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The Italian Experiment

italiaThis April, we spent 10 days in Italy. Best. Trip. Ever. And we ate. Everything. Cheeses, oil soaked veggies, gelato, pizza, bread, pasta…All of it. The entire week, I did not have one stomach ache (typically I average 1-2/day) and I lost weight. Truth spoken people.

Aside from moving to Italy, there is a lesson in this – and it’s two-fold.

  1. Pure, unprocessed fresh food is good for your body. Period.
  2. Fat is good.

1st point – Italians barely use a refrigerator and do not load their pantries with snacks. Most of them use the college-sized dorm room versions our kids take to school. Everything is bought and made fresh daily. They do not manufacture or consume processed foods.

Now let’s focus on the 2nd point. As I’ve written about before, we have been taught to be afraid of fat and told “fat will make you fat”. I am here, as a witness, to tell you… that is a myth.

More and more we are learning that higher fat diets help balance hormones, make vitamins (A,D,E,K) more absorbable, promote skin, hair, cardiovascular & brain health, prevent diabetes and… help you lose weight. All calories are not created equal. That is a farce. But there is more to it. Some pure logic – some scientific.

The fat you will find in a frappuccino or a milkshake (kinda the same thing), in a processed protein bar, in frozen dinners, in cookies or even in over-the-counter cheese is not the fat I am referring to. These processed fats are not pure, fresh or organic. They are simply that – processed. And your body does not know what to do with them – so the chemicals are converted to fat in your body.

Enter the scientific: The hormonal effect of food is a much bigger part of the equation and is the most important factor when it comes to fat loss. Namely, insulin (the fat-storage hormone, not fat-releasing). According to Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS – author of Smart Fat: Eat More Fat, Lose More Weight. Get Healthy Now, “the American high-carb, low-fat diet…causes a lot of insulin to be released. When insulin is high, the fat cells lock their doors and won’t release their goodies…and fat can’t be burned for fuel.”

Here’s the kicker. Carbs and protein effect insulin levels. Fat? Not-at-all. And it produces more energy per gram than any other food group. And this all works when you eat “smart fats.”

Smart fats include:

Extra virgin olive oil (hello, Italia)
Fish oil
Wild salmon
Nuts
Coconut, palm & nut oils
Dark chocolate (Italia, there you are again)
Free range, organic eggs
Fats from grass-fed organic meats

Toxic fats include:

Factory farmed meat on a grain-fed diet
Man-made processed fats and foods
Processed omega 6 veggie oils (corn, soybean, canola)
Fats damaged in cooking (see previous blog: Best Oils To Cook With)

So, the high-fat, high-fiber, high flavor, moderate protein-rich foods consumed in Italy proved to be the winners.

Try it. See how you feel and if you notice a difference. And always remember to source your fruits, veggies and proteins organically as much as possible.

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  • Sonja Gamgort

    A+ post! Should we skip the store bought packaged pasta then? Would love to look deeper at the case for eating grass fed meats versus grain fed!

    • Debra

      Organic fresh pasta is your best option. Definitely avoid grain fed meats if possible.

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Where Do You Rank?

Most of your know about my previous crusades to tackle the disappointing lunch choices that our children are offered in school. And, that the average American diet has been a point of contention …known to be full of processed foods, artificial ingredients and a lack of nutritional fruits and veggies.

A recent article in the NY Times this month provided some very interesting facts. “The top four sources of calories in the average American child’s diet are grain-based desserts, pizza, soda and sports drinks, and bread.” One-third…yes, 1 out of every 3 children, eat fast food every single day and more than 90% do not eat enough veggies.  And, one of the driving forces of this trend relates back to the $2 billion a year spent on advertising unhealthy food and beverages directly to children. Of course they want the Happy Meal that gives them a “free” Star Wars figure!

The article included a chart from Business Insider of “25 foods that make up most of the calories Americans eat”. Number one? Desserts – cakes, cookies, pies, donuts…”. The chart can be found below:

food chart

I struggle every day with what to do with this information. Why is it that there are not more regulations being put on food packaging? Why are we not educating the parents more?

Are some efforts happening? Yes. But ever notice how slow it is taking? Big food giants are not going to let that happen so easily. “It’s all about the money, money, money.”

The US Gov’t just released their new dietary guidelines…which happens every 5 years. It does support some key common denominators: Less sugar, more healthy fat, more non-processed protein, more fruits & veggies, lower sodium and a healthy balance. Gold star to big gov’t on the effort…but how does this get communicated more effectively to our children?

I believe our children do need to be educated and the schools are the place to start. I also believe a lot of it stems from the parents. I find many parents are trying to make smart choices – they exercise, try to eat fairly clean and avoid desserts and processed foods. However, much of this does not translate to their own children.  It is so important for parents  to practice what they preach for themselves and their children. If they would never eat chicken nuggets, neither should their children.

I want to do my small part. I am running another 6 week fitness and nutrition program for children ages 9-12 from Feb 19th – March 25th in Summit on Fridays from 4:15-5:15. If you are interested, please visit my Facebook page or email me directly: dakarrat@yahoo.com.

Youth fitness class flyer 1-16-16 FINAL1

 

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Spice It Up.

What if you were told you could prevent inflammation, burn more fat, stop infections…all simply by spicing up your life? The health benefits associated with adding spices to your foods spices
are immense and have received a lot of traction lately in the health industry. Some spices have been known to benefit your heart, provide anti-bacterial and antiviral properties and are high in vitamins and trace minerals. Not to mention they can help boost the taste of so many meals without adding extra calories.

Some of the most common spices and their benefits include the following:

Cayenne pepper – “hot” due to its capsaicin content, a substance that helps heat up your body and fire up your metabolism to burn extra calories and fat. It has also been known to relieve aches and soreness. Other benefits may include improved circulation, heart health and fighting some cancers and ulcers.

Ginger – commonly known to treat upset stomachs, ginger may also help gas and bloating, sore throats, colds, arthritis and motion sickness.  It has also been known to lessen workout induced soreness and inflammation and may even be attributed to higher memory. It can be ingested in multiple ways and is readily available.

Cinnamon – has one of the highest antioxidant values of any spice and has been shown to reduce inflammation, lower blood sugar and triglyceride levels, help with nausea and help the body in burning fat. It is also a great source of manganese, iron and calcium…and can reduce risk factors for diabetes and heart disease. Oh…and it kills bacteria! I add cinnamon to my coffee every day.

Fennel – high in calcium and rich in niacin, fennel is also high in vitamin C and can help promote a strong immune system and is an excellent source of dietary fiber and iron – helping to boost your metabolism and keep your digestive tract healthy. And, it’s a natural appetite suppressant and can help detoxify and exfoliate the skin.

Turmeric – a common ingredient in mustard, butter and cheese to add to their yellow hue. Turmeric contains curcumin, a powerful anti-inflammatory and has been known to provide pain relief and may have benefits to treating Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis and breast, stomach and colon cancer. It also contains anti-bacterial properties and helps digest fat quickly.

Oregano – has been known to have antiviral, antibacterial, anticancer, antioxidant and antibiotic properties. It contains vitamin K, which has bone-building properties, and can help fend off the stomach flu. The oil and leaves of the plant have been used medicinally to body aches and illnesses.

Basil – known for it’s powerful antioxidant properties that can protect the body from premature aging, skin issues and some types of cancer. The plant pigments are said to protect your cell structure from oxygen and radiation damage and can also be applied to wounds to help prevent bacterial infections.

Cumin – super rich in iron, cumin helps keep your energy level high and your immune system strong. It has also been associated to boosting brainpower, especially memory.

It’s especially important to keep your spices fresh and use them before the expiration date. Your best option is to buy the plant source and use it directly to spice up your meals.

Experiment with your recipes and add a little extra spice to your life.

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