The Village Way: Age Old, Science New Plan to Reboot Digestive Health and Thrive http://stellametsovas.com Paleo Mediterranean Diet Expert Mon, 18 May 2015 15:56:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 Detoxing: The new Code Word for Diet?http://stellametsovas.com/detoxing-the-new-code-word-for-diet/ http://stellametsovas.com/detoxing-the-new-code-word-for-diet/#comments Sun, 17 May 2015 21:50:11 +0000 http://stellametsovas.com/?p=5560 The most long-standing media darling is the “diet”; defined colloquially as “a special course of food to which one restricts oneself, either to lose weight or for medical reasons.” From the fat-free crazes of the 90’s to the Atkin’s super sensation, ‘diets’ have been a household name forever.  Every decade had their ideal of the perfect […]

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The most long-standing media darling is the “diet”; defined colloquially as “a special course of food to which one restricts oneself, either to lose weight or for medical reasons.”

From the fat-free crazes of the 90’s to the Atkin’s super sensation, ‘diets’ have been a household name forever.  Every decade had their ideal of the perfect body (like the 1950’s diet ads promising to look like Marilyn), but they all seem to be mysteriously missing from the headlines lately.

Why?

Simple: In my opinion, around 2010-ish, the word diet might have been replaced by the hot new code word, detox—the act of abstaining from or ridding the body of toxic substances.

This makes sense; consider yourself a “Mad Men” advertising exec for a moment. Would you really want to link your new product to a word that’s been associated with crazes gone bad?

Either way, you needn’t look very far these days to see the benefits of a good detox being touted. Some are better than others, however, and it’s best to explore what’s really driving this new phenomenon.

The Lure: An “Easy” Fix

While the majority of Americans are awash in processed calories, alcoholic beverages, and unhealthful eating habits–there are those who do their best to eat right and live healthfully. Unfortunately, all that “trying” can go to waste when there’s too much information (TMI!) bombarding you from every end of the internet, or something is suddenly found to be “bad” that was once touted as “good”. Things become even more complicated when people seek a silver bullet or instant result.  Unscrupulous trendsetters are simply praying on a desire that can be found in all of us; an “easy fix” to our bad behavior.

Hence the appeal of many cleanses, which promise to negate our calorie based sins and allow us to start afresh (in only a few short days!). Of course, cleaning the slate is one thing—keeping it clean is another thing entirely.

Juice cleanses pledge a substantial amount of weight loss in just 7 days, but only because you’ll have spent those days probably starving yourself.  Trust me, I do believe in giving the digestive tract a break, and that’s why I prefer to use Intermittent Fasting, combined with juices, and very specific food ingredients throughout the cleanse. I’m adamantly against the consumption of juice, exclusively, for over 48 hours, and prefer to prescribe layers of cleansing techniques instead.

What is the difference between a diet and a detox?

There’s another definition for diet, one that’s a better fit for my practical advice: “the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats”. Detoxes, while important, are meant to be temporary–diet comes from the Greek diaita, which quite literally means “manner of living” or “way of life”.

Detoxes should be done a few times a year (after the major holidays for instance); whereas a diet is systemic and long term (like my Paleo-Mediterranean-Plus method; also known as “the-diet-for-a-lifetime”).

The Ugly Truth:

Why are detoxes meant to be temporary? Well, there’s a bit of ugliness behind detoxes when they’re used long term and do not include whole foods. Fads like the “Master Cleanses” don’t  necessarily work in the long run.  In fact, they could have unpleasant and dangerous side effects if you overuse them.

Juicing alone (without any whole foods included in your detox) might cause a huge spike in your blood sugar, and could end up feeding a certain type of gut bacteria linked to obesity. This spike is normally counteracted by the fibrous skin you ingest when you eat a whole fruit, this benefit is missing from juicing, however (unless you use a high powered blender and keep the skin on).

The low caloric value of these cleanses is another issue. Fewer calories will generally lead to muscle breakdown (yikes!).  That means you’re losing weight, but not the kind you are hoping to.

Even worse: you’re not just flushing out “toxins” by drastically altering your diet, you are potentially reorganizing the dominant strains of bacteria in your gut! If you don’t know why the above is bad, check out my articles on healthy gut bacteria and tips on how to cultivate it.

Prolonged attempts at detoxing can lead to muscle loss, fatigue, irritability and an inability to focus; not to mention the high chance of gaining back all the weight you lost, and could set you up for a food binge after the cleanse is completed. This is a key difference between a detox and a diet; starvation is bad, and unacceptable in a diet, so why would we allow ourselves to starve when we “detox”? Again, whole foods are the best of both worlds: none of the downsides of a pure juice or temporary detox, and all of the ability to balance and revitalize your digestive tract.

They’re Not all Duds: What to Look For

The best form of detox is a “food” version; it’s not that veggie juice isn’t healthy, only that it shouldn’t be relied on alone for the long term. Think of it this way: if you really want the benefits that come from the fruits, eat it, don’t just drink it!

Next, see if your detox restricts common allergens. Any digestive “re-set” really should be about cutting out those foods that can really impact our metabolism and well-being (for some of the foods you need to avoid completely, check out my “foul four” and writing on the ills of artificial sweetener.

Finally, check the duration–is it a short-term commitment? For more of my personal recommendations look here.

The Real Key:

A detox is only powerful when it’s supplemental to a healthful diet. There’s no point in resetting your system if you’re going to go back to the same bad habits that bogged you down all over again.

“Detox” may be thrown around like the new term for diet; but they’re fundamentally 2 different things–and they work best when paired together. Think of a detox as an opportunity to help “reset your slate”; a diet would then follow as a way to build on all the progress you’ve made.

Rather than an either/or, consider them a dynamic duo–working together to make you healthy.

In Good Health,

Stella Metsovas

 

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Laguna Beach Magazinehttp://stellametsovas.com/laguna-beach-magazine/ http://stellametsovas.com/laguna-beach-magazine/#comments Mon, 11 May 2015 16:48:30 +0000 http://stellametsovas.com/?p=5564 Drink to Your Health While eating whole fruits and vegetables is ideal, according to Laguna-based clinical nutritionist Stella Metsovas, she explains that juices still pack a nutritional punch and tend to be more convenient than grabbing a veggie snack to-go. “Are people going to take a cucumber in the car and just chomp on it? […]

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Drink to Your Health

While eating whole fruits and vegetables is ideal, according to Laguna-based clinical nutritionist Stella Metsovas, she explains that juices still pack a nutritional punch and tend to be more convenient than grabbing a veggie snack to-go. “Are people going to take a cucumber in the car and just chomp on it? Probably not,” says Stella, who recently completed a juice bar study for one of the world’s biggest beverage companies. “Are people going to have, you know, a cucumber juice mixed with lemon and parsley and apple? Yes.”

Complete article can be found by clicking here Laguna Beach Magazine .

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A Review of the Research: Cancer and its Potential Causes and Treatmentshttp://stellametsovas.com/a-review-of-the-research-cancer-and-its-potential-causes-and-treatments/ http://stellametsovas.com/a-review-of-the-research-cancer-and-its-potential-causes-and-treatments/#comments Tue, 21 Apr 2015 16:33:55 +0000 http://stellametsovas.com/?p=5541 As a professional I don’t just jump to conclusions; I put in the required research and then use my training, experience, and years of expertise to determine what will most likely be the best course of action for my clients. Today’s article isn’t about telling you what’s “right”; I’m giving you a peek into my […]

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As a professional I don’t just jump to conclusions; I put in the required research and then use my training, experience, and years of expertise to determine what will most likely be the best course of action for my clients. Today’s article isn’t about telling you what’s “right”; I’m giving you a peek into my process and providing you with some of the resources that inform my practice.

The Start: When Old Methods Trump the New

Okinawa used to be the island of the age-defying, but World War II and the modern age have brought the Standard American Diet (SAD) into the everyday lives of Okinawans, for the worse. Post-military occupation, Okinawa now has a high incidence of obesity and the 2nd worst mortality rate in Japan. The local obesity epidemic has also been linked to the increase in breast cancer, a dangerously under-diagnosed killer in the region. Experts attending the Okinawa Breast Oncology Meeting in 2012 recommended the locals return to their traditional diet, one that is known to be low in calories and rich in nutrients to reduce their risk of cancer.

One of the nutrients that benefited Okinawans pre-war era the most was iodine (something I’ve talked about before). In a 2005 issue of the Journal of Mammary Gland Biology and Neoplasia researchers found that iodine had a suppressive effect on the development and size of both benign and malignant tumors. Found in seaweed, its considered a possible factor in the low incidence of breast cancer in Japanese women who eat traditionally.

Your Lifestyle: A Possible Cancer Risk?

In March of 2015 the Cancer Journal published an article stating that the global incidence of cancer is expected to increase substantially in the coming decades. Why? The modern lifestyle. Smoking, alcohol consumption, poor diets, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle are all potential pit stops on the path to cancer–with smoking, alcohol, and obesity as the major factors.

They weren’t without good news however. They noted that there was the potential to cut cancer occurrences in industrially developed and affluent societies in half by avoiding smoking, reducing our alcohol intake, being physically active, eating a plant based diet, and controlling our weight.

Alcohol: A Deeper Look

By now most of our society understands that smoking causes cancer, but we don’t often talk about another common and legal vice in our culture. In February of 2015 The British Journal of Cancer decided to take a closer look at alcohol’s connection to ‘the big C’.

Researchers conducted a meta-analysis of several studies seeking to see which cancers alcohol had an effect on. They concluded that heavy drinkers (15 drinks a week for men, and 8 drinks a week for women) had a significantly higher risk of oral, larynx, breast, liver, lung, stomach, colorectal, and pancreatic cancers.

Why? Put simply, it’s all in the metabolic process. Your cells work hard to remove toxins like alcohol from your system; in doing so however, they often create other toxic substances as by-products–substances that are associated with the development of the aforementioned cancers. By drinking large quantities of alcohol, you are forcing your body to produce a greater amount of those toxins that have been linked to developing cancer; potentially increasing your risk of disease Epigenetic studies suggest that individuals have a different response in how they metabolize alcohol and to take special precautions if cancer runs in your family.

Hormones: A Helping Hand

Hormones are another factor in the fight to prevent cancer. Asian women have a different makeup than their peers; this could be a reason for their lower rates of cancer in comparison to other regions of the world.

For instance, Mongolian women have progesterone levels that are 50% higher than their fellow women in the UK. Their testosterone levels were 18.5% lower and their estradiol concentrations were 19.1% higher. That’s quite a variation!

These biomarkers have been linked to lower rates of breast cancer in Asian women, furthermore their almost exclusive dietary reliance on organic, pasture-raised meat and dairy lead researchers to question the benefits of a low-fat diet on hormone circulation and cancer reduction.

Another hormone that may play a part in increasing your risk of cancer is insulin. In February of 2015 the Molecular Nutrition Food Research journal published a meta-analysis of the observational studies that sought to find a connection between a high glycemic load and an increased risk of cancer. It turns out that a high glycemic load is linked to an increase in breast, endometrial, ovarian, prostate, esophageal and especially colorectal malignant growths.

Normally we avoid having a high glycemic load in our blood through the release of a hormone called insulin. Unfortunately, this process can go wonky for a variety of reasons; particularly if an individual is suffering from diabetes. I talk about the implications of diabetes on our wellbeing and it’s connection to digestive health in another article for a reason–insulin production and release is important!

Trends That Make Sense:

This is just the tip of the iceberg folks, but what ensuring trends can we see so far?

When it comes to certain diseases like cancer; diet and lifestyle have a clear impact on our potential to develop one or more of these conditions.  Using ancestral dietsespecially those rich in iodine–could have the potential to reduce our risks to these diseases.

Furthermore, research is beginning to show that our hormonal levels may be a factor in whether we’re at an increased risk for diseases like cancer.

Nutrients: Natural Cancer Resistance

Iodine isn’t the only nutrient that can potentially suppress the growth of cancerous cells. Retinoic acid, an important byproduct of Vitamin A ingestion, has been shown to suppress lung, breast, ovarian, bladder, oral, and some skin cancers. When cancer cells are exposed to high doses of this acid it’s production cycle stops and the cell “bursts”. Of course, retinoic acid in extremely high doses can be toxic to all cells–so experts recommend just increasing your dietary intake for potential cancer-suppressing benefits without the consequences of too much direct exposure.

Vitamin D levels can also play a factor in being cancer free, especially if you wish to avoid breast cancer. A study published in the April 2014 issue of the Journal of Ayub Medical College found that 99% of the breast cancer patients they examined were Vitamin D deficient.

Finally, Omega-3 consumption has also been  linked to a reduced risk of breast cancer. However, the majority of the world population, including the highly developed regions, consumes an insufficient amount of Omega-3s to gain it’s potential cancer preventive benefits.

Both Omega-3 and Vitamin D can be found in fatty fish like sardines, tuna, and salmon.

Phytochemicals are also a ‘nutrient’ of sorts, or rather they’re the overarching title for chemical compounds that can be found naturally in plants. The phytochemicals of certain plants could have breast cancer-suppressing effects. Green algae at high concentrations was able to suppress tumor frequency by 61%, according to an April 2015 copy of Nutrition. Another form of marine algae was reported on in the June 2013 issue of the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, which concluded that exposure to Spirulina increased the growth of Human Natural Killer cells (members of our immune systems) and suppressed the growth of human cancer cells. 

Phytochemical’s benefits were also supported in Asia. In China, 344 breast cancer patient’s reported their dietary habits. Those that ingested more than 250 grams of vegetables and fruits everyday were found to have a higher quality of life. This may be due to their increased exposure to the aforementioned nutrients!

>>> Eat seasonal vegetables <<<

Finally, we have propolis; a resinous substance from plant sap and gum. It has been used as a healing agent since antiquity, and for good reason. The Journal of Dietary Supplements noted in their February 2015 issue that “Its biological effects, which range from antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, dermatoprotective, anti-allergic, laxative and immunomodulatory to anticancer, have been validated. Propolis has shown efficacy against brain, head and neck, skin, breast, liver, pancreas, kidney, bladder, prostate, colon and blood cancers.”

For a resin that is normally metabolized by bees, that’s quite the potential impact on our health!

From Nutrients to Whole Foods:

 It’s not enough to look at specific nutrients, we also have to look at the whole foods we ingest on a regular basis.

For many Americans, read meat is one of the pinnacle dinner entrees. However, it may not be the wisest choice to consume a great deal of it if you’re a woman–increased consumption has been linked to higher rates of breast cancer, which is the leading global cause of cancer-related death in women. This doesn’t mean you need to cut out beef altogether, as only daily intakes of  processed meat was consistently linked to increased odds of malignant growths. Fish, another meat, was found to be preventative (this makes sense, think of all that vitamin D, Omega-3 and Iodine!).

 <<<The smaller the fish; the better>>>

Food isn’t just preventative, it can be used to potentially alleviate issues that arise from being diagnosed. In 2014, Lipids in Health and Disease concluded that virgin coconut oil consumption reduced the side effects of chemotherapy in breast cancer patients, as well as improved their quality of life. You needn’t be a cancer patient to benefit from coconut oil though, I’ve written about it’s other benefits here and here.

Seaweed is another no-brainer. It’s rich in iodine (mentioned above) and it’s an algae. As such, research has begun to link it to the eradication and progression suppression of cancers (specifically colorectal and breast–2 leading causes of mortality in men and women).

<<<Make sure your seaweed is from tested waters>>> 

The final food I’ll mention is garlic. Crude garlic and its extracts have been shown to inhibit malignant cell proliferation by arresting the cell reproduction cycle and inducing apoptosis (this means the cell bursts). If you want to avoid ‘overdosing’ on Retinoic acid, garlic has the potential to trigger the same effects. It’s also antimicrobial and hypoglycemic and, so far, it hasn’t been shown to have any adverse side effects!

The Final Puzzle Piece: Stress and Surviving

It’s not enough to just receive treatment, we have to take care of ourselves as well. An oft overlooked indicator of overall well being is mental health, the lack of which is known as a “co-morbidity” or secondary condition  in women with breast cancer.

Fortunately, breast cancer patients (and others) can improve their mental health and quality of life through mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR). March 2015’s Breast Cancer suggested it be incorporated into breast cancer patient’s rehabilitation.

Determinations: What can we Conclude?

 I’ve inundated you with quite a bit of information, if you feel overwhelmed I do not blame you. There are clear trends in the data however, so what can we conclude?

 More than anything else: it does matter what you eat: nutrition counts. While it would be rash (and unfounded) to say that food alone can prevent or cure cancer; it’s not foolish to note it’s continually proving to be a key player in determining whether or not you ever present with a variety of diseases, including ‘the big C’.

If you are what you eat, it would be wise to eat healthfully and wholly so that you can be those things too! Just some food for thought. 

In Good Health,

Stella Metsovas

 

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Social Media: A Foodie’s Free-For-Allhttp://stellametsovas.com/social-media-a-foodies-free-for-all/ http://stellametsovas.com/social-media-a-foodies-free-for-all/#comments Thu, 16 Apr 2015 15:04:42 +0000 http://stellametsovas.com/?p=5459 I was recently on contract with a large beverage corporation that has global distribution. They hired me on as a nutrition expert, naturally, but that wasn’t the only expertise they required. They enlisted the aid of MD’s, computer coders to decode algorithms, athletes and models to answer one simple question: What is America’s fascination with […]

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I was recently on contract with a large beverage corporation that has global distribution. They hired me on as a nutrition expert, naturally, but that wasn’t the only expertise they required. They enlisted the aid of MD’s, computer coders to decode algorithms, athletes and models to answer one simple question:

What is America’s fascination with green veggie juice?

My answer: social media drives the desire for veggie juice, it photographs well, easy to make, and get’s all the “likes”–it’s as simple as that.

Like Mania: A Positive Influence, or Pied Piper?

Social Media and Diet

I’m not just guessing here; a full ⅓ of American adults obtain health information through social media. They not only access information but disseminate it as well. Chick-fil-A invited Vani Hari, a food blogger, to their Atlanta headquarters in 2012 to address her concerns regarding the nearly 100 ingredients found in their classic chicken sandwich on her blog.  I assume the reason Chick-fil-A had a greater interest in a well-known blogger (like Ms. Hari)–instead of hiring a food scientist to voice their concerns–is because of  “indirect” consumer marketing.  One of the primary drivers of social media is the indirect way of selling a consumer products.  This all makes sense, as humans have treated eating as a social event throughout our history.

Now that socialization has become technological in nature, our eating habits (or how we determine them) have followed suit, and so have the way companies sell you things.

So what’s the predominant food craze you can find throughout the internet these days? In my opinion there are currently two major “social” conversations happening in the diet world; I’ll delve into them below.

Juicing: A Social Media Juggernaut

Juicing doesn’t just have a pretty end product, it’s also seen as an easy path to “clean eating”. Many purveyors of this fad will sell it by stating ‘who needs to cook when you can imbibe all your daily required nutrients in a glass?’

It’s true there are benefits to drinking green. They’re low in the ingredients most of us want to avoid (like those found in processed foods) and are a concentrated punch of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.

All that nutrient rich goodness doesn’t mean there are no downsides, however. Strict juicing diets that forego the solid foods I often advise might cause a steep decline in your weight, but at a high cost–they generally don’t provide all the nutrients you need to function at your best.

Furthermore, the majority of calories they provide are sugar and carb based and devoid of protein and healthy fats. When you cut calories and protein at the same time you end up losing muscle, not fat!  This harmful cycle could also cause destruction to your precious thyroid and adrenal glands.  Juicing does not come with the benefits of  intermittent fasting (IF)!  And I also firmly believe that IF isn’t meant for all–especially those who might have thyroid conditions or stressed the adrenal glands from lifestyle factors.

Add in the lack of fiber in most commercially available juices and you’ll not only be losing muscle but the injustice to your blood sugar as well. In my clinical practice, I’ve noticed people have a tendency to “detox” for a few days and then spend the following days “binging” (even on healthy items like nuts) to return right back to their original caloric set-point.

Skipping whole foods in favor or liquid options may be trending, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best option.

Paleo: More Popular than those Caveman Commercials

Not only is ⅓ of the population seeking health advice through social media, but there’s also a third of the population that’s obese; that’s more than 3M people diagnosed with obesity each year. If trends continue to incline, by 2030 44% of American adults will be diagnosed with obesity.

Many of those people seek to lose the weight through eating “paleo” (short for paleolithic, the correct term for the “stone age” and the era when ‘cavemen’ walked the earth); eschewing dairy, grains, and other products of the agricultural era that began around 10,000 years ago.

Like with juicing there are pros and cons to “going paleo.” It does have the ability to promote weight loss and reduce the risk of certain metabolic syndromes like Type 2 Diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The Nutrition Journal published a study in 2013 that concluded “the Paleolithic diet was seen as instrumental in weight loss.” These are all admirable benefits that are derived from the “1-ingredient” whole, unprocessed, foods paleo dieters are limited to eating.

On the other hand, it has its problems. According to Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University and author of “What to Eat,” the premise “paleo” is based on is flawed; mainly because we cannot be certain about what our paleolithic ancestors actually ate (bugs are a major component that modern Paleolites have forgotten).

The reality is, scientists have yet to be able to match up genes with specific diets. According to Nestle “the reason cavemen didn’t have chronic diseases like diabetes is more likely because they didn’t live long enough and lacked antibiotics, rather than because they didn’t eat carbohydrates.”.

The Middle of the Road: Where People Get it Right

At the end of the day, it’s a good idea to look at the success stories, and seek actual results. That is why I tout the Paleo-Mediterranean Plus diet or, as I like to call it, the “diet of a lifetime.” I’m not just basing my methods on a homo sapien that lived and died 10,000 years ago, but rather on the villagers I have studied and come in contact with. Of course, many of those villagers are eating as their ancestors have done for hundreds of years, but they’re doing so with currently proven results as well, and an eye toward moderation, balance, and variety.

The Bottom Line:

Social media can be a great resource, as long as you take its contents with a grain of salt (no pun intended!). What may seem pretty on Instagram or Pinterest could end up being the next fat-free craze of the 90’s; which has since been discredited and fallen to the wayside.

If nothing else, remember that a moderate, balanced, or the “middle of the road” option is often the best one. Taking the “best of both [or multiple!] worlds” tends to be a sound path to health and wellness. That is why I’ve melded time tested and research-backed methods to create a way of eating that I can proudly prescribe to my clients and even follow myself.

If we are what we eat, why shouldn’t we aim to be healthful, whole and well rounded? A blended, balanced, diet like mine can provide just that; may you find your best path.

In good health,

Stella Metsovas

 

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The Ultimate Four: Feed your Thin Bugs, Starve the Fat Producershttp://stellametsovas.com/ultimate-four-feed-thin-bugs-starve-fat-producers/ http://stellametsovas.com/ultimate-four-feed-thin-bugs-starve-fat-producers/#comments Wed, 01 Apr 2015 16:51:17 +0000 http://stellametsovas.com/?p=5221   Within each of us are trillions of microorganisms (bacteria), and they have our back (or rather our GI tracts!). However, the “thin bugs” that aid us in maintaining our waistlines can’t do it alone–they need our help. How can you support your microbial friends? By adding the ultimate four foods to your shopping list—they’re […]

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Fat vs. Thin Gut Microbiome

 

Within each of us are trillions of microorganisms (bacteria), and they have our back (or rather our GI tracts!). However, the “thin bugs” that aid us in maintaining our waistlines can’t do it alone–they need our help. How can you support your microbial friends? By adding the ultimate four foods to your shopping list—they’re my top picks that nourish the growth of “thin” bugs in your GI tract.

I’ve dedicated my career to exploring the relationship between a healthy gut and a healthy body. Nourishing the right kinds of microbes is one of the best keys to good health I’ve found.  Specifically, you’re aiming to boost the strains that suppress appetite and spike metabolism. I have tested this myself and used the method of “feeding” thin bugs with my private practice clients.  The results were so good the news spread—Kayleen Schaefer mentioned my results in her article for “Details Magazine” (check it out: The Best Way to Lose Weight is Already in Your Kitchen).

So what did I manage that was so noteworthy?  My clients lost an average of 21 pounds over six months without cutting back on their calories when they added half a cup of probiotic-rich foods to their Paleo-Mediterranean-Plus program.

Quick Fact: Probiotics are important, but they’re at their best when you ingest prebiotic fibers as well.  Without one, packing your diet with the other isn’t as primed—the key is having a balance. If you have plenty of probiotics but no prebiotic fiber to feed them, they won’t “feed” off each other—that’s why it’s important to have plenty of both in your food.

You’re probably asking: What are prebiotics?

Prebiotics aren’t exactly “all the rage” yet; right now they’re akin to nutrition’s best kept secret–and I’m about to let you in on them. The first thing you should know is that a prebiotic fiber is actually “non-digestible”; it’s their hidden power. Our inability to digest these fibers allows them to pass unharmed through our GI tract and act as fuel for the healthy bacteria. Prebiotic fibers aren’t to be confused with the probiotics that we’re trying to cultivate. Think of the probiotic as the bacteria we’re hoping will stick around, and the prebiotic as the incentive for those strains to stick around–even bugs have to eat.

 Even better: they’re not just bacterial fuel, but aid in our resistance to invading pathogens and stimulate metabolic activity. The most common source of prebiotic goodness is the inulin fiber; though oligosaccharides are the best known variety.

The Ultimate Four Best Sources of Prebiotics

Now that you know how wonderful and important prebiotic fiber is, I’m here to help you by recommending the following four foods as my top picks:

Onions and Garlic:

While you may not want to ingest either of these during a romantic date, adding them into your diet (especially raw)  is well worth the halitosis. It turns out that onions and garlic are chalk full of inulin (the most common form of prebiotic).  I rate onions and garlic as my top prebiotic pick!

Oats:

The fiber in oats ferment into short-chain fatty acids in the digestive tract and feed the “thin” microbes in your intestines.   Soak 1-cup of oats overnight in coconut milk, and you’ll have a super healthy breakfast waiting for you in the morning–add fresh berries and raw nuts to top!

Artichokes:

There are 2 “types” of artichoke you can go for here, the Jerusalem and the traditional. The Jerusalem artichoke is recognized as a great source of inulin, and is known for it’s ability to relieve constipation and increase your absorption rates for a variety of vitamins and minerals (calcium especially, your bones will thank you later).

Dandelion Greens:

One of the major health benefits found in the Greek diet is the consumption of  wild greens, often referred to as dandelion greens.  It’s almost impossible for some to consume this bitter leaf “raw,” but if you’re feeling super adventurous and want to spruce up those “thin” microbes, aim for the stars and consume this bitter green!

Prebiotic and Probiotic: Working Hand in Hand

It’s important to remember that both probiotics and prebiotics work together synergistically and finding that balance between the two is ideal. The easiest way to strike that balance is to eat the ancestral Mediterranean way, or what I refer to as Paleo-Mediterranean-Plus!

Read All About It: Prebiotic Studies From 2015 

Nutr Res. 2015 Mar 14 [Targeting gut microbiota as a possible therapy for diabetes].

  • Studies will highlight the dynamic role of gut bacteria and diabetes.
  • Treatments will include prebiotics as a means to gaining more gut diversity–or favorable strains.

Gastroenterol Hepatol.. 2015 Mar 10 [Characterization, influence and manipulation of the gastrointestinal microbiota in health and disease].

  • Look for a similar outcome like the mapping of our DNA.  The gut micrbiome will be “mapped” and used for many different studies–especially in immunology/inflammation.

J Physiol Biochem. 2015 Mar 8 [Gut microbiota: a key player in health and disease. A review focused on obesity].

  • One of the hottest topics in obesity research to date: How does gut bacteria affect obesity?
  • Targeting obesity through the use of prebiotic foods seems like a reasonable dietary intervention.

ASN Neuro. 2015 Feb [Nutrition facts in multiple sclerosis.].

  • Based on studies like this, look for dietary interventions with inflammatory diseases like Multiple Sclerosis.  Those diets will aim to restore healthy populations of gut bacteria–they may even identify more pathogenic strains known to cause harm in the immune system of MS patients.

Nutrients. 2015 Feb [Novel approaches to improve the intrinsic microbiological safety of powdered infant milk formula].

  • Baby formula gets a long awaited makeover because of studies on infant digestive health and their fragile immune systems.

 

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Oxygenation: What does Food Have to Do with It?http://stellametsovas.com/oxygenation-food/ http://stellametsovas.com/oxygenation-food/#comments Wed, 11 Mar 2015 19:02:29 +0000 http://stellametsovas.com/?p=5447 I wasn’t always planning to be a nutritionist. In my youth I was a swimmer; in fact, I was a National USA swimmer by 13–training under the top Olympic coaches and competing at the Junior Olympics and Nationals. < Here’s a video clip of me swimming this past year!  > I was well on my […]

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I wasn’t always planning to be a nutritionist. In my youth I was a swimmer; in fact, I was a National USA swimmer by 13–training under the top Olympic coaches and competing at the Junior Olympics and Nationals.

< Here’s a video clip of me swimming this past year!  >

I was well on my way to becoming a professional swimmer when disaster struck. Surviving on a processed, high-carb, Westernized diet has led me to become  iron deficient at hazardously low levels.  After suffering through a slew of tests and prescription drugs that didn’t seem to help, a change in diet saved me–and my path towards helping others get the most out of their food was set.

 

Oxygen Water Nutrients

Iron, An Athlete’s Best Friend:

 

Anemia is no joke, it has both psychological and physiological impacts. This makes sense when you understand iron’s role in the body. It’s an important trace element; responsible for aiding in oxygen transport, energy metabolism (fueling your body) and neurotransmitter synthesis (these are the chemicals that transmit signals along your nerves). 

For athletes especially, increased oxygen transport is important during training. Without oxygen, cells are unable to produce their “fuel” (known as “ATP”) and instead produce a dreaded byproduct–lactic acid. The accumulation of lactic acid is a major contributor to muscle fatigue and thus should be avoided if you want to enhance your performance.

Your gut is a key player in maintaining your iron levels; absorption occurs in the small bowel (otherwise known as your small intestine) after all. Introducing iron-rich foods into your gut is critical if you want to avoid the damaging effects of anemia.

The Iron Allies: Chlorophyll, Sulforaphane, and Oxidative Damage

Iron aids in the transportation of oxygen to your tissue; this is an essential process that allows your cells to function and survive. However, many natural biological processes involving oxygen can create “free radicals”–a special type of oxygen molecule that is highly reactive and can cause you harm.

To counteract this, I suggest making sure you have enough chlorophyll in your diet (this is the chemical in plants that allows them to be green!). Eating your leafy vegetables really is good for you!

Video on Foods That Help the Red Blood Cells Carry Oxygen

 

A 2012 study conducted in Chinese Journal of Internal Medicine found that chlorophyll “shows cellular protection against oxidative damage by counteracting the excessive free radicals”. Chlorophyll also behaves similarly to our blood, aiding in the transport of oxygen to our muscle and other bodily tissues.

 

Along with chlorophyll, dark green veggies also can contain a compound known as sulforaphane; another free radical fighter. In 2012 Experimental and Toxicologic Pathology published research that concluded: “sulforaphane is a promising antioxidant agent that is effective to attenuate oxidative stress and tissue/cell damage”.

 

Food Warriors: Some of Your Best Options

 

So what do you need to eat to imbibe all 3 of the aforementioned allies and boost your oxygen transport? After all, oxygen deprived cells are prone to cancer and disease; 2 things we all wish to avoid. Well, green, water dense foods are a good bet, and I have a few suggestions for you.

 

The 1st: Broccoli. It’s rich in sulforaphane and chlorophyll (think of that beautiful green color). Kale, romaine lettuce, spirulina, chlorella, mustard greens, and blue-green algae are also great options.

 

For my meat eaters, you’ll want to indulge in wild game or fish (keeping it paleo here, as always) for an iron-rich boost.

 

For my vegetarians: beans, legumes, artichokes, cheese, eggs, chocolate, water heavy fruits (oranges for example), nuts and sunflower seeds are your best bet for delivering oxygen to your muscles outside of the leafy greens above.

 

If you don’t want to deplete the oxygen you’ve been working so hard at gaining, avoid sugars, processed meats, fats,white breads, carbonated drinks, frozen foods, and fast food. These foods tend to provide very little water (remember it’s partially made up of oxygen!) and are neither rich in chlorophyll (no green here) or sulforaphane. Your cells will actually expend oxygen when processing these foods and gain almost none of it back!

 

The Bottom Line:

 

We can’t live without oxygen, and these days it’s not enough to just breathe it in–our bodies and our muscles demand more. Increasing your intake of iron and water-rich foods can only boost your overall well being–and this goes for athletes and the average joe alike.

 

So start munching on those leafy greens, eat fruits for dessert, and snack on seeds–I promise you’ll start to feel the difference.

 

In good health,

Stella Metsovas

 

 

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Some of the Refrigerator Items I Live By!http://stellametsovas.com/refrigerator-items-live/ http://stellametsovas.com/refrigerator-items-live/#comments Wed, 18 Feb 2015 16:50:38 +0000 http://stellametsovas.com/?p=5432 Whether it’s the refrigerator or freezer, keeping a few core items on hand is a necessity to my wellbeing.  One of the secrets in reaching your best is a well-stocked fridge! I’ve seen all different types of lifestyles in my private practice–from the man who’d travel back and forth from California to Germany every ten days, […]

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Whether it’s the refrigerator or freezer, keeping a few core items on hand is a necessity to my wellbeing.  One of the secrets in reaching your best is a well-stocked fridge!

I’ve seen all different types of lifestyles in my private practice–from the man who’d travel back and forth from California to Germany every ten days, to the homemaker who’s caring for three children–both ways of life are limited on time, and yours is probably no exception.

Set aside 90-minutes max per week (and that includes driving time) for a foolproof way of becoming the healthiest you can be.

My 6 Personal Favorite Ingredients

  1. I always have some sort of liquid elixir ready to grab like a large carafe of ginseng tea mixed with fresh lemon, or a green juice with no fruit added (I advise on eating the fruit instead of juicing it).  Photographed here, I have a juice made with celery, lemon (even the skin), ginger, and cucumber.
  2. If I were to pick the one food related “thing” that brings me true comfort, it’s a nice glass of untainted wine a couple times a week (although I do go a month here and there without any).   One of my favorite’s is a Pouilly-Fumé (a good one will cost you approx. $18.00 a bottle).  I also have a reason for drinking that glass–or two–of wine: it’s always a social thing for me.  Want to know why?  Read this. 
  3. Adaptogens-where would I be without you?!   Ginseng and Ashwagandha are my two favorites.
  4. Bean sprouts for that extra edge of nutrient’s I’m always looking for.  *Make sure to always purchase from a reputable company who uses organic methods.
  5. Fish–the smaller the better from tested waters.  We have stringent rules here in the USA, so when you can, buy locally.  My catch of the week here is black seabass.  I’ll probably make a butternut squash puree, topped with the seabass, and a side of steamed greens, olive oil, and a pinch of Celtic sea salt.  Or maybe I’ll bake in parchment…check this recipe out.
  6. Pre-chopped vegetables from the market.  Now I really have no excuse to make that beautiful and digestively-pleasing salad.
  7. Chopped garlic for all my cooking needs.  My grandmother lived until she was 96 and consumed garlic, daily.

 

 

Stella Metsovas Refrigerator

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New Year, New You; Same Old Microbiomehttp://stellametsovas.com/new-year-new-old-microbiome/ http://stellametsovas.com/new-year-new-old-microbiome/#comments Mon, 26 Jan 2015 16:42:05 +0000 http://stellametsovas.com/?p=5415 It is the dawn of the era of the microbial ally, an age I’ve been trying to usher to the forefront since 2006. No longer are people reacting to the thought of their own personal bacteria with aversion, rather, researchers and laymen alike are realizing those critters can be our friends—and the key to good […]

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It is the dawn of the era of the microbial ally, an age I’ve been trying to usher to the forefront since 2006.

No longer are people reacting to the thought of their own personal bacteria with aversion, rather, researchers and laymen alike are realizing those critters can be our friends—and the key to good health.

In the nearly ten years that I’ve been researching and relating the power of our internal bacteria, other researchers have worked together to build a formidable body of literature on the subject. The results are in (and keep coming): our intestinal microbes have been linked to our physical health, mental health, mood, and human development. They’re a force to be reckoned with—and a formidable ally in the battle against disease.

Imagine ahead: the year is 2030 and your routine health screening includes a stool specimen alongside the standard blood chemistry.  The RN calls with the results and all your dietary modifications for preventative health are based on the predominant strains in your gut.

Microbiome Digestive Health

The Latest and Greatest:

Of course, there are many factors that work together to determine our health and wellbeing, but it isn’t a stretch to say our intestinal bacteria do play a part. New knowledge regarding our intestinal flora is published every day; highlights include:

Genes: A different kind of inheritance—scientists examining the fecal samples of 416 pairs of twins found that the strains that you host can be partially determined by your genes. Identical twins had microbiomes that were more similar than those of fraternal sets. The “most inheritable” strain: Christensenellaceae—a strain that can be found in the guts of lean individuals. This suggests that influencing your microbiome is just one way genes can play a hand in obesity.

Diversity: Cheese rinds are a picture of diversity—just a crumb contains 10 billion microbial cells (a mixture of bacteria and fungi that makes cheese, well, deliciously cheesy). It turns out these microbial communities vary based on cheese type rather than by region. Where you’re made is less of a factor than how; at least if you’re a good brie.

Personalization: Microbiomes don’t just create cheese; they’re a potential source for medication as well. Scientists used a computer program to sort out potentially useful strains on the human body, and found thousands of candidate compounds. Your next antibiotic prescription could be provided by strains found in your gut!

Armageddon: If you want to get philosophical, you can wonder what the world would be like without our personal “flora”. While human digestion would be impaired, it could still function. The same couldn’t be said for cows, or crops in need of nitrogen-rich soil and waste would abound as nothing would decompose. Researchers concluded: “we predict complete societal collapse only within a year or so, linked to catastrophic failure of the food supply chain”. Microbes may be small, but they are fierce—and important.

Then and Now: Knowledge is Power

Long ago, Hippocrates noted that “all disease begins in the gut”; it’s a tenant my research and nutritional advice has agreed with and supported. How did a philosopher that lived so long ago know what he was talking about? Perhaps it was a “gut feeling”.

Regardless, modern research has not only vindicated his position, but taken it a step further. It’s not just drugs that can be created with the aid of microbial strains, but cures for diseases like arthritis and diabetes (for more on your GI tract’s link to DM2 check this out). The ecosystem that lives in our gut is “pervasive and profound in its connection to human health”, states Peter DiLaura the CEO for a company called Second Genome that seeks sequence gut genes and determine their potential applications.

Rather than peddling the strains themselves (something the FDA tends to frown upon) they’d isolate the bug’s “bioactives”—the bacteria’s secreted proteins and metabolites that hold sway over us. Bioactives could be replicated with precision and consistency like any other pharmaceutical, and could be held in the gut rather than transported into the bloodstream.

Dreamers like DiLaura hope to prove that the gut isn’t just a source of disease, but of tangible, fact-based, medically derived solutions to some of the world’s biggest killers.

Looking Ahead:

Our microbiomes hold a great deal of potential power over our health and the world at large. A casual search of a medical search engine and you’ll find thousands of articles; close to a hundred have been published within Pubmed’s database in the last two weeks of the new year!

Many of them focus on our gut’s link to immunity and infections.

In light of the new year, you may want to get healthier—the best way to do this is by making your digestive health as your top priority.

This is where I can help: the easiest way to foster the bacteria you want is by fueling them (via fueling yourself!). I highlight the most egregious foods (that can wreak havoc on your gut) in my articles regarding the “foul four” foods that are best avoided, and in my well researched treatise against artificial sugar.

Digestive Detox

For a good way to detox and fuel “good bugs” I suggest you incorporate a digestive detox to begin feeding your microbiome with top foods for gut health, combined with herbal compounds known to suppress unfavorable bacteria.

I’ve spent a good chunk of my career helping people optimize their gut health, and thus their overall wellbeing. When looking ahead to the new year, just remember: you are what you eat! And who doesn’t want to become a “new” version of themselves through food? That’s one resolution that will be delicious to keep.

 

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Savory Belgian Waffles with Gluten-less Flourhttp://stellametsovas.com/savory-belgian-waffles-gluten-less-flour/ http://stellametsovas.com/savory-belgian-waffles-gluten-less-flour/#comments Sun, 11 Jan 2015 17:15:37 +0000 http://stellametsovas.com/?p=5407 Back during my swimming years, I recall being able to eat about 5 waffles in one sitting–especially after Saturday’s 3 1/2 hour morning practice. I thought of making the typical waffle with syrup more interesting and healthier by using gluten-less (< I’ll begin using that name from now on…I’m sick of gluten free!) flour, with […]

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Back during my swimming years, I recall being able to eat about 5 waffles in one sitting–especially after Saturday’s 3 1/2 hour morning practice.

I thought of making the typical waffle with syrup more interesting and healthier by using gluten-less (< I’ll begin using that name from now on…I’m sick of gluten free!) flour, with almond meal.  Having a beautifully cooked, pasture-raised egg on top was like the perfect shoe for the dress.  Enjoy!

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Healthy Greek Potato Almond Dip (VIDEO)http://stellametsovas.com/greek-potato-almond-dip-video/ http://stellametsovas.com/greek-potato-almond-dip-video/#comments Tue, 06 Jan 2015 08:40:58 +0000 http://stellametsovas.com/?p=3270 Hi, my name is Stella Metsovas, I make a living out of studying, cooking and eating food. Today, I’m going to show you how to make a true, authentic Mediterranean diet recipe called Skordalia in Greek. It’s actually an almond and garlic paste that’s often served with vegetables, paired with fish. It’s super yummy, rich […]

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Hi, my name is Stella Metsovas, I make a living out of studying, cooking and eating food. Today, I’m going to show you how to make a true, authentic Mediterranean diet recipe called Skordalia in Greek. It’s actually an almond and garlic paste that’s often served with vegetables, paired with fish. It’s super yummy, rich in garlic, so be careful when you have the garlic. Because you’re definitely, you’re going smell like garlic when you have this dish. I began by boiling two Russet potatoes, so these already cooked, they’ll be tender to the touch once they’re completed cooking. You’re going to want to peel the skin off, so these are a little warm. Grab a mash potato press, or you can just use a strainer, kind of put your hand and strain it manually. Put it into a food processor. O.k., so now that we have put the potato in the food processor, we’re going to take some sea salt and place it on top of about eight garlic cloves. Now, here is where you can kind of, change the recipe a little bit, if you’d like. You can add more garlic or less, you might want to start with less. So, eight or less, you probably don’t want to go above that. And you’re going to take a knife and just push down and crush the garlic. You’re going to do this and you can use your manual garlic crusher. But we prefer to add the salt in the garlic because the taste is just so much better that way. Go ahead and add it to the food processor. We’re going to add three-quarters of a cup of blanched almonds, we’re going to add a half a cup of water. Actually add a little tiny bit to begin, don’t add it all at once. We’re going to add three tablespoons of white wine vinegar. Then, we’re going to add a couple tablespoons of olive oil. O.k., so after you put the potato and the garlic into the food processor. You’re going to want to juice about two lemons. The lemons are really going to help bring out the garlic and the potato, the flavors. Super good to pair with fish, one of my favorite ways to have fish, Greek style is with Skordalia. O.k., so now we’re going to pour the lemon juice into the food processor and blend. Now that all the flavors have blended together, it’s ready to be served, it’s a nice, white creamy consistency. Can you imagine, we haven’t really added any oil in here, about three tablespoons tops. Now, in Greece, what they do is, they add a little bit of oregano on top. I’m going to keep it nice and plain, that’s how I prefer mine. My name is Stella Metsovas, enjoy.

Read more: http://www.ehow.com/video_12299836_greek-potato-almond-dip.html#ixzz2l7ASrwNv

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