With the abundance of delicious foods, plenty of ‘cheer’ and undoubtedly a bit of stress mixed in, winding down from the holiday season is an excellent time to treat your cardiovascular system with some extra TLC.
“Find a healthy balance and practice moderation.” the Wise (wo)man said.
Data from studies on the top 15 health conditions over the last 20 years – heart disease (HD) is in the top 3 – indicates that diets high in animal foods, refined sugars and poor quality fats, equaled an increase in degenerative disease. Luckily HD responds very well to a healthy diet rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber, phytonutrients and healthy fats. Wise lifestyle choices such as smoking cessation, optimal body weight, regular exercise, minimal alcohol intake, stress reduction, blood sugar control and limiting exposure to toxins all improve your body’s ability to be healthy. For that extra boost of TLC practice forgiveness, be less critical of self and others, open your heart to love, and experience joy.
So what are antioxidants? These help to protect cells and arterial walls from oxidative stress caused by free radicals (FR) or damaged fats and reduce the risk of atherosclerosis. Some FR activity is good, but excesses from poor lifestyle choices can cause damage to healthy tissue. Phytochemicals, the elements that provide color, flavor and aroma to foods, and some vitamins & minerals are potent antioxidants. Natural, whole foods provide the best synergistic combination of these elements along with fiber that boost the immune system, ward off free radical damage and reduce inflammation.
Consume all the colors of the rainbow, fresh and organic if possible to limit toxins, raw or lightly cooked, every day. Be sure to include dark berries, apples, pineapple, papaya, avocados, tomatoes, broccoli, carrots, celery, beets, garlic and dark leafy greens for qualities that help prevent LDL oxidation, improve HDL, reduce high blood pressure, balance blood sugar levels and ultimately reduce your risk of HD. Include legumes, dried peas and beans, for similar benefits with the added bonus of being low in calories. When combined with whole grains, nuts or seeds, they provide a good alternate to meat. These also contribute further to the fiber, vitamin and mineral picture, particularly buckwheat, oat bran and wheat germ. Small amounts of nuts and seeds contribute too with flax, chia and walnuts containing extra healthy Omega 3 fats, also found in hemp seed and cold water fish such as salmon or sardines, canola, soybean (look for organic/non-gmo) Fat is an important topic when it comes to heart health and avoiding hydrogenated, trans-fats, deep fried foods is essential. An oil should remain an oil, most are heat and light sensitive and are best eaten raw. Let extra virgin olive oil become your best friend!
Flavor boosters to any dish – ½ tsp/day of ginger is said to boost the strength of the heart muscle, 1 clove garlic /day also improves peripheral circulation, turmeric contains curcumin which helps prevent clots and reduces inflammation, rosemary and thyme aid in preventing fats from going bad and have antioxidant properties.
Remember to treat yourself with TLC, moderate your intake of sugars, saturated fat and sodium, drink plenty of water, get some fresh air with family and friends and your heart will thank you!
Carol Pillar, R.H.N.
Registered Holistic Nutritionist
Fermented vegetables have a long tradition in Eastern cultures. They are rich in enzymes, nutrients and help feed the beneficial microorganisms in your gut to help keep you healthy and your immune system strong. Plus they are so easy to make! Take advantage of freshly harvested produce to make your favorite combination.
Recipe by cookbook author Hallie Klecker
Sterilize 2, 4 cup glass jars and lid. Dissolve 2 & 1/2 rounded tablespoons of sea salt in 5 cups of filtered water, set aside.
Chop a combination of veggies, green beans, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, cabbage.
Add optional flavoring such as garlic, ginger, dill seed, caraway, basil or oregano. Fill to 1″ of the top.
Stir salt water and pour in leaving 1/2″ to fit a small folded cabbage leaf snugly into the jar.
Press to submerge vegetables.
Place jars in a tray out of direct sunlight. Screw lids on tightly. (plastic may be used to avoid salt corrosion but I found they did not seal tight enough, the plastic coated lid of a pickle jar worked best – provided it is not damaged)
After 2 days undisturbed ‘burp’ your jars once/day to release gasses, re-tighten the lids, for a total fermentation time of 7-10 days. Store your jars in the fridge (they will keep for a few months) but be sure to enjoy the veggies in salads, or as sides to your main dishes!
When those zuc’s get so big you’re wondering what to do
with them, put some flavor back in with this wonderful
In a large bowl, mix & let stand overnight;
10 cups grated zucchini
4 cups chopped onion
1 green and 1 red pepper chopped
1-3 green jalapeno peppers finely chopped
5 tablespoons coarse Mediterranean sea salt
The following day drain & rinse with cold water, squeeze out excess water through a fine sieve.
Put in a large pan with;
1 cup each of white vinegar & apple cider vinegar
2 ½ cups brown sugar
½ tsp black pepper
1 tblsp each of nutmeg, dry mustard, turmeric
1 heaping tblsp of tapioca starch
2 tsp celery salt
Boil then simmer 45 minutes uncovered, stirring occasionally.
Use a slotted spoon to fill sterilized canning jars, put sterile
lids on loosely. Place on a tray in a 250 degree oven for 20 minutes.
Remove from oven, tighten caps. During cooling the caps should ‘pop’.
Who likes chocolate and strawberries? This is my new favorite for supporting a healthy gut and, amazingly it tastes great! Kefir is a fermented milk, long used to build a strong immune system by adding diversity to the gut flora.
In a blender or Ninja add
1 cup 100% orange juice
1 cup plain organic Kefir
1 banana, 1 cup rinsed frozen,
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tblsp ground flax
2 heaping teaspoons of pure cocoa
1 teaspoon fish oil, or 3 capsules squeezed, capsule discarded.
This is optional, but a great way to disguise the taste
yet get the benefits of Omega 3 fats!
Put a tangy “spring” into your morning! The colour says it all,
full of goodness and the added bonus of gut soothing aloe.
In a blender or Ninja
½ cup 100% pure coconut water (read the label, no additives)
½ cup “alo exposed” aloe juice with pulp
½ cup 100% pineapple juice (Oasis)
½ a banana
1 heaping cup of frozen raspberries,
Rinsed under warm water
Handful of fresh, washed cilantro
I also add granular Vitamin C, (calcium ascorbate) from a capsule
and about a teaspoon of fish oil (can squeeze from capsules)
to ensure I am getting enough of these essentials in my diet.
As a Nutrition Coach, I guide and support clients in a way that encourages the body to do the work of being well. Essentially I am a teacher with a wish to share knowledge of how food and lifestyle choices affect your state of wellness and how to make them work to your advantage. Sometimes our choices affect us in positive ways other times in negative ways. Too often we see people go down a path of ill health because they do not have a wellness plan in place.
Maintaining, or improving health does not have to be complicated so the purpose of my talks/articles are to get you not only thinking about your health but to help you take action.
Colds, flu, sore throat or strep, sinus infections, chest infections – sound all too familiar?
Wise protocols such as avoiding crowded areas, covering your mouth when coughing, sneezing, washing hands regularly may help to stop you picking up bugs, but really…
It all begins with a strong immune system.
- And this begins in-vitro with the health of your parents and as a newborn, through breast feeding and the passing on of antibodies.
- If you have symptoms such as allergies, recurrent or frequent infections, chronic fatigue, herpes outbreaks, auto-immune disease, inflammatory disorders (eczema, psoriasis), dysbiosis (yeast overgrowth, fungal infection or parasites) these are signs that your Immune system is under duress.
What makes up your Immune system?
- Primarily your white blood cells WBC and the Lymphatic system which includes nodes, vessels and organs that collect, transport and generate defender cells.
Organs include; Bone marrow -where B lymphocytes are made, responsible for producing antibodies.
Thymus –where T lymphocytes are produced, these can kill cells infected with viruses and activate other immune cells.
Spleen – the largest organ, clears cellular debris and is a blood reservoir
GALT – gut assoc. lymphatic tissue – tonsils, adenoids, appendix, Peyers patches in the small intestine. (this makes up approx 70% of Immune System)
How do we ensure a strong Immune System?
- Feed your body what it NEEDS, (not wants) – Provide the raw materials it needs to nurture, repair and fuel the body – it relies on quality nutrients to function optimally including the Immune system. Deficiencies of even one or two nutrients can impair its protective ability.
– Avoid processed, refined, artificial and overcooked foods, they are lacking in balanced nutrients and natural enzymes
– Limit caffeine, alcohol, saturated fats
– Eat plenty of whole, clean, unaltered foods
– raw, lightly steamed or sautéed
– Include health promoting EFA’s
– Ensure a balanced amount of protein intake from both animal and vegetable sources –quality is important. Protein is made of Amino acids, and these are essential for the synthesis of antibodies, (as well as enzymes and hormones). Sufficient enzymes for breakdown (+Zn)
– Holiday season! Don’t over-eat, particularly over cooked/ processed foods. Lots of enzymes and energy is required to digest large, heavy meals. WBC’s are enzyme rich so they will step in when demand is high, but this reduces the availability of these defenders to fight bacteria and pathogens.
- Support the beneficial flora in your gut.
– These guys have a symbiotic relationship with us – we support them, they support us, not only aiding digestion, but defending against the Nasties.
– Unlike the bad flora, who are more parasitic in nature, taking from our bodies, and leaving behind their waste products – toxins that must then be neutralized and eliminated (more energy consumption)
– Consuming nutrient dense foods, as in points already mentioned support better populations of the good guys.
– The addition of ‘live foods’ bolsters their numbers even more – fermented foods such as sauerkraut, organic miso, fermented soy, kefir, Kombuca (Rise tea), yogurt and sprouts.
– Avoiding refined foods (excess simple carbohydrates) and particularly sugars provides less of what the bad guys love to feed on.
- Be aware of the effects of some drugs
– Some directly inhibit immune function – immuno-suppressants, for AI diseases, medications for cancer treatment
– Antibiotics (as the word means anti – life) have their place for serious bacterial infections (not for viruses) but they also destroy the beneficial flora – this compromises the strength of your Immune system.
– Anti-bacterial soaps contain anti-microbials that can penetrate the skin and may not be so discerning between good and bad. Our largest organ – the skin is also a line of defense – over washing removes natural oils that help provide a natural barrier.
- Limit exposure to toxins. This is my #1 step to building better health
– Avoid food additives, preservatives, pesticides, altered foods, fragrances, pollution, cosmetics and personal products with heavy metals, petroleum, phthalates, parabens etc. These overburden the liver and some may affect the digestive tract creating an immune response which over time, depletes the system.
– Supporting the liver is therefore critical – foods containing chlorophyll or sulfur – greens, cruciferous, onions, garlic, lemon, beets, etc, and limiting alcohol are all beneficial along with staying well hydrated and allowing appropriate time for the detoxification process.
- Get regular exercise.
– Low to moderate activity is beneficial in so many ways – circulation, muscles and especially for the lymphatic system which does not have it’s own ‘pumping’ system.
– Repeated over-exertion causes tissue damage and a pro-inflammatory situation and therefore an immune response.
- Find ways to manage stress.
– Stress can upset normal digestive function – poor digestion can cause intestinal damage and affect the absorption of nutrients. (Celiac and IBD are extreme examples) The problem is two-fold – damage creates an immune response and deficiencies occur with poor absorption – micro-nutrients that are essential to a healthy glandular and immune system
- Maintain good sleep protocol
– Rest is the best medicine, ensure suitable quantity, and good quality.
What role do Free Radicals play and how do antioxidants help?
- Free radicals are the by-products of metabolism. They are electrically charged molecules that attack and damage cells. This of course causes an immune response. This attack is known as oxidative stress and shows itself through poor cardiovascular health, joint degeneration, muscle weakness and accelerated aging and ultimately over time weakens the immune system.
– If allowed to go unchecked auto-immune disease may also occur.
– Following all of the mentioned recommendations will prevent this from happening.
– Supplying Anti-oxidants helps prevent damage by FR. – dietary sources, plenty of fresh vegetables, fruit, whole grains provide Beta Carotene, vitamin C and E while minerals such as zinc and selenium from nuts/seeds, cacao beans, also play a role.
– Scientific studies have found that phytonutrients in foods – the elements that provide colour, flavor and smell to foods also have potent antioxidant properties. Berries are a good example, especially blueberries.
– Once again balance is essential and indiscriminate ‘popping’ of supplements can be counter productive.
– Selenium Essential trace min. best source Brazil nuts, fish, meat, eggs, whole grains, other nuts. Deficiency is associated with reduced immune cell counts so it is important in reducing disease progression. It aids in the absorption of iodine (thyroid), for cancer prevention, reduces incidence of Heart Disease by limiting oxidation of LDL. Best from foods, only supplement short term – excess = side-effects
- Vitamin D – Study by Donald W. Miller, Jr M.D.
– A fat soluble, steroid hormone, Vitamin D is involved in the expression of 200+ genes and the proteins they produce. – some involved as mediators that regulate the immune system. Research shows a link with influenza – occurring in the winter months with vitamin D deficiencies. D expressed genes instruct macrophages (immune system defenders) to make antimicrobial peptides that will attack and destroy influenza virus particles. Other D-expressed genes control the response to avoid over-reaction. Living above latitude 35 degrees North means we are unable to synthesize D from sunlight from Oct to April. Recommended Daily Amounts are insufficient as are ‘fortified’ foods. Oily fish contain some D.
Take D3 1000 – 5000 iu daily Skin can make 20,000 IU in 20 min. down south
Recipe makes 5 – 16 oz jars
Fall is the time to take advantage of the abundance of locally grown tomatoes, rich in vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that help keep you healthy.
Soak 12 to 15 medium to large tomatoes in boiled water to remove skins
Chop and Saute 2 large onions
4 large cloves of garlic
in a large pan with 1 tablespoon of butter
Chop (remove excess seeds) 10 cups of peeled tomatoes (preferably fresh farmers market organic) add to the pan along with;
2 cups yellow cherry tomatoes
2 tsps sea salt
1 tsp celery seed
1 tsp organic garlic powder
½ tsp Tabasco sauce
2 heaping tblsps brown sugar
2 tblsp dried oregano
Simmer for 1.5 hours to reduce
In the last 5 minutes of cooking add;
Handful of chopped fresh basil
Splash of Apple cider vinegar
If you prefer it thicker, dissolve 2 tblsp tapioca starch in water and stir in and simmer a few minutes.
Pour into hot mason jars (250 oven, 10 minutes, lids too), loosely cap, return to oven for ½ hour.
Tighten caps so they seal as they cool.
Try this for a wholesome desert – or breakfast! Chia is a seed that is rich in minerals and omega 3, along with soluble fiber which makes it a pudding-like consistency
Pour into a blender, or use a deep container with hand blender
2 cups unsweetened almond milk
1-2 teaspoons pure vanilla
or halve with 1 cup 100% pure orange juice
1 heaping tablespoon of pure cocoa powder (or more ;-))
1 – 2 tablespoons of local maple syrup or liquid honey
Blend on low.
Pour into a bowl and add ½ cup of Chia seeds, stir well.
Refridgerate, allow to sit a minimum of 4 hours or overnight.
Stir several times with a whisk to avoid lumping.
Top with berries, nuts or coconut flakes or with the orange version, tangerine pieces.