Holiday Health Survival Guide

Brace yourselves, Halloween officially kicks off the food frenzy that we like to call “the holiday season.” From here on out, we will be bombarded with fat-filled, sugar-loaded, ooey- gooey, rich and delicious treats that will not only add some junk in your trunk, but might just create some real serious health issues. Did you know that heart attacks peak in December and January? And actually most heart attack-related deaths in the US occur on December 25th, second highest being December 26th, and third January 1st. Many theories exist as to why this occurs, but I don’t think we need scientific backing to realize that people eat and drink too much, and exercise and sleep too little during this “heart-attack season.” (more…)

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Welcome, Autumn!

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MJS Root13, nws, sears, 3-3 root13

On this first day of fall, we mournfully make peace with summer’s brilliant fruits and vegetables that drip with moisture and refreshment. Goodbye to luscious foods that cool our insides like watermelon and peaches and hydrating crisp lettuce greens, and ripe, red tomatoes. Although these foods will be missed (or imported from South America and continually purchased year round at your local grocery store), we are waltzing into a new season that bestows upon us a far more interesting harvest.

I compare summer produce to a romantic comedy- sweet, light, airy, and refreshing. Although lovely, it is not something that evokes deep emotional thought. Whereas autumn fruits and vegetables are like Shakespearean love stories- they touch and awaken a part of your soul that was on the verge of being forgotten about. With just the scent of cinnamon spiced apple pie or roasted sweet potato, you are instantly taken to a time in which the world was simpler, wide-eyed holiday fun awaited, and life was lived in that very moment. It’s a deep, comforting feeling that wraps you up in its warmth and carries you into the frosty winter.

Fruits are no longer the star now, as potent, disease-fighting vegetables take over. Beets, squash, rutabaga, broccoli, sweet potatoes, radishes, carrots, kale, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage (to name just a few) are at their peak and fill our produce departments and farmers markets. You will notice most of these vegetables have flesh that is deep and rich in color. This illustrates the powerful array of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant compounds that each has to offer.

The deep orange in sweet potatoes, squash, pumpkin and carrots come from beta carotene, a form of Vitamin A that is thought to fight cancer cell growth, support reproductive health, and boost immune function. That bright red radish is a great source of vitamin C, B6, folate, fiber, riboflavin, thiamin, iron, magnesium, and potent cancer-halting isothiocyanates.  Kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage are surprisingly in the same (cruciferous vegetable) family as radishes. As with radishes, these veggies offer anti-oxidant and detoxification benefits thanks to glucosinolates. Their high fiber content is linked to lowering cholesterol and supporting cardiovascular health. Their high concentration of Vitamin K allows for strong anti-inflammatory potential. My favorite, the beet, is a true autumn jewel and detoxification powerhouse. Unlike radishes that get their vibrant red color from anthocyanins (an antioxidant flavonoid compound), beets obtain their deep coloring from a group of compounds called, betalins. Betalins provide powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. Preliminary lab tests have revealed their ability to suppress cancer cell growth. Loaded with folate, manganese, potassium, fiber, copper, magnesium, (I can go on and on…) phosphorus, vitamin C, iron, vitamin B6, beets are a fantastic source of health and vitality.

And let’s not forget about some of the year’s most fabulous fruit: pomegranates, cranberries, apples, and pears, each of which offer their unique gift of vitamin, mineral, and phytonutrient composition. Although fall vegetables steal the show, I can say with certainty that one of life’s best offerings is biting into an apple at the peak of season (September-October). So sweet and crisp- this taste simply can’t be replicated any other time of the year.

Of course I only touched on a hint of fall’s fabulous produce. So explore for yourself what this season has to offer and enjoy every bite, every scent, because this time is only once a year! pumpkin

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Stop Drinking Your Smoothies!

Smoothie Bowl Resized

Super Smoothie bowls better    As we know, the “health trend” of the smoothie is absolutely out of control. I outlined in my previous post the unhealthy truths behind these drinks. I also gave tips to turn your smoothies into health elixirs, and I will share two recipes here. You will notice that these are not your average smoothie…they are in a bowl…and you will eat these with a spoon. Why? Because it is a better! Let me explain. There are two main reasons why you should “EAT” your smoothies, instead of “DRINKING” them:

  1. More complete digestion and absorption. Believe it or not, digestion starts in our mouths. Amylase, a digestive enzyme used to break down complex carbohydrates into more easily absorbed molecules, is produced in our salivary glands (and pancreas-but that’s another story). It is released into our saliva as we chew our food to kick off the digestive process. By starting digestion at this early stage, food is broken down and absorbed more easily as digestion progresses. When we blend up our healthy smoothies, we are obviously aiming for optimal absorption. This cannot be achieved if we completely bypass our mouths by gulping it down. Rather than gulping, we should be chewing. Weird? Yes…but the whole point of making smoothies rich in nutrients is to reap the benefits of the nutrient absorption. By eating your smoothies with a spoon and permitting your saliva to mix with the nutrient-rich elixir, you will allow for more complete absorption and digestion, and thus receive the full benefits from your smoothie. This will also cut down on the common complaint of bloating after drinking a smoothie. So CHEW your smoothies!
  2. Mind tricks. This may sound all too simple, but guess what- it works. Typically, we blend up our smoothie concoction, throw it into a glass or an environmentally-friendly plastic cup with a straw, and gulp (or chug) it down as we frantically run out the door or around the house like a crazy. There are definitely occasions for this type of ludicrous behavior, but this should NEVER be the norm. When you guzzle a smoothie, all it becomes is a drink….a thirst quencher. Not a meal. However, as I discussed in my prior post, there are quite often enough calories and macronutrients to call this “drink” a meal. So now you have successfully downed 400-500 calories without even noticing that you just ate breakfast. What happens next? You will be actively seeking out breakfast in 45 minutes to an hour at the office, or worse, contemplating the drive thru on your way in. Don’t do it. Slow down and eat your smoothie with a utensil. This is a meal! Treat it like one, and you will be surprised how far it gets you. Not to mention, straws have an evil side effect of eventual upper lip wrinkles (smoker’s lines around the mouth), as my mother-in-law so graciously brought to my attention. Since then I have effectively destroyed all environmentally-friendly straws in my possession-and I suggest you do too.

Here are two absolutely delicious, healthy, dietitian-approved smoothie bowls to start your day off right!

Classic Strawberry Banana

1 Banana, reserve ¼ for garnish

1 Cup Frozen Strawberries, reserve ¼ cup for garnish

¼ Cup Sunflower Seeds, reserve 1 Tablespoon for garnish  

2 Cups Baby Spinach

1 1/2 Cups Water

½ cup Ice

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Blend up banana, strawberry, sunflower seeds, spinach and water until smooth and creamy. Add ice and blend until incorporated. Pour into a bowl, top with reserved ingredients and enjoy!



3/4 Cup Frozen Mango Chunks, reserve ¼ cup for garnish

3/4 Cup Frozen Blueberries, reserve ¼ cup for garnish

½ Banana, garnish optional

2 Tablespoons Cup Pumpkin Seeds (Pepitas), reserve 1 Teaspoon for garnish

3 Tablespoons Unsweetened Coconut Flakes, reserve 1 Teaspoon for garnish

2 Cups Chopped Kale

1 1/2 Cups Water

½ cup Ice


Blend up mango, blueberries, banana, pumpkin seeds, coconut, kale, and water until smooth and creamy. Add ice and blend until incorporated. Pour into a bowl, top with reserved ingredients and enjoy!



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The Dark Side of the Smoothie


When starting this blog, I knew that the obligatory smoothie post was destined to occur. For some reason I just couldn’t get to it. Smoothies are so overhyped in so many ways. Quite often, a smoothie is actually the last thing someone should be drinking because they are usually loaded with copious amounts of sugar. Although a smoothie with 2 bananas, 19 strawberries, 32 blueberries, 2 dates, a mango, and a cup of orange juice may sound like the ultimate vitamin packed breakfast, you are actually consuming anywhere between 17 and 20 teaspoons of sugar! I encourage my patients to eat fruit often and on a daily basis- but the key is to eat in moderation. Up to 5 servings a day is enough, believe it or not. You never want to eat your entire fruit allotment in one serving. Too much of a good thing is usually not a good thing. Smoothies can be tricky, so you must proceed with caution. I have even seen “healthy” smoothies made with vanilla frozen yogurt. Hello! This is a dessert! Not breakfast. Not a healthy snack.

Many drink smoothies to allow their digestive tract to rest a bit. The fiber is broken down so finely that we more readily absorb all those fabulous nutrients that nature has to offer. Oh, aren’t you smart for blending up all those sweet fruits and virtually making the fiber disintegrate in that orange juice. Now that sugar is even more quickly absorbed into your bloodstream without a hint of fiber to slow it down. I have an idea, let’s next inject maple syrup directly into our veins! It certainly does have an exceptional mineral composition. But really, drinking these high sugar smoothies, albeit with the best intentions, only causes a major insulin spike. And what does insulin do? Being that it is a growth hormone, it assists in your growth…of fat cells very often. Not to mention the hard work that your pancreas has to do to secrete the necessary amount needed to keep that blood sugar in check. No bueno.

However, a smoothie can truly be a vehicle of health and wellness if we are smart about it. Here are some rules to live by:

1. Limit fruit portions to 2, 3 at the very most. That’s right, this should be plenty of sugar for one sitting. And don’t worry-you are getting a slew of vitamins and minerals from two simple servings of fruit.

2. Add greens. This is a perfect time to throw in a handful of dark leafy greens. I recommend spinach, kale, and Romaine lettuce. A handful is enough to give you plenty of benefits from the greens without overpowering your smoothie’s deliciousness. The benefits of these vegetables go way beyond a concoction of 15 fruits. So add them to every smoothie.

3. Go clear with the liquid. Let’s be real here… A smoothie is healthy, fruit juice is not. Make your base water only. Water does not have any added sugar or fat. It is pure and will not alter the taste of your smoothie. If you have been exercising heavily, or sweating a lot, add coconut water.

4. Skip the added sugar. I don’t care how healthy the sugar is that your adding- whether it be honey, maple syrup, or the healthynotreallyhealthy agave nectar. Don’t do it. The fruit that you choose should be sweet enough to sweeten the smoothie. If it is not sweet enough, then I recommend you not drink smoothies at all. Or if you absolutely must, have a small one for desert.

5. Include healthy fats. Healthy fats give staying power to the smoothie. This is especially important if you are making your smoothie a meal, like breakfast. Fat allows you to go a few hours without seriously considering eating the copy paper before lunchtime rolls around. Healthy fats are: nuts, seeds, avocado, and coconut flakes (unsweetened, of course).

These 5 basic tips will allow you to either continue or begin your smoothie habit in a very healthful and beneficial way. Stay tuned for more smoothie tips and upcoming recipes!

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Cheer for Cherries and Their Amazing Health Benefits

Cherry love

Cherry love

Get them while they are fresh (and cheap!). These little jewels come packed with health benefits. It is unfortunate that they are truly only affordable during a short window of the year, from late June to early August. Purchase them off season and they can set you back upwards of $6.00 per pound! Right now, they are juicy, sweet, and perfect for eating fresh, freezing, and baking!

That deep red color and rich flavor transport nutrients of all kind. Cherries have been shown to lower blood pressure with their prosperous stores of potassium. Potassium acts a natural blood pressure reducer by contributing to our fluid balance and flushing out the excess sodium that cranks that pressure up. About a cup of these babies is equivalent to the potassium in one banana. Cherries also contain a powerful antioxidant called, quercetin. Studies have found that foods high in this compound have a natural blood pressure-lowering effect. It is important to note that maintaining healthy blood pressure levels is imperative-as high blood pressure can lead to stroke, kidney failure, and heart attack. While on the topic of heart health, cherries are thought to reduce overall risk factors for heart disease including inflammation and cholesterol.

Given their powerful antioxidant composition, cherries fight cancer before it starts. Listed as a “food to fight cancer” by the American Institute of Cancer Research, this fruit is not messing around! Anthocyanins, quercetin, and vitamins A and C work together to ward off free radicals hanging around where they shouldn’t be. Those free radicals could otherwise be running amuck in our systems causing damage to our cells and encouraging cancer growth. The deeper the color, the more antioxidants are present. So make sure you allow them to fully ripen before indulging.

These very same nutrients, along with other phytochemicals are said to reduce symptoms of arthritis, thanks to their anti-inflammatory effect. This includes decreasing uric acid in the blood and staving off gout flare-ups. Even headaches may be reduced by the power of cherries. Anthocyanins found in cherries, may increase memory and prolong youthful brain function.

If these millions of reasons that I have given above are still not enough for you to hop on the cherry bandwagon, then here is one more: cherries contain melatonin. Not only is this a powerful antioxidant, it contributes to our circadian rhythm by having great effects on sleep. Many purchase melatonin in tablet form as a natural sleep aid. I’m encouraging you to now skip the tablets and stretch that dollar a little further by counting on the cherry. You can rest assured, knowing you are doing the right thing for your body and mind!


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