Monthly Archives: January 2016

The International Year of the Pulse: 2016

Pulse red


You are probably asking yourself, unless you are from Canada or the UK, what is a pulse? Pulses are part of the legume family. They are the dried seed. Pulses include lentils, chickpeas, dried beans and peas. They are high in fiber & protein and are low in fat.

I have been receiving newsletters from my favorite nutrition sites declaring 2016 the International Year of the Pulse. Of course this piqued my curiosity 🙂 I found that the pulse is destined to be the new “Superfood” this year. Quinoa & acai berries will be a thing of the past.

Here is an excerpt from an article: Year of the pulse  The reporter has attended a cocktail party in Toronto, Ontario:  “The party, and much of the recent media coverage, has been the culmination of years of painstaking planning by the global pulse industry to rebrand their product – a massive global campaign that has taken industry members from the lentil fields of Saskatchewan to meetings with federal ministers and boardrooms in Dubai and around the world. One guest at the Toronto party, a food-industry veteran for over 30 years, said he’s never seen such a co-ordinated campaign to promote a product.

The staggering effort, which included successfully lobbying the United Nations to designate 2016 the International Year of the Pulses, highlights the increasingly dramatic lengths food companies are taking to capture the attention of consumers.”

This is actually good news to anyone who follows the Mediterranean, DASH, MIND, Vegetarian or Vegan ways of eating. These little gems are:

  • High in both soluble & insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber helps control our blood sugar which makes them low on the glycemic scale. It also lowers cholesterol while insoluble fiber keeps us “regular”.
  • High in protein: “Pulses typically contain about twice the amount of protein found in whole grain cereals like wheat, oats, barley and rice.”  Pulses & Nutrition
  • Nutrient dense:  Pulses provide substantial amounts of vitamins and minerals in a relatively low amount of calories. Some of the key minerals in pulses include iron, potassium, magnesium and zinc. Pulses are also particularly abundant in B vitamins including folate, thiamin and niacin.”  Pulse Canada

Pulse Canada has a brochure that you can copy: How to cook pulses. “Dry beans, chickpeas, peas and lentils (known as pulses) can be found in most grocery stores, organic food stores and ethnic specialty food stores. When buying dry pulses, look for bright color seeds, uniform size and smooth skins without chips or shriveled seed coats. Although dry pulses will keep years if stored in tightly covered containers in a cool, dark, dry place, it is best to use them within one year of purchase. The longer a pulse is stored, the drier it becomes which increases its cooking time. Canned pulses are very convenient because they are pre-cooked and ready to use. Always drain and rinse canned beans before use.” Good resource for soaking & cooking times. Click here for their Recipe page. 

Chickpea Hummus is one of my favorite ways to use chickpeas/garbanzo beans. This is a traditional recipe using cooked/canned chickpeas. Tahini paste looks expensive but you use small amounts in recipes & it lasts a long time when refrigerated. It can also be used in homemade dressings.

I make Raw Sprouted Humus from The Simple Veganista : Here is my version. Soak 1 cup of dried garbanzo beans overnight then rinse twice a day for 2 days or until they have sprouted about 1/4 inch. Put the sprouted beans, will be about 2 cups, into a food processor or a blender. Add the following.

  • 2 heaping tablespoons of Tahini paste
  • 2 heaping tablespoons of Extra Virgin Organic Olive Oil
  • 2 large cloves of garlic
  • Juice of 1-2 lemons (I prefer 1)
  • 1/4 cup water, add more to thin if you want
  • 1 tablespoon of ground Cumin
  • 2 teaspoons of ground Coriander
  • Dash or 2 of Cayenne is optional (I love the extra zing to the hummus)
  • Himalayan salt at the end to taste

Blend until smooth in blender. You can add veggies to change the flavor or favorite spices as well.

Sometimes I will sprout 2 or 3 cups of dried garbanzo beans to roast! I toss them with a drizzle of Organic  EV Olive Oil & spices that I like. My favorite is a dash of Himalayan salt, cumin, lemon pepper & cayenne. I spread the beans in one layer on a cookie sheet with sides (I use parchment paper instead of oiling the pan). Roast at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Stir every 15 minutes & remove when browned. They will crisp up when cooling. This is a great snack that is high in protein & fiber.

Oldway’s Mediterranean Food Alliance is one of my favorite sites. They have a Newsletter called Fresh Fridays. Their January 8th, 2016 Newsletter was: International Year of Pulses.….now you know why I was so curious 🙂 Take a look at both links. You will find recipes for pulses & other veggies. This is not a vegetarian only site. Their recipes include healthy proteins like fish & lean meats. Oldway’s Recipe link. 

The USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council is a good resource for nutrition information & recipes. “What can I make besides soup? Lots of stuff, actually. Pulses have been a staple of healthy diets in the Mediterranean, India, Africa, Australia, the Middle East and South America for thousands of years. Pulses are a healthy alternative to animal protein. Peas and lentils are fat-free and chickpeas are a low fat protein source.1  Browse our recipe section for plenty of easy-to-prepare and inexpensive lunch, dinner and even dessert options.” Of course I went to the deserts first. Loved this one:  

Peanut Butter Chickpea Energy BallsYields: 24 to 28 balls ,Prep Time: 10m 

1.5 cups chickpeas, cooked
1/2 cup all-natural peanut butter, smooth
1/3 cup honey You could cut this down by 1/2
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 1/4 cup ground oat flour
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips


First place chickpeas, peanut butter, and honey in a food processor and blend for about a minute on high or until the mixture is smooth. Then, add in cinnamon, vanilla extract, salt, and oat flour, and pulse until combined. At this point your dough should be similar to cookie dough consistency. If things are too dry, add more peanut butter, if things are too wet, add more ground oat flour. Add in chocolate chips and pulse until combined.

Finally, using a 1 tablespoon cookie scoop, scoop out a heaping tablespoon of dough and roll between your palms to form a ball. Repeat. Store in the fridge or freezer! Don’t you just love this recipe? I can’t wait to try it. I am thinking you could add nuts & shredded coconut with dark chocolate chips or carob chips. Yummy!

I noticed at the bottom of this recipe, it said that the recipe came from Fit Foodie Finds. Another good resource for recipes. 

Dried lentils & peas cook very quickly & are a great addition to any meal. No need to pre-soak them. I like them cooked with:

  • 2 cups of dried lentils or split peas ~ doesn’t matter which ones you choose; yellow, green or red~ always rinse before using.
  • 6 cups of water ~ add more if needed.
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 15oz can of diced fire roasted tomatoes  
  • 4oz can of chopped green chili
  • 2 “No Chicken” bouillon cubes
  • Cumin, tumeric, salt & lemon pepper to taste 

You can add carrots, celery, turnips or even potatoes if you want. Very versatile. Simmer until veggies & pulses are soft. About 20-30 minutes. I take out 1/2 – 1/3 of the cooked stew & blend it in my blender. Add it back in to have a thicker creamer dish.

Pulse Canada has printable recipe cards. Very nice! Take a look. There is a great recipe for “Thick & Hearty Red Lentil Soup”They also have printable recipe booklets. The booklets cover all the information you would want to know about pulses & how to cook them. It also has pages of recipes. There is also a gluten-free booklet. Love this site!

High dietary fiber linked to lower risk for breast cancer  BOSTON, Feb. 1 (UPI) — “Higher levels of dietary fiber during adolescence and young adulthood was linked to a significantly lower risk of breast cancer, according to a large study. Most Americans don’t get the amount of fiber they should, researchers at Harvard University say, but women should pay particularly more attention.” This study has been in the news since yesterday. 

Teen eating habits may help cut breast cancer risk“The results of this study emphasize the role of an early life high-fiber diet on prevention of breast cancer in later life. High consumption of foods rich in fiber such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains in early life may help to reduce breast cancer incidence,” lead author Maryam Farvid, a visiting scientist at Harvard, told CBS News. Let’s not forget these pulses! You get high fiber & as an added bonus, protein. If you have teens, girls & boys (boy’s can have breast cancer too), add pulses to their diet. Make bean dips from chickpeas, lentils or even peas. Easy to eat & go great with chips or crackers. Add a salad & cut up fruit for a snack. 

I hope you will take the time to add pulses to your diet. If you decide to use the dried beans then make up a big batch & freeze them in small storage containers for future use. Easy addition to soups & stews right from the freezer!

I want to end with a link that our NUT Elf, Suzi, sent me. We were discussing the cost of organic foods & how living away from a big city it is sometimes difficult to find your favorite brand or item. Check this out… Thrive Market. This is a membership site. I checked out reviews & they were very positive. The savings was a lot! Click here to get a special offer from Food Babe if you are interested.

Happy February!……Mary


Farm Stand 3


Phytoestrogens is a subject that all breast cancer patients worry about. Not only those in treatment but also those out of treatment. Some of you are taking medications to block estrogen, and some have finished your 5 years of hormone therapy. Understandably you would be worried about consuming estrogen in any form. This has lead  to phytoestrogens being misunderstood & feared.

I want to start with an explanation of the different breast cancer diagnosis.

Types of breast cancers: WebMD article that is very informative regarding breast cancers. Here are some excerpts from the article.

  • Endocrine receptor-positive (estrogen or progesterone receptors)
  • HER2-positive: In about 20% of breast cancers, the cells make too much of a protein known as HER2. This cancer is not hormone driven & targeted treatment is used.
  • Triple positive: positive for estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors, and HER2: This diagnosis has HER2 protein plus it is hormone positive for both estrogen & progesterone.
  • Triple negative: not positive for estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors, and HER2: This diagnosis means: 10% – 20% — are known as “triple negative” because they don’t have estrogen and progesterone receptors and don’t over express the HER2 protein. Most breast cancers associated with the gene BRCA1 are triple negative.

Hormone Receptor-Positive Breast Cancer: About 80% of all breast cancers are “ER-positive.” That means the cancer cells grow in response to the hormone estrogen. About 65% of these are also “PR-positive.” They grow in response to another hormone, progesterone. If your breast cancer has a significant number of receptors for either estrogen or progesterone, it’s considered hormone-receptor positive.

Tumors that are ER/PR-positive are much more likely to respond to hormone therapy than tumors that are ER/PR-negative. You may have hormone therapy after surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation are finished. These treatments can help prevent a return of the disease by blocking the effects of estrogen. They do this in one of several ways.

  • The medication tamoxifen (Nolvadex) helps stop cancer from coming back by blocking hormone receptors, preventing hormones from binding to them. It’s sometimes taken for up to 5 years after initial treatment for breast cancer.
  • A class of medicines called aromatase inhibitors actually stops estrogen production. These include anastrozole (Arimidex),exemestane (Aromasin), and letrozole (Femara). They’re only used in women who’ve already gone through menopause.

Now let’s take a look at what phtyoestrogens are.

Phytoestrogen: an estrogen-like compound occurring naturally in plants of the legume family and in grains, vegetables, and fruits. 

Tulane University explains PhytoestrogensMany plants produce chemicals that mimic or interact with hormone signals in animals. At least 20 such phytohormones have been identified in at least 300 plants from more than 16 different plant families (Barrett 1996; Colborn et al. 1996). The estrogen-like phytoestrogens are the most studied of all the phytochemicals. In general, phytoestrogens are weaker than the natural estrogen hormones (such as estradiol) found in humans and animals or the very potent synthetic estrogens used in birth control pills and other drugs (Jefferson et al. 2002a). Key word here is “weaker”.

This article goes on to say: Exposure to phytoestrogens is mainly through diet. The estrogenic plant compounds are widespread in food, including herbs and seasonings (garlic, parsley), grains (soybeans, wheat, rice), vegetables (beans, carrots, potatoes), fruits (date, pomegranates, cherries, apples), and drinks (coffee). The two most studied phytoestrogen groups are lignans and isoflavones. Lignans are products of intestinal microbial breakdown of compounds found in whole grains, fibers, flax seeds and many fruits and vegetables. Enterodiol and enterolactone are examples of lignans. Isoflavones, such as genistein and daidzein, occur in soybeans and other legumes.” This article is definately worth reading for those of you who are worried about phytoestrogens.

Plant-Based Estrogen for Breast Cancer PatientsThis is from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s “Ask the Nutritionist”. The question was answered by Linda, Worcester, MA, in October 2015: A current article with up-to-date research.

Q: I have breast cancer that is estrogen related. Can I still eat plant-based estrogen products like soy or prunes, or animal products like cows’ milk, etc.?

A: There is a lot of controversy surrounding consumption of phytoestrogens and soy products for patients with estrogen sensitive cancer.

The concern with soy and cancer comes from the fact that soy contains isoflavones, which are phytoestrogens that in some ways mimic the action of estrogen. However, these phytoestrogens are many times weaker than the estrogen made in human bodies. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research and American Cancer Society, research has shown that moderate consumption of whole soy foods appears safe for both breast cancer survivors and the general public. Moderate consumption of whole soy foods, or 1-2 servings per day, does not increase cancer risk, and may actually lower the risk of cancers of the breast, prostate, and other cancers. One serving is one cup of soy milk, a half cup of cooked edamame or soy beans, or one ounce of soy nuts. I want to stress the word moderate here. Read the serving size. I recommend avoiding soy milk & tofu. Both are highly processed. Use almond, cashew, hemp or rice milk instead. If you don’t eat soy products then don’t start. If you do eat soy products then look at the amounts you consume. 

That being said, research is lacking in regard to high doses of soy in supplements like soy protein isolates. Since less is known about their effects on health, isolated soy compounds or soy supplements should be avoided if that is a concern. Avoid foods made from soy protein powder, soy protein isolate, or isolated soy protein (read the ingredient list to look for these). These forms of soy are often found in nutrition bars, soy protein powder, many high protein breads and cereals and vegetarian “meat-less” options, such as certain brands of veggie burgers or soy hot dogs. Worth repeating. Read the ingredient list to look for these in: nutrition bars, soy protein powder, many high protein breads and cereals and vegetarian “meat-less” options, such as certain brands of veggie burgers or soy hot dogs. ALL processed foods! Don’t forget to check the ingredient list on your supplements. As for protein powders, you can use pea, hemp or egg white.

In fruits and vegetables, the benefits greatly outweigh any potential negatives of their minimal phytoestrogen content. Any phytoestrogen effect from vegetables or fruits, such as prunes, is negligible and has not been shown to be harmful in any way. Phytonutrients found in fruits and vegetables promote immune support and detoxification in the body and are excellent sources of disease-fighting nutrients. YES!

Research has shown that grass fed beef has a more preferable nutrient profile than conventionally raised beef, so when possible it may be beneficial to choose organic grass-fed beef. We recommend following the American Institute for Cancer Research’s guideline of consuming no more than 11-18oz of red meat per week. For overall cardiovascular health, it is best to choose leaner cuts of meat to limit saturated fat intake and overall calorie intake. However, regular consumption of processed red meats like bacon, hot dogs and sausage, is not recommended as they are associated with a higher risk of colorectal cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Similarly dairy can be part of a healthful diet as it is a great source of protein, calcium and other nutrients. As with red meat, organic dairy products from grass fed cows has a more preferable nutrient profile, so choose organic dairy products when possible. A local farm that offers a dairy and meat CSA (community supported agriculture) is a great choice. Estrogen is stored in the fat of animals. Avoid meat or choose lean meat. Estrogen is in dairy also, so avoid or use moderate amounts of low-fat or non-fat. Organic does not mean estrogen free.

Phytoestrogen and Its Food SourcesThis is a printable list of foods & their phytoestrogen content per 100 grams. Note that Soy & Flax are very high in phytoestrogens & coffee is very low 🙂 Here is a sample from the list: 

  • Flax seed… 379380
  • Soy beans… 103920
  • Tofu… 27150.1
  • Soy yogurt… 10275
  • Sesame seed… 8008.1
  • Flax bread… 7540
  • Coffee, regular… 6.3  Hooray!!!!

When you look at this list remember that it is based on 100 grams. Put in perspective:

  • 1 cup of flax seeds is 150 grams
  • 1 cup of sesame seeds is 120 grams. When I eat sesame seeds it is sprinkled over the food, certainly not a cup full!
  • 1/2 cup of tofu equals 126 grams.

I want to want to end with a cautionary note about avoiding ALL phytoestrogens. You will be modifying your diet in a very unhealthy way. Most are very weak & will not cause a problem for any of you. Yet, when avoided will restrict your nutrient intake severely. Avoiding the top few: soy products & flax, would be acceptable & a good idea. If you would like to research this subject further, I have provided a resource list. 

I hope this has helped…..Mary

P.S. Campbell Foods Makes Huge GMO Announcement: The largest soup maker in the world says it backs the mandatory labeling of GMO-containing foods in the U.S. and will label its own products even if no federal labeling law is passed. “With 92 percent of Americans supporting the labeling of GMO foods, Campbell believes now is the time for the federal government to act quickly to implement a federal solution,” the company said in a press release.” YAY! They listened & will now act on their own. This is a company to support.

Research Resources for further information:

  • Are your cancer cells fueled by hormones?Mayo Clinic. Further information regarding the diagnosis of breast cancer. Very good read. 
  • Estrogen Dependent CancersCleveland Clinic. Information regarding other cancers that can be estrogen dependent.
  • Phytoestrogens: food or drug?National Institute of Health. It is very thorough abstract about research in this area & has a resource section.
  •  Phytoestrogen Consumption and Breast Cancer Risk in a Multiethnic Population: The Bay Area Breast Cancer Study: American Journal of Epidemiology.
  • Straight Talk About Soy: Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. One important point in this article is: 
    • The timing of soy intake may make a difference: The Shanghai Women’s Health Study, for example, found that women with the highest soy protein intakes throughout adolescence and early adulthood had nearly a 60 percent lower risk of pre-menopausal breast cancer than women with the lowest intakes. Something to consider: How many of you have been consuming a natural soy in the form of tofu, edamame, or tempeh since before puberty? Is your soy the same as produced in Asia & do you consume the small serving sizes that they do? Probably not. I don’t think the comparison of Western women & Asian women is helpful.


U.S. News: “Best Diets: 2016”.

U.S. News has once again evaluated and ranked the most popular diets of the year. They do this yearly with a panel of health experts. Their criteria does not include cancer prevention specifically, but it does address all the other inflammatory diseases. This means that the top diets will indeed be preventative. The article states that: “To be top-rated, a diet had to be relatively easy to follow, nutritious, safe and effective for weight loss and preventing diabetes and heart disease.” The DASH diet was #1 in 2015. This year there are a few surprises, for me at least 🙂

Here’s How Health Experts Ranked 38 Of The Most Popular DietsLet’s take a look at some of the top ranking ones. If you are interested in seeing the entire list then click on the link to the article.

As you see DASH got #1 again. 

#1 DASH Diet: DASH was developed to fight high blood pressure, not as an all-purpose diet. But it certainly looked like an all-star to our panel of experts, who gave it high marks for its nutritional completeness, safety, ability to prevent or control diabetes and role in supporting heart health. Though obscure, it beat out a field full of better-known diets. I wrote about the DASH diet last year. Check under Topics.  

Overall rank: 1
Overall score: 4.1 out of 5

This next one surprised me because somehow I had never heard of it! I like the idea of the Mind Diet. I followed the link (MIND) & the first paragraph was impressive: The emphasis is on eating from 10 brain-healthy food groups: green leafy vegetables in particular, all other vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil and wine. Meanwhile, MIND adherents avoid foods from the five unhealthy groups: red meats, butter and stick margarine, cheeses, pastries and sweets, and fried or fast food.” Yes! Sounds good to me.

#2 (tie) MIND Diet: The MIND diet takes two proven diets ­­– DASH and Mediterranean – and zeroes in on the foods in each that specifically affect brain health. It made an impressive debut to the 2016 rankings, shooting up to second place overall, tying with the TLC diet. It’s a healthy, sensible plan with science behind it. The MIND diet, which stands for “Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay,” was developed by Martha Clare Morris, a nutritional epidemiologist at Rush University Medical Center, through a study funded by the National Institute on Aging and published online February 2015. Morris’ team followed the food intake of 923 Chicago-area seniors. Over 4.5 years, 144 participants developed Alzheimer’s disease. The longer people had followed the MIND diet patterns, the less risk they appeared to have. Even people who made “modest” changes to their diets – who wouldn’t have fit the criteria for DASH or Mediterranean – had less risk of developing Alzheimer’s. The study found the MIND diet lowered Alzheimer’s risk by about 35 percent for people who followed it moderately well and up to 53 percent for those who adhered to it rigorously.”  This diet is for those of you who are ok with doing it yourself. It has guidelines like the Mediterranean diet but not as regimented as the DASH. 

Overall rank: 2
Overall score: 4 out of 5

#2 (tie) TLC Diet: Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes, or TLC, is a very solid diet plan created by the National Institutes of Health. It has no major weaknesses, and it’s particularly good at promoting cardiovascular health. One expert described it as a “very healthful, complete, safe diet.” But it requires a “do-it-yourself” approach, in contrast to the hand-holding provided by some commercial diets. The key is cutting back sharply on fat, particularly saturated fat. Saturated fat (think fatty meat, whole-milk dairy and fried foods) bumps up bad cholesterol, which increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. That, along with strictly limiting daily dietary cholesterol intake and getting more fiber, can help people manage high cholesterol, often without medication.  This one is also a ~do it yourself~ diet. It’s goal is to lower cholesterol. It is basically a balanced diet with emphasis on fruits & vegetables. Here is a link to its guidebook: Your Guide To Lowering Your Cholesterol With TLC

Overall rank: 2
Overall score: 4 out of 5

I skipped the Fertility Diet 🙂 

#4 (tie) Mayo Clinic Diet: This is the Mayo Clinic’s take on how to make healthy eating a lifelong habit. It earned especially high ratings from our experts for its nutrition and safety and as a tool against diabetes. Experts found it moderately effective for weight loss. With the “Mayo Clinic Diet” book as your guide, you’ll work your way through two parts: “Lose it!” and “Live it!” Part 1 focuses on 15 key habits – ones to add and ones to ditch. You don’t count calories, and you can snack all you want on fruits and veggies. After two weeks, you begin part 2, learning how many calories you should eat to either lose or maintain weight and where those calories should come from. No food group is completely off-limits – you’re developing a pattern of healthy eating you’ll follow for life. Expand this section for more detail on each phase. This one sounds easy to follow. I like this idea very much. Mayo’s companion Fix-It and Enjoy-It Healthy Cookbook is packed with recipes & ideas.  “Fix-It and Enjoy-It Healthy Cookbook is packed with more than 400 recipes for stove-top and oven cooking. “I am dedicated to offering recipes that make it possible to eat at home, even if you don’t have much time, or radiant cooking skills!” says the author Phyllis Pellman Good

Overall rank: 4
Overall score: 3.9 out of 5

#4 (tie) Mediterranean Diet: With its emphasis on fruits and vegetables, olive oil, fish and other healthy fare, the Mediterranean diet is eminently sensible. And experts’ assessments of it were resoundingly positive, giving this diet an edge over many competitors. I don’t think you need me to comment on this one 😉

Overall rank: 4
Overall score: 3.9 out of 5

#4 (tie) Weight Watchers Diet: Weight Watchers is a smart, effective diet. It surpassed other commercial diet plans in multiple areas, including short- and long-term weight loss and how easy it is to follow. It’s also nutritionally sound and safe, according to experts. Among its pluses: an emphasis on group support, lots of fruits and vegetables and room for occasional indulgences. There’s more to weight loss than counting calories – if you make healthy choices that fill you up, you’ll eat less. Weight Watchers’ new Beyond the Scale Program, launched in late 2015, assigns every food a SmartPoints value, based on its nutition. (Higher amounts of saturated fat and sugar increase the point value; higher amounts of protein bring the point value down.) Choices that fill you up the longest “cost” the least, and nutritionally dense foods cost less than empty calories. So if you’re wavering between a 200-calorie fruit smoothie and a 200-calorie iced coffee, the smoothie is the smarter choice. A backbone of the plan is multi-model access to support from people who’ve lost weight using Weight Watchers and kept it off. This is my go to weight-loss diet. It has always worked for me. I no longer need to attend the meetings & I use an Apple app to count my points & keep track of my intake. I find it easy to do. It teaches you portion control. The negative is that their pre-made meals are processed. If you don’t eat them ~they are expensive too~ and make your own meals it works. Weight Watchers accommodates all diets: vegan, vegetarian etc.

Overall rank: 4
Overall score: 3.9 out of 5

#8 (tie) The Flexitarian Diet: The Flexitarian Diet outperformed many of its competitors, with particularly high scores in nutritional completeness, easiness to follow and long-term weight loss. One panelist noted that this diet is “a nice approach that could work for the whole family,” and another described it as a “very good” plan. Flexitarian is a marriage of two words: Flexible and vegetarian. The term was coined more than a decade ago,and in her 2009 book, “The Flexitarian Diet: The Mostly Vegetarian Way to Lose Weight, Be Healthier, Prevent Disease and Add Years to Your Life,” registered dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner says you don’t have to eliminate meat completely to reap the health benefits associated with vegetarianism – you can be a vegetarian most of the time, but still chow down on a burger or steak when the urge hits. This is a good one for those of you who eat meat & don’t want to give it up completely. Although I would forgo the burger & steak & stick to poultry & fish instead. A burger & small steak can be a treat. Check it out!

Overall rank: 8
Overall score: 3.8 out of 5

I am always interested in the latest diets. This yearly list makes it easier for me 🙂 What really surprised me this year is that the Vegetarian diet tied for #13, & the Vegan diet tied for #21. Interesting…..

I couldn’t pass this up. I had to share it with you. I mentioned that I love Mexican Food in one of our Blog posts. My family is well aware of this because I usually choose a Mexican restaurant when we all go out. My favorite in the San Diego area is Bahia Don Bravo in La Jolla. Well, my niece posted this on my Facebook page.  Texans rave about “The Taco Cleanse” diet book It turns out that this is a vegan diet! 

The Taco Cleanse: The Tortilla-Based Diet Proven to Change Your Life: ~Tired of the same old cleanse? Instead of feeling rejuvenated are you feeling depleted, anxious, and cranky? (Not to mention . . . hungry?) A group of vegan taco scientists in Austin, Texas, know just how you feel, and now reveal their one-of-a-kind cleansing journey that anybody can follow and stick to—the Taco Cleanse. While the typical cleanse works by depriving you of your favorite foods, the plant-based Taco Cleanse rewards your body with what it naturally craves: tortillas, refried beans, guacamole! According to the reviews it has wonderful vegan taco recipes & it is funny! I think I need to try this one.

Here is a link to a free cookbook you can download to your computer: Eat Well on $4 a Day: Good & Cheap  Good, & simple recipes.

…….Until next week! 

How are dietary supplements regulated?

We just assume or maybe hope that all those bottles of dietary supplements on the shelves of our local drug store, grocery store, natural food store or pharmacy are regulated & safe to use. Dietary supplements are not regulated the same way prescription drugs are. It is important to understand how they are regulated to be able to make an informed decision as to their use.

I was given this chart by Nature Made at a conference I attended. It explains what you should look for on a label. This is the best chart I have seen that explains each piece of information & why it all needs to be there. If it isn’t, then don’t buy the product. Click here to download the chart for your own use. How Dietary Supplements Are Regulated. You can also click on the chart below for a better view of it.

NM chart

Dietary Supplements are regulated by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. This site has all the information you would need.

“FDA regulates both finished dietary supplement products and dietary ingredients. FDA regulates dietary supplements under a different set of regulations than those covering “conventional” foods and drug products. Under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA):

  • Manufacturers and distributors of dietary supplements and dietary ingredients are prohibited from marketing products that are adulterated or misbranded.  That means that these firms are responsible for evaluating the safety and labeling of their products before marketing to ensure that they meet all the requirements of DSHEA and FDA regulations. ***Notice that it says the manufacturers & distributors are responsible for the safety of their products, not the FDA.
  • FDA is responsible for taking action against any adulterated or misbranded dietary supplement product after it reaches the market. ***Basically this means that the FDA will take action once it receives complaints from consumers or deaths from the product have been reported. 

This is worth repeating……this is another site with information about how they are regulated.

National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements“In general, the FDA regulations for dietary supplements are different from those for prescription or over-the-counter drugs. Unlike drugs, which must be approved by the FDA before they can be marketed, dietary supplements do not require premarket review or approval by the FDA. While the supplement company is responsible for having evidence that their products are safe and the label claims are truthful and not misleading, they do not have to provide that evidence to the FDA before the product is marketed.”

When the FDA receives complaints about a specific company or a specific supplement, the FDA will investigate. If there is a death involved they move more quickly. What do you do if  you have a complaint? If you suspect that you have had a serious reaction from a dietary supplement, let your health care provider know. He or she may report your experience to the FDA. You may also submit a report to the FDA by calling 800-FDA-1088 or completing a form onlineexternal link disclaimer. In addition, report your reaction to the dietary supplement company by using the contact information on the product label.” 

If the FDA did regulate dietary supplements as they do drugs then the vitamin, mineral or herb would have to go through the same testing, clinical trials etc. that a drug does. This means that the cost of the supplement would rise & you would need a prescription from your physician for vitamins, minerals & herbal products. To avoid this problem, manufacturers that take safety of their products seriously either self regulate or have joined other manufacturers & created a regulatory group. These are the brands I recommended in the last post. As I said there are many more.

The U.S. Pharmacopoeial Convention has set standards of safety since 1820. This is their website USP Dietary Supplements: “To help manufacturers, suppliers, and regulators safeguard the dietary supplement supply, USP provides documentary standards and reference materials for determining product and ingredient identity, strength, quality, and purity. These standards help limit the introduction of potential adulterants and contaminants, and serve as a widely acknowledged quality benchmark in the buying and selling of dietary supplement products and their ingredients in the global marketplace. In addition to its standards, USP offers third-party, independent verification services for dietary supplement finished products and dietary ingredients.”

USP labelThe following article is very good. Please read it. To be fair, the fraud they are referring to has not been settled in the eyes of many because of the DNA test used to detect contaminants. This test is still being scrutinized. Knowing What’s in Your Supplements: This article explains how to be sure that what is claimed to be in your bottle is actually what is in it & nothing more. 

Another good article regarding the public’s disregard for research results regarding dietary supplementsAmericans are ignoring the science and spending billions on dietary supplements: “Sales in 2013 reached $13 billion, as more people turn to the supplements to boost their health and lose weight. One of their biggest boosters is syndicated TV host Mehmet Oz of “Dr. Oz” fame, even though “America’s doctor,” as he’s also known, has gotten into trouble for pushing pills with little medical grounding.*** He had to go before congress to testify. He lost; the pills he pushed for weight loss were worthless, therefore the claims were fraudulent. When researchers take a closer look at the products, the results can be alarming. Researchers from a 2012 Inspector General’s report found that 20 percent of the weight loss and immune system support supplements they purchased made illegal claims about their ability to treat and cure disease.” 

Why do you, the consumer, need to pay attention? Dietary Supplements Send Thousands To The ER Each Year “Many claim to be natural, which may sound safe, but dietary supplements send 23,000 Americans to hospital emergency rooms each year, a new federal study estimates. The riskiest ones are weight-loss and energy-boosting products, says the report, published in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine.” Good article to end this post with. 

I hope that the information I have provided in this post & last weeks will cause you to:

  • Use brands that you know are self regulated or belong to a regulatory group. NIH: FAQ’s
  • Look closely at the labels on supplements that you are going to purchase. How Dietary Supplements Are Regulated.
  • Let you health team know what you are taking.  
  • Follow your health teams advice if blood tests show that you are deficient in a specific vitamin or mineral.
  • Stay within the 100% RDA for each individual vitamin, mineral & herbal supplement. Add them up!
  • Use them only if you are not able to eat a balanced, plant based diet.

Dr. Low Dog has written a book, Fortify Your Life, that will be out in February. It will be a good resource for those of you who want more information regarding the use of dietary supplements. I find Dr. Low Dog informed on the latest research & honest in her assessment of what the general population needs in their diet.

Supplement book LD

Next week we will look at the ranking of the 38 most popular diets. I was surprised! Meet you here……Mary




Dietary Supplements


Dietary supplements have been the leading topic in my emails from you over the last few weeks. The questions are usually the same: what supplements should I be taking, are there supplements to help with stress, which brand should I buy & where should I buy them.

In a perfect dietary world, we would get what vitamins & minerals the body needs from our healthy, balanced, plant based diet. But as we have seen in the news & in my posts, “most people” don’t eat a healthy, balanced, plant based diet. The reasons for this are many. We will concentrate on the people who: have cancer & are in treatment, are finished with treatment, or are caregivers. There are some dietary supplements that are recommended to be taken daily.

Physicians only test for a vitamin or mineral deficiency if they have reason to believe you are deficient due to the medications you are taking, treatment you are undergoing or you are presenting specific symptoms. When they do find a deficiency or they are being preventative, your health team will recommended you take a specific dietary supplement. Take it, this is a good thing 🙂 It is also important to tell your health team what over-the-counter medications & dietary supplements you already take. They may interact with your medical treatment & may have an impact on your blood tests. Give them a list!

Supplement facts


The dietary supplements that are recommended for most people to take regularly are a Multi-Vitamin, Vitamin D, an Omega 3, Calcium & Vitamin C. If you decide on your own to take these supplements then make sure you read the back label before buying them.  This is especially important with multi-vitamins. Check the serving size; on the label depicted it is 1 tablet. Now check that each vitamin & mineral per serving is within the RDA ~recommended daily allowance~ . Don’t go over 100%. Overdosing on vitamins is rare but there are side effects if you get a mega dose. Look at the ingredient list at the bottom of the back label to see what else they have added. I have noticed that some multi-vitamins have herbs, like ginseng, in them. You don’t need that added complication. Check the labels!

Remember to add up the amounts you are taking of each individual vitamin & mineral if you are taking a multivitamin & individual vitamins. For example, if you have 400 IU’s of Vitamin D in your multivitamin & take Vitamin D 1000 IU’s  then the two together equal 1400 IU’s. This is most important with calcium, magnesium, & vitamin E.  Higher doses of these 3 can cause health problems. If your health team prescribes a higher dosage than 100% RDA, report any adverse symptoms you are experiencing.

Even if you eat junk food all day long, you are taking in vitamins & minerals. They all count towards the correct dosage. Let’s look at the recommended vitamins individually.

For detailed information on the use of Vitamin C for cancer treatment check out my Blog post: Vitamin C.

Vitamin C is a good vitamin too take daily but for cancer patients in treatment, you must remember that it is an antioxidant. Anyone taking vitamin C should not take more than 2,000 milligrams daily. I am a great believer in the benefits of vitamin C.

Mayo Clinic has a good resource page regarding Vitamin C (ascorbic acid). This page has the dosages for the uses of vitamin C: colds, antioxidant, cancer prevention, pain etc. Read the other pages for information about interactions, side effects & safety. 

I like Dr. Tieraona Low Dog’s information she posts on Facebook & her Blog. Having been an herbalist before getting her MD, gives her a balanced view of nutrition, dietary supplements & western medications.

GW Nutrition & Mental HealthYou can find her Blog here: Dr. Low Dog’s Blog

Vitamin D has been in the news for years. I still believe what I wrote in my Blog post regarding the use of Vitamin D. Vitamin D:  Once again Vitamin D is in the news. As most of you know, I am not an advocate of taking any supplements unless blood work by a reputable physician shows a deficiency. Getting vitamins & minerals in your diet is the only way to be sure of it being safe and bio-available.

Having said that, I have been following the ups & downs of Vitamin D for several years. Based on the research and listening to Vitamin D advocates at conferences, I believe everyone should be taking 1,000 – 2,000 IU’s every day; tested or not. I also believe that Vitamin D plays an important role in the health of our immune system. This makes it an important vitamin to take for cancer patients to lower the risk of re-occurrence and to help rebuild your immune system along with diet, exercise and stress reduction.

Studies done on surfers & lifeguards in Hawaii & San Diego have shown them to be low in the “sunshine vitamin”, Vitamin D3, despite the amount of time they spend in the sun. These are a few reasons the experts believe keep us from getting Vitamin D3 naturally.

  • Use of sunscreen. Needed to prevent skin cancer.
  • Wearing sun hats.  Needed to prevent skin cancer.
  • Wearing sun protective clothing.  Needed to prevent skin cancer.
  • Air pollution.
  • Ozone layer changes.

Regardless of the reason, most people are low. If your health team hasn’t checked your level recently & used the newest ranges, you should ask to be tested.

WebMD re: Vitamin D usage This is a good reference for Vitamin D dosage, side effects & drug interactions.

 Is Vitamin D a Wonder Pill? May-June, 2015: “IN THE CASE OF RELIGION, we put our faith in gods. And in nutrition, we have vitamins,” writes journalist Catherine Price in Vitamania, in which she traces vitamin crazes from the 1920s to the present. Today’s star is vitamin D, nicknamed “the sunshine nutrient” because ultraviolet-B radiation prompts the body to produce it. Long known to aid calcium absorption and play an essential role in bone health, it’s often added to dairy products. More recent studies, linking low levels of the nutrient to conditions ranging from multiple sclerosis to high blood pressure, led The New York Times to declare in 2010 that “Vitamin D promises to be the most talked-about and written-about supplement of the decade. Some of the excitement seems warranted: drawing on previous research into vitamin D’s immune and anti-inflammatory benefits, two new epidemiological studies by scientists at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) have found that it may also inhibit cancer. One study investigated the nutrient’s effect on colorectal cancer survival; the other examined its impact on colorectal cancer tumors and patient immune systems.” This is a very good & thorough article from the Harvard Magazine

Calcium From Supplements or Dairy Doesn’t Strengthen Bones, Study Finds  “A new study should put the final nail in the coffin for any lingering beliefs that calcium supplements are good for you. The new study finds that people over 50 don’t get stronger bones either by taking supplements or from eating extra servings of calcium-rich foods such as dairy products. The findings, reported in the British Medical Journal’s online publication, support what U.S. health officials have been telling Americans for a few years now — taking calcium supplements is not just a waste of time, but it could be harmful. The extra calcium doesn’t go to strengthen bones but instead can build up in the arteries, causing heart disease, or in the kidneys, causing kidney stones.” This is why I harp on the subject of being very vigilant of how much calcium you are taking in a dietary supplement! Too much can lead to serious health problems. Most packaged & dairy foods are fortified with calcium.

Calcium & Magnesium are both important for the heart & nerves to function properly as well as for bone health. The maximum amount of Calcium per day should be 1200-1800 mgm. You take in approximately 300 mgm from 1 cup of dairy; more if fortified. 300 mgm from salads & veggies; in an average serving per day. These totals need to be added into your daily tally.

Calcium:  My Blog post about getting Calcium from a dairy free diet. This article was sent to me by Alessandra Colfi. It is a fantastic reminder to everyone of where you get your calcium. Whenever I say that people should cut down on or eliminate dairy products from their diet, the first question is; “Where will I get my calcium?” Read this article and print the page for your refrigerator. Calcium from plant sources is better than from dairy. Your body uses it more efficiently. 

For those of you with breast cancer here is what the National Institute of Health has to say about your bone health. What Breast Cancer Survivors Need to Know About Osteoporosis. This is an important read!

Rather than taking on bisphosphonates in this post, here is a list of research studies regarding the use of bisphosphonates; Zometa being the main one. Bone Health Studies

The last supplement & the most talked about are the Omega 3’s. Brush up on this subject by reading my recent Blog post: Omega 3’sSome oncologists ask that you forego taking fish oil supplements during chemotherapy. If you are taking them it is important to let your health team know.

Fish oil pills: A $1.2 billion industry built, so far, on empty promises: People in the United States spend about $1.2 billion annually for fish oil pills and related supplements even though the vast majority of research published recently in major journals provides no evidence of a health benefit. The “accrual of high-level evidence,” according to a review of studies published last year in an American Medical Association journal, shows “that the supplements lack efficacy across a range of health outcomes.” Interesting article if you are taking a fish oil supplement. 

Plant based diets get their Omega 3’s from pecans, almonds, pistachios, walnuts, soy, hemp seeds, wild rice, black beans and kidney beans to name just a few. Algae, flax oil, flax seeds, chia seeds, & hemp seeds are great sources. If you use 2 tablespoons of chia or a combo of chia & hemp seeds on cereal, rice or in smoothies, you can get your daily Omega 3’s, fiber & protein!

This is a post by the George Washington Center for Integrative Medicine. Omega 3’s are good for brain health as well. Note that they are talking about Omega 3’s in your diet, not from supplements.

Low Dog Vit C & Zinc

This is a very good guide to vitamins & minerals that the Mayo Clinic has written. Vitamins & Minerals: What you should know about essential nutrients.  This is the last paragraph of the article….Playing it safe In general, vitamins have proved to be safe. However, it’s best to think twice before chasing the latest headlines. Sound health advice regarding vitamins and minerals, especially when taken as supplements, is generally based on research over time. That’s why you should be wary of any scientific “evidence” that claims a certain product or formulation can offer a quick fix or a miracle cure — especially if that evidence departs from accepted research findings and established dietary guidelines. Supplemental vitamins can be a part of your overall wellness plan. But it’s important to use them wisely, and remember that they can’t replace a nutritious diet” 🙂

General guidelines for dosages of recommended dietary supplements:

  • Vitamin C: 60-1000 mgm per day. It is recommended to stay below 2000-3000 mgm per day. It is an antioxidant so tell your health care team if you are in treatment.
  • Vitamin D3: 1000-2000 IU’s daily
  • Calcium: 800-1000 mgm daily  Don’t exceed 1800 mgm per day including your dietary intake.
  • Magnesium: It is sometimes in your calcium supplement along with vitamin D. 200-600mg per day. Heart & nerve health.
  • Vitamin E: I did not include this one because of the recent negative studies. The recommended dose has always been 400 IU’s, but studies have shown that even this dosage has a link to prostate cancer & other health problems. Unless your doctor specifically prescribes Vitamin E, I recommend that you not take it as a dietary supplement at this time.
  • Omega 3’s: 1-3 grams per day if taking a fish oil supplement. 2 tablespoons a day if using Flax seeds (ground), or chia seeds (no need to grind). Check with your healthcare team if you are in treatment.
  • Multi-Vitamin: Keep within the 100% daily allowance. Check the label. Add these amounts to other supplements you are taking!

Which companies are trustworthy? For now I will recommend a few. Next week I will write a post on Dietary Supplement regulations by the FDA & what that means to us as consumers.

In my research I have found the following companies to be trustworthy because they self regulate their products or they belong to a group of companies that have set up a regulatory group to oversee the safety of their products. This mean that if it says each pill contains Vitamin C, 100 mgms, then that is what each pill contains. They also will provide the consumer with 3rd party evidence of their safety. There are thousands of new dietary supplement brands that enter the U.S. each year. If you don’t see your favorite brand on this list it is probably because I haven’t researched it yet 🙂

  • Kirkland brand by Costco
  • Trader Joe’s brand
  • Herb Pharm: Liquid Herbal Extracts
  • Metagenics
  • Nature’s Made
  • Nature’s Way
  • Gaia
  • Barleans Organic Oils

Next week I will discuss the FDA & their regulations regarding dietary supplements, what the problems are with safety & how to choose a brand that you know is safe……Mary