Gelatin

bonebroth1

bonebroth1

Nose-to-tail eating: you may have heard about this in the “foodie” or restaurant scene. Well known chefs are building reputations for using as much of a whole animal as possible, and it’s actually really smart when you consider your health. Eating parts of an animal (a healthy, sustainably raised animal I would add) like skin and connective tissue, or consuming bone broth, provides you with something often lacking in the modern diet: gelatin. If you’re sticking with just skinless and boneless cuts of meat, you’re missing out on the important benefits that gelatin can provide. In my cooking as a personal chef, I always incorporate bone broth where I can and I encourage clients to try different parts other than chicken breast or beef tenderloin. Hellooo beef shank!

To expand on this idea, here are some benefits gelatin has to offer. I encourage you to do more reading and research as there is lots more to learn! I am just touching upon some common benefits here:

  1. Maintains appropriate amino acids:

Did you know if you are only eating muscle meat (cuts of meat without any skin, cartilage, connective tissue, etc), you may be creating a major imbalance in your diet? I didn’t know this either! 

Let me explain: Gelatin provides two amino acids we often don’t get enough of in our diet: glycine and proline. The cuts of muscle meat we most often consume- such as boneless skinless chicken breast- are high in the amino acid methionine.

Why do we care about that?

Methionine raises our homocysteine levels because homocysteine is essentially synthesized from methionine. Now, homocysteine is an amino acid that tends to promote injury to blood vessel cells, as well as promote inflammation. This can contribute to the damage of arteries, by way of inflammation and cell injury. This is a very interesting implication in heart disease – I would consider it food for thought. 

Additionally, unbalanced levels of methionine increase can our need for vitamins such as folate and B vitamins (because these vitamins are used in homocysteine conversion processes). The amino acids found in gelatin-such as glycine- help “balance out” these effects from methionine. This is of course a simplified explanation of an incredibly complicated process, but the important thing to remember is that ideally you have a healthy balance between methionine and glycine.

  1. Gelatin helps your digestion:

Amino acids found in gelatin seem to play roles digesting fat, absorbing fatty-acids, restoring the lining of your digestive system and also improving stomach acid production. Studies have indicated a role between probiotics in the gut and the metabolism of amino acids. This means that dietary amino acids may contribute to the survival of healthy gut bacteria, which in turn affects the nutritional uptake from the intestines, which ultimately affects your health. Interesting relationship, eh?

  1. Helps bones and joints:

    Gelatin helps manage inflammation, strengthens bones, and provides collagenNumerous studies have been conducted which correlate ingestion of amino acids found in gelatin with joint and bone health. 

  2. Improves sleep:

Studies have shown that glycine contributes to an improvement in sleep quality. One example demonstrated a correlation between ingestion of glycine before bedtime and a decrease in core body temperature. This decrease in temperature is a natural indication of the onset of sleep, and humans also maintain lowered body temperatures throughout a period a sleeping. These findings point towards the potential for glycine to play a role as a natural sleep aid.  

How to get your gelatin:

  • Tougher cuts of meat that require long, low-heat cooking have more connective tissue, collagen and tendons. Which means, more gelatin. Going for cuts that are bone-in (meaning the bones have not been removed) is also great because as you cook the meat, the bones release the gelatin into the surrounding liquid, which you should then consume. Think more beef shank, less tenderloin. These cuts of meat are also much cheaper because people consider them less desirable. Little do they know you’re getting quite a bang for your buck, AND your being more sustainable in your food choices. It’s a win win. 
  • Bone-broth made from grass-fed beef or poultry bones is incredibly valuable for many reasons, one of them being it is a great source of gelatin (as well as minerals). What is bone broth? It is essentially soup stock, cooked for at least 8 hours. When I make a big pot of broth, I freeze it in small batches so I can easily pull a jar out whenever I need it. I use it often in soups, I cook veggies in it, I add it to sautés and sauces…..the uses are endless. You can drink it warmed in a mug too. Here is my video and recipe for bone bone broth.
  • You can also purchase gelatin from grass-fed reputable sources, however I do recommend trying to get it from real food as per the above-mentioned sources before you go for a supplement. With that said, take a look at these:

    Great LakesVital Proteins

    Both are good brands. You can find tons of recipes for smoothies, puddings, gummies, ice cream, and more online. Gelatin also happens to be a great binder for cooking, especially for anyone who is avoiding gluten and/or eggs. I have a few personal chef clients who cannot eat gluten, eggs, fruit or nuts, so many options for cooking are limited -especially any type of baked good…. but low and behold, gelatin works wonders (so does pumpkin puree but that’s a topic for another day!)

  • Note: If you try gelatin as a supplement powder and feel you don’t tolerate it well, you’re not alone. There are people whom it may not be right for. But, if incorporating  some type of ‘supplement’ into your diet is important to you, find the one that works for you. I don’t tolerate whey protein, and gelatin works for me, so I use it. I sometimes add collagen protein into warm drinks like homemade hot chocolate or coffee, which gives them a velvety, smooth creamy texture. Also, I put it in smoothies when I know I would otherwise be skipping a meal (sometimes I’m just too busy for breakfast or lunch- it happens to all of us!). 

Additional Sources:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3155927/ (oxidative stress)

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4167623/ (platelet aggregation)

 

 

Please note: some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means I receive commission if you click on the link and make a purchase. Regardless, I only recommend products I personally use and believe add legitimate value for my readers. Many of the links in this post are not affiliate links and are just inserted to be additional resources to my readers.

Menus This Week

kale-cabbage7kale-cabbage7

Here are some of the meals I prepared for my personal chef clients this week. My focus in cooking healthy meals is quality of ingredients and using the right healthy fats to decrease inflammation.

I cook for quite a few families who have extensive eliminations due to allergies, intolerances or illnesses. Since your digestive system plays such a crucial role in the functioning of your body, being mindful of what you eat can really influence your health. So, most of my days are spent helping people tackle health issues by way of the meals they eat! 

Here are some of the top menu choices this week:
  • Herbed Turkey Meatballs with Roasted Sweet Potato Coins
  • Salmon Cakes with Cabbage and Collard Green Saute
  • Citrus & Thyme Pot Roast with Parsnips
  • Coconut Chicken ‘Alfredo’ with Zucchini Noodles
  • Cherry BBQ Basted Split Chicken Breast with Bok Choy
  • Celery & Bell Pepper Grass-Fed Beef Meatloaf with Shredded Cauliflower
  • Turkey & Vegetable Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
  • Ginger, Lemon & Brazil Nut-Crusted Wild Salmon with Kale & Carrots
  • Chicken ‘Pot Pie’ with Coconut Flour & Butternut Crust
  • Moroccan Eggplant Moussaka 

I’m hoping to get better at posting recipes over time, so you should see some of these soon! 

 

 

Navigating Visits with Friends or Family

omelette

omelette

As someone who follows a diet many would consider “restricted”, I know how difficult it can be to share meals with others. Being a professional chef, I tend to want to be the one doing the cooking, and when I am able to prepare at least some of the food being served, then I don’t have as much of a problem. However, in my work as a personal chef, I have many conversations with clients about their struggles when going to visit friends or family.

The hard part comes when you visit in-laws or friends houses. They have lovingly prepared food for you that, unfortunately, you can’t eat. Do you suck it up, eat the food, and suffer the consequences? Or if your dietary restrictions are more serious, it’s really unwise to eat food that isn’t within your diet. What do you do? Do you explain your restrictions politely at the dinner table? Can you “call ahead” to explain so no one is caught off guard?

Initially, you may think, well yeah, I’ll just tell them. But when considering all the nuances of relationships, I can attest to having been in quite a few situations where I didn’t feel comfortable explaining why I couldn’t eat certain foods. Sometimes it’s the way people react, they roll their eyes, they laugh, and they can’t fathom why you won’t eat ice cream. Other times, you have already explained your diet (multiple times in fact) but no one seems to remember what you eat. You start to feel silly or frustrated having to repeat yourself. Additionally, it’s hard to tell someone you can’t eat a dish they put a lot of care into- you certainly don’t want to be hurting anyone’s feelings!

My question is, why do we end up feeling rude or uncomfortable because we’re doing our best to be healthy? How can we maintain our own standards but not hurt anyone’s feelings?

To start, in our culture, with media, famous restaurants, fast food, etc., there is much less emphasis on diets that exclude certain foods. As a result, our friends, our family, don’t necessarily have as much exposure to the different diets you or I may follow. It just isn’t around as much. This isn’t about lack of ‘education’; it’s about a lack of quality information being available to the public. I do think this is slowly changing, which is a great thing to see. I hope we continue to see better, and more accurate, information circulating about why we shouldn’t eat certain foods.

Now, what do we do about feeling rude or hurting someone’s feelings?

The important thing I have found, in explaining the way I eat, is to highlight the fact that this is about my efforts to feel well and be healthy. At the same time, it is important not to preach about foods being bad or make it seem like you are judging others for the way they eat. This is about you getting well, and if your speaking to a family member or friend, chances are they will be understanding of you saying you need to do this to help your body.

I’m still learning myself here! I do still feel awkward sometimes. But the more you get used to opening up and speaking from the heart, the easier it becomes. I do suggest speaking with family or friends before you go visit. Explain that you’re working to find a way of eating that helps you feel healthy. If you’re comfortable, give them a brief background on what’s going on.
For me, I usually explain that I have had digestive and other issues practically my whole life, and I have finally figured out a way of eating that has resolved all these problems. Ask if you can bring a dish to help in the meal efforts, or help with some cooking.

I think it’s important not to convey an expectation that every dish comply with your way of eating. But have a conversation with them about how much you want to be a part of the meal, or the occasion, and how you’d like to help in any way you can. I think your honesty and willingness to help will make a big difference.

The more you find yourself able to have these important conversations, the easier it will be to navigate those holiday parties or family gatherings. I’m not saying it is easy, but being prepared can really make a difference.

Meal Planning

food-prep2

food-prepThe first step in any meal plan is to make healthy eating a priority.

I know, you’re probably thinking, duh! But I mean make it enough of a priority that you are willing to dedicate some time to healthy cooking and eating.

You have to stop making certain excuses in order to make time for this. I may sound like I am drawing a hard line here, but ultimately, you have to decide where your health (feeling great! looking great!) falls on your list of priorities. Otherwise you’ll often find yourself saying: I don’t have time or I don’t feel like it.

Ok, off my soapbox and back into the kitchen!

Sunday: prep day. 

Hands down this is the best way to get a good handle or jumpstart on your week. If Sunday really isn’t good for you, select one day per week that can be your big prep day! Get your favorite music on, and see how much you can get done in 1-2 hours.

TIP#1:

Take the time on sunday morning over your coffee or breakfast to create your plan.

I start by browsing my favorite cookbooks, food mags, websites, blogs, to see what inspires me and what I feel like eating. This may not be your schtick-  I don’t expect everyone to love reading recipes as much as I do…..So, you have to decide on an approach that works for you. An alternative option to reading books, is to utilize meal plans to help you build your week. That’s what I am here for! If you have several weeks’ worth of plans, you can pick favorites that can become your ol’ standbys.

Tip#2:

Get used to thinking about the WHOLE week ahead of time. Just picture each day, and think about your plans. If there is a night you will be out to dinner, you can X that off the meal plan list. If there is a night you will be home later than usual, think about prepping a crockpot dinner that can cook all day and be ready when you get home.

TIP#3:

Utilize recipes that share common ingredients so you can minimize wasting food (it’s hard to use a whole head of cabbage in 1 recipe!) This also helps you streamline your prep, maximizes space in your fridge and it is a HUGE TIME SAVER.

For example: Monday is veggie stir-fry with chicken, and Tusday is beef & veggie Ragu- both those dishes could utilize the same vegetables such as spinach, carrots and broccoli.

TIP#4:

Streamline your prep: if you’re going to chop cabbage, chop it all and store extra in a bag in crisper drawer. If you’re shredding carrots, shred double. In the very least you can freeze the extra for another day. But, this way, come the days when you’re in a time crunch or feeling less motivated to cook, you have most of the chopping done. I know this is a life saver for me.

Tip#5:

Cook larger portions so you have leftovers for lunch/snack/dinner in a pinch. I always make a dinner that can be enough for 2 days at least, and the 2nd day if I really don’t feel like the same thing, I find a way to add a little somethin’ new to make it different: one night the stir-fry with chicken, the next night I would add some broth to make it soupy or add sweet potato “noodles” to add more texture. You can also freeze extra portions so they are there for you to pull out in a pinch.

Boost Your Immune System

berries2

berries2

This time of year, it seems everyone I know is sick. I haven’t been sick in several years and I don’t intend on getting sick anytime soon! I wanted to share my tips for staying healthy- not just during cold season but for all times of year. Following some of the tips below should help you improve the overall function of your immune system and therefore, when you’re exposed to germs, your body is much better equipped to fight it off.

So, here we go! This is a long post, sorry. I couldn’t stop writing.

Let me ask you, do any of the situations listed below play a part in your life?

Excessive or prolonged stress

Sleep deprivation

Exhaustion from busy social and work schedules

Bad food choices and a lack of important nutrients

Regular drinking (did you know alcohol can impair your white blood cells’ ability to combat viruses up to 24 hours after?)

Smoking

All of these things impair our immune system and make us more susceptible to some of the less exciting elements of the season: Cold, Cough, Fever, Flu.

However, you can protect yourself from such menaces by making sure your immune system is in tip-top shape.

So what is your “immune system” anyway?

• Simply put, it is a layered system designed to protect you from disease. There are surface barriers such as our skin, lungs and intestines that act to physically stop bacteria from causing harm. Then there are chemical barriers such as antibodies that the body produces within bodily fluids. Then there are also cellular barriers, which are actual cells that fight foreign invaders- such as white blood cells.

• Think of the immune system as a machine or engine, with many parts that perform different tasks to keep you running effectively. So, when we speak of “boosting our immune system” we want to think of it as keeping the engine well-oiled and in great shape so it doesn’t break down.

Good health = good immune system = NO FLU

The most important aspect of boosting your immune system is looking at your overall health habits and making sure you are caring for your body regularly – popping a bunch of vitamin C once cold symptoms set in won’t do you any good if you already have a weak immune system.

Easier said than done, right? Well here are some tips to help you get started.

Tips To Help Boost Your Immune System

Manage Stress: Social stress can be even more damaging than physical stress. Reports are finding that stressful situations can reduce our cellular immune response, so take time to decompress and relax

Balance Exercise: Regular exercise is one of the pillars of healthy living. It also boosts your body’s natural antioxidant defense system over time. However, when you feel even the slightest inkling of sickness coming on, physically stressing your body with exercise can actually bring on sickness (especially intense exercise). If you think you may be coming down with something, rest up and skip the gym until you feel 100%.

Get Sleep: Those who get less than 7 hours of sleep are more likely to develop a cold in comparison to those who get 8 or more hours of sleep. Your body really needs sleep to repair and recover. (Your brain also needs sleep to recover, process new information, and prepare you for the next day).

Take Supplements (or make a serious effort to increase foods high in certain listed vitamins. Remember,  food sources are the best way to get nutrients):

Vitamin B (as a complex, not just B6 or B12): Studies have shown that a vitamin B deficiency can depress aspects of the immune response.

Vitamin C: an antioxidant responsible for growth and repair of cells. Has been shown to reduce cold symptoms.

Vitamin D: has been shown to signal an antimicrobial response when the body is exposed to sunlight, which is the best source of Vit. D.

Ginseng: known for ability to increase immune function.

Oregano oil: known to be anti-bacterial, it can help improve gut health and boost immune system.

Probiotics: “good” bacteria that support a healthy immune system via your gut. *so incredibly important! 

Echinacea: an herb that can help prevent or limit sickness, usually if taken right at first sign of symptoms. Don’t take long-term.

Chamomile: a recent study found that increasing chamomile intake (as tea) increased levels of polyphenols, a compound that is connected to increased antibacterial activity.

Fiber: We all have cells called macrophage- they are white blood cells produced in bone marrow. These cells roam the body, picking fights with bacteria, viruses, or other intruders. But they need you to help them: these white blood cells are activated by components of fiber . So get your fiber!

Eat Right:

Brightly colored fruits & veggies: Antioxidants in brightly colored fruits and veggies fight free radicals that dampen your natural defenses,

Cruciferous veggies: supporting liver enables detoxification and support of well-functioning immune system. Vegetables such as kale, broccoli, lettuce and cabbage support the liver’s ability to flush out toxins.

Garlic: Garlic may have some infection-fighting capabilities to work against bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

Avocados: Avocados contain essential amino acids, antioxidants and some healthy fats to help balance hormone production.

Ginger: helps to break down the accumulation of toxins in the lungs and sinuses. Also believed to help cleanse the lymphatic system, which is our body’s sewage system.

Healthy dietary fat: Fat is necessary for carotenoids, antioxidants that have been linked to improved immunity, to be properly absorbed in your body. Choose salad dressings with healthy fats from extra-virgin olive oil or nut oils. Avocado oil is also good. There are actually many fat-soluble nutrients that do not get absorbs into your body without dietary fat. Cook with stable fats such a coconut oil.

Pomegranates: The juice in pomegranate seeds contain ellagic acid and punic alagin which fight damage from free radicals. It’s also a powerful source of phytonutrients that promote healthy skin.

Mushrooms: Japanese mushrooms are a great immunity booster- enoki, shitake or oyster – they have an antioxidant ergothioneine that stays intact even through cooking.

Start Here: eat real food

oranges

oranges

I  often hear people exclaim they don’t know where to even start when it comes to getting healthy, feeling better, or tackling a specific health concern.

This is where I always start: eat clean food!

But what does that really mean?

To me, it means: eat food found in the form nature intended. Avoid pre-made and pre-packaged food with added ingredients that don’t sound like food. Eat food sold by your local farmers and fishermen. Shop the outskirts of the supermarket, avoiding the aisles with all the junk.

I created a list that helps outline the standards I set for what “eating clean” actually means:

 START HERE: EAT REAL FOOD

FRUITS & VEGGIES

~Aim to eat all colors of the rainbow in your produce

~Veggies at every meal

~Organic & local is ideal to reduce exposure to pesticides

~Avoid genetically modified food (GMO’s)

~Greens such as kale, spinach, collards, arugula

~Starchy veggies such as carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, beets

~Cruciferous veggies such as cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage

~Fruits such as berries, pineapple, kiwi, mango

 

PROTEIN

~Wild fish such as pacific salmon (no farmed fish)

~Grass-fed beef & lamb

~Poultry should be pasture-raised (organic & local also ideal)

~The same goes for eggs! Pasture-raised, ideally organic & local

~Pork: also should be pasture-raised, ideally local & organic too

~Get to know your local farmers & fishermen

~ Shop at farmer’s markets & ask questions

 

DAIRY

~Approach dairy quality as you would meat

~From grass-fed cows

~Look for local & organic sources

~ Full-fat ONLY! Low-fat does not = healthy

~ Raw milk & raw milk cheeses ideal

~Non-homogenized

~These standards stand for milk, cheese, yogurt, butter & ghee

~You’re better off avoiding dairy if you can’t adhere to most of these guidelines

 

HEALTHY FATS

For cooking:

Unrefined, organic, cold-pressed coconut oil

Butter or ghee from grass-fed cows, organic ideal

Sustainably sourced palm oil- do your reaserch

Animal fats such as tallow or lard from pastured, ideally organic & local sources

For Cold Use (but not for cooking):

These fats do not hold up well to heat & light. Store in cupboard and use on food after it has been cooked, or in salad dressings

Cold-pressed organic extra-virgin olive oil

Avocado oil

Macadamia Oil

Flax oil: use in moderation

 

UNHEALTHY FATS

I will poke you in the eye if I ever see you buying this garbage

These products are highly processed, refined, and oxidized concoctions; they promote inflammation and are not healthy to consume:

Margarine

Earth Balance

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter

PAM

Canola Oil

Soybean Oil

Grapeseed Oil

Sunflower/Safflower Oil

Corn oil

Olive Oil (as in, not extra-virgin)

 

I hope this list helps to give some overarching quality guidelines that I consider incredibly important for a healthy lifestyle.

 

 

Did you know? Digestion

If you’re experiencing digestive problems, did you know it could be affecting your overall health in many ways?

Your skin, sleep, mood, immune system, and your body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food. Even more seriously it can be causing/exacerbating serious autoimmune or digestive disease such as Grave’s, Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis.

Healthy digestion is such an important foundation to your overall health. But, if you suffer from some degree of digestive distress, knowing how to solve it is often a frustrating experience.

Here are some preliminary suggestions:

1.) Dietary tactics are the most important step.

2.) This means eliminating toxins from your diet that are causing inflammation and irritation (if not worse).

3.) Such toxins include those from food itself and from the environment. Food toxins are certain anti-nutrients and compounds that irritate the gut, promote inflammation, and promote bad bacterial overgrowth (there are good bugs and bad bugs in our gut).

4.) This is why an elimination diet for s specific amount of time (I recommend 21 to 30 days at minimum) is so important to allow your body time to recuperate.

5.) Cleanses and elimination diets are becoming a ‘fad’ that people do arbitrarily and with no proper guidance. I don’t suggest elimination diets because they are the ‘cool thing to do’, I suggest them because it is crucial to remove certain toxins when trying to resolve digestive distress.

6.) Some of the top toxins to remove are:

  • wheat, corn, oats: the ‘gluten-free’ status of oats has been called into question due to cross-contamination. Furthermore, it isn’t just gluten that causes irritation, these foods contain other problematic compounds
  • Legumes: especially beans, soy and peanuts. Impair digestion, block stomach acid production (which you NEED), promote bacterial overgrowth
  • Fructose: useless to humans and serves as food for bad bacteria
  • Omega-6 fatty acid: most standard diets include 10x the desired amount of omega-6 in the diet. Causes inflammation and impairs immune system. This means avoiding the man-made, highly toxic and often rancid oils such as: soybean oil, safflower oil, corn oil, peanut oil, and canola oil.
  • Fiber: I know I know, we are all taught to “get your fiber!” but during this attempt to heal and repair your digestive tract, fiber should be limited. The cells of fiber themselves are ‘rough’ and bang up against your intestines, causing damage. They are also a food source for the potential overgrowth of bad bacteria you have in your gut. The natural fiber you get from fruits and veggies are much more desirable than any other source, so don’t worry as much about these, but don’t supplement with additional fiber

Again, this is a preliminary list, and I always suggest having a holistic health professional give you guidance when it comes to healing your digestive tract (gut). There are often layers of complicating factors that influence what specific recommendations I would make, so if you tried eliminating certain foods in the past and felt like it didn’t help, it may be because there were additional issues that you didn’t know to consider.