Nutrition

With a focus on what we consume—and how, and why—these posts speak to choices that give our bodies and spirits the energy they need.

Posted on October 19th, 2012 by in Kripalu Kitchen, Nutrition

10 Principles of Nutritional Health

Here, at Kripalu, there are nutritional tenets that substantiate our approach to food. By applying these principles, you can enjoy your food in healthful ways that promote well-being.

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Posted on October 16th, 2012 by in Nutrition

Harvest Nutrition

Although most of the fruits and vegetables we associate with autumn are not related botanically, they offer our bodies a consistent nutritional theme. Apples, pears, grapes, beets, and squash are all excellent sources of soluble fiber and all but the squash are great sources of one particular type of soluble fiber: pectin. Pectin has a long list of research-substantiated health effects that range from lowering cholesterol levels to removing heavy metals and other contaminants from the body. This is truly nature’s soft detox agent and a great way to prepare for the short days of winter.

In addition to this great source of soluble fiber, these fruits and vegetables are very alkalizing as they are all great sources of potassium. They have unique phytonutrients that are protective against carcinogens. The ellagic acid in grapes and the betacyanin in beets stand out in this area, but winter squash varieties that cook to a dark orange are loaded with a wide variety of carotenoids that offer similar protection. Autumn makes it easy to eat the amount of fruits and vegetables that we need to feel our best.

What are your favorite autumn fruits or vegetables to eat? Share your recipes!

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Posted on October 12th, 2012 by in Kripalu Kitchen, Nutrition

Tea for Two and Happiness to Go

A few weeks ago, I came across an article from The Atlantic called “New Reasons to Drink More Tea.” Though I didn’t really think I needed more reasons to enjoy my daily green tea, I read on just to see how science was catching up to what us tea devotees already know: A cup or two of tea a day not only keeps the doctor away, but it also keeps us in tune with the joyous rhythms of life.

The article says that scientific studies are, in fact, starting to show all kinds of health benefits from drinking a few cups of green tea—and in some cases black tea—a day. Benefits range from weight loss to heart health to increases in bone and muscle strength. Plus, as Jeffrey Blumberg, PhD, a professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science at Tufts University, points out in the article, “It’s really important to remember that tea is a plant.” He explains that the flavonoids extracted from tea leaves are similar to the beneficial phytochemicals found in fruits and vegetables. So if we can’t eat the recommended daily amounts of fruits and vegetables, he suggests, why not count tea as one or two servings?

When I read this, I instantly thought of my 16-year-old daughter. Though she eats a basically sound diet thanks to the fact that we only have quality foods in the house, I have to say that she isn’t exactly a huge fan of kale. However, she loves starting her day with a cup of green tea.

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Digestive Health and Spirituality

What You Believe and How You Digest May Go Hand in Hand

In this excerpt from their book, The Inside Tract: Your Good Gut Guide to Great Digestive Health, Kripalu Nutritionist Kathie Madonna Swift, MS, RD, LDN, and coauthor Gerard E. Mullin share insights on how cultivating a spiritual practice can help you reduce stress, recover from illness, and lead a life of wellness.

Many studies have demonstrated a connection between spirituality and lower rates of stress and even depression. Maintaining a spiritual practice can help people cope better with stressful situations, thus reducing their anxiety levels and lessening the impact of chronic stress. Numerous researchers have documented a link between spirituality and depression: Spiritually healthy practices like finding meaning and purpose in life, having an intrinsic value system, and belonging to a supportive community with shared values may reduce depressive symptoms. Since stress and mood disorders such as anxiety and depression have such a profound impact on gut health, it stands to reason that engaging in a spiritual practice could have a positive impact on stress-related digestive disorders, too.

Harvard cardiologist Dr. Herbert Benson was one of the first to study the relationship between spirituality and health. He revolutionized the field by showing that meditating in a trancelike state reduces stress and improves health while simultaneously raising consciousness and spiritual awareness. Though his finding is still considered groundbreaking by many in the West, ancient cultures have integrated spirituality into healing for millennia. Shamanic priests were regarded as “healers” long before the development of pharmaceuticals, and meditation and prayer have been at the very center of healing practices since the dawn of time.

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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 27th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Nutrition

Gardening in the Fall

How to plant for a beautiful spring harvest

Just because summer’s coming to a close doesn’t mean that you need to close up your backyard garden. Many homegrown vegetables can survive—and even thrive—over the cold winter months. Kripalu Healthy Living nutritionist John Bagnulo, PhD,MPH,who farms organically at his home in Maine, offers his tips for ensuring a bountiful spring.

Start simple. Beets and carrots are by far the most low-maintenance vegetables you can plant now and enjoy in the spring. My favorite varieties are Chioggia for beets and Mokum for carrots. Simply work a good amount of compost or aged cow manure into the ground (a container works well for small spaces). Manure is my personal favorite fertilizer, as compost means different things today than it did 20 years ago when I started gardening. Now, the demand is so great that producers are cutting corners and many composts are not well developed.You could also try planting some berries. Strawberries planted in the fall can be ready the following spring. So can blueberries, though it generally takes blueberries much longer to truly become productive.

Plant wisely. Plant seeds about 1/2″ deep and water them well. After the weather turns really cold, cover them with a thick layer of straw or chopped straw—not leaves, as those can suffocate the growth below when they get packed down with the first couple of rains or snowfalls. This cover will keep the frost from pushing the ground up and out, which exposes young plants or seeds.

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Posted on September 14th, 2012 by in Kripalu Kitchen, Nutrition

Food as Medicine

Western medicine teaches us that good food is the basis for good health. Food has the power to prevent much of the chronic illnesses we experience today and can play a critical part in treating these illnesses in a safe and more balancing way than pharmaceuticals alone. Eating a fresh, whole-foods diet is a very different experience from eating things that have no nutritional value, many of which have properties that can hurt us. Plant-based foods are particularly nourishing and healing as they supply us with nutrients and energy on many levels.

Food nourishes more than our bodies, it nourishes our souls and provides us with cultural meaning. Throughout history, meals have been a natural setting for people to come together. Our religious ceremonies often involve food. It is through food that we love and nourish our babies. Food brings prana, or life force, into our bodies, where it is transformed into energy to sustain us as people living authentic, meaningful lives who serve our communities as much as ourselves. Food touches the deepest levels of who we are as human beings, inviting health and wholeness.

Do you have any traditions or rituals around food that bring meaning to your meals?

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Posted on August 25th, 2012 by in Medical Insights, Nutrition

Egg to Differ: In Defense of Eggs

A study recently published in the medical journal Atherosclerosis reported that a diet rich in whole eggs is as artery-clogging as smoking. Researchers surveyed about 1,200 middle-aged male and female patients—all of whom had suffered a stroke or “mini-stroke”—about their egg yolk consumption, smoking, exercise habits, and other lifestyle factors. They concluded that the top 20 percent of egg consumers had a narrowing of the carotid artery that also appeared in two-thirds of the smokers. Of course, the media jumped on the catchiness of being able to call out that “Eggs are Nearly as Bad for Your Arteries as Cigarettes” and “Your Breakfast Eggs Are Going to Kill You,” as the Atlantic and others did.

But what most media reports didn’t point out—or buried after the alarmist headlines—is that the study was incomplete, says John Bagnulo, PhD, MPH, who teaches nutrition in Kripalu Healthy Living programs. “The way that eggs are cooked is a huge factor,” he says. Certain high-temperature cooking methods—including frying and scrambling—oxidize the cholesterol into a substance known asoxysterol, a molecule known to accelerate both heart disease and conditions such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. More, though, he worries about how the study’s information was gathered and presented. “Research like this is not good science,” he says. “I might be able to see the detrimental weight of eating fried or scrambled eggs as comparative to smoking, but even that seems a stretch.”

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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 August 7th, 2012 by in Nutrition

Me Eat. You?

The Paleo diet trend is catching on.

It used to be called dieting. Now our food restrictions, most of them self-imposed, are called a lifestyle choice. From the vegetarian, vegan, and dairy-free to nut-free, low-fat, no fat, no carb, and raw, pretty much everyone’s not eating something.

The newest abstainers may be followers of the Paleo diet, also known as the “caveman diet” and populated by Loren Cordain, PhD, author of three books on the topic: The Paleo Diet, The Paleo Diet for Athletes, and The Dietary Cure for Acne. Cordain and other proponents of the Paleo diet argue for a return to prehistoric ways of eating, pointing out that the human body was designed to thrive on—and best digest—the foods available to us when we were hunter-gatherers: meat, vegetables, and fruits, but not dairy or grains. Before the invention of agriculture and processed foods, we were fitter and less disease-stricken, he argues; those who’ve had success on a Paleo diet, meanwhile, credit it for everything from losing weight to lowering blood pressure and eliminating acne. Like nearly any other restrictive way of eating, including veganism, the Paleo diet has dedicated followers and ardent detractors.

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