butter nut squash

Healthy Butternut Squash Soup for a Healing and Immunity

As wintery storms continue to blow through the Sierra Nevada, warm, comforting foods are becoming more and more appealing. In the winter months it can be tempting to reach for rich or heavy foods. However, these may not always be the healthiest options.

For cold days, here’s one of my favorite recipes taken from  The Heal Your Gut Cookbook, which is a great cookbook for people managing illnesses that stem from the gut.

This recipe includes many healthy ingredients like Bone Broth which has collagen and amino acids which helps healing and immunity. Butternut squash has great healthy clean yummy carbs and the leeks are good for natural anti-viral and anti-bacterial support.

Healthy Butternut Squash Soup for Healing and Immunity

Butter Nut Squash Soup

Ingredients:
2 quarts chicken stock
2 tablespoons animal fat, coconut oil, or ghee
3 leeks, sliced in half, and sliced again into half-moons (or 2 onions, chopped)
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks
1 boquet gardni
Sea salt to taste

Optional Garnishes:
Homemade Yogurt or organic cultured cream
Chopped fresh herbs
Soaked and sprouted pumpkin seeds

Cooking Instructions:
First, add the stock and fat to a pot. Next, add the vegetables and bring the entire pot to a boil. Once you reduce the heat to a simmer, add the bouquet garni and cook covered for 30 mins. Let it cook until the vegetables become soft and the squash is palatable. Once cooked, take out the bouquet garni and remove the soup from the stove. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup until smooth. Add salt and garnishes to taste. Serve and enjoy!

I hope you enjoy this soup on a cold winter day. For busier schedules, batch cooking is one of my favorite things to do. Making a big pot of soup for dinner can also make great leftovers for lunch the next day.

Happy Cooking!

Make this Year’s Resolutions Stick…for Good

We’ve all said it before, “Starting January 1st I’m going to get healthy!” or “I’m going to drop 20 pounds by March!” Unsurprisingly, the top New Year’s resolution is some variation on getting fit or losing weight, what’s notable is how much doesn’t stick.

  • Fewer than 8% of resolutions are kept past March
  • Thousands of pounds are lost, yet 90-95% gain the weight back plus some
  • People spend upwards of $60 billion annually trying to lose weight through diet and gyms

So, how are you going to make this year different?

First, look at the big picture of health – weight loss should be viewed as a positive side effect of a healthier life. You don’t need to lose weight to get healthy, once you are healthy you will lose weight. This means lifestyle changes must happen to achieve overall health and I’m not talking about drastic, overnight changes. In my 25 years of experience with fitness injury, every January is exactly the same. People are pumped up and start like a bat outta hell. They take on huge diet restrictions (no fat or sugar and fewer than 1500 calories a day) and add intense exercise all while maintaining family and life responsibilities on 6 hours of sleep.

This is a recipe for disaster on so many levels because the changes are unsustainable. I know this because my office is quiet in January and February, but by March there’s a waiting list full of tendonitis’s and back injuries.

First it’s imperative to understand the physiology of the body parts you aim to change: for strength it’s muscle, for weight loss it’s metabolism, for energy it’s cardiovascular fitness. Also understand that all of these systems work together. Metabolism, is an especially tricky system that is different for everyone and finding the unique balance will lead to success.

We must consider what makes your body work? Where is your tipping point? What’s the quality of the food you eat? Are you sleeping well or enough? Are you exposed to excessive environmental toxins? Are you not exercising enough to stimulate change, or are you exercising too much?

Imagine a wheel. The image on the left has the some of the big factors we need to focus on for a successful fitness program. The wheel on the right shows the imbalance of the pieces in the wheel. Rate your wheel in this manner are all the pieces balanced? Will your wheel roll or is it more like a stone, edges all jagged?

Health Wheel Health Wheel

When all the factors of the wheel are out the balance, wheel (or in this case the body) doesn’t roll right.
We need to factor all the systems together to find what fits for our own individual bodies (not your spouse or your neighbor or the MD on Dr. OZ)

Cortisol is the hormone that regulates stress. Cortisol is what stimulates the Biochemical processes for us to run from a tiger (Flight or fight). Starting or changing an exercise program will increase cortisol production. When this system is stimulated appropriately weight will fall off, we will sleep well, we eat normally, cravings will disappear, need for caffeine and sugar decreases.
If we over-stress (which 80% of Americans do) the stress modulating system becomes over taxed and the body will spike cortisol levels for a certain amount of time. Unfortunately, the body can’t keep up the production of cortisol resulting in a sharp decrease in the production of cortisol, or a crash.

Symptoms of this crash can include: reduced immune system (colds sinus infections) fatigue, food cravings, joint pain, muscle pain, weight loss plataue/ weight gain( rebound) mood imbalances, anxiety, depression, and brain fog to name a few.
The challenge is to balance enough stress to grow without so much stress we break down. This is the fine line we need to walk when starting a new fitness program.
Hormonal balance depends on:

  • Cortisol regulation: Normal production is based on circadian rhythm and stress response
  • Small stressors are healthy (quick run/exercise burst, learning something new/problem solving, occasional intermittent fasting)
  • Chronic stress this is what does us in (daily 90min commute in traffic, physical pain, fighting with spouse, unhealthy eating patterns, not enough sleep, over exercise)

Calorie restriction is a huge factor in metabolism. You need to be aware of how much you are consuming, but excessive restriction will make matters so much worse. Looking at the nutrient value of what you are eating will continue to fuel your body for the new activities you are asking it to do.

Excessive caloric restriction combined with exercise is a disaster in the long run. Your body will find the nutrients somewhere in the system. Catabolic (breakdown) processes will begin, your body will breakdown muscle tissue and bone to get fuel. Therefore, destroying the results from your workouts.
Realistically you may see weight loss quickly. Unfortunately, continual deficits in nutrient intake is impossible to keep up and the rebound effect of weight gain will be greater than the loss.

Components of a well-rounded fitness program

  • STRENGTH
  • CARDIOVASCULAR ENDURANCE
  • FLEXIBLITY/MOBILITY
  • BALANCE

My least favorite question what is the best exercise? It ranks up with what is the one best food… There isn’t one best. We need a combination of it all. You must be muscularly strong to tolerate the stress of the activity you want to do. You need to be flexible to move safely in to certain positions. You need to be balanced on each side of the joint (biceps to triceps, pectorals to rhomboids) to avoid uneven strain and inflammation.

To be fit the answer is NOT ”Eat less and work out more”.

Benefits of appropriate exercise:

  • Psychological benefits
  • Increased endorphins (only if you like what you do)
  • Increased social interaction
  • Mental clarity
  • Physiological benefits
  • Vanity benefits slim, muscles,
  • Better performance
  • More resistant to injury

Symptoms associated with over training:

  • Fatigue
  • Chronic reoccurring Tendon and muscular injury
  • Weight gain or weight loss resistance
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Increased susceptibility to infection (more frequent colds, respiratory infections and “flu-like” illness
  • Increased food cravings or disordered eating patterns

A balance program needs to incorporate strength training, flexibility and cardiovascular endurance training.
The body respond to variance vs consistency. Meaning that you should start an exercise program but switch it up frequently. Once our bodies learn how to do something the effort is diminished and so are the returns.

Ways to optimize your workouts:

  • Change the intensity,
  • Change the movement,
  • Change the resistance,
  • Change the speed.

Some options are:

  • Strength training, body weight or Olympic lifting, make sure your form is correct!
  • Injury happens when the weight and speed are too much causing form break down.
  • Interval training, such as Tabatas, or HIIT training, this can be as simple as running lines on the basketball court
  • Yoga for mind and body, strength and flexibility

Here are the big do’s and don’ts I have found to help start and stick with healthy lifestyle changes.

DO                                                                                                              DON’T

Eat real food: veggies, organic meats, fruits Rely on Frankenfoods: weight loss shakes and frozen dinners
Eat healthy fats: coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil, smaltz, tallow, ghee. Eat fake sugars, diet foods, and vegetable oils
Sleep at least 8 hours every night Forgo sleep for extra workouts
Take recovery days:  exercise 2-3 days in a row then take 1-2 days off Workout every day at maximum capacity
Feel good after exercise, feel invigorated Push to exhaustion, feel drained all day after training session
Vary the type of workouts throughout the week: Cardio, strength training, yoga, balance Do the same activity at the same intensity every day.  Your body will react and adjust to change, but doing the same workout will lead to a plateau.
Choose activities you enjoy Exercise you hate will never make you thin and happy
Create realistic short and long term goals for each quarter of the year. Haphazardly begin a program with no structured focus.
Exercise inside and outside. Smell the trees, feel the sun, get dirty – it’s all good for you! Exercise through pain. Muscle burn is ok, but pain is a sign of something wrong

Change is good, and resolutions can be a great way to initiate change. Be mindful of why you want to change and have a plan for executing it in a realistic manner. Make 2017 the first year of your new healthy life!

Check out our blog for recipes and ways to get stronger than yesterday!

Holiday Diet Implosion

So you’ve been on a “diet” or have made a lifestyle shift in your eating habits. Whether it’s been watching carbs, going gluten-free, eliminating dairy or nightshades, or maybe you’re on the Whole 30. Whatever it is, it really doesn’t matter because what does matter is that you have been feeling great! Now its November and the holiday train is coming right at you. EEK! You try and hang on to your seat (literally!) as it’s can be wild ride, full of temptation.

holiday-coffee

For my issues, I needed to commit to different dietary standards Ie. NO Gluten, soy, dairy, and corn products but I LOVE holiday foods! My mother in-law is an amazing cook! Peach cobbler is her specialty and I have been caught in the kitchen polishing off the baking dish as I was “cleaning up “at Thanksgiving more than once. It took me five holiday seasons of feeling terrible from November until March to figure out that in the bustle of family gatherings, holidays, and parties, that I can’t eat the holiday table “regulars”, and that I can’t cheat. How was I going to get through this?

holiday-diet

At first I stayed pretty committed to a diet with an occasional cheat that I couldn’t resist. The last time I “fell off the wagon” we were on a trip and I had some soda, coffee and ate the icing off the cake, (really just the icing because it was still “gluten-free”) and a few other “cheats” because it was convenient. When I came home from our vacation, I was having difficulty sleeping, anxiety, gastric issues, weight gain, and fatigue. I also noticed a huge change in my workouts. I had been doing great with my spin class prior to the holidays. I was able to get my max heart rate up to 171 and recover quickly.

After that one week trip with a bunch of cheats, my heart rate wouldn’t go over 140. It took me almost 4 months to regulate my digestion, sleep and return to almost the same fitness levels. After that experience, I decided I had to follow a specific diet. I couldn’t cheat, not even on holidays. I found out almost 2 years ago that I have Hashimoto Thyroiditis. I started GAPS almost 2 years ago with success. I am not willing to risk my health for the holiday treats. GAPS, especially in the beginning, is very strict and limiting.

holiday-tree

There were a few months I had to bring my own food with me everywhere. Bar Mitzvah’s, dinner parties, holiday parties, ski days. I am not going to lie, it sucked…Not only can the “diet” aspect be hard, but also the questions, the looks of pity or concern, or that you are crazy! It’s my mom wanting to feed me. My friends inviting me to dinner and trying so hard to cook for me. My family anxious to go grab a bite to eat after a soccer game. As you can see, with the holidays, it’s more than just about the food… yes, there’s, apple pies and Chinese food ( What?! I am Jewish that’s what we eat on Christmas eve) and that all taste great, but its more about being part of the celebration and being included.

Even though I am there, not taking part in the dinner or having to prep my own “special meal” in the corner makes me feel left out. The hardest holiday for me was Passover, I couldn’t have matzo-ball soup… My grandmother and I had made matzo-ball soup many times together when I was a kid, it was very emotional not to eat it with my friends and family. I can’t say I have the holidays 100% completely figured out but have a system that has been working for me.

This tip list has helped me through 5 gluten-free, dairy-free, grain-free holidays and 2 gaps legal holiday seasons.

photo-1470549813517-2fa741d25c92-1

1. Know your WHY. Why are you doing this diet/lifestyle? Is it an allergy, an auto-immune disease, weight loss, or training for a big race? When you have that deep real why, then you can tell yourself that particular food is or is not worth risking it… and sometimes it is worth it (its ok, if its ok).
2. Be PREPARED. If you go to party hungry, you are more likely to eat impulsively what is in front of you. And if your diet is AIP or GAPS (or another limiting diet), most likely there will be nothing you can choose from. Always have food with you.
3. CONTAINERS.Thermos, fork knife spoon set, cute lunch box tote. Find some items you like keep them with you. Looking for something fun?  Try these containers. 
4. REMIND yourself it’s not about the food. It’s about spending time with family and friends. It’s about feeling good the next day, and that a food hangover that stops you from playing with your kids on Christmas morning isn’t worth it.
5. Pick a FOOD PREP DAY. Cook in bulk ahead of time, so during the craziness of the season you can grab some roasted chicken, veggies, lettuce and an avocado to throw in your fun container or tote bag to take with you.
6. Offer to BRING A DISH TO SHARE to the party. Find a dish you really like, that fits your needs and bring it to include in the pot luck. Vegetable tian, roasted chicken, warm cranberry spinach salad (links below) have been great for me.
7. Find someone who can SUPPORT you, either because they eat as you do or they truly believe in what you are committed to. If you can’t find that person look to a health coach that can help you with accountability.
8. Do your best to ENJOY what you are eating. Look for other parts of the holidays that you can be grateful for, that you may have ignored before. Now is the time to embrace new and different.

GOOD LUCK and HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Here are links to recipes I have used for holiday dinners that have proven popular with most everyone, dieting or not!

http://www.saveur.com/provencal-vegetable-gratin-tian-recipe
I would use a ghee or saturated fat (tallow, duck fat, schmaltz, or avocado oil vs olive oil with this recipe)

Healthy is Not Always Good for You: Veggies Can Hurt

Summer salads go hand in hand with summer six-pack abs.

“I need to eat lots of veggies to look good in that bathing suit. But when I eat a raw veggie salad, I get bloated and gassy, and that six-pack feels buried.”

Does this happen to you? It seems everything we hear is telling us we need to eat a lot of vegetables, increase our fiber content, and that raw is way healthier because it has all the nutrients unaltered by the cooking process.

Eating a variety of raw and cooked foods is extremely important! Believe it or not there are times when eating raw foods is not “healthy”. Often times, vegetables are difficult to digest. Digestion is a chemical reaction that breaks food down into nutrients that the body can absorb and use. Many people do not produce the necessary enzymes to digest these vegetables.

If the body can’t absorb the nutrients, it doesn’t matter how healthy you eat, because the nutrient value to the body is worthless. What’s even worse, is that healthy foods can increase the inflammatory process in the gut.

If the gut is not healthy enough to produce the appropriate enzymes for digestion, eating a raw veggie platter is about as healthy as going for a run with a broken ankle. I often see my patients forcing themselves to eat large quantities of raw veggies, even when experiencing negative symptoms, because of the notion that “vegetables are good for me.” However, if your gut is irritated when eating these foods, to quote Chris Kresser, “it’s like using a wire brush on a bad burn.”

Frequently, the enzymes are not produced because the intestinal lining is damaged. The cells of the gut are irritated and swollen. When this occurs, the space between the cells grow, allowing the undigested food to slip between the cracks. Akin to when food gets trapped between the garbage can and the lining, it can get nasty.

The intact particles will become food for bad gut bacteria vs. for you. The food particles may also enter the blood stream, which can trigger an immune reaction. This inflammatory process can further increase the damage to the gut lining which reduces the digestive enzyme production. The process can continue to spiral downward. This condition is frequently referred to as intestinal permeability or “leaky gut”.
Leaky gut and poor gut function can begin for a variety of reasons. Increased consumption of processed foods, food sensitivities such as gluten and processed dairy, auto-immune diseases, use of steroids or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, frequent use of antibiotics, and high chronic stress levels are all factors in gut dysfunction.

It is important to identify if you suffer from leaky gut, and if you do, begin the process towards healing it. Just like if your ankle is broken you cast it to facilitate the healing process. You have to remove the stressors and support the healing process. Note, I said process, which indicates active participation over a course of time.

Unlike an X-ray of a bone, testing for leaky gut is not as clear as a picture. Frequently is it is determined by symptoms. For a link to test on-line click here.

Working with a Naturopath or a Functional Medicine trained practitioner can make all the difference in determining the right plan for your healing. You can find a functional medicine practitioner here.

There are systematic ways to remove gut irritants and provide a soothing environment for healing. I have found that GAPS and the SCD diet provide a great structure for the healing process.

Both diets are based on the specific carbohydrate diet designed by Elaine Gottschall, initially developed for her daughter with Ulcerative Colitis. It was then further expanded by Natasha Campbell-McBride and used to successfully treat patients with auto-immunity, autism and mental health disorders. To research further check out this website.

The diets both start with six introduction stages to promote healing of the gut lining. Begin by eating foods that are nutritious and non-inflammatory in stages, just like when a baby starts to eat solids. It is recommended to start with what is the easiest to absorb and the most nutritious.

By continuing in a systematic way you can also identify what food triggers that may be continuing to inflame your gut. I highly recommend this book by Hilary Boynton. If you decide this is the right path to take towards healing, this book is your best friend. It breaks everything down in to manageable pieces. And the food is good to boot!

Tips to start healing: Add foods such as bone broth, boiled veggies pureed in the broths for soups, and sauces, sautéed veggies in good heathy fats, sustainably raised grass fed organic meats, boiled and baked. You can also consume small quantities of fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, homemade yogurts (non-dairy to start) for probiotic support.

Supplementation can be added. Probiotics, digestive enzymes, and good quality vitamins are essential at this time. Remember, your body is not absorbing vitamins and minerals from your food. Therefore, it’s essential that the body gets these minerals for building blocks to heal. Working with a practitioner for a customized plan for your specific needs can truly make the difference in successfully healing.
Avoiding processed foods at this time is critical. Processed grains, canned beans, legumes, sugar, (even natural sugars found in fruits) artificial sweeteners, and processed/pasteurized dairy will all contribute to the gut irritation and inflammation.

As the gut begins to heal, it will start to produce the enzymes needed to break down more fibrous, denser foods. The result is less bloating, gas and digestive discomfort. The body can heal itself if you support it. Give your self-time to repair. Just like the ankle we have to start to walk slowly before you can run a marathon.

Roasted Veggie and Kale Salad

Kale-Salad

 

 

 

 

 

Recipe

  • For the salad:
    1-2 large bunches of kale
    2 large (12 ounces) zucchini, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch dice
    2 medium (6 ounces) yellow squash trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch dice
    2 cups diced onion
    3 large carrots peeled and cut in to ½-inch dice
    1/2 cup avocado oil (or coconut oil)
    3 teaspoons salt
    1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • For the dressing:
    1 cup finely chopped assorted fresh herbs, such as chives, tarragon, dill, chervil, basil, cilantro, and parsley
    1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • Directions:
    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
    Place the vegetables in a large mixing bowl and toss with the olive oil, salt, and pepper, to evenly coat.
    Spread the vegetables in one layer in a large roasting pan, and roast in the preheated oven for 45 minutes.
    Remove the roasting pan from the oven and allow the vegetables to cool for 15 minutes
  • While the vegetables are roasting:
    Prepare kale by cutting tough midrib from the leaves. Stack the leaves and cut into 1/2 inch ribbons. Wash.
    Blanch the kale. To do this set aside a large bowl of ice and water. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once the water boils, and working in 3 small batches, place the first batch into the boiling water for 30 seconds, remove to iced water using a slotted spoon or spider. Repeat with the last two batches. Drain the beautifully, bright green and blanched kale, and spin dry in your salad spinner or over tea towels.
    Place all veggies and kale in a large bowl, coat with dressing (remember good fats in the right amounts are soothing for the gut.) this can help with the absorption of nutrients.

Bone Broths soup are also a power house for healing. Thinking of having soup in the summer can be a bit unusual. Here is a link to a summer-time cold nourishing soup:
Chilled Carrot Curry Soup.

Leaky Gut Links: 
http://draxe.com/4-steps-to-heal-leaky-gut-and-autoimmune-disease/
http://www.thepaleomom.com/2012/04/what-should-you-eat-to-heal-leaky-gut.html
http://www.thepaleomom.com/2012/04/what-should-you-eat-to-heal-leaky-gut.html
http://www.livestrong.com/article/49246-cant-digest-raw-vegetables/
https://chriskresser.com/got-digestive-problems-take-it-easy-on-the-veggies/
http://scdlifestyle.com/2010/03/the-scd-diet-and-leaky-gut-syndrome/
https://www.pinterest.com/culturedpalate/gaps-diet-soups/

Contact Battleborn Health for more health related questions.

This article originally appeared in the July issue of Live, Love, and Eat Magazine.