Can you be healthy during Christmas season?

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Photo by dienut.com

Christmas is here my dear friends!

I think most of us love this time of the year, family time, vacations, traveling, celebrations filled with food and drinks, late nights, presents, what’s not to like? In our minds, we have all the best reasons to let it go because next year, (about 30 days away) we will set our resolutions and get serious again. So basically this is the month to indulge because the year it’s almost over. Ok, I get it, we work hard through the year and we feel we deserve to have some fun. I am with you, I also want to have fun, I enjoy christmas cake, drinking wine and having long christmas lunches filled with friends and family. But I have to admit that it’s more fun when I know I don’t feel guilty for exceeding myself.

It must be “wisdom” (not age) that I recognize that overeating without any physical activity just doesn’t work for me. I will indulge with some favorite foods and cocktails but keeping active is part of my life routine and this needs to remain so that I am able to navigate better all the social activities at the end of the year. Keeping active helps me with digestion, have the stamina to do all my christmas shores (decorate the apartment, prepare foods, go shopping, pack presents), and more importantly it fills me with energy to finish the year on a high note.

Personally I apply the 80/20 rule: 80% of the time I follow a healthy routine and 20% and indulge with my favorite poisons (Tito’s vodka with soda and a dash of cranberry juice, mulled wine and of course the amazing christmas cake). Having set my boundaries, makes it easier to be guilt free, work consistently 80% and enjoy to the fullest my 20% playtime.

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Someone told me not long ago that moderation is the key to keep balance but my opinion is that moderation has a different meaning for everyone. If you eat chocolates everyday (say a small portion after dinner) and during Christmas you decide to eat the box of truffles your neighbor gave you in one hit, in your mind it’s ok because you think you are being moderate. However, if you compared to someone who eats chocolates as a treat only the weekends and then gorges that same box of truffles, this can be seemed as going a bit too far. So my suggestion for all of you ladies and also gents  (because we all tend to do the same) is to keep active and create a rule that works for you to not lose track and avoid starting the year feeling sluggish and overweight. But be real, don’t cheat yourself with a 80/20 rule that looks more like a 50/50 rule.

Life is short and we should enjoy it, I am totally in for that, I am not a slave of my body or keeping appearances but I do believe in listening to my body, I believe in the power of food to energize me, in the benefits of physical activity and more importantly in keeping balance. Because who wants to be fatigued and gain unnecessary weight? Who wants to start the year tired? I have a feeling you don’t. But just in case this happens, I can help you get in the right track.

I am exploring recipes for this holidays season to give you some ideas so that you eat less processed sugars and unhealthy fats and instead you keep nourishing your body the right way: with good food and love.  

 

Stay tuned my friends!

 

Bear christmas hugs,

 

Xime

 

Gluten or gluten free?

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Photo by medicalnewstoday.com

Have you noticed there are more gluten free products when you go food shopping? Clearly, some food companies found a good reason to create gluten free products. Even for those consumers who don’t really feel much of a difference eating gluten based products, it is tempting to go and buy them. If we see other people buying these products and everyone seems to be so interested in them, they must be good for you, right? So what is gluten anyway? How does it affect our system? Does it affect everyone?

I feel there are many questions around these topic and I don’t have all the answers  but what I offer is a perspective so you are an educated consumer and can make an informed decision.

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a group of proteins found in grains like barley, wheat and rye and all its various forms. It is used in baking products as a thickening agent and flavor enhancer.

For those who suffer from Celiac disease, it’s clear that gluten is extremely harmful. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that affects 1% of the population. Every time gluten is eaten, the body triggers an attack to the digestive system. In the long term, this attacks damage the villi in the intestines which diminishes the capacity for absorption of nutrients. For those interested in this topic, I recommend to read the book of Dr. Alessio Fasiano, Gluten Freedom.

On the other hand, there are some people who have gluten sensitivity, which has the same symptoms as celiac disease (bloating, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, headaches, skin problems, depression, joint pains and fatigue) but their bodies are not necessarily attacking the digestive system.

In any case, if you feel a reaction after eating gluten products, it is advisable that you remove them from your diet for a couple of weeks and see how your body reacts. Many people find that even when they don’t have an intolerance to gluten, they feel better when eating gluten free foods.

This is a list to guide you when you go shopping and you are not sure which options are gluten free.

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Examples of Gluten foods

Barley, barley malt, Bran Bulgur, Couscous, Durum, Einkorn, Emmer, Farino, Farro, Wheat, Kamut Malt/extract/flavoring, Oats/oat bran/oat syrup, Orzo, Rye, Seitan, Semolina, Spelt (dinkel), Triticale, Wheat: bran, germ, grass, starch “Sprouted grains” made from these sources

Examples of Gluten Free

Amaranth, Arrowroot, Bean and legume flours, Buckwheat (kasha), Corn (maize), Coconut flour, Millet, Montina (Indian rice grass), Nut & seed flours, Potato, potato flour & potato starch (white & sweet), Quinoa, Rice (rice bran, & wild rice), Sago, Sorghum (milo), Soy (beans, flour), Tapioca

As you can see, there are many options that are gluten free, so get in the kitchen and experiment with different foods.

I personally consume gluten and gluten-free foods because I have no sensitivities or allergic reactions. It is important to keep in mind that if you do not have sensitivities or allergies to gluten, you dont need to panic and assume a radical position. My recommendation is that you listen to your body and see how it each food makes you feel. Do not believe everything you see in supermarkets and in the media, remember that behind the scenes, there are food companies that pay a lot of money to market their products to consumers in a massive way so we have to be very mindful of their tactics.
This recipe is a good example of a gluten free meal you can easily do at home.

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Lentils with kale and brown basmati rice

Ingredients:

Lentils and Kale (15 mins)

1 yellow onion chopped

10 cherry tomatoes cut in halves

1 red chile finely chopped

1 tspn of turmeric powder

1 tspn of fennel seeds

1 Tspn of unrefined virgin coconut oil

1 can of low sodium brown lentils

5 leaves of kale (without the stem) chopped

Directions:

  1. Place the oil in a medium hot pan,add the onions, tomatoes and chile.
  2. Stir and add a bit of water to avoid sticking to the pan for 5 minutes. Add the turmeric and fennel seeds and stir a bit more.
  3. Place the kale and reduce heat to low, add the lentils (drained) at the end and stir again.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste

Brown Basmati Rice (25-30 mins)

1 cup of brown basmati rice

2 cups of water

1 generous tspn of unrefined virgin coconut oil

10 Cardamon seeds

2 cloves of garlic chopped

Directions:

  1. Wash the brown basmati rice
  2. Place a pan in medium heat and add the coconut oil
  3. Add the chopped garlic and stir to avoid sticking to the pan
  4. Add the washed brown basmati rice and make sure its uniform in the pan
  5. Add water, a pinch of salt and cardamom seeds.
  6. Place the lid and let it simmer on medium low for 25 minutes approx.

Nutritional facts: gluten free, full of protein (lentils and kale), fiber (brown basmati rice), minerals and vitamins

I hope you get inspired to cook and nourish your body the smart way. Dont forget to share!

 

Hasta la proxima queridos amigos!

 

Energy balls

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Last night I was having a conversation with a friend who asked me “what do you eat when you feel like having something sweet?” And that question got me thinking that this is a dilemma that most people have. Even if you don’t have a weakness for sweet foods like I do, its useful to have some options that are easy and you can do at home. So this blog is all about the energy balls.

Basically its an energy bar made into a ball, full of protein, fiber and healthy fats (and other micronutrients).  The video I made to illustrate the recipe is in Spanish, but seriously, it’s so easy to do that even if you don’t speak Spanish, you will be able to replicate it at home.

See the video here.

Continue reading “Energy balls”

The Powerhouse inside us

Hi there my friends!

Remember my blog about Gut Health? I find this topic fascinating because there is a lot that we still don’t know about the benefits of looking after our microbiome. If you don’t know what I mean by microbiome, I recommend reading that blog so you are fully connected to what I am about to share here.

Basically, our microbiome (The community of good and bad bacteria living in our gastro intestinal tract) is like the Amazon jungle: diverse but also vulnerable if we don’t care for it, as we should.

In order for human beings to have optimal health, we need to protect the diversity of the microbiome. These tiny critters are essential to our wellbeing. I think I can predict what you are thinking: she is talking about eating healthy to avoid overweight and digestive issues. Well, there is a little of that but there is so much more to it.

Numerous studies show us the connection between our gut and the neurological, and immunological system as well as the influence of the microbiome on gene expression and the most obvious, the role in the absorption of nutrients for proper body functioning.

I want to focus on the first three connections because I feel there isn’t enough information available (unless you really look for it) and I am sure you can learn something new today.

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Photo by Regeneratemagazine.com

Connection of the gut with the neurological system

Different research studies and medical journals demonstrate the connection between our healthy bacteria and the brain. In fact, neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine are actually manufactured in the gut. Serotonin is used inside the brain and it affects our mood, social behaviour, appetite, sleep, memory and sexual function. Lack of serotonin leads to depression, anxiety, autism, schizophrenia among others. On the other hand, dopamine, being another messenger in the brain, is involved with many activities such as behaviour patterns, mood swings, learning, motivational factors (reward and reinforcement). When we lack dopamine diseases like Parkinson’s, schizophrenia and ADHD are more likely to happen.

For more information on this subject, click here.

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Photo by Gutmicrobiotaforhealth.com

Connection of the Gut with the immunological system

Did you know that feeding your good bacteria is the key to fight diseases? And did you know that 80% of your immune system is located in your gut? I bet you didn’t, but it’s absolutely true. Everyday, there are more studies that show that all diseases originate in the digestive system and it all starts with inflammation in the gut. Inflammation happens every time we eat the wrong stuff (fried foods, processed foods, foods with additives and hormones, refined sugars). You can live many years with inflammation and don’t realize it and before you know it, disease is already living in your body. Our good bacteria decreases every time we eat the wrong foods and the only way we can support it (so they can fight the bad bacteria and we avoid diseases) is to feed it with real nutrients.

For more information on this topic click here.

Lastly, we have the connection between the gut and our genes. Amazingly, the microbiome communicates constantly with our genes and it has the power to transform them. Our metabolic responses are affected by this relationship in the sense that if we do the “right things” we will help to transform that gene expression into a positive one and therefore, we will be healthy and happy. On the contrary, if we continue living with bad habits, eating unhealthy, encouraging high stress and lack of physical activity, we will communicate this to our genes instead.

So the question is: what can we do to make it easier for our neurotransmitters to do their job properly? How can we avoid getting sick?

The answer my friends is very simple: eat a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole foods and clean proteins. Easy, right?

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Photo by Wellandgood.com

Not only that, for those who are already showing signs of diseases, an elimination diet or fasting can help your body heal and reset. (I plan to write a blog about this soon)  Something you can start practicing now is mindful eating: chewing enough, finding the space to nourish yourself with respect and love for your body and of course eating healthy food.

My opinion is that changes are easy to integrate when you are aware of the connections inside our body as well as those in the outside world. Everything affects our wellbeing: the food we eat, the lifestyle we choose, the relationships we cultivate, our connection with ourselves and also with our microbiome.

I trust this blog inspires you to find out more information and start implementing changes in your diet. If you need help, let me know and I will happily assist you.

 

As usual, don’t forget to share, this information is useful for everyone.

 

Bear hugs!

 

 

 

Become a food label detective

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Hi there my friends! As mentioned in previous blogs, the best way to start your path to wellness is to eat fresh unprocessed foods, meaning eat from the earth and not from packages. However, I am aware there are certain foods that will come in packages and we will continue buying them because they are convenient and also because they are part of what we know. So knowing this is going to be the case, let’s talk about the food label in packaging.

I know some people look at the label in the product, but do you actually understand what it says? This is very important because it provides the information you need to make an informed decision.

So let’s go over the label.

  • Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. So if you see sugar on the top, for example, put it back on the shelf. There are at least 61 names for sugar used in food labels and many times there are quite a few in one product. If you want to see the list, click here. Another clue is, if you can’t pronounce the word, it is not safe for you so don’t eat it.
  • Avoid partially hydrogenated fats which are also known as trans fats. They are chemically processed, which raises bad cholesterol (LDL) and lowers good cholesterol (HDL). Normally you can find them in bacon, ham, sausages, frozen foods and some can foods.
  • Salt (made of sodium 40% and chloride 60%) is in many foods and we tend to add more before eating it. Look for foods that have no added sodium and if you do, choose those labeled “sodium free”, which have less than 5g in a serving or “low sodium” which have less than 140g per serving. For your reference, 1500 mg of sodium amounts to 0.75 teaspoons or 3.75 grams of salt per day. This amount is the ideal limit for most adults. Check this link for more information.
  • Be aware of marketing tactics. In the United States, for example, the use of the word “natural” to describe human food products is not strictly defined by the FDA. Many foods can have this word in the package but there is nothing natural in them. So again, check the ingredients to see the details.

And if you eat two servings, multiply x 2 the quantities of the ingredient. I don’t expect that you carry a calculator to see how much of this or that you are eating, my point is to be mindful of the servings. Because when you multiply that for x 3 meals a day x week x month x year…it all adds up.

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Other points to consider:

  • Some canned foods are healthy options: legumes are good examples. If you don’t have the time to cook or soak beans overnight, canned legumes are a great second best option. Just make sure they are low in sodium (or salt) and there are no added ingredients.
  • Yogurt is not meant to be sweet so to really get the benefits avoid buying sweet yogurt. If you want to add sweetness to it, you can find healthier options such as raw honey, stevia or agave nectar. Also, do not assume that because they are natural sweeteners they don’t add calories! If you are looking to keep your weight down, be aware of the amounts you are consuming.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends:

Daily added sugar limits:

Women: 6 tsp (25 g)

Men: 9 tsp (38g)

Children 3-6 tsp (12-25g)

Be aware that I am not even discussing calories here, my main point is the ingredients.  So be a detective! Remember that you are in control, you are the best person to look after yourself.

In my next blog, I will show a video about how to best understand food labeling, so keep an eye on it. (Next week)

 

 

Thank you for reading this blog and as always if you are learning something new, don’t forget to share. Everything I share with you is with love and dedication hoping to guide you in your path to become a healthier happier YOU.

 

Other references

http://elevate.com.au/supermarket-sugar-connection-guide/

http://sugarscience.ucsf.edu/hidden-in-plain-sight/#.WcufHyMrIgp

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with Dr. Pamela Popper

Highlights of the interview with Dr. Pamela Popper author of the book “Food as Medicine”

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There are lots and lots of books related to health and dieting but there are a few authors who have the courage to say things as they really are. What do I mean by that? Doctors who publically raise the issue that the health system in the United States is not a health system but a sick system considering the influence of the food and pharmaceutical industries in our decision making, food politics and lack of clear information to consumers like you and me. This is the reason I got interested in Dr. Pamela Popper.

I first heard about Dr. Popper watching the documentary “Food Choices” and later on I read her book “Food as Medicine” where she talks about these specific aspects: food as a way to avoid diseases, over medication and lack of honest information for consumers. So to make the story short, I had the incredible opportunity to interview Dr. Popper and ask her about specific parts of her book which now I can share with you. The full interview was 40 mins so I decided to summarize the session and show you the highlights. Everything I write and share is with a high dose of love and dedication so I hope you find it useful.

MXO: Dr. Popper you are an advocate for a plant based diet. Can you briefly, in layman terms, explain why you recommend this diet?

Dr.Popper: Well, there are two major  examples to show why this diet is the best for humans. The first thing is that if you look around the world, there are still a few places left where the diabetes rate, cancer rate, heart diseases rate are very low, and these people eat a plant-based diet, and this should be a clue. I mean our health statistics in the United States are terrible, we are eating a diet that is comprised of animal foods and processed foods so that is a clue. Another very significant clue we have is a growing number of studies where using a plant-based diet has shown to stop the progression of or reverse conditions like diabetes, coronary artery disease, even some cancers, so between those two we have a pretty powerful case we can make for eating a plant based diet.

MXO: What do think about animal protein? Do we really need it?

Dr. Popper: There are economical reasons throughout history to explain why eating animal protein became popular. In wealthy areas, people would eat more and more animal foods, and it was considered the food of rich people which many aspires to. And it’s an honest inverse relation between the increase of animal food intake and the health status which goes down at the same time, so that is what’s actually happening. We have been told that we need animal protein and this is mythology. My take is that there is no compelling reason to include it in the diet. For people like me who don’t eat any of it, I am not missing out on something, I am not going to be deficient in anything. For people who insist that they must have some, then at least limit it to the amount that is eaten by people who live in areas of the world where they have significantly better health.

MXO: Moving away from animal protein also means we need to bring more variety of food in our plate. What can you advise people to start diversifying their foods?

Dr. Popper: I have a lot of clients is my wellness center who are picky eaters and what I tell them is that variety is a luxury of western civilization. The story of a specific person comes to me, a guy who had very compelling medical reason to change his diet, he was scared to death. Right away he said to me “I don’t like the food that you eat” however, I am willing to do it. So I said to him “every so often I would like you to try something that is just new”, we went through the foods that he likes (that are healthy) and he started adding new ones every now and then. Last time I saw him he said “Guess what? I ate kohlrabi” and I thought, now he is getting adventurous! I can see that giving him a comfort zone to start from and get more adventurous later on was the way to go.

I also tell people they need to have this visualization in your head, when you go into the grocery store, farmer’s market or whatever, I want you to think about food as drugs as my book Food over Medicine like this: There are some vegetables that are called cruciferous vegetables, I want to choose a couple of those “drugs”, there’s a class of fruits called stone fruits, so pick some of those “drugs” too (peaches, cherries), then we have leafy greens, this one is a great set of drugs too, tubers, etc. When you start seeing these foods as foods that can heal your body, and maintain your body, this will make a huge difference.

MXO: Let’s talk about over testing and overmedication. You mentioned in the book that many times patients are asked to get a lot of unnecessary tests that can actually cause health problems such as infections or simply create unnecessary panic. What would you recommend to people when they are faced with this situation?

Dr. Popper: Well, unless it is an emergency, If I was in a car accident and I am bleeding, I don’t want a bake potatoe and a copy of the China Study (Study about effects of nutrition in health), I want to be taken to a hospital and get the best of western medicine: anesthesia, drugs, surgery, anything that is required. Most of the time medicine is about sitting in a doctor’s office and been told to take this drug, do this treatment, get this test, so the answer (from consumers) should be “that’s an interesting idea, I want to research about this information you are giving me so please provide me with information sources that back up what you are advising me to do. Once I review it I will come back to you with my decision”. Medicine should not be about a patient agreeing to anything the doctors says, we need to ask ourselves: what are the side effects of taking the drugs or having a test done? Will the testing reduce my risk of dying? If the answer is no, then don’t do it. Basically, assess the risks and the benefits of doing what the doctor is advising. If you buy a house in this country, you make sure you understand all the details of the house and the commitment you are getting yourself into. It should be the same approach.

MXO: How can health coaches work together with medical professionals to improve the health of the population?

Dr. Popper: There are good medical professionals who are out there and take their profession very seriously. Some even take nutrition classes which is great. What health coaches can do is to empower the patients, prepare them to have a real conversation with their doctor, to help them look at everything: is this a good idea or a bad idea? ask more questions and take control of the situation.

Health coaches can help educate consumers and guide people through habit change in a way it is sustainable and lasting.

I am grateful that I had the chance to talk with Dr.Popper and be able to share valuable information with all of you. If you want to learn more about her work visit her websites: http://drpampopper.com/ , http://wellnessforumhealth.com/about/dr-pamela-popper/ .

 

Hasta la proxima!