Don't Be a Statistic: Why You Need to Balance Your Blood Sugar
Insulin issues are the name of the 21st century disease game. At the current diagnosis rate, 1/3rd of all children will have Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is essentially accelerated aging due to increased oxidation from excess glucose in the blood; at this rate, we are priming a whole generation to lead a disease-riddled, expensive life. Not only does diabetes profoundly inhibit health, but it is also seriously expensive. Yearly, an individual will spend $13,700 and our country will spend $825 billion just to ameliorate the effects of a 99.99999% preventable disease (Harvard Chan School of Public Health, 2016).
Insulin resistance is the precursor to Type 2 diabetes, and 25% of the non-diabetic population are unknowingly insulin resistant (and 25% will go on to develop full-blown Type 2 diabetes). We need insulin to tell our cells how to deliver glucose out of the bloodstream and into tissue so it can be utilized for energy. The conversion of food to energy is foundational to life; when the body loses the ability to do this task correctly, a domino effect of disease ensues. This is why insulin resistance (also known as Metabolic Syndrome or Syndrome X) and diabetes are always accompanied by co-morbidities: neuro-degeneration, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, polycystic ovarian syndrome, cancer, etc. The underlying biochemical defect of all these chronic degenerative diseases is all the same: decreased sensitivity to insulin signaling.
So why does our body stop responding to insulin? It’s a combination of things- mainly sugar, processed foods and trans fats (the two go hand-in-hand), stress, and lack of exercise. Obviously, there is a lot of this in the modern world, and some individuals are more susceptible than others. When insulin signaling gets disrupted and excess glucose remains in the blood instead of being transported to the appropriate places, our internal environment shifts to a disordered state. The pancreas will begin secreting larger amounts of insulin to overcome to the lack of insulin signaling. So now, there is more than enough insulin in the blood but the cells simply can’t get the message because of all the misplaced glucose.
All that glucose floating around in our blood stream eventually oxidizes, clunking up our vessels and jeopardizing circulation. Think crusty bread- the same reaction that forms crust on bread forms clunks in our blood: the excess sugar molecules react with the proteins in our blood to form clunky, gloopy advanced glycation end-products (AGEs) which are seriously bad news. They stress our body out, contributing to further inflammation and stress and screwing up blood flow.
There is great biochemical diversity among individuals, so some folks can maintain this hyperinsulinemic (“excessive insulin”) state for a while without developing diabetes, while others develop it immediately. Folks with Syndrome X will have a cluster of signs and symptoms: abdominal fat, high blood pressure, elevated triglycerides, depressed HDL (“good” cholesterol), cognitive decline, poor circulation, etc. With excess glucose in the blood, the body goes into an alarm state because it knows that glucose isn’t supposed to be there. The body’s alarm state is inflammation. It starts firing off inflammatory cytokines (chemical messengers), tipping our bodies further and further in the direction of disorder and disease. It’s a vicious cycle and the one spinning the wheel is us. Our unfit lifestyle and dietary habits are fueling the diabetic fires.
When you tally all the potential pain and expense you’ll be sparing yourself by making some simple yet effective lifestyle modifications, the answer is easy: do it! You can reverse diabetes and Syndrome X- it will take time and effort, lots of vegetables, herbs, and exercise, but your renewed vigor and figure will outshine your longing for simple, refined sugars. When you start eliminating sugar and processed foods and then go back to them, you will be amazed by how excessively sweet they taste. We must shift our bodies back to states of efficient metabolism, smooth digestion, and clean elimination. It is our responsibility on earth to take care of our bodies.
There is a simple formula to re-sensitize our bodies to that ever-important chemical, insulin. You can follow these recommendations as closely or loosely as you’d like, depending on your degree of insulin resistance:
10 Steps for Better Blood Sugar Handling
1. Eat vegetables, protein, with every meal. A typical day could look like this: eggs and greens for breakfast; berries and nuts for snack; sautéed vegetables and pesto with chicken/mushrooms/fish for lunch; an apple and cheese for snack; lentils and salmon for dinner; 70% or higher dark chocolate with a fat glob of coconut oil and sea salt for dessert.
2. Stay away from fruit juices, tropical, and dried fruits. Berries are the best fruit choices, then things like apples, plums, pears, and citrus fruits. Avoid all processed food and refined sugar. Avoid all breads and grains, especially white bread. After a while, you can start incorporating a bit of good quality, whole and ancient grain treats: sprouted grain bread, whole-wheat sourdough, oatmeal, and buckwheat are some fine examples.
3. Eat the right veggies. Dark leafy greens, brassicas (cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, etc.), onions, zucchini, cucumber, squash, peppers, beans, tomatoes, turnips, radishes, lettuce, avocados, asparagus, carrots, parsnips… Wow! there are so many wonderful vegetables to eat. If you are concerned about blood sugar, it’s best to avoid super sweet starchy vegetables like sweet peas, white potatoes and corn. Starchy vegetables that are okay to eat include sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and Jerusalem artichokes.
4. Eat good fats with every meal. Omega 3s – essential for good health and lacking in the modern diet- shift bodies back to un-inflamed states. When we get our body to an un-inflamed state, it will begin to heal itself. Fish oils, walnuts, flaxseed oil, olive oil, and coconut oil are all good sources. Animal fat/butter are okay to eat in small quantities for they have many Omega 6s, which can shift our body back to inflamed states. Some body types, typically prone to constipation, are able to handle large amounts of good fats and need it for smooth digestion. For others, a modest amount of fat will do.
5. AVOID PROCESSED FOODS and TRANS FATS. Even if a processed food doesn’t have sugar, it is still playing a major role in perpetuating insulin resistance and inflammation. The more packaging and indiscernible ingredients, the more processed the food. Processed foods and trans-fats go hand and hand. Humans created trans-fats so they could turn liquid fat into a solid for transporting and processing purposes. Our bodies haven’t quite figured out how to process this new chemically structured fat. Therefore, it doesn’t get processed and just sits in the blood stream causing clunkiness and oxidation. Oxidized fats in the blood is a ticking time bomb for blood clots, heart attacks, stroke, etc. Sometimes, in a pinch you might have to rely on packaged food to fuel you. But feed your cells the right way! Instead, choose nuts, seeds, beef jerky, or a piece of fruit for a quick snack.
7. Get a good quality probiotic and eat fermented foods. Every aspect of our being is dictated by the bacteria in our gut (Salina Nelson, 2016). The bulk of our immunity and neurotransmitters is maintained and manufactured by our gut bacteria. They unlock crucial vitamins and minerals and make nutrients available to us. Gut dysbiosis – an unhealthy bacterial state in our tummies- effects our whole body. Gut dysbiosis, which largely results from lack of vegetables (they eat fiber), excessive sugar, trans-fats, and processed foods, is marked by inflammation. Remember: when our bodies shifts to the alarmed state of inflammation, everything malfunctions. Dr. Ohhira probiotics are a great choice. Stay away from cheap probiotics at convenient stores and those that need refrigeration (probiotics should be shelf stable).
8. Exercise. Move every day. Don’t sit down so much. Little subtle movements add up: use the stairs; bend at the knees rather the hips when you pick something up; take a 30 minute walk after dinner; do ten pushups during your bathroom break (and then wash your hands and smell your pits); stretch. Exercise increases insulin sensitivity, lubricates hungry joints, and facilitates circulation so that life-giving blood can travel to all the places it needs to go. Exercise reduces stress, too. Stress hormones cause inflammation. Are you seeing
9. Don’t eat past 8 PM. It is a bad health habit to go to bed on a full tummy. Digestion takes a lot of energy. Even though we are sleeping, our bodies are still working if we have to digest food and alcohol while we sleep. Night-time is time for our detoxifying organs to do rejuvenation and maintenance work. If you are starving, a small snack is fine.
10. HERBS and MINERALs.
While food and lifestyle habits are foundational, herbs and minerals help wake up our cells to insulin signaling and help us efficiently utilize the fuel we are ingesting. Here are some common herbs and minerals known to improve insulin sensitivity and sugar handling:
-Bitter melon, Momordica charantia
-True cinnamon, Cinnamomum verum
-America Ginseng, Panax quinquefolius
-Triphala (a traditional Ayurvedic blend)
-Turmeric, Curcuma longa
-Fenugreek, Trigonella foenum-graecum
-Licorice, Glycyrrhiza glabra
-Blueberry leaf, Vaccinium ssp.
-Mulberry leaf, Morus ssp.
-Any bitter herb (Milk thistle, Artichoke, Gentian, Wormwood)
-Moringa, Moringa oleifera
Any adaptogenic herb is also great to take daily. Adaptogenic herbs strengthen our body’s complex reactions to stress. They are generally regarded as safe to take daily and come in many different forms. Find the one that works with your body. I like Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) and Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum/tenuiflorum).
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Like Julia Child says, “Everything in moderation, even moderation”. Treat sweets and breads like just that - a treat! When you do this, your appreciation and enjoyment of them will enhance greatly.
Head over to our online shop to check out our Healing Harvest Tea, designed to enhance digestion and blood sugar handling
Inflammation and How Gold Dust Might Help
Turmeric’s popularity has skyrocketed in the last few years, and for good reason - this Ginger family root can answer many a modern malady. Why is it so effective for such a large range of common complaints? Two words: PROLONGED INFLAMMATION.
In fact, prolonged inflammation is such a common source of pain and disease and it has been called “the root of all disease” in western medicine (1 in 3 Americans suffer from an inflammation-caused disease). There is some truth to this - but rather than simply treating inflammation on the spot, we are wise to look a bit deeper as to what is causing this prolonged inflammatory reaction.
But first, we have to define inflammation. Oftentimes, these health buzzwords get thrown around so much that we forget the meaning. Inflammation is simply our bodies response to some type of adverse stimuli such as an injury, infection, or general imbalance. The inflammatory response triggers our body’s immune system to kick into action and start the healing process. Inflammation is designed to treat acute/short-term issues. You cut yourself- a scab forms and mends the skin. You catch the flu- a fever comes and goes. Sometimes, however, when the body feels an onslaught of adverse effects, it is unable to return to homeostasis and the immune system stays turned on. Overtime, you can imagine that this majorly wears the system out.
Back in Roman times, Inflammation was defined by 5 characteristics: redness, aching, swelling, heat, (calor, dolor, rubor, tumor) and loss of function. Have you ever felt any of these in an injury? Sometimes, if an injury (internal or external) is unable to heal, the long-term affect is illness. And to be clear, an injury doesn’t have to be something as clear as breaking your leg. Injuries can look like lingering damage from a bad cold, knicks in your arteries from clunky blood, or most commonly these days - chronicaly inflamed guts from eating foods our body doesn’t understand how to digest. A few examples of inflammation induced diseases are: arthritis, asthma, cardiovascular disease, Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, MS, and fibromyalgia.
The goal is to allow an inflammatory response to do its job. As soon as you see signs of inflammation, address them before chronic inflammation takes hold yielding much more complicated problems.
Apart from addressing diet and lifestyle factors, we have a favorite anti-inflammatory drink that is well-balanced and therefore pleasing to the majority of constitutions out there. We call it GOLD DUST and it features Turmeric, Eleuthero, Fenugreek, Maca, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Cardamom, and Black Pepper.
How to Make the Perfect Cup of GOLD DUST
Here are a few of our favorite ways to enjoy this delightfully warm and sunny drink:
THE MILKY WAY- Gently heat 8-12 oz of your favorite milk in a saucepan. We like raw cow's milk, coconut milk, cashew milk, or hemp milk for this. You want the milk very hot but not simmering (if you overheat raw milk, it deactivates all the goodies inside). Meanwhile, add 1 tsp of Gold Dust to a mug. Pour the hot milk over the Gold Dust. Add 1/2 tsp maple syrup, honey or agave. Use a hand frother and froth to perfection (alternatively, mix it up in a blender). Top with a dollop of whipped heavy cream or coconut cream and a cinnamon sprinkle. Enjoy in place of coffee, as an afternoon pick-me-up or post-dinner dessert.
THE ATHLETE- Bring 8-12 oz of filtered water to a simmer in a saucepan. Meanwhile, add 1 tsp of Gold Dust to a mug. Cover with simmered water, 1 scoop collagen (coupon code #OCEANLOVE for 10% off!), 1 tsp coconut oil, coconut butter, or MCT oil. Use a hand frother and froth to perfection (alternatively, mix it up in a blender). Top with a pinch of cayenne and cinnamon. Enjoy after a workout or to nourish you on busy mornings.
THE COLD SHOULDER- Mix 2 tsp of Gold Dust and 1 tsp honey or maple syrup in ~1/4 c very hot filtered water until completely incorporated. Add 12 oz of your favorite cold milk (we like almond or coconut for this). Blend up with some ice and enjoy on a sunny day.
The Herbs In Gold Dust
All images from Creative Commons Flickr; Steve, Heather, Utilisima, Sh.fernando, cpmkutty, Kata Tolgyesi.
The keto diet is buzzing right now, but what exactly does it mean, and is it for everyone?
Well, ketosis is pretty cool for a number of reasons. Whether you are aware of it or not, your body has likely entered ketosis from time to time.
We enter ketosis in 2 scenarios:
-when we deprive our bodies (almost completely) of glucose
-when we fast for ~12-15 hours
Ketosis isn't an all or nothing deal. We can be in mild or full-fledged ketosis, or not at all. When glucose isn't available as a result of one of the above scenarios, Ketones are created as an alternate fuel. At this point, some interesting things happen.
In even mild ketosis, our antioxidant production is ignited (up to 150 g antioxidants/day). Ketosis also stimulates the production of beta hydroxybutyrate, the ultimate source of fuel for mitochondria. These guys are the powerhouses of our cells and when they aren't firing correctly, you can expect disease to set in. Ketones help mitochondria produce ATP. By increasing ATP, ketones reduce the generation of free radicals, increase production of endogenous glutathione, and act as an anti-inflammatory agent.
Ketones also reduce inflammation and oxidation throughout the body but especially in the brain. This is because the brain rapidly takes up ketones, an easily digestible fuel source that is small enough to cross the blood brain barrier (the liver converts MCTs to ketones). If ketones are present even at low levels they increase cerebral blood flow as much as 40%. Studies have shown that increasing ketones is a great strategy to block ionizing radiation and for controlling tremors.
To maximize ketones:
-Reduce carbs. This doesn't have to look like cutting them out completely. In fact, having such a stark transition from a carby diet to none at all can cause some crazy symptoms like the carb flu, the keto rash, and other undesirable effects. Be gentle with your body and remember that it doesn't like extremes but rather thrives in moderation. We like to follow the diet recommended through the RESTART program, allowing for non-starchy vegetables and low sugar fruits while avoiding starchy carbs, refined sugars, grains, and processed foods (RESTART will be offered again in January 2020 Athens, GA peeps!)
-Use a form of intermittent fasting by eating in a 6-8 hour span. This could look like not eating after 7 pm and waiting until 11-noon to eat your first meal the next day. Use MCT oil, grass fed butter, coconut butter, or coconut oil in your coffee or tea to sustain you until your first meal
-make these keto muffins! Recipe below :)
6 large eggs
1/4 c olive or toasted sesame oil
½ cup tahini (on the runnier side is best-we love this kind)
1 c raw cashews
½ c raw pumpkin seeds
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
Sesame seeds and/or pumpkin seeds to garnish
Preheat oven to 350. Use butter and almond flour to grease and flour a muffin tin.
Add all ingredients listed in order to a food processor or high powered blender. Blend well until you have a completely smooth, creamy batter. Use a spoon to drop the batter into the greased and floured muffin tins. I find a spoon the easiest tool to work with. Continue adding more batter until all 12 muffin holes are filled up (all the batter should be used up at this point).
Top with sesame and flax seeds and put on middle rack in oven for 35 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before popping out your muffins. Let cool completely before storing in an airtight container in the fridge for a few weeks or the freezer for much longer. They will last on counter for 3 days. I like to have these on hand for a quick breakfast with an egg or smothered in your favorite nut butter.
"Soasted Nuts = Soaked + Toasted "
Is nothing is sacred anymore?
Sometimes it feels this way when it comes to food: one day your swapping out your jerky for raw nuts and raisins because your on a health kick only to find out that dried fruit is high histamine and raw nuts damage your gut. Or maybe you switched out your morning bacon and eggs for oatmeal to learn that anti-nutrients in the oats are causing that bloating and brain fog you started experiencing. But you are just trying to be healthy? Why has everything gotten so complicated?
Well we are here to decode some health food conundrums and provide tools to help you eat your way to your best life!
Here's the Truth
1. Our agricultural systems are colluded with chemicals
2. Our modern food processing techniques render once nutritious foods potentially deleterious to health.
1. Our modern food supply chain is messed up. We are fortunate that most of us have access food in the US, but that doesn't negate the fact that our agricultural systems are tainted with chemicals disturbing our body's natural function. It's not coincidence that the rate of autoimmunity has sky-rocketed in recent years, perfectly paralleling our unparalleled us of dangerous herbicides in agricultural production. Take the highly contentious weed-killer, glyphosate. The US sprays more of this stuff than any other country at over 1.8 million tons every year. Glyphosate, or Roundup, is present in 90% of foods tested by the government (this includes honey!). Once in the body, glyphosate mimics glycine - a foundational amino acid our immune system uses to keep us healthy.
Learn more about the crops most heavily sprayed with glyphosate here.
2. Modern industrial food processing techniques are not helping.
Canned beans, cereals, and oily roast nuts may be convenient but they are not doing us any favors. These processes may mimic the way our ancestors prepared food, but they simply aren't the same and could be an underlying cause to your health concerns.
Take a bouillon cube. In one MSG & sodium soaked golden cube, we have replaced the art of creating broth. Real broth made with bones and veggie slowly simmered for long periods of time, is one of the most universally nutritious foods humans have ever created - a far cry from what's in most store-bought soups today. In today's world, the classic sick food- a can of Campbell's chicken noodle soup - is probably doing more damage than good for someone trying to get well. Just look at the ingredients:
Wheat (glyphosate), Eggs, Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid, Chicken Meat, Contains Less Than 2% Of: Salt, Chicken Fat, Water, Monosodium Glutamate (MSG, glyphosate), Cornstarch (glyphosate), Modified Food Starch (basically MSG), Dehydrated Chicken Broth, Cane Sugar (why?)
The same goes for "heart healthy" nuts. Most nuts sold in the store these days are roasted at high heat in nasty rancid vegetable oil - a far cry from something that is heart healthy. Raw nuts are a step better but our ancestors weren't eating raw nuts by the handful like advertisements would tell us is a good idea, no matter who you are.
What is a Nut?
Nuts is a blanket term for a TON of different nuts, seeds, beans, and pseudo nuts that we clump together as one food category when in fact, they are all quite botanically unique. For example, certain brands will put cashews, almonds, and peanuts together and call it a "nut mix" when these 3 foods represent incredibly diverse plants- one is a tree, one is a bean, and one is an exterior seed (check out Cashew apples- pretty crazy!). This means that some "nuts" might work fine with you, but others might be very irritating. Many people have allergies or sensitivities to some "nuts" but not others (which is a dangerous situation when you buy these "nut mixes"). Many nuts are also high FODMAP which means it can cause digestive distress in some individuals.
"Nuts" contain a TON of potential energy. Remember, a little walnut was meant to become a massive walnut tree one day. Plus "nuts" have been pegged as the ultimate health food, making people much more likely to over-indulge in handfuls of these potent tree droppings because they are "healthy". This has a doubly deleterious effect: excessiveness in any form or fashion is the antithesis to health AND you are consuming a ton of potential energy that will eventually wreck havoc on your metabolism and digestive system.
Neither is ideal.
Sometimes the roasted nuts are "dry roasted", meaning no extra oils have been added. However, they are often roasted at exceptionally high heats that damage their delicate fats & denature proteins. More often than not, these nuts are roasted in one of the following oils : soybean, cottonseed, canola, rapeseed, or sunflower. While these oils are called "vegetable oils" to entice us into thinking they are healthy, they are major inflammatory agents in the modern diet... and they are EVERYWHERE!
These oils are often rancid and degraded.
The compounds in veggie oils, naturally protected by the seed/nut's outer coat, are incredibly sensitive to light and heat (for a gruesome analogy, think of how sensitive we would be to the light if we scrubbed away our protective skin- ouch!). The modern processes that produce these oils strip the seed (often using caustic solvents) and expose it to light & heat - the very things that destroy their fragile compounds and fats. Not only do these oils rancidify quickly, but they are often stored in clear plastic bottles exposed to heat during storage and transportation, and we all know that hot plastic means leaching of plastic-y stuff into the oil. No thanks!
They are exceptionally high in inflammatory Omega 6s.
While Omega 6s are an essential fatty acid that serve an important role, they are highly inflammatory when out of balance with Omega 3s. Since every processed food has some form of these veggie oils, we are operating at a major imbalance. Consider this: We function best with an Omega 3:6 ratio of 1:1. The Average American is working with an inflammatory ratio of 1:20!!!
Store-bought nuts typically come in two categories = raw or roasted.
Raw nuts don't have the dangers of being roasted in rancid oils, but they do contain naturally occurring anti-nutrients.
Anti-nutrients represent a variety of phytochemicals that plants produce to protect themselves from predation and degradation. Historically, our ancestors used gentle means to dissolve these anti-nutrients, like soaking and slow roasting (aka, SOASTING) their nuts for optimal nutrition and ease of digestion. Take phytic acid. This form of bound-phosphorous serves to protect seeds from damage and oxidation until germination. When we eat high amounts of phytic acid, however, it binds to minerals our gut causing irritation and potential nutrient deficiencies. Some nut-loving animals create an enzyme, phytase, to break phytic acid, but no so much humans.
Enzyme inhibitors are another class of anti-nutrients found in nuts and seeds. While they keep the nut/seed from sprouting too soon, they also bind to key minerals in the gut. For these reasons, nuts and seeds also elicit an immune response - which is why they are avoided in the AIP diet and why so many folks have allergies (hyper-active immune response) to them.
The Benefits of Soasting Nuts & Seeds
-De-activation of anti-nutrients
-Less digestive discomfort & potential inflammatory response
-Better availability and assimilation of key nutrients
Soaking nuts and seeds in a salt water solution and roasting at a low heat neutralizes anti-nutrients while keeping the beneficial fats and proteins safe and intact. Soasting nuts also increases the bioavailability of important minerals like B-vitamins while activating enzymes for better absorption. Soasting nuts is a simple, easy process but it's not quick - which is why it's been left out of the industrial food model.
This is the way we soast our nuts!
Soasting really couldn't be simpler. It's a combination of soaking your ideal nut or seed for at least 7 hours in sea salt water (although 12-24 is ideal for most hard nuts), rinsing, and toasting on a very low heat for many hours. While dehydrating or toasting below 150 preserves 100% of the delightful nutrients and fats inside, we've found that cranking the oven up to 200 the last 5 or 10 minutes adds a to-die-for crispness that is just worth it to us. Like all things health related, just do your best. Soasted nuts at 200 F is loads better than store-bought roast nuts.
Sometimes we go the extra mile with pre-toasting additions, like a few blobs of coconut oil, olive oil, or ghee, more sea salt and freshly ground black pepper or for a sweeter touch - a bit of maple syrup drizzled along with turmeric and cinnamon.
*Technically you are supposed to roast below 150 F for optimal nutrition, but many folks don't have this setting on their oven and/or they don't have a dehydrator.
We are in the camp of just doing your best - soasting at 200 F is wayyyy better than not soasting at all.
For our complete guide to soaking nuts and grains - visit this link. For more info on soaking and cooking grains, check out this article.
Developing a Healthy Relationship with the Sun
Sunscreen, sunblock, SPF, UVA, UVB… we’re all too familiar with these summer-time terms and yet they perplex us all the same. Is SPF 50 really that much better than SPF 45? And how do they calculate those numbers anyways? Why does it burn when I rub it into my face, and how often should I reapply?
Yes, we want to protect our skin from excessive exposure, but it is only natural to seek the sun after a winter filled with cold and clouds. And of course, most can’t deny the desire for that sun-kissed, summertime glow.
But that’s just it: sun-kissed has become equated to cancer-kissed in the modern world. We are scared to go outside and rightfully so: study after study confirm that the sun is determined to fry us to a crisp and turn all our skin cells against us. And now there’s all this talk of sunscreens actually causing cancer and destroying coral reefs.
Interestingly, even though there are more sunscreens and media coverage than ever before, cases of malignant melanoma are rising every year, representing a 200% increase from 1975 to 2013¹. How could this be if our awareness and product access is better than ever?
Well, the answer is complex, but here are some key points:
In a nutshell, UVA and UVB represent different wavelengths. UVB is highest around solar noon (11 am- 2 pm) and is critical for Vitamin D absorption. UVA rays are much more intense, seeping deeper into your skin cells and causing more free radical damage. UVA is also present all hours of the day whereas UVB is low in morning and afternoon 6.
While supplements exist and offer some benefit, the most efficient and effective way to absorb Vitamin D is through direct sun exposure- 15-25 minutes a day, especially during the sun-rich spring and summer months around noon (remember this is when beneficial UVB is at its highest!). The more skin exposed the better! Our body stores up Vitamin D during the warm months to use all year long. This partially explains why many of us come down with the flu or other viral and bacterial infections in the late winter months; our bodies Vitamin D stores have dropped to their lowest point. The darker your skin, the more time you will need in the sun. You can always get your Vitamin D levels checked- 40 ng/ml is minimum; 50-70 ng/ml is ideal 6. As a supplement during the dark days of winter, we like Bio-emulsified Vitamin D by Biotics.
Our Responsible Sun-lover TIPS
Prioritize your body’s largest organ this summer season. Practice responsible sun exposure, hydrate, eat right, protect, and rejoice the wonders of the sun!
1 Melanoma of the Skin - SEER Stat Fact Sheets. (2016). Seer.cancer.gov. Retrieved 30 May 2016
2 NTP Board of Scientific Counselors Report on Carcinogens Subcommittee Report on Carcinogens Background Document for Broad-Spectrum Ultraviolet (UV) Ra
3 Planta, M. (2011). Sunscreen and Melanoma: Is Our Prevention Message Correct?. The Journal Of The American Board Of Family Medicine, 24(6), 735-739.
4 Carina Storrs, S. (2016). Many sunscreens have lower SPF than labels claim. CNN. Retrieved 30 May 2019
5 NTP Board of Scientific Counselors Report on Carcinogens Subcommittee Report on Carcinogens Background Document for Broad-Spectrum Ultraviolet (UV) Ra
6 Mercola, J. (2011). Sun Can Actually Help Protect You Against Skin Cancer. Retrieved 3 May 2019
7. Grant, W. B., & Holick, M. F. (2005). Benefits and requirements of vitamin D for optimal health: a review. Altern Med Rev, 10(2), 94-111.
8. Coronado, M., De Haro, H., Deng, X., Rempel, M. A., Lavado, R., & Schlenk, D. (2008). Estrogenic activity and reproductive effects of the UV-filter oxybenzone (2-hydroxy-4-methoxyphenyl-methanone) in fish. Aquatic Toxicology, 90(3), 182-187.
9. Rosebrook, J. (2017) The Best Sunscreen - Understanding Zinc Oxide SPF And The Nutrient Day Cream. Retrieved 5 May 2018
10. EWG (2017).The Problem With Vitamin A, https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/report/references/ Retrieved. 5 May, 2019
¾ c almond flour
½ c arrowroot starch
1 tbsp coconut flour
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
Hefty pinch sea salt
¼ c melted unrefined coconut oil
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp molasses
Preheat oven to 350. Meanwhile, stir molasses, syrup, and melted coconut oil until evenly incorporated. In another bowl, mix all the dry ingredients. Slowly add the dry ingredients into the oil blend, mixing well. The dough should come together quite nicely.
Transfer the dough onto parchment paper about 8 in. long or onto a silpad. Both work. Wet your fingers (so dough doesn’t stick) and gently press out the dough until it’s about ¼-⅛ in thick (like a graham cracker!) and in a giant rectangle shape. Use a fork to pierce the dough like you see on store-bought graham crackers evenly throughout (this keeps the crackers especially flat and uniform). You can use a rolling pin or another piece of parchment paper to achieve this, but I find wet fingers works just fine.
Bake for 10-12 min until fragrant and golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool just a bit before using a knife to slice into graham cracker shapes. I like squares but sometimes do long pieces. Let cool completely before storing in freezer for weeks!
Add ½-1 c chocolate chips for chocolate chip graham crackers
Add 1 tbsp turmeric + pinch black pepper for golden grahams
Add 2 tbsp cacao + 1 tsp vanilla for chocolate graham crackers
Add 1 tbsp pysllium + 1 tbsp flax seed for fiber graham crackers
Top with toasted oats + chopped pecans for a nutty fix!
We love the convenience of store-bought, quality energy bars, but we loathe the packaging and often times high price.
That's why we created our own take on Rx Bars... HGRX Bars! Our bars cost a fraction to make and store beautifully. Plus, the have the added fiber of Psyllium Husk powder and flax meal.
Psyllium Husk is an incredibly effective soluble fiber brought to you by none other than Plantain, Plantago ovata. Soluble means it absorbs water as it passes through your colon, pulling out toxins, regulating your bowels, and normalizing constipation, diarrhea, blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels, and even helping with weight loss through metabolism support. Just be sure to drink lots of liquids when you increase your fiber intake because fiber with no liquids can have the opposite effect of backing of your bowels and causing discomfort.
HGRx Bar Recipe
1 c nut butter
⅓ c raw cashews
¼ c coconut oil
½ c toasted oatmeal (simply bring a pan to medium heat and toast until fragrant and golden)
½ c flax meal
1 c juicy dried, pitted dates (it is important that your dates aren’t super dried out and still have some fleshiness to them
3 tbsp psyllium husk (optional but excellent for added fiber)
2 tbsp molasses
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
Hefty pinch of sea salt
½ c dark chocolate chips for topping
Line a 10 x 10 baking pan with parchment paper.
In a high-powered blender, mix all the ingredients except the chocolate chips. It works best to blend the first 5 ingredients first. Then add the dates, pulsing until they are mostly pulverized. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until mostly smooth. A few cashew or date chunks is a-okay.
Transfer all the dough onto the parchment paper with a spatula. Using wet fingers, press the dough evenly into the pan. Top with the chocolate chips, scattering them evening and gently pressing them into the dough. Freeze for 20 minutes and then slice. Store in an airtight container in the freezer or fridge for weeks.
No need for measuring cups and spoons- our wild weed pesto is as versatile as it is tasty. We encourage you to use your senses to make this tasty green dip rather than relying on exact measurements. There are three reasons for this:
Herb Girls' Wild Green-sto (Green Pesto)
Plants in the “wild” (or your backyard!) have more vitamins and minerals than those grown commercially and organically (although organically-grown crops are typically more nutrient-dense than commercial). This is because wild plants have to create all their own defenses since no one is looking after them and providing them nutrients and protection.
Over time, we have selectively chosen those plants that are the juiciest and tastiest for cultivation, but in the process, we have bred out some of their wild medicine. For example, crabapples foraged in the wild aren’t as tasty as a Honeycrisp from the store, but they have way more phytonutrients (Check out Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson for more information on this).
Furthermore, when you begin to rely on food close at hand- no matter how small or infrequent- you ARE doing your part to reduce your carbon footprint. A lot of times, we can become overwhelmed with the environmental degradation going on around us that it makes us feel helpless... don't live into this defeatist mentality! There are many things you can do! But we must remember that this planet is perfectly designed and incredibly resilient, responding to the smallest, most incremental shifts. Also remember that if everyone makes little changes here and there, this adds up to massive shifts over time!
A simple way to ensure you are getting some wild plant power every day + reducing your carbon footprint is to include some foraged plants in your daily life. This is very easy and tasty to do with our green-sto.
3 handfuls arugula or spinach
1-2 handfuls wild plants like violet leaves, nettle, dandelion leaves, yarrow, chickweed, young sassafras leaves, young hibiscus leaves, and/or young sourwood leaves
1/4 c tahini
1/3 c olive oil
1 handful pumpkin seeds
1 handful walnuts
1 tsp miso
1 squeeze dijon mustard
juice and zest of 1-2 lemons
½ c frozen peas (the sweetness really balances the bitterness of wild herbs)
Sea salt and crushed black pepper to taste
Add all ingredients to a blender/food processor and blend until smooth, adding more or less olive oil, lemon, or salt to get the right flavor profile. Store in bulk mason jars in the freezer or spoon into silicone ice cube trays for individual servings.
Adaptogens are all the rage these days, and it makes sense! We live in a chronically stressed world and adaptogens promise the ability to improve our stress-handling capacities. The only problem is this: we are using that same magic-bullet mentality with herbal adaptogens as we do with synthetic drugs. Got a headache? Take 2 tylenol. Mucusy? Take some mucinex. Stressed out? Take some Ashwaghanda!
There is some truth to this mentality: when we are hurting, we want to take action to resolve our issues. We crave a quick fix so we can get on with our busy lives. However, herbal medicine provides slow and steady solutions for long-term resolution. Herbal medicine practiced correctly promises ultimate alleviation from our maladies by seeking out the root of the problem.
There are over 20 known adaptogens, and while all of them do increase our adaptive energy, work on our nonspecific immunity, influence our HPA axis, and function amphoterically (balancing in nature), they all have different energetics.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera, Solanaceae), for example, is an amazing adaptogen and incredibly popular these days (I find it on the shelves at TJ Maxx of all places!), but it is powerful and not for everyone. While herbs can be safe, herbs used improperly can hurt you. Ashwagandha is a very yang plant, energetically. By yang, we mean that it generates outward energy, as opposed to yin plants, that are more building, nourishing, and moistening in nature. Ashwagandha is warm, hot, and generates energy for work and endurance. This is why athletes love it so much. However, Ashwagandha might be too much for the average American who is already living a yang-dominant life, meaning they are always on the go and always exerting energy. Ashwagandha can also irritate hyperthyroid conditions, so you definitely want to stay away from this plant if you have any sort of high thyroid condition. Lastly, many people are sensitive to Nightshade plants, such as tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers. Ashwagandha is a Nightshade, so avoid this adaptogen if you have Nightshade-induced inflammation.
For our fat balls, we balance the yang (think of the hot, drying outward energy of the sun as yang) power of Ashwagandha with the gently nourishing yin (think of the cool, moistening inward energy of the moon as yin) power of Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus, Liliaceae), a lesser-known but equally amazing adaptogen. Shatavari is generally "safer" than Ashwagandha for it doesn't directly influence the thyroid and it moistens and restores exhausted, dried out tissue. Our culture has enough outward, busy energy. Focusing on nourishing tissues by using more moistening Shatavari is a good practice for adaptogen use.
We infuse our fat balls with the carminative, calming nature of Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum, Zingiberaceae) and increase the bioavailabilty of our adaptogen medicine by decocting the powdered roots in coconut butter and grass-fed butter before making the batter.
We hope you enjoy our recipe, and please leave your questions in the comment section below!
Balanced Yin-Yang Fat Balls
1/2 c Coconut oil, melted
1/4 c grassfed butter
1/4 c coconut butter
10 green cardamom pods (or 1 1/2 tsp cardamom powder)
1/3 c Shatavari powder
1 1/2 tbsp Ashwagandha
3 tbsp Red Reishi powder
1 cup coconut shreds (toasted if you prefer this taste over raw)1/2 c almond butter
1 cup raw cashews, soaked and toasted
2 tsp cinnamon
3 medjool dates (pitted)
1/3 c. almond or coconut milk
pinch sea salt
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
2 tbsp cacao nibs
In a saucepan, heat up coconut oil, coconut butter, grass-fed butter, vanilla, cardamom + Ashwagandha, Shatavari, and Red Reishi powders. Bring to a slight simmer, stirring often. Let slightly simmer for about 5 minutes or until the butter is fragrant (this a crucial step to fully decoct all the medicine from the adaptogens).
In a blender, pulse all the other ingredients except the milk, cacao nips and chocolate chips. Add the milk a little a time, scraping down the sides and processing until a sticky dough forms. Add the cooled, decocted adaptogen mixture. Transfer the mixture to a sealable container and refrigerate at least 2 hours (this makes it easier to form into balls later on). Once refridgerated, roll into 1" diameter balls, coating in cocoa powder, extra Shatavari powder, or coconut shreds for a decorative touch. I like to sprinkle with a bit more sea salt. In an airtight container, keep in the refrigerator for up to 10 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months
We can't get enough of this bread... can we even call it bread? With no flour but all the delicious fluff, this bread offers the warm crusty satisfaction of a hearty sandwich loaf with none of the associated bloat, puffiness, inflammation, and blood sugar spikes. We love it toasted with a great glob of grass-fed butter and a sprinkling of sea salt.
6 large eggs
1/4 c olive or sesame oil
½ cup tahini (on the runnier side is best)
1 tablespoon coconut sugar or maple syrup
1 c raw cashews
½ c raw pumpkin seeds
2 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
Sesame and/or flax seeds to garnish
Preheat oven to 350. Line a standard loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving enough hanging over the edge to pull out the bread when it’s ready.
Add all ingredients in listed order and blend well in blender or food processor - you want a completely smooth, creamy batter. You will likely need to scrape down the sides. Use a spatula to empty mixture into your lined loaf pan. It will be sticky! Wet your spatula and smooth out the top, or pick up the pan and drop it a few times on a hard table to even out the batter.
Top with sesame and flax seeds and put on middle rack in oven for 40-45 minutes. It is done when the top is golden brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes and then use overhanging parchment paper to transfer to marble slab or wire rack (you can also transfer to cutting board, it just won’t dry as quickly or evenly). When completely cool, you may slice and serve. I like to slice a piece as I need it and keep the whole loaf stored in the fridge in an airtight bag. Just make sure it is completely cooled before storing. It will last on counter for 3 days or in fridge for over a week, but you will eat it all before that time comes!
Eileen Brantley & Amy Wright
We are Herb Girls Athens, LLC. Read our blog!
currently we operate as an online business