Category Archives: Healthy Fats

Healthy Hair with Foods and Supplements – Women’s Hair Loss

women's hair lossPerhaps there’s good reason women care so much about their hair. Quite simply, good looking hair is a reflection of good internal health. A full head of healthy hair indicates that the endocrine organs (especially thyroid) and digestive tract (especially small intestine) are healthy too. Hair is formed as a direct result of good nutrient absorption. The list of nutrients needed for healthy hair is long, but the essential ingredients include:

  • B Vitamins (especially folate and B12)
  • Minerals (including zinc, copper, calcium and magnesium)
  • Essential fatty acids (especially DHA and EPA)
  • Iron and Protein (with the correct balance of all 8 essential amino acids).

Although nutrients are important, hair loss is not always the result of nutritional deficiencies. There are quite a few health conditions that can cause hair loss, even when there are sufficient nutrients available. Some of these medical conditions include:

  • Hyperthyroidism (excess thyroid hormone)
  • Hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone)
  • Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (autoimmune thyroid condition)
  • Hormonal Imbalances including: high or low estrogen, low progesterone, low hormone levels due to menopause, high testosterone, and PCOS.
  • Stressors such as sudden weight loss, post-pregnancy, surgery, moving, etc.
  • Food intolerances or allergies.
  • Medications: anti-depressants, beta-blockers, or NSAID pain relievers.
  • Scalp conditions including: alopecia areata, scalp dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, ringworm, lichen planus and others.
  • Chemical treatments, chemotherapy
  • External irritants including shampoos, conditioners and other common hair products.

The list of possible reasons for hair loss is quite long and most people do not know which of these conditions apply to them. Working with a holistic health care practitioner is the most effective approach to identify and reverse the root cause of hair loss. Finding the root cause of hair loss will involve taking a look at various aspects of your life including diet, stress levels, exercise, lab results, and health history. After a proper assessment has been completed, the necessary changes can be made to efficiently and quickly restore a healthy head of hair.

In the meanwhile, it is always helpful to maximize the nutrients your body has available to grow new healthy hair. Below is a list of healthy food choices that will help to do just that:

1.) Vitamin C: Collagen is the substance that wraps around hair strands. As we age collagen gradually degenerates, causing hair to break and thin. Surprisingly, vitamin C is the best way to boost collagen, there is not need for pricey medical procedures. High vitamin C foods include: citrus fruits, strawberries and red peppers. Taking a supplement with 250-1000 mg daily can help increase collagen production and even reduce skin wrinkles.

2.) Biotin: Biotin, is possibly the most important B vitamin for healthy hair. As a water soluble vitamin of the B complex, biotin encourages hair growth and a healthy scalp. Food sources of biotin include nuts, brown rice and oats.

3.) Essential Fatty Acids: EFA’s are those fats that are essential to the proper functioning of your body. The human body is not able to create these fatty acids on its own, so it is important to eat foods containing them. Get Essential fatty acids from cold-water fish, chia seeds, grass-fed beef, walnuts, flaxseeds and avocado.

4.) MSM: MSM (or Methylsulfonylmethane) has been shown to aid in the production of keratin, which is the main protein found in hair. In addition, MSM can even strengthen hair follicles. In a recent study, 100% of test subjects who added a supplement with MSM showed less hair loss and increased hair growth in less than two months. Foods with MSM include: Leafy vegetables, such as Swiss chard, cabbage and watercress, asparagus and beets.

5.) Iron: Essential for hair growth, iron is found in: grass-fed beef, green vegetables, blackstrap molasses, cashews, figs, and berries. Taking vitamin C at the same time will help your body absorb more iron from food sources.

6.) Minerals Silica and Zinc: Most people know about the mineral zinc, but the lesser-know silica is also critical for hair health. Foods containing silica include: cucumber, green leafy vegetables, beans, celery, asparagus, mango, and horsetail herb. Some foods high in zinc: grass-fed beef, fresh oysters, eggs, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, brazil nuts, pecans.

 

Healthy Fats & the Paleo Diet

There are so many health advantages to eating more good quality fats, getting fewer calories from carbohydrates, and moving towards a vegetable-based diet. The principles here are commonly referred to as the “Paleo diet”, a food plan where there is a conscious shift away from whole grains and legumes.  As with all food choices, quality is important when choosing fats and oils, so make sure to choose the right types and also the freshest packaging to avoid rancid oils.

Below are some reasons that fats can be so beneficial:

1.) Satisfaction: fats are digested quite slowly when compared to carbs or protein. Because the digestive process takes longer to metabolize fat, you stay satisfied longer. During this process, fat in the stomach triggers the release of satiety hormones that tell your brain that it can pause the hunger signaling process.

2.) Energy: fats are efficient energy and a more sustained source of energy than carbohydrates. The brain can adapt to run in a much higher performance state when fat ketones become available as a energy source.

3.) Fat-soluble Vitamins: Essential vitamins A, D, E and K cannot be absorbed without having fat present in the diet. For example, eating steamed vegetables or salad without any fat source means these fat-soluble vitamins from the vegetables cannot effectively be absorbed.

4.) Cell Health: Fats play a structural role forming the membrane of every cell in the body. This cell membrane is made up of phospholipids which are about 1/2 saturated fat, when in optimal health.

5.) Fat-soluble Nutrients: Fat-based lipoproteins are used in the body to transport fat, cholesterol, vitamins E and K in the blood. These lipoproteins carry essential nutrients to cells and organs where they are needed for life functions.

6.) Protection: Although it sounds simple, it is important to have a fat layer to protect and support our organs and additionally to prevent skin wrinkling and dehydration.

7.) Anti-inflammatory Effects: Omega-3 fats, such as EPA and DHA have been shown in countless studies to have an anti-inflammatory effect.

8.) Anti-microbial: Certain types of fat, including lauric and caprylic acid, actually help kill bacteria, viruses and fungal overgrowth. These types of fat can be found in coconut oil and palm kernel oil.

9.) Blood Sugar: Getting a dose of fat along with carbohydrate at meals helps to stabilize the blood sugar as the carbohydrate is digested.  The presence of fat allows for a slow release of glucose (blood sugar) into circulation.

9.) Taste: Last, but not least, fats make everything taste better. Bland veggies can be transformed into buttery deliciousness. With the addition of nourishing fats, a healthy diet is easy to follow because it becomes more satisfying and enjoyable. Children may actually eat their Brussels sprouts when served with coconut oil, ghee or butter.

With all the good reasons to eat healthy fats, you may be wondering, what are the best sources of fat? Below is a list to get you started.

Best Oils:
Avocado Oil
Butter (grass-fed)
Cacao butter
Coconut oil
Ghee (clarified butter)
Macadamia Oil
MCT Oil (coconut oil extract)
Olive oil

Second-Best Oils:
Cream (dairy)
Duck fat
Lard
Palm oil
Schmaltz (chicken fat)
Suet
Tallow

High-Fat Foods:
Almonds
Avocado
Beef (grass-fed)
Chia seeds
Coconut meat and milk
Egg yolks (pastured)
Fish (cold water, fatty fish)
Hazelnuts
Macadamia nuts
Olives
Pecans
Pistachios
Pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
Sunflower seeds
Walnuts

Processed Fats to Avoid:

soybean oil, canola oil, corn oil, peanut oil, cottonseed oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, margarine and other spreads, shortenings or hydrogenated oils, commercial mayonnaise and salad dressings.

Tips on getting fat at each meal:
1.) Choose fatty cuts of grass-fed or pastured meats. However, avoid high fat cuts of conventionally raised meats because of their high pro-inflammatory omega-6 content.
2.) Eat pastured eggs regularly (with the yolks).
3.) Using generous amounts of ghee, lard from grass-fed cows or coconut oil to cook food (or add after cooking).
4.) Add butter or ghee to vegetables.
5.) Add avocado to salads.
6.) Include bones and bone marrow when making stews.
7.) Prepare curries with coconut milk or coconut cream.
8.) Eat bacon (ideally nitrate-free and from pastured pigs or wild boar).
9.) Dip foods in homemade mayo (made at home with healthy oils) or guacamole.
10.) Add extra virgin olive oil, macadamia oil or homemade salad dressings made with healthy fats.

Note: If your gallbladder function is impaired or if you were previously eating a low-fat diet, gradually increase fat intake. Over time, the digestive system will adjust by secreting adequate amounts of digestive enzymes and bile. In some cases, people will benefit from digestive enzymes and/or ox bile to facilitate fat digestion.

Why You Need Cholesterol

It was not until the 1960’s that Americans started to fear saturated fat and cholesterol. Our grandparents ate lots of meat and saturated fat, and they were statistically more healthy. In the early 1900’s most Americans had a difficult time keeping weight on, while heart disease was not even on the radar. Compare this picture to the present day, where people are still obsessed with low-fat diets and cutting cholesterol.  Where is the reward for all of this low-fat living? This fat and cholesterol phobia has contributed to a national obesity rate of 35%, where one-third of all deaths are blamed on heart dis
ease.  And the problem seems to be getting worse…

Where did this fat phobia come from?  Dr. Ancel Keys performed research in the 1950’s, where he proposed that countries with a higher intake of saturated fat and cholesterol have increased rates of heart disease. The Seven Countries study had a lot academic critics, but it caught on like wildfire and was adopted by the public. What no one, including the US government and the American Heart Association, took into account was that he had left out data from the other 15 countries he surveyed, making his results useless. Yes, our fear of saturated fat and cholesterol is based on a flawed and cherry-picked study.

10 Reasons You Need Cholesterol

During the past 50 years this fear of fat has caught on, and rates of heart disease and obesity have surged upward, with no end in sight. Cholesterol is a natural healing substance that has many vital functions in the human body. If you are worried about cholesterol levels from a high fat diet, here are some reasons to put your mind at ease:

  1. Cholesterol is a vital structural component of every human cell membrane and it aids in communication between cells. It’s a necessary component in making new, healthy cells, and it gives us the ability to heal from illness or injury.
  2. Cholesterol helps reduce bloating by regulating the salt and water balance in the body.
  3. Cholesterol is converted into bile in the liver, which helps us to digest fats. Many people who have been on a low-fat diet will have trouble with fat digestion.
  4. You need cholesterol to make adrenal hormones, cortisol, and aldosterone, which help us cope with the stress of day-to-day living. A low-fat diet often does not supply enough substrate to make these hormones, which leads to adrenal fatigue, feelings of exhaustion, and belly fat storage.
  5. UVB rays from the sun interact with the cholesterol in your skin to convert it to vitamin D. Cholesterol helps the absorption of Vitamin D, which is vital for proper immune function.
  6. Many studies indicate that cholesterol may act as an antioxidant to heal free radial damage. The standard American diet (SAD) is full of oxidized vegetable oils and sugars, which are pro-oxidants. These non-foods wreak havoc on your cells and cause damage that contributes to heart disease. The body produces more cholesterol in response to these inflammatory foods in an attempt to heal the damage they cause in our blood vessels.
  7. Cholesterol helps in the formation of your memories and is crucial for proper neurological function. People with low HDL cholesterol can have impaired memory and are at an increased risk of developing dementia later in life.
  8. Elevated cholesterol is a sign that your body is making more to heal damaged cells. It is key to look for the true cause of the inflammation (ie: sugar, grains, vegetable oils), not kill the messenger by taking cholesterol medication with possibly dangerous side effects.
  9. Many times a high cholesterol test is your body trying to send you an important message, so listen up! Healing cholesterol is often produced in excess when there is a lack of thyroid hormone and/or there is an autoimmune thyroid attack. Normalizing thyroid hormone levels can help balance cholesterol levels, as well as following a lower carb nutrient dense diet.
  10. Cholesterol is very important for the communication between brain synapses, which make the feel good chemical serotonin. There have been many studies where people with abnormally low levels of cholesterol have tendencies toward violence or depression.

In Summary

Cholesterol is an essential building block for the steroid hormones which help control our moods, metabolism, inflammation, immune, and sexual functions. The human body needs cholesterol in order to function, and without it we would not survive. The liver will intuitively make more cholesterol when the diet does not provide enough.

Many studies have shown that low cholesterol is a bigger risk factor for heart disease and mortality than high cholesterol. Elderly people with low cholesterol died twice as often from a heart attack, when compared with elderly people with high cholesterol.  According to Dr. Mark Hyman, higher cholesterol predicts lower risk of death from heart disease.

When evaluating your own cholesterol levels do some critical thinking about what is best for you. Follow the money trail when your doctor advises you to take Statin drugs, and ask for some hard evidence on why they are recommending them for you.

Lifestyle interventions such as a low carb, Paleo diet can help people achieve optimal lipid panel markers, in a very short time, without any dangerous side effects. Use your best judgement when you hear how foods that kept our great grandparents healthy like grass-fed meat, raw cheese, and grass-fed butter, are to blame for new diseases.

Good Skin, Bad Skin, Part 2

Want bad skin?  I didn’t think so… What you leave off your plate is sometimes just as important as the food you’re putting on it.   Below are 3 food classes that will slowly diminish the glow of your skin:

  1. Sugar – Sweets and refined carbs raise glucose levels, which increases advanced glycation end products, which in turn interferes with the repair of collagen and elastin, a protein that allows skin to retain its shape.
  2. Saturated Fat – Found in marbled meats and full-fat dairy products, saturated fats may make you look older. Experts say that eating a lot of saturated fat can induce skin-aging inflammation.
  3. Alcohol – With the exception of resveratrol-delivering red wine, alcohol can take a toll on your skin. It dries out skin and when metabolized in the liver, it creates skin’s enemy: free radicals.

Chia! 4 Reasons to Choose Chia

1. Chia seeds are packed with nutrients, including calcium, fiber, vitamin C and iron. They’re the best known plant source of omega-3s (alpha linolenic acid). Unlike other types of seeds, they do not need to be ground or crushed to use.

2. Chia is the perfect breakfast protein. Without an overpowering flavor, chia can be added to your favorite breakfast cereal or

drink.

3. They are a quick & easy food topping. Add to baked dishes for a crunchy topping or use in place of breading for fish or chicken.

4. Chia can be a great egg substitute (thickener): Take 3 tablespoons of water and 1 tablespoon of chia seeds. Whisk together and let sit for 10 minutes until thick. To use it in place of guar gum or xanthan gum, just “use the same amount of chia mixed with twice that quantity of boiling water.”

Healthy Hair Starters

While strands of hair are actually just life-less protein fibers, the hair follicles under your skin are very much alive. Hair follicles need a supply of nutrients like other parts of the body.  Some of these nutrients critical hair nutrients include: protein, carbohydrates, EFAs (fatty acids), vitamins B6 and B12, biotin, and iron.

Stress, illnesses and hormone imbalances can also affect your hair in a negative way, which is why some women do tend to lose their hair in times of high stress. Female hormones (progesterone and estrogen) promote thick, healthy hair, while male hormones can cause hair loss or thinning hair.  So, if you needed yet another reason to eat better and stress less, keep in mind that your hair health is affected by what goes in your body, too.

More Omegas! A Primer on Fish Oil

There are so many fish oil supplements on the market that it can be very difficult to choose just one. To help you wade through your choices, let’s take a look at some common differences.

Many of the fish oils on the market are basically generic combinations of any variety of fish that typically have 180 mg of EPA and 120 mg of DHA (the two main Essential Fatty Acids found in fish oil) per gram (typically 1 softgel). The problem with those is that most of them don’t tell you what type of fish is used (i.e. what the source of the fish oil is). This not knowing poses a problem for some people. For those that want to know the source of their fish oil, they may opt for specific options like Salmon Oil or Cod Liver Oil.

Salmon is considered one of the “cleaner” fish that typically live in cleaner waters like those around Norway (which is a common area to get Salmon Oil from). It has a different ratio of EPA to DHA where it’s normally in almost equal amounts and it can also be found as “Virgin Salmon Oil” (which uses less processing).

Cod Liver Oil is quite a different option by comparison, as it is from the Cod’s liver instead of the general body fat. One important difference here is that the Vitamin A and Vitamin D content is stored in the fish’s liver. Some people aren’t able to take the extra doses of the vitamins that come in the Cod Liver Oil if they take certain multivitamins, but some prefer the extra vitamins if they don’t get enough of those fat-soluble vitamins on a regular basis.

One nice thing about most all fish oil products on the market is that it’s basically industry standard for quality that fish oil should be molecularly distilled to remove any trace contaminants of any heavy metals. Because of that, consumers can be assured that there wouldn’t be any sufficient levels of Lead, Mercury, PCBs, or other contaminants that cause concern.

Get Smart! 5 Healthy Brain Foods

Adding these smart foods to your diet can increase your chances of maintaining a healthy brain.

Blueberries – To help protect your brain from stress or age-related conditions, add at least 1 cup of blueberries a day – fresh, frozen or freeze-dried.

Wild Salmon – Salmon contains lots of omega-3s which are essential for brain function.

Nuts and Seeds – Walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds are just some of the nuts that should be added to your diet for good sources of vitamin E, which may protect against cognitive decline.

Avocados – The healthy fat in avocado contributes to healthy blood flow to the brain and can also help lower blood pressure.

Tumeric – The yellow spice found in many curries, contains curcumin, which also has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It may even prove useful in treating Alzheimer’s; one study showed a reduction in beta amyloid deposits, the plaques associated with the disease. In another study, elderly people who ate curry often or very often did better on tests of mental performance than those who never or rarely ate curry.

Fall Foods #2 – Nourishing Dry Skin


Fall air and wind dries out the mucus membranes of the nasal passages, lungs, and even the eyes. With this climate change, our skin also gets dried out, especially with the colder nights.

In addition, protecting the lungs from dryness is a first line of defense against catching colds. Adequate moisture in the mucosa makes them slippery. When the nasal mucosa is dry, it is much easier for the Rhino viruses that cause colds to attach and get into the blood stream.

The most common kitchen medicine in Chinese Medicine are pears. Pears are cooling and moistening. Bite into a ripe pear. Compare with a ripe apple. Apples tend to be crisper and are astringent. Pears have a viscous quality that helps moisten the lungs (especially the pear skin). In addition they have a very cool energy, like cucumbers.

Asian pears are great when cooked.  They are commonly boiled with licorice root for dry cough in Korea and with a kind of barley called Job’s Tears in China. You can just boil a pear or two, and when cooked, add some honey, which also moistens the lungs, and drink the liquid. I like to add saffron and cardamom to mine. Afghanis make a wonderful cooked pear dish.
Other Foods For Moistening:

Persimmons are a wonderful Fall fruit. They are mild and light, help to dissolve phlegm, and reinforce the digestive energy. Persimmons are especially good when there is a heat condition in the lungs with cough.

Almonds reinforce the lung Qi and Yin. They are a Sattvic food in Ayurveda, which means they balance all the doshas and create harmony. Try Persimmon muffins with almonds and saffron.

Turnips strengthen Lung Qi, and Tremella mushrooms benefit the Yin (moistening). Try Miso soup with turnips and Tremella mushrooms. If you suffer from digestive system dampness (thick or greasy tongue coat), eat your Miso soup with cooked Job’s Tear’s barley, and avoid or eliminate wheat and gluten. This can be critical for people with allergies and Asthma.

Lotus Rhizome is also good for the Lungs. It is very healing to lung tissue and helps alleviate damp cough. You can buy it at any Asian grocery. Try juicing it with pears and a little ginger root. It looks funny and has a mild taste. Also excellent in soups and stews.

Eat Good Fats, Drink Good Wine

Sounds easy huh?  Eating “Good Fats” and drinking “Good Wine” to stay healthy…  These are two of the best things in life, so I invite you to enjoy them!  Fat is, indeed, the “Vehicle of Taste”.  It is the substance that gives food a full flavor in the mouth and a satisfying feeling in the belly.  And wine, well, it tastes wonderful, makes you feel good and has some healthy effects to boot.  Read on and discover how eating more fat can keep you healthy.

The age of the “low-fat diet” is over and research is showing that a healthy diet is not found in reducing fat, instead, it should be based on eating the right fats.  The standard American diet is loaded with saturated animal fats and processed vegetable fats.  These types of fats and oils have the potential to cause a host of health problems that most of us have heard about – including atherosclerosis, high blood pressure and others.  The good fats, however, have the complete opposite effect on the body.  Good fats protect against atherosclerosis, lower blood pressure and have a whole range of additional benefits.  In fact, the good fats can even make you thinner – Take that, low-fat diet!

So how do we get the “Good Fats” then?  The simple answer is to eat unprocessed foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids.  Some of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids are flax seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts and coldwater fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, sturgeon, and anchovies.  One key to getting the best health benefit from these delicate fats is to make sure that they are as fresh as possible and not exposed to heat.  For these omega-3 fatty acids, as with most “real” food, heat, air and light are the main causes of spoilage Keep this in mind when cooking a nice piece of salmon or buying flax seeds:  To preserve the health benefits, cook salmon lightly with a bit of fresh ginger & eat your flax seeds raw and grind them just before use for the maximum benefit (see next article on flax seeds).

The benefits of omega-3s include reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke while helping to reduce symptoms of hypertension, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), joint pain and other rheumatoid problems, as well as certain skin ailments. Some research has even shown that omega-3s can boost the immune system and help protect us from an array of illnesses including Alzheimer’s disease.  “It not only plays a vital role in the health of the membrane of every cell in our body, it also helps protect us from a number of key health threats,” says Laurie Tansman, MS, RD, CDN, a nutritionist at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York.As for wine, not nearly as much needs to be said.  Just buy a nice bottle of red and enjoy a glass in the evening as you put your feet up and take a deep breath… Everything in moderation, right?

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