Paleo Fruit and Nut Muesli

I recently created this recipe out of breakfast boredom. It immediately became a favorite staple in my house and I hope it will be a favorite in yours too. You can increase the recipe and make up most of the ingredients (minus the apple and milk) ahead of time to use as needed; just keep it in an air-tight glass container. This delicious Paleo muesli is packed full of nutrient-dense goodness with plenty of protein, fiber, and complex carbs to start your morning off right.

Serves 1-2

  • 1/2 apple, cored
  • 1/4 cup raw pecans
  • 1/4 cup dry roasted or raw cashews
  • 1/4 cup roasted hazelnuts
  • 1/4 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
  • 1/8 cup raisins
  • 1/8 cup dried cranberries (look for apple juice sweetened varieties to avoid processed sugar)
  • 1/2 cup non-dairy milk (optional, but highly recommended)

Chop the apple and nuts into small, bite-sized pieces and add to a bowl. Mix in the raisins, cranberries, and coconut. Eat as is, or serve with a bit of non-dairy milk. My current favorites are So Delicious Cashew Milk and the unsweetened variety of Milkadamia macadamia nut milk.

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Spicy Black Bean Soup

blackbeansThis delicious black bean soup has just enough of a kick to warm you up on a cold night. Black beans contain lots of healthy fiber and protein as well as a wide array of vitamins and minerals like Folate, Vitamin B1, Magnesium, and Iron.

Serves 4-5

Note: If you have leftover soup try freezing it in a glass mason jar. Make sure to leave about 1 inch of airspace at the top to help prevent the glass jar from breaking during freezing.

 

  • 2 cups dry black turtle beans
  • 4 cups water + extra for soaking beans
  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • 2 cups tomatoes, diced
  • 2 Tbs coconut oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, diced
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 Tbs cumin powder
  • 2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne powder
  • 1/2 tsp allspice powder
  • 2 bay leaves
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

Soak beans in a large bowl with enough water to fully cover for 8-24 hours. Drain and rinse the beans. Place beans and 4 cups of cold water in a large stock pot and bring to a boil. Simmer, covered, for 30 minutes or until beans begin to soften. Add the broth, tomatoes, and spices (except for salt and pepper) and simmer for 30 more minutes. Meanwhile, melt the coconut oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Saute the onion, celery, carrot, and bell pepper for 5-7 minutes until vegetables start to soften and onion becomes translucent, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook 2 more minutes, then remove from heat. Add the veggies to the beans and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the salt, pepper, cilantro, and lime juice. Discard the bay leaves. Try serving with sliced avocado or small amount of organic sour cream.

 

Brazil Nuts and Thyroid Health: Selenium as a Treatment for Autoimmune Thyroiditis (Hashimoto’s)

Do you have hypothyroidism? If so, you are not alone. Depending on the study you look at, hypothyroidism effects between 3% and 10% of the U.S. population. Hypothyroidism is a deficiency of thyroid hormones and is usually caused by under functioning of the thyroid gland. The disorder can cause symptoms of fatigue, weight gain, brain fog, constipation, cold intolerance, dry skin and hair, hair loss, and irregular menstrual cycles.

ThyroidWhat is the Thyroid?

The thyroid is a small gland located in the front of neck and is a power house for the body. The thyroid gland produces our thyroid hormones, namely triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). T3 and T4 are synthesized from tyrosine, iodine, and various proteins. T3 is the most biologically active form of the hormone and receptors for T3 are located on cells all over the body. Thyroid hormones regulate the body’s metabolic functions, telling our cells how much energy to use, as well as controlling other hormonal systems.

The Thyroid and the HPA axis

Thyroid function is coordinated by two areas in the brain, the anterior pituitary and the hypothalamus. The pituitary gland and hypothalamus are two components of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (i.e. HPA) axis, which also includes the adrenal glands. The HPA axis is a complex relationship of hormones that control many functions in our bodies, including metabolism and reproductive functions.

The hypothalumus is responsible for producing thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH), which then stimulates the pituitary gland to release thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH stimulates the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormones, T3 and T4. Normally, this process is a well-oiled machine with many efficient feedback loops, but there is the potential at any point for dysfunction to occur.

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Causes of Hypothyroidism and Low Thyroid Function

Hypothyroidism is a medical term for low thyroid function. Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland does not produce enough T3 and T4 hormones. Most people with hypothyroidism will have elevated levels of TSH because the pituiatry gland will try to trigger the thyroid gland to function normally.

Hypothyroidism can have many causes. In developing countries, the most common cause of hypothyroidism is iodine deficiency. Iodine is a naturally occurring mineral found in many foods including seaweeds, milk and dairy products, fish and seafood, and eggs. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for iodine is 150 mcg for most adults, except for pregnant and breastfeeding women who should consume 200 mcg daily. In the United States and many other countries iodine intake is generally adequate because this nutrient is added to table salt. Therefore, in the U.S. the most common cause of a low functioning thyroid gland is Autoimmune Thyroiditis, also called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.

Hashimoto’s and Autoimmune Thyroiditis

Autoimmune diseases occur when the body creates autoantibodies and starts to attack its own tissues, organs, or glands. In Autoimmune Thyroiditis, antibodies may be produced to Thyroid Peroxidase (called Anti-TPO anitbodies) and/or Thyroglobulin (Anti-TG antibodies). Thyroglobulin is the primary protein component of thyroid hormones. Thyroid Peroxidase is an enzyme that helps iodine molecules attach to thyroglobulin in order to make the thyroid hormones T4 and T3. When the body cannot make enough thyroglobulin or thyroid peroxidase, hypothyroidism often occurs.

Unfortunately, we don’t know for sure what causes autoimmune diseases. There is often a genetic component, with some disorders being more common in families. There may also be environmental triggers such as toxic exposures, reactions to medications, or periods of prolonged stress. For most people, there is likely a combination of triggers along with a genetic predisposition that eventually tips the scales in favor of autoimmune reactions.

Treatments for Hypothyroidism

The typical treatment for Hypothyroidism is replacement of one or more of the thyroid hormones. Common medications include Levoythyroxine (containing only T4), USP Glandular Thyroid (containing both T3 and T4), or Liothyronine (only T3).

Selenium as a Treatment for Autoimmune Thyroiditis

Less is known about how to treat the autoimmune process that is taking place in Hashimoto’s, but a promising study published in the Society for Endocrinology shows that moderate supplementation with the nutrient selenium may decrease thyroid antibodies in Autoimmune Thyroiditis. The study showed the most benefit from taking daily selenium doses of 200mcg, which decreased levels of both Anti-TPO and Anti-TG antibodies.

Natural Sources of Selenium

Selenium is naturally found in many foods, although the levels generally reflect the amount of the mineral found in the soil where the food is grown. The best dietary source of selenium is Brazil nuts and eating 3 nuts per day gets you to approximately 200 mcg of selenium. Other sources of selenium include tuna, sardines, ham, shrimp and halibut, but the levels in these foods is much lower. For those with Autoimmune Thyroiditis, selenium may be an important supportive treatment to use in conjunction with thyroid hormone replacement therapies.

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Vitamin D May Improve Insulin Resistance in Teens

A recent study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition indicates that giving Vitamin D to adolescents may improve insulin resistance. The study looked at multiple markers for insulin resistance in obese teens over a 6-month time period. The teens who were supplemented with Vitamin D instead of placebo had significantly lower markers of insulin resistance at the end of the 6-month period. This is important because insulin resistance can lead to other health conditions such as Type 2 Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome, and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).

Vitamin D may improve insulin resistance by helping to reduce inflammation and enhancing the body’s ability to utilize sugars. When blood sugar increases, this normally triggers pancreatic cells to release insulin. It’s insulin’s job to help transport sugar out of the bloodstream and into cells, where it can be used as energy or stored for later. When blood sugar is chronically high, it often leads to chronically elevated insulin. Now, imagine someone constantly knocking at your door. And when you go to open the door, there is a pesky salesperson that you’d rather not talk to. Eventually after this happens day after day, you would probably put in ear plugs or turn up the volume on the music in your house and simply ignore the knocking. This is similar to what the body does when there is chronically high amounts of insulin around–eventually the body stops listening. This situation is called insulin resistance, and it leads to high blood sugar as well as other associated health issues.

There are currently more than 29 million individuals with Type 2 Diabetes in the United States and it is a growing problem in children and teens. The rate of Type 2 Diabetes in adolescents has increased by 30.5 percent between 2001 and 2009. There are many causes for this increase, including lack of access to healthy food and decreased physical activity levels. Compared to previous generations, children today are less likely to be outside playing and more likely to spend their time sitting inside. This may also lead to potential Vitamin D insufficiency, since Vitamin D is naturally synthesized in the skin when it is stimulated by the sun’s UV rays.

Childlookingoutwindow2Children who are not outside regularly should be tested for Vitamin D deficiency, especially if they are overweight. Vitamin D is often lower in overweight individuals because fat tissue sequesters the vitamin. Multiple studies have shown that, when compared to non-obese persons, it takes approximately twice the dose of Vitamin D to increase serum Vitamin D levels the same amount in people who are obese.

Although Vitamin D does not help someone lose weight, it may help protect against some of the potential health issues that can be associated with being overweight. Vitamin D, along with good nutrition and a healthy exercise program, may help to prevent insulin resistance, diabetes, PCOS, and metabolic syndrome.children_playing

Improving Fertility Through Diet

pregnantCan nutrition effect fertility? A small study shows that women who eat diets higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates may have a higher chance of becoming pregnant. The study, released at an annual meeting of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, looked at a group of women undergoing fertility treatments and saw that the women who ate more protein had higher rates of pregnancy than those who ate higher amounts of carbs.

According to study researcher, Dr. Jeffrey Russell, director of the Delaware Institute for Reproductive Medicine, “Protein is essential for good quality embryos and better egg quality, it turns out”. This might not sound like a surprise to some, but this diet recommendation is another possible tool for women who are trying to become pregnant.

Good-quality proteins include organic and free-range poultry, pork, beef, lamb, and eggs, along with beans, nuts, lentils, and organic dairy. A healthy diet should also include lots and lots of fresh vegetables!

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Is it Safe to Eat Fish During Pregnancy?

salmon-dinnerDo you have questions about eating seafood while you’re pregnant? Have you been told to avoid sushi or to be careful about high mercury levels in fish? Moms want nothing more than to protect their kids and to give them a good start in life, and part of that is getting good nutrition during pregnancy. There are tons of lists out there about what to eat or not eat when you’re pregnant and a lot of the advice can be confusing. One of the more controversial items I’ve seen up for debate is fish; to eat or not to eat, and how much is safe to eat if you do eat it?

Seafood and Pregnancy Pros and Cons

So what’s the deal with seafood? On the positive side, seafood and fish are healthy sources of protein, zinc, and iron, along with omega-3 fatty acids that support a growing baby’s brain development. More problematic however is that many fish, especially the larger predatory species, can be full of mercury and other toxins. This is because these animals are higher up on the food chain and they absorb and then bioaccumulate toxins from their own food sources. Mercury is a health concern for humans and when ingested, mercury can cross through the placenta into a fetus’ circulation, causing organ and tissue damage. Mercury especially affects a growing baby’s brain and neurological development. The Environmental Protection Agency states that children exposed to mercury in utero may develop issues with cognition, attention, language, memory, and fine motor and visual spatial skills.

Safe Seafood Options and Portion Sizes

Despite the concerns, most researchers and doctors agree that fish should still be included in a pregnant woman’s diet due to the numerous health benefits this food group provides. Currently the FDA recommends women eat 8 to 12 oz of fish each week during pregnancy. This is equivalent to 2 or 3 portions per week. However, pregnant women (and everyone really!) should be careful to choose fish species that are lowest in mercury content. Good choices of fish that are low in mercury levels include: Wild Alaskan Salmon, Rainbow Trout, Sardines, Anchovies, and Atlantic Mackerel. Fish that are high in mercury, such as Shark, Swordfish, Orange Roughy, and Marlin should be avoided. Albacore and other species of tuna are also relatively high in mercury and should be limited to no more than one serving per month. Raw fish and sushi are also not recommended in pregnancy due to risk for parasites and food-borne illnesses.

Safe Seafood Guide

If this sounds overwhelming to navigate and remember, there is thankfully a great online resource for moms-to-be. The Environmental Working Group offers a customized tool to help you find clean and nutrient-rich seafood sources. The guide lists seafood choices that are big on nutrition and low in heavy metals. This resource is amazing even if you’re not pregnant, since you can input your age, gender, and health information and it automatically gives you recommendations on what kinds of fish to eat, along with how many servings you should aim for each week.

So fear not! Armed with a little knowledge on what choices to make, fish and seafood are a great addition to a healthy diet and they can provide lots of nutrients to support a healthy growing baby.

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