9.25.2017

3 Tips For Eating Healthy as a Teen

(photo by Greg Raines)

Let's be real for a second, k? When you're a teenager, or you're still living at home, it can be really difficult to eat healthy. If you're not the primary one buying groceries, preparing meals, or paying for food, it can seem like you have little to no say about what's being put on your plate. And that can become super frustrating when you're trying to switch to a more healthy lifestyle.

I have struggled with this a bit myself, but I will admit I am blessed to have parents who support and understand (or, at least, try to understand) why I eat the way I do. But I acknowledge not everyone has that luxury. And, yeah, it can be confusing for some parents when all of a sudden you wanna stop eating bread and start drinking ginger kombucha.

So this one goes out to all the teens and twenty-somethings still living at home. I'm gonna give y'all some easy-to-implement-tips to try when you don't have full control over the food that's being stocked in your fridge. Les-a-go!

1. Speak up (and don't give in)
The only way to make known your wishes about what you want to eat is to just say it. Let the people around you know if you're trying to cut out sugar or intake more vegetables (in the nicest and least judgmental way possible) I think the most important part of this is to do so without a lick of criticism towards others. Worry about your own health and work on yourself. Actions speak louder than words. Above all, lead by example. You are only responsible for how you treat your body, no one else's. Keep your eyes on your plate.
But at the same time, don't let anyone pressure you into eating things you don't want to. For some reason, I've found this to be particularly difficult with relatives. People get confused and sometimes caught off guard when you turn down food. But stand your ground. If you don't feel like eating a slice of birthday cake that's being passed your way, then don't. Politely decline and move on. Don't make a big deal out of it. Put a smile on your face, say "No thank you!", and move on without any guilt because it's your body. 

2. Take initiative 
The only person who's responsible for your health is you. Not your mother or your doctor or, God forbid, the USDA. So it's up to you to make changes in your life if you want to see changes in your health. 

  • Garden! Growing your own food is one of the best ways to know exactly what's going into your body and one of the best steps to sufficiency. Not everyone has the resources to grow an entire vegetable garden in their backyard, but maybe there's room for a small one with just a few plants. Or maybe you get enough sunlight on your deck for a small pot of a tomato plant or herbs. Start small. Nurture your green thumb. 
  • Help out in the kitchen. In a world where we're so displaced from where our meals come from, there's something magical about preparing and cooking food for yourself. Get comfortable in the kitchen. Cooking is one of the most practical life skills you can learn, and knowing how to plan, prepare, and cook your own food gives you more control over what you're consuming. Maybe your mom doesn't feel like preparing two different meals for dinner, so ask her to set aside the ingredients for yours, and make it yourself! Have fun in the kitchen. Experiment and mess up and burn things and move on and learn.
  • Go grocery shopping. Even if you're not paying for the groceries yourself, get involved with the process of buying food. How much do bananas cost per pound? What does a ripe avocado feel like? Is there a brand of peanut butter that doesn't have added vegetable oils and sugar? Does my store offer grass-fed butter? Read ingredient lists. Make suggestions. Get well acquainted with your food. Become BFF's. 

3. Don't get overwhelmed
Trying to transform your diet into a more healthy one can seem like a heavy task. It feels like there's so many things you need to change, and it's frustrating when you can't do it all at once. It's easy to stress out over it. It can be easy to get overwhelmed. But, please, please, please, don't. Stress is one of the worst things for the body, and intensely worrying about the food you're eating can potentially have more impact on your health than the food itself. 
At the end of the day, do what you can. Create the healthiest life for yourself that you can now. Keep up these habits now, and eventually when you get older and have more control over your food, you'll already have practical habits to implement, and some experience in your pocket. 

stay lit fam,
Mel


(photo by Clarisse Meyer)

9.11.2017

5 Health Podcasts You Should Be Listening To

(photo by Konstantin Dyadyun)


I love listening to podcasts. They're quickly becoming my favorite way to learn. Whether I'm doing dishes or exercising, I'll just pop on a good podcast and be able to enjoy whatever chore I'm doing. And health podcasts are definitely up there with my most-listened-to. So today I thought I'd share what I believe to be some of the best health related podcasts out there. 
Let's start.

An extension of the Weston A Price Foundation, (a non-profit organization committed to furthering traditional health values) this show is a wealth of information relating to traditional diets and holistic health. These easy to listen to episodes are typically around a half hour long and cover a wide range of topics, especially concerning naturopathic medicine. 


Don't let the title fool you. This podcast is not for mamas only. In fact, I think it's the best all-around health podcast out there. The host, Katie Wells, touches on a wide array of subjects and has the best, specialist guest hosts. It's easy to understand and has real world, practical application. Honestly, this is probably the best one to start with if you're just dipping your toes into the world of health and wellness. Everyone and their grandma should be listening to this show!


Noelle and Stefani, two charismatic paleo bloggers, chat freely about and answer questions about everything health related. And while this show does cater specifically to women, (they talk a lot about hormone health, eating disorders, and body positivity) don't feel like it's exclusive to females only. Anyone can glean wisdom from these two women. And these two women are just a joy to listen with their non-apologetic attitudes toward 


This is probably one favorite podcasts of all time. I really couldn't recommend it enough. It's hosted by another female duo, Liz and Diane, both certified in nutritional therapy. And these ladies really know what they're talking about. But it's their authentic personalities and non-apologetic attitudes towards the realities of trying to live a healthy lifestyle that make them so wonderful and captivating. They're bringing practical and important information to the public, while still keeping it lighthearted and down-to-earth. Favs.


This might not be the easiest podcast to listen to, but the in-depth science and information it yields is well worth it. Chris Kresser hosts this show, and honestly, his own description probably does the best job of summing up this show. It "debunks mainstream myths on nutrition and health and delivers cutting-edge, yet practical information on how to prevent and reverse disease naturally."


Check these out where ever you listen to podcasts, or with the links I've provided above! I'm 99% sure you won't regret it. 

That's all for today, folks. 
Mel


(photo by Leio McLaren)

9.04.2017

Whole Grains Aren't Healthy

(photo by James Harris)

Whole grains. Wheat. Those golden, willowy strands that sway so effortlessly in the summer wind. I feel like every Cheerios commercial makes it seem like whole grains will solve all the world's health issues with one, round breakfast food.
In reality, it's quite the opposite.
There's still this commonly held belief that whole wheat and whole grains are a necessary part of a healthy, balanced diet. But, y'all. That's just dead wrong. Eating grains may not only be unnecessary to achieving optimal health, but also just bad for our bodies in general.
Don't believe me? Good, you're a critical thinker. Or maybe just a product of our wheat-worshipping culture.
Who knows.
Let's just get to it.

Wheat isn't what it used to be
When we talk about grains, we first need to understand something very vital. The grains of our time (the ones in our cereals, breads, pasta, etc) are exponentially different from that of our ancestors. Comparing modern wheat with the wheat growing thousand years ago just isn't fair or practical. It's a whole new monster.
Back in the 1960's, an agricultural scientist by the name of Norman Borlaug wanted to create a way for wheat farms to yield their product more efficiently. So he came up with a way to genetically modify the stems to be shorter and thicker, and therefore came up with what we call "dwarf wheat". A new type of wheat that produced more wheat, and did it faster. This was one of the reasons why he even won a Nobel Peace Price, awarded for his advances towards ending worldwide hunger. "By 1963, 95% of Mexico's wheat crops used the semi-dwarf varieties developed by Borlaug."
And although I don't doubt Borlaug's good intentions to better the lives of those in poverty-stricken countries, the consequences of his creation are still causing problems for us today. This wheat is much higher in starch and gluten, causing a higher increase in blood sugar, and promoting inflammation in the body. Dwarf is the type of wheat we're eating today, but it's not called dwarf wheat anymore, it's just called "wheat". In fact, you have to go out of your way to buy traditional, unmodified Einkorn wheat
Dr William Davis, the author of Wheat Belly, puts it this way:
This thing being sold to us called wheat—it ain’t wheat. It’s this stocky little high-yield plant, a distant relative of the wheat our mothers used to bake muffins, genetically and biochemically light-years removed from the wheat of just 40 years ago.
The lost art of preparing grains
Not only has the wheat itself drastically changed over time, but the way we eat it has as well. Humans have been fermenting, soaking, and preparing foods for as long as we've been around, yet, sadly, it's just not something we do today. Maybe it's a direct result of industrial agriculture, or maybe we've just evolved into a culture that demands immediate satisfaction. But we're dealing with the consequences of abandoning the wisdom of our ancestors.
So what does traditional preparation do for the grains? Soaking and fermenting breaks down large amounts of the phytic acid and gluten contained in the grains. Most of us are familiar with gluten, but ah, what exactly is phytic acid, you ask? Phytic acid is an anti-nutrient naturally found in many grains, nuts and seeds. (it's also in some veggies, but at a much lower amount)
Plants, just like any other living thing, plants don't want to be eaten. So they produce this anti-nutrient as a form of defense. Phytic acid, in particular, binds to minerals like calcium, iron, and zinc, and inhibits the body from absorbing them properly.
And you're probably familiar with one of the last few traditionally prepared breads that's still popular today- sourdough. Sourdough is made by fermenting the dough using bacteria and yeast. This breaks down a lot of the phytic acid and gluten present in the wheat, and it's what gives it that slightly sour flavor. And traditionally made sourdough bread has been found to be tolerated in some Celiac patients. So people who's bodies normally can't tolerate the gluten found in standard bread were able to digest sourdough with no issues. Can I get an amen?
Check out this article for more specifics and easy tutorials on grain-preparation. It's not as difficult as it may sound!


Weed killer in our bread
Another huge issue with modern wheat is how it's produced. For the most part, it's heavily sprayed with glyphosate. You've might've heard of it before. It's the active herbicide in Roundup. Yes, the weed killer. And yes, they're putting it in your food.
Glyphosate is used to kill weeds in commercial crops of all kinds, but it's heavily present in grain production. The crops are sprayed right before harvest in a practice called crop desiccation. From Wikipedia: 
The application of glyphosate just before harvest on grains (like wheat, barley, and oats) kills the food crop so that it dries more quickly and evenly [...] This dry crop does not have to be windrowed (swathed and dried) prior to harvest but can easily be straight cut and harvested. 
So it's not only applied in order to kill weeds, but to quicken the harvesting process as well.
Y'know, it honestly amazes me how willing large corporations are to just straight up put poison in our food. But at the end of the day, it's because we're willing to consume it. And, sadly, glyphosate is far from inert once it enters our bodies. It has links to an unsettling amount of health issues, from allergies to depression, autoimmune disease to cancer. But we're still eating this stuff by the truckloads.
And I can't not mention the detrimental environmental impact spraying these industrial wheat farms is having on our soil. 
I'd suggest taking a look at this in-depth paper on the history and effects of glyphosate, and just exactly how much is in the foods we eat everyday. It's pretty eye-opening

Whole Wheat is not heart healthy 
We're always hearing about how consuming larger amounts of whole grains lowers our risk of cardiovascular issues. But the science just doesn't support that. Modern grains are inherently inflammatory and cause a wealth of digestive issues in the body. Refined wheat spikes our insulin response, much like sugar.
If we were talking about the traditional, untainted grains of years ago, this might have been different.(although it seems that the ancient Egyptians had cardiovascular issues despite eating a diet high in grains) It's hard to say. But we can't ignore the rise of chronic health issues that seems to go hand in hand with the rise of added, refined sugar and grains in our diets. New York Times bestseller and functional medicine doctor, Mark Hymen, comments on the correlation:
The history of wheat parallels the history of chronic disease and obesity across the world. Supermarkets today contain walls of wheat and corn disguised in literally hundreds of thousands of different food-like products, or FrankenFoods. Each American now consumes about 55 pounds of wheat flour every year.
Fifty-five pounds. That's pretty staggering if you ask me. I'm not gonna do the math, but I bet that's a lot of slices of Wonder Bread.
But is it really surprising? Much like sugar, wheat is added to everything. It's a filler because it's cheap and easy to produce. A lot of the time we're consuming it without even knowing.
Again, from Dr Mark Hymen:
There is no difference between whole wheat and white flour here. The biggest scam perpetrated on the unsuspecting public is the inclusion of “whole grains” in many processed foods full of sugar and wheat, giving the food a virtuous glow. The best way to avoid foods that are bad for you is to stay away from foods with health claims on the labels. They are usually hiding something bad.
In people with diabetes, both white and whole grain bread raises blood sugar levels 70 to 120 mg/dl over starting levels. We know that foods with a high glycemic index make people store belly fat, trigger hidden fires of inflammation in the body and give you a fatty liver, leading the whole cascade of obesity, pre-diabetes and diabetes. 
Nutrition and health is nuanced. There's rarely any quick-fix, easy answers. And depending on the individual and their biology, I believe that grains can be a part of a healthy diet, provided that they're grown organically and properly prepared. But for the most part, it's really hard for me to justify eating the extremely processed grains that fill most of our plates and bowls.
If you choose to consume grains, that is 100% up to you. But can we please at least stop acting like the phrase "whole grains" is synonymous with the word "healthy".

And maybe you're not ready to give up wheat completely, but check out these ingenious ways to swap grains for vegetables in your cooking. We could all use some more veggies in our diets.

Also, the next time you see a cereal box claiming to be made with heart healthy grains, do me a favor and scoff at it for me.

Thanks,
Mel


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