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 May 9th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Nutrition

Eating Local Benefits Mind, Body, Spirit, and Earth

Photo Courtesy of Angela Cardinali of Berkshire Farm and Table

The concept of eating local is as old as humankind itself, when hunters and gatherers would naturally eat plants and animals that grew or lived nearby. But with industrialism and the advent of the big box supermarket, where absolutely no food is out of season, we’ve grown accustomed to having whatever we want, whenever we want it: Macintosh apples in humid Miami, coconuts in snowy New England. Now, a growing number of people—dubbed “locavores”—are going “back to the earth,” eating locally-grown or -made food as much as possible.

Eating local doesn’t mean having to get your hands dirty. (Though perhaps the biggest coup for the “eat local” movement came when Michelle Obama announced the groundbreaking of the White House vegetable plot, the property’s first since Eleanor Roosevelt’s WW II-era Victory Garden.) There are urban farmers’ markets and farm-to-table-obsessed neighborhood chefs to help out those of us without gardens of our own. Here at Kripalu, up to 75 percent of the produce we serve comes from local farms, depending on the time of year. So why should you consider joining the local food movement?

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Posted on May 4th, 2012 by in Nutrition

Coconut Water: Worth the Hype?

The coconut water hype. Yogi essential or overblown fad?

The country is experiencing a specialty beverage bonanza, with customers snapping up “functional” drinks and enhanced waters that promise to deliver better health and well-being. Coconut water has been touted as the “natural” alternative to such drinks, which are often filled with sugar or artificial sweeteners. As more and more yoga teachers are heard ending class with directives to “go home and drink your coconut water,” legions of devotees are happily shelling out up to $3 for an 11 ounce serving of the water, which is available everywhere from corner bodegas to mainstream supermarkets, yoga studios to gyms. Hollywood’s in on it, too: Spokespeople for and investors in the most popular brands—Vita Coco, O.N.E., and Zico—include Demi Moore, Matthew McConaughey, and pop singer Rhianna, as well as professional athletes like baseball player Alex Rodriguez and Celtics player Kevin Garnett. But is coconut water really better for you than regular water?

An 11-ounce container of coconut water (approximately the amount of water contained in the center of a single coconut, and not to be confused with coconut milk, which is derived from the meat of the fruit) is said to have 15 times more electrolytes—namely, sodium, potassium, and magnesium—than the average sports drink, with only about 60 calories per serving and no added sugar or fat. Electrolytes, which are lost through excessive sweating, allow cells to generate energy and move fluids throughout the body and are thus essential to muscle and nerve function. That’s why electrolytes are supplemented to sports drinks like Gatorade.

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Posted on April 24th, 2012 by in Ask the Expert, Nutrition

Ask the Expert: What Not to Eat and What’s Good for You

In this edition of Ask the Expert, John Bagnulo, PhD, Kripalu Healthy Living faculty, addresses questions on whether to eat or avoid common ingredients including fish, eggs, stevia, and whey.

The jury still seems out on the benefits vs. harm of eating fish. Based on the newest available evidence, what are the biggest risks, and do you recommend eating it at all?

I do advise people to eat fish. It offers nutrients that are more elusive in a vegan diet, without the health compromises that other sources of animal protein require you to make. I highly recommend sardines and mackerel as they are small, very clean, and packed with beneficial oils and trace minerals. They are on my top-five food list, in spite of being animals. I recommend that people avoid all big fish, especially large varieties of tuna and swordfish. These are tainted with PCBs, which I am much more concerned with than mercury.

Is there any harm in eating just egg whites (not the yolks)?

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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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Posted on April 7th, 2012 by in Nutrition

Turning Point: Q&A with Mark Hyman, MD

Doctor, heal thyself. That was what Mark Hyman set out to do when he was flattened by chronic fatigue syndrome. What he discovered what that information isn’t the solution—connection is.

Q Describe what you do in 15 words or less.

A Empower self-healing by addressing the root causes of illness using food as medicine.

Q Tell us about a turning point in your life.

A After working hard as a family doctor in a small town in Idaho, and then as an emergency physician in the inner city, I was hit with chronic fatigue syndrome. It made me stop, look at everything I had learned, and rethink disease, medicine, and health. That started me on my journey of self-healing and discovery of functional medicine, a powerful roadmap for solving the puzzle of chronic disease.

Q What do you love about teaching?

A I deeply believe that we can each be empowered to take back our health, to learn how our bodies function, the miraculous ways in which they were created, and how to work with them to optimize and enhance their natural functioning.

Q What are you passionate about right now?

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Posted on April 6th, 2012 by in Nutrition

Cilantro: 10 Ways to Use the Superfood

Adored by many, loathed by some, cilantro can be used in countless ways to enhance chilly winter days with a tasty, healthful dose of nutrition. Often used in Mexican, Asian, and Caibbean cooking, and rich in minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants, cilantro can provide a healthful boost to many a meal. It’s even considered to be therapeutic. John Bagnulo, PhD, nutritionist at Kripalu notes:

Cilantro is a wonderful herb that has remarkable attributes for treating heavy-metal toxicity. Animal research has shown that cilantro contains molecules that prevent the deposition of lead and mercury in tissues. I recommend eating cilantro for people that have been exposed to toxic levels of heavy metal.

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Posted on April 3rd, 2012 by in Medical Insights, Nutrition

Vitamins and Antioxidants, with a Grain of Salt

Living in the Information Age means that we’re constantly bombarded with data—much of it contradictory—about our health. A recent example: In a University of Paris study conducted among 2,500 men and women, researchers found that taking fish oil supplements was linked to a higher incidence of cancer in women. But wait: Haven’t we been told for years that fish oil supplements were good for us, acting as antioxidants to reduce the risk of breast cancer, as well as cardiovascular disease?

It’s certainly not the first time a new study has challenged our established way of thinking—and that’s not always a bad thing. But it’s important to keep in mind that many new studies that are released—and reported on—are not complete, says Kripalu’s Healthy Living Director of Medical Education Lisa B. Nelson, MD. A recent study that reported calcium supplements increase the risk of heart disease in women older age 50 had many women eliminating their calcium intake entirely, while other reports about the benefits of certain vitamins or antioxidants, like vitamin D and beta-carotene, have led to dangerous overconsumption.

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Posted on March 26th, 2012 by in Nutrition

DIY Detox

A gentle seasonal detox can leave you feeling more energetic, less stressed, and physically refreshed.

Detoxes are showing up everywhere these days—from the lemon juice-maple syrup-cayenne pepper fast, to increasingly popular juice cleanse programs. While a cleanse typically focuses on one area of the body, a detox is considered a system-wide reboot. And done wisely, say many health experts, a detox can provide serious benefits. “Many minor ailments, such as headaches, fatigue, poor concentration, and insomnia, are caused by a buildup of toxins,” says Kay, an integrative dietitian who leads Healthy Living immersion programs at Kripalu.

While the body naturally eliminates waste through the skin, kidneys, and gastrointestinal (GI) tract, and simply by breathing, sometimes it could use a little assistance. By targeting the liver, where toxins and mood-altering hormones can build up, as well as the colon, where waste is held, detoxes provide a mind/body housecleaning of sorts. And though spring is a great time to do it—as the weather gets warmer, that warmth helps support organ function, allowing impurities to flow out more easily—detox is something that can, and should, be incorporated any time of the year.

The first step is to pick a three-day period that works with your schedule, one during which it’s easy for you to eat on your own terms and get a lot of sleep. “A detox should include quiet time, away from work and intense social interaction,” says Conzo. (Note that people with conditions such as diabetes, cancer, kidney or liver disease, as well as women who are pregnant or nursing, should consult their doctors or schedule a one-on-one with a Kripalu nutritionist before embarking on any detox program.)

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Posted on March 23rd, 2012 by in Nutrition

Sweet Comfort: Replacing Refined Sugars with Whole-Food Sweeteners

Through the colder months, warm, sweet foods feed both body and soul. But with the added sweeteners in much of our food supply, sugar can be easy to overdo. Too much sugar has clear health effects: increased risk for disease, mood swings, added calories, and crowding out nutritious foods. Remember, refined sugar only provides empty calories; it doesn’t serve up healing vitamins, minerals, or phytonutrients.

Sweeten your favorite foods—from pancakes to sauces to desserts—more healthfully with the natural sweetness of whole foods such as fruit, spices, and sweet vegetables. Apples, dates, bananas, prunes, or dried fruit are nutrient-packed alternatives to refined sugar and are great to use in oatmeal and other grain-based breakfasts. The naturally sweet moistness of applesauce, mashed bananas, or pureed prunes can replace some of the sugar in baking as well. Try substituting half of the required sugar with mashed apples, prunes, or bananas and cutting out 1/4 cup of the liquid in your favorite recipe. Or, simply skip the sugar in pies and cobblers. You will be surprised to find that you hardly miss it. Cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, turmeric, and other spices can also be used to warm and sweeten breakfasts, stews, and roasted vegetables

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Posted on March 10th, 2012 by in Nutrition

Turning Point Q&A: Andrea Beaman

Many of us have watershed moments in our lives, when everything changes. For holistic health coach and natural-foods chef Andrea Beaman, that moment came when she witnessed her mother undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

Q Describe what you do in 15 words or less.

A I teach people how to achieve vibrant health through diet and lifestyle choices.

Q Tell us about a turning point in your life.

A Witnessing the devastating effects of chemotherapy and radiation on my mother’s breast cancer. The destruction of her body planted the idea in me that there was something terribly amiss with our modern treatments of disease. Five years after my mother’s death, I was diagnosed with incurable thyroid disease. I refused the treatment recommended and instead improved my diet, lifestyle, and consciousness. It took time and patience, but my condition healed. Since that time, I’ve been teaching others how to naturally heal their physical, emotional, and spiritual conditions.

Q What do you love about teaching?

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