An overview of my forthcoming new book, “Nourish your Self Whole: A Guide to Core Nutritional Pillars, with Achievable Steps for Vibrant Health.”
Healthy food and lifestyle choices are more than virtuous practices. They are often the magic key to keeping our body running in its optimal and precision-tuned natural state of wellness. The poor choices we make are frequently the driving force behind our body’s undue degradation, far more than most people realize.
The encouraging news that I’m excited to share with you in this book is that vibrant and enlivening health are well within reach. Good food is medicine. Weaving the four nutritional pillars in this book into your life can help create substantial healing for your body and get you back into the shape in which you can thrive. This will inevitably lead to a more fulfilling and energetic life. And, I believe, it’s one of the ultimate acts of self-love.
Rather than write an exhaustive overview of nutrition and all the things we could do to be healthier, I have distilled the nutrition steps in this book down to the four most highly leveraged and important “pillars” for good health. Even those of you with a crazy busy modern life can implement some of these steps and start to improve. Every step you take, even small ones, make a difference. There is plenty within to get you on a great path to feel amazing!
These tips can help you:
Prevent disease and in some cases reverse,
balance weight without worrying much about calories(eat plenty of the good stuff!),
We all have unhealthy junk foods we know we shouldn’t eat, but it can seem we just can’t help ourselves sometimes.
Over the years, as I’ve taken on healthy eating more seriously, I felt like I had to find some alternatives that would still allow me to feel like I was indulging in favorite treats, but without as many negative consequences. Thankfully, I discovered many fun and delicious alternatives to my favorites (corn chips and pastries at the top of the list).
The items listed below are a few of my favorite healthier cheat foods. They are all very tasty, paleo friendly, gluten free and on the healthier side compared to mainstream options. You can find more on my Favorite Foods Shopping List on my website.
They are linked to Amazon if you want to try some out. You can also find most of these items at a local health food store, like Whole Foods, or better yet a locally owned facility.
SNACKS & APPETIZERS:
Siete Grain Free Tortilla Chips: These are AMAZING! So light and crispy. Tastes surprisingly like corn chips. They are made from Cassava and fried in Avocado oil. Both are much better for you than other chips made with cheap industrial seed vegetable oils which are rancid and toxic. Sweet Potato Chips or Blue Corn Chips: Jackson’s Honest chips are fried in coconut oil, which is a better option than cheap vegetable oils. Mary’s Crackers: These are gluten free and relatively clean ingredients if you want a crackery snack. They have many flavors. Crunchy and nice. Coconut Almond Butter: by Maranatha. This is so tasty! Creamy and delicious. A blend of almond butter with coconut cream. One of my favorite treats is a tablespoon of it.
These are lower glycemic load “carb” alternatives that won’t wreak as much havoc on your body as many refined flours. You can bake with these or use them for a number of cooking needs. They taste great! They are paleo friendly and gluten free. You should still be mindful about how much you indulge.
Paleo Pancake and Waffle Mix by Birch Benders. This mix is sooo good. Totally hits my need for occasional pancakes, without the giant carb hit. Cassava Flourby Otto’s Naturals: This flour is made from Yucca root. Another great alternative baking flour that is a staple in low glycemic non-wheat flour baking. Bob’s Almond Flour: so great for baking. Makes yummy chocolate chip cookies (see my recipe)! Cassava and Coconut Flour Tortilla’s by Siete. These taste good and are a great alternative for those that really want some kind of carb alternative for wraps or other uses. I love to use them with enchiladas and tacos.
Again, you can find more on my Favorite Foods Shopping List on my website. I’d love to hear what your favorite healthier cheats are, respond to this email and let me know! I’m always on the lookout for more good stuff.
I know how much many of us love the handiness of non-stick coated pans. They don’t require as much greasing, and they are easier to clean up. Unfortunately though, while handy, the substances used to make most of the nonstick cookware you find in stores have been shown to also give off toxins that are not good for us, and they pollute our water supplies and environment. Some of these toxins are in a class called “PFAS” and they don’t easily break down, and can persist in your body and in the environment for decades.
There are some toxins that are released from cooking with non-stick cookware on too high a heat. These noxious gases, when released, are particularly potent and problematic.
But even at so-called “proper temperatures,” nonstick cookware can create problems, leaching chemicals into your foods as they cook, or if you accidentally scrape off some of the material when stirring.
Animal studies have shown that the base chemicals used to make Teflon, one of the most commonly used nonstick materials, can cause:
immune system damage, and
have even caused death in lab rats and monkeys.
An EPA advisory panel also reports it as a “likely carcinogen” in humans.
The good news is there are some non-stick coatings that look more promising. One is made by a company called Scanpan. They make a full line of pans that uses a whole new coating technique that they call GreenTek, which allows them to bond the nonstick surface without using the noxious chemicals known to be of greatest concern. Their classic line uses a titanium ceramic surface that can even withstand metal cooking utensils. They are made from 100% recycled materials. I use their pans and LOVE them. They are a bit pricey but very sturdy and long-lasting.
Best Cooking Materials
While Scanpan looks promising, we know what the best non-toxic materials are, they include: stainless steel, enamel, ceramic, glass, and cast iron. These are non-toxic options that should be your main staples for cooking. A little olive or avocado oil at medium heat will do just fine to help lubricate the pans for food!
Good-quality, whole food based fats are essential to our existence and an important part of a healthy diet.
My generation grew up hearing a major fallacy. We were told that eating fat made you overweight and sick. Because of this, so many people are scared of eating fat in their diets. But this has been a long, falsely perpetuated misconception, at least where healthy fat is concerned. And the science is now proving it.
Healthy fats provide fuel and energy for the body’s proper functioning and can have many additional health benefits:
Lowers your risk of heart disease and stroke,
Reduces unwanted inflammation and blood pressure,
Decreases bad LDL cholesterol levels, while increasing good HDL,
Promotes healthy functioning of the brain and nervous system,
Balances metabolism and helps establish healthy weight,
Required for the absorption of some critical vitamins, the essential fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Now, here’s a big caveat. Highly processed, easily oxidizable, and inflammatory industrial vegetable seed oils, which we’ve been told for decades are so much better for us, are actually a big villain and should be avoided. See the list below.
So, which specific fats are good and not good?
Whole food sources like avocados, olives, nuts, seeds, and even quality animal-based fats can all be part of a healthy diet.
Oils should be attained through expeller-pressed methods, in which the oil is extracted from the nut or seed in one step, relying on force. Unlike toxic chemical processing, expeller-pressed oils are safe and provide a nourishing food. The industrial vegetable seed oils, though, are typically extracted through chemical processes, often using toxic substances.
Another key risk of consuming bad industrial seed fats occurs because of a process called oxidation. Oxidation is a disaster for the body, and another main driver of diseases, including heart disorders, cancer, and strokes. This is one reason that most vegetable oils are a problem. The bad ones oxidize easily.
The good news is, by replacing bad fats with healthier ones, you’re not having to cut something succulent out of your diet. Instead, you’re simply swapping it with a form of fat that is much healthier and actually tastes better. It’s a win-win!
Best Types of Fats and Oils to Use:
(Diversity is important, so mix it up and get a variety each day.)
Olive Oil (always extra virgin, cold-pressed)
Coconut Oil (virgin)
Tallow and Lard (from good sources, like grass-fed animals)
Butter and Ghee (Clarified Butter) (grass-fed is best)
Palm Oil (sustainably sourced)
Smaller amounts of cold- or expeller-pressed, unrefined nut and seed oils, such as macadamia, walnut, and sesame. Flax, chia, and hemp are also considered to be decent sources.
Full-Fat Dairy. For those that can tolerate dairy, this can be a good source. (Organic, grass-fed sources are best.)
Quality, Grass-Fed Animal Fats.
Fats and Oils to Avoid:
(Almost all processed foods contain one form or another of these toxic fats.)
Sesame (unless used cold-pressed in things like salad dressing, but never in processed foods or to cook with)
Most non-stick cooking sprays (some new companies are using avocado or coconut oils, which may be better)
Anything labeled “Vegetable Oil,” “Shortening,” or with words “Hydrogenated” or “Trans Fat” on label.
There are so many benefits to getting enough healthy fat in your diet. Though it’s important to note that even with healthy fats, you want to make sure you reduce your sugar and refined carbohydrates (breads and pastas) in conjunction with eating more good amounts of fat. They do not make a good combination in excess.
Thought I’d write and share some tips on how to lower the sugar content of your diet without totally depriving yourself of the joys of sweet things. I put together some healthier alternatives below from careful research I’ve done (and testing!).
Most of you have heard by now that sugar (and refined carbs) are not a healthy part of our diet. For those that aren’t as familiar, let me share a little bit more about this before I get into the good alternatives.
Too much sugar is highly inflammatory in the body and is a hot bed for diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. It can disrupt the healthy functioning of insulin and other important hormones, and can cause weight gain by triggering the body to store fat, along with a whole host of other troubling consequences. In fact, high fructose corn syrup, the main sweetener in sugary soda and many other processed foods, is now believed to be one of the top disease creators on the planet. Highly processed grains, especially refined (or “white”) flours, quickly turn into sugar in your bloodstream as well, so they should be kept to a minimum.
However, it would certainly be no fun for most of us to fully avoid sweets in our life. Thankfully there are some tasty but still somewhat healthier options to sweeten your food for the occasional treat.
Three of the best alternatives are stevia, monk fruit, and allulose.
These options contain no calories and won’t spike your blood sugar. Monk fruit and allulose looks like and converts into recipes just like sugar, and have a pleasant, sweet flavor not too dissimilar to refined sugar. Stevia comes now in many brands, and some have much more of an aftertaste than others. Look for a whole-foods source that isn’t overly processed for the best flavor and quality. The jury isn’t completely in on how these effect your body, but they are likely much better than real sugars.
Here are some other decent sugar substitutes, though they should still be used sparingly:
It’s important to skip the bad stuff!
Some of the big baddies are: cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup, fruit juices (yup, bad!), and anything labeled simply “sugar” on a label. There are over 60 known names for sweeteners, so it can be tricky to look just at ingredients, look at sugar content. If it has more than a gram or two, that can add up.
Artificial sweeteners should be completely avoided also! We are talking aspartame, saccharin, etc. They are not healthy. These substances can actually cause weight gain, they can wreak havoc on your metabolism, and new research is showing that they can even mess up your microbiome (probiotics), among many other troubling health consequences.
Hope this information helps you to enjoy an occasional sweet with some tasty alternatives, while cutting back on the bad stuff.
This kind of information is part of my upcoming new book Nourish Your Self Whole: A Guide to the Core Nutritional Pillars, with Achievable Steps for Vibrant Health . I’m so excited to share that it will finally be out, right as the new year kicks off. (It’s not available for pre-order yet, but please keep your eyes peeled.)
A lower-carb alternative to a classic family recipe
This recipe is a fantastic alternative for a healthier dessert. A light and fluffy dream.
Growing up, my mom and granny made the most delicious fruit cobbler for many of our family gatherings. It’s a cherished memory and is still one of my favorite desserts. I decided to work on a modified alternative that was still as good but more paleo and low-carb friendly. I finally found the sweet spot with this recipe! (I can’t even lie and say it was rough work doing all the testing to perfect it 🙂
There are two main styles of cobbler. One is the “crumble,” which I’m not a big fan of. Another type, which I much prefer, has a thicker and more bready style of crust. This recipe falls into the second camp. It is similar to a biscuit, but moister, a little more towards a bread pudding.
My favorite fruit for it is plum. The contrast of the slightly tart with the sweet is off the charts good. I use fresh plums when they are in season. It also works well with peaches. Strawberry/rhubarb or cherries are another favorite. Fresh fruit always works well, but frozen works just fine too.
½ cup cassava flour
½ cup almond flour
¾ cup coconut milk
1 egg (optional, gives more rise & sponginess, use full cup coconut milk if not used) ½ cup sugar (coconut sugar or cane sugar) 6 Tbsp. butter (¾ stick, grass-fed preferable – coconut oil can be used as alternative) 1 ½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. cinnamon
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups cut fruit (Fresh or frozen. My favorites are: plums, peaches, tart cherries, or strawberry/rhubarb combo) Topping: 1 small can coconut cream (whip it up as directed on the can)
In a skillet or pan, bring 2 cups cut fruit, butter, maple syrup and 1 teaspoon vanilla to a gentle, bubbling boil until fruit is softened (will be rather juicy by the end). Whisk together dry ingredients. Mix in coconut milk, egg and second teaspoon of vanilla. Pour fruit into a 10-inch (approx.) ceramic or glass baking dish. Pour the batter evenly over softened fruit mixture.
Cook at 350 degrees until done, about 40-50 minutes. Top should be lightly golden brown (the breading will remain partly moist internally, however).
Special notes: 1. Double ingredients for more servings. 2. You can substitute any gluten free flour for the cassava or almond.
In the past couple of weeks I’ve been asked by quite a few folks, “Is coconut really bad for you?” You may have seen some headlines recently citing a professor who called it “pure poison” and kicked off another debate.
However, most of the researchers I trust, who are looking at high-quality science, hold a much different view. When part of a healthy diet that includes a range of different types of healthy fats, coconut oil can be a healthy part of it.
One of my favorite researchers, Dr. Sarah Ballantyne (who has her Ph.D. in medical biophysics and spent years as an award winning researcher), had this to say in a recent article she wrote on the topic:
“The myopic view of coconut oil as harmful due to its high saturated fat content not only ignores the very real biological differences between medium-chain and long-chain dietary saturated fats, but is also refuted by recent, well-designed, human studies that show quite conclusively that coconut oil does not increase cardiovascular disease risk.”
In the article, Dr. Ballantyne really digs into the facts and science behind coconut oil. If you are concerned, I’d urge you to give it a read.
Also, a recent study found this to be true of coconut oil:
“Coconut oil significantly raised HDL (good) cholesterol with no differences in LDL compared with olive oil. Coconut oil did also did not differ significantly from olive oil in terms of the total cholesterol to HDL or non-HDL ratio.” (These are common indicators of “good” cholesterol stats.)
COCONUT OIL CAN BE PART OF A HEART HEALTHY DIET
In a nutshell, it’s smart to eat a well-rounded variety of healthy fats, leaning most heavily on the monounsaturated varieties, like olive, avocado, nuts and seeds. If you eat meat, try to get quality grassfed varieties which are much higher in heart healthy omega 3’s. If you decide to go with coconut oil as part of it, focus on high quality virgin and extra virgin coconut oil, which most of the studies that show its health benefits have focused on.
For most people, moderate amounts of saturated fats should be part of a heart healthy diet, and the medium chain varieties from coconut oil can offer many health benefits, especially when in conjunction with an overall healthy whole foods diet that is low in sugar and refined carbs, and high in vegetables (and a bit of fruit). Dr. Ballantyne and others suggest around 10-15% of daily calories from saturated fat.
Have you struggled with natural deodorants over the years, trying to be healthier but stopping because they didn’t take care of body odor well enough when the pressure was really put on them? I have a whole basket of them in my bathroom cupboard!
I’ve been wanting to share about this amazingly effective natural deodorant for some time, which has been working amazingly well, but needed to make 100% sure I tested it out in tough circumstances before doing so. I’m now about 9 months into using it and can say with certainty that it works like a dream!
Primal Pit Paste
The company is Primal Pit Paste brand deodorants. They can be found online on outlets like Thrive Market, Amazon, and in some health food stores.
My final test came this past week. I’ve been back home in Texas, in the almost 100 degree heat, working outdoors, helping my Mom move and clear out my grandparents old house. I had LOTS of sweaty, sticky moments (I’m sure you can all relate). But the great news: not even a hint of odor the whole time.
Many of the natural deodorants I’ve tried in the past have done fine in less strenuous circumstances but wouldn’t always hold up when I was really sweating it out. This is the natural deodorant I’ve been waiting for!
I know how many questionable chemicals are in the standard over-the-counter deodorants that have been shown by numerous studies to be problematic and even toxic to a number of our body systems (for background and ratings on thousands of skin care products, see Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database: http://www.ewg.org/skindeep – I’ve shared about this before). With as many outside negative environmental influences we are exposed to in the modern world, I don’t want to add in anything else of concern.
Also, for awhile, I had really sensitive arm-pits. I was getting a lot of break-out reaction and itching with even many natural deodorants. The ones I didn’t react too didn’t always work. (This has changed a lot for the better since I’ve changed my diet, but I still want to be careful). Primal Pits doesn’t irritate at all. And as I said, it’s amazingly effective.
Seems almost crazy that such natural stuff would really work, right!?! Well, I have yet to have any odor, so I know it works for me. I’d urge anyone to try it out. It’s a little pricey but lasts a long time. Worth every penny.
When it comes to the topic of dietary fat, we’ve been sold a mountain of falsehoods over the past decades. The fats we were told were good, like industrial seed vegetable oils1, are actually largely toxic and can cause disease, while healthy fats can help protect against it. The good whole-food based fats, even quality saturated fats2, are an important part of a healthy diet.
We were told that eating fat made you fat and we heard little about sugar and refined carbs’ role in weight gain (or disease). The evidence is now clear though: Good fat is crucial to thriving health and the real triggers for weight gain are often sugar, refined carbs and bad fats.34 The healthy fats you eat in your diet, are not the same thing as stored fat in your body. There is a whole other set of mechanisms at play to trigger fat storage, and that fat storage is often born of glucose (sugar).
Having enough quality fats in your daily diet actually tends to increase metabolism and leads to sustained weight management. It’s important for most people to get enough quality fat when trying to manage weight. Our body needs nutritional caloric satiation to function properly. When you try to lose weight simply by calorie restriction, it actually reduces metabolism. It’s important to eat enough good fats so that your body isn’t overly stressed and can perform its key functions well.
Fat was also supposed to be the big cause of heart disease and a number of other health conditions. When it comes to healthy fats, the exact opposite is true. By depriving ourselves of the good fats we need, we’ve shifted towards needing to eat and burn sugar and carbs for energy, which are literally killing us!
Healthy fats are calorically very nutrient dense. They feed the body far more per calorie than carbs/sugar. Therefore, you get a much better bang for the buck and are able to satiate yourself more than you can with carbs/sugar. You have to eat a lot more carbs/sugar for your body to get the energy it needs to run than you do with fat. This is a particularly important point for those who are trying to manage their weight.
Now as I said earlier, there’s a big caveat. Highly processed and easily oxidizable and inflammatory industrial seed vegetable oils, which we’ve been told for decades are so much better for us, are actually a big villain. We’re talking canola, soy, corn, safflower, sunflower, the so-called “safe fats.” These oils are extracted through chemical processes, often using toxic substances.
Alternatively, good quality fats are essential to our existence. Here we are talking about:
sustainably sourced palm oil,
nuts and seeds,
quality animal fats (grass-fed in particular),
butter and ghee (yup, I said butter).
These are whole-food based fats. When not eating a whole food source, independent oils attained should be through expeller pressed methods, which, unlike toxic chemical processing, are safe and provide a nourishing food.
The good news is, by bringing in more healthy fats and replacing the bad, you don’t have to stop eating or cut something out of your diet, you’re simply swapping it with a form of fat that is much healthier and actually tastes even better. So it’s a win, win!
You want your fat stores to be of the utmost quality. The industrial seed oils that are often oxidized before you even use them, work against your body in a myriad of ways. Source quality is always critical! You are what you eat.
Most people find that when they shift to a diet that burns more fat for energy instead of glucose, body weight quickly stabilizes and energy is gained. Fat and glucose burn differently in the body. In most cases, good fat actually speeds up our metabolism. And it’s a more sustainable source of fuel for prolonged energy.
Oxidization is not our friend:
A key risk of consuming bad fats occurs because of a process called oxidation.5 Oxidation is a disaster for the body, and another main driver of disease, including: heart disorders, cancer and strokes. This is one reason that most vegetable oils are a problem. The bad ones oxidize easily.
Oxidation is damage caused by oxygen. It’s like when apples or bananas turn brown from air exposure. This happens with fats too, and it’s essentially what happens inside your body when you eat oxidized oils. It’s kind of like rusting on the inside. The ensuing “oxidative stress” creates “free radicals” that are inflammatory and can damage your body. Most of the bad and highly refined vegetable oils listed above cause great risk of this happening inside you.
Fried foods from industrial seed vegetable oils, leave your cells and arteries looking just like the fried foods — rugged, crusty, torn. They disable cells functioning in the short term, and ultimately destroy healthy cells, causing heart attacks and strokes. This process is also how oxidation fries arteries! While eating food fried in these bad oils is the worst of the worst, eating the oils themselves generally does the same thing over time. Eating fried foods from these oils is one of the very worst things you can do to yourself. It creates both short term damage and suffering as well as dire consequences in the long term. (You can fry your own foods in certain oils; see below for more details).
Trans & Hydrogenated Fat:
This type of fat that is now universally understood to be toxic and linked directly to coronary artery disease is called trans fat, or hydrogenated fat. Transfats and hydrogenated or even partially-hydrogenated oils are highly processed foods, typically made from industrial seed vegetable oils. They are created this way through processing, so that they can be more “shelf stable” and thus cheaper and easier to produce and store. These fats should be avoided at all times. Be mindful, even when your label says “0” trans fats, it can still include some as it allows for .5 grams or under to be listed as “0”. The more processed foods you eat with these bad oils, the more the grams will add up. ANY amount will do damage.
The lesson here: ditch the margarine and bring back the butter!
Learn more about fat from the experts: For those interested (or who need more convincing), you can really geek out on the various types of fat our body needs, and those it doesn’t. There are so many roles fat plays in thriving health. If you are interested in learning more, I’d highly suggest reading the work of Dr. Mark Hyman and/or Dr. Catherine Shanahan. Google their names along with the word “fat” for a myriad of informative articles and videos. Here are a couple of good ones:
Ever since I changed my eating habits towards a much healthier lower carb, lower sugar paleo style diet, I’ve been looking for occasional dessert treats that are healthier but still delicious and satisfying. I’ve found some nice chocolate chip cookie recipes over the years, but I’ve finally perfected one myself that I really love!
This is a mouth watering treat. The cookies are soft and tender on the inside, flaky on the outside. They’re not overly sweet, but hit just the perfect spot.
The base in these cookies is almond flour/meal. The good news about this flour is that it has about 1/3 the carbs that wheat does. Wheat clocks in over 75 grams per cup vs. about 22g for almond flour. Let’s not be too crazy by calling this a full-on health food, but it’s certainly a healthier alternative for the occasional treat. Try them out!
2 cups almond flour or meal (blanched preferred, any will do)
1/4 cup butter, ghee or *coconut oil (your choice)
3 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Whisk together all the dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
3. Add in pre-softened or melted oil/butter, maple syrup and vanilla extract. Mix thoroughly.
4. Fold in chocolate chips.
5. Spoon out a rounded tablespoon sized amount. Roll and lightly compress in your hands. Place on a cookie sheet with parchment paper (optional) and gently flatten out.
6. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the outside edges turn golden brown. Let sit for about 10 minutes and enjoy!