the other columns of information in the food diary? I wish we had time to focus a challenge on each one of these important columns but this week we are going to focus on fiber. Take a look at your past entries. Have you met the fiber requirement each day? If you have HOORAH but if not you may have to make an extra effort this week.
         Public health guidelines from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advise Americans to eat between 20 and 30 grams of fiber a day, but most adults don't even eat half that much.
         This isn't surprising, since fiber refers to the indigestible portion of plant foods, and in the largely refined standard American diet, healthful fibers are often processed right out.
Unless you regularly eat whole fruits and vegetables, nuts, and seeds, you may be missing out on the healthiest forms of fiber available – and that could be a problem.

Why Is Fiber So Important?
         Soluble fiber, like that found in cucumbers, blueberries, beans, and nuts, dissolves into a gel-like texture, helping to slow down your digestion. This helps you to feel full longer and is one reason why fiber may help with weight control.
         Insoluble fiber, found in foods like dark green leafy vegetables, green beans, celery, and carrots, does not dissolve at all and helps add bulk to your stool. This helps food to move through your digestive tract more quickly for healthy elimination. Many whole foods, especially fruits and vegetables, naturally contain both soluble and insoluble fiber.

9 Health Benefits of Fiber
There's no shortage of research showing how fiber may boost your health. Some of its top potential benefits include:
   Blood sugar control: Soluble fiber may help to slow your body's breakdown of carbohydrates and the absorption of sugar, helping with blood sugar control.
   Heart health: An inverse association has been found between fiber intake and heart attack, and research shows that those eating a high-fiber diet have a 40 percent lower risk of heart disease.1
   Stroke: Researchers have found that for every seven-grams more fiber you consume on a daily basis, your stroke risk is decreased by 7 percent.2
   Weight loss and management: Fiber supplements have been shown to enhance weight loss among obese people,3 likely because fiber increases feelings of fullness.
   Skin health: Fiber, particularly psyllium husk, may help move yeast and fungus out of your body, preventing them from being excreted through your skin where they could trigger acne or rashes.4
   Diverticulitis: Dietary fiber (especially insoluble) may reduce your risk of diverticulitis – an inflammation of polyps in your intestine – by 40 percent.5
   Hemorrhoids: A high-fiber diet may lower your risk of hemorrhoids.
   Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): Fiber may provide some relief from IBS.
   Gallstones and kidney stones: A high-fiber diet may reduce the risk of gallstones and kidney stones, likely because of its ability to help regulate blood sugar.

      What Are the Healthiest Sources of Fiber?
Most Americans get nowhere near the amount of fiber needed to support a healthy body. As the New York Times reported: "...the current average fiber intake in the United States is about 13 grams a day for women and 17 for men. Increasing these amounts by seven grams a day would bring them close to the recommended levels of 21 to 25 grams for women and 30 to 38 for men. 'Seven grams a day increase is an achievable goal…' 'You're talking about... increasing vegetable and fruit by two portions a day.'"

As always I would prefer you fortify your fiber intake by focusing on whole foods (rather than processed bran or fiber supplements)  which contain high levels of soluble and insoluble fiber.
      Chia seeds
      Vegetables such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts
      Root vegetables and tubers, including onions and sweet potatoes
      Psyllium seed husk, flax, and chia seeds
      Green beans

 So what is your challenge for the week?
1. Track your fiber on daily and make sure you meet at least the minimum requirement listed there
2. At least once this week add a type of fiber into your diet that you don’t normally eat