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 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 May 31st, 2012 by in Nutrition

Would You Eat Test Tube Meat?

It’s coming.

No matter which side of the go-vegetarian debate you’re on, there’s no arguing that the current methods of animal farming are wholly unsustainable. Animal farming currently takes up nearly a third of the earth’s land mass, the widespread mistreatment of animals has been widely reported, and meat production is extremely inefficient. Meanwhile, researchers predict that demand for meat will double over the next 40 years. We want burgers—currently to the tune of $74 billion a year.

Which is why a group of Dutch scientists has spent years developing lab-grown meat, which they recently announced will be ready for an initial taste test by the end of the year. Using bovine fetal cells cultured like bacteria, grown in a vat, and mixed with lab-grown animal fat, the scientists are working to create test tube burgers, sausages, and more, with plans to expand to dairy and other animal products later. Though the associated costs are currently high, the hope is that eventually the technology will feed more people more efficiently—while also reducing environmental, cruelty, and illness issues related to farming—and it’s so far gotten support from several avenues, including private donors and PETA. But do we really want to eat test tube meat?

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Posted on May 18th, 2012 by in Nutrition

Food in the Raw

Including some raw-plant foods in your daily diet gives you a naturally nutrient-rich boost to better health. Here are five swift tips to increase your intake of raw foods:

1. Get ready for raw by investing in a few sharp knives, wooden cutting board, blender, and dehydrator.

2. Wake up to a raw, morning smoothie by tossing some apple, pear, spinach, berries, avocado, and raw almond butter in a blender with water. Yum!

3. Invite some nutrient-rich greens to your lunch by enjoying a salad made with watercress, arugula, endive, and cilantro; sprinkle with pumpkin seeds and walnuts, and dress with extra-virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice, and chopped basil.

4. Munch on a piece of fresh, seasonal fruit for an afternoon sweet treat.

5. Dive into a nori roll loaded with grated carrots, radishes, cucumber, green onion, avocado, and ginger slices.

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Posted on May 14th, 2012 by in Nutrition

Should Your Kids Be Vegan?

Vegan Is Love: A new children’s book incites debate

A new children’s book heralding the widespread benefits of veganism is stirring more pots than PETA. Vegan Is Love: Having Heart and Taking Action, now in stores, has nutritionists, psychologists, and even gossip columnists, asking whether veganism is appropriate for kids—and, more poignantly, how we should be talking to little ones about the ethics and politics of food. On Today, Matt Lauer wondered if the title itself suggested that “if you’re not a vegan, is it about hate?” while a widely read Hollywood gossip columnist asked, “Would you read this book to your child?” On FOX News, child psychologist Dr. Robert Epstein called the book “the most disturbing children’s book I’ve ever seen.”

Author-illustrator Ruby Roth’s intent in writing Vegan Is Love was to judge—at least a little bit. Through clear, simple dialogue and colorful illustrations of smog-covered land and sad animals in cages and zoos, the book calls on children to start protecting animals, the environment, and starving kids in Africa through a plant-based diet. It explores complex themes like animal cruelty, big agriculture, and world hunger, and while the message is not overly heavy-handed, Roth doesn’t dance around the idea that she believes eating meat will destroy the Earth and everyone we love, and soon—a heady concept for a kid, for sure.

John Bagnulo, PhD, MPH, who teaches nutrition in Kripalu Healthy Living programs, says that kids can be very healthy as vegans, but it’s important to remember that it’s not as simple as “just eat plants.” For example, a vegan diet for children that is mostly grain, flour, and fruit juice is much more unhealthy than one that’s mostly fruits and vegetables with, say, small amounts of fish, he says. “So many vegetarian and vegan parents embark on this journey with the misconception that kids have the same nutritional needs as adults,” says John. “Nothing could be further from reality. Kids’ brains are developing so fast and there is clear evidence that high-quality essential fatty acids, like those found in oily fish, are a factor in brain development. You can also get these nutrients in raw walnuts, raw pumpkin seeds, freshly ground flax seeds, and power-packed specific greens such as purslane.” But getting them is essential. B12 and zinc are also critical.

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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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