Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Nutritionist advice from my first visit

My nutritionist visit!
I decided to seek out a nutritionist mainly because I wanted to make sure I was on the right track with my new diet and supplement plan. The exciting thing to learn was that Keystone Health Plan East covers up to 6 visits per calendar year - if you have coverage, take advantage of it! I went to Rittenhouse Women's Wellness Center this morning for my visit, and I have mixed feelings about how it went, maybe in part because I had no idea what to expect. The nutritionist I met with was very nice. I got the sense that she was a professional and she gave me some suggestions which I value and will share, but I also wondered if someone with additional years of experience could have provided me with more insight when I had specific questions (she was young). This might also be the difference between going to a holistic doctor and going to a more traditional doctor: if I wanted someone to talk with in detail about Spirulina or the intracacies of juicing, for example, I may just need to go to a naturopath. We'll see.

What an innocent looking egg
Regardless, I had filled out a nutritional history form and a 3-day food diary for her to look over, and she surprised me by asking how I knew so much about nutrition, as my current diet is quite good. She hadn't heard of Kris Carr, but I found it gratifying that all of the work I've done thus far to change my eating habits has been confirmed as good by another source. She said yes: a whole foods, plant-based diet is the right choice, and also confirmed what many won't like to hear: dairy is not great for you, friends. She gave me a summary copy of a report by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which outlines the issues which can be linked to dairy consumption: cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, lactose intolerance, vitamin D toxicity, contaminants (such as synthetic hormones), specific concerns for infants and children, and last but not least: clinical research which shows that milk does not prevent osteoporosis as commonly thought. What can reduce osteoporosis risk, according to this research? A reduction in sodium and animal protein, an increased intake of fruits and veggies, increased calcium from leafy green veggies and beans, and exercise. Good thing I love vanilla almond milk so much!

The more I learn about nutrition, the more I realize that subsidized industries which can promote their products heavily (such as dairy and meat) are part of the reason we all think that dairy and meat are the key answers to staying healthy. All of the mounting evidence against dairy has me thinking hard about what I want to do moving forward. I love cheese just as much as anyone else, and there are plenty of recipes which call for eggs or butter. I think my decision is to stop trying to have all of the answers right this minute: I'll keep taking this day by day.

I asked her specifically about the supplements I've been taking, as I'm worried about overdosing on certain vitamins (especially Vitamin A) and creating more toxicity in my body. She told me that I can keep taking Spirulina, but that I should only take a multivitamin on the days when I don't think I'm getting enough nutrition from food. This might have ALWAYS been the case before I started juicing, but essentially I no longer need a multivitamin. How liberating (and cheaper, too)! For the days when I do need them though, she said very few brands have been backed by clinical research. The one she recommends is Juice Plus, so I'll be looking that up in the future.

I've also been taking a D3 supplement which she asked me to cut back on. I will now take it every other day and spend 15-20 minutes outside in the sun 2-3 times a week. She said vitamin D creates toxicity in the system if we have too much, and that the sun is still the best source - she said spending a little bit of time outside a few times a week should be enough. I'm supposed to go back to the doctor and get my D levels re-tested in April, so we'll see if this experiment works! She also suggested that I cut back on probiotics too and see how I feel, as the healthier our diets get, the less we need the supplements.

Protein and fruits / veggies
She said we need less protein as part of our daily diet than the media would suggest. Eating a serving of plant sourced protein 2-3 times a day should be enough (such as: beans, legumes, nuts, etc). She told me that I'm currently getting enough servings of veggies (woo!), but that I need to bump up my fruit intake. Fruit smoothies, anyone? :) I also want to start eating something in the morning in conjunction with my veggie juice, such as almond butter, to help make sure my blood sugar is level.

Books to consider
She suggested I read Do you have the guts to be beautiful? by Mitra Ray. I also ran across another book yesterday which I'm interested in reading, called The blood sugar solution by Mark Harmon.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Healthy drinks!

Right now I'm watching 'Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead,' which follows an Australian man Joe Cross on a 60 day juice fast. Tired of being overweight and dealing with a chronic disease, he learns how to juice fruits and vegetables, travels around the US, and interviews people about their eating habits. Most people interviewed admitted that regardless of their health problems or the threat of health problems, they were not currently inspired to change. No willpower, self-proclaimed addiction to processed food, no interest in vegetables or exercising: these were some of the reasons that people gave for why they didn't choose a healthy lifestyle. "I could never do that," people would say.

This documentary is SO inspiring though, and the montages concerning him and another man he'd met along the journey had me in tears, of course. People realize that juicing can be easier than they thought, and they begin to change their lives and rid themselves of disease. Increased energy and mental clarity, weight loss, new hope: the more I read and see, the more convinced I am that we have the power to shape our own health, regardless of family genetics. Seeing success stories like these increase my excitement about my own journey and it reaffirms for me that I'm doing the right things for myself, even when it gets tough. Watch this documentary and get inspired too!

Why juicing is great  
I bought Kris Carr's new ebook Crazy Sexy Juices & Succulent Smoothies, which outlines all of the benefits of juicing and green smoothies, in addition to offering 50+ new recipes. The book says:

Juicing and blending your organic fruits and veggies are the best and quickest ways to reduce inflammation (the root cause of most chronic disease) while hydrating your body, drenching your cells in life-giving nutrients and even repairing your DNA. Yes, you read that correctly. Say hello to boundless energy, glowing skin, clear eyes, improved digestion and exceptional health and happiness. Say goodbye to toxins, excess weight, sugar cravings, addictions, premature aging and a lackluster appearance.

If you're looking for an easy way to learn everything you need to know about juicing and making green smoothies, as well as getting access to tons of sample recipes, I'd suggest getting this ebook! It downloads as a PDF, which makes it easy for me to have a copy wherever I go. I'd LOVE to help any of you get started with juicing, as I'm convinced that it's helped me feel tons healthier in a relatively short amount of time (I've been juicing daily now for just over a month). I haven't made as many smoothies, but friends have had a lot of success with them. Tons of smoothie recipes in this ebook as well!

Another drink worth thinking about
Like I've mentioned previously, Bragg's apple cider vinegar is pretty great, but I've yet to explain a more recent addition to my recipe. If you take a look at the Bragg's website (link above), you'll see they list a bunch of benefits: supports a healthy immune system, helps control weight (by breaking down fats so your body can use them instead of storing them), rich in enzymes and potassium, etc. Check on for product reviews, which were helpful to me in thinking through what people use the Bragg's for. It's an inexpensive and easy addition to my diet and I've been pleased so far, as I really do think it's helped control my appetite. Here's my recipe:

  • 1 tablespoon of Bragg's apple cider vinegar in a full glass of water
  • 2 oz of Lily of the Valley aloe vera juice

Aloe vera juice, did I say?

Indeed. If your family had an aloe plant while growing up, or if you're prone to sunburns like I am, you've often come in contact with aloe as a healing agent. I LOVE aloe, but I never considered drinking it. I recently discovered Lily of the Valley aloe vera juice, which helps support normal muscle and joint function and digestive health, as well as other benefits. Both the apple cider vinegar and the aloe can be purchased in large quantities for a better price, which I didn't do this time as I wanted to make sure I liked them first. **I'd like to make the note that while I'm currently trying out aloe vera, just as I've tried many other things, I'm not sure yet whether this will be a permanent part of my diet. Try it, see if you like it!

I researched nutritionists this week and found the Rittenhouse Women's Wellness Center. It turns out that through my insurance (Keystone Health Plan East), I am eligible for 6 visits per calendar year with a nutritionist. SO excited. I have an appointment on the 29th to talk about all of these new diet changes, as well as the supplements I'm taking. I'll be sure to update after the first visit. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Flexibility and discovery

One of the fun parts of the cleanse was the near-constant feeling of discovery. Supplements, tips for cooking brown rice (which I no longer screw up every time.. turns out there is actually truth to just letting it be with the lid on), the fact that certain cravings have continued to dwindle. Now that I'm a week post-cleanse, my weekly routine somewhat mirrors the cleanse weeks, to be honest: largely vegetarian (I had fish once last weekend), juicing and my Braggs vinegar drink in the mornings, an apple on my way home, greens at lunch and dinner, veggies and grains and beans and tempeh. Very little gluten (I splurged on bread when Eric and I went out to dinner for an early V-Day). I've had cheese twice, but for the most part have not wanted much dairy as I'm afraid of reversing all the progress I made. This past week has brought on some fatigue and a slight cold; while it could be coincidence, these feelings are largely in contrast to how I'd felt by the end of the cleanse.. energetic and incredibly light. I don't want to go back to feeling sluggish and congested!

Even so, I've been navigating a mental tug of war over keeping new habits and remaining flexible. For example, I can't lug my juicer around when visiting friends or going to Eric's house. On those days, I'll supplement with wheat grass powder and not get worked up about it. If a friend makes me a meal with chicken, I'll eat the chicken and then likely not eat meat again that week. Instead of viewing certain foods or situations as road blocks, I'm learning to view them as the moments during the week when I exercise moderation. I have a tendency to approach new life developments at full steam: if it's best to juice every day, then I must juice every day! Except, life doesn't work this way and juicing 5-6 days a week is still better than the 0 days I was juicing before. :) So many veggies! So much kale.

Love this!
I think I've finally settled on my supplement list! Finally. Here we go: multivitamin, D3 supplement, probiotic, supplement for omega 3s, digestive enzymes and wheatgrass as needed (for those days when I need to be flexible!)
As I wanted to stop taking fish oil and I can't seem to remember to eat enough ground flaxseed, getting my omegas from Spirulina seemed like an intriguing choice. A known superfood, Spirulina is "a type of blue-green algae that is rich in protein, vitamins, minerals, and carotenoids, antioxidants that can help protect cells from damage. It contains nutrients, including B complex vitamins, beta-carotene, vitamin E, manganese, zinc, copper, iron, selenium, and gamma linolenic acid (an essential fatty acid)." Articles are careful to point out that a lot of theories are not proven yet, but I tend to rely on my own experience regardless of what studies say. The next time I visit my doctor, I plan on showing her this list and getting advice... in my effort to take care of myself, I don't want to overdo it.  Regardless, so far so good! Always, always read the reviews! They've helped me in deciding whether to trust the brand or not.

This week's experiment: continuing to test diluted tea tree oil and jojoba oil. I've also discovered a pretty good yoga mat cleaner:

Tea tree oil, water, and vinegar! I'd like to find something for which vinegar has no use! It's so versatile. I tried the spray / bath method described in this blog and it seemed to work - my mat looked quite clean and then I felt guilty that I hadn't researched proper washing techniques much sooner. Oops.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Cleanse, Day 21!

Image via Flickr user nutrilover
So, it's been officially 21 days since I started juicing fruits & veggies daily, since I last had meat or dairy, since I've had most varieties of processed food, and since I've had high concentrations of gluten. I splurged twice during the past three weeks and had a drink, but other than that I haven't touched alcohol. I've had no caffeine. My sporadic indulgence has been a piece of dark chocolate.

And what's the result?

I've lost 5+ pounds, but the weight loss was not my initial goal and is ultimately not the most exciting result. More so, I'm just excited that I feel pretty damn awesome: more energy, improved mood, sleep, and skin, less aches, increased focus. Should I go on? :) 3 weeks is not long enough to flush all the toxins out and properly rebuild, but it certainly is a giant step in the right direction. Sometimes you just need to be unabashedly proud of yourself, and today I am - for researching and sticking with a new lifestyle even when it felt super challenging. The next challenge, of course, being what do I do moving forward?

Doing a 3 week cleanse might feel too extreme for you right now and that's totally understandable. Giving up meat, dairy, caffeine, gluten, and alcohol is no joke, especially when you top that with changing your personal care products! I've been nervous about what elements of this diet I'll keep and what I'd like to start eating again, but here are some definite truths which I'd like to remember in the weeks ahead:
  1. I don't want to rely on meat as my dominant source of protein, and would like to continue exploring vegetarian options many nights of the week. It would seem I'm not the only one thinking along these lines, as seen in this recent opinion piece on the NYT site. PS. Tempeh is delish, seriously.
  2. Juicing or blending fruits and vegetables is important, friends. See some of the benefits here, and also join me in eager anticipation of Kris Carr's new recipe book of juices and smoothies, due out soon!
  3. I don't want to revert back to tons of processed food, just because it's there. It's super easy to have a pb&j or french fries or whatever sugary snack food is free at work, etc etc etc. It's not as easy to plan ahead and make sure there's extra quinoa / beans in the fridge, plenty of lettuce on hand for salads, raw almonds and herbal tea at work, or my stockpile of apples for the commute home. These are habits I've begun to cultivate via the cleanse and I don't want them to fade away.
  4. Eat whole, raw fruits and veggies every day! Beyond the cooked food, making room for salads and fruits is key. I have just felt overall better when eating more leafy greens - it's the truth.
  5. Approach dairy and gluten carefully. I'm honestly not sure how my body would react if I tried to eat pizza right now. I'll have to slowly reintroduce things and see what happens.
As a final note for this week, make this recipe! It's the chili which Eric and I made, and it's super delicious. We did make some adjustments: we removed the bulgur (it's a wheat product), added some tempeh cooked in olive oil, and replaced the jalapeƱo pepper with one poblano pepper and an extra red pepper. We then added some cayenne powder to garnish, in addition to salt / pepper. NOTE: pour leftover chili onto quinoa for an awesome next-day meal.