Annie B. Kay, MS, RD, RYT

Annie B. Kay, MS, RD, RYT

Annie is an integrative dietitian, author, and certified professional-level Kripalu Yoga teacher. She is a former director of the osteoporosis awareness program at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. For more than 10 years, Annie has advocated science-based mind-body health in the national media, at conferences and workshops, and through her book, Every Bite Is Divine.
Posted on December 28th, 2012 by in Kripalu Kitchen, Nutrition

The Nutritional Benefits of Grains

Grains have a wealth of benefits to offer, from fiber to plant proteins to phytonutrients and B vitamins. There is a caveat, however. You can only reap these benefits if you’re eating whole grains.

When grains are refined (a process in which the outer bran and inner germ are removed), they can be made into a wide variety of cheap foods that will last almost indefinitely, but deliver few nutrients. Refined grains act more like sugar in the body, which may make them easy to overeat. But as you make the switch to whole grains—and become more attuned to what real foods taste like—you can savor the fullness of a whole grain right down to the flavor of its germ. Your body, and your taste buds, will thank you.

You may have heard a lot about gluten lately, the protein responsible for the wonderful chewy texture of breads and other baked goods. It’s true that many people are sensitive to gluten, which has helped spark a deep exploration of gluten-free grains like millet and amaranth, and alternative sources for flour, like coconuts and garbanzo beans. But for the majority of us who digest gluten well, wheat, rye, and other whole grains with gluten remain a wonderfully healthful choice.

With a bit of inspiration and a willingness to get creative, it’s easy to tune into the allure of whole and gluten-free grains, and discover the ones you love best.

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Posted on December 21st, 2012 by in Kripalu Kitchen

Food for the Soul

Food is life. It not only provides nutrients for our bodies, but it can also bestow love and vitality—prana—to our entire being. The holiday season is a perfect opportunity to offer our love to friends, family, and community by infusing the food we make and share with gratitude and good wishes (and to make Kripalu’s Pumpkin-Chocolate Pie!)

In many families, when we gather at the table we begin by saying grace, an expression of gratitude for the life our food provides, and a blessing that honors our guests. The practice of saying grace not only gives voice to our appreciation, but also offers us the chance to harmonize with others and with the food we eat. Pausing before we eat to experience our food through the senses supports digestion. This cephalic (meaning “in the head”) digestion actually triggers the flow of digestive juices and prepares the body to receive food.

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Posted on October 1st, 2012 by in Nutrition

It’s Harvest Season

It’s an exciting season for foodies: Fresh local produce is at its peak! We know that gathering produce at the farmer’s market connects us to the earth and to our community, but is there a nutritional advantage to eating locally grown food as well? Harvard’s Center for Health and the Global Environment (HCHGE) reviewed the literature and came to similar conclusions. Those adept at using their senses to guide their health choices already know the answer—just notice the colors and aromas of produce from your garden compared to the supermarket.

To maximize the nutrient density (a measure of food quality that compares foods by nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants per calorie) of your produce, consider the farm-to-table path it takes. Generally, the longer and more complex this path is, the less nutrient-dense the food on your plate. According to HCHGE, the nutritional quality of produce depends on the variety chosen, growing methods, ripeness when picked, post-harvest handling, storage, extent and type of processing, and distance transported.

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Posted on September 11th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Medical Insights

Eating Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) one-quarter of Americans report having occasional sleeplessness, and 10 percent of us struggles with chronic insomnia. In late July, SleepBetter.org released an analysis of the CDC data to help us determine if we are well rested or sleep deprived.

By any measure, challenges to a restful night’s sleep are on the rise, and it’s of concern since sleeping well supports our positive energy, cognitive health, and better moods, as well as our physical health. And most of us have had the experience of how poor sleep can lead to less-than-stellar eating habits. Several recent studies, covered in depth by Michal Breus PhD in the Huffington Post, illustrate the mechanisms by which we are more likely to reach for sweeter, saltier foods when we’re overtired.

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Posted on August 17th, 2012 by in Kripalu Kitchen

Summertime Phytonutrients

Summer is perfect for opening our senses to all that’s fresh and local. Choosing produce grown close to home yields great taste, supports your community’s farmers and economy, and cultivates a more direct connection to the earth. Nothing is more local than the herbs and greens you grow yourself. Greens are chock full of phytonutrients, plant compounds that provide a range of anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory benefits, as well as support the body’s natural detoxification process. Even if you’re not a gardener, you can still get a huge nutritional bang for your effort-filled buck by planting a few parsley, cilantro, or basil seeds in a window box.

Scientists are learning more about the power of phytonutrients every day. A single piece of fruit or serving of vegetable may contain hundreds or even thousands of different kinds, and the complex phytonutrient profiles of simple-seeming plants reminds us of the complexity of nature and of life itself. The role these nutrients play in health—if and how they synergize with other nutrients, and the interplay between them and our environments and lifestyle choices—are all active areas of research.

It’s clear that scientists are discovering what yogis have known all along: Fresh, local herbs and produce carry the essence of health. Let’s enjoy the taste of what summer offers us now.

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Posted on August 10th, 2012 by in Medical Insights, Nutrition

It’s Plant Protein Season

Americans love protein; in fact, most Americans eat twice the amount of protein recommended by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Institutes of Health. (It recommends about 50 gm of protein per day for the average adult. For reference, a cut of animal protein the size of a deck of cards contains about 21 gm of protein) While the media and food marketing companies suggest that these high levels of protein make us strong and healthy, a growing body of science disagrees, reminding us that when it comes to nutrition, more isn’t necessarily better. While protein is critical for good nutrition, too much can cause problems, such as an acid-base imbalance, which can undermine bone and overall health. The food we eat profoundly impacts this balance.

Our bodies operate best at an overall pH of 7.35. When we eat foods that create acids (typically those that are high in protein and low in minerals), the body needs to buffer the acid in order to maintain its pH. The buffering process taxes the respiratory system and other organs, works the kidneys harder, and can draw calcium out of the body. In addition, research has shown that cancer development and growth is much greater in even slightly acidic conditions.

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Posted on June 29th, 2012 by in Nutrition

Have Fun with Flavor

Play with the flavor palate of whole foods by thinking beyond sugar and salt and invigorate your favorite recipes.

There are classic flavor combinations that many foodies find exciting and most of us find satisfying: sweet walnuts, arugula, and pears; strawberries and balsamic vinegar; blueberries and lavender; and, here at Kripalu, spicy chutney with sweet Indian spices, to name a few.

Using taste as a tool to come back into balance is something that Ayurveda has taught us, and when it comes to plants, following your taste buds is a health-enhancing idea. The bold flavors and bright colors of pungent, zesty, or bitter herbs and vegetables are bursting with healing phytonutrients such as flavanoids, which protect against the imbalances that can lead to cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other chronic conditions. One way to play with flavors is to begin with a popular combination—say the lemon, mint, parsley, and olive oil at the heart of tabouli salad. Then create your own variation—try, for starters, that dressing on sautéed greens and quinoa, then as a marinade for tofu or fish. Find inspiration from the fresh herbs coming into season now; why not try Kripalu’s Cilantro Mint Chutney.

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Posted on June 11th, 2012 by in Ask the Expert, Nutrition

Ask the Expert: Bite by Bite

In this edition of Ask the Expert, Kripalu’s Lead Nutritionist, Annie B. Kay, answers your questions. An integrative dietitian and a Kripalu Yoga teacher, Annie is the author of the book Every Bite is Divine.

What would you recommend as a good diet for someone who is vegan and has IBS?

I invite those with IBS to try the experiment of eating gluten free as a starting point. Nutritional science research suggests that up to 40 percent of people have some level of difficulty digesting gluten, and if you have an IBS diagnosis, that risk skyrockets. Try it for 30 days. And don’t think of it as, I’m never going to be able to eat my favorite foods again. Think of it as collecting data. Even if you do find you’re sensitive to gluten, most people can tolerate a little bit of gluten.

You may not notice the full benefits for as long as six months, but you may notice a significant difference before then. Then you can determine whether eating gluten free is a lifestyle choice for you, or if you want to try reintroducing gluten. About half of those with IBS who go gluten free find it’s a miracle cure.

What kinds of tea have the most beneficial properties?

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Posted on June 1st, 2012 by in Nutrition

Nutrition Notes: Sprouts for Spring

The world awakens earlier, and life sprouts all around us now. Accept spring’s invitation to lighten up by cleaning out your pantry, your fridge, and your eating habits. Choosing the season’s young greens will give you the nutrient density (a high concentration of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, per calorie) to make the most of the lengthening days, and allow you to feel the energy of fresh local food.

Reconnecting with raw foods this season ensures that you get the most phytonutrition to keep your body’s systems operating properly. Phytonutrients have a wide variety of benefits, from cardioprotection, to antivirals, to antibacterials, and more. Cooking and processing often decreases phytonutrient activity, so having some raw fruits and vegetables in your diet ensures their phytonutrient potency.

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Posted on April 20th, 2012 by in Nutrition

Plants Help Create a Healthy Internal Environment

Meals like the ones found in the Kripalu Dining Hall (and hopefully in your own kitchen)—filled with a variety of plants prepared simply—are strong medicine for the prevention or recurrence of cancer and other chronic diseases. These diets provide rich antioxidant support, cool inflammation, aid blood sugar regulation, and support the body’s natural detoxification processes. All these actions add up to an environment within our bodies that is less conducive to the initiation and development of cancers. This is particularly true for cancers such as breast and prostate, where a dietary link has been clearly established.

Phytonutrient (plant) antioxidants—the carotenoids, volatile oils, and alliums that often give plants their bright colors and bold flavors—reduce the damaging effects of highly reactive compounds aptly called free radicals. Following an active, healthy lifestyle can keep free radicals and antioxidants in balance.

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