FD Healthy: It’s Root Veggie Season!

Know Your Roots!

I realized summer was winding to an end as I started to see yellow school busses and a few fallen leaves.  Top ten lists of the signs of autumn are beginning to appear sighting all those warm fuzzy things we love like football season, autumn colors, crisp air and pumpkin spice everything.  

But here’s what I’m thinking…peak season for root vegetables!

Ok, so maybe most people don’t’ get as excited about rutabagas and parsnips as they do about pumpkin spiced lattes.  Let’s face it, root vegetables can be intimidating, gnarly and strange looking, with a reputation of tasting like dirt.  But, don’t run for the hills yet, keep reading for some inspiration to embrace these outcast vegetables.  Not only are they super rich in nutrients, they are also versatile in the kitchen and taste amazing when prepared well.


image2Health Benefits of Root Vegetables

Root veggies are packed with nutrients because they grow under the ground and absorb lots of good stuff from the soil.  Each variety has it’s own special benefits, so mix it up and try lots of different ones!  These  beauties also have complex carbohydrates and fiber to keep you fueled for activity, feeling full and regulate blood sugar for steady energy.



How to shop for your roots

A farmers market is a great place to find cool varieties of these seasonal oddities, but many of the more familiar roots like beets, carrots, parsnips and sweet potatoes are available year round at any supermarket.  Look for firm roots that feel dense.  If they have stems and leaves attached they should be fresh looking and not wilted.


image1 (2)Types of Root Veggies

The more commonly available root veggies are beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, parsnips, turnips, radishes, onions and garlic. A few other fun ones to try are kohlrabi, celery root and yucca.

But how do I cook them?

Ah, the most important question!  You can’t get all those health benefits if you don’t know how to tame the knobby looking thing into something tasty.

Steaming is an excellent way to prepare many root vegetable as it tends to retain the most nutrient content.  It’s a great method for beets and carrots.  You can also steam roots for mashing like rutabega and parsnips. Puree with a touch of good olive oil and sea salt for a combination that will make your mashed potatoes jealous.

Roasting produces an excellent concentrated flavor.  You can combine an assortment of root veggies. Just be sure to cut them about the same size. Toss in a little bit of oil and season with salt and pepper and some hearty herbs such as rosemary or thyme.  Using a higher temperature in your oven (450) will produce nice caramelization and make them even tastier.

Saute or stir fry thin slices of root veggies for a quick and easy fix.  When combining with other veggies, add the roots to the pan first because they take longer to cook.

Grilling is also an option.  Brush thin slices with oil and seasoning for a nice smokey flavor.  

My Fave Roots!

I love celery root!  It looks kind of like a hairy clod of dirt at first glance, but when you cut away the deceiving exterior, inside there is a creamy white flesh perfumed with a delicate celery scent.  You can use it raw,  sliced very thin in salads or roast little cubes of it into caramelized perfection.  I use it all the time in pureed soups to replace regular celery because it adds body without add extra fat.

Kohlrabi looks kind of like an alien space ship, but this one is also a real gem.  The texture and taste is similar to a broccoli stem.  Just peel away the extraterrestrial outside and slice or shred it for slaw or an excellent addition to potato salad.  It softens nicely when cooked for a delicious casserole. The leaves are also edible and can be used like collards or kale.

Beets are available year round and pack a real punch when it comes to nutrition. Roasting them produces a deep flavor, but steaming is much quicker and preserves nutrients. You’ll know they are done when you can easily insert a knife into the center.  Let them cool a bit and then use a paper towel to simply rub the peel off.

This is one of my favorite ways to enjoy beets.

Jeweled Hummus

The deep pigmented  beet root is  provides powerful compounds that protect against heart disease and certain cancers. Beans are high in fiber and protein and provide a boost of nutrition for a small amount of calories. Sesame is a good source of calcium.

1 can (15.5oz) white beans

1 or 2 cloves garlic

2 Tbsp Sesame Tahini

Juice from 1 Lemon

1 medium cooked beet

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp coriander

Salt & pepper to taste

Blend all ingredients in a food processor for 2 min.  Serve as a dip with fresh veggies. Also great as a filling for wraps.


jennaJenna Ortner aka Lamb chop, is the chef manager for First Descents program nutrition. She currently lives in Virginia with her three daughters where she teaches yoga and health supportive cooking.


FDhealthy: Phytonutrients: Eating The Rainbow

FullSizeRender (5)Hello FD!

In my previous articles I have talked a lot about phytonutrients/phytochemicals and how they are important to our overall health. Since this is a relatively new branch of nutrition based research, I wanted to talk a little about what phytonutrients are and what benefits they actually bring to the table (pun intended).

When you break down the word, ‘phyto’ meaning ‘plant’, and ‘nutrient’ meaning a substance that nourishes a living being, it is pretty self explanatory. Together the word phytonutrient refers to the approximate 100,000 chemicals that occur naturally in plants and help protect them from germs, fungi, bugs and other threats. When we consume these phytonutrients, we are able to reap the benefits of their protective functions. Some of the more popular of phytonutrients we have been able to study include carotenoids, flavonoids, resveratrol, ellagic acid, glucosinolates, and phytoestrogens. Each of these have different properties, colors and benefits and can be found in different types of fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and teas. Even more interesting is that some phytonutrients are absorbed better if they are consumed with fat, water or paired with certain other phytochemicals. This is why it is important to have a varied and colorful diet, to ensure that you are feeding your body a healthy spectrum of nutrients and allowing them their best chance of absorption.

An easy way to get a boost of phytonutrients into your daily routine is by making a smoothie for breakfast or a quick afternoon snack. Try this delicious peach smoothie recipe to get started! Remember, you can use any fresh fruits and vegetables you have around the house to help keep an exciting and varied diet.
Sunrise Smoothie

Citrus Ginger Peach with Green Tea

Yield: 16 oz. – Recommended 8 oz. serving size

In a high power blender combine:

1 cup green tea, brewed and chilled

1 whole orange, peel removed

1 whole lemon, peel removed

1 whole peach, cut in half and remove the pit (Mango also works nicely)

2 small chunks frozen banana (about 1/3 of a banana)

Blend until smooth and enjoy the sunrise!

Tip: Brew a little extra tea when you have your afternoon cup and put the extra in a jar to chill in the fridge and use in your smoothie the next morning.  You can also pour tea into ice cube trays and use the ‘tea ice’ in your smoothies to make a frosty drink.

Source: Jenna Ortner, aka Lambchop

Below is a quick introduction to which phytonutrients are found in fresh fruits and vegetables and what their benefits are. I encourage you to check out the links at the bottom and do some research on your own to learn more about phytochemicals and how you can incorporate them into your daily life. Cheers!

phytonutrient chart 2

Source: apathtohealth.wordpress.com


References on Phytonutrients:



Bio PicMy FD name is Kitchen Ninja (Kinja). I am from Auburn, AL. I graduated from Johnson & Wales University with a Bachelors in Culinary Nutrition. I am currently Sous Chef at Linger in Denver. My passion is creating nutritious food for others and spreading knowledge of health through food and cooking.




FD Healthy: Impostor Health Foods

Impostor Health Foods | By Clara Darling

As we all know, there is always some new diet to try, new code word to look for, or new superfood that ‘cures everything’. We continue to give in to all these sales pitches in hopes that this time it will work, somehow forgetting the 20 previous fads we followed that did not work. We all do it, but why? Everyone wants to believe they are choosing what is healthy for them as well as their families, and most people learn what to think is healthy by reading articles online and in magazines as well as word of mouth from people around them. It doesn’t take much more than a statement that something is healthy, maybe some vague statistics, to make us believe it is true, because why would anyone lie about that?

Companies know this. They use it to their advantage. All businesses want to make money, and in order to do that they must somehow convince consumers that their product is the best, is unique in some way. This is why food labels often contain statements such as “all natural”, “organic”, “free range”, “made with real sugar”, “low sodium”, “paleo”, “vegan”, “non-GMO”, “fair-trade”, “local” and of course all the “frees”: “Gluten free”, “wheat free”, “fat free”, “sugar free”, “soy free”, “free of artificial colors and sweeteners”, “water free.” Ok I made that last one up but you get picture. All of these labels have good intention, however they quickly lose their meaning as companies find ways to manipulate these words, and make money doing so. So we create new words to convey health once the old ones lose meaning, and it snowballs to the point that no one knows what to buy anymore.

I wish there was an easy answer to all this, but the truth is there is no easy answer. There never will be. Mindless shopping and mindless eating is no longer an option for anyone wanting to live a healthy lifestyle. We have to think about where we shop, what we buy when we shop, where those products were made and most importantly how they interact with our bodies. Simply eating organic or eating gluten free isn’t enough. The food industry today is designed to keep you blind and confused. Don’t let it. Do your research and use your intuition. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Below is a list of five common impostor health foods that may seem like a good choice, but are often just empty calories with a pretty label.

1.) Free Food

Let’s back up to the word “free.” This one word is used to articulate product values across our grocery stores, but what does it really mean? In an ideal world, free means good, it means we don’t have to worry about something unhealthy being in our food. However, when a food is free of one thing, you can be guaranteed that it has been replaced with another to keep the flavor, texture and/or color recognizable. Usually this replacement will be something of equal or lesser value to your body, i.e. fat replaced by sugar, gluten grains replaced with a combination of processed starches and gums containing no nutritive value.

For example, when fat is taken out of ranch dressing, the taste is no longer appealing, so companies will add extra sugar and artificial flavors to mask it. Once it tastes better, they still need to add thickeners and artificial colors to make it look and feel like ranch (since the fat is what made the ranch thick and creamy in the first place). In the end you have a product, that although it is fat free, it is high in sugar and artificial processed bits that are no better for you.

Now this does not mean you should go douse all your salads in original ranch dressing, but on the occasion that you do, at least know what you are putting in your body.

How much sugar2.) Beverages

We all know that sodas are full of sugars and artificial flavors, but what about all those other drinks you buy at the store? Vitamin waters, sweetened teas, energy drinks, all of these things contain just as much sugar, if not more, than regular sodas. Read the labels, compare them to the label on a soda bottle, and pay attention to serving sizes. The label may say 38g of sugar, but a serving size is half a bottle. So if you drink the whole bottle you are getting 76g of sugar. As a comparison, the maximum amount of daily sugar suggested by the American Heart Association is 25g for women and 37.5g for men. Again, if you drink that whole bottle with 76g of sugar, you are getting over the daily maximum in one sitting.

Your best bet is always to just drink water. Water is necessary for every function of our body, and our level of hydration directly affects our concentration and mood throughout the day. If you need something with more flavor, put lemon, lime or cucumber in your water. Choose flavored soda water, unsweetened teas, or coconut water. You will be surprised by how much more energy you have during the day if you stay hydrated and avoid sweet beverages that spike your blood sugar.

3.) Yogurt (and granola)

This one is a particularly slippery slope, as it is often associated with healthy living in our country. To be clear, yogurt and granola can be an excellent health food. It contains many of the necessary nutrients our body craves: protein , fiber , carbohydrates , healthy fats, as well as assorted micronutrients (vitamins. minerals and phytonutrients). However not all yogurt and granola combos are the same, and most are not up to par with what could be considered healthy. Companies use advertising to make you assume that these products are good for you, when in all reality many of them are high in processed sugar, low in fiber and micronutrients. On top of that, the sourcing for their yogurt is often from cows raised on antibiotics and GMO corn, their granola from pesticide covered grains, their fruit preserved with extra sugar, and all of it stripped of nutritive value so that it can be shelf stable for a longer period of time. Again there are good choices out there, so do your research and make educated decisions on what you are buying.

Choosing your yogurt and granola:

First and foremost, make your own whenever possible.  Control what you are putting in your body, don’t let someone else decide for you. Choose a yogurt that is from a reliable source (this may mean you have to research the company or the area you are in). When possible choose yogurt made from cow’s milk that was raised organically, minimally processed, and without added sugars. If you don’t consume dairy, there are a number of yogurts made from alternative milks; again make sure these are minimally processed and don’t contain a high amount of sugar and additives(*note: alternative milks/yogurts will contain some small amount of thickeners or binders to keep them from separating).

Choose an organic granola that when you read the label contains whole grains, nuts, seeds and not a lot of added sugars and preservatives. Choose one without dried fruit and add fresh fruit to it. Or even better, make the granola yourself using your favorite grains, nuts and seeds. Try new ingredients you haven’t heard of, research them to find out their nutritional value. Have fun with it! Remember, the more you know about what you are eating the better.

hummus-and-vegetable-chips4.) Veggie ‘Chips’                                          

Just because a bag of chips is made from sweet potato, beets, cava root, or any other nutrient dense root, doesn’t mean that the chips themselves will be nutrient dense, or any better for you than regular potato chips. Veggie chips are still chips,  and chips are empty calories. When you thin slice a vegetable and deep fry it, the heat of the oil will kill the nutrients that were once present in that vegetable. On top of being devoid of nutrients, these chips are now soaked in oil that is usually a processed and nutrient-less fat. As if this isn’t enough, the chips are then covered in salt (sodium) to make them tasty yet addicting.

So what about baked chips? Granted these are better than fried chips since they don’t necessarily have the same high level of fat, but they are still going to be depleted of many of their nutrients from heat exposure and processing, and again covered in salt.

A better option: try buying beets, parsnips or carrots in the produce section at the store and slicing those into fresh veggie chips yourself. Keep a container of them cut and ready in your fridge so next time you crave chips you have something good to grab instead. These go great with hummus, bean dips, guacamole, and salsa. It won’t be the same of course, but if you make it a habit, soon your body will crave the nutrients from fresh vegetable instead of the salt from the chips.

5.) Cereal

One of the most common and deadly culprits hidden in food is sugar. As a country we are addicted to sugar, truly addicted. The reason is because it is in everything.

Cereal is an easy vessel in which to hide sugar and empty calorie ingredients. It is something that most of us eat, is considered a proper breakfast, and we grew up with it being sweet so we don’t think twice about it. But eating processed sugar first thing in the morning only makes your cravings worse, not to mention it will cause your blood sugar to spike which means your mood and energy levels will be uneven the rest of the day. Children’s cereals often contain as much sugar as eating a candy bar or drinking a soda, but do we let children have candy and soda for breakfast? No. So why would we let them eat, or let ourselves eat, a bowl of pure sugar for breakfast, often called ‘the most important meal of the day”. For one thing, the label is deceiving. It shows a nice long list of all the vitamins and minerals contained within that box. However these are synthetic vitamins that need to be added to make up for the complete lack of natural vitamins in a product, and those still don’t make up for the amount of processed grains, sugars and fats in that same product.

Even if you are reaching for the granolas, the whole grain cereals, the boxes with pretty pictures of green farms and fresh produce that just look healthy, take another look at that label. Ignore the pictures and the catch words on the front. Look at the little words on the label panel. Those are the words that matter. Look at the amount of sugar in that box, as well as the serving size. Serving sizes can be as small as ¼ cup; when was the last time you ate just a ¼ cup of cereal? How much fat, protein, and dietary fiber is listed? Look at what ingredients are in it. Look out for words like ‘enriched’ flour, it is enriched because they stripped the grains of all it’s natural vitamins and minerals and are trying to make it sound better by adding back synthetic vitamins and minerals. Studies do show that synthetic and natural vitamins react the same in our body, however we add synthetic vitamins to products like cereal because it is otherwise an empty calorie food. Don’t be fooled by sneaky wording and advertising, know what you and your family are eating.

Bio PicMy FD name is Kitchen Ninja (Kinja). I am from Auburn, AL. I graduated from Johnson & Wales University with a Bachelors in Culinary Nutrition. I am currently Sous Chef at Linger in Denver. My passion is creating nutritious food for others and spreading knowledge of health through food and cooking.




FD Healthy: Stay Hydrated!

FullSizeRender (4)


Dehydrated? You need more than a water bottle!  Pick up your fork!

When do we need to drink more than plain water to stay hydrated?

When you do high intensity exercise for more than one hour or in intense heat.  Your body loses not only fluids ,but also electrolytes: sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium.

Electrolytes control a huge list of body functions including fluid level, temperature control, cardiac arrhythmia, respiratory rate, digestion and neurological function to name just a few.

Recovery starts before exercise begins.

Foods contain so many more electrolytes as well as vitamins and minerals and health protective compounds than sports drinks.  Not to mention, fresh whole foods do NOT contain added sugars, chemical, synthetic vitamins and artificial colors.

-Season when you cook.  Salt is a flavor enhancer.  Don’t be afraid to season your fresh whole foods when cooking.

-Eat lots of fresh fruits and Vegetables.  Bananas are high in potassium but also oranges, melons, sweet potatoes and leafy greens.

-For especially high water content (90% or more) cucumber, iceberg lettuce, celery, radishes, green peppers, cauliflower, strawberries and grapefruit.

-Dairy is not the only way to get calcium.  Dark leafy greens, broccoli, legumes, almonds  and sesame and sea vegetables are all very high in calcium.

-Magnesium helps fight fatigue.  Eat plenty of green veggies, whole grains, beans, lentils and nuts.

Coconut water is relatively low in carbohydrates and rich in potassium, but neither coconut water nor most sports drinks contain enough sodium or carbs for heavy perspiration.  For long bouts of exercise you may need to supplement with more carbs (think raisins, dates, or banana) to keep blood sugar up.

Ditch the chemical laden sport drinks and try this hydration drink recipe for a long day on the river, at the beach or on the rocks (pun intended).


Master Recipe

1 quart of liquid – plain water, green tea, herbal tea or coconut water

¼ tsp Himalayan sea salt

¼ cup fresh juice – lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit or any fresh fruit puréed

1-2 Tablespoons sweetener – honey, stevia,  or maple syrup

Great additions:

Fresh ginger root – brew in tea or hot water and then cool.  Ginger calms the stomach and may help reduce muscle pain

Chia seed are high in omega 3’s , potassium, calcium and antioxidants.  Make your own chia gel by pouring 1 cup of water over 3 Tbs of chia seeds.  Let it sit overnight in the fridge. Use the gel to stir into your drinks in any amount you like.


jennaJenna Ortner aka Lamb chop, is the chef manager for First Descents program nutrition. She currently lives in Virginia with her three daughters where she teaches yoga and health supportive cooking.




Don’t forget to “eat” your suncreen this summer!

by Lisa Nielsen

Not conventional, synthetic sun block that’s loaded with poisons, but edible sun block in the form of carotenoids which help people obtain youthful, glowing skin.

Carotenoids are a family of nutrients that protect plants and animals from excess sunshine. Just like melanin (our naturally produced sun block), they are colorful molecules which reflect UV Rays.

When humans ingest carotenoids they are deposited into the skin to prevent sun burn and keep our skin looking healthy. Ultimately they ward off oxidative stress, which can lead to skin cancer.

Leading sources of carotenoids are: eggs, spirulina, chlorella, dark green leafy vegetables (kale, collards and spinach), yellow-orange fruits and vegetables (apricots, cantaloupe, carrots, sweet potatoes, yams, and squash).

The recommended daily intake of carotenoids can be achieved by consuming 100-200 grams per day of the above vegetables and fruits.

However, the most potent of carotenoids is a red pigment found in algae, salmon, trout, shrimp and lobsters, known as astaxanthin. Once ingested by humans, astaxanthin is 1000 times more effective at protecting skin from UV damage compared to other carotenoids like beta-carotene and lutein, and helps you look and feel younger!
Most antioxidants fade away once they scavenge free radicals, which does not help skin that is under oxidative stress for long periods. Astaxanthin, on the other hand remains on standby for further protection. Oxidative stress within the cell is diminished and cellular function remains intact among the electron rich astaxanthin molecule.

Naturally occurring astaxanthin is far more beneficial than icky, synthetic sunscreen. Make sure you pack plenty of carotenoids in your meals this summer!

Six Steps To Sustainable, Healthy Eating

Diets just don’t work!  Many of us have tried and failed at various diets.  To get a plan that works for the long term, we need to follow something that’s easy and enjoyable in order to stick with it over time.  It also needs to be flexible so that you can adjust it to any changes you have in your life.    Remeber, healthy eating should be delicious and savory.  It should be about abundance, not deprivation.  And if it helps save the environment…how great is that!

Here are six steps to help you get on your way!

1)    START SMALL– Changing everything all at once never works.  Instead, start by going through your refrigerator and pantry and clean out any empty calorie traps.  This includes foods you reach for when you’re rushed or bored and foods that do not nourish your body.  Then substitute fresh, seasonable foods.  Keep whole grain bread and minimally processed good hard cheese available instead of chips.  Add a salad to lunch or dinner.  Try fresh fruit for a snack.

2)    GO LOCAL– Visit www.localharvest.org or www.eatwellguide.org.  Type in your zip code for a list of products grown or made in your local community, from honey, cheese, grass fed meats, pasture-raised eggs to lettuces, greens, and herbs.

3)    PLAY THE “GREEN” MARKET– Visit your local farmers’ market.  Ask the farmers which foods are likely within 48 hours of picking and ask to sample them.  Most farmers eat what they grow, so they are great resources for tips in preparing, serving and storing these foods.

4)    BRANCH OUT– Try a fruit or vegetable that you didn’t think you liked or you’ve never tried before.  Try it when it’s in peak season.  Find ways to prepare it simply so that you can taste its true flavors.  There are many great books and cookbooks out there for easy and delicious meals.  Try “Nourishing Traditions” by Sally Fallon or “Full Moon Feast” by Jessica Prentice.

5)    LEARN THE STORY BEHIND YOUR FOOD– When you get to know the people that grow your food, it tastes even better!  “re-connect” with your food!  Kids especially become more courageous with various vegetables and fruits when they know what went into it, who grew it, or when they have even grown it themselves.

6)    PLANT A GARDEN…HOWEVER SMALL– Seeing a seed turn into a delicious edible food instills an appreciation for what it takes to grow good quality food.  If you don’t have much room, try a container garden, or perhaps grow a few herbs or tomatoes in pots on your windowsill or patio.

Thanks and happy spring!- Lisa Nielsen

Inflammation and Disease

Inflammation is a natural reaction in the human body for wound healing.  However, too much inflammation in the body can be a breeding ground for disease, such as cancer and heart disease.  Ideally our bodies are slightly alkaline with a pH of about 7.4.  Yet many things in our world, such as toxins in the air and processed foods, cause us to be more acidic.  This acidity causes inflammation which can first cause “symptoms” such as fatigue, and eventually cause disease. 

Below are lists of some of the specific things to avoid that can increase inflammation as well as things that help to decrease inflammation in our bodies.  To prevent disease, or reduce current inflammation, try incorporating one or two things from the lists below every week or two, or whenever you feel ready to adapt more change.  The most important part of the items below are to try and make them a “lifestyle”.  Keep in mind, that even one or two small changes can make a huge difference in how you feel day to day, and, over time, on your overall health.

Key things that tend to increase inflammation (bad!):

1) Refined sugars and white flours- this could also be called “all processed/refined foods”.  It is best to eat whole grains and use natural sweeteners.  Eating a “whole” food instead of a “processed” food is key!

2) Processed Omega 6 fats, hydrogenated fats, and trans fats (Often found in processed snack foods and margarines.) – ideally eat plenty of Omega 3 fats, monounsaturated fats, and Omega 6 fats in their natural state.

3) Stress, negative thoughts, and feelings of helplessness- these have a much larger impact on our health than most of us care to realize.

4) Coffee- organic coffee in moderation is thought to be ok, but more than a cup or two daily can be very acidifying.  Your better choice is green tea!

5) Alcohol- if you choose to drink, do so in moderation.  Organic sulfite-free red wine is probably your best choice.

6) Dairy- most people don’t realize how acidic cow’s milk is.  There are plenty of healthy milk alternatives such as nut, hemp and coconut milk, but be sure to get “unsweetened” or you’ll be adding a lot of unneeded sugar.

     We can get plenty of calcium in foods such as quinoa, spinach, amarynth, and legumes.

7) Artificial sweeteners, such as Aspartame and Sucralose (Splenda)- they are chemicals and are thus very acidic.  Instead choose natural sweeteners like raw honey, raw agave, or stevia.

8) Pesticides and other chemicals in non-organic foods- try to choose organic meats, dairy and produce when possible.

9) Environmental toxins- it is best to drink filtered water, use organic/chemical free body care products, and use chemical free household cleaners.

10) Medication- it is a chemical and thus acidifying.  When possible choose natural or wean off what you can (under the discretion of a doctor, of course).



Key things that can help decrease inflammation (good!):

1) Obviously avoid as much of the above list as possible!

2) Drink plenty of water, especially lemon water- drinking lemon water, especially first thing in the morning is a great habit to get into to aid in detoxing the body.  Ideally drink 70-80+ oz. of water daily.

3) Green drinks- such as chlorophyll, blue-green algae, spirulina, wheat and barley grass.  They are easy to incorporate into a smoothie or just a drink with water.  They are exploding with health benefits.

4) Sea Vegetables- such as nori, dulse, wakame, arame.  Buy at the health food store and sprinkle into soups and salads.

5) Cinnamon- great to keep blood sugars from spiking.  Don’t be afraid to use plenty on cereals, oats, and in smoothies.

6) Turmeric- great spice for reducing inflammation.  Best when slightly heated thus great when a part of curry dishes or in stir frys.

7) Green leafy vegetables- they are highly alkaline and full of nutrients.  Try all the wonderful varieties!

8) Vegetables- best when your meals are focused around vegetables first, then whole grains, healthy fats and proteins.

9) Green tea- very rich in EGCGs which are great for inflammation.  Especially Japanese teas.   Drink organic and loose leaf tea when possible.

10) Cruciferous vegetables- such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts.  Many studies show a link between them and reductions in cancerous cells.

11) Overall calorie reduction- even if just a 10% reduction in daily caloric intake.  Less calories means less insulin secretion which is linked to inflammation.

12) Floss teeth daily- bacteria in our gums can move through our bodies and cause inflammation.

13) Exercise- best to partake in moderate but consistent exercise or activity.

14) Sleep- lack of sleep leads to many health problems.  Try to focus on getting 7 to 8 hours, and going to bed and waking at consistent times.

12 Small Changes for New Year and Healthier You

Happy New Year everyone!

I wanted to write a brief piece on some simple things that can go a long way in improving our health over time.  Although the list includes 12 things, keep in mind it is probably best to try to do, or incorporate, just one or two things at a time.  This will help to ensure that the change becomes more of a lifestyle, and that you don’t get overwhelmed trying to make too many changes at once.

If you have any questions or would like any advise on any of the steps, feel free to email me anytime at lisa.nielsen@firstdescents.org

Good luck!

1) Increase the amount of water you drink!– Most people don’t drink enough.  Aim for 80 to 100 oz/day.  Ideally try to drink filtered water since many unwanted chemicals are found in most tap water (even in many bottled waters).  To make it even tastier and healthier, add lots of squeezed lemon.  A great way to start the day is with a glass of warm or room temperature water with lemon!

2) Get plenty of sleep at night.- Most people don’t get nearly enough and have no idea how much this can negatively affect your health.  Shoot for 8 hours!

3) Chew your food thoroughly!– This is something most of us do not do well.  Much of our health and immune system start in our gut.  Simple chewing our food well can make a huge difference on the health of our digestion.

4) Decrease or omit sugar, sweets,  and sugary drinks.– This can be difficult because most of us have a sugar addiction that we are not even aware of.  If you crave something sweet often, then you are probably addicted.  Try to cut out all processed sugars for a week or even two and you should find that those sugar cravings disappear.

5) Do something “active” everyday!–  This can be anything from a walk to a rigorous hike or bike ride.  It can even be cleaning the house or doing yard work.  Just stay active and try not to be too sedentary, especially if your job already puts you in that category.

6) Eat more veggies!–  Most of us do not even get the daily recommended amount of vegetables of the course of an entire week.  Think about veggies as your focus when planning a meal.  Then add some whole grains and good proteins and fats around it.  Vegetables are truly the way to health!

7) Decrease processed/refined carbohydrates.– This is similar to #4, but many of us eat way to many breads, crackers, chips, juices, sweets,etc.  Even those that we think are healthy are typically not.  As a society we eat way too many easy carbs because they taste good and are easy to get.  Most of the time they provide very little nutrition, empty calories, and even things that are toxic in our bodies.  Aim for real, whole food rather than food that comes in wrappers and cans!

8) Get plenty of Vitamin D.– Ideally, if we can get it naturally from the sun, this requires about 20 minutes per day of noon time sun on most of the body.  However, going over 20 minutes can put you at risk of burning and skin cancer.  Yet Vitamin D is an important part of keeping our immune system strong.  Therefore sometimes supplementing with Vitamin D3 can help us get there, or better yet, natural food sources such as cod liver oil and wild salmon.

9) Incorporate plenty of healthy fats into your diet.- Don’t be afraid of fat as long as it’s the good stuff.  This means looking for ways to add monounsaturated fats and omega 3 fatty acids, such as avocados, walnuts, wild salmon, extra virgin olive oil, virgin unrefined coconut oil, and seeds.  Studies show that people eating a diet high in these types of fats even lose weight because they tend to eat less overall since the fats are more satiating.   And, they have great health benefits, too!

10) Use body care products free of chemicals.– More and more products such as lotions, soap, body wash, shampoo, laundry detergents, and even cleaners are coming out with lines that are paraben free, chemical free, and phthalate free.  Other products to look twice at in regards to the chemicals are toothpaste, deodorant, dry cleaning, bug spray, cookware, plastic left over containers and water bottles, perfumes, and dryer sheets.  For more info on what’s in your shampoo, check out http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/.

11) If eating meat, eggs, and dairy…go organic!– It may be even more important than choosing organic produce.  Most commercial meats, eggs, and milk products are loaded with hormones, antibiotics, and other chemicals.  If you want more info on this idea, check out the movie Food,Inc.

12) Floss daily!– Truly a simple thing that can go a long way to improve our health and reduce our risk for disease.  The bacteria and chemicals that get into our bloodstream via our gum line is amazing.  Once you start and make it a habit, it’s no different than wanting to brush your teeth each day.

Ten Stress Busters

Usually I am writing about nutrition and health or disease prevention.  Today I am going to mention something else that is often very much a part of our lives and hugely related to our health.  Stress!  Stress has been shown time and time again as a leading cause of various diseases, including cancer.  Most of us fail to notice how much it truly plays a role in our health and how much it appears in our lives.  Probably the worst type of stress is the hidden stress, the low level of chronic stress we have on a daily basis.  Our bodies don’t know how to manage this and it eventually takes a toll on our overall health.

If stress were non-existent in our lives, we would all be living pain-free. We’d also go about our days in a much more joyful and
playful manner, not to mention we’d also be happier, healthier, and simply enjoy life better.

Chronic and severe stress can damage your body and mind, blocking the fluid communication to and from most organs – especially in the
hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the limbic system, the brain’s emotional center.

There are several easy things we can do to prevent or at least cut down on our stress levels.  After reading the following, I highly recommend to sit down and really evaluate just how much stress is in your life and how important it is to you to work on reducing it.

-Be well!  Googley

(The following was an excerpt from a website called “lose the back pain.com”.)

My Top 10 Easy Stress Busters


  1. Laugh More – Research has continually shown that on average, the more a person laughs, the less stressed they are and the longer they live. I recommend looking up clips on Youtube for things that make you laugh, reading comics, watching TV shows which make you giggle, talking to a funny friend, or anything else which helps you laugh more.
  2. Exercise – As you exercise your body releases endorphins, what I like to call “happy chemicals,” because they literally melt stress from your body like magic. And no, you don’t have to grunt and groan in order to shake the stress – although you can if that’s what you like to do!
  3. Meditate – Meditating is one of the most effective long-term stress relievers ever discovered. By slowing your brain waves from a high beta stage down to a low alpha (or even lower if you use a meditation program like Holosync), meditation dissolves stress and reduces pain.
  4. Breathe Deeply – I’d like you to try something for me. As you’re reading this, become aware of your current stress levels. Think hard about exactly how you’re feeling at this moment. Really think hard about how those emotions make you feel (i.e. are you anxious, have tight muscles, stressed, worried, etc.) and then take 10 very slow, very deep breaths and do the same thing. Feel the difference?
  5. Simplify Your Life – Between juggling our family lives, jobs, personal activities and everything else we have going on, sometimes life gets a little crazy. Simplifying your life is much easier than it sounds, and can work wonders. It simply means removing clutter from your house, focusing on 1 task at a time instead of trying to multi-task (which is a huge productivity killer), and getting rid of anything not absolutely necessary.
  6. Drink Green Tea – Green tea is packed with something called “theanine” which increases the brain’s output of relaxation-inducing alpha waves and reduces the output of tension-making beta waves. If you’re a tea drinker I’m sure you’ve noticed the calming effect it has on you – and now you know the science behind it!
  7. Learn To Forgive – Throughout our lives many things happen which cause us to hold grudges against friends, family, co-workers, etc. Every single time you hold a grudge against someone, that grudge places an extra weight on your own mental tension. Just imagine how many grudge (big OR small) you’ve had over the past 10, 20, 30, 50+ years… and think about how much it may be weighing your emotions down. Learn to forgive and you’ll find your emotional stress  begins to slowly fade away into the background.
  8. Write A List Of Everything You’re Thankful For – Research has shown that it’s literally impossible to be stressed about something and be thankful for something at the same time. I suggest setting aside 20 minutes once per week and writing down every single thing you’re grateful for in your life. It works wonders.
  9. Take A “You” Day – Every once in awhile, we all need a day for ourselves. Away from the kids, the husband, the wife, the friends, the TV, work etc. Go take a walk in the woods, or go to the movies by yourself, or go shopping… whatever it is that you love to do!
  10. Eat/Drink Any Of These Foods And Drinks – Blueberries, organic milk, oranges, brown rice, green vegetables, dried apricots, turkey, sweet potatoes and water. Each of these help our bodies release more happy chemicals into the brain – helping reduce stress by simply eating!

Try implementing just 1 of these 10 stress-busters each week over the next 10 weeks. Each week simply add one more and before you know it you’ll find much of your stress left in the past.>

Incredible Documentaries on Health!

Hi gang! 

Just watched a documentary last night called Food Matters.  It’s great!  I truly feel everyone in this country should be required to see it, really!!

Anyway, I urge you all to check it out.  Here is the general description of the movie as well as a list of other great documentaries on our health!

Food Matters– “With a staggering number of Americans suffering from obesity and other food-related maladies, this film takes a timely and hard-hitting look at how the food we eat is helping or hurting our health, and what we can do to live (and eat) better. Nutritionists, naturopaths, scientists, doctors, medical journalists and more weigh in on everything from using food as medicine to the value of organic food and the safety of the food we consume.”

Other great documentaries to check out:   Food Inc.,   The Future of Food,    Stress: Portrait of a Killer,     The Beautiful Truth,    Inside the Living Body,  and   Supersize Me

Be well!