I first heard of The Great Cholesterol Myth when I was attending Bauman College. A fellow student had read the book when she was diagnosed with high cholesterol in her mid-20’s. She wasn’t satisfied with the idea of being on statins for the rest of her life. This peaked my interest and so when it was time to do research on a topic relating to heart health, I read the book. Several months after reading the book, I went to the Paleo F(x) conference and saw Jonny Bowden speak.
If you’ve ever been concerned about your cholesterol levels or if high cholesterol runs in your family, this is a must read. It was a fascinating read and paradigm-shifting book. And yet, the authors are able to break down this very complicated topic so that even the non-health nut, non-science-y folks can learn a great deal.
SPOILER ALERT: Rather than animal foods that are rich in cholesterol and saturated fats, the authors build a very strong case that processed foods, sugar, soda, trans fats, and vegetable oils are the main culprits in our SAD diet (Standard American Diet). They also suggest that lifestyle factors, like STRESS, need to be dealt with in order to keep cholesterol levels in healthy ranges. Another SPOILER ALERT: Bowden and Sinatra demonstrate what the pharmaceutical companies don’t want us to know: “…[c]holesterol is a relatively minor player in heart disease and a poor predictor of heart attacks” (p.31, Bowden & Sinatra, 2012).
I’ll leave you with these facts about cholesterol:
- Cholesterol is a waxy steroid that is found in every cell membrane in your body.
- Without sufficient levels of cholesterol in your diet, your body will make it (in the liver) because it is essential.
- It is a building block for important structures such as sex hormones, bile, vitamin D, and it supports brain function, serotonin production, and it acts as an antioxidant.
- It also helps to digest fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), insulates the nerves, and aids in fighting infection.
In the wise words of LeVar Burton, “of course, you don’t have to take *my* word for it.”
Well it’s hard to find folks out there that are not fans of garlic, although they do exist. I, however, am not one of them. There’s a garlic meme that I’ve seen floating out there and just I had to include it for this post. It is me to a T. While garlic is not new to most any of us, there are always new and inventive ways to include this superfood in your diet. I include it in tomato sauces, in my bone broth, in stuffed peppers, Asian StyleTurkey Lettuce Wraps, and in the fresh gingered beets recipe that my husband loves (it can be found here: Flavors of Health Cookbook), and in many, many more recipes. Jennifer Tyler Lee suggests roasting garlic because the flavor profile is more tolerable for kids. She also suggests making garlic mushroom toasts. (Again, I would opt for a gluten-free or paleo “bread” option instead of whole wheat toast. See this post for more on why.)
- Member of the lily family.
- Because garlic has not be breed to be sweeter, larger, or milder tasting, it contains most of its “wild” nutrients.
- All varieties of garlic are quite similar nutritionally.
- Allicin is the active health ingredient in garlic and is a combination of alliin, the protein fragment, and alliinase, the heat-sensitive enzyme. When raw garlic is either cut, pressed, or chewed, these two ingredients are combined. It was discovered that by cooking the garlic immediately after slicing, the heat-sensitive enzyme is destroyed and no allicin is created. Allicin is the active ingredient in garlic that is revered for fighting cancer and protecting the heart. In order to get the most nutrition out of garlic, it is important that you cut/mince/slice/chop the garlic and then let it sit for TEN MINUTES before exposing it to heat.
- A garlic press is the best tool for combining the alliin and alliinase. Jo Robinson says, “press, then rest”.
- Many grocery stores carry garlic grown in China; check where your garlic is coming from. This is frustrating for someone that grocery shops in the same county as Gilroy, the garlic capital of the world. I am a locavore, after all.
- There are two garlic varieties: softneck and hardneck. Hardneck garlic has a hollow stub that protrudes from the top. Softneck garlic appears to have a stem, but it is simply the papery skin that has been twisted.
- Store garlic in the fridge (not the crisper drawer) for the longest shelf life. Until it is cut it will not leave the fridge with bad odors.
- It is native to the Mediterranean, Syria, and China.
- Excellent source of vitamins B6 and C, manganese, and selenium and a good source of phosphorous, calcium, potassium, iron, and copper.
- Has been demonstrated to protect against atherosclerosis, heart disease, elevated cholesterol levels, elevated blood pressure.
- Historically has been used to to fight infections because of its antimicrobial activity.
- Can help protect against colon cancer.
The 52 New Foods Challenge by Jennifer Tyler Lee, Superfoods by Tonia Reinhard, Eating on the Wild Side, by Jo Robinson, and Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Micheal Murray, Joseph Pizzorno, and Lara Pizzorno.
Flax seeds are up next and I’m happy to report that I like flax seeds and I eat them regularly. They have a host of health benefits , but most people do not properly prepare them, and therefore do not get to capitalize on their health benefits. Read on for how to properly prepare flax. Jennifer Tyler Lee recommends adding ground flaxseeds to homemade granola bars or to strawberry-banana smoothies. In the food facts, I’ll add some precautions about using ground flaxseeds in these manners.
- Flax seeds are a good source of fiber.
- High in vitamin B6, thiamine, magnesium, phosphorus, folate, calcium, potassium, iron, zinc, and copper.
- They are also a good source of alpha-linolenic acid and phytoestrogens known as lignans. These have been shown to help prevent cancer and heart disease.
- Flax have been shown to protect against prostate cancer.
- Highest plant sources of omega-3 oils
- Benefits heart, arteries, skin, hair, & brain
- Great for your gut & constipation
- Antioxidant rich
- Protects against breast & colon cancers
- Create a mucilage when soaked in liquids (similar to chia seeds)
- Their densely packed nutrition cannot be accessed if not properly prepared. The body simply cannot digest, and therefore take advantage of, the nutrients housed in whole flaxseeds.
- You can grind them yourself if you have a Vitamix 32-ounce Dry Grains Container for a Vitamix Blender, or something similar. You can also buy them already ground, BUT the container should be opaque and there should be an expiration date that is fairly soon (a couple of months). They should be stored in the fridge (as with all raw nuts and seeds).
- You can also soak whole flaxseeds in liquid. This will increase their absorption. If you plan to add them to your yogurt, I suggest that you add them the night before. If you plan to add them to a smoothie, add them to whatever liquid you use in the smoothie the night before and allow them to soak overnight.
- I’m still on the fence about baking with them. Because Omega-3s are a fragile fat (heat-sensitive) I worry about baking with them. But I also know that while the oven gets fairly warm, the internal temperatures of baked goods doesn’t necessarily get to the oven temp. My current opinion is: if you bake with them, the oven temp should be 325-350 maximum and don’t eat them in baked goods all that often.
- Flaxseed oils should always be cold pressed, purchased in opaque bottles, and should be refrigerated.
- Be sure to never heat flax oil to avoid oxidation!
- Flaxseeds contain a moderate amount of oxalate, so those with a history of oxalate containing kidney stones should watch their consumption.
From Bauman College lecture notes, The 52 New Foods Challenge: A Family Cooking Adventure for Each Week of the Year, with 150 Recipes, by Jennifer Tyler Lee, Superfoods: The Healthiest Foods on the Planet, by Tonia Reinhard, and Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray, Joseph Pizzorno, and Lara Pizzorno.
Photo Cred: Luv Kreativ Photography
It’s no secret, I’m not a fan of raw tomatoes. I’ve never liked them. In fact, I’m the black sheep of the family in regards to my dislike of tomatoes. With that being said, I believe that one day I will love raw tomatoes [growth mindset]. I do like cooked tomatoes of all kinds (except ketchup, yuck!). I am starting to like heirloom tomatoes in a caprese salad. I think the reason I don’t really like tomatoes is because of their strong flavor – it totally changes the taste of a burger, sandwich, or salad. Jennifer Tyler Lee and I are kindred spirits in this way. 🙂 The other fact that helps me feel justified in not liking raw tomatoes is that unless it’s summer, tomatoes are either grown in greenhouses or internationally, or are grown in Florida (Florida’s “soil” is actually just sand and is void of nutrients). So unless they are garden tomatoes or farmer’s market tomatoes, they are often mealy and are picked when green. The book Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit is fascinating. Highly recommended! Anywho… Jennifer Tyler Lee recommends roasted tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato pops! I recently made a cherry tomato chutney at a Sur la Table cooking class – it was delicious!
- They are technically a fruit!
- Tomatoes belong to the nightshade family (along with potatoes, eggplant, peppers- all kinds, and some spices). Nightshades are known to be inflammatory. Nightshades are commonly removed during a 5-R Protocol to determine food intolerances.
- There are over a THOUSAND different types of tomatoes and can be a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors.
- Native to South America.
- The leaves of the tomato are toxic. It was long believed that tomatoes were poisonous because they belong to the nightshade family which houses other poisonous plants (poisonous nightshade and black henbane).
- Great source of vitamins B6, C, and K, carotenes (especially lycopene), beta-carotene, biotin, folic acid, pantothenic acid, niacin, and fiber.
- Lycopene content is FIVE times greater in cooked tomatoes because cooking causes the cell walls to burst and “free” the lycopene. Also, the redder and riper the tomato, the more lycopene content.
- Lycopene in particular has been shown to protect against cancers of the breast, colon, lung, skin, and prostate. Additionally, it has been shown to lower the risk of heart disease, cataracts, and macular degeneration.
- Highest levels of vitamin C can be obtained from raw tomatoes.
- Fully ripe tomatoes cannot be shipped long distances. Therefore they are picked when underripe and then gassed with ethylene. You probably know what I’m going to say here….buy them at a local farmer’s market, CSA, or grown your own!
- Cherry tomatoes have more lycopene per ounce and are sweeter and more flavorful than their larger counterparts. Smaller is better!
From The 52 New Foods Challenge: A Family Cooking Adventure for Each Week of the Year, with 150 Recipesby Jennifer Tyler Lee, Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Healthby Jo Robinson, Superfoods: The Healthiest Foods on the Planetby Tonia Reinhard, and Superfoods: The Healthiest Foods on the Planetby Michael Murray, Joseph Pizzorno, and Lara Pizzorno.
Green onions probably aren’t anything new for many of us, but they are an essential ingredient in all types of cuisine. I don’t mind onions raw, I love them cooked, and I ADORE them caramelized. I realize that not everyone feels this way about onions, especially children. Jennifer Tyler Lee suggests including them in omelets or even making savory green onion pancakes. I like the idea of using them to make savory pancakes, but choosing a grain free flour for the pancakes, rather than whole wheat flour. (You probably know my stance on wheat, but if not, check out this post.)
- Onions are members of the allium family, like garlic and leeks.
- Smaller onions have less water and a greater concentration of phytonutrients.
- The sweeter the onion, the less phytonutrient activity.
- The Western Yellow variety of onion has the most antioxidants
- The papery skin layer of the onion has the most concentration of bionutrients. And while we don’t eat that part of the onion, it should be saved and added to homemade broth.
- Onions are a rich source of the antioxidant quercetin. This phytonutrient is vital to support digestion and gut issues.
- The antioxidant values in onions have been shown to prevent cancer
- Onions have also been shown to fight against cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.
- Good source of vitamins C and B6, potassium, and manganese.
- Onions have been also been shown to support the respiratory system and fight coughs and congestion.
- The sulfur in onions (and all alliums) is great for liver detoxification.
- A good source of prebiotic fiber (this feeds your gut bacteria and helps to keep the colony thriving).
From: The 52 New Foods Challenge: A Family Cooking Adventure for Each Week of the Year, with 150 Recipes by Jennifer Tyler Lee, Superfoods: The Healthiest Foods on the Planet by Tonia Reinhard, and Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health by Jo Robinson.
Photo Credit: Luv Kreativ Photography https://www.instagram.com/luvkreativ/?hl=en