Five Foods For a Brain BOOST
 

Our brains are the most unique part of our bodies. They are what control our quirky personalities and allow us to dream up beautiful, brilliant ideas that move the world forward. And they are sooooo great, when we are feeling focused and in the flow zone. But sometimes when we hit that afternoon slump or a foggy daze takes over, our brains feel anything but beautiful  and brilliant. 

Coming at you today I’ve got my five favorite foods to eat when I am in need of a major brain boost! I reach for these five when I’ve been studying all day and hitting a slump or want to make sure I’m starting my day off on the right foot. 

 
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BLUEBERRIES


Blueberries are powerful punches of antioxidants that can help reduce oxidative damage associated with aging. (1) In particular for brain health, blueberries show neuroprotective properties related to memory. (2) These tiny berries are also high in anti-inflammatory phytonutrients and vitamin C. The vitamin C from blueberries aid in the synthesis of serotonin which is vital for regulating mood, sleep, and pain. (3) Some of my favorite ways to enjoy blueberries are topped on oatmeal, in salads, and by the handful!

LION’S MANE

Oh lion’s mane, what would I do without you. Lion’s mane is a mushroom that actually looks like a full on lion’s mane (hence the name). This medicinal mushroom has been shown to help with the prevention and treatment of cognitive dysfunction and decline. It has also been associated with decreases in depression and anxiety. The healing mushroom has been shown to promote nerve growth factor, a protein in the brain that helps with the development of new neurons. (4) IT’S SO COOL FRIENDS. I put a powdered form in my matcha every morning and it completely jumpstarts my brain. You can check out my go-to recipe in my Healing Mugs ebook. My favorite brands for lion’s mane powders are Om Mushrooms and Four Sigmatic

 
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WALNUTS

Walnuts boast the best omega-3 profile of any nut, you go walnuts you go girl.  Omega-3s help make walnuts an amazing anti-inflammatory food which we love for brain health because inflammation makes us feel foggy and unfocused. In addition to its impressive fat content, these yummy nuts contain important minerals and a more bioavailable form of vitamin B6. (5,6) Walnuts make a good snack at school or work because they have been shown to have cognitive benefits, specifically in improving verbal reasoning skills. (2) They boost main neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, acetylcholine and GABA. (5) What I find super cool (ok, nerd cool) about walnuts is that they even look like brains! 

KALE

Okay, hear me out on the rabbit food. Kale is a cruciferous vegetable, high in calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, folate, vitamin C, vitamin K, and vitamin A. (7) I mean, WOW. Dark leafy greens in general are where your vitamins and minerals are truly at. Your vitamin and mineral levels are extremely important because they can start to wreck havoc on your health when they are out of balance. For example a magnesium deficiency can cause anxious feelings and a decreased tolerance to high stress. Under high stress (such as test anxiety or a big presentation at work) the body requires more magnesium to maintain its normal functions. (3) Kale helps boost serotonin, GABA, and norepinephrine. (5) Give your kale a good olive oil and sea salt massage and I promise you will start craving this bitter green in no time. 

ROSEMARY

Rosemary is a woody herb with powerful antioxidant properties. It’s actually a member of the mint family and has long been studied for its ability to improve attention and focus. The polyphenols in rosemary help to decrease inflammation by reducing nitric oxide production. (8) Rosemary provides protection against neurodegenerative diseases, making it an important herb to keep in your spice cabinet. I love roasting veggies with garlic and rosemary and will commonly put rosemary essential oil in my diffuser when I’m needing some extra inspiration. 

 
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Brain Boost Snack Mix

Gluten free, Grain free, Dairy Free, Paleo, Vegan

Makes: 2 cups snack mix

Brain Boost Snack Mix

Prep time:

Cook time:

Ingredients:
  • 2 tbsp ghee or coconut oil
  • 2 C walnuts
  • 3 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped 
  • 2 tsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 C blueberries
  • 2 tsp coconut flakes
  • Instructions:
    1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees and line sheet tray with parchment paper.
    2. Melt ghee or coconut oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
    3. Add in walnuts, rosemary, maple syrup, and sea salt and stir until well combined.
    4. Transfer nut mixture to parchment lined tray and put in preheated oven.
    5. Bake for 30-35 minutes stirring every 10 minutes to ensure walnuts do nut burn.
    6. Remove from oven and fully cool. Add blueberries and coconut flakes and mix until well combined.
    7. Enjoy your delicious brain food snack!

Want to learn more about how to support your brain health and mood with food? I’m launching my ebook in Spring 2019 allllll about foods for calm, focus, grounding, and joy. Sign up below to get exclusive updates!

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REFERENCES


1. Blueberry Monograph. https://naturalmedicines-therapeuticresearchcom.nunm.idm.oclc.org/databases/food,-herbs-supplements/professional.aspx?productid=1013. Accessed June 18, 2018.

2. Sokolov AN, Pavlova MA, Klosterhalfen S, Enck P. Chocolate and the brain: Neurobiological impact of cocoa flavanols on cognition and behavior. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2013;37(10):2445-2453. doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2013.06.013

3. Gaby A. Nutritional Medicine. Second. Concord, NH: Fritz Perlberg Publishing; 2017.

4. Khan MA, Tania M, Liu R, Rahman MM. Hericium erinaceus: an edible mushroom with medicinal values. J Complement Integr Med. 2013;10(1). doi:10.1515/jcim-2013-0001

5. Babb M. Anti-Inflammatory Eating for a Happy, Healthy Brain. Seattle, WA: Sasquatch Books; 2016.

6. Walnuts. http://whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=99. Accessed June 18, 2018.

7. Kale Monograph. https://naturalmedicines-therapeuticresearch-com.nunm.idm.oclc.org/databases/food-herbs-supplements/professional.aspx?productid=1484. Accessed June 18, 2018.

8. Peng C-H, Su J-D, Chyau C-C, et al. Supercritical Fluid Extracts of Rosemary Leaves Exhibit Potential Anti-Inflammation and Anti-Tumor Effects. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2007;71(9):2223-2232. doi:10.1271/bbb.70199


 

What is your favorite food for a brain boost? Hope you have the best week, my friends!

 
xo mel
How to Detox Your Beauty Routine
 

[Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning at no cost to you I will receive a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.]

When’s the last time you thought about what’s in the foundation on your face? Heck, when’s the last time you replaced your eyeshadow palette? Often it’s the products we use the most that we tend to overlook and forget to question because we love these products and the way they make us feel.

We live in a toxic world, from our industrialized food system to mold overgrowth to chemicals in household products. It’s easy to feel like we have no control over what we’re exposed to and in some cases that’s true. However, we do have control over the products we buy and what we choose to put in and on our body by making safer choices.

There haven’t been any updates to regulations on skincare and makeup since 1938 - take a second and think about what that means. There are little to no laws companies need to abide by when distributing personal care items to the public and there is no approval needed by the FDA. These are products that are applied to your largest organ, your skin. Conventional products can contain chemicals such as phthalates and formaldehyde, which can have serious implications on our health such as disrupting hormones and infertility (Source). The European Union currently bans over 1,400 ingredients in personal care products for these very reasons. Want to know how many the US bans? 30. 

Do you ever read the labels on the personal care products you buy? It’s something we easily can overlook just like a food label. To make things more complicated, ingredients aren’t even required to be on the product bottle requiring more work on your end to discern what is a “good” brand versus a potentially hazardous products. Some brands now use ‘ greenwashing' as the public has demanded better products. Greenwashing is when brands use words like “organic” or “natural” to market their product as safer. The problem with this marketing is that these words are essentially meaningless in the beauty industry. The word organic on a label could just mean that ONE ingredient in the product is organic, never mind the other 30. 

 
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OK YIKES… where do i begin?

It can be extremely overwhelming to overhaul all of your personal care products and even if you want to make the switch throwing out all your current products and replacing them with better options isn’t realistic, not to mention very expensive. Focus on one product at a time, making the best choice you can for your values and budget.  

How do I know what is good vs. greenwashed?

First, take your phone and go to the app store and download the free Environmental Working Group Healthy living app. I love this app because you can type in or scan the barcode of any product and they will give you all the information on what is in that product. It gives you the list of ingredients in the product and breaks down the ratings by allergy, cancer, and developmental concerns. I suggest deciding your level of comfortability with the rating scale of 1-10. For example I like to stay below a ‘3’ with my products. You might pick a 5 and from now on try to make purchases that have ingredients below that 5 rating. 

How do I know what to start with?

Start small by replacing each product as you reach the end of the bottle. It’s wasteful to toss a full bottle of product, so when it comes time to purchase a new one take the time to research a better alternative. This also helps to space out these investments so you can gradually makeover your beauty bag. This is the process I took for overhauling my products and it took me about two years. 

If you are looking to buy products ASAP I have two suggestions. Start with products you use the most or start with products that cover the most surface area. Things like deodorant, cleanser, or hand soap you probably use every day. Since you’ll be using these products more often it’s worth it to invest in quality options. Another way to tackle it is to look at the products that serve as your base layers – moisturizers, body lotion, facial oils, and foundation all cover more of your body than say a dab of concealer. 

 
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but like, i’m on a budget

Girl, I feel you. It can be disheartening to want to make a change but feeling that the options are out of your financial means. Luckily, things in the beautyscape are really changing as consumers demand changes. You can now find cleaner brands in more accessible locations such as Target or health food stores. Just bring your handing Healthy Living app along and scan as you browse.

My favorite strategy is to look for loyalty programs or gift with purchase to get more with your dollar. I love strategizing my purchases to get the most bang for my buck. One program I really loved was Beautycounter’s Band of Beauty membership where you got 15% back in product credit for every purchase you made along with a free gift when you joined. This quickly added up to free full-size products! Credo Beauty often offers free samples and gifts with purchase so you can try before you buy a full-sized bottle. Even Thrive Market has stepped up its game and offers natural beauty brands like Acure and RMS Beauty at affordable prices. 

Truly, these products are an investment. I get it, I’m living on a grad student budget y’all. Think of it this way, when you invest in something of quality you are more likely to take care of and get use out of that purchase. When you purchase a cheap eye shadow or lipstick from the drug store, how often are you back wandering the aisles the next week and tossing another color in your cart because it’s only $3.99? By investing in products that cost more you are less likely to spend money on smaller purchases that add up really quickly and you will likely squeeze out every last drop before purchasing another bottle. You and your health are worth the investment. 

 
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Whew, that was a lot but I hope it helps you to navigate the world of personal care products. Do you have any favorite cleaner beauty brands? 

 
xo, Mel.png
 
Year End Review
 

I love this time of year. The holidays have run their course, the rush to shop and fit in all the holiday parties has subsided, and the promise of a bright, shiny new year is on the horizon. I always feel a unique combination of nostalgia and anticipation as the days of the current year dwindle down. 

New Year’s resolutions are a controversial topic and if you’re a Questioner like me (where my Gretchen Rubin fans at?), January 1 can seem like an arbitrary date that gets way too much credit. [Seriously, who picked dark, cold January to be the start of the new year?? What about spring where everything is bright and happy and blooming? I digress…] Whether you pick an intention or set specific SMART goals, I do think it’s important to reflect on the progress you’ve made throughout the year.  The intentionality of evaluating what you want to bring with you and grow in the new year and what should be left behind helps set the tone for moving forward. 

Today I’m sharing the review I’ve done for the past three years to get me in the right mental space to take on a new year. Pick and choose what speak to you or go all in, but whatever you pick make it your own and be honest with yourself. This is purely for you and I promise you the more you put into it the more you’ll get out of it. So, get cozy and light yourself a candle, pour a cup of tea and get out your favorite pen and some paper. Let’s dive on in. 

 
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KEEP STOP START

I like to start with what I call Keep, Stop, Start to get the juices flowing. Take out a piece of paper and make three columns. Don’t think too hard about it and just brain dump your thoughts onto the page. 

 

KEEP - What actions, people, habits, hobbies, and events were important to you in 2018 that you want to bring into 2019? Maybe it was how you started going to yoga consistently or you started putting your health first – whatever it is that you thought benefited you in a positive way, stays with you in the new year. 

STOP – What held you back this year from being your best self? People, habits, energy investments, finances, negative self-talk, anything that feels incongruent with the lifestyle you are trying to live. These are the energy sucks that no longer need to consume your time in the new year.  

START – What habits will bring you closer to your best self? These are the new opportunities, the big ideas that keep you up at night, the people who deserve your energy, the adventures you want to take. Throw it all on the page, brainstorming whether it’s a super specific goal or a general intention. 

 
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REFLECT

Now that you’re feeling inspired and excited for the possibilities of 365 days, lets tease out the highs and lows of 2018 of the past year and see what we can learn from it. If you keep a planner or a journal, I like to go back over each week to remind myself of all that happened.

·     What were your favorite memories of 2018? 

·     What were your biggest wins?

·     What challenges shaped you?

INTENTIONS

Now it’s time to get focused. You have another year of experience under your belt of what worked and didn’t work. Take stock of where you are right now.  

·     What specific goals do you have for 2019?

·     What could stand in your way of achieving those goals?

·     What would it take to make 2019 a “success”?

 
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VISUALIZE

Create a strong visual of where you want to be. Spend some time thinking how you will feel when you achieve your goals and where you want to be when you’re reflecting on 2019 a year from now.

 ·    My relationships are …

·     My finances are ….

·     My career is …

·     I am … 

WORD OF THE YEAR

This is my favorite part of the review, because you are picking a word that serves as your intention and motivation for the next year. I like to choose something I am in need of in my life. Two years ago my word was “healing,” when my health was at it’s absolute lowest and I was about to start the Autoimmune Protocol. Every hard day, every decision I made I would ask myself, “will this bring me closer to healing?” Last year I picked “joy” when I was struggling with moving across the country away from my family and friends. I made some big decisions this past year, including welcoming my pup Lola into my life who has brought me immeasurable joy. 

What do you need more of right now? Look back on what you’ve written in your review. What themes are sticking out to you? 

 
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I am ecstatic for this new year of growth for you, love. Let me know your word for 2019 so I can support you in your journey. Cheers to you! 

 
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Gluten Free Holiday Cookie Roundup
 
 

For baking enthusiasts like me, holiday baking is like the olympics of all baking. There are so many different flavors - peppermint! cocoa! gingerbread! oh my! and family classics to get right. You need some that are chewy, some with a good snap, all in the hopes of getting a Paul Hollywood handshake…. ok maybe I’ve been watching just a little too much Great British Baking Show. But for me holiday baking is a big, enjoyable occasion that I look forward to every year because it brings my whole family together in the kitchen. 

When I was first beginning my healing journey I was devastated to think that I would no longer be able to enjoy my family’s treasured recipes. No gluten? What was even the point, I thought. I am here to tell my past self and you that it is possible to have your [gluten free] cake and eat it too. It’s even dare I say it, fun, to develop new takes on old favorites or experiment with brand new recipes. 

Here are eight recipes to get you started - some are vegan, some contain eggs, all are gluten free. 

 
 
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  1. Vegan Triple Chocolate Peppermint Cookies [V, GF, DF] - Beaming Baker

    I brought these to a holiday gathering and discovered that peppermint is a VERY divisive flavor. I have now of course unfriended all of those people because I simply can’t imagine how anyone can hate peppermint! I added some crushed candy canes on top and they looked delightful. For the people in your life who love peppermint, this one is a big hit. 

  2. Paleo Chai Spiced Cookies [GF, DF] - Erin Lives Whole

    These are the perfect combination of crunchy on the outside with a chewy middle. I don’t do well with cashews so I subbed walnuts and they were delish. I’ve made them three times in the past few weeks. 

  3. Tigernut Chocolate Chip Cookies [GF] - Grazed and Enthused

    Every time I talk about these cookies I’m met with a “tiger-what?” Tigernut flour is made from tiger nuts, which are a tuber. It’s a great flour especially if you’re following the Autoimmune Protocol. The vanilla bean ghee in these cookies makes them irresistible. 

  4. Cookie Skillets IndividualsRachel Good Eats [GF, DF, V option]

    If tigernut is sounding way too exotic for you, these are my other favorite gluten free chocolate chip cookies. Chewy and delicious. Sprinkle on some green and red sprinkles for an easy holiday update. 

  5. Creamy Peppermint PattiesPaleo Cookie Exchange Ebook by Grass Fed Salsa [GF, DF, AIP option]

    There are a lot of great Paleo holiday recipes in this free e-book provided by Grass Fed Salsa. I love the surprise peppermint taste of these cookies. 

  6. Paleo Ginger Molasses Cookies - Ambitious Kitchen [GF]

    If you’ve never had a ginger molasses cookie, you’re missing out. I love the combination of the spices and the robust flavor blackstrap molasses adds to any cookie. 

  7. Paleo Hot Chocolate Brownie Bites - Unbound Wellness [AIP, GF, DF]

    I’m a huge fan of all of Michelle’s recipes and I’m planning to make this one this weekend. I’ve never made my own marshmallows and I’m excited to try it! 

  8. Macarons - Tasty [GF]

    I just discovered that macarons are made of almond flour and inherently gluten free. I. love. macarons. I am about to become a macaron baking fiend this weekend and am looking forward to the challenge of perfecting these fickle treats. I’m thinking one peppermint filling with a matcha green macaron to really amp up the holiday spirit. 

 

 

Any of your gluten free favorites that I missed? Let me know below! Happy holidays and happy baking, my friends.

 
 
mindbodymel
Cravings and the Blame Game - Part 3: Five Ways to Gain Control of Your Food Cravings
 

SO NOW WHAT?

As you’ve learned through Part 1 and Part 2, the food choices we make are complex and a result of factors within and out of our control. From the diet your mom ate in the womb, to a genetic predisposition to see certain foods as bitter, to constant marketing triggering you to salivate and your pancreas to produce insulin – your cravings are justified and normal. 

However, we don’t always want to be at the mercy of our cravings. Here are my favorite ways to gain control over my eating during the day by dialing into mindful practices and showing myself grace. With the knowledge you’ve learned through this series I hope you give these practices a try and take note on how you feel and your thinking around food shifts.

 

1.Practice Distraction Free Eating

I say practice, because the art of mindful eating is truly a practice in our distraction filled modern world. Put down the cellphone, turn off the tv, and close the laptop to just focus on the sensations of eating. What does your food taste like? Allow the flavors to fill your mouth and pay attention to each bite. Listen to when your body gives you the nudge that it is filling up and see if you leave the table feeling a greater sense of satiation.  

 

2.Have Fun with Flavors and Textures 

The more textures a meal possesses, the greater degree of satiation.(5) Cooking is an art and a form of expression. What new flavor combinations can you come up with? Instead of reaching for the same box of mac and cheese, maybe try to create your own playing with the ingredients to add more dimension to your meal to please the palate. 

 

3.Fill up on the Trifecta

 Foods filled with fat, fiber, and protein are more satiating than foods filled with sugar and salt.(2) Trail mix, turkey avocado roll ups, almond butter and apple slices are all delicious snacks that keep your belly happy and in the best state to make sound decisions on what foods you choose to eat. 

 

4. Find the Appropriate Action for Dissatisfaction

We don’t always eat just to eat. Sometimes we eat because we are sad, sometimes when we’re bored. Look for another activity in these moments such as going for a walk, journaling, talking to a loved one, taking time to be creative, or drinking a soothing mug of tea. Sometimes all it takes is removing yourself from the situation to gain greater perspective and realize that grabbing that handful of chips was more about your stress over an upcoming project than a feeling of true hunger. 

 

5. Believe in Your Body’s Innate Ability to be Your Guide

If you eat the pizza slice or the cake or the whatever it is you craved and ate, you have not failed. Life is meant to be filled with pleasure and enjoyment and if that food brings you nourishment on either a physical or emotional level then it serves a purpose in a balanced diet. When we cut through the noise and discover the root of why we are drawn to the foods we are eating, we can begin to hear our body’s gentle nudges to the foods it needs to survive. Trust your body, trust that you can eat and love a cupcake one day and a kale salad the next. 


That about wraps it up, y’all! I hope you enjoyed learning more about the psychology behind why we feel hunger, satiation, and thirst. Leave a comment below and share your experience with identifying food cravings and if any of this research left you with an “aha” moment!

Note: These recommendations are not meant to serve as medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns about your diet or health status please consult a licensed medical provider. 

 
xo, Mel.png

SERIES REFERENCES:

1.         Hunger | Definition of Hunger by Merriam-Webster. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hunger. Accessed October 30, 2018.

2.         Logue A. The Psychology of Eating and Drinking. Fourth. New York, NY: Routledge; 2015.

3.         The Science of Appetite - The Science of Appetite - TIME. http://content.time.com/time/specials/2007/article/0,28804,1626795_1627112_1626670,00.html. Accessed October 29, 2018.

4.        Satiety | Definition of Satiety by Merriam-Webster. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/satiety. Accessed October 30, 2018.

5.         White, W. Psychology of Eating: Taste and Smell. Presented at the: October 2, 2018; National University of Natural Medicine.

6.         Gut–brain nutrient signaling. Appetition vs. satiation - ScienceDirect. https://www-sciencedirect-com.nunm.idm.oclc.org/science/article/pii/S0195666312001936. Accessed October 30, 2018.

7.         Broussard JL, Kilkus JM, Delebecque F, et al. Elevated ghrelin predicts food intake during experimental sleep restriction: Sleep Restriction, Ghrelin, and Food Intake. Obesity. 2016;24(1):132-138. doi:10.1002/oby.21321

8.         Popkin BM, D’Anci KE, Rosenberg IH. Water, hydration, and health: Nutrition Reviews©, Vol. 68, No. 8.Nutrition Reviews. 2010;68(8):439-458. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00304.x

9.         Beckman M. Are you a superstar? Just stick out your tongue and say “yuck.” Scientific American. Accessed October 29, 2018.

 
Melanie MourtComment
Cravings and the Blame Game - Part 2: More than Our Biology
 

This post is part of a series on Cravings and the Blame Game. In Part 1 we discussed why we eat the foods we eat and how our biology plays a role in the food decisions we make. Part 2 will dive deeper into the outside factors that affect our food decisions. Part 3 discusses five ways to regain control over your food cravings. 

MORE THAN BIOLOGY

Beyond our hormones and hypothalamuses there are additional factors at play that help us recognize hunger and satiety. Changes in the environment, temperature, stressors, food availability all play a role in why and how much we eat. In a study during Ramadan, a month of fasting in the Muslim faith from sunrise to sunset, women reported feeling hungrier than men. You might think this is a biological difference in males versus females, but it was actually due to women being surrounded by food as they prepared meals for their children and the sunset meals. The men were able to go to work and not be surrounded by the aromas and sight of food, helping them to feel less hungry during the month.(2)

 During the winter months you might feel the tendency to “hibernate” and find yourself eating more than the busy summertime. This has a physiologic reason as exposure to colder temperatures increases the speed that food moves from the stomach to the small intestine making you feel hungrier and want to consume more.(2) Isn’t it crazy the ways our body interacts with the world around us? And you thought it was just about willpower….

THIRST QUENCHER

Have you ever though about why you drink water? Maybe it’s after a long run and you’re looking to rehydrate. Maybe it’s out of boredom in class, to give yourself something to do. Maybe you just realized as you drink your third cup of coffee that you never drink water. We drink water for both physiological and psychological reasons. Our body needs to maintain homeostasis or balance in the body. Because we are 70% water, hydration plays a key role in our bodily functions including health status, cognitive function, and overall mood.  The goal of homeostatic thirst is to restore the balance of water in the body and it is triggered when there is a loss of even just 1% of water in body.(2)

Non-homeostatic drinking is everything that is not driven by a physiological need. It could be because you’re always carrying around your Hydroflask and you have become accustomed to always taking a swig while you’re at your desk. It could be because you’ve trained yourself into the habit of drinking a glass of water first thing when you wake up. Or just from sheer boredom and you enjoy the sensation. An important distinction to note is that a dry mouth, which is often our driver to reach for a glass of water and soothe a parched mouth, is not the driver of thirst but a symptom of it.(2)

With blanket statements of aiming for 8 glasses of water a day, most people forget that we take in water when we eat food. Especially fresh fruits and vegetables are loaded with extra hydration helping fill our quota. In the United States it is estimated Americans get 22% of their water intake from foods, and in European countries, such as Greece or Italy this number is even higher because of the emphasis on fruits and vegetables in their diets.(8)

It’s important to stay hydrated whether through food or beverages because of the key role water plays on temperature regulation and cognitive function. When we get overheated from exercise or the weather our body produces sweat and when sweat evaporates it helps to cool the body. When your body does not have enough fluids, it can’t produce the same volume of sweat to cool down resulting in you becoming overheated. Another example of this tight regulation of water is how you might experience a headache when you’ve become dehydrated. Even just a small dip in fluid levels can impact our cognitive abilities and negatively impact mood.(8)

A MORE REFINED PALATE

Are you one of those people that for the life of you just cannot get behind our favorite leafy green kale? You might be a supertaster! About a fourth of people have a genetic mutation that enables you to have a more keen sense of taste.(2). Vegetables might taste bitter to you due to an increase in fungiform papillae or taste buds on your tongue. People who are supertasters may avoid strong flavors, but the bitterness of a nutrient dense vegetable can be cut by adding a buttery sauce or your favorite condiment to mask the intense flavor. 

Mom and dad might also be to thank for your veggie aversion. Taste training begins young, with research pinpointing breastfeeding or even in the womb for taste preferences later in life. In one experiment of babies who had never eaten carrots, the ones who had been exposed to many different vegetables enjoyed the carrots more than those who had previously eaten a more limited diet.(9) This illustrates like most things, genetics is just one piece of the puzzle – we are also shaped by our behaviors and upbringing. 

GUT BUGS

We have all heard the saying, you are what you eat. But truthfully, we should say “we are what our gut bugs eat.” The microbes in your gut help play apart in what is referred to as the gut brain axis. These good and bad bugs can increase cravings for foods that kill off their bug competitors. They can make you feel cranky and thinking about that brownie until you eat the food that they want you to eat. Basically they are conniving little buggers but what’s important is that you maintain a healthy balance of good to bad microbes, as well as a big diversity of different species of microbes. Each bacteria feeds on a different food source. Prevotella for example, loves carbohydrates and Bifidobacteria wants fiber.(6) No, it’s not crazy science fiction to say that what you think you want to eat might not be your own idea at all but that of the millions of microbes living in your intestines. 


Stay tuned for Part 3 for five tips on how to gain more control with your food cravings!

 
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SERIES REFERENCES:

1.         Hunger | Definition of Hunger by Merriam-Webster. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hunger. Accessed October 30, 2018.

2.         Logue A. The Psychology of Eating and Drinking. Fourth. New York, NY: Routledge; 2015.

3.         The Science of Appetite - The Science of Appetite - TIME. http://content.time.com/time/specials/2007/article/0,28804,1626795_1627112_1626670,00.html. Accessed October 29, 2018.

4.        Satiety | Definition of Satiety by Merriam-Webster. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/satiety. Accessed October 30, 2018.

5.         White, W. Psychology of Eating: Taste and Smell. Presented at the: October 2, 2018; National University of Natural Medicine.

6.         Gut–brain nutrient signaling. Appetition vs. satiation - ScienceDirect. https://www-sciencedirect-com.nunm.idm.oclc.org/science/article/pii/S0195666312001936. Accessed October 30, 2018.

7.         Broussard JL, Kilkus JM, Delebecque F, et al. Elevated ghrelin predicts food intake during experimental sleep restriction: Sleep Restriction, Ghrelin, and Food Intake. Obesity. 2016;24(1):132-138. doi:10.1002/oby.21321

8.         Popkin BM, D’Anci KE, Rosenberg IH. Water, hydration, and health: Nutrition Reviews©, Vol. 68, No. 8.Nutrition Reviews. 2010;68(8):439-458. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00304.x

9.         Beckman M. Are you a superstar? Just stick out your tongue and say “yuck.” Scientific American. Accessed October 29, 2018.

 
Melanie MourtComment
Cravings and the Blame Game - Part 1: Why We Eat the Foods We Eat
 

You smell it before you even enter the room. That sweet and spicy aroma, you can practically feel the warm and taste the cheesy, saucy gooeyness before you even lay eyes on the beautiful creation. Mmmm, pizza. Pizza just left there on the break table just beckoning you in with a big ole free sign. Maybe you resist and spend the rest of the day at your desk with visions of pepperoni and mushrooms dancing through your head. Maybe you caved and gobbled down a slice or two and later you scolded yourself for being so “weak.” Whatever the case, that seemingly innocent pizza pie held all the power.

Sound familiar? If it does, you are definitely not alone. We often feel at the mercy of our cravings thinking if we just mastered that whole willpower thing, we would always eat our salads and be dang happy about it. Society definitely makes it seem that way with a new diet being broadcasted every Monday and proclamations of happy = skinny. 

Let me say this loud and clear for the people in the back…

 
 
There is nothing wrong with you.
Your mind is not the enemy.
And you certainly are not weak.
 

Our cravings, our visceral responses of salivation and longing are not issues, we’ve made up in our head but hardwired into our DNA. In Part 1 why caving for the chocolate cake for the umpteenth coworker’s birthday celebration would have given you an evolutionary advantage and how your hormones are key players in the satiety game. In Part 2 we’ll discuss why mom and dad might be to blame why you don’t like carrots and why water isn’t a bad thing to drink when you’re bored. In Part 3 I’m letting you know why you might want to start paying more attention to your gut bugs and how you can feel more in control when a craving strikes and learn to trust the wisdom of your body.

Sounds fun, right? 

Grab yourself a cup of tea and let’s get into it. 

EVOLUTIONARY DESIRES

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines hunger as “a craving or urgent need for food or a specific nutrient.”(1) This definition notably does not specify whether that need is physiological or psychological, suggesting that there are more complex reasons why we eat the foods we eat. 

In our history as a human being, those who ate and ate a lot survived. Animals who eat and drink hold a survival advantage and are able to produce more offspring.(2) People who were able to overeat and ignore feelings of fullness were able to bulk up and store fat to survive the next famine.(3)

The world we live in now looks very different, with every type of food available no matter the season but our body is still programmed the same way. We now worry less about hunger and more about satiety. I love the definitions of satiety – “the quality of being fed to or beyond capacity” and “the revulsion caused by overindulgence.”(4) I think we can all appreciate that very fine line from savoring every last bite to jean-button-popping overstuffed discomfort. 

The primary tastes we sense are sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami. We have an innate preference universally for sweet, salty, and milk. The preference for sweet is strong even in cultures where sweet is not a customary taste. It is almost never rejected.(5) Children especially seek sweet things because they are growing and sweet things often signal higher calories. When these foods are given as a reward, say an ice cream cone for an A on an exam, this association of sweet and pleasure is heightened.(2) Sweet tastes activate the reward center of our brain and with sweet foods available everywhere, it’s no wonder we struggle to resist a tempting baked good. (6)

DRIVEN TO EAT

So what’s happening when we see something we want to eat? First, the mesolimbic portion or the reward center of our brain gets excited which signals the vagus nerve to yell to the stomach to start secreting digestive juices. The pancreas gets started on pumping out insulin while the liver is on alert to deal with the influx of sugar and fat that’s coming the body’s way.(3) This process can occur even when we haven’t taken a bite of that yummy brownie yet, just the pure sight or smell can start it!

Our main hormones involved in hunger and satiety are insulin, cholecystokinin (CCK), and ghrelin. Insulin is our satiating agent that decreases appetite. CCK lets us now when it is time to stop eating, but it’s signaling does not last long which can lead to overeating especially if we’re fueling with distractions. Ghrelin is our main hunger hormone that lets us know when it’s time to eat and the reason we get hangry. If you get in the habit of reaching for a snack at 3 PM every day, ghrelin’s got you on that schedule.(3) Lack of sleep can cause ghrelin to increase and is correlated with an increased consumption of calories from sweets.(7) I think we all know when we get a bad night of sleep the munchies seem to hit us in full force. 

Our central nervous system also plays a role in our feelings of fullness. In charge of regulating these sensations is the hypothalamus, a region of the brain that produces hormones specifically involved in satiation. The ventromedial hypothalamus (VMH) lets you know when it can’t take another bite and it’s time to put down the fork. Your lateral hypothalamus when stimulated lets you know it’s feeling hangry and it’s time to eat.(2)

As you can see, from an evolutionary standpoint and biological standpoint, your body is responding in the way it was created. Your cravings are resulting from the complex interaction of your environment, hormones, and genetics.


Stay tuned for Part 2 where we’ll dive a little deeper and explore the other factors at play for why we crave the foods we do!

 
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REFERENCES

1.         Hunger | Definition of Hunger by Merriam-Webster. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hunger. Accessed October 30, 2018.

2.         Logue A. The Psychology of Eating and Drinking. Fourth. New York, NY: Routledge; 2015.

3.         The Science of Appetite - The Science of Appetite - TIME. http://content.time.com/time/specials/2007/article/0,28804,1626795_1627112_1626670,00.html. Accessed October 29, 2018.

4.         Satiety I Definition of Satiety by Merriam-Webster. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/satiety. Accessed October 30, 2018.

5.         White, W. Psychology of Eating: Taste and Smell. Presented: October 2, 2018; National University of Natural Medicine.

6.         Gut–brain nutrient signaling. Appetition vs. satiation - ScienceDirect. https://www-sciencedirect-com.nunm.idm.oclc.org/science/article/pii/S0195666312001936. Accessed October 30, 2018.

Melanie MourtComment
Lemon Almond Poppy Seed Bread
 
 

There are very few weeks that go by for me where I’m not making some type of baked good. When I went gluten free for my autoimmune disease I immediately missed all my favorite treats and simply the act of baking itself. Gluten free baking isn’t for the faint of heart - there are usually many failed attempts before you get the flours just right. When you get the recipe in perfect harmony, man oh man is it worth it.

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This recipe is one of my absolute favorites. The combo of lemon and poppy seeds is a classic and tastes good anytime of the year. I love making it when friends are coming over or when I’m craving a little something sweet with an afternoon mug of tea. You can leave out the glaze for a simple loaf, but I think it adds a nice touch of flavor. Don’t skimp on the lemon juice here, it helps keep the dry gluten free flours nice and moist. 

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Lemon Almond Poppy Seed Bread

Gluten free, Grain free, Paleo friendly treat

Makes: 1 loaf

Lemon Almond Poppy Seed Bread

Prep time:

Cook time:

Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 cups almond flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice (about 3 small lemons)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • zest of 2 lemons (reserve 1 tbsp zest)
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1.5 tbsp poppy seeds
  • Glaze:
    • 1/4 cup coconut butter, melted 
    • 2 tbsp almond milk
    • 1 tbsp coconut oil, softened
    • 1 tbsp maple syrup 
    • 1/8 tsp almond extract

    Garnish:
    • 1 tbsp chopped almonds
    • 1 tbsp lemon zest

    Instructions:
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease loaf pan with coconut oil or butter.
    2. Mix together almond flour, coconut flour, baking soda, and salt until well combined.
    3. Add in remaining wet ingredients and stir until fully incorporated.
    4. Fold in poppy seeds.
    5. Pour batter into pan and bake for 30-35 minutes.
    6. Remove from oven and fully cool. While cooling, add glaze ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth.
    7. Add glaze and top with chopped almonds and lemon zest. Enjoy!

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I hope you enjoy this delicious little loaf of lemony goodness! 

 
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RecipesMelanie MourtComment
Simple Lunches for Life On the Go
 

School is in full swing again and the ease of summer days are quickly a daydream of the past. Let’s all let out a collective groan for the monotonous meal that is the brown bagged lunch. *groooooaaaaaaaan* I get it. Packed lunches get old big time and if you’ve got a hectic morning it can be the last thing you want to do to pull out the old tupperware and search around in the fridge for something somewhat edible. On the go lunches don’t need to be sad and boring, but easy to pull together and delicious.

I highly recommend investing in some glassware or mason jars to take your lunch in. Glassware is safe to heat and will last longer and plastics run the risk of leaching chemicals into your food, yuck. I also purchased this bamboo cutlery set over a year ago and I loooooove it. No more plastic forks or carting around the house silverware that inevitably gets lost at the bottom of my backpack. A reusable cloth napkin is also a nice touch in a cute lunch tote. 

FOUR ON THE GO OPTIONS

 
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LETTUCE WRAPS

There’s just something so thrilling after you’ve been gluten free for awhile about being able to eat food with your hands. The gluten free option is always just throw the filling in a bowl (salad bowl, burrito bowl, I know you know what I mean). A lettuce wrap is by no means a solid replacement of a good hunk of bread but it does give you back that experience of munchin on a handheld lunch. Against All Grain has a great tutorial for using parchment paper to wrap them up these fragile babies.

Some of my favorite combos:

italian lover:

turkey + salami + cheese + sauerkraut + italian seasoning + olive oil + salt + pepper

rainbow delight:

hardboiled egg + carrots + purple cabbage + cucumbers + cilantro + hummus

chicken salad:

diced chicken + avocado mayo + sea salt + pepper + garlic powder + green onions + dijon mustard + lemon juice

 
lunchbox-salad
 

NOT-SAD SALADS

Salads can get boring, reaaaaaal quick. To keep them interesting I use one simple concept - LAYERS. Each bite should be something different and interesting, a little crunch here, a cooked veggie here, and a burst of sweet to top it all off. To keep my on-the-go salads interesting I like to follow a simple formula so instead of looking longingly at lunches around me I’m savoring every dang bite.

Pick Something…

GREEN – arugula, kale, spinach, chard, collard, cilantro, basil, mint

ROASTED – carrots, sweet potatoes, turnips, parsnips, butternut squash, broccoli

CRUNCHY – cucumbers, red onions, celery, radishes, almonds, walnuts

FRUITY – blueberries, cherries, apples, strawberries, oranges, pears

DENSE – prosciutto, shredded chicken, carnitas, shrimp, salmon, hard boiled egg

TANGY – balsamic, olive oil + lemon, pesto, cilantro + lime

 
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SNACK PLATES

Confession time - sometimes I’m lazy and don’t feel like putting a cohesive meal together. I truly love a smorgasbord of flavors and as long as I’m eating foods that are going to nourish me and give me energy for the rest of the afternoon, I’m a-okay with a snacky lunch on the go. 

Some of my favorites:

rolled up deli meat 

grapes

pickles 

nuts (walnuts and macadamia are my fav)

cheeses

hardboiled egg

clementines

olives

gluten free crackers

guacamole

plantain chips

carrot sticks

sliced cucumbers

hummus

dates

energy bites

 
mason-jar-salad
 

LEFTOVERS

Why reinvent the wheel, amiright? If you’ve got a busy week just double your dinner and save a portion to bring to lunch in a mason jar the next day. You can always dress up sad leftovers with an interesting sauce or pesto, top it with a new spice or fresh herbs, or wrap it in a lettuce wrap or tortilla and use it as a filling. Get creative, you might just find your new favorite combo.


What lunches are your go-to’s when you’ve got a busy week? 

 
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You've Been Diagnosed with an Autoimmune Disease... now what?
 

Go ahead, babe. Take a deep breath.

I know you’ve been living in pain and shame, trying to find answers and relief. Maybe you’re still looking for a diagnosis or maybe you just heard those fateful words from your doctor “autoimmune disease.” You’re likely feeling overwhelmed with how you’re going to move on and what the worst case scenario involves. Or anger that you have to shoulder this burden and wondering why it had to happen to you. Or an intense wave of sadness that none of your hopes, dreams, and goals will ever come true and you’re doomed to spend the rest of you life like this. You’re wondering if chronic illness really means like, forever. And maybe a smidge satisfied that you’re finally validated with a diagnosis after years of trying to explain your symptoms.

Whatever you’re feeling, feel it. Don’t try to push it down or muscle through, because these emotions tend to bottle up and can get in the way with your healing process. There’s probably a lot of advice and two-cents being thrown in your direction. There’s a lot to unpack and you should take the time you need to

It’s still extremely painful for me to think back to the time when I was given my autoimmunity diagnoses, Psoriatic Arthritis and Sjogren’s Syndrome. I was in so much pain and deeply unhappy. While it was validating to be given a diagnosis it wasn’t followed up with solutions that sounded like they were going to do much good. The only option the doctor played out for me was a pharmaceutical drug that I would have to take for the rest of the life - that might work in reducing my pain. The scary list of side effects was so overwhelming to me and I knew in my gut there had to be another way.

So I took some time and that’s how I found the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP), the healing diet that helped me live a life without pain. From my initial diagnosis to when I changed my diet and adopted a healing lifestyle, I took six months to research and grieve and while my condition did deteriorate I felt that taking that time to get clear on what I wanted from my life was key in me being able to start AIP and never look back. 

I still have my bad days and I tend to flare after periods of high stress (hi finals) or travel, but my life is radically better since focusing my energy on my health. I hope you find some comfort in these lessons I learned through my diagnosis and share your own below so we can all support each other on this journey.

 
Graduation Day May 2016. I was in so much pain and inflamed. My feet were swollen in my shoes and I felt so uncomfortable in my body. I would be diagnosed two months later.

Graduation Day May 2016. I was in so much pain and inflamed. My feet were swollen in my shoes and I felt so uncomfortable in my body. I would be diagnosed two months later.

Feeling healthy and happy two years later. Inflammation has decreased, pain is minimal, and most days my autoimmune disease is an afterthought.

Feeling healthy and happy two years later. Inflammation has decreased, pain is minimal, and most days my autoimmune disease is an afterthought.

 

MINDSET MATTERS

The pain and symptoms you are feeling are real, no question about that. But our minds also play an important role in the way our symptoms manifest. If we believe that we are sick and there’s no chance we are going to get better, even with all the healing magic progress will still be delayed. You know I’m all about feeling your feels and allowing yourself the time to grieve and be angry. In the midst of that, allow yourself to feel hope. Start each day with a positive affirmation “I am healing” or “I trust my body to tell me what it needs.” It’s amazing how shifting your perspective from one of discouragement to optimism can reap physical benefits in the body. 

2017 was the year I started AIP and I called it my “year of healing.” That whole year any time I was making a decision I asked myself “will this bring me closer to health?” and if the answer was no, I put myself first. I said no to social plans, I quit my job, I applied for a masters program to learn more about holistic nutrition - all things that helped restore my health by adopting the mindset of healing.

 
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EMPOWERED HEALING

I found it really helpful to fully understand my disease and what it meant to have an autoimmune disease in general. I highly recommend consulting books or scholarly articles instead of Dr. Google. Without fully understanding what is happening, it can be really scary and anxiety inducing. Find a doctor that you 100% feel is in your corner and supportive of the path you choose to take to heal. I feel so supported by my doctor so much so that I’ve continued to see her via Skype from Portland after I moved from  North Carolina. Find a doctor that is patient and answers all your questions, who educates you on all the treatment options and allows you to make an informed decision, and who empowers you to take charge of your health. I definitely give credit to the diet recommendations, supplements, and protocols she has had me on to improve my health, but the encouragement my doctor gives me helps me to keep going on this path. You can find a functional medicine practitioner in your area by searching www.ifm.org

If your budget allows supportive therapies such as acupuncture, chiropractic, massage, or counseling this can be a comforting way to receive care in between visits with your doctor or for more immediate pain relief while you’re trying out new protocols. Build yourself a team and remember to always go with your gut.

Some of my best friends who helped me get through the first year of my diagnosis. They kept my spirits up, tried all my AIP baking attempts, let me pick the restaurants we went to, let me cry, put up with my crankiness, and were simply there for me through it all.

Some of my best friends who helped me get through the first year of my diagnosis. They kept my spirits up, tried all my AIP baking attempts, let me pick the restaurants we went to, let me cry, put up with my crankiness, and were simply there for me through it all.

USE YOUR SUPPORT SYSTEM

Find your people and lean into them. I felt a lot of shame and embarrassment as a 22 year old being diagnosed with arthritis and the last thing I wanted to do was tell my friends who were all living seemingly normal, fun social lives that I was struggling. But that’s exactly what I needed to do. I found my tribe, the people who were really there for me and understood the best they could what I was going through. Friendships shift and it’s important to include the people in your circle who support healing and want the best for you.

If you feel totally isolated and that no one understands you, look to social media. We live in an age where we are no longer limited by our geographic location to the friends in our lives. I’ve loved being able to connect with people all over the world who are on a healing path with autoimmunity. Some of my favorite hashtags for finding fellow are #autoimmunewarrior, #autoimmunepaleo, and #autoimmunedisease. 

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FINDING A NEW NORMAL

This one is important. Life will be different, but it will still be beautiful. You might need to give up something you love and trust me, I know how hard that can be. Before I was diagnosed, I was a group fitness instructor and it was an identity that I held close to my heart. I was teaching 4-5 times a week high impact, high energy classes and I loved it. With my arthritis, that type of exercise makes me flare and I’ve had to let that part of me go. I was angry about it for a long time but I was able to find yoga which I now also love. Life changes and our obstacles sometimes end up pushing us to find other ways to find joy in our lives - we just have to let them. I now count my autoimmune disease as one of my biggest blessings. It gave me the chance to reevaluate my life. I changed my life from stress, pain, and anxiety to one filled with balance, energy, and contentment. The struggles truly make us stronger my friends, this is only your beginning

 
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AUTOIMMUNE RESOURCES

Books

The Paleo Approach - Dr. Sarah Ballantyne

Autoimmune Wellness Handbook - Mickey Trescott & Angie Alt

The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook - Mickey Trescott 

He Won’t Know It’s Paleo - Bre-anna Emmitt

The Healing Kitchen - Alaena Haber & Sarah Ballantyne

Nourished - Racheal Bryant

Blogs

Autoimmune Wellness

Unbound Wellness

Grazed and Enthused

The Paleo Mom

Grass Fed Salsa


You are never ever alone on this journey, love. Hit the comment button below and let me know how you’re doing - have you recently been diagnosed or have any advice for someone who is just beginning their healing journey?

 
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