Count Nutrients, not Calories

Tests done with lab animals show over and over again that when animals are fed foods low in nutrients but high in calories, they will overeat in an effort to satisfy their nutritional needs, consuming an exorbitant number of calories to the point of obesity. Of course neither overeating nor low nutrient foods are good for the lab animals. And they are not good for us humans. Yet we are continually offered foods low in nutrients, even essential nutrients, and we continue to consume them.

What foods or nutrients do our bodies need? The big groups include protein, fat, carbohydrates, water, and fiber. The micro groups include vitamins and minerals. Foods low in either of these groups are low-nutrient foods. They do not satisfy our body’s needs.

Let’s compare low nutrient vs high nutrient foods:

Low Nutrient foods include:High Nutrient foods include:
Carbonated and sugary drinksWater
White flourWhole grains
Sugars (including agave syrup)Honey and maple syrup
Heat processed oilsCold pressed oils
Processed foodsFresh or frozen fruits and vegetables
White riceBrown rice
Artificial sweeteners and additiveseggs and dairy products

I’m sure I could expand this list but if like most Americans you consume mostly low nutrient foods and struggle with weight loss you might consider what your body actually needs and is trying to tell you.

Look for my book Eating the Lord’s Way: A Step-by-Step Guide to Living the Word of Wisdom, by Karen Hopkins. Available on Amazon.

Alzheimer’s Disease/Type 3 Diabetes

It has been suggested in the past that the same diet that leads to Type 2 diabetes can also lead to Alzheimer’s Disease. Now a study adds new evidence.

Alzheimer’s is increasingly referred to as insulin resistance of the brain. Want to keep you wits about you? Stop eating sugar!

Sugar is in almost everything! Stop drinking sodas. They are one of our worst offenders. Then check every label. Avoid processed foods.

Eat whole foods—salads, whole grains, beans, vegetables, fruit, eggs, fish. We have lots of healthy choices. Protect your brain and body! Cut out the sugars!!

Hooked on Seafood

Want to eat healthier? Consider fish.

Why?

Seafood has more health benefits than you might think. It is one of the best additions you can make to your diet . Even the USDA in their newest guidelines recommend adding a serving of fish for everyone (men, women, old, young), and especially for kids and pregnant women twice a week or more.

So here are a few of the benefits: Seafood is a great source of vitamins and many other nutrients. Seafood contains vitamin D, which apparently many Americans are deficient in today. It is a good source of vitamin A, vitamin D, zinc, selenium, and more. It is a great source of essential amino acids such as tryptophan and a primary source for omega-3 fatty acids which are our most compatible source of fat, readily absorbed by our bodies, and essential to well being.

Seafood can reduce or even prevent depression. Folks who eat fish suffer about 20% less from depression than does the general population. This is due to the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil, which contribute to both the production and absorption of serotonin—nature’s own antidepressant.

Seafood acts as an anti-inflammatory, again thanks to the omega-3 fatty acids, eating fish helps reduce inflammation in the body, joints, and organs.

Seafood reduces the risk of dementia. Increased consumption of fatty fish has been proven to decrease the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. This may be reason enough to eat more fish!

Seafood protects the heart. Eating seafood at least twice a week reduces the risk of dying from heart disease by thirty-six whopping percent—36%!! It also improves triglyceride levels and helps lower cholesterol levels.

Seafood extends your life. Eating seafood just a couple of times a week reduces your risk of death from any health related cause by 17%. You will still die someday, but you will live a healthier life until that day arrives.

Seafood strengthens your immune system. Eating seafood boosts and strengthens your gut bacteria where 70% of the immune system is built and resides. Take care of your gut, trust your gut, and eat fish!

Seafood is essential for pregnant women and infants. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients for early human development. Vision, brain growth, the nervous system, and our immune system all require omega-3 fatty acids for optimal development during and following pregnancy. During pregnancy eating seafood is beneficial for both mom and baby, and especially for baby’s brain development.

Seafood increases IQ. About 60% of the human brain is made up of fat. About half of that or 30% of the total brain is made up of omega-3 fatty acids. Benefits from eating seafood begin prior to birth and continue through childhood and adolescence into adulthood and old age. Children whose diet does not contain enough essential omega-3 fatty acids have measurably smaller brains and slower overall development.

Do yourself and your kids a big favor: EAT YOUR FISH!!

Want to know more? Read my book, Eating the Lord’s Way: A Step-by-Step Guide to Living the Word of Wisdom, by Karen Hopkins. Available on Amazon.

Hooray for eggs!

Eggs got a bad rap for a while. People cut back or quit eating eggs all together. Phew! Lucky we got past that.

What was the problem? Eggs contained cholesterol (and they still do). But the body doesn’t take cholesterol from an egg or any other source and pass it directly into the bloodstream. In fact eating cholesterol containing foods is not what causes elevated cholesterol levels in the bloodstream at all. But, wait that’s for a different post. Let’s get back to eggs.

Eggs are no longer a forbidden food. Even Weight Watchers gives eggs a complete pass: Eat as many as you want every day, they say. Well, aside from weight loss concerns, how do eggs fit into our overall healthy diet?

Let me just say it: Eggs are nutritional powerhouses, dynamos if you will. Everyone knows eggs are a good source of protein—an average egg contains seven grams of high quality protein. What do I mean by high quality? Complete protein that matches our bodies’ needs for essential amino acids. That’s good. The body needs around 50 grams of protein every day. So eggs are a good start.

Eggs are also full off vitamins and minerals including iron, and the yolk is an excellent source of carotenoids (bioactive antioxidants usually found in plants, Think carrots). Carotenoides give the yolk its orange-yellow coloring. But eggs have an advantage over plants when it comes to carotenoid absorption. Carotenoid absorption is stimulated by lipids (another word for fats) and the egg yolk has an abundance of both. The perfect mix.

Eggs contain disease fighting nutrients like lutein and choline, and that amazing yolk is also a good source of Omega 3 fatty acids. What a bonus!

Eggs really are incredible. Eat an egg or two every day. Your body will thank you!

For more diet and nutrition suggestions buy my book Eating the Lord’s Way: A Step-by-Step Guide to Living the Word of Wisdom, by Karen Hopkins. Available on Amazon.

Cancer, the bittersweet truth.

Did you know cancer cells consume 200 times as much sugar as the normal cells in our body? Yes! Two hundred times more!! That fascinating fact was discovered way back in the 1920’s.   But medical researchers still cannot show definitively that sugars cause cancer.  

Research does show that people who have cancer and consume lower than recommended amounts of sugar have higher than average recovery rates. And they can show that people who consume large amounts of sugar have higher cancer mortality rates. 

Sugars feed cancer.  Sugar has no nutritive value other than calories—empty calories.  Our bodies don’t need it, cancer cells thrive on it.  (And when I say sugars, I mean basically all sugars—white, brown, powdered, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, agave syrup, dextrose, maltose, etc.)

For better health ditch the sugar today!  

Fighting Coronavirus

Fighting off the Coronavirus and many other illnesses and infections is our immune system’s job. A healthy immune system is critical to maintaining a healthy body. But did you know that 70% of the immune system is in the gut?

Yes, that’s right. The key to a healthy functioning immune system is a healthy gut, or in other words, a healthy microbiome. What is the microbiome? The microbiome consists of billions and billions of organisms including bacteria, fungi, molds and viruses that live in and on our bodies. Our gut contains both beneficial and malicious microbes, and keeping those microbes in balance helps keep our bodies healthy and our immune systems strong.

How do we balance our microbiome? There are several important things we can do: 1. Eat less sugar. Sugar is a super food for fungi; sugar allows fungi to overgrow and take over areas of the gut. Not good. 2. Eat whole foods—whole grains, fresh greens, fresh vegetables, fruit, fish, beans, low-fat dairy, olive oil and coconut oil. Good bacteria and fungi thrive on these whole, natural foods. 3. Avoid processed and refined foods including white flour. 4. And drink plenty of water. Easy!

Also, make sure you have plenty of fiber. Beneficial bacteria thrive on fiber. Add a good prebiotic (prebiotics are mostly just fiber in a capsule) or take a spoonful of healthy fiber in water every day. I recommend psyllium husk powder, unflavored and without added sugar. It is relatively inexpensive and you’ll see an immediate difference in your digestive health.

I have not eaten fast foods since the quarantine began. I have eaten at home and I have relied on basic foods: oatmeal with yogurt and berries, eggs, beans and corn tortillas, fish tacos, whole wheat bread, big salads, and lots of veggies. My menu has not been boring and I feel great.

I hope I never contract Covid-19, but just in case, I want to stay healthy! (Even without a pandemic I want to stay healthy!) Join me in healthy eating for a balanced microbiome and a healthy immune system! Your whole body will thank you for it!

Read my book, Eating the Lord’s Way: A Step-by-Step Guide to Living the Word of Wisdom available on Amazon.

What about milk?

Okay, it’s pretty clear by now that sugars have a pretty negative effect on the microbiome. But what about lactose, the sugar found in milk? Surprisingly lactose has been found to be particularly beneficial in decreasing the pathogenic (bad) bacteria Clostridium in our gut while at the same time lactose increases the numbers of anti-inflammatory short chain fatty acids in the gut. So two good things. Who knew?

Both of these benefits are helpful to people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). What? Dairy products are often associated with digestive problems and with IBS type symptoms. Have we been so wrong?

I guess so. But it may be the fat in milk that causes problems. Low-fat and nonfat dairy are apparently better for the microbiome than whole milk. Low-fat and nonfat milk contain more milk sugars and casein(both good) per ounce than whole milk. And the proteins in milk, casein and whey, are also beneficial to the gut helping maintain the biome’s balance.

Dairy fats ( the cream skimmed off low fat milk) have a negative, inflammatory effect on the microbiome. Cream like other animal fats negatively upsets the balance of the microbiome. Darn it! But don’t give up on milk entirely. It really is good for you as long as you skip the cream.

Remember, there are plenty of good sources of dairy: non-fat or low-fat milk, buttermilk, low-fat cheeses, yogurt, cottage cheese and more. Enjoy the healthy benefits of milk in dairy’s many forms.

Read my book Eating the Lord’s Way: A Step-by-Step Guide to Living the Word of Wisdom, available on Amazon

Biotics: Pre, Pro, Post

Prebiotics feed beneficial bacteria and fungi in the gut. Most prebiotics contain some form of fiber that encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria. Psyllium is a good example of a helpful fiber. Plain psyllium husks (no added sugar, no flavoring) are available in some stores and on Amazon. A heaping teaspoon every morning in a small glass of water is a great way to maintain or improve your diet.

Probiotics provide the beneficial bacteria (and in some cases fungi) that colonize the gut. As probiotics ferment in the gut they form byproducts such as anti-inflammatory short chain fatty acids and butyrate which provides energy to our cells. Don’t forget to feed the probiotics with a good prebiotic.

The fermentation by-products produced in the gut are sometimes labeled postbiotics . Some day postbiotics may be available over the counter! But as long as you eat right your gut will produce them for you. And eating right is after all what it’s all about!

Why the microbiome matters

Our gut is home to trillions of friendly (and unfriendly) bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other tiny living organisms that together make up what is referred to as our gut flora or microbiome. We are beginning to understand that keeping our gut flora in balance, keeping the good and bad bacteria and fungi under control, is critical to good health. But what are some of the things a balanced microbiome does for us?

  1. Our gut flora helps digest fiber
  2. It supports and maintains the immune system
  3. It helps with brain health
  4. Gut flora controls body weight
  5. It fights and protects us from infection
  6. It promotes good heart health
  7. It helps control blood sugar levels.

Each of these benefits matters. An out of balance gut can affect us negatively in every way that a balanced gut has a positive effect. So let’s take a little closer closer look at each of the seven statements above. Fiber for instance is necessary for healthy digestion of our foods. While our bodies can’t digest fiber, fiber feeds and strengthens our good bacteria.

Well fed bacteria send signals or metabolites that help our immune system function and develop.  Many inflammatory, autoimmune, neurodegenerative, and metabolic diseases have links to intestinal dysbiosis, or in other words, to a microbiome that is out of balance.

There is also a relationship between the microbiome and mental health. Our gut flora apparently communicates with the central nervous system through immune, endocrine and neural pathways, which act as highway systems for the good bacteria in our bodies. This means the microbiome affects brain function and behavior, regulating pain, our moods, anxiety, and cognition. Wow!

Gut dysbiosis (the imbalance of good and bad gut bacteria) can contribute to weight gain. Good gut flora helps keep the metabolism working as it should. Well fed gut bacteria—gut bacteria that has plenty of fiber—provide the body with energy from polysaccharides that we would not be able to digest otherwise .

A healthy gut protects us from diseases such as IBS and IBD. A diet rich in fiber and probiotics helps eliminate both constipation and diarrhea. It can even improve the symptoms of lactose intolerance in adults. Some of the bacteria in our gut fights off microorganism induced diseases.

Heart health? Yes that too. Gut bacteria promotes triglycerides and good HDL cholesterol due primarily to the metabolization of choline. Choline helps remove bad cholesterol form the liver and keeps bad fats from clogging the arteries. Choline comes from food sources, but it has to be metabolized by the gut bacteria.

Studies show a correlation between a high number of bad gut bacteria and the onset of type 1 diabetes. Other studies show that having a balanced gut biome contributes to lower blood sugar levels.

How do we keep the gut healthy? Start today. Eat fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fermented foods, and low-fat dairy. Avoid processed foods, sugar and refined grains. Avoid meat except for fish. Drink water. Your body will thank you!

Want more info on a healthy diet? Read my book, Eating the Lord’s Way: A Step-by-Step Guide to Living the Word of Wisdom, available on Amazon.

Worse than sugar?

I’m going to tell you the truth. I’ve never drunk a lot of soft drinks. Soft drinks weren’t my thing. But when I did I only drank soft drinks containing sugar. After all I knew that artificial sweeteners were bad, bad, bad. And I had been eating sugar my entire life.

Then I had a change of heart. I became convinced that sugar was in fact bad, bad, bad. So when I ordered a soda, I asked for Coke Zero. And I actually started to drink more soft drinks than I had in the past. After all they were sugar free! Crazy, right?

Crazier than I would have thought. Research shows that artificial sweeteners have a detrimental effect on the microbiome (as does sugar). Even though non-caloric sweeteners contain no sugar they change the microbiome in ways that can induce glucose intolerance. That means non-caloric sweeteners may put you at risk for type II diabetes and the entire metabolic syndrome connected with it—the same as sugars.

And here’s an even bigger surprise, artificial sweeteners appear to be even more likely to induce glucose intolerance than pure sugar. When I came across this study I decided I had to give up on artificial sweeteners AND sugar. But what could I drink? The answer is simple: I can drink water!

There are still some nutritious drinks out there: herbal teas, and milk, and nut milks, and sparkling waters and even some fruit juices. There are still some—

But lately I’ve been drinking more water!

Read my book, Eating the Lord’s Way: A Step-by-Step Guide to Living the Word of Wisdom, available on Amazon.