Vegetables make you happy…yes, really!

vegetables-in-a-bowl

You’ve heard the old saying that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

But would it surprise you to know that an apple — or a carrot — also discourages the blues and makes you more engaged in life? That’s what research has found — repeatedly! — in recent years.

Research shows fruits and vegetables boost emotional well-being

  • A 2016 study that focused on the food diaries of over 12,000 Australian adults found significant increases in emotional well-being of individuals who increased their intake of plant foods. This occurred within a relatively short (2-year) time span and could not be explained by other life changes.
  • A 2014 study that looked at emotional health in 100 volunteers, half of whom snacked on fruit and the other half on chocolate or chips in mid-afternoon, found that those who ate fruit scored lower on measures of anxiety, depression, and emotional distress than those who ate junk food.
  • And a 2015 study in 405 British young adults found not only improved emotional well-being, but increased creativity and curiosity as well, were reported by the subjects — not only in general, but in particular, on the specific days the study subjects reported eating more fruits and vegetables.

Changes can happen almost immediately

We’re all well aware of the long-term physical health benefits of a diet loaded with plant foods. Now these studies indicate that benefits to our emotional well-being occur in the short term once we start incorporating more fruits and vegetables into our daily food intake. The British study suggests that such changes may happen almost immediately!

Keep this in mind, the next time you reach for a snack like the delicious Green Agua Fresca.

Green Agua Fresca recipe: Combine a fruit and vegetable in this snack!

  • 3 cups fresh watermelon
  • 2 cups fresh spinach or other mild green

Mix in blender until smooth. Your drink will be bright green and taste entirely of sweet watermelon.

 

References:

Smith AP, Rogers R. Positive effects of a healthy snack (fruit) versus an unhealthy snack (chocolate/crisps) on subjective reports of mental and physical health: a preliminary intervention study. Front Nutr. 2014 Jul 16;1:10. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2014.00010.

 

Mujcic R, Oswald A.J. Evolution of well-being and happiness after increases in consumption of fruit and vegetables. Am J Public Health. 2016 August; 106(8): 1504–1510.

Published online 2016 August. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2016.303260

 

Conner TS, Brookie KL, Richardson AC, Polak MA. On carrots and curiosity: eating fruit and vegetables is associated with greater flourishing in daily life. Br J Health Psychol. 2015 May;20(2):413-27. doi: 10.1111/bjhp.12113. Epub 2014 Jul 30.

 

Fall superfood for bones: Ginger

Gingerbread warm and spicy loaf cake with hot tea

I’m naming ginger one of my fall superfoods. While I highly recommend hot ginger tea as my choice for a cold weather drink, there are so many other ways ginger can be used to add zing to your recipes while enhancing your overall health – and bone health – on many fronts.

One of the main benefits of ginger is its exceptional antioxidant properties – surpassed only by pomegranate and some berries. Unmet antioxidant needs are a major cause of osteoporosis.

Increase ginger’s antioxidant power

As we move into the winter months, you can significantly boost the antioxidant capacity of ginger by choosing certain warming and comforting cooking methods. Simmering, stewing and making soup all increase ginger’s antioxidant power, while grilling and stir frying decrease it.

My favorite holiday ginger recipe

Here’s one of my favorite holiday recipes with a healthy amount of ginger.

Gluten-free ginger snap cookies

Ingredients:

2½ cups blanched almond flour
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
4 to 5 teaspoons fresh ground ginger
½ teaspoon each ground cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, cardamom (or to taste)
1 egg
6 Tablespoons butter, softened
2 Tablespoons honey

Directions:

  • Mix together all dry ingredients in a large bowl
  • Beat together honey and butter, add egg and mix until combined
  • Add wet ingredients to dry and mix until dough comes together (if the dough is not coming together add some cold water – a tablespoon at a time)
  • Refrigerate dough for at least an hour (at this point you can roll the dough into a log, about 1½ to 2 inches in diameter, then instead of rolling the chilled dough into balls in the next step you can simply slice off as many cookies as you need.
  • Roll dough into 1 to 2 tablespoon sized balls and bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes

5 extra reasons to add ginger root to your recipes

In addition to its antioxidant properties, extensive scientific research shows the bioactive components of ginger root, particularly gingerol and shogaols, have the following benefits:

1. Highly anti-inflammatory and can reduce pain, swelling and tissue damage. Unwanted inflammatory cytokines weaken bone and contributes to arthritis.
2. Enhances digestion, warms the body, “expels cold” and cures nausea. Strong digestion and assimilation is key to optimum bone health.
3. Aids in detoxification. Toxic build-up of any amount interferes with the functioning of all our cells.  Ginger helps us detoxify through its alkalizing actions and by its contribution to the production of glutathione, our most important inner-cellular antioxidant.
4. Enhance immunity. Our immune system is our “circulating intelligence” intimately linked to skeletal functioning. Boosting immunity serves bone.
5. Cardio-protective. This is important news given the now established link between osteoporosis and heart disease.

It’s no wonder ginger has been used for over 5,000 years to improve health!  What’s your favorite way to use ginger?

References
The Amazing And Mighty Ginger, Chapter 7, in Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, editors.Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2011.
Curcumin: Getting Back to the Roots Shishodia, Shishir et al., Annals of the NY Academy of Sciences Nov., 2005:206-217.
Chohan, M. et al., Plant Foods Hum Nutr (2008) 63: 47. doi:10.1007/s11130-007-0068-2

Onions — a fall favorite and bone superfood

When I was a kid, my family had a root cellar that was loaded up each fall with apples, squashes, potatoes and onions to draw upon all winter long. While I loved having fresh apples in February, my mother always wanted onions on hand for a welcome flavor boost.  Little did she know her recipes were helping us protect our bones too.

How onions protect bone

Onions are rich in highly anti-inflammatory anti-oxidant flavonoids, such as quercetin, that protect us from free-radical damage to bone. They also inhibit the development and differentiation of bone breakdown cells (osteoclasts), which prevents some of the osteoclasts from maturing and starting to break down bone. As a result, bone mass is preserved and even built.

And if this isn’t enough, onions are also high in bio-available sulfur compounds that the body needs to produce glutathione, our major intracellular antioxidant, and prevent excessive homocysteine accumulation, which damages collagen in the bone and arteries.

New study shows benefits

A recent Chinese study asked postmenopausal women to consume 3.4 ounces of onion juice a day for 8 weeks. The control group was onion juice-free. Women drinking the onion juice showed a significant decline in free radical levels and actually gained a bit of bone mass in only 8 weeks.

I know not everyone is ready to chug down half a cup of onion juice. (I’ve tried it straight-up, and it’s tough on the taste buds and stomach!) But most of us can add more onions to our diet, and not just as a seasoning. For example, I love roasted onions and indulge in French onion soup once in a while. The truly brave could try adding ½ cup raw onion juice to their finished soup or other dish.

Try this roasted root vegetable recipe with onions
From the Amazing Acid-Alkaline Cookbook by Bonnie Ross
Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients
6 large cloves garlic, whole
5 medium-sized parsnips, diced into 1-inch cubes
4 medium-sized potatoes, unpeeled and diced into 1-inch cubes
2 large sweet potatoes, unpeeled and diced into 1-inch cubes
2 large onions, sliced lengthwise
1 medium-sized butternut squash, diced into 1-inch cubes
½ cup light olive coil
1 tsp sea salt

Directions
1.    Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Light coat two 9-x13-inch baking dishes with vegetables oil and set aside.
2.    In a large bowl, combine the garlic, parsnips, potatoes, onions, squash and oil. Toss well.
3.    Add the sea salt to the vegetables and toss again.
4.    Transfer the vegetables to the prepared baking dishes, spreading them out in a single layer.
5.    Roast the vegetables for 35 minutes or until lightly-browned and fork tender, and serve.

Reference:
Law YY et al., Consumption of onion juice modulates oxidative stress and attenuates the risk of bone disorders in middle-aged and post-menopausal healthy subjects. Food Funct. 2016 Feb;7(2):902-12. doi: 10.1039/c5fo01251a.

Pumpkin and pumpkin seeds: fall bone superstars

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou know autumn is here when everyone start offering “pumpkin spice” products. Pumpkin spice coffee, pumpkin spice doughnuts, pumpkin spice beer. (Someone, sooner or later, is going to start selling pumpkin spice pumpkins!)

I wonder if the cultural craving for pumpkin and the associated spices (ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, allspice) is really a desire for hardy, warming foods to stave off the cold. If so, I strongly recommend people ignore the pumpkin-flavored beverages and go for the real thing.

Pumpkins, squashes and their seeds are among the fall bone-building superstars! Here’s why I value the simple pumpkin — along with some of my favorite recipes.

3 ways pumpkin and pumpkin seeds help build bone

  1. Pumpkins are mineral rich and alkalizing. As you know if you’ve been reading my blog, alkalizing our body chemistry helps to build and maintain bone — and pumpkin and its seeds are great alkalizers. What’s more, the flesh of pumpkin itself is very nutrient-dense, containing substantial amounts of important minerals such as potassium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, and copper.
  2. Pumpkins are abundant in antioxidants. A major cause of force behind osteoporosis is oxidative damage, but both the seeds and the flesh of a pumpkin offer significant antioxidants. The orange color of pumpkin comes from carotenoids (it has beta-carotene in abundance), while the antioxidants zinc, selenium, and vitamin E are also tucked away into the pumpkin.
  3. Pumpkins supply needed healthy fats that reduce inflammation and help maintain bone strength. Pumpkin seed is high in plant-based omega-3 fat (alpha linolenic acid), which the body converts into the more essential omega-3 fats known as EPA and DHA.  These omega-3 fats are highly anti-inflammatory and women with higher blood levels of these precious fats have been shown to have lower rates of hip fracture.

I could go on for a while, but wouldn’t it be better for you to just sit down and enjoy some pumpkin instead?

Pumpkin soup recipe

Ingredients
•    1 cooking pumpkin or large butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks
•    16–32 oz chicken, turkey or vegetable broth
•    1–2 Tbsp fresh ginger (to taste) minced (or 1 Tbsp ground dried ginger)
•    1 medium to large yellow onion, diced
•    1-2 Tbsp olive oil
•    2-4 cloves garlic
•    1/2 tsp turmeric
•    1/2 tsp cumin
•    chopped scallion for garnish
•    salt and pepper to taste

Directions
Boil pumpkin chunks in water or 16 oz of broth until soft (use water if you prefer a milder, more pumpkin-y and less broth-y flavor).

Mash the pumpkin and add 8 oz of broth (reserve the remaining 8 oz). Place over low heat and add the ginger, stirring occasionally.

In a separate skillet, sauté the onions and garlic in olive oil. When onions are soft, add turmeric, salt, and pepper. Sauté for 1 minute and add to pumpkin and ginger mix.

Slowly add the remaining broth, stirring constantly, until the soup is your preferred consistency (if you add all the broth and it’s still thicker than you like, add water).

Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with scallion if desired.

Easy options for more flavors
• For a spicier soup, include 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes.
• For a sweeter soup, add 1 cup grated carrot to the pumpkin when boiling it initially, and/or add diced red or orange bell pepper in the sauté until soft before including in the soup.
• Add a bit of Caribbean to it by substituting coconut milk and a tablespoon of fresh lime juice in place of some of the broth, and use cilantro in place of scallion for garnish

Pumpkin seed granola recipe

Ingredients
•    2 to 3 cups of gluten free rolled oats
•    ½ cup pumpkin seeds (roasted)
•    1 cup almonds (shredded or chopped preferred)
•    ¼ cup of maple syrup
•    2 tablespoons of raw, brown sugar (for a sweeter granola)
•    ¼ cup of olive or coconut oil
•    1/3 cup of pumpkin puree
•    ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
•    ½ teaspoon ground ginger
•    ¼ teaspoon allspice
•    ½ teaspoon cinnamon
•    dash of salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 325.

Mix dry ingredients together (oats, nuts, seeds, spices, salt, and sugar).

In a small sauce pan over low to medium heat, combine the pumpkin puree, maple syrup, and oil. Whisk ingredients until warm.

Pour contents of saucepan over dry ingredients. Mix vigorously with wooden spoon.

Spread mixture on baking sheet and bake 25 minutes. Stir the contents of the baking sheet half way through to ensure even cooking.

Granola should be a golden brown when done. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Transfer to storage container once cooled.

PS: in case you’re wondering, other members of the squash family have similar properties. Butternut squash, acorn squash — they’re all good for your bones!

3 trace minerals you didn’t know your bones needed

Mature woman outdoors, looking through a pair of binocularsWhat do you think of when someone says “bone-building minerals”? If you’re like most people, calcium jumps to mind immediately. Maybe you also think of phosphorus, magnesium and even zinc.

But most people aren’t aware of 3 important trace minerals that are essential for bone health — manganese, copper and boron. While only needed in small amounts, they make a huge difference for our bones. Here’s what the research says:

Big benefits of manganese, copper and boron

1.   Manganese is needed for functioning of several enzymes central to bone formation.

  • Women with osteoporosis have 75% lower manganese than those without osteoporosis, according to studies. (Interestingly, women have more manganese in hip bone than men.)
  • One study, which looked at 25 different variables, found that only manganese was significantly different between osteoporotic and non-osteoporotic women.
  • Multi-nutrient studies have incorporated manganese supplementation and showed an increase in bone mineral density.

2.   Copper helps form collagen for bone and connective tissue, and low copper levels are associated with osteoporosis development.

  • One early study found copper levels in elderly patients with hip fractures were significantly lower than those of matched controls.
  • Another study of perimenopausal women who consumed 1 mg of copper daily reported a decrease in bone loss of the spine after supplementation with 3 mg copper.

3.   Boron is essential for bone growth, and it also supports other bone-building nutrients.

  • Boron supplementation markedly reduces excretion of calcium and magnesium.
  • Boron increases vitamin D utilization.
  • Boron also helps to reduce inflammation and protect against oxidative damage from heavy metals and other toxins.

How much of these nutrients do we need?

If people don’t know about the importance of these trace nutrients, it probably comes as no surprise that most of us aren’t getting enough!

  • The current daily allowance for manganese is 2.3 mg/d for adult males and 1.8 mg/d for females.
  • Copper, which can be toxic in higher amounts, is set at 900 micrograms — just under 1 mg — for adults. Nearly three-fourths of US adults failed to consume even this tiny amount.
  • While there is no RDA for boron, researchers suggest a minimum intake of 3 mg a day and a maximum of 20 mg/day. Unfortunately most of us consume only ½ to 1 mg of boron daily.

When choosing your bone health supplements, the research is clear that you should look for trace nutrients on the label. You’ll find them in my Better Bones Builder. You can learn more with my article 20 key bone-building nutrients.

 

References:

Beattie JH, Peace HS. The influence of a low-boron diet and boron supplementation on bone, major mineral and sex steroid metabolism in postmenopausal women. Br J Nutr. 1993 May;69(3):871-84.

Brodziak-Dopierała B1, Kwapuliński J, Sobczyk K, Wiechuła D. The content of manganese and iron in hip joint tissue. J Trace Elem Med Biol. 2013 Jul;27(3):208-12. doi: 10.1016/j.jtemb.2012.12.005. Epub 2013 Feb 15.

Conlan D, et al., Serum copper levels in elderly patients with femoral-neck fractures. Age Ageing. 1990;19(3):212-214

Eaton-Evans J, et al. Copper supplementation and the maintenance of bone mineral density in middle-aged women. J Trace Elem Exp Med. 1996;9:87-94

Hunt, CD. The biochemical effects of physiologic amounts of dietary boron in animal nutrition models. Environ Health Perspect 1994;102(suppl 7):35-43

Klevay, L. evidence of dietary copper and zinc deficiencies. JAMA, 1979; 241: 1917-18

Nielson, F. et al., Effect of dietary boron on mineral, estrogen, and testosterone metabolism in postmenopausal women. FASEB J 1 (1987): 394-397.

Pizzorno, L. Nothing Boring About Boron.  Integr Med (Encinitas). 2015 Aug:14(4):35-48.

Strain JJ. A reassessment of diet and osteoporosis–possible role for copper. Med Hypotheses. 1988 Dec;27(4):333-8.

Strause L, Saltman P, Glowacki J.The effect of deficiencies of manganese and copper on osteoinduction and on resorption of bone particles in rats. Calcif Tissue Int. 1987 Sep;41(3):145-50.

Strause LG, Hegenauer J, Saltman P, Cone R, Resnick D. Effects of long-term dietary manganese and copper deficiency on rat skeleton. J Nutr. 1986 Jan;116(1):135-41.

Strause L, Saltman P, Smith KT, Bracker M, Andon MB. Spinal bone loss in postmenopausal women supplemented with calcium and trace minerals. J Nutr. 1994;124(7):1060-1064.

Go nuts to reduce inflammation

WalnutsRecently, I spotted a study that suggested nuts had anti-inflammatory action. Now, this isn’t the first time researchers have found nuts to be beneficial for health, but this particular study is exciting for 3 reasons:

1)    It looked at 5,000 people — a pretty large group!
2)    It examined 3 different blood proteins well known as indicators of system-wide inflammation.
3)   It showed a significant decrease in two of those inflammation indicators — C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin 6 (IL6) — in people who eat a lot of nuts, according to researchers.

3 servings of nuts for benefits

So, what’s a lot of nuts? People who had the lowest levels of CRP and IL6 ate 5 or more servings of nuts, or about 5 ounces, per day.

1 serving (1 oz.) equals:

14 walnuts 29 almonds 16 cashews 45 pistachios 8 Brazil nuts

If that seems like a lot of nuts, the good news is that the study also found that people who ate at least 3 servings of nuts to replace foods that tend to increase inflammation — red meat, processed meat, eggs, or refined grains (such as flour or cornmeal) — had similar improvements. And it’s likely this reduction in inflammation is one key reason that people who eat nuts regularly have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.

So you don’t necessarily have to eat nuts by the handful to benefit — instead, make some substitutions in dishes you normally use meat or eggs in. For instance, in place of meat sauce on spaghetti, you could use basil pesto made with walnuts — with spaghetti squash as a less inflammatory pasta substitute!

Nuts are a key part of the Alkaline for Life diet plan we use to benefit the whole body. Chomping on nuts offers a lot of benefits besides the nutrients for people concerned about their bones — but nut butters and spreads work just as well.

Of course, I know some folks out there can’t have nuts due to an allergy — obviously, they should avoid nuts! But similar effects have been found in seeds (such as sesame seeds), which are also part of an alkaline diet. The heartening take-away from this is that you can have a significant impact on your health by increasing the amount of healthy, anti-inflammatory foods into your diet. Those who can’t have nuts because of allergy can have sunflower seeds, fresh vegetables, and other alkalizing foods to help quiet the inflammation that leads to health concerns.

 

References

Alipoor B, Haghighian MK, Sadat BE, Asghari M. Effect of sesame seed on lipid profile and redox status in hyperlipidemic patients. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2012 Sep;63(6):674-8. doi: 10.3109/09637486.2011.652077. Epub 2012 Jan 23.

Khadem Haghighian M, Alipoor B, Eftekhar Sadat B, Malek Mahdavi A, Moghaddam A, Vatankhah AM. Effects of sesame seed supplementation on lipid profile and oxidative stress biomarkers in patients with knee osteoarthritis. Health Promot Perspect. 2014 Jul 12;4(1):90-7. doi: 10.5681/hpp.2014.012. eCollection 2014.

Marta Guasch-Ferré, Mònica Bulló, Miguel Ángel Martínez-González, et al. Frequency of nut consumption and mortality risk in the PREDIMED nutrition intervention trial. BMC Medicine, 2013; 11: 164 DOI: 10.1186/1741-7015-11-164

Sabine Rohrmann, David Faeh. Should we go nuts about nuts? BMC Medicine, 2013; 11: 165 DOI: 10.1186/1741-7015-11-165

Z. Yu, V. S. Malik, N. Keum, et al. Associations between nut consumption and inflammatory biomarkers. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2016; DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.116.134205

How much vitamin D should you take? That depends on you

how-much-vitamin-dAs we head into cooler weather, it’s the ideal time to get your vitamin D tested – whether you live in the north like I do or a warmer climate too.

You may not realize that even people who get adequate sunlight may become vitamin D deficient — with an impact on their bones.  That’s because vitamin D absorption and utilization differ, sometimes dramatically, from person to person.

Vitamin D needs vary greatly

Here are just a few interesting examples I’ve seen:

  • One woman in Connecticut had a vitamin D of level of 33 ng/mL in March — barely above the acceptable lower limit — despite taking 6600 IU of vitamin D during winter.  She increased her intake to 8600 IU for several months to reach the ideal 50 ng/mL level.
  • Another northeastern woman tested in August — when you’d expect her levels to be highest — was only 35 ng/mL despite taking 2000 IU of vitamin D daily year-round. She needed to add 2000 IU more to reach an optimal level. Contrast this to another client living in Denver, who had 53 ng/mL vitamin D in January when she was only taking 1000 IU daily.
  • And then there’s my own case — living in central New York, I was using 2800 units of vitamin D during the summer and getting lots of sunshine from my outdoor activities, but I still tested at 35 ng/mL in October.  If I had not raised my wintertime vitamin D intake substantially to 5,800 IU/day, I would’ve had a very inadequate level of vitamin D during the winter.

On average, vitamin D levels are expected to increase 10 ng/mL for every additional 1000 IU of vitamin D — but as you can see, the average doesn’t mean much in real-world situations! That’s why it’s crucial to get vitamin D testing to identify where you are starting — and retest a few weeks later to see if the amount you use is having an impact.

 

References:
Why does the Vitamin D Council recommend 5000 IUs of vitamin D a day, 2013. https://www.vitamindcouncil.org/blog/why-does-the-vitamin-d-council-recommend-5000-iuday/l

Boroń, D., Kamiński, A., Kotrych, D. et al. Polymorphisms of vitamin D3 receptor and its relation to mineral bone density in perimenopausal women. Osteoporos Int (2015) 26: 1045. doi:10.1007/s00198-014-2947-3

Hollis, B. W., Wagner, C. L., Howard, C. R., Ebeling, M., Shary, J. R., Smith, P. G., … & Hulsey, T. C. (2015). Maternal versus infant vitamin D supplementation during lactation: a randomized controlled trial. Pediatrics,136(4), 625-634.

Drincic, Andjela T., et al. “Volumetric dilution, rather than sequestration best explains the low vitamin D status of obesity.” Obesity 20.7 (2012): 1444-1448.
Mayo Clinic. Vitamin D toxicity rare in people who take supplements, researchers report. ScienceDaily, 30 April 2015.

* Information presented here is not intended to cure, diagnose, prevent or treat any health concerns or condition, nor is it to serve as a substitute professional medical care.

3 summer picnic recipes for Better Bones

picnic setting on meadow with copy space.

Summer is a great time for picnics and I’m 100% in favor of that — fresh air, sunlight (a good dose of vitamin D!) and relaxation are all good for both mind and body.

When you’re packing your picnic basket, why not load up on foods that support your body’s natural capacity to build bone?

So many healthy fruits, vegetables, and especially leafy greens are in season or will be soon, and farmers’ markets are everywhere this time of year. Berry season is upon us, and depending where you’re located, locally grown melons, watermelons, peaches, apricots, cherries and plums should be available. And let’s not forget the summer tomatoes!

Here are a few terrific recipes you can use if you’re planning to “eat out” in the summer sun.

1.    Picnic avocado wrap

Ingredients: You can make this picnic favorite as an avocado sandwich with bread or a lettuce wrap. As you read through this recipe, you’ll see how many options you have with the ingredients!

Instructions:

  1. Start with 2 slices of whole grain bread. Toasting them is optional. If you want to go bread-free, try using two large leaves of green lettuce, preferably a thicker type like Romaine.
  2. Add your favorite condiments. My personal favorite is mayonnaise. I put 1 teaspoon of mayonnaise on both pieces of bread. Some other good options are mustard, hummus, yogurt and extra virgin olive oil.
  3. Place a few slices of fresh avocado on the bread or lettuce.
  4. Add a layer of sharp cheddar cheese. If dairy doesn’t work for you, maybe try some serrano peppers or arugula leaves to give the sandwich a little more kick.
  5. Add your other favorite toppings. Sometimes I like sprouts, sweet pickles, cucumbers and tomatoes.


2.    Grilled watermelon, feta and mint salad

Serves: approximately 6

Ingredients:
1 small seedless watermelon (about 4 pounds)
Olive oil
Lime or lemon juice
Orange juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Instructions:

  1. Quarter the watermelon lengthwise. Cut each quarter into 2 inch thick slices.
  2. Generously brush all pieces with olive oil.
  3. Pre-heat grill. I like a high heat to ensure char marks on the melon.  Make sure grill is clean and well oiled.
  4. Grill fruit until light char marks appear. If your grill is smaller and doesn’t get hot enough to char the fruit, heat it until you can see indentations on the fruit where the grill is (this indicates that the fruit there has softened).
  5. Once grilled, allow the fruit to cool enough to handle it. Remove and discard the rinds, then cut the watermelon into 1 to 1 1/2 inch cubes.
  6. Dress salad with a mixture of the citrus juices to taste (a good ratio is 2 limes/lemons to 1 orange). Top with the feta and mint and toss to coat.

3.    Roasted Sweet Potato Salad

Serves: approximately 6

Ingredients:

4 medium sweet potatoes

Olive oil

Herb/s: your choice (about 1 Tbsp. of each you choose)
•    Dried basil, dill, thyme, oregano
•    Cumin or paprika

Greens: again your choice (about 3-6 cups makes for a good salad)
•    Kale
•    Arugula
•    Spring mix

Seeds/Nuts: Sunflower, pepitas, pecan pieces (around 1/2 cup)

Fruit component: Cranberries, grilled plum slices, small mango pieces, raisins. Use between 1/2 cup and 1 cup (you just want this as an accent to the sweet potato, so don’t overpower it by using too much!)

Salt and pepper

Optional fresh herbs: parsley, cilantro, scallion (around 1/2 cup chopped)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cut the sweet potatoes into 1 inch cubes.
  3. In a large bowl, toss potatoes with olive oil to coat, then toss with the herbs that you have decided to use and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Place potatoes on a roasting tray or cookie sheet and roast in oven until lightly browned, about 30 minutes.
  5. Take the potatoes, the greens, and any other ingredients that you have chosen and toss gently.
  6. If you choose to dress this salad, I suggest olive oil and a small amount of balsamic vinegar, or a simple citrus juice dressing (even just serve it with lemon or lime wedges).

The best part about this recipe is its versatility.  There is no end to what you can use and combine to make this salad.
Enjoy!

 

New study shows probiotics are good for bone health

sauerkraut, cucumber pickles and yogurt - popular probiotic fermented food - three measuring cups against rustic wood

We’ve long championed the idea that women cannot focus on their health piece by piece. If you want healthy skin, or muscles, or bone, your best bet is to work on the health of your whole body and not just one part of it.

That’s one reason we were delighted to see a recent study in the Journal of Clinical Investigation that described how probiotics used to promote gastrointestinal health have shown signs of being good for bone health in menopause, too.

So how do we get from menopause to gut bacteria to the skeleton?

It’s a surprisingly short game of hopscotch that researchers found takes place with the following steps:

1. Declining estrogen contributed to permeability of the gut — what many folks call “leaky gut” — which activated the immune system.
2. The inflammation triggered by leaky gut was what promoted bone loss.
3. Using probiotics to reduce gut permeability quieted that inflammation and slowed bone loss — almost completely eliminating it, in fact.

Of course, that leaves open the question of why menopausal estrogen reduction causes leaky gut in the first place. The study’s authors plan to assess whether the hormonal changes decreased the diversity of the gut microbiome, which could potentially cause the gut to become more permeable.

Now, this study took place in mice, and we know that mice are not identical to humans. But the response they found was significant — and we already know enough about leaky gut in people to realize that the study’s authors have probably found an important clue for supporting human bone health naturally. So stay tuned!

Adding probiotics to your diet

I recommend consuming at least one food offering probiotics each day. Some probiotic-rich foods include:

  • Yogurt
  • Buttermilk
  • Kefir
  • Sauerkraut
  • Olives
  • Pickled ginger
  • Kimchi
  • Tempeh
  • Miso
  • True pickles
  • Natto

Another option is to add a probiotic supplement, such as Super Biotic, a blend of eight different “friendly” microorganisms supplying 15 billion organisms per dose.

 

Reference:

Li J-Y, Chassaing B, Tyagi AM, et al. Sex steroid deficiency–associated bone loss is microbiota dependent and prevented by probiotics. J Clin Invest 2016;126(6):2049–2063. doi:10.1172/JCI86062.

Is vitamin K2 your body’s best buddy?

heart-with-stethoscopeThere’s been an explosion of research on vitamin K2 showing how much it affects overall health. When you look at what it says, it makes a pretty good case for why we need more of it.

Here are just three reasons vitamin K2 may be one of your body’s best friends:

1. Vitamin K2 protects your heart and arteries

There’s a bunch of studies showing vitamin K2 has benefits for cardiovascular health. Two Dutch studies, one including over 16,000 women, showed that vitamin K2 decreased risk of coronary heart disease substantially.

Another study showed that 180 micrograms of MK-7 also prevented — and even improved — age-related stiffening of arteries. A 2015 Polish study had similar findings. These studies found that vitamin K2 is essential to a key protein that inhibits arterial calcification — so we can actively protect our arteries by making sure we get enough K2. This is great news for us all!

2. Vitamin K2 benefits joints

A 2013 study shows that patients with rheumatoid arthritis who took vitamin K saw reductions in C-reactive protein, which is a marker of inflammation. And a 2015 study in osteoarthritis patients showed that those with better vitamin K status had less arthritis damage to their joints.

3. So now you’re asking, “What about bones?”

Well, of course there’s plentiful information on vitamin K2’s role in bone health already — but a couple of good new studies adds to the list. A 2015 Korean study of over 7,000 men and women showed a correlation between vitamin K2 intake and higher bone density in the spine and femur — one that was especially strong in women. This supports the findings of two earlier studies, one in 2013 and another in 2014, showing that MK-7 supplements decreased bone loss in postmenopausal women’s spine and femur.

It all adds up to one thing: Vitamin K2 isn’t just good for bones. It’s good for bodies.

P.S. As always we remind you that any form of vitamin K should not be used by those on the blood thinner known as Coumadin (Warfarin).

 

References:

Gast GC, de Roos NM, Sluijs I, et al. A high menaquinone intake reduces the incidence of coronary heart disease. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2009 Sep;19(7):504-10.

Kim MS, Kim ES, Sohn CM. “Dietary intake of vitamin K in relation to bone mineral density in Korea adults: The Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2010-2011).” J Clin Biochem Nutr. 2015 Nov;57(3):2237.

Knappen MH, et al. Three-year low-dose menaquinone-7 supplementation helps decrease bone loss in healthy postmenopausal women. Osteoporosis Int. 2013 Sep;24(9):2499-507

Knapen MH, Drummen NE, Smit E, Vermeer C, Theuwissen E. Three-year low-dose menaquinone-7 supplementation helps decrease bone loss in healthy postmenopausal women. Osteoporos Int. 2013 Sep;24(9):2499-507.

Kurnatowska I, Grzelak P, Masajtis Zagajewska A, Kaczmarska M, Stefańczyk L, Vermeer C, Maresz K, Nowicki M. Effect of vitamin K2 on progression of atherosclerosis and vascular calcification in nondialyzed patients with chronic kidney disease stage 35. Pol Arch Med Wewn. 2015 Jul 15. pii: AOP_15_066. [Epub ahead of print]

Shea MK, Kritchevsky SB, Hsu FC, et al.; Health ABC Study. The association between vitamin K status and knee osteoarthritis features in older adults: the Health, Aging and Body Composition Study.

Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2015 Mar;23(3):370-8. doi: 10.1016/j.joca.2014.12.008. Epub 2014 Dec 17.
Yamaguchi M. Osteoporosis treatment with functional food factor: Vitamin K2. J Osteopor Phys Acta 2014;2:e108. doi: 10.4172/2329-9509.1000e108