Adequate digestion is key to maintaining optimal levels of mental wellness. There is a direct relationship between the nutrient pool in our body and our brain chemistry, specifically of 5 neurotransmitters. These specific transmitters are responsible for moods, depression, anger management, problem resolution, and energy and activity levels. If we do not make the necessary nutrients available to the body from our food, we are unable to produce the proteins/neurotransmitters we need. Low levels of one or more essential amino acids results in low levels of one or more neurotransmitters, with resulting varying degrees of depression. Therefore, adequate digestion of proteins is crucial to mental health.
So much of our mental wellness is based on what nutrients are available to our bodies. Optimizing diet/nutrients and digestion is often the biggest "missing piece" when it comes to balancing our emotional health. While amino acids, vitamins, and minerals are crucial, we also cannot forget the role of fatty acids on mental health. They are required for the proper transport of nutrients into and out of our cells, they feed anti-inflammatory pathways (decreasing free radical production), and form the sheathing around nerves.
Ensuring proper digestion is of utmost importance for mental health. In order to properly digest food, we must be in a parasympathetic state when dining. Are you digesting what you eat?
I started making these coconut chicken nuggets for clients about 3 years ago and have yet to stop...hands down the number one request I get. They're simple to make and don't take long at all. Feel free to swap in a beaten egg for the coconut milk if you aren't doing AIP. I find they don't need a sauce, but never hurts to dunk in your favorite!
Yield: 2 servings
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup shredded coconut
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon onion powder
1⁄2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika (omit for AIP)
1. Preheat oven to 425F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper and set a cooling rack on top.
2. Combine shredded coconut with salt, onion powder, and garlic powder in a small dish. Pour coconut milk into separate dish.
3. Dip chicken pieces in coconut milk then seasoning mixture and place on baking sheet.
4. Bake for 12 minutes, then flip nuggets and continue baking for 13 minutes.
5. Remove from oven and cool.
You've probably heard of leaky gut by now, but what exactly is it? Leaky gut stems from an impaired digestive system which can lead to undigested fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Bacteria living in the gut release toxins as they break down these particles. The toxins damage the mucosal lining and loosen the tight junctions between the cells lining our gut. This leads to leaky gut, where these undigested proteins are leaking out into the bloodstream. The body recognizes the undigested food as an invading substance and starts the immune attack.
Should any of this concern you? Well, as more people make poor dietary choices, undergo chronic stress, and toxic overload, leaky gut is becoming more and more common. If you follow a Standard American Diet (SAD), you are probably struggling with gut issues. Below are some common signs and symptoms of a leaky gut:
If you think you have leaky gut, contact me for a Nutritional Therapy consult.
I've noticed over the years, one of the first things people want to know when they find out I'm a healthy chef and nutritional therapist, is what I eat for breakfast. Turns out breakfast is a confusing area for a lot of people, especially those on the paleo, low-sugar/carb train. People want delicious and filling but also fast, easy and little-to-no effort. I wish I could say I developed this recipe to fulfill that need for clients, but truth be told I just decided to throw all of my favorite things in a bowl one day a couple of years ago and have been eating it almost every day since!
Heart & Belly Breakfast Bowl
Yield: One serving
3 to 6 ounces ground 100% grass-fed bison, beef, or lamb
1 cup packed arugula
1 tablespoon diced red onion
1 1/2 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 small avocado, diced
Himalayan sea salt to taste (the more meat, the bigger the avocado, the more salt...the less meat, the smaller the avocado, the less salt, got it?)
I came across a new brand of AIP compliant coconut yogurt at my local health market that was way too tangy to use for dessert so I decided to do the next best thing with it...tzatziki! One jar of GT's Living Foods is enough for this entire recipe (chicken and sauce) but if you like your tzatziki as much as I do, I recommend picking up two jars and doubling the sauce recipe.
Yield: 10 drumsticks (serves 2-3)
10 chicken drumsticks
1/4 cup unsweetened plain coconut yogurt (I used this brand, but this or this would also work.)
2 tablespoons avocado oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic (approximately 4 cloves)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Zest of one lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup coconut yogurt
1/2 diced cucumber (approximately half of one medium cucumber, seeded and peeled)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon minced garlic (approximately 1 large clove)
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
I've been a longtime believer in natural skincare. Our skin is our second largest mouth, why on earth would we put chemicals on it?!? Over the last couple of years I've completely transitioned to only all simple oils as face and body moisturizers and have loved the results. I usually use one at a time depending on the season and how my skin is feeling, and my go-to favorite is rosehip seed oil (can we say immediate natural glow?!). However, this winter I've been playing around with grassfed beef tallow as a nighttime face and body treatment and can't get enough of it! I decided to throw all of the oils together into tallow to have one product I can use from head-to-toe while reaping all of the benefits. So what are those benefits?:
Tallow: Start with the basics...tallow is rendered Suet (the hard fat on the kidneys and loins of beef). The fatty acid profile of grassfed tallow is 50-55% saturated fat which is extremely close to the composition of the human skin cell. Deeply nourishing and has been used for ages as a moisturizer.
Jojoba Oil: A very hydrating oil that helps make the tallow easier to apply. It is a near match to our skin's sebum making it easily absorbed. It also has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties.
Evening Primrose Oil: Contains GLA, an essential fatty acid that nourishes the skin and protects healthy skin cells. Has anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce swelling, redness, and itching. Said to treat acne, eczema, and lighten dark spots.
Vitamin E Oil: One of my favorites for all my nasty chef cuts and burns! It's a miracle worker when it comes to fading scars. It blocks free radicals which is critical to the anti-aging process.
Rosehip Seed Oil: This oils is high in essential fatty acids that are great for dehydrated skin. It's has been said to work wonders on wrinkles and age spots and is a rich source of vitamin C which is chockfull of antioxidants which fight free radicals (read: cause of wrinkles). It's been said to firm skin, is easily absorbed, and provides an immediate natural glow. One of my all-time faves I've been using for years!
Lavender Essential Oil: An antioxidant booster which fights free radicals. Heals skin conditions, burns, cuts, and diminishes age spots. Also, smells yummy!
Frankincense Essential Oil: Said to reduce the appearance of age spots and sunspots and even out skin tone. Also has astringent properties and is used to help acne, reduce appearance of large pores, scars, stretch marks and wrinkles .
Yield: 1 cup
8 ounces grassfed beef tallow
2 tablespoons jojoba oil
2 tablepoons evening primrose oil
1 tablespoon vitamin E oil
2 teaspoons rosehip seed oil
10 drops lavender essential oil
5 drops frankincense essential oil
10 drops vanilla essential oil (optional for scent)
Yield: 2 Cups
4 large apples, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks (Gala work well!)
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 C filtered water
1/8 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
Anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, NSAIDS and steroids block normal prostaglandin function. What does this mean? Well...
Prostaglandins are hormone-like “messengers” that cells use to communicate with other cells. One function of prostaglandins is to control inflammatory function. There are three types: PG1 & PG3 (anti-inflammatory) and PG2 (pro-inflammatory). All three types are needed by the body. NSAIDS and steroids block normal prostaglandin functions by inhibiting the conjugation of Essential Fatty Acids into PG2, which in turn suppresses pain and inflammation. Unfortunately they also stop the production of PG1 and PG3 by competing with receptor sites in our bodies' prostaglandin pathways. The body needs to inflame to heal before it anti-inflames. Blocking this function delays and prevents healing and is ultimately extremely detrimental to natural healing processes.
So while you may be inclined to pop a pill for your headache, keep in mind the pills aren't targeted and affect the body as a whole. When prostaglandins get turned off by NSAIDs, other critical body functions also get turned off. In addition to inflammation, prostaglandins also play a role in hormone regulation, cell growth, stomach acid secretion, and fluid retention among others...NSAIDs alter every single one of these functions. Eek!
So what can you pop for those aches and pains then? A high quality fish oil supplement. Omega 3 fatty acids open PG1 & PG3 pathways (anti-inflammatory) and inhibit PG2 (pro-inflammatory).
Fats are important building blocks of the cells in the body. Cell membranes are made of a lipid bi-layer which consists of phospholipids, glycolipids, and cholesterol. This bi-layer regulates what can move in and out of the cell. Quality fats are needed to build the lipid bi-layer of the cell. A poor or low-fat diet will not provide the tools needed to create and maintain healthy cells. When rancid or hydrogenated fats are consumed, the body will use these fats to make up the cell wall which leads to a weakened cell. Weakened cells lead to a myriad of health issues.
Certain types of fatty acids are a critical fuel source, essential for hormones, managing inflammation & anti-inflammation and are required for fat-soluble vitamin absorption. Also maldigested fats become a form of assault on the small bowel, leading to leaky gut, food sensitivities, and ultimately increases our risk for Autoimmune conditions.
You may want to think twice before you reach for that bottled of water labeled "Distilled" thinking you're doing a body good! The distillation process of water removes minerals, organisms, and chemicals. The dangers of any water that has had the minerals removed is nutrient depletion. Because it contains no minerals, when consumed it tends to attract minerals AND toxins to balance with the other body fluids. It pulls heavy metals out of long-term storage but does not help your body excrete them. So now they are mobilized and may end up being picked up by brain cells or other nervous system tissue. Uh oh!
Bottom line...pure water is unnatural and does not exist in nature! It is man-made and our cells simply do not accept it as they have no use for it. Regular consumption can lead to mineral deficiencies, especially among those who may already be slightly deficient.