Understanding Clinical Trials


The more research studies that I read the more confused the issues become. Take my post from last week as an example: Asparagus & Cancer Cell Growth Even with my explanations some of you came away confused. I understand that. Because of that post, this week I am going to talk about how research, in particular clinical trials, are done.

The headlines in the news tend to be sensational & scare the **** out of us. I don’t think that the researchers are trying to upset us or confuse us. They are just reporting on their findings. We want to know that studies on mice show that some nutrients, given in larger amounts, will cause cancer or that some, given in smaller than normal amounts, may block the cancer cells ability to metastasize. But…before we go crazy trying to decide what this means to our diet, we need to take a breath & step away. We need to wait for several, not just one, clinical trials on humans to then make adjustments to our lifestyles. Even then we need to talk this over with our health care team to determine if the benefits outweigh the risks for us as an individual.

What is the difference between basic research studies & clinical trials? Research studies are experiments that have been conducted in a laboratory setting usually using non-human subjects. These experiments can be at a cellular level in a petri dish or done on mice/rats etc. 

Clinical trials are done with human volunteers in order to prove a theory that was developed in the laboratory about treatments for diseases. Your healthcare team may be aware of a Clinical trial being conducted that you could benefit from. Talk to them first. 

There are several governmental agencies which oversee clinical trials. They are in place for the protection of those volunteer subjects & also to list the clinical trials that have been done, are currently going on & those which need volunteers.

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services has a watch-group called the Office for Human Research ProtectionsThe Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) provides leadership in the protection of the rights, welfare, and wellbeing of human subjects involved in research conducted or supported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). OHRP is part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health in the Office of the Secretary of HHS.

OHRP provides clarification and guidance, develops educational programs and materials, maintains regulatory oversight, and provides advice on ethical and regulatory issues in biomedical and behavioral research. OHRP also supports the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Human Research Protections (SACHRP), which advises the HHS Secretary on issues related to protecting human subjects in research.

On this page, About Research Participation, OHRP has the following information. If you have an interest in being part of a clinical trial this is a good place to start to understand the protections that are in place.

  • Informational videos about research participation. 
  • A list of questions to ask the researchers of the study you are interested in.
  • Information about the regulations protecting you as a subject in a clinical trial.
  • Resources outside of OHRP to help you in understanding research involving human subjects.

There is another safeguard that has been set up. It is called the IRB, Institutional Review Board. The FDA has a site that answers questions about the IRB if you are interested: Institutional Review Boards Frequently Asked Questions -Information Sheet. The first question is probably all you need to know 🙂

1. What is an Institutional Review Board (IRB)?

Under FDA regulations, an IRB is an appropriately constituted group that has been formally designated to review and monitor biomedical research involving human subjects. In accordance with FDA regulations, an IRB has the authority to approve, require modifications in (to secure approval), or disapprove research. This group review serves an important role in the protection of the rights and welfare of human research subjects.

The purpose of IRB review is to assure, both in advance and by periodic review, that appropriate steps are taken to protect the rights and welfare of humans participating as subjects in the research. To accomplish this purpose, IRBs use a group process to review research protocols and related materials (e.g., informed consent documents and investigator brochures) to ensure protection of the rights and welfare of human subjects of research.

Clinical trials are usually done in phases. I will use the word “drug”, but this applies to drugs, devices, procedures, nutrients, diets…you get the idea 🙂

  • Phase 0: This phase is more of an “exploratory phase”. Say a drug company wants to speed up the clinical trial process to get their drug approved. They would use this phase to try micro-doses on a few human subjects to determine if they should continue with a full clinical trial.
  • Phase 1: This phase is done on a group of healthy human subjects to determine if a drug is safe. It is also used to decide on the highest dose that causes the least side effects. This may take months.
  • Phase 2: They then move on to this phase to determine if the drug actually works on the targeted disease & its safety at this dose. It is given to human subjects with that particular disease. This phase can also have two groups. One that takes the drug & one that is given a placebo. This phase can last for a year or more.
  • Phase 3: When & if a drug gets to this phase, several hundred or even thousands of human subjects will be used. It is to obtain a more accurate picture of the drugs effectiveness & adverse affects on a broader range of people. 
  • At this point the company can apply to the FDA for approval of the drug.
  • Phase 4: The drug has now been approved for use in the U.S. This phase is used if the company wants to compare its new drug to other drugs that are on the market, look at the long term affect on a persons quality of life or look at the cost effectiveness. Thousands of people take part for many years. At this point the drug still may be taken off the market by the FDA after evaluating the above information.

***My resources for the above list:

  1. American Cancer Society: What Are the Phases of Clinical Trials
  2. Center Watch: Overview of Clinical Trials

If you are interested in participating in a clinical trial there are a lot of questions to ask. For example who is responsible for the cost of the trial & do you as a participant bear any responsibility. I found this next site from the NIH: National Cancer Institute, to be the best one to answer those questions. It also has a page to help you find clinical trials for cancer patients.

Clinical Trials Information for Patients and Caregivers  “Clinical trials are research studies that involve people. Understanding what they are can help you decide if a clinical trial might be an option for you. Or maybe you have a friend or family member with cancer and are wondering if a clinical trial is right for them.

We’ve provided basic information about clinical trials to help you understand what’s involved in taking part. This includes information about the benefits and risks, who is responsible for which research costs, and how your safety is protected. Learning all you can about clinical trials can help you talk with your doctor and make a decision that is right for you.

Find NCI-Supported Clinical Trials: You begin by entering your type of cancer, age & zip code to locate clinical trials in your area.  NCI-supported clinical trials are those sponsored or otherwise financially supported by NCI.

See our guide, Steps to Find a Clinical Trial, to learn about options for finding trials not included in NCI’s collection.” This page is very important if you want to find a clinical trial specifically for your type & stage of cancer. It shows you how to gather the information needed & how to find a trial.

On this next website you will be able to access clinical studies from the U.S. & other countries. You will choose all studies or current studies underway or those recruiting for a study. You will enter your type of cancer or any disease; any other term you want to search under, for example a particular medication; & then you choose a country. If you want to narrow it down more, then choose Advanced Search.

NIH: National Library of Medicine, ClinicalTrials.gov is a database of privately & publicaly funded clinical studies conducted around the world.” Not all of the studies on this site have been evaluated by the U.S. Government. 

As you can see, it sometimes takes years to get from the initial Phase 0 trial to the approval by the FDA. I also read that the time between the end of the Clinical Trial & the publication in a peer review, a conservative estimate, can be 2 years or more. I couldn’t find any time estimate from the initial idea & research on non-human subjects to the publication after clinical trials. It must be more than 5 years I would think.

I asked Google how much it would cost to get a drug approved from the laboratory to clinical trials to approval. The results referred me to an article in the Washington Post about a study asking that same question done by Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development, a research group partially funded by drug makers. Does it really cost $2.6 billion to develop a new drug?  November 18, 2014  

The debate over the actual cost is in the article. Some people claim that this study was done to justify the high prices of drugs. Others say that the Federal Government has grants for studies that are paid for out of our taxes, and this money was not included. Regardless of who is right, it costs close to a billion dollars for drug companies to do these studies. They have a lot invested in the outcome. Hence the oversight committees that are put in place. 

When I look at a study that has made the news, I try to find the original paper. These are the points that I then look at…

  • Who conducted & authored the study. 
  • Where was the study conducted. University? Drug Company laboratory?
  • What country was the study done in.
  • If it was a clinical trial I check to see who the participants were, how many were in the trial & how long it lasted. I check for the gender & age group. I also check to see how it was done; self reporting is less accurate than monitored.
  • Who paid for the study. This is very important to find out. If it is a study on sugar & the sugar industry paid for the study, we need to know that.
  • I look at the purpose of the review. Sometimes the news media misinterprets this.
  • I check the Introduction to see what they have to say about this research.
  • I read the conclusions. Usually they say either there needs to be more studies done or that they are now going to clinical trials. 
  • At the bottom of an abstract paper is a section that shows “conflict of interest”. Here is an example from a meta analysis that the NIH & NCBI published in 2016 called: Relationship between Added Sugars Consumption and Chronic Disease Risk Factors: Current Understanding  Conflicts of Interest: J.M. Rippe’s research laboratory has received unrestricted grants and J.M. Rippe has received consulting fees from ConAgra Foods, Kraft Foods, the Florida Department of Citrus, PepsiCo International, The Coca Cola Company, the Corn Refiners Association, Weight Watchers International and various publishers.” Now you see why this is important to know.

I am also very selective about which news group I will read after seeing a headline. I am not going to even look at the National Inquirer for example, but I will read what BBC, CNN, a university or cancer center publication, or a trustworthy site that I like, has to say. Then I “fact check” by reading the original study. It is a lot of work, but it weeds out the **** from the the wonderful studies being done on cancer.

I hope that from this post you can see why, although interesting, results of research on mice should not determine how you eat or how you change your lifestyle. Especially if it means going on some fad restrictive diet or crazy exercise program. We need to wait for the clinical trials. Then, & only then do we check to see if these results apply to us. I am not going to get too excited about changing my diet if the clinical trial was done on men in their 30’s 🙂

Until next week…Mary:)


Asparagus & Cancer Cell Growth


I love asparagus & pig out on it when it is in season; to the extent that my husband is now growing it for me 🙂 This season will be the first time we can harvest it. Because of this, the headlines about how asparagus is a food that breast cancer patients should avoid caught my eye. I wondered why asparagus was being singled out now. I found that the reason for these headlines was due to a new study by the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute that had been published in the journal Nature this past week. What do we do with studies & headlines like this? We take a closer look & see if they apply to us as a unique individual.

This is the first article that I read. Cure: Asparagus Could Kill Me?, “A recent study points to a concerning ingredient in one of our most common foods. Could this potentially help the spread of cancer?”, BY BONNIE ANNIS, FEBRUARY 09, 2018 Should you eliminate asparagus from your diet? Let’s take a closer look at the study & what it means.

Here is the actual study as published in Nature: Asparagine bioavailability governs metastasis in a model of breast cancer The information that I gleaned from this study is as follows.

  • The study has only been done on mice with a strain of an aggressive breast cancer.
  • No human studies/clinical trials have been done yet.
  • Not all circulating cancer cells were able to begin new tumors at secondary sites.
  • Those cells that did metastasize were strongly influenced by the presence of the amino acid asparagine.
  • Limiting asparagine by dietary restrictions or by the drug L-asparaginase, which blocks the cells use of asparagine, limited the cells ability to metastasize. 

The most important part of this study that you need to remember is that they did not take away all asperigine. It was a low-aspargine diet that was used. This is important to note because it would be difficult to totally eliminate this amino-acid & it would cause other problems if you were able to. Asperigine is important in the protection of the liver & it is important for the health of your nerves. Concise information regarding the role of asparagine in your body from the AminoAcidsGuide.com: Asparagine 

Most fruits & vegetables are low in asparagine. What are the food sources with high asparagine content, besides asparagus?

  • Animal: dairy, whey, beef, poultry, eggs, fish, & seafood
  • Plants: asparagus, potatoes, legumes, nuts, seeds, soy, whole grains

As we have seen in other restrictive diets, it is not a good idea to eliminate a food group. Because asparagine is in many foods, restricting our diets to decrease it may be difficult. The more promising outcome of a clinical trial may be the use of the asparagine blocker, l-asparaginase. 

Food may influence cancer spread, By James GallagherHealth and science correspondent, BBC News, 7 February 2018  This article is very good & explains the study in layman’s language & what it’s effects on diet may be. 

As we have seen in previous studies done with mice, it does not always have the same outcome when human clinical trials are done. But then again there are studies that do have the same outcome. The researchers are going to start human clinical trials with healthy individuals first. They will put these individuals on a low-asparagine diet to see if this will reduce the levels of asparagine in their bodies. If it does then the next step would be to use cancer patients in a clinical trial. 

This isn’t the first study that has shown that certain amino-acids may be influencing cancer cells in specific types of cancer. Serine & glycine were the subjects last year. 

GEN: Diet Therapy Could Slow Cancer by Cutting Certain 
Amino Acids. April 20, 2017 This study was also done in the UK using mice. The results were that by restricting dietary serine & glycine it can reduce tumor growth in intestinal cancer & lymphomas. It also showed that it may not be effective in other cancers. Clinical trials in humans are needed. The scientists noted that doing the clinical trials would not only show them if it works the same in humans, which types of cancers are affected, but also how restricted the diet needs to be and also remain safe. 

From the AminoAcidsGuide.com: Serine This explains the function & importance of serine & glycine in the body.  Deficiency of serine in the diet can lead to depression, irritability, insomnia, anxiety and confusion; thus the concern regarding a safe diet. 

This article caught my eye yesterday in MedicalNewsToday: How Blueberries help to kill cancer cells, Wednesday 3 January 2018, By Fact checked by Jasmin Collier  The lead researcher, Dr. Yujiang Fang & his co-researchers are with the School of Medicine at the University of Missouri-Columbia.  

This study was done with human cervical cancer cells in a petri dish. The researchers used a blueberry extract with radiation on some cells & compared the results with only radiation on other cells. The results showed that the extract killed 25% of the cells & the radiation alone killed 20%. Next will be clinical trials.

These findings are great because we already know that blueberries are high in anti-oxidants, are anti-inflammatory, have a high fiber content for heart health, are low in calories & are readily available. The perfect fruit!

You can read the study & it’s results in Pathology and Oncology Research.

In one of my favorite books, The China Study, on page #226, co-authorT. Colin Campbell PhD, writes about Eating Right: Eight Principles; “Principle #1: Nutrition represents the combined activities of countless food substances. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” In his book, he explains how each separate nutrient works synergistically with other nutrients causing a cascade effect throughout the body. Together they stimulate glands & the production of important hormones & body functions. Where they go in the body & how much is needed in each area or even each individual cell is all very carefully controlled. 

What I am saying is that each nutrient alone may influence the growth of cancer cells but it cannot be totally omitted because of its function with other nutrients to keep us healthy. Each nutrient sends out thousands of bits of information. We need them all. Balance!

Visit T. Colin Campbell: Center for Nutrition Studies for more information. Make sure you check out the recipes & the book section. I bought The PlantPure Nation Cookbook By Kim Campbell. Love the recipes. 

I hope that this information will help you decide whether or not you are going to give up asparagus 🙂 As noted by one of the researchers, these types of studies do not mean that they would work safely with a “home-made” diet plan. Again it is all about moderation & balance.

Until next week…Mary 🙂


Chemo Brain

Photo by Don Hollander


Chemo brain is a term used by cancer patients in treatment & by thrivers/survivors to describe memory & plain old thinking problems. The severity of the problem varies by patient. Usually the symptoms are self-reported & are dealt with as “complaints” rather than a disorder. Cognitive tests are not done on new patients before treatment, so it is difficult for a healthcare team to know if what the patient is experiencing is new or not. This should not make a difference, in my opinion, the complaints should always be addressed. This brain fog does have an impact on a patients daily activities. 

After all the research & articles I have read on this subject, this one is my favorite: The Cut: Finally, My Case of ‘Chemo Brain’ Is Vindicated, By , July 12, 2017.

Symptoms of Chemo brain or chemo fog may include the following according to the Mayo Clinic: Chemo Brain

  • Being unusually disorganized
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty finding the right word
  • Difficulty learning new skills
  • Difficulty multitasking
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling of mental fogginess
  • Short attention span
  • Short-term memory problems
  • Taking longer than usual to complete routine tasks
  • Trouble with verbal memory, such as remembering a conversation
  • Trouble with visual memory, such as recalling an image or list of words

As I look at this list, I can’t help but think about how I feel when I am totally stressed out. Do you think that part of the problem is due to the stress of the diagnosis, fear of the unknown, fear of the treatment, feeling helpless & anger?  Yes, it is part of the problem & it does confuse the issue.

A very informative article & video I found about chemo brain is from the Simms/Mann, UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology: Countering Chemo Brain, Linda M. Ercoli, PhD, October 14, 2014 The transcript of the video is right below it.

There are no diagnostic tests for chemo brain. There are no definitive causes known to science at this time. Because of this there are no cures. This page in the Mayo Clinic’s: Chemo Brain has many ideas of how to cope with the symptoms. They also talk about the lack of medications to help the patient & list the ones typically used. The section “What Can You Do”  has a list of how to prepare for your appointment & a list of questions to ask your physician. This is a very thorough & helpful article.

Another good article is by the American Cancer Society: Chemo Brain I like this one because the author states upfront that this is a very real & sometimes distressing problem.

Looking at the research that has been done so far, I believe that complimentary therapies, exercise & diet can play an important role in relieving some of the symptoms. As I mentioned above, stress can confuse the issue for both you and your healthcare team. Here is a partial list of which of these therapies have science behind their use for stress relief. You can find a list of therapists on our SDCRI/Resource page

  • Massage 
  • Acupuncture
  • Energy Work
  • Expressive Art
  • Yoga
  • Zumba
  • Meditation
  • Mindfulness 

When we look at what can help to alleviate the symptoms or at least give you some relief from them, we should be looking at what helps anyone with cognitive problems. Not just chemo brain. The aging brain may be giving researchers a map of what happens with chemo brain. It is all speculative at this time, but can be a useful tool for those of you with a chemo brain diagnosis. The symptoms of mild cognitive impairment are very similar to those listed at the beginning of this post. What research has shown helps cognitive problems may help you. Exercise & diet have research behind them as being useful.

Exercise is addressed in this articleUSNews: Health Buzz: People With Mild Cognitive Impairment Should Exercise Twice a Week, Research Says It involves issues with thinking and memory. By David Oliver , Associate Editor, Social Media |Dec. 29, 2017  Exercise is important for anyone trying to rebuild their immune system & it helps to relieve stress. The key with exercise is not how long or how intense it is but how consistent you are. Even 5 minutes every day is helpful. Choose an exercise that you will do everyday. I found going to the gym didn’t last long; too much trouble. We have a lot of rain so I invested in a stationary bike & a tiny stair stepper. I use both every day at the same time for 45 minutes total. I can live with that! You can even break up the time spent. I ride my bike in the morning & do the stepper in the afternoon. On nicer days I get outside & take a walk. You can very the time you spend exercising based on how you are feeling. Listen to your body.

Diet can help in many ways. Chemo brain & cognitive problems may be the result of a chronic inflammation in the brain as well as the body as a whole. We know that chronic diseases are considered inflammatory diseases. We also know that there is a scientifically proven link between the gut & brain. Yep, those gut buddies again. I think I can safely say; we are what we eat 🙂

There has been an increasing interest in chemo brain in recent years. Here is a sample of the research that has been done.

  • National Cancer Institute: Understanding “Chemobrain” and Cognitive Impairment after Cancer Treatment In this section, the author mentions how until 2012, when a research paper was published about chemo brain & breast cancer, physicians dismissed women’s concerns about their cognitive behavior. It is also suggested that these complaints may be from an “aging brain”.  The gist of this article is that it would be of great interest & helpful to be able to predict which patients will get chemo brain. Very interesting article.
  • Cancer Treatment Centers of America: Study finds ‘chemo brain’ persists after treatment in breast cancer patients
  • MedicalNewsToday: How long does ‘chemo brain’ last?, Published By : “Cancer survivors have long complained of cognitive decline following chemotherapy. This effect has been studied in some depth, but, for the first time, researchers ask how long these deficits might last.” This study on mice shows that the deficits from chemo brain may be long lasting. I think we can confirm that just based on anecdotal evidence.
  • Cure: More Than Chemo Brain: Several Factors Contribute to Cognitive Decline After Cancer, BY LAUREN M. GREEN, PUBLISHED JANUARY 18, 2016, Though patients and survivors often complain of chemo brain during and after treatment for cancer, a growing body of research shows that there are multiple causes behind the cognitive decline many survivors experience.” This is a very good article. The author quotes Tim Ahles, a behavioral psychologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, from his talk at the inaugural 2016 Cancer Survivorship Symposium. Worth the read.

I find it fascinating that the research is so late in coming. Also, that there hasn’t been any definitive conclusions drawn on what, why & how one ends up with chemo brain. Based on that, what do you have to lose by cleaning up your diet & lifestyle! If you have already made these changes to reduce the risk of cancer, build up your immune system or for any other reason, you are also reducing the risk of cognitive impairment in aging & even chemo brain. 

Until next week…Mary 🙂

January Nutrition Nuggets


Once again I have saved articles of interest in the health news to share with you. They range in topics: is weight-gain contagious? 🙂 ; the benefits of honey; non-dairy milk vs cows milk; dietary sugar & bacterial infections; a new study with coconut oil; curcumin & memory; & an interesting slide show from WebMD.

Most of the health news this past month has centered around this years flu. I want to remind you that you can still get a flu shot & should discuss it with your healthcare team. I realize that this years vaccine is said to be only 30% effective, but even so, it may lessen the time with the flu & its severity. Something to consider. 

 This idea could be applied to most any lifestyle choices. Who do you hang with? Newsweek: WEIGHT GAIN IS CONTAGIOUS AND YOU COULD ‘CATCH’ OBESITY FROM YOUR NEIGHBORS, STUDY FINDS, BY MELISSA MATTHEWS

This article points out a similar study’s results that showed that people who do not smoke, eat a healthy diet & exercise don’t generally keep company with those who don’t follow the same lifestyle. In a Weight Watchers group I went to decades ago, the speaker said to take a look at who your eating partners are & where you tend to meet them. Good advice. If you want to change your lifestyle you may have to meet new people who are doing the same thing.

 I remember using honey as a poultice for bedsores when I was a student nurse. It healed & soothed the wound faster than the pharmaceuticals of the day. Honey is also soothing & healing for mouth & throat sores. Check out this article. CNN: The proven health benefits of honeyBy Sandee LaMotte, January 15, 2018  Honey is also a good cough suppressant. Note the reminder that you should not give honey to children under 1 year of age. I would extend that to under 2 years of age to be safe.

I chose this article because so many of us do not use dairy, especially cows milk. I take issue with the idea that cows milk is the best source of protein & B vitamins. I also take issue with them encouraging cows milk for children because the use of non-dairy milks may make them shorter. We could say that cows milk makes them taller & they enter puberty earlier because of the growth hormones in it. 

The takeaway from this article is that if we deviate from a healthy balanced diet we need to make sure that we fill the nutritional gaps that happen with that change. For example vegans must look for other sources of protein & B12. This is why I cringe when I see fad diets that don’t fill the gaps. Is It OK to Substitute Non-Dairy Milks in Kids’ Diets?By Wendy Jo Peterson, MS, RD, CSSD, 

I saw several articles about dietary sugar & its link to bacterial outbreaks in hospitals. Most of them were sensational. This article is more technical but easily understood. It is where the original study comes from. It discusses clostridium difficile, a hospital acquired infection in developed countries & its link to a sugar additive, trehalose. Baylor College of Medicine: Dietary sugar linked to bacterial epidemics, By Dipali Pathak, January 3, 2018  

This is another well written article about this problem from CDC Radio: This food additive is hard to avoid and could make hospital superbugs more deadly, Saturday January 06, 2018 According to the researcher who led the study, Robert Britton, a professor of molecular virology and microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine, this problem could become worse as the FDA continues to okay new additives being introduced into our foods. Another reason to limit packaged/processed foods & to read the labels.

NutrientsReview.com: Trehalose If your interested in this food additive, this is very informative.

The BBC2 series, Trust Me I’m a Doctor, conducted their own study to see if coconut oil is heart healthy or not. They used 94 volunteers, aged 50-75. Blood work was done to establish their baseline for cholesterol, LDL & HDL. There were 3 groups. Group one was given coconut oil, the second group extra virgin olive oil & the third group unsalted butter. Interesting results! BBC News: Is coconut oil a superfood?  By Dr Michael Mosley, 9 January 2018  

This was a small study but the results are consistent with other studies. Looks like the American Heart Association needs to take another look at coconut oil 🙂 I still recommend using it in moderation like any other oil.

UCLA Newsroom: Curcumin improves memory and mood, new UCLA study says, By Leigh Hopper | In case you have forgotten 🙂 curcumin is found in turmeric. We know that it is an anti-oxidant & an anti-inflammatory. This study shows that it is also good for improving your mood & memory. In the article the author quotes Dr. Small: “Exactly how curcumin exerts its effects is not certain, but it may be due to its ability to reduce brain inflammation, which has been linked to both Alzheimer’s disease and major depression,” said Dr. Gary Small, director of geriatric psychiatry at UCLA’s Longevity Center and of the geriatric psychiatry division at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, and the study’s first author.”

I know this article doesn’t address “chemo brain” or my “lupus brain fog” but it might help due to its anti-inflammatory affect. Break out the turmeric from your spice cabinet & start using it! I put it in everything. It is really good on rice & in scrambled tofu “eggs” because it gives the dish that yellow color; a “poor man’s saffron”. 

Golden Turmeric Milk: This is a simple recipe that I put together from many sources.


  • 1 cup milk or milk alternative such as Almond or Cashew milk
  • ¼ – 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon coconut, almond, or olive oil
  • Dash of ground black pepper
  • Honey to taste (optional)
  • Simply blend together in your blender until frothy.
  • Sprinkle cinnamon, cardamom or ginger on top of prepared milk

In addition, I thought you might be interested in this wonderful recipe by herbalist, Rosemary Gladstar.

Medicinal Curry Blend

  • 1 ounce Corriander seeds
  • 1 ounce Cummin seeds
  • 1 ounce Turmeric powder
  • 1/2 ounce black Mustard seed
  • 1/2 ounce Chili pepper (Cayenne)
  • 1/2 ounce Fennel seeds
  • 1/2 ounce Ginger powder

Combine by grinding together into a powder & use in curry dishes.

Rosemary Gladstar combines 2-3 teaspoons of the powder with 1/4 of oil, I use Olive oil, in a saucepan and warms it until the herbs are fragrant ~a few minutes~then stores it in the refrigerator. It will keep for a couple of weeks.

Couldn’t resist adding this last article:

WebMD: Drinks With as Many Calories as Soda  Liquid Calories: A 12-ounce can of soda has between about 125 and 180 calories. All of those come from sugar — between 8 and 11 teaspoons in your glass. Those numbers give this drink a reputation as a nutritional bad guy. Still, there are lots of other beverages that have as many or more calories as a soda.” Did you see your favorite drink in there? Makes you question what you thought you knew or what you were ignoring. 🙂

I am adding this article at the last minute because I realized that this same “cure” is being directed at cancer patients on the Internet. Another potentially fatal & surely harmful scam. Newsweek: PARENTS ARE MAKING THEIR CHILDREN DRINK BLEACH TO ‘CURE’ THEM OF AUTISM, BY  

Be sure to check our Topics page for updates on Medical Marijuana!

Until next week…Mary 🙂

Mary’s Nutritional Guidelines ~ Updated

Herbs by MHollander


Have you noticed the changes in our website? I have re-organized the recipe section to make it more user friendly, got rid of broken links on our Resource pages & changed the Topics page to include only the information you need right away. I also want to remind you that you can find information on the blog by typing in the subject you want to read about in the search box. 

One of the topics that I wanted to update & share with you again is my article about healthy eating habits for everyone. You will find this updated version on the Topics drop down menu for quick access.

“Healthy Eating Habits for Everyone” by Mary Hollander RN., Updated: January 2018

During and after treatment whether by surgery, chemotherapy and or radiation therapy, the body has to expend more energy to fight cancer cells and to rebuild damaged cells caused by treatment. To be able to do this effectively the body requires a healthy, balanced diet that will provide the nutrients needed. It doesn’t matter what “diet” you are following, these tips are for a healthier lifestyle.

The optimal diet for everyone from Michael Pollan: “Eat only what your Grandmother would recognize.”

These are my general guidelines for a healthy, balanced and nutrient rich diet. Remember, these are what you aspire to. Don’t try to do everything at once. That sets you up for failure. Change one part of your diet at a time; one change a week or a month. This is a process to make healthier choices that you can stick with not a fad diet for a week or two.

  • Eat a balanced diet to get the vitamins, minerals and proteins that you need. Eating from ALL the following food groups is important; Water, Healthy Oils, Whole Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, Healthy Protein.
  • Eat a varied diet of fruits & vegetables; a rainbow of colors. Fruits & vegetables are antioxidant rich. Eating a variety ensures that you receive all antioxidants not just one or two.
  • Eat Whole grains. Nothing white; black, brown, wild or red rice as an example.
  • Avoid processed foods as much as possible; stay out of the center of the market. Read the labels of the packaged foods you do buy. If you can’t pronounce any of the ingredients then don’t buy it.
  • Eat Certified Organic fruits, vegetables & whole grains as much as you are able to afford. These will be pesticide free. Look at ewg.org for the current list of the “Dirty Dozen & Clean 15” to make this more affordable.
  • Eat Certified Organic dairy and grass fed meats. Eat a minimal amount or avoid all together. Certified Organic means no antibiotics or growth hormones. Stores such as Ralphs & Costco are offering antibiotic free &/or growth hormone free meats that are not Certified Organic and cheaper. This is an affordable alternative. They also have grass fed and range free meats & eggs. 
  • Dairy is inflammatory and should be eaten in moderation. It also has natural occurring estrogen, even organic or raw dairy. Cows are kept pregnant, which increases the estrogen levels to increase the milk production and to increase the length of time they can be milked. Estrogen is stored in fat, so if you are concerned about estrogen then use non-fat dairy.
  • Avoid Genetically Modified Organisms/GMO’s. There still hasn’t been any long term research on how this will affect humans. Foods send thousands of bits of information to the body. Changing those pathways by genetically modifying it will change the information sent. There are no GMO’s in Certified Organic food. We have a right to know what is in our food so we can make informed choices. Many companies are using the Non-GMO label on their packages. Watch for this label even on non-organic products.
  • Non-GMO

Think of the plate as your day or your meal.

  • 50% of your plate/day should be vegetables & fruits. Go for a colorful array of choices.
  • 25% of your plate/day should be whole grains; whole wheat, barley, wheat berries, quinoa, oats, brown rice to name a few.
  • 25% of your plate/day should be mixed protein; each kind of protein provides different nutrients. Mix it up during your week; fish, chicken, legumes, & nuts.
  • Minimal added oils: Extra Virgin Olive oil, Avocado & Grapeseed are examples of healthy oils. Coconut oil in moderation, meaning occasionally & in small amounts.
  • Minimal dairy; buy Certified Organic to avoid the antibiotics and growth hormones in dairy. See my notes on dairy in the section above.
  • No tobacco
  • Limit Alcohol consumption to special occasions & then only 1 or 2 servings.
  • Soy: Tempeh, Miso, & Edamame Beans are the types of soy that are protective. Limit Tofu & soy milk as they are highly processed. Soy is a GMO crop, so buy Certified Organic or GMO free. Read the labels. This is a controversial subject for hormone positive cancers. My recommendation is to eat soy products in moderation & simply stay away from processed soy & soy added to packaged foods. Soy is even in supplements. It all adds up. This is a wonderful list for you: Soy Allergy Avoidance ListCompiled by Debra A. Indorato RD, LDN, member of KFA’s Medical Advisory Team It lists the products soy is in & the hidden names used.
  • Eat when you are hungry but don’t skip a meal: largest meal should be your breakfast; break~fast. Never skip breakfast. I like the saying:  “breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper” This has scientific data to back it up!
  • Avoid sugary drinks: Fruit juices are sugar too!  A 4-6 oz cup of juice a day is ok. Your body reacts the same way to juice as it does to colas. Juices are healthier but should be used in moderation. Without the fiber to moderate how fast the sugar, fructose, enters the blood stream, it enters it quickly. Carrot juice does the same thing. It is healthier to eat the whole food.
  • Anything with High Fructose corn syrup should be avoided; read the ingredients on the labels. I have read that hidden sugars are in 75% of packaged foods. How can you find the culprits? Huffington Post: Food Labels: How to Spot Hidden Sugars by Pooja R. Mottl  UCSF: Hidden in Plain Sight Look to the right in the article for a list of 61 names for added sugars.
  • Do not replace a meal with juice/smoothies or protein bars; use them between meals for a healthy snack. A smoothie for breakfast is okay if it contains whole foods & not juices. You need the fiber to moderated the absorption of the sugars in the whole foods & to aid your digestive & elimination processes.
  • Keep healthy snacks in the house; Dried fruit, nuts, crackers, nut butters, string cheese or baby bell cheese. Fruit cut into bite size pieces along with veggies in bite sizes are good choices. Experiment with new vegetables, fruits and grains.
  • Make your own high protein smoothies with fresh veggies & fruits added. Don’t forget that avocado is a great fruit to add to a smoothie to make it creamy and to add healthy calories and fat. Frozen bananas (freeze peeled) also make a thick creamy smoothie. Add nut butters to increase the protein and good fat. Add omega 3’s: Chia & Hemp seeds and/or healthy oils. Combine fruits with vegetables in your smoothie; 80% veggies & 20% fruits is a healthy ratio. Be creative not only with the combinations but also with added spices. Apple, carrot, kale, garlic & oranges are great together. Not sweet enough? Add a date. Look at our Recipe page on the website for how to make a healthy smoothie.
  • Drink water! Add a slice of cucumber, lemon, lime or mint leaves to make it more interesting.
  • Limit fluids during meals as they fill you up.
  • Eat your “comfort food” when you need it; no matter what it is. If you don’t, you will make bad choices to get the same feeling of “comfort” and take in more calories doing so!

My favorite plate is from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Copyright © 2011, Harvard University. For more information about The Healthy Eating Plate, please see The Nutrition Source, Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, and Harvard Health Publications

Eat your medicine: Food has all the vitamins and minerals that you need & it is bio-available to your body. If you are not able to eat a balanced diet then there are key supplements you need. Speak to your Health Care Team before adding these.

  • If you eat a balanced diet you don’t need most supplements.
  • What supplements should you take? (Unless your physician has said otherwise)
    1. Take Vitamin D: 2,000 to 3,000 IU’s daily
    2. Take Omega 3’s: fish oil, flax seeds (grind before using), chia seeds &/or hemp seeds ; 2tabsp./day of the seeds.
    3. Calcium: only if your physician has told you your blood tests indicate you need it or you are not getting 1200 mgm/day in your diet. 1 cup of dairy = 300 mgm. The daily intake of fruits & veggies add another   300 mgm/day. Also, some of your dairy & grains may be fortified with calcium. Add that in too! Check any vitamins you are taking for added calcium as well.
  • Supplements are not always bio-available to the body. Typically we are able to use 10 – 30% of the supplement. Whole foods are 100% bio-available.
  • Choosing supplements is somewhat like a crap-shoot. What brand of supplements should you use? Not all companies are reliable. You may be getting more or less than what is indicated on the label. Where are they made? Where were the herbs grown; possible heavy metal problem? Research the brand name and see if they have certifications by the supplement industry. Have they been tested by a 3rd party and do they offer the research data when asked?
  • Check the ingredient list. Sometimes soy is added, fillers and herbs you don’t need or ones that may interact with over the counter drugs or prescription medications.
  • Why are you spending money on these supplements? Did you hear about it on line, friends, relatives, on TV, or in line at the market? You need to make an informed decision about what to believe. Don’t fall for marketing targeting cancer patients in general. You are not a statistic, you are unique.
  • Some foods and supplements are thought or even proven to reduce the risk of cancer. Find out what studies were done, who did them, where they were done, and if they were done on animals or humans. Were the studies done on your particular type of cancer, your gender & age group? What country was the study done in? Does it apply to you?
  • Supplements & herbs do have side affects and do interact with other herbs, over the counter medications and prescription drugs. Factor in any other health problem you may have. Are you a diabetic, have high blood pressure, have organ involvement etc.?
  • Supplements & herbs can take 3 to 6 weeks before you see a difference. They don’t work quickly like an aspirin. 🙂
  • You can become Vitamin Toxic. It is rare but can happen. Take the recommended daily allowance, not more. Look at the Nutrition Panel on the bottle. Stay under 100% with each listing. Remember you are taking in natural vitamins & minerals in your diet.

FDA: Tips for Dietary Supplement Users Good information. It is important to report to the FDA & your Health Care Team any adverse reaction you experience when taking any prescription, supplements, or over the counter medications.

FDA: Dietary Supplement Label Database: “The Dietary Supplement Label Database (DSLD) includes full label derived information from dietary supplement products marketed in the U.S. with a Web-based user interface that provides ready access to label information. It was developed to serve the research community and as a resource for health care providers and the public. It can be an educational and research tool for students, academics, and other professionals.”

Make changes in your diet one at a time over months not days. You want to make healthy changes that you and your family can stick to. These are guidelines. Choose what works for you.

Until next week…Mary 🙂

Additional Resources

Surfing the Wave of the Wellness Trend


So many new choices at the farmers market, the natural food store & even the grocery store. They have all joined in on what is referred to as the Wellness Trend. 

In this article from the BBC: What’s Really Driving the Boom in Wellness Foods By Elizabeth Hotson, “investigates what wellness devotees are buying into.” the author writes about the “buzz words” & the businesses that are catering to this trend. I agree with this article that Wellness is an umbrella term for many fads & that it isn’t going away. Are you surfing the wellness trend looking for the quick fix & longevity? Or are you looking for a healthier diet & lifestyle.

The new year always brings thoughts of a “new you”, a healthier lifestyle. Last week I discussed the diets from: U.S. News Reveals Best Diets Rankings for 2018  Once you decide on which diet works for you, you then shop accordingly; trying to choose the healthiest food options for that diet. Businesses have capitalized on the “new you” idea by bringing out a confusing array of new products to entice us. They are not always the healthiest choices. 

This article from Fortune is an example of what people are buying into. This Is the Controversial Ingredient Inside the New Diet Coke Flavors  Coke is coming up with more flavors & more ways to make it’s diet drinks taste like original coke. They are tapping into a part of the wellness trend for dieters who want an easy, quick fix for losing weight. We have already discussed the pitfalls of drinking diet coke, one of which is weight gain!

It isn’t just about the drink itself, it is the attitude that since you drank a zero calorie soda it negates the hamburger & fries you are eating with it. It is also about the sugar substitutes they are using. Are they safe or not. It depends on which study you look at. My thought is always to eat as close to the natural food source as possible. Aspartame & its friends are not natural food sources.

Kambucha was mentioned in the first article. It has been popular as a health drink in the U.S. since the 90’s. Kambucha has been around for over 2,000 years. It started in China & was known as “The Tea of Immortality”. It has been brewed in Russia, Japan & Eastern Europe for centuries. 

It got a bad rap in the U.S. when people were becoming ill & several deaths were attributed to it. These medical problems occurred with homemade kambucha. Kambucha is a fermented product made from yeast, sugar & black tea. If it is not fermented properly it can grow harmful bacteria. But when produced correctly it is a healthy drink. 

If you are a Kambucha aficionado then this article in Forbes is a must read. Kombucha 101: Demystifying The Past, Present And Future Of The Fermented Tea Drink by Christina Troitino , Feb. 1, 2017  It includes it’s history, how it is brewed, & recent studies on it’s health benefits.

New vegetarians, vegans & even flexatarians rely on soy products to help them adjust. Soy is in everything from supplements to nut milks. Tempeh, Miso & edamame beans are the best soy choices. Tofu is processed but there are brands that use sprouted soy beans & some that are not as processed as others. Soy is healthy but only in moderate amounts. 

Because of the wellness trend, there are now some really good healthy choices that are not soy based. 

EcoWatch: Soy Meat Is Soy Yesterday: 5 New and Better Options, By Katie O’Reilly  I have seen these in our local grocery store. I have only tried the Jackfruit & found it very tasty. I do like Litelife Tempeh, but haven’t tried these patties yet. Since I have never liked the taste of meat, I won’t be trying the Beyond Meat Burger or the shrimp 🙂 

OneGreenPlanet has a list of The Best Vegan Burgers on the Market This list includes soy, non-soy, & gluten-free options. We like Hilarys, Field Roast & Sunshine; all soy free. 

I use these products about once a month. We stay away from processed foods as much as possible but they are very convenient when in a hurry & I keep a package in the freezer for those times. 

Cheese is another product that vegans miss. It isn’t that difficult to come up with creamy sauces for pasta or other recipes: Cauli-power Fettuccine “Alfredo” (Vegan) ~love this recipe. It is nice though to have grated or sliced cheese to put on your pizza or sandwich. 

There are some new cheese products that are soy-free. Field Roast: Chao Creamery is one of them. It is my husbands favorite. I prefer Daiya Provolone. It melts really well & is just like provolone cheese on a sandwich. 

OneGreenPlanet: Vegan Cheese is Better Than Ever: Try These 11 Brands The brand that I would like to try is Treeline.  For example their Herb-Garlic French-Style Soft Cheese “Flavored with fine herbs and garlic for a sophisticated and complex flavor.” Ingredients: Cashew nuts, filtered water, sea salt, lemon juice, dried scallions, garlic powder, white pepper, onion powder, L. Acidophilus, dried basil, dried oregano. They even have 2 aged nut cheeses.

VegNews: 18 Vegan Things We Can’t Wait to Try in 2018, By Anna Starostinetskaya | December 11, 2017 This list has everything from dairy-free Reddi Whip, CBD Gummy Bears to Starbucks food & vegan doughnuts! Browse the list & you will see how companies really are ridding the wellness trend wave.

Don’t get roped into the marketing; as with all new products read the labels to see what the ingredients are. The processed foods that we want to avoid are those with ingredients that you can’t pronounce, added sugar, fake sugar, salt & saturated fats. The burgers, cheese & kambucha that I have written about are processed but the ingredients are “clean”. I would consider them healthy additions to any diet but should not be eaten every day.

A reminder of how we should be eating. I subscribe to the Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard School of Medicine’s Newsletter. They sent me this wonderful article & the following links.

January 2018, The right plant-based diet for you, “Plant-based diets can help reduce your risk of heart disease, but they’re not all created equal. 

This Healthy Eating Plate is from the The Nutrition Source, Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health

Copyright © 2011, Harvard University. For more information about The Healthy Eating Plate, please see The Nutrition Source, Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, and Harvard Health Publications

The Nutrition Source, Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, Healthy Eating Plate & Healthy Eating Pyramid“The Healthy Eating Plate, created by nutrition experts at Harvard School of Public Health and editors at Harvard Health Publications, was designed to address deficiencies in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s MyPlate. The Healthy Eating Plate provides detailed guidance, in a simple format, to help people make the best eating choices.” Lots of good information.

Another good article from The Nutrition Source, Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health: Becoming a Vegetarian. “People become vegetarians for many reasons, including health, religious convictions, concerns about animal welfare or the use of antibiotics and hormones in livestock, or a desire to eat in a way that avoids excessive use of environmental resources. Some people follow a largely vegetarian diet because they can’t afford to eat meat. Becoming a vegetarian has become more appealing and accessible, thanks to the year-round availability of fresh produce, more vegetarian dining options, and the growing culinary influence of cultures with largely plant-based diets.” This is an excellent article about the different types of vegetarian diets, the scientific based health benefits of these diets & the health risks if you don’t pay attention to what you are eating. 

  • Vegans (total vegetarians): Do not eat meat, poultry, fish, or any products derived from animals, including eggs, dairy products, and gelatin.
  • Lacto-ovo vegetarians: Do not eat meat, poultry, or fish, but do eat eggs and dairy products.
  • Lacto vegetarians: Eat no meat, poultry, fish, or eggs, but do consume dairy products.
  • Ovo vegetarians: Eat no meat, poultry, fish, or dairy products, but do eat eggs.
  • Partial vegetarians: Avoid meat but may eat fish (pesco-vegetarian, pescatarian) or poultry (pollo-vegetarian).

The best part of the Wellness Trend for all of us is that mainstream/chain grocery stores, restaurants, cafes etc. are joining the wave. That means more products will be available at a lower price to the health conscious public. Just remember to read those labels!

Until next week…Mary 🙂

The “Raw Water” Trend & 2018’s Best Diets

North Fork Smith River by Don Hollander

I was surprised to see the headlines about a new trend, “raw water”. It piqued my interest. What the heck is “raw water” & why would I want to drink it? These were just a few questions that went through my mind. I researched it & will tell you what I know.

The second part of the post will be about the U.S.News, 2018, report on the 40 top diets in 2017. I always find this interesting. We will take a look at which diets made the top 3 in all 9 of the categories.

This new trend for “raw water” started in & around Silicon Valley, California. There are many start up companies bottling this water which has caused the price to jump to $60 for a 2.5-gallon jug! People around the country are buying it. It is flying off the shelves in a San Francisco Co-op at $16 a 12 ounce bottle! 

Basically it is unfiltered water from natural sources such as streams, creeks, groundwater & lakes. The reason people are interested in it is because it doesn’t go through any type of filtration system & there are no additives such as bleach or fluoride added. This may sound good to water purists but it does open the door for bacteria, viruses, & parasites that can be in these natural water sources. 

The CDC’s Waterborne Disease Prevention Branch and other health officials are warning that the “raw water” can hold bacteria linked to cholera, E. coli, Hepatitis A, and giardia. As avid hikers & backpackers we are aware of these diseases & always carry a water purifier. Diarrhea is not our idea of a successful trip 🙂 Drinking from a pure, cold spring is magical & tastes wonderful. I won’t deny that. But care has to be taken when drinking from rivers, streams. creeks & lakes. 

As reported in the articles below, the sources used by some of the bottling companies are being monitored by local water companies. This is because the local water companies are using the same source for the community water supply & by law have to test the source for diseases & contaminants. This isn’t true for all sources of “raw water”.

If you are worried about your tap water here is a must have resource for you EWG’s Tap Water Database. “EWG’s drinking water quality report for California shows results of tests conducted by the water utilities in California and provided to EWG by the California State Water Resources Control Board.” Here is the link to California water safety; enter your zip code on the right. 

On this page you will also find the following useful guides:

  • EWG’s Updated Water Filter Buying Guide “Find the right filter for your water – and budget”
  • Top 5 Reasons to Choose Filters Over Bottled Water  “But if you want safer water for yourself and your family, bottled water isn’t the solution – not for your pocketbook, not for your health and certainly not for our planet. Your best option for cleaner, healthier drinking water on the go is filtered tap water and a reusable glass or stainless steel container. As we say here at EWG, know your water, pick the best filter and choose a BPA-free container.”

Before we look at the list of the best diets 2018, I want to share this article I saw this morning as I was editing my post. USNews: Why Eating Fewer Calories Won’t Help You Lose Weight  Conventional nutrition wisdom overlooks key biological processes. By Alissa Rumsey, Contributor, Jan. 8, 2018

The reasons the author, Alissa Rumsey, lists are not only for people who are trying to lose weight. These are good tips for everyone deciding on a lifelong way of eating. Read the article for the details . Here are the tips:

  1. Give yourself permission to eat all kinds of food. This will take away the bad food vs good food syndrome. It will also open up the idea of eating a balanced diet. 
  2. Learn to honor your hunger & fullness cues. Sometimes it isn’t about the foods we eat but the portions we serve ourselves. Do you really need an extra helping? Take a few minutes to see if you still feel hungry.
  3. don’t discount the importance of satisfaction. This one is really important. If you are on a diet that puts your favorite foods in the “bad food” category, you will not be satisfied with what you are eating. For example substituting an apple for that piece of chocolate or cookie that you crave. Yes, the apple is better for you, but if you had just eaten that one piece of chocolate you wouldn’t find yourself eating everything in the house after the apple & still not feeling satisfied! Now you just feel guilty.
  4. Get rid of the food police. I like this one. Read what she  wrote about them. The food police can also be a partner, spouse or friend. 

At the end of the article is a slide show of: 8 Food Trends Nutrition Experts Pray Will Never Return Check it out 🙂 

Now to the U.S. News: U.S. News Reveals Best Diets Rankings for 2018 U.S. News evaluated 40 of the most popular diets and identified the best. Find which top-rated diet is best for your health and fitness goals. 

Once again the U.S. News has 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 & lower the risk of cancer. It also means that they will boost your immune system & improve your overall health. As you well know, most people don’t just have cancer, they also are at risk or have been diagnosed with other chronic diseases such as pre-diabetes, high blood pressure or even heart disease. 

Who are the experts? Experts Who Reviewed the DietsA panel of health experts, including nutritionists and specialists in diabetes, heart health, human behavior and weight loss, reviewed detailed assessments prepared by U.S. News of 40 diets. The experts rated each diet in seven categories, including short- and long-term weight loss, ease of compliance, safety and nutrition.”

The diets are then ranked in the following categories; click on the category to be taken to the full list & information about each diet. When you get to that list you can click on the diet you are interested in. Not only is each diet rated on it’s own page but it also has a tab for recipes & information about how to follow the diet.

Best Diets Overall 
1. DASH Diet (tie)
1. Mediterranean Diet (tie)
3. Flexitarian Diet: I like this approach. Here is an excerpt from the diets page…The theory: 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.

Once again the DASH & Mediterranean Diets tie 🙂 The Paleo diet was #29 thru #35 out of 40 in all categories. Under “Health & Nutrition: Slapping the diet with multiple low scores, the experts couldn’t accept that entire food groups, like dairy and grains, are excluded, making it hard for dieters to get all the nutrients they need. It’s one of the few diets that experts actually considered somewhat unsafe and only somewhat complete nutritionally.”

Best Diets For Healthy Eating 
1. DASH Diet (tie)
1. Mediterranean diet (tie)
3. Flexitarian Diet (tie)
3. TLC Diet (tie): I am not totally on board with this one…The theory: Created by the National Institutes of Health’s National Cholesterol Education Program, the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) diet is endorsed by the American Heart Association as a heart-healthy regimen that can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. 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. I will recommend it to people with extremely high cholesterol.

Easiest Diets to Follow 
1. Mediterranean Diet
2. Flexitarian Diet (tie)
2. Weight Watchers (tie)

Easiest diet to follow; #1, my favorite!!! The Mediterranean is the most flexible diet for anyone trying to move towards a healthier lifestyle. You can make slow changes to become more plant based & still stay within the parameters of the diet.

The Flexitarian is easy to follow because it is so flexible for those who want to eat more plant based with the option to eat meat when they want it. Keeps the “good food, bad food” guilt under control.

Best Diets for Diabetes 
1. Mediterranean 
2. DASH Diet 
3. Flexitarian Diet (tie)
3. Mayo Clinic Diet (tie)  This excellent diet plan from the Mayo Clinic Diet is the real thing. There have been many, many fad diets for decades claiming to be from the Mayo Clinic. All of them fraudulent & unhealthy.
3. Vegan Diet (tie)
3. Volumetrics (tie): I like this one. Makes you more mindful of what you are eating. The theory: People tend to eat the same weight, or amount, of food each day, regardless of how many calories they take in. Since some foods are less energy dense than others – that is, they have fewer calories per gram – filling your plate with more of those means you’ll be eating fewer calories without actually eating less food. Low-density foods, which are low in calories but high-volume, help you feel full and satisfied while dropping pounds. Fruits and veggies are ideal, since they’ll fill you up without breaking your calorie bank. (A pound of low-density carrots, for example, contains as many calories as an ounce of high-density peanuts.) Volumetrics is all about getting more mileage out of what you eat.
3. Weight Watchers (tie)

Best Heart-Healthy Diets No surprises here 🙂
1. DASH diet
2. Mediterranean Diet (tie)
2. Ornish Diet (tie)

Best Plant-Based Diets  Love it! 
1. Mediterranean Diet
2. Flexitarian Diet
3. Ornish Diet

Best Commercial Diets 
1. Weight Watchers
2. Jenny Craig 
3. Flat Belly Diet (tie)
3. Nutritarian Diet (tie)

Best Weight-Loss Diets
1. Weight Watchers
2. Volumetrics
3. Jenny Craig (tie)
3. Vegan Diet (tie)

Best Fast Weight-Loss Diets 
1. HMR Diet (tie)
1. Weight Watchers (tie)
3. Biggest Loser Diet (tie)
3. Medifast (tie)
3. SlimFast (tie)
3. Volumetrics (tie)

Weight Watchers has always been about eating a healthy, balanced diet. They have tried to make it simple using a point system rather than counting calories. The only thing I don’t like about it is the Weight Watcher Brand products; too processed. You are not asked to eat their products, they are there to help you stick to the program. That’s good when you work full-time. 

For those of us who are vegan, here is how it was ranked in all categories. This makes sense because not all vegans are eating a healthy, balanced diet. It takes some planning & commitment to make sure you are getting enough fat, protein, complex carbs, vitamins & minerals in your diet.

Vegan Diet is ranked:

  •  #19 (tie) in
    Best Diets Overall
  •  #3 (tie) in
    Best Weight-Loss Diets
  •  #3 (tie) in
    Best Diabetes Diets
  •  #27 (tie) in
    Best Diets for Healthy Eating
  •  #10 (tie) in
    Best Fast Weight-Loss Diets
  •  #5 (tie) in
    Best Heart-Healthy Diets
  •  #9 in
    Best Plant-Based Diets
  •  #36 (tie) in
    Easiest Diets to Follow

I hope this has been helpful. Until next week…Mary 🙂

Back to Basics to Enhance Your Immune System

 The New Year has arrived along with new fad diets, new exercise equipment, new research studies and a flu season that does not look good. Let’s set aside your New Year’s Resolutions regarding “diets” & exercise and look at how you can help your body be prepared for the flu & any other opportunistic diseases that come along. For those of you with a compromised immune system this is important.

The flu season is being reported as a bad one this year. Besides getting a flu shot, what is the best way to help your body be prepared for it? Building a strong immune system is the answer. Going back to basics is the key to keeping your immune system strong and at the same time reduce the risk factors for chronic diseases including cancer. It is also the safest way to lose or gain weight. 

Here is what you need to start with. The list is pretty simple:

  • No smoking.
  • Restrict/omit alcohol intake.
  • Get 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep when possible. Sleep Review: Weekly Fish Consumption Linked to Better Sleep Works for adults too.
  • Exercise/walk 30 minutes a day. Does not need to be at one go. 3 ten minute walks during the day will give you the same benefits. Get up & move as much as you are able to. 
  • A balanced, plant based diet. Start by making small changes each month by adding more whole grains, vegetables & fruits to your meals.

I want to add a couple more ideas to my original list. Some of these ideas came from WebMD: Healthy Habits: Better Eating Resolutions  Check out their full list.

  • Cut back stopping for fast food. With all the fat, sugar & salt in these foods, even a healthy immune system will suffer.
  • Be mindful of what you are eating. Watching a program & eating at the same time is always a bad idea. You look down & the chip bag is empty; how did that happen?
  • Bring healthy snacks to share at work. Dark chocolate or fresh fruit.
  • Start your day with a healthy, high fiber, breakfast. This will keep you full until snack or lunch time & will keep your blood sugar stable.
  • Keep a food diary 🙂

Nearly all plant based foods, spices & herbs have the ability to strengthen your immune system. They are rich in antioxidants and are anti-inflammatory. Some are even anti-viral. They each have their own health benefits & set of nutrients; when combined in a meal, they are super foods!

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” Hippocrates

Here is my edited version of a list of whole foods & their benefits from my issue of Mother Earth Living magazine, (November/December 2012 issue). I have included links to supportive research & information.

  • Berries, cherries & grapes: Very high in antioxidants & they are anti-inflammatory. Take a look at this from the HUB: Diet rich in apples, tomatoes may help repair lungs of ex-smokers, study suggests  Brandon Howard ,Published Dec 21, 2017
  • Complex carbs: Whole grains, legumes and vegetables contain complex carbs, which digest more slowly and are high in fiber. Fiber supports healthy digestive gut buddies which in turn supports a healthy immune system. Oldways Whole Grains Council: WHAT ARE THE HEALTH BENEFITS?
  • Cruciferous vegetables: Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc. “Animal and population studies link increased consumption of cruciferous vegetables with reduced cancer risk.” Broccoli was the star in the study! Have you tried roasting these veggies? Tasty! NIH, National Cancer Institute: Cruciferous Vegetables and Cancer Prevention
  • Dark green leafy vegetables: Kale, collard greens, bok choy, arugula, are “natural sources of calcium and magnesium which may protect against colon cancer. Women who eat more leafy greens have a reduced risk of breast cancer.” **see the article I posted under Topics: Calcium on this website for a more complete list. Check out this from the Economic Times: Eat spinach, lettuce and kale daily to keep your brain 11 years youngerDec 21, 2017, from CBS: Should you really be taking calcium and vitamin D supplements?  By DENNIS THOMPSON ,HEALTHDAY, December 27, 2017, This study is about bone health. Eat your calcium!
  • Seeds & nuts: These contain healthy fats, fiber, vitamins & minerals. Great for a pick-me-up snack. Nuts are overlooked because they are high in calories. You can get the health benefits from just one serving a day! Choose unsalted & raw. NDTV: Fibre Rich Food May Help Maintain Weight Gain, Blood Sugar And Colon Health: Research  December 27, 2017 
  • Tomatoes: Great source of carotenoids. The red color is due to lycopene. Tomatoes, pink grapefruit, watermelon, papaya, guava, and other fruits are rich in lycopene. The best source of lycopene is through your diet not supplements. USNews: How Does Getting Nutrients From Fortification Compare to Whole Food? Added nutrients can fill critical dietary gaps. But optimal balance requires going to the source. By Michael O. Schroeder, Staff Writer |May 11, 2017  
  • Orange fruits & vegetables: Rich in carotenoids. Along with the leafy green and cruciferous vegetables they are all protective against several types of cancer. Make your plate a rainbow of colors.
  •  Legumes: Fiber rich! **I must add here my opinion of soybeans. I believe that you can have a healthy diet without the consumption of controversial soy products. Because studies on the effect of soy on breast cancer, pre & post treatment, are not, in my opinion, very satisfactory, I would recommend eating small amounts of soy. Further, I would recommend fermented soy such as tempeh or miso and fresh edamame beans. The soy products in the USA are highly processed.  There are many other legumes to choose from. Choose sprouted tofu; less processed. GeneFood: What’s in a bean? Lots of health benefits  By Amber Krosel, December 22, 2017
  • Pomegranate: Mentioned in this article and is on their list. I would have left it off because I wasn’t convinced of its healing properties to inhibit cancer growth. MedicalNewsToday: 15 health benefits of pomegranate juice By Mandy Ferreira, July 2017

These herbs & spices are rich in antioxidants, have anti-inflammatory benefits and enhance immunity. Use liberally in your diet.

Make your own spice blends according to your tastes. I am still crazy about Bragg’s Organic Sprinkles with 24 herbs & spices. I put it on everything! Here is an idea for those of you who love curry…

Medicinal Curry Blend ~ by Rosemary Gladstar

  • 1 ounce Corriander seeds
  • 1 ounce Cummin seeds
  • 1 ounce Turmeric powder
  • 1/2 ounce black Mustard seed
  • 1/2 ounce Chili pepper (Cayenne)
  • 1/2 ounce Fennel seeds
  • 1/2 ounce Ginger powder

Combine by grinding together into a powder & use in curry dishes.

Rosemary Gladstar combines 2-3 teaspoons of the powder with 1/4 of oil, I use Olive oil, in a saucepan and warms it until the herbs are fragrant ~a few minutes~then stores it in the refrigerator. It will keep for a couple of weeks.

Turmeric is just one of many spices that have health benefits. These resources are very thorough & informative.

I no longer make yearly New Years Resolutions. I always feel like a failure when I don’t follow through with them. Instead, I have a  lifelong intention/resolution. To make this work I must reaffirm my intention every morning during my meditation. It is made up from these two quotes. 

  • “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” I am a great believer in what Hippocrates wrote.
  • “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” One of my favorite quotes from Michael Pollen.

Here is to a Healthy 2018. Until next week…Mary 🙂

Additional Resources:

Christmas & New Years Recipes

Festival of Lights, Brookings, Oregon. MHollander

Last week I shared healthier versions of recipes for Hanukkah. This week I will share healthier ideas for Christmas & New Years eve. A traditional Christmas menu depends on what part of the U.S. you are from & what your cultural roots are. Basically it is very similar to Thanksgiving. I am going write about other foods for your menu besides turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes & stuffing. New Years is a bit easier because it is traditionally a time to toast in the new year & eat lots of yummy hors d’oeuvres. 

Main courses instead of turkey or tofurkey 🙂 

  • MyRecipes: Chicken-Broccoli Mac and Cheese with Bacon This is a lighter version. Only 2 slices of bacon for entire recipe & the minimal amount of cheese. Turmeric is used for flavor & color. 
  • MyRecipes: Cornbread Crab Cakes  Another lighter version of the original recipe. 
  • MyRecipes: Shrimp and Grits I lived in Kentucky & Georgia for a short time. I learned to love grits! This recipe has a low-fat creamy sauce.
  • MyRecipes: Smoky Pork Stir-Fry Instead of frying pork chops this is a healthy stir-fry. Use olive oil instead of canola.
  • Eating Well: Fennel & Meyer Lemon-Stuffed Salmon This is made with  fresh salmon. You could substitute frozen salmon fillets.
  • Minimalist Baker: GARLIC MAC ‘N’ CHEESE This is a vegan version of the classic mac & cheese. If you haven’t tried using Nutritional Yeast, you should. It makes everything creamy & cheesy. Try it on popcorn first.
  • Minimalist Baker: CREAMY VEGAN GARLIC PASTA WITH ROASTED TOMATOES Very simple & elegant for a dinner party. Your favorite nut milk can be used. 
  • Minimalist Baker: SWEET POTATO LASAGNA  This is a vegan recipe. Instead of lasagne noodles you layer with sweet potato. You can buy a vegan ricotta cheese rather than make it if it would be easier for you. Same with the pesto layer. You can buy vegan pesto, just check the labels. Victoria makes wonderful vegan sauces.
  • Food & Wine: Carrot Osso Buco No meat in this Osso Buco! I have marinated carrots before & they always turn out so tasty. 

Healthier side dishes. 

  • MyRecipes: Herbed Potato Salad  Potato salads are one of my favorite dishes. It is quick & easy to make. You can change the ingredients to reflect your own tastes & dietary needs. I use Veganaise rather than yogurt & sour cream. I also add shredded bright orange carrots to make it festive looking & it adds another healthy vegetable. Very versatile recipe.
  • MyRecipes: Cornbread Stuffing With Sweet Potato and Squash This is another recipe that you can tweak. It is a light version, but you can make it lighter by substituting ingredients. Take a look & see what you can do.
  • Better Homes & Garden: Roasted Root Vegetable and Wilted Romaine Salad I am a big fan of roasted vegetables. 
  • Better Homes & Garden: Cauliflower “Couscous” Couscous is a pasta, so substituting cauliflower is a great idea. I have made cauliflower rice before & it was very good. I would leave out the butter or cut down on how much you use. 
  • Minimalist Baker: CRISPY GARLIC BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH SRIRACHA AIOLI You can use frozen Brussels sprouts for this. They are easy to cut in half when frozen. 
  • Minimalist Baker: DILL ROASTED SWEET POTATOES + WARM SPINACH SALAD Anything served over a bed of spinach would make me happy 🙂
  • Food & Wine: Roasted Delicata Squash with Quinoa Salad This is a definite must try. Delicata squash is a winter staple in my house. Roasting it brings out the natural sweet flavor.
  • Food & Wine: Mixed Mushroom Ragout This can be put over anything from rice to fish. Switch out the chicken broth for a vegetarian version. My favorite are Edwards & Sons Natural Bullion Cubes These cubes make a great broth for a fast soup. Add scallions, mushrooms & grated carrots. Yum!

Ring in the New Year with some tasty hors d’oeuvres. 


  • Minimalist Baker: VEGAN GLUTEN-FREE GINGERBREAD MEN You can’t leave out the Gingerbread men!
  • I found this interesting cooking blog, The Big Man’s World 🙂 Somehow he doesn’t come across as a macho guy like the name of the blog suggests & his picture is of a cute young kid 🙂 Here is what he says about his website: THE BIG MAN’S WORLD ® is all about healthy, easy, quick, and simple sweet recipes. Every single recipe is 100% gluten-free and dairy free, with most having a vegan, paleo and sugar-free option. I believe that desserts and sweets should be a daily staple and part of an everyday diet. Take a look at all his recipes, but especially the Desserts for something new for your Christmas sweet tooth. 
  • My Blog post for last year at this time was for Christmas sweets. Healthy Holiday Recipes for Cookies, Candies & Nuts!

I am making only vegan Christmas cookies & Pralines this year. I started looking for vegan replacements for the recipes I usually use. They were so complicated & used ingredients I don’t ordinarily use. I went back to my old recipes & decided to experiment.

  • For the spiced nuts, I needed an egg white to coat them with before adding the spices. I substituted 2 tablespoons of aquafaba for each egg.~the name for the viscous water in which legume seeds such as chickpeas have been cooked. Wikipedia~  I used the liquid from a can of organic garbanzo beans. Aquafaba can be beaten stiff like egg whites. It worked perfectly & the flavor was the same!
  • For my cookies that required butter, I substituted Vegan Earth Balance. You can also use coconut oil, but I found that I preferred the buttery taste for one of the cookies. 
  • If it required an egg or two I used flax or chia eggs~ How to Make a Flax EggYou can use this recipe using chia rather than flax.

This was much easier than buying all those new ingredients & I could bake my favorite holiday recipes. I do love simple 🙂

OldWays Whole Grains Council: EXPERT SHARES TIPS FOR BAKING WITH WHOLE GRAINS, DECEMBER 6, 2017  “Convert your favorite recipes to whole grain! Get the tips you need, including which recipes can be substituted part-for-part, which ones might need extra liquid, and which whole grain flours have the sweetest flavor. Originally posted April 5, 2015; updated in 2017 to include additional tips.” Handy info-graph of these tips for you to download & put on your frig.

MOMables: Ingredient Substitution List For Baking Great information on how & with what to substitute eggs, dairy & flour.

VegKitchen: Vegan Substitutions Guide, POSTED BY ERIN PAVLINA Interesting guide. Remember when using this guide, the same dietary guidelines for vegans apply…eat more vegetables, fruits, whole grains & omit the processed foods when possible. There are unhealthy vegans. 

One Green Planet: A Guide to 15 Types of Gluten-Free Flour Who knew their were so many! Take a look at the list.

Happy cooking & baking! Enjoy the Holidays with family & friends. The next post will be January 2nd, 2018.

Until next year!…Mary 🙂

Hanukkah Recipes

I decided to do this post in honor of Deborah Pomeranz. Deborah was not only a friend & colleague, she & her co-conspirator, Deb Snyder, were the driving forces behind the non-profit, NCCF, North County Cancer Fitness. Deborah would patiently explain the Jewish holidays to me & anyone else who asked. We discussed the traditional Hanukkah foods served & how they were prepared. Some were healthy & others could use some help to become a bit healthier.

No matter what holiday we are faced with, we can enjoy it with healthy variations of old favorites. Hanukkah, December 12th-20th this year, is no exception.


During the festival of Hanukkah children & adults play a game with a Dreidel. The coins they use, Hanukkah Gelt, are made of chocolate. Here is a link to one of our favorite sites, Elena’s Pantry. She has come up with an easy recipe for these coins that are dairy free. You use her Homemade Paleo Chocolate recipe to make the Homemade Hanukkah Gelt. This recipe can also be used in any mold for any holiday: Valentine hearts, Christmas trees, Thanksgiving turkeys & more!

An even easier recipe that can also be used in a mold is from another favorite, the Minimalist Baker, Easy Vegan Chocolate.

The traditional Hanukkah menu includes these favorites: brisket, short ribs, noodle kugel, latkes, doughnuts, apple sauce & Challah, a braided bread.

Martha Stewart has the traditional recipes with healthier variations here: Hanukkah Dinner Recipes That the Whole Family Will Love. For example, she has a recipe for roasted apples rather than sweetened applesauce. Sometimes to dress up my roasted mixed vegetables, I will mix in apple slices when roasting them. Easy to do & very tasty. You can also roast them separately sprinkled with your favorite apple pie spices minus the sugar. Take a look at her Potato Kugel Gratin. It uses 5 eggs but remember that you are only eating 1 (or 2 🙂 ) servings. 

AllRecipes: A Traditional Menu for Hanukkah By Anna Berman Another good site for traditional recipes. I especially liked the Roasted Green Bean  recipe. Simple. 

Now let’s look at some variations of these traditional recipes.

Elena’s Pantry has several good recipes: 

***Her recipes are mostly paleo, so she uses a lot of eggs.

Green Planet has 18 Vegan Hanukkah recipes Also take a look at their 8 Ways to Make Your Hanukkah Miraculously Delicious & 8 Tips for Having a Healthier Hanukkah. There are 2 Blintze recipes & a recipe for raw applesauce in there also. 

Another good site with some original ideas is: MAYIM BIALIK’S 7 VEGAN HANUKKAH RECIPES YOU MUST TRY THIS HOLIDAY Her recipes connect you to some of the sites I often use, Epicurious: Morrocan Vegetable Salad for one idea. I often serve a variation of this on a bed of raw, baby spinach. Looks pretty & tastes divine

My husband & I love potato latkes with home made applesauce. Here are a few recipes;

  • I Love Vegan: Potato Latkes Remember this is a holiday so frying doesn’t count if you use the minimum amount of oil & lots of love 🙂
  • Vegetarian Times: Potato Latkes I would use olive oil to fry with.
  • The Spruce: Vegan Baked Potato Latkes Recipe This is a good recipe to try. I would use parchment rather than grease a pan. Any flour would do & I would use a red or gold potato. 
  • my recipes: Root Vegetable Latkes Potatoes, parsnips & sweet potatoes make this an interesting combination. 

For the applesauce, all you need is a food processor or a blender. I just toss in a sweet variety of raw apples along with some cinnamon & nutmeg & blend until it is chunky or puree if you prefer. No need to cook those apples first. You know how much I like simple 🙂

“Kugel is a baked pudding or casserole, most commonly made from egg noodles or potato.”  Wikipedia  

This is an interesting article on Jamie Geller’s site: THE HISTORY OF KUGEL b When I searched the site for Kugel recipes, it brought up a wonderful list of Kugel ideas. Click here. Be sure to look at the Chilis Rellenos Kugel! The list seems endless 🙂 Take a look at her  Chanukah page for more recipe. I am loving this website!

This recipe for Kugel from ASWEATLIFE, sounds wonderful: NOODLE-FREE KUGEL RECIPE FOR A HEALTHY HANUKKAH  The author uses grated sweet potato, apple & pear. Healthy alternative.

If you just can’t bring yourself to make the traditional Kugel without the noodles & dairy, here is a low-fat version from ChowHound: Bubbe’s Luchen Kugel Recipe.

Brisket is the main dish. You don’t need to replace it with Tofurkey, tofu or seitan, although you could 🙂 Here are some ideas.

Sufganiyot are deep fried jelly doughnuts. They are part of the traditional meal. These can be baked!

Challah is a beautiful braided bread. Here is the traditional recipe from Leite’s Culinaria: Challah As the author say’s, “you could buy Challah but where is the fun in that!” If you prefer a healthier version, I found several.

Have a healthy & happy Hanukkah!

I am thinking about my Christmas menu. I will share any interesting ideas that I find. Email me if you have any ideas to share. Until next week…Mary 🙂