Archive for tag: nutrition

The Season Is Changing - So Should Your Dinner

Adiós, slow roasted sweet potatoes and beef. Hello, green onions! Although the calendar says spring doesn't officially start until March 20th on the Spring Equinox, we all felt the shift about a week ago. I'm not just talking about the temperature moving from 35º to 55º in two days, although that was awesome, too. When the seasons change, everything changes. If you are remotely in tune with your body, the earth, the energy of the universe, etc., then you felt it, too.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the concept of the Five Elements or Phases shows that each season is connected to one of the functional organ systems of the body. Winter is the kidney and spring is the liver. Easy enough, right? Well, there's more. The body needs to be prepared gently and thoroughly for the transition to a new season, and while acupuncture and herbal medicine certainly play their role, dietary therapy is really where it's at.

The winter was a time of hunkering down, tonifying the kidney and urinary bladder with salt and animal fats, thickening the blood, and conserving energy through the cold long season. Now that spring is upon us, it's time to lighten up -- literally. The Inner Classic teaches that we should reawaken the body and prepare for new beginnings by rising with the sun and taking brisk walks. Spring is the time to gather up stored energy and push upward, like a sprouting plant in the garden.

Spring is also a time for cleansing, and TCM focuses that cleansing on the organs that need it most this time of year -- the liver and gall bladder. After gorging on fatty steaks in the winter, the springtime requires a diet of small amounts of light food with yang qualities. Think sprouts, greens, young plants, and shoots. Heavy foods can clog the liver and gall bladder, leading to fevers and other springtime maladies.

Want specifics? Lay off the salt -- including soy sauce and miso -- and heavy meats. Instead, cook with something lighter, bringing in the pungent flavors of basil, fennel, marjoram, rosemary, caraway, dill, and bay leaf. Throw in some young garden pickings like small beets, carrots, and peas. Use more simple, raw foods instead of slow roasting or stewing. Both the Ayurvedic tradition and the ancient Chinese encouraged people to choose wind-like, airy foods during the springtime, to promote cleansing and new growth.

While the Chinese do not recommend eating raw foods in abundance or all year round, they do encourage more raw foods in the springtime. If a person is weak, frail, or deficient, then they might not do well with raw foods, even during the spring. If a person is hot and full of excesses, then bring on the plates full of raw celery and cucumbers. As with everything, dietary recommendations are guided by general principles, but are always customized to the individual.

In the United States, our climate is mostly temperate. Thus, we can apply most of the dietary suggestions from TCM, including the use of light, raw foods in the springtime. You can still cook some things -- just make it quick. A short, high-temperature sauté is appropriate, as is a brief steaming.

Why should you care to adjust your springtime diet? You don't have to. You can go on shoving your face full of rib eye and baked potatoes slathered in sour cream and butter (Ohh, I miss the winter diet already!), but tell me how you feel in about a month or two.

What's the risk? The liver-gall bladder duo can be quite a beast. The first sign of an imbalanced liver is angry outbursts, accompanied by frustration, dissatisfaction, and impulsiveness. Once the gall bladder gets bogged down, too, then add in indecisiveness and unclear thinking. You might experience eye or vision trouble or tendon stiffness and joint pain, or pain or discomfort anywhere along the Liver or Gall Bladder meridians of the body.

I know it's hard to change. I love salt, steak, and butter more than anyone I've ever met, but I've also learned my lesson. I've clogged my liver and gall bladder one too many times. I've had the blurry vision, sticky feeling in the eyes, bitter taste in the mouth, angry outbursts, and all of the other things the Chinese warned me about.

Photo of gallbladder cleanse text

This week, I'm doing this -- the TCM Gallbladder cleanse!

Milk - Should You Drink It?

I'm not going to say you should drink milk, and I'm not going to say you shouldn't drink milk, but I am going to say some things about drinking milk. In my house, we have to specify "cow's milk" for a discussion like this one, because we also stock a decent rotation of rice milk, almond milk, coconut milk, and even soy milk on occasion. I really don't like any of that stuff, but somewhere along the way my kids and husband took a shining to them. So, now I buy like five milks, most of which aren't milk at all, but "drinks" of sorts. OK.

2015-03-10_cowToday let's focus on the gold standard of milk -- cow's milk. You know, the good ole white jug. It's the perfect food...for calves. Is it also the perfect food, or even an acceptable food, for humans? Do we have a biological need for the nutritional profile that turns a newborn calf into a full-grown bull? Kind of sounds ridiculous when you think about it, doesn't it? When your cat has a baby, do you pump some extra human breast milk and give it to the kitten just for good measure? Oh, so now it sounds preposterous?

Drinking milk seems to be one of those things that people just do out of habit. Your mom gave you a glass of milk with dinner. (I know grown men who still want a glass of milk with Thanksgiving dinner.) Your elementary school plopped that cute little missing persons carton on your lunch tray every day. You pour it on your cereal, and you probably grew up to do the same when you had your own children. We're propagating a vicious cycle of humans drinking cow's milk here, people. If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.

Have you ever asked yourself why? Why do we go from drinking human breast milk after a year or few to drinking a cow's breast milk? Do cows do it better? What is happening? Let's let the ancient Chinese take the wheel for a minute. What properties does milk have according to TCM?

  • 2015-03-10_glassTemperature: Neutral
  • Flavor: Sweet
  • Channels Entered: Lung, Stomach, and Heart
  • Action: Moistens dryness
  • Cautions: People with damp accumulation or phlegm-damp nodules

Hmmmm. The conclusion is, like almost every naturally occurring food, milk is good for some of the people some of the time. Chinese medicine doesn't usually make blanket statements like "X food is always good for you" or "Y food is always bad for everyone." Instead, TCM shows us that each food has a set of properties, making each food the right choice or the wrong choice for a given person at a given time, depending on that individual's condition. A dry, hot, thin person with a red tongue and rapid pulse might be well nourished and moistened by a cool glass of milk. On the other hand, a damp-retaining person with too much phlegm already might want to stay away from milk most of the time.


What do I think? Again, I'm not here to tell anyone they should or should not drink cow's milk. I will go ahead and share some of the concerns that I find most important to consider when deciding whether or not to reach for the white jug.

First, why are you drinking milk? Are you looking for protein, calcium, Vitamin D or Vitamin A? Then I hope you're drinkingwholemilk. Skim or reduced-fat milk might show high daily values of these nutrients on the label, but without the naturally occurring fat still present, your body cannot effectively absorb and utilize the protein, calcium, Vitamin A or Vitamin D. You're drinking it in, and you're peeing it out. Congratulations on that very expensive urine.


Milk is certainly not the only place to obtain these nutrients, but if these are the reasons you're drinking the milk, and you're drinking skim milk, then do yourself a favor and don't bother! If you simply love the texture of white water, I mean skim milk, then go ahead and gulp it down. Just remember that you aren't netting those nutrients listed on the label. In case your mind isn't blown yet, go ahead and apply the same rules to all dairy. Low fat cheese? Fat free yogurt? I hope you're eating it because you love the taste, not because you're looking to effectively digest, absorb, and utilize those nutrients.

2015-03-10_coverDo I drink cow's milk? Not really. Door to Door Organics delivers a white jug of organic whole fat milk to my house every other week, and it gets used. My kids drink a glass every other day or so, and my husband pours it on his cereal -- not that we eat much cereal. Did anyone else see the cover of Bloomberg Business last week? Yum, my cereal is 55% GMO sugar! I always wanted to start my day with a piece of cake as a kid...little did I know, I was!

Sorry--my daughter took her red pen and told Tony what she thinks of his cereal. Drink cow's milk if you like it, but know what you're dealing with. Your choices matter in building the health and wellness that you see for your life.

Additional Reading

Olive Oil, Cancer, and Apparently My Frustrations

Hot olive oil is carcinogenic. I'm trying to cut to the chase in my writing -- can you tell?

2015-02-11_oilWhen extra virgin olive oil is heated to its smoke point of around 300º Fahrenheit, bad things happen. Its protective anti-oxidants become cancer-causing free radicals. I know, I know...bring on the cop-out onslaught of "Everything causes cancer, there's no point in worrying about it." Wrong. That's the answer given by two groups of people, and (spoiler alert) you don't want to be in either group.

2015-02-11_butterFirst, and more acceptable, is the group of people who really haven't looked into health and nutrition at all. OK, hey, this is a diversified society. Not everyone has to be an expert in every subject. Some people can grow the food, others can study chemistry, and some can sell the apples at the market. It's 2015, as Tricia would say. You're a productive member of society, but you're busy. I know. You see a commercial saying "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter is a healthy choice," you run out and buy it, and you figure you're doing a decent job in life. Well, you're wrong. At minimum, really though, shouldn't every adult eater in America take a few minutes out of the upcoming "dancing with famous people" show and perhaps start to learn a bit about what you're putting into your body?

Secondly, and less acceptable, is the group of people who simply don't care about what they've learned. These are the people who read the same books about olive oil that I did, saw the explanations about why it's a bad idea to heat olive oil in your wok on stir-fry night, but keep doing it anyways. "Everything causes cancer, so why should I bother switching to a healthier option?" Gee, I don't know, maybe because you don't want to be on the wrong side of "1 in 2 American men will get cancer in his lifetime." Ladies, you're 1 in 3. Want specifics? Here's the full wheel of fun: Lifetime Probability of Developing or Dying from Cancer.

Here's a thought that not many people seem to care about. Not everything causes cancer. There are actually lots of things that don't seem to cause cancer. What about trying some pesticide-free vine-ripened fruits and vegetables? Maybe refrain from spraying yourself down in poison perfume every day? I'm not saying you can simply walk through life making all the right choices and be guaranteed cancer free. I am saying that there's this whole thing called "epi-genetics" that effectively blows out of the water the old lazy assumption that your genes have predetermined whether or not you will get cancer or be obese, etc. Not true. Your genes throw you into the world with a certain set of probabilities, such as a 30% risk that your breast cancer switch will be flipped on. Sure, that sucks, but it's not a death sentence.


What can you do about it? Something! Epi-genetics reminds us that our lifestyle matters just as much, or more, than our genetic predeterminations. "Only 5-10% of all cancer cases can be attributed to genetic defects, whereas the remaining 90-95% have their roots in the environment and lifestyle. The lifestyle factors include cigarette smoking, diet (fried foods, red meat), alcohol, sun exposure, environmental pollutants, infections, stress, obesity, and physical inactivity." Nobody hates that alcohol part more than I do, believe me, but the overall point is still valid.

This was supposed to be about olive oil, wasn't it? Well, now you know why I don't cook with olive oil. I cook with organic, grass-fed butter, and my husband prefers coconut oil, both of which have higher smoke points than olive oil does, meaning that we can cook at higher temperatures more safely. Some of you will google this "hearsay" and find websites that say not to worry about it, because all cooking of all food breaks down nutrients and produces some free radicals, and your body is programmed to deal with that small amount of carcinogens. You'll be fine...probably. Really? How's that working out for you? Which group of the "1 in 2 Americans" do you think you're in? Clearly, friends, we are bombarding our bodies with way too many carcinogens these days.


Anand, P., Kunnumakara, A. B., Sundaram, C., Harikumar, K. B., Tharakan, S. T., Lai, O. S., ... Aggarwal, B. B. (2008). Cancer is a Preventable Disease that Requires Major Lifestyle Changes. Pharmaceutical Research, 25(9), 2097-2116. doi:10.1007/s11095-008-9661-9

Check Your Chamber Pots, Ladies

2015-01-29_potEver heard of "bedpan bullets?" If you take a multivitamin from the grocery store shelf, odds are high that your body is not absorbing the vitamins and minerals listed on the side of the bottle. Nurses have been finding mostly-intact tablets in the bedpans of patients for years, sometimes so undissolved that the popular brand name is still legible!

How could this be true? How could my beloved multivitamin, that I've watched TV commercials for thousands of times, be a total waste of money? I checked the side of the bottle! It says it's giving me 100% of my daily need for Niacin. What could go wrong?

2015-01-29_bedpanWell, yes, you are popping a one-a-day that shows 100%s for most of your vitamins and minerals...but that does not mean that those nutrients are bioavailable. Your body is not absorbing nearly 100%, but instead, just shooting the tablet out your other end.

"Studies have shown individual vitamin isolates in supplements are about 10% absorbed. Compare this to vitamins directly from a fresh plant source, which are 77% to 93% absorbed. Minerals in a supplement are even worse -- 1% to 5%. But, from a plant source like raw broccoli, the minerals are 63% to 78% absorbable." Read more at

2015-01-29_pillsThe jig is up. In December 2013, the Annals of Internal Medicine published three papers on the health outcomes of regularly taking multivitamin supplements. Each concluded that it's essentially worthless -- and potentially dangerous -- to pop that multivitamin. The studies specifically looked at improvements in memory and cognition and reduction in rates of cancer and cardiovascular disease. The editorial explanation put out with these papers argued against taking them, stating, "Most supplements do not prevent chronic disease or death, their use is not justified, and they should be avoided." Check out this article from, which links to all 3 referenced papers and the associated editorial:

2015-01-29_tomatoSo what should a well-meaning, crappy American diet-eating individual do to fill in the obvious gaps in whole-food nutrition?

Most of us have a diet comprised of eating out or eating prepackaged factory foods. If you do step up and buy (conventional) produce and chow down on that, you're inundating your body with pesticides. Plus, your apple has probably irradiated to improve shelf life by destroying its vital energy. Unless you are eating an entirely organic, local, vine- or tree-ripened and immediately consumed diet of all fresh foods, your body almost certainly is not bringing in the vitamins and minerals that it needs (nor the digestive enzymes needed to use them). Even with my backyard garden, attempts to eat organic and local, and cooking from scratch almost daily, I'm sure I'm still all nutritionally holey as the ole slice of Swiss cheese.

2015-01-29_cheeseThe next best thing to the above mentioned beautiful diet is to look for a supplement that is whole-food based and bioavailable. I'll give you a clue--you probably won't find it on the sale aisle at the Jewel. Talk to your knowledgeable healthcare professional today about what type of supplementation is appropriate for your body and lifestyle. Dietary therapy and associated nutritional counseling is part of the Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine program, as "food therapy" is one of the long-standing branches of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Who else can help? Your chiropractor and your naturopathic doctor also go through extensive education on supplements--ask one of us!

Does Wine = Exercise?

2014-11-21_wineCurious ladies are dying to know. Could the articles be true? Is drinking a glass of wine the health equivalent of working out at the gym? This. Is. Life-changing.

Here's the article: Resveratrol may be natural exercise performance enchancer - Science Daily. If you have a Facebook account, I'm sure you've at least seen the headline "Glass of Wine Equal to Hour at the Gym!" and the equally delighted personalized status updates by every woman and half the men you are "friends" with.

2014-11-21_chemSo, does the study actually prove this? Kind of. A team of researchers on the University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry found that resveratrol, a natural compound found in some fruits, nuts, and wine, mimics the effects of hard physical exercise on the human body. Although their conclusions leaned more towards creating a resveratrol supplement that could be given to patients that were unable to exercise -- such as a car accident victim with four broken limbs, I guess.

Naturally, the people did not stop there. Our lushy society has taken it upon ourselves to extrapolate the potential ways this could impact the average person. Can't make it to the gym tonight after all? No problem -- have a glass of wine! Don't feel like going for that run in the rain? Don't worry about it -- go back inside and drink wine!

2014-11-21_grapeWhat's the catch? There are a couple of details here. Again, their research was geared towards creating a performance-enhancing supplement, not a substitute for performance entirely. They said resveratrolmimicsthe results of endurance's not quite as perfect in every way. Also, we are only talking about red wine here. "Why?" wonders the lady who only likes sweet dessert wines. The answer is that resveratrol -- the important part of the wine for this discussion -- is found primarily in the skin ofredgrapes. White wine just doesn't have the resveratrol levels that would make an impact in your big sea of body.

2014-11-21_glassWestern medicine always thinks it's discovering something new. Well...not this time, fellas! Chinese medicine has listed red wine as a therapeutic dietary choice for thousands of years. In TCM, red wine is dry and hot, so it expels dampness and warms the interior, expelling cold. Is that why I always crave a glass of Pinot Noir on a cold winter day?

The Chinese also use wine as a guiding element, directing other herbs or foods where the body needs those influences. They see wine as capable of moving blood and qi, which can help dispel not only cold but also stasis and stagnation of many types and manifestations. Both East and West recognize that red wine can improve circulation.

I'm not going to say that TCM wins again, but yes I basically am saying that TCM wins again. Let's compromise over a glass of red wine