Nutrition

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

Posted on December 18th, 2012 by in Nutrition

The Skinny on Fat: How Bad is Fat for Us—Really?

The total fail of the fat-free ’80s and ’90s taught us that fat isn’t perhaps the villain we made it out to be, and that following a low-fat diet not only isn’t the cure to obesity but also may actually make things worse. That’s because fat plays an important role in giving us energy, building […]

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Posted on December 4th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Nutrition

Happiness and Fruit

Seems obvious: Who doesn’t get at least a little bit excited by a heaping bowl of fresh-cut fruit (especially if someone else has done the cutting for us)? But now science confirms that happiness and mental health rise with the number of servings of fruits and vegetables we eat each day.

Researchers at the University of Warwick and Dartmouth College studied 80,000 people living in the United Kingdom, and compared their fruit and veggie intake with their life satisfaction, mental well-being, presence of mental disorders, self-reported health, happiness, nervousness, and how often they “feel low,” factoring in such variables as the rest of their diets, alcohol, and many demographic, social, and economic factors. In an overwhelming number of cases, people who ate the World Health Organization-recommended five servings per day were happier than those who didn’t, and those who ate seven per day were happiest.

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Posted on November 14th, 2012 by in Nutrition

How to Have a Nutritious Thanksgiving

With all the focus on overindulgence—of food and family—we often forget that Thanksgiving is, at heart, a day for giving thanks and being grateful. That said, let’s get back to the food. Some of us choose to “let go,” and eat whatever we want, giving ourselves myriad excuses: It’s tradition, it’s etiquette, it’s just so delicious! But Thanksgiving offers a bounty of ways to enjoy fresh, local vegetables, so while it’s okay to treat yourself, it’s also entirely possible to indulge but not overeat—and, even, put together an optimally nutritious Thanksgiving dinner that sacrifices neither taste nor holiday spirit.

Still, if you can, try to avoid flour and bread products, says John Bagnulo,PhD, MPH, who teaches nutrition in Kripalu’s Healthy Living programs. “This will significantly help reduce the tendency to overeat,” says John. “Grains and flour raise levels of leptin—the hormone that controls appetite and cravings—more than any other food after sugar.” We asked John to share his ideal grain- and cruelty-free Thanksgiving meal.

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Posted on November 10th, 2012 by in Nutrition

Find Peace from the Struggle to Maintain a Healthy Weight

Why do so many of us struggle to maintain a healthy weight? One of the top culprits, says integrative nutritionist Annie B. Kay, MS, RD, RYT, in her R&R retreat lecture A Natural Way to Healthy Weight, is the typical American diet, which is loaded with sugar, heavy on processed foods, and doesn’t include much fiber. One of the major factors in finding balance, Annie says, is to examine our choices and explore new options that could be more beneficial to our health—and waistlines—in the long run.

In order to maintain a healthy weight, Annie says, it’s necessary to first look at what’s on our plate. “Whole foods are healers,” Annie says. “They supply us with a sustained energy balance, unlike high-sugar, processed foods, which take our blood sugar on a roller coaster ride.” To help us foster this sustainable energy, Annie suggests shifting from a grain-based to a green-based diet, avoiding white flour and other simple carbs, and stocking our kitchen with foods high in nutrient density—foods packed with more nutrients per calorie, such as fruits and vegetables. Nutrient-dense foods also have the bonus of keeping us full longer.

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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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