Clarification: The Why and How of Ghee (Clarified Butter)

Some Clarification about Butter Fat (… and How to Make Ghee)


At the first (and only) Hare Krishna wedding that I attended, I watched in fascination throughout the ceremony as the bride and groom tossed drops of clarified butter into a sacred flame. I had utilized clarified butter, or ghee, as food, medicine, and skin lotion, but never considered its use as a sacrament to love, health, and wealth. Over the years since, as I have learned to use and love ghee more and more, this reverence has seemed more and more deserved. Read on to learn more about health benefits of this amazing fat- and how to make it yourself!


 

Get into Ghee


Why bother clarifying butter? Ghee has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine as a critical compound that helps to reduce inflammation (also known as balancing a fiery, or pitta, constitutional type), promote memory, improve semen quality, and improve digestion.  Ayurvedic medicine is centered on balance stemming from digestive wellness, which appeals to my dietetic sixth sense.


By definition, butter is at least 80 percent milkfat, but clarified butter is almost entirely milkfat. Clarifying butter is the process of removing water, proteins, and other solids from the butter and leaving the fat behind.


I often recommend clarified butter as a high-quality health-restoring food to my patients. There are several reasons for this.


Butter is a concentrated source of the short chain fatty acid butyrate, which researchers think is primarily responsible for ghee’s unique health benefits, such as:


Clarified butter is better tolerated by sensitive people. Are you mildly allergic to dairy proteins? Lactose intolerant? Without proteins to trigger your immune system or lactose for you to digest, most sensitive people digest and process ghee without issue. Ghee also has a higher smoke point and its highly-oxidizable impurities have been removed, so it is less likely to go rancid during storage or during high-heat cooking. This makes it a safer cooking fat because less oxidation means less inflammation. Remember: a rancid fat or oil is worse than no fat or oil at all.

 

Healthy Saturated Fat?


With the final nails in the coffin of the war on saturated fat, those of us who have hid in the bushes for years feeling not-quite-right are free to come out and discuss our research-based points of view. From the scientifically-supported benefits of grass-fed animal meats and coconut oil to the many wondrous benefits of eating cholesterol, it would appear that we have learned some important rules about saturated fat:

  • It stores fat-soluble nutrients but also toxins. Saturated fat can be a concentrated source of fat soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids, OR it can be a storage depot for pesticides, other xenoestrogens, and fat-inducing hormones. Quality is key.
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  • Short and medium chain saturated fatty acids can be used for fuel easily and quickly by you and some of your gut bacteria. Bypassing the complex digestion of fat- bound to bile, partially digested with enzymes, sent through your lymphatic system, and then stored or burned, this energy costs very little to get access to.
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  • Saturated fat and cholesterol support brain health and cell membranes. More and more focus in recent years has shown that healthy cellular communication requires healthy cell membranes. Since these membranes are made up of several types of fats, reason dictates we must include all of these fats in our diet (or at least eat the parts to make them). Low cholesterol compromises brain health, all cellular membranes, sex hormones production, and more; in fact, it is a larger risk factor for death and disease than high cholesterol.
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  • Cholesterol is critical for brain health, sex hormone production, stress management, and more. In fact, low cholesterol is a rarely-mentioned risk factor for all forms of cancer. (More on cholesterol in other posts!)

 

How to Clarify Butter


In Ayurvedic medicine, ghee is often used with healing herbs (with medically-desirable fat-soluble compounds) to deliver their benefits internally or topically. The recipe that follows is my personal favorite recipe, but you can change the herbs and spices or omit them entirely.

 
Gather your equipment:

  • 1 or 2 quart stainless steel saucepan, depending on how much butter you would like to clarify.
  • Jars
  • Fine Mesh Strainer
  • Funnel (optional – I do not use)

Assemble your ingredients:

  • 1-3 pounds of grass-fed, organic, unsalted butter
  • Add-ins (optional)
    • –> Fresh spices (such as herbes de provence)
    • –> Dried spices (such as turmeric)

Let’s Get Cooking!

 

  1. Into your stainless steel saucepan over low heat, melt 1 to 3 pounds of butter. Ideal temperature range is 105 – 115 degrees F.



  2.  

  3. Add any herbs or spices you choose to let their oils mingle with the butter. I chose fresh oregano and rosemary for their anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-inflammatory properties.
     


     
    Curcumin, the main ingredient in turmeric, is known as an anti-inflammatory, but I include it in my ghee because it helps promote bile flow. Bile helps you absorb and digest fat, and this fat is so good that I don’t want to risk not absorbing it!

     

  4.  

  5. Heat over a low flame until white solids separate and sink to the bottom.










    When a drop of water flicked into the pan boils immediately, the ghee is done.



  6.  

  7. Remove from the heat and allow to cool just enough to handle safely.



  8.  

  9. Pour and strain slowly into a glass jar, discarding the solids.

     






     
    Before Refrigeration:



  10.  

  11. I refrigerate my ghee and use it mainly for cooking, to blend into coffee, chai, or cocoa. However, if you don’t get any water in your ghee, it shouldn’t need refrigeration. Given that all fats oxidize to some extent, though, I advocate keeping all fats and oils refrigerated- better safe than sorry.

    Consume 1-2 teaspoons of ghee daily if dosing for supplemental reasons.

    Each teaspoon has 11 mg of cholesterol. Ghee is ⅔ saturated fat (mostly butyrate), ⅓ monounsaturated fat, and has trace amounts of polyunsaturated fat.

     

 
See? Making ghee is fast and easy!  

 

 

SOUPer Simple Chicken Stock / Bone Broth

Chicken Soup starts with good broth.

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This recipe for chicken bone broth is nourishing, easy, and a great start for several soups.

You may have heard the buzz about “bone broth.” This recipe is a bone broth rather than just a chicken stock, meaning the bones are stewed for a long period of time to dissolve their minerals and protein into the broth. Bone takes a bit of time to cook down, so the longer you cook the broth, the more minerals you will receive in your nutritious brew.

Bone broth is a protein and mineral supportive food. Many of our diets are mineral deficient (most blood pressure patients I have seen, as an example, do better once I boost the calcium, magnesium, and potassium in their diets) and deficient in the protein-rich parts of animals we likely would have eaten as primitive humans (like joints, cartilage — these elements can be leached into the broth!)

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Most vitamins will be destroyed by this extremely long cooking time. If you want a more balanced meal, try soup you made with your stock (or just sip the broth, as I tend to do) alongside a fresh salad.

Please keep in mind that quality is more important than quantity. Fat and Bones store toxins and heavy metals, respectively. Choose organic poultry for your bone broth.

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Other uses for bone broth:

Sip it as part of your breakfast or in the evening. Add a pinch of black pepper and you have instant soup!

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… Use small amounts of it to flavor sauces and other dishes.

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… Use it to make delicious grains (chicken-flavored wild rice, for instance)

Freeze for when you are feeling ill. Reheat and sip during trying times.

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SOUPer easy — Quinoa and Veggies!

Do you hit a point in late winter when you are tired? When the idea of cooking becomes a bit — much?

When I find myself a bit too ready to turn in early and sleep in late to want to prepare a meal, quick stovetop and crockpot soups that can cook with little effort when I am home, or while I am at work or overnight as a hearty breakfast-in-a-thermos become my best friends. Unlike using beans, which can turn to mush when overcooked, quinoa hold up rather well to reheating and will be ready more quickly than other grains, reducing the total cooking time.

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This Vegan-Friendly Veggie and Quinoa Soup has a less than impressive name, but it is simple, delicious, and ….

1. An easy way to use veggies you are concerned will spoil in the fridge!

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2. Despite the instructions, this is easy to dump in a crock-pot and forget about for 5-7 hours. Given the reality of a long workday, I’ve made this on low heat, returned home from work 9 hours later, and not suffered for the extended cooking time. You can use dried lentils or mung beans instead of the canned beans if you choose this method, but any other beans will take too long to cook — just add the canned beans at the end.

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… Try replacing some or all of the northern beans with dry black lentils (add twice as much extra water as lentils), which do not need pre-soaking. Your vegetable soup will be full of anthocyanins (dark purple antioxidants — plant chemicals that fight disease and reduce damage in your body), which help improve the nutrient density and balance of the recipe — Eat a Rainbow every day!

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Not a fan of intense spice? Want to change it up?

Use a crock-pot so you can have both food and a busy schedule that serve your highest good. Sauteing the vegetables adds an element of sweetness, so you may wish to reduce the red pepper a bit to suit yourself.

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Replace some of the red pepper with smoked paprika for a smokier profile that is less spicy.

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Enjoy the shifting weather with this adaptable, delicious, and what-do-i-have-lying-around friendly recipe!

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Cozy and Comforting : Warm Winter Soups – Pho

About halfway into a bowl of perfectly spiced pho, my tastebuds start to cry “make this every day. it is perfect.” If you crave this savory, balanced soup of protein, vegetables, and love, read on — you may save yourself a lot on take-out this year!

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This image shows traditional pho, with beef and beef broth. The recipe I have linked to is more appropriate for every eater, as it is a vegetarian version of a traditional beef pho. Feel free to stick with beef — just choose grass-fed! [ Stay tuned for other posts on making your own chicken bone broth — not too different for beef stock. ]

As you develop the perfect balanced soup for your palette, here are some ways you can play with this basic *vegetarian* pho recipe:

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Cloves are part of the stock’s flavor, and boast some of the highest antioxidant levels of any food or spice.

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… Don’t skimp on the carrots and ginger — let their sweet flavors and the immune-boost of the ginger help carry you through the season.

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Some adaptations for your highest health and enjoyment:

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… Add a fresh jalapeno, or part of one, to spice up your pho.

… Experiment with different noodles if your digestion is sensitive. Gluten-Free noodle options include Bean Thread Vermicelli, Rice Noodles, and Soba (check label as soba noodles may be made with wheat)

… Add a pinch of bonito flakes or fish sauce to create a more savory seafood flavor.

… Add shredded greens to your soup for more fiber and to increase yoru electrolyte intake — mmmmminerals!

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Feeling Pho-tastic? Share your souper stories below.

Cozy and Comforting : Warm Winter Soups — Potato Leek 3 Ways

Need some soothing options for a grey February?

Today’s Soup is the essence of comfort food – Potato Leek Soup!

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Potatoes can help support serotonin (and to a lesser extent, dopamine) production. Low serotonin is the essence of seasonal affective disorder. Potatoes are full of vitamin B6, which helps us reduce stuffiness, is associated with reduced risk of depression and chronic inflammation, and helps to support female hormone balance — so with tryptophan that can be used to make serotonin and the B6 support to convert it into serotonin, these little spuds pack a powerful mood-boosting punch! Potatoes also contain a good dose of potassium, which lowers blood pressure and compliments potassium-poor leeks.

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Add to your potatoes the sulfur-rich support from leeks to (again) reduce stuffiness, boost your immune system, reduce cancer risk by supporting liver detoxification, and support joint health, and you have a great combination for the winter blues and seasonal illness that often is found in February.

Moreover, the sticky fiber in potatoes compliments the roughage fiber in leeks with some water from the soup. The result? Perfect pooping.

1. Try a traditional, french-style with heavy cream — my favorite is Julia Child’s recipe.

2. For those of us avoiding dairy — one great reason to do so is to cut back on mucus production — here is a delicious alternative recipe from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen. I’ve made this a few times without the gnocchi and love it. The gnocchi is in the bottom recipe.

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3. And finally, for those of us on a lower-carb diet, trade the potatoes for a lesser quantity of beans and increase the sulphur content with delicious asparagus!

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What is your favorite comfort-soup? Please share!

Rebuild Your Carb-uretor: Build Food Habits that Fight Fatigue — Part 2 — Use Spacing and Timing to Balance Blood Sugar

Do you slump in the midafternoon without your coffee or pass out on your couch in the evening after eating a handful of starchy comfort food?  

Chances are, you ARE listening to your body, and your body is telling you that you need caffeine or sugar to fight fatigue.

You may find this post helpful in getting started using your snacks to help balance your energy levels and achieving a more graceful state of energetic being throughout your day.

I’ve been there, maybe you’ve been there, lots of us have been there:  Wake up — dragging. Coffee. Skip Breakfast. Maybe eat lunch, maybe just coffee– but is rushed. Maybe gassy because under stress and not digesting. Mid-afternoon. Tired and nauseously hungry. Grab more coffee, sugar, starch, or all three. Get irritable right about the time getting out of work. Get home. Need to make dinner. Eat more carbs while making dinner. Finally eat dinner. Feel full, but still craving carbs a few hours later. Eat snack. Sleep– well or unwell — and wake up at 4 am having to pee, thirsty. Go back to sleep. Wake up — dragging.

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Sound familiar?  

As many people know, unstable blood sugar can be both an inconvenience — and, if it persists long enough, may lead to chronic disease.  Today we will discuss how to schedule your eating throughout a day to improve your blood sugar and energy control.

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1. As with all things — Begin with the End in Mind.

If you start your day spiking your blood sugar, it will crash low, increasing your desire for sugar (and maybe caffeine), and you are far more likely to end your day in a bag of starchy snacks. Choose a breakfast low in caffeine and high in protein and vegetables to reduce the sugar you eat in the first half of your day. Ensure you have protein to provide energy steadily even if you cannot find the time to prepare a meal high in fiber — a handful of nuts or a plain yogurt is a great starter breakfast if you are not a regular breakfast eater. If you aren’t very hungry, don’t push it — you’ll just create indigestion. Over time, and with less carb-eating at night and coffee intake in the morning, your morning hunger should improve.

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2. If you are often nauseous and it resolves with eating, always have a snack with you.

Remember last week when we focused on the value of eating protein at every meal or snack? The best defense against eating sugar is a good offense of eating protein regularly. A snack bag of raw nuts and seeds, seaweed snacks and a piece of fruit, grass-fed meat or poultry jerky, or even canned seafood can travel with you at all times, just in case.  Be mindful, though, if you have allergies, that the older the protein, the higher the histamine level, leading to stuffiness and itchy redness.

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3. Eat 5-6 small meals throughout the day that can fit in two cupped hands or smaller.

Stay ahead of your hunger with plenty of protein and fiber. A simple way to always be prepared is to have some fresh fruit and nuts on hand in your car or office desk, if those are snacks that you enjoy. I’ve had patients that keep organic sugar-free peanut butter at work as crave-support. Used to drinking coffee all day and barely eating until evening? Recognize you’ll need to train your digestion and start sipping — bring 32 oz of protein/veggie/fruit smoothie and drink 8 oz servings every 2 hours. Store-bought smoothies can be helpful, but are often much higher in sugar than is necessary to make a delicious meal-in-a-cup. Make your own so you can guarantee freshness and adequate protein. If you wait too long until your blood sugar crashes, you will be more tempted to make less healthful choices.

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So if eating constantly can help, why do you hear all this talk about the benefits of fasting?  Consider that your body was built to fast, *but* it has to be retrained to do so with ease.  There are many benefits to fasting– including helping the gut repair if it has been gassy and overwhelmed–  but jumping into fasting without first finding balance in your daily energy levels is neither wise nor safe. Instead of fasting during the day, when energy is needed and it is harder to make good choices, fast overnight, as the body evolved to do. Avoid eating right before bed to improve your morning appetite for breakfast, and if you decide to experiment with fasting, start by fasting when the sun is down — you will have access to food if you require it, and can adequately hydrate, and will be sleeping for most of the time you are fasting — so this is the time you will have the greatest immediate benefit and the greatest ease.  If you would like to learn more about how meal timing and spacing can re-train our hunger, this article discusses these topics with greater scientific detail. In short, if you don’t feed the body what it wants when it asks you to, it will start asking for different foods at different times in its best effort to accommodate your choices. Better than nothing — but you may not feel too great and you may find yourself attracted to less-than-healthful choices that will, over time, run you down.

So, in these two posts, we have started to consider simple solutions for eating your way to more stable energy. Though these recommendations are a great start, they are not complete with regard to food and they do not address exercise, sleep, and stress management, though they may help you have the stamina to tackle those areas of your life as well!

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So enjoy your delicious healthy snacks with protein and fiber and leave comments below — What tips have you used that work well?  What tips have you used that were a challenge?  How can you use this info in your daily life?

 

Rebuild Your Carb-uretor : Build Food Habits that Fight Fatigue — Part 1 – Soften the Blow with Substitutions

Do you slump in the midafternoon without your coffee or pass out in the evening shortly after eating sweet or starchy comfort food?

Chances are, you ARE listening to your body, and your body is telling you that you need caffeine or sugar to fight fatigue.

You may find this post helpful in getting started using your snacks to help balance your energy levels and achieving a more graceful flow to your day.

I’ve been there, maybe you’ve been there, lots of us have been there:  Wake up — dragging. Coffee. Skip Breakfast. Maybe lunch. It is rushed. Maybe gassy, maybe under stress with poor digestion. Mid-afternoon. Suddenly tired and nauseously hungry. Grab more coffee, sugar, starch, or all three. Get irritable right about the time getting out of work. Get home. Need to make dinner. Eat more carbs while making dinner. Finally eat dinner. Feel full, but still craving carbs a few hours later. Eat snack. Sleep– well or unwell — and maybe wake up at 4 am having to pee, thirsty. Go back to sleep. Wake up — dragging.

Sound familiar?  

As many people know, unstable blood sugar can be both an inconvenience — and, if it persists long enough, may lead to chronic disease.  Today we will deal with replacing the sweet foods you eat with alternatives less likely to make matters worse. Next week — stay tuned! — we will talk about how to schedule your eating throughout a day to improve your blood sugar and energy control.

The closer to straight sugar a food is, the higher it spikes our blood sugar when we eat or drink that food. The first step to balancing your blood sugar, and subsequently, reducing the peaks and valleys of energy throughout the day, is not to spike your blood sugar very high to begin with. The strategies for doing this are the same as a person with diabetes or pre-diabetes would use.

Here are the first food steps to taking control of your blood sugar:

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1. Avoid sugar in liquid.  Liquid speeds the absorption of sugar.  Stay hydrated.

Sugar in liquid raises your blood sugar higher and faster than any other food.  Soda pop, fruit juice, sports drinks, sweet tea, sorbet, sweetened coffee drinks, and blended fruit powder drinks are in this category.  Replace these with kombucha, kvass, or other lower-sugar fermented beverages, water or soda water infused with a few berries or citrus, floral and herbal teas that lend a hint of sweetness (such as hibiscus, chamomile, or mint), or good ‘ol filtered water.  Caffeine is tricky because it raises your cortisol, a stress hormone that raises blood sugar, so having a lot of caffeine will cause spikes in blood sugar. This not only drives some weight gain around your midsection, but it also creates cravings for sugar, starch, and more coffee. For some, though, the dopamine-boosting effect helps reduce consumption of higher-sugar liquids and foods, so reduce caffeine after reducing sugar. (For instance, don’t use sugar in your coffee, and avoid the macchiato.)

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2. Consume sugar with Fiber. Fiber slows the absorption of sugar.

Fiber is found in plant foods — fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes (beans and peas).  Many people point to oatmeal as the perfect slow-release-starch. Think about it how sticky oatmeal is — that gooey, glue-like fiber is called soluble fiber, and it helps bind your stool together and digests slowly, so your blood sugar rises less intensely over a longer period of time, giving you more stable energy with less crash later. Other foods high in soluble fiber that release sugar slowly include brown rice, apples, bananas, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and beets. Some foods are lower in sugar and still high in soluble fiber, including brussel sprouts and avocadoes. There is also roughage fiber, or insoluble fiber. This type of fiber makes us slow down and chew more and helps eliminate stool. Like soluble fiber, it is not able to be burned for calories, so it fills up the stomach with food that we don’t gain weight from, displacing the calories from sugar and fat in our diets while making it easier to be satisfied. This article discusses both types of fiber and their roles as we understand it so far in preventing diabetes, the ultimate blood sugar challenge.

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Swap out your juice for fruit, your fruit juice for a fruit smoothie, swap out the cookies for nuts and seeds or at least add oatmeal and nuts to your cookies. Replace fruit snacks with raisins. When you do choose milled flour products, choose whole grain options. To take it to the next level, start to replace noodles, pastas, crackers, and biscuits with vegetables — cabbage, leafy greens, sliced carrots/radishes/cucumbers, and roasted root vegetables, for example. But start simple and you may very well amaze yourself

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3. Eat Protein with Every Meal or Snack.

For those who are more lower-bowel-sensitive, consume fruit alone to avoid gas and bloating.

For the rest of us, follow this rule at all times.

Protein can raise your insulin (increasing muscle building) without increasing your blood sugar (less high blood sugar spikes → less low blood sugar pits that cause fatigue and cravings) and, unlike carbohydrate, it can be used to build the muscles and maintain the body if it is not used for energy. The individual building blocks of protein, amino acids, can turn into either sugar or fat as needed to provide balanced energy to your body.  Imagine if you could break down your car door to power your car — protein is powerful stuff!

For snacks, try pairing fruits or vegetables with nuts, seeds, nut butters, yogurt, granola, cheese, canned fish and shellfish, goat cheese, or sipping a homemade smoothie blended with nuts, seeds, nut butters, dairy, or protein powders. A balanced snack MUST contain protein, ideally contains some fiber, and may contain varying amount of carbohydrate.

You also make every neurotransmitter — chemicals that communicate in your body and brain like serotonin and dopamine — from protein. High carbohydrate intake without sufficient protein makes it very difficult, after a long time, for your body to wake you up and cheer you up in response to the snacks and the coffee. You’ll therefore eat and drink more, leading to more of the same problems.  Bolster yourself against anxiety and fatigue with regular protein intake.

To summarize, swap our your processed snacks for some produce and protein and feel the difference in your daytime stability. Reduce your caffeine intake as you start to feel less like you need the boost — and see how you feel!  This is a great start — there is a lot more you can do from here — but without these fundamentals, sugar can take control of your life.

I hope you found this health update simple and useful.  Timing and spacing of what you eat is the next important consideration. Stay tuned for next week!

What changes have you made to stabilize energy and cravings?

 

Diabesity

What if obesity were a symptom  rather than a cause?
http://www.ted.com/talks/peter_attia_what_if_we_re_wrong_about_diabetes.html

Adipose tissue is endocrinologically / metabolically active in ways that we are frighteningly aware of and likely in many ways that we aren’t. This talk wraps a bit of reality around the issues that health providers face using the traditional wisdom about diabetes and a one-size-fits-all-sizes approach to nutritional advice stemming from prejudice in Western medicine. I completely agree with Dr. Attia in that we have a lot to learn and must go where the science takes us. It makes sense to reassess causation when there are many roads to insulin resistance seemingly independent of obesity. At the end of the day, good advice may be two parts traditional wisdom + one part new understanding.  What is abundantly clear is that no part of lifestyle-oriented disease exists alone, and that attention to diet without attitude, exercise, and environment usually leads to failure.

I was initially drawn to nutrition advice from traditional chinese medicine out of curiosity, and continue to learn more and more for the perspective. This is a great example: the perspective of causation related to internal disease processes, such as diabetes, seemed so utterly rational and inclusive that it complimented the firm– and maybe only partially correct– explanations that I learned in school. I was hooked by the logic and relevance to daily life. We are excellent at understanding the cellular mechanisms, but we still have a lot to learn about the endocrine system and feedback regulation over the course of a lifetime.