21 December 2014

5 Tips to Safely Celebrate When You Have Food Allergies

Gathering with family is an important part of the holidays for most of us. If you suffer from food allergies or eat a restricted diet due to a health conditions, it can be especially tricky to navigate. I'm putting together a short list of tips and tricks to get through it safely and make sure you still have a wonderful family get-together!

Here's my top tips for celebrating with family if you have some dietary restrictions.

  1. Talk to the host prior to the event - Ask ahead of time what is on the menu and if the host would like you to bring something. If possible you might ask them to prepare the main course in a way that fits your dietary needs. You should also figure out if there will be enough dishes that you can eat to fill you or if you will need to bring your own food. By all means, do offer to bring a dish or two that you know you can eat and then share the love with everyone! I'm always tickled if family raves over my grain-free paleo-style dishes.
  2. Know what it's swimming in - I've found that most of the common food allergens come in the sauces, dressings or marinades. These culprits frequently contain gluten, dairy, egg, soy, or sugar. You may ask the host to hold aside a portion of undressed salad or fix your piece of chicken or fish with no marinade or sauce. I usually ask for olive oil, salt and garlic ...It's delicious every time and I know I'm not getting any hidden gluten or dairy in the sauce.
  3. Send a package ahead of you - if you're traveling to an area where there is no Whole Foods or natural grocery nearby to accessorize your diet, you can often ship ahead a small box of essentials. You can either pack them yourself or you can use a service, like Amazon or Vitacost and have them ship the necessary items. I frequently do this with non-perishables, like coconut milk, sunflower nut butter, chia seed, and high quality coconut or olive oils. Plus you can leave any of the gourmet leftover items with your host to enjoy! Better yet, order enough to get free shipping and include a hostess gift of some special gourmet food item that he/she cannot purchase locally. Organic dark chocolate or specialty cooking oils are a wonderful gift idea!
  4. Don't go hungry - When we are hungry our brains may bypass the filter of what we know to be a better choice. We'll often we end up eating too much and pick foods that we'd normally avoid. This is why I vow never take my husband grocery shopping on an empty stomach... you just never know what will make it's way into your shopping cart! ;-) Eat a small protein snack prior to heading out, like nuts/seeds, guacamole or jerky. If you know there will not be any safe options, it's ok to eat your entire meal before you go and just enjoy the company and not the food.
  5. BYOBF (Bring your own back-up food) - whether traveling by plane or car or just driving across town for a holiday get-together, you can never go wrong by having a few nonperishable snacks or options with you. You never know when you'll get stranded in the car or in the airport for longer than expected. I carry things like packets of sunflower nut butter, coconut butter and shredded coconut, a piece of fruit, dried organic beef or bison jerky, Alter Eco 85% dark chocolate bar, and/or packets or tins of wild salmon or sardines. I can't tell you how many times I've been stranded somewhere longer than anticipated and hungry and so thankful for my little stash! As the true saying goes, "Fail to plan and plan to fail..."

Wishing you a most delightful and delicious holiday season making many memories with your loved ones!

02 December 2014

The Biology of Food Addiction

The Calorie Hypothesis
Current view: Obesity is just lack of will power ...eat less, exercise more

This model fails because:

  1. Our body's wise compensatory mechanisms defend against weight loss by decreasing energy expenditure and increasing appetite as we diet
  2. High glycemic carbohydrates (like added refined sugars, sugar-sweetened beverages, refined grains, and starches) light up the nucleus accumbent - the brain's addiction center - promoting compulsive overeating of processed high glycemic foods
  3. Multiple other factors actually regulate metabolism: dietary composition, gut microbiome, toxic exposures, infections, allergens, nutrient status, mitochondrial dysfunction, and imbalance of hormones and neurotransmitters.
"Caloric-restricte traditional "diets" exacerbate metabolic dysfunction and actually lead to OVEREATING over the long-term"

A more accurate view...

  1. Poor diet quality, not calories is drive of obesity
  2. All calories not created equal
  3. Food is more than calories... it is information that programs genetic expression and changes metabolic state
  4. Diets don't work because they are not addressing fundamental drivers of excess caloric intake: physiologic addiction to refined carbs and sugar! 

Sugar is eight times more addictive than cocaine!

Experimental research reveals a commonality between addition to sugar and cocaine.
  • Both sweet taste and drugs of abuse, such as cocaine, stimulate release of dopamine in ventral stratum, critical in the process of reward-processing and learning
  • Cross-tolerance and dependance are seen in both sugar consumption and drugs of abuse. This means that over time it takes more and more of each to get the desired effect.
  • In one study, rats preferred saccharin over IV cocaine. In another, they chose sucrose over cocaine.

Compulsive Overeating Can Resemble Drug Addiction

Visceral Fat is "hungry" and may drive overeating behavior

  • Visceral fat is fat that is stored around your organs
  • These visceral fat cells are metabolically active and suck fuel out of your blood stream, making you eat more!
  • They secrete hormones and cytokines that promote weight gain and inflammation
    • Hormones such as adiponectin, insulin, resisting, leptin and MSH
    • Cytokines such as IL-6, TNF-alpha, and other pro-inflammatory molecules
  • Insulin release surges in response to high glycemic foods, creating more inflammation and obesity-promoting metabolism, more visceral fat storage = vicious cycle

Dietary composition more important than calories...

  • In this large European study, increase in protein content and a reduction in the glycemic index led to an improvement in study completion and maintenance of weight loss.
  • Another study shows a low-glycemic diet higher in fat and protein improves metabolic rate and energy.
  • Mice fed high-GI diet had almost twice the body fat of those on the low-GI diet after 9 weeks.
  • Athletes on ketogenic, high-fat diet had better performance, less fatigue

Bottom line: Latest research indicates that sugar consumption is an independent risk factor for many, if not ALL, chronic disease.

Do you need more reasons to stop eating sugar now?

Here are my recommendations for optimal health and weight:

  1. Quality of foods is essential... low glycemic load, high micronutrient and phytonutrient and fiber content = eat a rainbow of colors in your foods.
  2. Choose organic, pastured meats and wild fish
  3. Eat more vegetables and low-glycemic fruits, like berries and green apples
  4. Avoid all packages, processed foods - if it has more than 3-4 ingredients don't buy it!
  5. Limit high glycemic starchy foods, like white potatoes and white rice
  6. Eliminate gluten if you're sensitive and avoid ALL refined processed grains
  7. Avoid all hydrogenated and trans fats. Use organic butter, ghee, coconut oil, olive oil, avocado and other healthy fats freely
  8. Avoid genetically modified foods, like corn, soy, canola.

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