Category Archives: Formula

HeyDahls!: Cholesterol and Rewriting Family History

Q: I found out this week that my cholesterol is high. It’s hereditary plus I need more exercise. Nutritionally though, I’d love some guidance. I’ve put together a good grocery list so far but I’m not sure how to handle this on the day to day. I eat at the coffee shop where I work most mornings and afternoons but I need dinner guidance. Help please.


 

A: Heya!  Thank you for your question.  I’m glad you are staying on top of your cholesterol levels- especially with a family history of it.

What’s amazing about family histories, is that we have the stories of our ancestors written into our genes.

Epigenetics is an entire field of medicine and genetic study associated with understanding the expression of those genes.  And that we can alter the expression of those genes, turning certain gene receptors on and and off, simply by lifestyle choices we make in the here and now.

We can rewrite our ancestral stories.

What I’m saying it there’s a path forward in rewriting your story. And you are already stepping into it.  How awesome is that?

Can I catch up other readers on cholesterol?

The American Heart Association explains that:

“Cholesterol is a waxy substance that comes from two sources: your body and food. Your body, and especially your liver, makes all the cholesterol you need and circulates it through the blood. But cholesterol is also found in foods from animal sources, such as meat, poultry and full-fat dairy products. Your liver produces more cholesterol when you eat a diet high in saturated and trans fats.

Excess cholesterol can form plaque between layers of artery walls, making it harder for your heart to circulate blood. Plaque can break open and cause blood clots. If a clot blocks an artery that feeds the brain, it causes a stroke. If it blocks an artery that feeds the heart, it causes a heart attack

They continue to explain that eating a healthy diet and getting more healthy movement into your lifestyle, is a great way to support healthy cholesterol levels.

Arterial Plaque (image from American Heart Association)

LDL & Arterial Plaque (image from American Heart Association)

You see LDL – think L for Lousy – is the ‘bad’ cholesterol that contributes to the buildup of plaque in our arteries.

HDL – think H for Happy – is the ‘good’ cholesterol breaking up excess plaque in our arteries and flushing it along its way back to the liver.

Rewriting the Story

So remember what I said our rewriting our family stories?

The choices that we make in the here and now tinker with the balance of LDL (bad) and HDL (good) cholesterol.

And healthy eating, the everyday practice of nourishing ourselves, is one of the most effective ways to effect tinker with the balance.

The AHA recommends a diet rich with dark leafy greens and unrefined, nutrient-dense sources of plant-based fiber from whole grains and beans.

Fortunately, and I think you know where this is going… I have a formula designed to help you programs dark leafy greens and grains and beans into your diet! HEY NOW!!!

Magnet (1)

Try once a week going to the farmer’s market or grocery store and buy no more than THREE dark leafy greens. Then find occasions to throw small handfuls of greens into whatever you are eating.

Maybe you even visit the bulk food aisle of health food stores like Mom’s or Whole Foods or Yes! Market and make a whole grain or bean for the week.  I also find the “International” aisles of traditional grocery stores can be a great resources in getting grains and beans in lieu of a bulk section.

Then use the formula to create meals.

What if I challenged you to use the formula to create perhaps just THREE meals this week? Three home cooked dinners?

And even you don’t make a grain or bean this week, try adding dark leafy greens to a pasta.  I’ll even add greens to leftover take out curries, stir-frys, and soups….

OH, and about them fats…

As you get your healthy meal prep rhythm, then maybe it grows into breakfast too..

Because here’s the thing.  I do love a breakfast pastry every now and again from my local coffee shop.  But often there’s no telling what kind of fats and oils they are using in those pastries, shortening or margarine or other sources of trans fats are more dangerous for cholesterol levels than saturated fats and those breakfast pastries can be chock full of them.

Do you know your fats?  Here’s a helpful guide I wrote about healthy fats, and how to use each kind of fat in a healthy cooking practice to reduce inflammation.

The AHA promotes cutting out saturated fats from your diet and doing low-fat dairy.  But saturated fats like coconut oil are heart healthy.

And low-fat, dairy can be chock full of fake sugars that increase insulin resistance, and nobody’s got time for that.

And did you ask about eggs?

Did you know runny egg yoke is quite healthy? By keeping egg yoke as runny as possible, it keeps all the heart healthy long omega-3 fatty acid chains in tact… It’s only when egg yokes over-oxidize and solidify- say in a hard boiled egg, that the cholesterol content becomes problematic.

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Poached eggs have a special place in the LD healthy eating formula. Not only do they remind me of morning playdates, but poaching eggs is hands down the healthiest way to enjoy them.

Lazy Poached Eggs is one of my favorite uses of leftovers. Crack egg over whatever veggies and grains and beans you have on hand and add a *little* water to edges, cover with lid, steam. Voila!

Stay connected with the tribe. Stay inspired.

Love love.

HeyDahls: The wonderful world of grains!

Q: A serious question here- can you recommend whole grains other than brown rice, quinoa, and buckwheat? These are the three that I use all the time but I’d like some variety. Bonus if they are kid friendly- my son eats rice and buckwheat, but not quinoa.

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A: Heya! Thank you for writing in!

As you know, I do love whole grains.  They are built into my formula!

Magnet (1)

Mind if I explain whole grains for a moment to catch up other readers?

Whole grains are a nutrient-dense source of plant-based fiber that promote healthy digestion – feeding healthy bacteria in our gut (who needs probiotics?) – and increase metabolic function.  And they are typically missing from the Standard American Diet (SAD) for a couple reasons.

 1) We hear the term ‘whole grain’ but don’t know what it means.

Often when I ask people what a whole grain is, a lot of folks will offer examples of ’whole grain’ products like breads and cereals.

The American public, has been trained out of their intuition around nutrition, as brought to you by General Mills, Kellogg’s… and so on.

When you think of whole grains think of actual kernels of grain that have the natural bran intact. It is the bran that holds the grain’s nutrients and fiber. This means whole grain breads and other products don’t count.

When a grain has the fiber stripped off… say in the case of white rice, that grain is essentially reduced into a simple carbohydrate that is metabolized in the body in the same way that sugar would be… increasing insulin resistance and fat storage.

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2) We’re scared of carbs.

Since the mid-90s and the Atkins Diet and a whole other host of diet trends designed to put the body in a ketogenic state to quickly lose weight, many of us think carbs are ‘bad’.

But not all carbs are created equal.

Whole grains as explained above offer an unrefined nutrient-dense source of plant-based fiber that is vital for metabolic and functional health.

Yes, grains are a carb. And no, not all carbs are bad. Seriously. So let go of that sensational mid-90s nonsense.

Our ancestors typically enjoyed diets that were 75% carbohydrate including whole grains and vegetables… Kale for instance is a carb.

Ok… back to your question..

Brown rice, buckwheat, and quinoa are fine grains indeed. But it’s always important to rotate your grains, not only to keep meals for you and your family exciting, but to ensure that your body doesn’t develop sensitivities.

If we have the same grain over and over – especially refined grain products -our bodies begin to develop autoimmune responses to them, causing chronic inflammation. The influx of refined wheat products in the American diet I believe accounts for the rise of gluten-sensitivities in the U.S. Keep it fresh, keep it moving so you and your family don’t develop sensitivities.

Grain inspiration!

To start, I recommend playing with different kinds of rice, as they cook up the same way as brown rice. Think red rice and wild rice!

Sometimes just toss a grain into a salad... bonafide, hearty meal!

Sometimes just toss a grain into a salad… bonafide, hearty meal!

I also think that bulgur or cracked wheat is very kid friendly.  And cooks up quickly like quinoa. From soak, rinse, boil, to simmer, no more than 15 minutes!

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Other whole wheat grains I enjoy with frequency include farro and freekah.

Also, your family may enjoy millet, which hails from Asia and Africa!  If rice and polenta were to have a baby, it would taste like millet.

Check out this whole grain grain glossary for more inspiration on the wonderful world of grains.

When preparing grains, I recommend simmering in my go-to spice trifecta of turmeric, allspice and cinnamon.

OK! More soooooooon!

Wild Rice Adventures

Grain of the Week: Wild Rice!

Grain of the Week: Wild Rice!

This week’s *whole* grain is Wild Rice.

As I mentioned last week, grains are a vital, unrefined source of plant-based dietary fiber needed for optimal digestive and metabolic function.

Now the Paleo folks like to rag on grains because they were not part of some archetypal hunter-gatherer diet … and can be inflammatory in nature when refined (white rice) and consumed in excess.

The thing is, the growth of human civilization as we know it is only made possible by the agricultural innovations of our ancestors, including the cultivation of grains.

Wild rice is one of the healthiest, least inflammatory grains out there (learned that from my mentor of yore, Nicole Mires of Pekoe Acupuncture in Shaw). And the secret is to rotate out your grains… keep it fresh, keep it moving so your body doesn’t develop sensitivities.

With that, wild rice stars as the foundation of week’s adventures.

The Mighty Grain Bowl

The living's easy...

The living’s easy…

Grain bowls are an awesome meal, any meal. And very easy to put together. If the grain is already prepared and on hand, say cooking on a Sunday, on a Tuesday, you could sautee fresh greens and seasonal veggies to go on top and have a meal in 10 minutes. Seriously  :-)

Say… like Brussels sprouts take about 5-7 minutes to sear.

I like to use the same skillet to heat up the wild rice.. efficient, picks up seared bits of veggies, and no *microwaves* passing through your food.

Green: Brussels Sprouts
Grain: Wild Rice

Cheese: Yogurt

Sprinkles: Za’atar from Bazaar Spices
Swirls: Black truffle olive oil from The Mediterranean Way

The Soul-Satisfying Salad

And sometimes it’s nice to throw in a handful of whole grains to your salads to make them heartier, full meals.

Salad, Funkified

Salad, Funkified

Green: Russian kale
Grain: Wild rice
Fruits: Apricot and candied ginger

Sprinkles of lavender salt from Bazaar Spices
Squeezes of Lemon
Swirls of Black Truffle Olive Oil from The Mediterranean Way

Grain Bowl, Part Deux

Final offering of the wild rice LD series.. another mighty grain bowl with collards & fresh English peas. This was breakfast  ;-)

With fresh Engligh Peas from the Far Mar

With fresh Engligh Peas from the Far Mar

Greens: collards & English peas
Grain: wild rice

Sprinkles: smoked paprika & pink Himalayan salt
Squeezes: lemon
Swirls: olive oil