Ketogenic Diet

Two weeks ago my post was Are Carbs the Problem? Not Fats?  The post was about the McMaster University study which found that a higher-fat diet was actually associated with a lower risk of early death. The bottom line that I took away from the study was that fat is okay in moderation; 30% of your calories. Low fat diets are harmful. Complex carbs are okay in moderation; 50-55% of your calories. Simple carbs are not okay. Eat a plant based diet.

In the news this week is that the Keto diet, which is similar to the diet the McMaster Univerity study covered, can help you to live longer. This diet is very popular among people who want to lose weight & athletes. Lets look at the new research & the history of the Ketogenic diet as well as the pro’s & con’s of being on the diet. It is not for everyone.

I am sure we will be hearing more about research into the benefits of this diet for some cancers, especially cancer of the brain. 

The Ketogenic diet was introduced in 1924 by Dr.Russel Wilder at the Mayo Clinic for children with epilepsy. It fell out of favor in the 1940’s when anti-seizure medications were discovered. The diet was successful with a large percentage of epileptic children but had to be adhered to 100% for it to work. Taking an anti-seizure drug was, understandably, much more appealing. The main complaint from parents was that the diet was difficult to maintain. It took too much time to calculate & prepare plus you couldn’t eat anywhere but home.

New interest in the diet for epilepsy started in 1994 with a news report on NBC’s Dateline. It was the story of Charlie Abrahams, the 11 month old son of Jim Abrahams, an American movie producer & writer. Charlie had epilepsy that was difficult to control. When the conventional & alternative treatments that they tried didn’t help his sons seizures, Mr. Abraham took him to the pediatric unit of Johns Hopkins Medical Center. They were using the ketogenic diet for the treatment of epilepsy. Here are a few excerpts from the Charlie Foundation for Ketogenic Therapies

“In 1993, 11 month old Charlie Abrahams developed difficult to control epilepsy. As a last resort, while Charlie was experiencing multiple daily seizures and multiple daily medications, his parents turned to a Ketogenic Diet for help. The diet worked. Charlie became seizure and drug free within a month. He was on the diet for five years and now eats whatever he wants. He has never had another seizure.”

“The Charlie Foundation for Ketogenic Therapies was founded in 1994 to provide information about diet therapies for people with epilepsy, other neurological disorders and select cancers.”

“New applications of the ketogenic diet for cancer, autism, ALS, Parkinson’s Disease, type-2 diabetes, and traumatic brain injury have emerged.  Scientific data regarding these new uses of diet therapy is accumulating rapidly. Variations of the ketogenic diet for these other disorders are being developed. Today, it is the Charlie Foundation’s expanded mission not only to champion ketogenic diet therapy for epilepsy, but provide up-to-date information regarding its expanded use and variations. To this end we have re-named ourselves “The Charlie Foundation for Ketogenic Therapies”.”

This is an amazing website with all the current news & research on the ketogenic diet. If you have an interest in the diet I would recommend starting with the foundations website. ***When you go to the website, watch the video about the Keto diet & brain cancer. 

The latest research on the Keto diet is reported in  Healthline:  Keto Diet Can Help You Live Longer, Researchers Say  Written by Gigen Mammoser on September 13, 2017 “Two recent studies concluded that the low-carbohydrate diet can increase life span. However, there is still plenty of controversy surrounding the Keto diet.” This research has only been done with mice so far. If the results can be applied to humans, it would be an extremely important outcome. I imagine that human clinical trials will start soon. 

What is the Ketogenic diet? The ketogenic diet is a low-carbohydrate, adequate-protein, high-fat diet.  

Lets go back to the Charlie Foundation website: Frequently asked questions about the Classic and Modified Ketogenic Diets, Classic Keto and Modified Ketogenic Diets  This page answers a lot of your questions even though it is focused on childhood epilepsy.

1. “The ketogenic diet is a special high-fat diet that is used for difficult to treat seizures. Heavy cream, butter, plus, nut and seed oils, provide the necessary fat. The diet also completely eliminates sweets such as candy, cookies, and desserts. Other carbohydrate rich foods such as bread, potatoes, rice, cereals, and pasta are not allowed on the strictest form of the diet, but are allowed on more liberal forms of the diet. All foods must be carefully prepared and weighed on a gram scale. Each meal must be eaten in its entirety for the diet to be most effective. The Classic diet consists of a ratio in grams of fat to non-fat (protein and carbohydrates) of 4:1 and 3:1. The modified ketogenic diet consists of ratios of 2:1 and 1:1.”

What is the Ketogenic Diet?  This page is an introduction to the diet. It has a comparison chart for the Ketogenic Diet, MCT Oil, Low Glycemic Index Treatment & the Modified Atkins Diet. It answers FAQ’s such as; should these diets be medically supervised; percentage of carbs allowed; is a pre-evaluation needed; are tools needed; side effects & more. I found this the most comprehensive, scientifically balanced information regarding the ketogenic diet.

What are the side effects? As I have stated before, this diet is not for everyone. You should be monitored by your health care team if you are going to try it for any reason. Cancer changes your immune response & leaves you vulnerable with any nutrition or lifestyle changes. Whats good for an athlete does not apply to you. 

Check out this article from ASCO, American Society of Clinical Oncology, Post: The Ketogenic Diet in Cancer Control 

These are the reasons you need to be monitored by your health care team before & during the use of this diet. 

These side effects may occur when beginning the diet. Probably due to hypoglycemia. I read that they resolve in a few weeks.

  • Headaches
  • Fatigue/lack of energy
  • Muscle weakness or pains
  • Poor sleep
  • Constipation, nausea or upset stomach
  • Excessive thirst & frequent urination
  • Hunger
  • Confusion, anxiety and/or irritability
  • Tachycardia: heart rate speeds up
  • Lightheaded & shaky
  • Sweating and chills

These are some of the long term effects found with some adults.

  • Kidney stones: 5% of the patients
  • weight loss
  • constipation
  • increased levels of cholesterol and triglycerides
  • increased risk of bone fractures
  • Women may experience problems with their menstrual cycle.

Work with your healthcare team before you try any new diet, but this one in particular. There are people who should not be on this diet, for example anyone with kidney, pancreatic or liver disease. 

This is a very good you tube video about not only the keto diet but about the gut-brain connection & the diet.  David Perlmutter – Ketogenic Diet, Carbs & Gut Bacteria “Dr. Perlmutter discusses new science regarding low-carb, high-fat diets (ketogenic), gut bacterial diversity and exercise for optimal brain health.”

I have been an advocate of a healthy, balanced, plant based diet for most of my life. I have attended conferences about nutrition & how important it is to keep us healthy. I am at a loss to understand why diet is not the first line of defense recommended by physicians to their patients. The only reasons that I can come up with is the lack of training during medical school & the laziness of the typical American. Popping a pill is much easier. The ketogenic diet is a good example of what can be accomplished with diet alone. 

If you are interested in the use of medical marijuana derivatives for children with epilepsy, read this blog post: The Charlie Foundation’s Position on Marijuana Derivatives for Epilepsy Treatment  I am in total agreement with what he says. Sometimes anecdotal evidence & the risk/benefit ratio needs to be considered without the interference of government agencies.

Next week will be the Nutrition Nuggets I have collected over the past month. Until then…Mary 🙂

Additional Resources:

  • Johns Hopkins Medicine: High-Fat Ketogenic Diet Misunderstood, Underused November 18, 2010
  • Johns Hopkins Medicine, Neurology & Neurosurgery: Adult Epilepsy Diet Center  “Recent studies have shown that the modified Atkins diet lowers seizure rates in nearly half of adults that try it, usually within a few months. Unlike the ketogenic diet (used mostly in children), there is no hospital stay involved, no fasting to get started, no food weighing, and no counting of calories or fluids. The diet is “modified” from the traditional Atkins diet because fats are encouraged. Adults can also lose weight on the diet if desired.”



Foods as Beauty Products!

Picking Chamomile. MHollander

Our NUT Elf, Suzi, had this interesting idea for this weeks post; using food as beauty products. This can be for your everyday routine or for an in-home spa day to relax. What a fun time I had in researching this topic. 

Before we get into natural ways to enhance your beauty, take a look at this article from Health on NBC News. Suffering for beauty has ancient roots. From lead eyeliner to mercury makeup, killer cosmetics over the decade. by Diane Mapes. Reading this may have you taking a closer look at the ingredients in your makeup & beauty products.

You can always check up on the manufacturer on’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database 

I felt it only fair to add this site where you can check on the ingredients of your cosmetics. It is sponsored by the industry.  Cosmetics Info: The Science & Safety Behind Your Favorite Products “Consumers of cosmetics and personal care products are protected by strong federal safety regulations under the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) via the Food, Drug & Cosmetics Act. In addition, cosmetics companies work to ensure ingredient safety and are guided by a strong commitment to utilize the best science and latest available research data to substantiate the safety of a cosmetic and personal care product before it is marketed. Based on the information that is submitted to the FDA, via the Adverse Events Reporting System and other reporting mechanisms, it is important to note that only a very small percentage of cosmetics or personal care products on the market are associated with adverse events.”  Take a look at this page: A History of Cosmetics from Ancient Times  Fascinating!

Suzi starts us off with this contribution… “It works! I’ve only done this once today, and my wrinkles were not gone totally, but not as deep. So I’m guessing if I keep using it, maybe they will go away! ha ha ha”

No More Wrinkles and Sagging Skin on Your Face 

  • 1/2 cucumber + 1 egg white
  • Peel cucumber and cut into small pieces. Blend into a puree. Pour into a bowl covered with a strainer, drain all the juice. Smash the pulp with a spoon in the strainer to ensure all the juice is extracted. Add the egg white and mix well.
  • Apply the mixture on the areas of the skin you want to tighten. Let it stand for 15 minutes; rinse with cold water.
  • To get the best results, use once or twice a week.

Our coffee grounds go in a jar for the garden. They are nitrogen rich & turn my Hydrangea flowers from pink to purple. Now I have a new use for them.  From Elle Magazine: Seven Miracle Beauty Products Found in the Food Aisle Strawberries as teeth whitener? Yep. BY   JAN 31, 2014

For all of you coconut oil lovers, the author lists several good uses for it. I want to try it for shaving my legs. That way I won’t have to put lotion on afterwards. 

From marie claire: 11 Natural Skin Care Products That Are Already in Your Fridge  Your kitchen = your new Sephora. By  Oct 30, 2015 

In this article, instead of strawberries to whiten your teeth, she recommends orange peels. Both sound tasty. If you have Champagne & Sake in your kitchen, you can now move them into your makeup cubby 🙂 Of course Apple Cider Vinegar & Baking Soda make the list. 

Tea Bags have been used for dark circles & puffy eyes for centuries. I like using Chamomile on my eyes when they are tired & itchy. Here are some more ideas from the Readers Digest:  22 Ways to Use Tea to Benefit Your Beauty, Home and Garden   

Here is a site with 5 DIY beauty tips using green tea from the Indian Spot: Amazing Beauty DIYs using Green Tea  Rich in antioxidants and anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties, green tea has amazing beauty benefits. It can be used in different natural ways to help your skin appear brighter and flawless.”

I prefer to use loose tea at home. To use tea bags in these recipes all you need to do is buy a couple of muslin reusable tea bags for loose tea. When finished you compost the tea & rinse out the bag to use again. These are not difficult to find. Try Michael’s, natural food store’s, herb stores or the link above for Amazon.

Having problems with dry cuticles & hangnails? Try this Homemade Cuticle Cream from 30 Handmade Days. Very simple to make & will last for a long time.

Lydi Out Loud has put together a list of  THE BEST BEAUTY PRODUCTS YOU CAN DIY  from 30 fun websites. One of the websites she mentions is one of my favorites. 

Frugally Sustainable A RESOURCE FOR ALL THINGS FRUGAL AND SUSTAINABLE  I like her homemade Shampoo Bars I am going to make the Chamomile & Calendula Bar. 

From the same website, Frugally SustainableI am really into this idea! Herbal Sleep Aid :: How to Make Peaceful Sleep Sachets Using Herbs, Essential Oils, and Crystals   by 

Organic Beauty Recipes by Eve. She has face, body, hair & lip-care recipesI’ve created this blog so anybody can start making their own organic beauty recipes at home and ditch all the chemical filled commercial products…

I will share homemade organic recipes of face & body creams, body butters, lips balms, shampoos (or no poo!), cleansers, make up and look forward helping you switching to a natural beauty lifestyle.

I can promise you one thing: I will do my best to make it easy and fun…oh and it will save you some bucks (or loonies!) in the process.”

Cannot leave out the wonderful Avocado! Hello Glow: 4 TASTY AVOCADO RECIPES FOR HAIR, SKIN + WRINKLES Take a look under the Beauty tab for more recipes.

AVOCADO HAIR MASK RECIPE from Organic Beauty Recipes by Eve Take a look at the ingredients. Besides avocado it has cocnut oil, banana, apple cider vinegar & honey. Sounds like a pudding 🙂

In case you would rather eat the avocado: California Avocados/Recipes 🙂

I saved this one for last. I don’t know about you but it is all I can do to get a mango home without eating it! Years ago we bought a case of mangoes in Oregon. We were stopped at the California/Oregon border & they were taken from us. We didn’t have the time to stop & eat them all; I hated seeing a grown man crying over his mangoes 🙂 

Brit + Co: Want Silky Smooth Skin? DIY This Whipped Mango Body Butter By Eileen Chow 

Or…you can eat them. 

I hope that you enjoyed this post. It is going up early so that my assistant Juli can go on a much needed vacation! Until the following week…Mary 🙂

Additional Resources: You can also find jars & tins in natural food stores or herb shops. I have found some lovely shaped bottles & containers at Michael’s.

Are Carbs the Problem? Not Fats?


It is getting increasingly more difficult to keep up with research studies on diet. It seems that every few weeks it is something new. Yet when I read through the published studies it all boils down to the same thing. This one is no different. The results were the same; the healthiest people in the world eat fruits, vegetables, beans, seeds, nuts & whole grains, avoid or limit simple carbohydrates and sugar.

The latest study from McMasters University in Canada suggests that carbohydrates are the problem in diet related illnesses, such as cardiovascular diseases, rather than fat. 

The Canadian Reducing carbohydrates, not fat, should be focus of dietary guidelines, study says  A McMaster University study found a higher-fat diet was actually associated with a lower risk of early death.”

The Telegraph: Low-fat diet could kill you, major study shows  Always love these headlines 🙁

Here are the facts that I have taken from the McMasters study: 

  • The study is challenging the World Health Organization’s guidelines for a low fat diet as the best diet for cardiovascular health.
  • Participants: 135,000 people in 18 countries.
  • Since heart disease is a global problem, this study was important.
  • Findings: Participants who ate a higher fat diet of 30%, rather than the 11% recommended, had a 23% LESS risk of dying & 18% lower risk of stroke.
  • The results were based on a 30% intake of all fats: saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. 30% being the ~fat sweet spot~.
  • They found no evidence that a low fat diet, less than 10 %, had any health benefits, & under 7% was harmful.
  • A diet with more than 60% carbs had a 28% higher risk of death.
  • Low carb diets showed no health benefits either.
  • They concluded that the healthiest diet would be 50 to 55 per cent carbohydrates ~ called the carb sweet spot~ and 35 per cent total fat, including both saturated and unsaturated types.
  • Although further study is needed, these results may have an even better impact on cancer, respiratory disease & dementia.

Another study that is referenced in the articles above is about the amount of fruit, veggies & legumes you should consume on a healthy dietReuters: Study challenges conventional wisdom on fats, fruits and vegetables  By Andrew M. Seaman

Facts gleaned from the second look at the McMasters study regarding fruits & veggies.

  • Current WHO guidelines state that individuals should eat a minimum of 5 servings of fruits, vegetables & legumes per day.
  • Canadian guidelines are 5-10 servings per day. USA guidelines are 5-13 servings of fruits, veggies & legumes per day.
  • In most parts of the world 5 servings of fruits would be too expensive. 
  • The greatest health benefits was 3-4 servings per day with no significant increase in benefits above that.
  • This study does not suggest that you quit eating more than the recommended servings if you already do.

The researchers of this study stress MODERATION. They are not giving you a free license to eat extremely high fat & extremely low carb diets. I must agree with this idea. The only point I felt was lacking, in all but one article, was to stress that the carbs that are the problem are simple carbohydrates, not complex carbs. In other words; sodas, sugar, processed & packaged foods, etc.

Our Blog post for December 2015 was ‘Tis the Season of Carbs!  Click on the title & review the information about complex carbohydrates & simple carbs. 

Complex carbohydrates play an essential role in keeping the immune system healthy & functioning. Our body needs complex carbohydrates. From Carbohydrates: Simple versus Complex: “Complex carbohydrates may be referred to as dietary starch and are made of sugar molecules strung together like a necklace or branched like a coil. They are often rich in fiber, thus satisfying and health promoting. Complex carbohydrates are commonly found in whole plant foods and, therefore, are also often high in vitamins and minerals.

Simple carbohydrates are sugars. All simple carbohydrates are made of just one or two sugar molecules. They are the quickest source of energy, as they are very rapidly digested.” They also pose the greatest health risk. Look at our Blog Post ‘Tis the Season of Carbs! for a list of both types of carbs.

Read this article from the South China Post: Why West’s low-fat diet advice could be deadly for Asia’s poor, because they’ll likely eat even more carbs Telling people already on a high-carb, low-fat diet to eat less fat will only get them eating even more carbs – increasing their risk of death – because of the high cost of fruit and vegetables, say researchers. UPDATED Sunday, 03 September, 2017.

Any diet recommendation should be for the country or culture that the study population is from. Even though researchers say that the healthiest people in the world eat fruits, vegetables, beans, seeds, nuts & whole grains, and avoid or limit simple carbohydrates and sugar; not all cultures can or need to eat that way. Eating healthy has become an economic & even a political issue. 

What do we do with the information. We set it up as an example of what we can strive towards. We do the best we can within the limits of our pocketbook & what is actually available to us. We construct a diet that fits our culture & food preferences. Otherwise we set ourselves up for failure & that healthy diet change is never met.

So here we are again. Fat is okay in moderation; 30% of your calories. Low fat diets are harmful. Complex carbs are okay in moderation; 50-55% of your calories. Simple carbs are not okay. Eat a plant based diet. If you are on a budget ~& who isn’t~ here is that website I talked about last week: Plant Based on a Budget Check out their Lentil Taco Filling.

Until next week…Mary 🙂

August Nutrition Nuggets



Another interesting month for health news. I will start with one of my favorite fruits, the avocado. The other topics are high calorie foods & cancer; walnuts & weight loss; vitamin C & B; & a study on bright lights & breast cancer. I included two fantastic vegan recipes at the end of the post. 

 PIXABAY photo

Did you know that Americans eat about 2 billion pounds of avocados a year? Those of you living in San Diego know that estimate to be true 🙂 That is what the Hass Avocado Board claims. Here is a link to their website with wonderful avocado recipes: Avocado Recipe Collection

After eating the avocado, the seed & husk are usually tossed out. I know that our composting worms don’t like either of them. The seed did have its 15 minutes of fame a few years ago when health websites were telling people to put it in their smoothies. The Health Sciences Academy has a good article about the pits: Avocado Pits: Start or Stop Eating? 

What about the husks? Forbes: There’s An Untapped Wealth Of Useful Molecules In Avocado Seeds by Sam Lemonick, AUG 21, 2017 .  “It could very well be that avocado seed husks, which most people consider as the waste of wastes, are actually the gem of gems because the medicinal compounds within them could eventually be used to treat cancer, heart disease and other conditions,” said Bandyopadhyay, according to an American Chemical Society press release. Very interesting information. I like it when something most people consider a waste product is turned into something useful.

The idea that high calorie foods, such as those found in fast food, sugar laden sweets & fried foods like chips, would be linked to obesity linked cancer is a no-brainer. But what the study showed was that the risk they found was only in women of a normal weight or thinner who ate those kinds of foods regularly.

My takeaway from this study is that the quality of the foods you eat is most important. People who eat calorie dense, nutritionally deficient foods tend to eat fewer veggies, fruits, nuts & whole grains. As the lead researcher Cynthia Thomson, quoted in this story, mentions, “But, she added, being thin doesn’t mean you are “metabolically healthy” — which means having normal blood sugar, cholesterol and triglyceride levels, for instance.” I knew a young aerobics teacher, back in the 80’s, who only ate Doritos & drank Tab. That was all she would eat because it kept her thin. She rarely ate a vegetable & I never saw her with a piece of fruit. The problem was, she was always tired & sick. 

Read the article: MedLinePlus: High-Cal Foods May Raise Cancer Risk in Women, Even Without Weight Gain: Plant-based diet could help avoid malignancies, study suggests, Thursday, August 17, 2017  A balanced, plant-based diet, is overwhelmingly the best diet for our health. Study after study has shown this. Yet people continue to dispute or ignore this information. 


I saw the following study in a number of articles in the health news. I decided to use it because it shows the problems with studies that get so much coverage. First of all, as you will see, the study was done with 10 obese patients. One dropped out, leaving the study size to be nine. Way too small to take any results seriously right now. Here is one of the articles: Walnuts May Help You Lose Weight By Controlling Your Mind, 

The next article is quite good because it is a rebuttal of the original story covered by the NY Times. Its main thrust is “incomplete & imbalanced journalism”. Interesting reading. Note the update at the end of the story: Update: This post originally stated that Kevin C. Klatt’s lab at Cornell has received funding from the California Walnut Commission. That was incorrect and the disclosure statement has been removed. Walnuts for weight loss? Times makes huge leap based on brain scans of 9 people, August 22, 2017

Researchers should be more transparent concerning who is paying for their research because if they aren’t, journalists can get it wrong. I think they owe it to the public as well. 

This site, California Walnuts, is all about walnuts & even has some wonderful recipes! Also check out this downloadable booklet; Simple Ways to Use Walnuts& this free e-book by Mollie Katzen; Mollie’s Favorite Walnut RecipesI didn’t know that walnuts could be used to thicken sauces 🙂

I have to say that I have been a Vitamin C fan since Linus Pauling’s day. This study is still at the “mice stage”, but it looks very promising. Vitamin C May Encourage Blood Cancer Stem Cells to Die, 08/18/2017, by NYU Langone Health 

Here is an excerpt from an explanation of the study & its conclusion. A must read if you are interested. PubMed Health: Vitamin C injections could play a role in treating blood cancers , Mon, 21 Aug 2017 “The study found that using high doses of vitamin C intravenously did in fact suppress the growth of leukaemia cancer stem cells in the mice.

Although this does pave the way for future therapeutic approaches, this study was very early stage research in mice, and therefore would require further investigation and trials in humans before any treatment based on the findings could be offered to patients.

Also, the dose used was far higher relative to weight, than would be safe in humans. It would be the equivalent of a human taking 300g of vitamin C, which would mean eating more than 5,000 oranges. So scientists would also have to find a way to lower the dose while achieving the same beneficial effect.” Wait for the human clinical trials before you jump on this one. Past research & studies that were promising on mice have failed to produce the same results in humans. 

This is an overview of High-Dose Vitamin C. NIH, National Cancer Institute: High-Dose Vitamin C (PDQ®)–Patient Version 

High doses of vitamin B tied to lung cancer risk, study says   August 23, 2017  This study found that men, taking individual dietary supplements of Vitamin B6 & B12, in very high doses & who are smokers, had a higher risk of lung cancer.

The study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology: Long-Term, Supplemental, One-Carbon Metabolism–Related Vitamin B Use in Relation to Lung Cancer Risk in the Vitamins and Lifestyle (VITAL) Cohort, Theodore M. Brasky, Emily White, and Chi-Ling Chen Conclusion: This sex- and source-specific association provides further evidence that vitamin B supplements are not chemo preventive for lung cancer and may be harmful.

The Business Insider says it well: We should never have told people to start taking vitamins, and new research linking one type to cancer shows why. By Erin Brodwin, Aug. 23, 2017, If you take high-dose vitamins please read this entire story. A low-dose multi-vitamin is usually safe to take without side effects. But even that depends on your health & on the manufacturer of your chosen brand. Look for vitamins that are less than 100% of the RDA.

Speak with your health care team before taking high-dose vitamins. I would recommend you tell them about any vitamins & minerals that you are taking.

We have discussed hormone disruptors before. This time researchers are looking at the disruption of melatonin by artificial light. This study is large, and it was based on the Nurses Health Study participants. How many of us are not exposed to artificial light, especially at night. I have 2 articles to share with you that I found very informative.

Exposure To Artificial Lighting Ups Risk For Breast Cancer19 August 2017, By Athena Chan, Tech Times It mentions that previous studies have shown a link between artificial light & prostate cancer. So it is not a gender issue. 

Harvard study strengthens link between breast cancer risk and light exposure at night  By The Associated Press

Should we go back to candlelight immediately? More research needs to be done but this study is very unsettling. 

 I want to end with links to my two, new, favorite vegan recipes. They are simple to put together & my family gave them both 5 stars. Of course I double the garlic in both. Enjoy!

Food Network: Tofu Spinach Dip My husband is a snacker. I try to have healthy dips for him to enjoy with whole grain sprouted crackers or whole grain sprouted breads. This one is very good & super healthy. It is especially good as a spread on sandwiches.

My daughter, Jennifer, was visiting this past weekend & she brought this vegan recipe for us to try. It was a big hit as a dip, sandwich spread & for pasta. I tossed it on roasted veggies. Sunflower Seed Pesto The recipe is from Plant Based on a Budget Take a look at her story & her wonderful website.

Next week I want to explore this huge new study that found “carbs are the problem, not fats”. Until next week then…Mary 🙂

What is “The Salt Fix”?


Salt is back in the news thanks to a new book that was just released. The Salt Fix  by researcher James DiNicolantonio It came to my attention on Dr. Low Dog’s Facebook post.

Dr. Tieraona Low Dog: “We’ve been looking at the evidence for and against saturated fat and carbs in the diet for years. Now there is a book looking at the role salt plays in our health. For years, physicians, myself included told people to limit their salt intake to 1 teaspoon per day (2300 mg of sodium) and for those at high risk for heart disease or hypertension (e.g., people over age 50, African Americans, those with kidney disease) to cut back to no more than 1/2 teaspoon per day (1500 mg of sodium). However, in 2013, after reviewing the evidence, the Institute of Medicine found that those who went on very low salt diets actually faired worse than those with higher intake. Now comes along, The Salt Fix, written by researcher James DiNicolantonio, which questions many of our current assumptions around this precious mineral. I still think it wise to avoid heavily processed foods that are loaded in salt and devoid of much nutrition. I prefer spices and culinary herbs for flavoring foods as they are powerhouses when it comes to taste and health giving compounds. And while it is probably okay to “loosen the reins” a little when it comes to salt, moderation seems to always be the sagest advice.” WNY researcher shakes up nutrition world with new book on salt  By

Sodium is a chemical element that is essential for the human body. Salt is a mineral that is made up of two elements: Sodium & Chlorine. For you chemistry buffs, NaCl or sodium chloride. 40% of table salt is sodium. Salt is harvested from the evaporation of sea water or mining it from the earth.

From Sources of Sodium 

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt = 575 mg sodium
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt = 1,150 mg sodium
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt = 1,725 mg sodium
  • 1 teaspoon salt = 2,300 mg sodium

Salt has been used to cure/preserve meats, enhance flavors, add moisture to foods, it has played a role in religion & has been used as currency. I found a fascinating history of salt at SaltworksThis is a very interesting site with information about gourmet salts, salt recipes & more. I enjoyed perusing the pages.

Sodium has many roles in the body. It helps to regulate the body’s overall fluid balance, thus regulating our blood pressure. It also regulates the normal function of nerves & muscles. It is found in the blood & around cells. We get our sodium through food & drink, and lose it through sweat & urine. Our kidneys regulate the balance by adjusting the amount lost in urine. The amount of sodium in the body effects the blood volume or amount of fluid in the blood & around the cells. It is quite the balancing act! The ratio of sodium to potassium affects our blood pressure & kidney function. 

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that Americans consume less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day as part of a healthy eating pattern. The average American consumes 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day. Most of that is from processed foods.

Hyponatrimia, is when our sodium is too low. This is a rare problem. Usually it is due to dehydration after extreme exercise.  

Hypernatrimia is when our sodium levels are too high. This new book, & the author’s research, is challenging these levels. 

Where do we get our sodium/salt? All whole foods have some amount of sodium in them. Eating a plant based diet, the Mediterranean or DASH diet gives you enough sodium for your RDA, Recommended Daily Allowance.

As Dr. Low Dog said, heavily processed foods are loaded with salt. So are canned goods & processed meats. Even frozen vegetables have salt in them. I give my dog green beans as a snack when she is hungry. Salt isn’t good for dogs, so I have to find canned green beans without it. Sounds easy but it isn’t. Even store brands have some salt in them. Read your labels. The RDA on the label is in milligrams or grams & % of your daily values based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

Texas A&M, Agri Life Extension has an online brochure listing the Sodium Content of Your Food.  It is the most extensive list that I have seen.

From details on the website about the book,  The Salt Fix 

About the author: James J. DiNicolantonio, Pharm. D., is a respected cardiovascular research scientist, doctor of pharmacy at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, Missouri, and the associate editor of British Medical Journal’s (BMJ) Open Heart. He is the author or coauthor of approximately 200 publications in medical literature. His research has been featured in The New York Times, ABC’s Good Morning America, TIME, Fox News, U.S. News and World Report, Yahoo! Health, BBC News, Daily Mail, Forbes, National Public Radio, and Men’s Health, among others. This is obviously no fly by night person who decided to write a book about salt.

About the book: A leading cardiovascular research scientist upends the low-salt myth, proving that salt may be one solution to—rather than a cause of—our nation’s chronic disease crises.

Sure to change the national conversation about this historically treasured substance, The Salt Fix elegantly and accessibly weaves the research into a fascinating new understanding of salt’s essential role in your health and what happens when you aren’t getting enough—with far-reaching, even heart-stopping, implications. 

The book is available on Amazon : The Salt Fix: Why the Experts Got It All Wrong–and How Eating More Might Save Your Life   Why is this book so controversial? Here is what Amazon says about it: 

Dr. James DiNicolantonio, a leading cardiovascular research scientist, has reviewed over 500 publications to unravel the impact of salt on blood pressure and heart disease. He’s reached a startling conclusion: The vast majority of us don’t need to watch our salt intake. In fact, for most of us, more salt would be advantageous to your health. The Salt Fix tells the remarkable story of how salt became unfairly demonized—a never-before-told drama of competing egos and interests—and took the fall for another white crystal: sugar. 
In fact, too little salt can:
• Cause you to crave sugar and refined carbs.
• Send the body into semi-starvation mode.
• Lead to weight gain, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, and increased blood pressure and heart rate.
On the other hand, eating the salt your body desires can:
• Improve everything from your sleep, energy, and mental focus to your fitness, fertility, and sexual performance
• And stave off common chronic illnesses, including heart disease.
Dr. DiNicolantonio shows the best ways to add salt back into your diet, offering his transformative five-step program for recalibrating your salt thermostat to achieve your unique, ideal salt intake. Science has moved on from the low-salt dogma, and so should you—your life may depend on it.

I have not read the book yet. I have read & watched several interviews with the author. Here are my favorites that explain his research & his book.

The Salt Fix with Dr James DiNicolantonio You tube video that covers the information in his book. Excellent. I do object to his claim that women need to eat more red meat 🙁

The Be Well Blog has a good interview with Dr. DiNicolantonio. 7 QUESTIONS FOR DR JAMES DINICOLANTONIO, ABOUT HIS NEW BOOK, THE SALT FIX  by Dr. Frank Lipman 

His bottom line is to eat a whole foods diet & listen to your body’s craving for salt. His research & conclusions are scientifically based & correct. I am sure that this book is going to generate more research on the subject of salt in our diet & of sodium’s effect on the body. 

A mother always cut the ends off of her pot roast before putting it into the roasting pan. When questioned by her daughter, she said that her mother always did that. On further research into family lore, it was discovered that the reason the grandmother cut the ends off the roast was so it would fit into her only roasting pan. Why do we continue to do things the way that we were told or taught without any question? What is the story/legend/myth behind it?  This is what research is all about.

Until next week…Mary 🙂

Iron Deficiency Anemia & Iron-Rich Foods

Iron deficiency anemia, IDA, is a common symptom among cancer patients. It can be the result of the inflammatory process of cancer or by its treatment. Many patients come into the oncologists office with a history of anemia. From my research I see that iron deficiency is a common problem world wide. Treating IDA varies by cause. Depending on the diagnosis, it can be helped or corrected with nutrition. In this post I am going to discuss dietary sources of iron exclusively. Eating a diet rich in iron can be done alongside any treatments your healthcare team has decided upon.

The National Institute of Health states on their Iron Supplement Fact Sheetstate that “People in the United States usually obtain adequate amounts of iron from their diets” & “Isolated iron deficiency is uncommon in the United States. Because iron deficiency is associated with poor diet, malabsorptive disorders, and blood loss, people with iron deficiency usually have other nutrient deficiencies.”  Hmm…

The Iron Disorders Institute states: “Iron deficiency is a condition resulting from too little iron in the body. Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency and the leading cause of anemia in the world. In the USA, despite food fortification, iron deficiency is on the rise in certain populations.” Diet plays a huge part in this. Poor diets are not just an economical problem. The SAD, standard american diet, is woefully lacking nutrients the body needs to stay healthy.

This is an informative resource about Iron Deficiency Anemia. This was written in January 2017 & it states that IDA is a common nutritional deficiency in the USA. I wanted to share this paragraph regarding the symptoms of anemia. 

Academy of Nutrition& Dietetics, EatRight: Foods to Fight Iron Deficiency By Caroline Kaufman, MS, RDN, Published January 06, 2017

“If the body doesn’t absorb its needed amount of iron, it becomes iron deficient. Symptoms appear only when iron deficiency has progressed to iron deficiency anemia, a condition in which the body’s iron stores are so low that not enough normal red blood cells can be made to carry oxygen efficiently. Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency and the leading cause of anemia in the United States. 

Symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Pale skin and fingernails
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Glossitis (inflamed tongue)

Iron is an import mineral the body needs. As explained in the Patient & Caregiver Handout from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: Iron in Your Diet  “Iron is an essential mineral that your body needs to create red blood cells, which store and carry oxygen throughout your body. Iron is also part of many proteins and enzymes that help you stay healthy.

Iron Deficiency Anemia   “If  your body isn’t getting enough iron, you can develop iron deficiency anemia. This can happen if you:

  • Don’t have enough iron in your diet
  • Have had chemotherapy
  • Have had radiation therapy
  • Have a chronic illness
  • Have lost some of your blood, such as during surgery or an accident

How much iron you need to stay healthy is decided by age & gender. The handout has a graph for you to use set up by both age & gender. “Common side effects of taking higher amounts of iron include stomach irritation and constipation.”

The article brings up two important points: do not take iron supplements without speaking with your healthcare team & don’t forget to read the labels on all foods & supplements. Many are fortified with iron & you can easily go over the recommended daily amount. 

I would recommend that you look at & print out this handout if you or someone you knows is anemic or has been diagnosed with Iron Deficiency Anemia.

Sources of iron in your food are divided into two types. There is some controversy surrounding whether or not vegan’s & vegetarians can get enough iron in their diets, in particular the vegan.

  • Heme: from an animal source which includes dairy, fish & poultry.
  • Non-heme: from plant-based foods

The above mentioned handout has a list of both animal & plant-based foods rich in iron. Here is a list for meat-eaters from WebMD: Iron-Rich Foods “Some foods can help your body absorb iron from iron-rich foods; others can hinder it. To absorb the most iron from the foods you eat, avoid drinking coffee or tea or consuming calcium-rich foods or drinks with meals containing iron-rich foods. To improve your absorption of iron, eat it along with a good source of vitamin C — such as orange juice, broccoli, or strawberries — or eat nonheme iron foods with a food from the meat, fish, and poultry group. I have a problem with all the lists I found for people who eat meat. They all start with beef, making you think that is the only way to get a good source of iron. Keep reading & take a look at the veggies list. 

Very good sources of heme iron, with 3.5 milligrams or more per serving, include:

  • 3 ounces of beef or chicken liver
  • 3 ounces of clams, mollusks, or mussels
  • 3 ounces of oysters

Good sources of heme iron, with 2.1 milligrams or more per serving, include:

  • 3 ounces of cooked beef
  • 3 ounces of canned sardines, canned in oil

Other sources of heme iron, with 0.7 milligrams or more per serving, include:

  • 3 ounces of chicken
  • 3 ounces of cooked turkey
  • 3 ounces of halibut, haddock, perch, salmon, or tuna
  • 3 ounces of ham
  • 3 ounces of veal

Other sources of heme iron, with 0.3 milligrams or more per serving, include:

  • 3 ounces of halibut, haddock, perch, salmon, or tuna

Rodales Organic Life… 14 Vegetarian Foods That Have More Iron Than Meat: Your best meat-free options to boost your iron levels. November 18, 2016

Check out their comprehensive list with the amounts of iron per serving.

  1. Spinach
  2. Broccoli
  3. Lentils
  4. Kale
  5. Bok Choy
  6. Baked Potato
  7. Sesame Seeds
  8. Cashews
  9. Soybeans
  10. Chickpeas
  12. Swiss Chard
  13. Tofu
  14. Kidney Beans

This list adds a few more. One Green Planet: 10 Plant-based Foods Packed with Iron Take a look at the article for the amount of iron in each.

  2. Dried Fruit
  3. Blackstrap Molasses
  4. Dark Leafy Greens
  5. Spirulina
  6. Tofu
  7. Whole Grains
  8. Legumes
  9. Nuts
  10. Seeds

I have had a problem with Anemia my entire life. It isn’t bad, just low. I have never been able to give blood because of it. My doctors have always blamed my being a vegetarian as the problem. But here is the kicker 🙂 When I am following a strict vegan diet my numbers improve & I am no longer anemic. I don’t know why & my doctors just shake their collective heads. I think it is because I increase the veggies, fruits & whole grains in my diet & stop all dairy including eggs. This would decrease the chronic inflammatory process & would make sense.

I am not suggesting that you become a vegan if you are anemic. I am making a case for increasing the iron rich veggies, fruits & whole grains in your diet & not relying on just meat, poultry & fish for iron.

For those of us who are vegan, on the Forks over Knives website, What Is a Whole-Food, Plant-Based Diet?  BY , the erroneous idea of eating for just one nutrient is explained.

The idea of eating a particular food for one nutrient is pervasive in our culture. We have been led to believe we should eat meat for protein, dairy for calcium, fish for omega-3 fatty acids, and even tomatoes for lycopene, among many others. This sort of thinking is misguided and has caused grave harm to human health. The quest for protein, for example, has steered us toward meat consumption. In this quest, we not only consume protein in excess of our needs, but also many harmful substances like dietary cholesterol that are only present in animal foods.

No food is a single nutrient, and we should never think of foods in that way. Any given food has countless nutrients. What matters most is the overall nutrient profile, i.e., the whole package. Whole, plant-based foods contain all the essential nutrients (with the exception of vitamin B12), and in proportions that are more consistent with human needs than animal-based or processed foods. So our question is really this: Why waste any of what we eat on inferior packages? As long as—over time—we choose a variety of whole, plant-based foods, we will easily meet our nutritional needs.

Even on this diet, people sometimes tend to worry about eating a certain type of green vegetable for calcium, beans for protein, nuts for fat, and so on. We ask you to let go of that kind of thinking. The most important thing in this lifestyle is to choose the whole, plant-based food you enjoy most!” I have discussed how a whole food has thousands & maybe more pathways of information. The nutrients in each food works synergistically within the food & with other foods as well. Isolating one nutrient does not make sense.

Another good website to look at for vegans is Dr. Neal Bernard’s: 21 day Vegan Kickstart  & his Food For Life program.

Before I sign off, I want to share part of an email I received from our NUT, Terrie M, about last weeks post: Organic Imposters  I followed up on what she says & she is correct. This is a good example of store brands being legit. “I have checked out the Organic veggies when I find them at the 99 cent store. They are the same packages I see at Sprouts and Frazier Farms. The local company is identified on the package and invites a “check us out.” I did,  it is not day old, it is over picked and packaged surplus. Helps me greatly. I buy what they have, Spinach or other “greens…”  Thank you Terrie!

Until next week…Mary 🙂

Additional Resources


Organic Imposters


I was complaining to my husband last week about the prices we pay for organic products at our natural foods market. I was comparing them to what I could buy at Safeway; purchasing their store brand organic products. I was also comparing the prices for produce at our local farmers market. After researching for this post, freshness & quality at the farmers market & our local natural food store won over the cheaper prices at Safeway.

What I have wondered about for years: are there really enough small organic farms to supply big box stores like Walmart, Safeway, Target and others? I decided to do some investigating.

What I found was troubling at the very least. Big farms & dairy’s are the ones supplying the bigger stores. These large enterprises are certified organic, by some iffy certifiers, and are cutting corners. According to the following articles, cutting corners means not living up to the organic standards set by the FDA. For example some dairy’s are not allowing the cows outside as outlined in the standards but are factory farming. UGH 🙁

What are the standards? USDA Organic Production/Organic Food: Information Access Tools Everything you ever wanted to know about Organic food & organic certification. 

This is a very good article explaining the problem of organic impostors from my ECOWatch Newsletter: Here’s How to Boycott Organic Imposters By Katherine Paul and Ronnie Cummins, Organic Consumers Association,  A recent series of articles by a Washington Post reporter could have some consumers questioning the value of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) organic seal. But are a few bad eggs representative of an entire industry?

Consumers are all for cracking down on the fraudulent few who, with the help of Big Food, big retail chains and questionable certifiers give organics a bad name. But they also want stronger standards, and better enforcement—not a plan to weaken standards to accommodate “Factory Farm Organic.”

The article points out that their are about 25,000 honest organic producers & that they are being hurt by the dishonesty of the few. The authors list the ones that we, as consumers, need to watch out for. They also give you the following tools.

  • USDA Organic Integrity Database Organic Certifier locator.
  • The Cornucopia Institute Maintaining the Integrity of Organic Milk Provides links to information about organic dairies & their certifications.
  • Where is My Milk From? How it works: From the cow to your mouth. In five easy steps. Udder to pail. Pail to dairy. Dairy to grocery store. Grocery store to fridge. Fridge to mouth. We’ll let you take it from there. So where is your milk from? Locate the code on your carton or container, enter it above (go to website) and click Find It. You’ll instantly know which dairy your milk came from! The same goes for your yogurt, chocolate milk, soy or organic milk, coffee creamer, cottage cheese, ice cream, and more!
  • The Cornucopia Institute Choosing the best eggs As with the link to the dairy information, this link is all about organic eggs & how to choose them.

Very informative article. It confirmed my suspicions regarding big box stores & their private labels. Private labels are a good way of hiding the suppliers name. Not all private labels are fraudulent. Ask or use the above tools to track down the supplier of your favorite brand.

Organic Consumers Association   If you are truly interested in the latest in organic news, then I suggest that you subscribe to their newsletter. I do 🙂

Who owns who? This is an interesting site not only to see the Organic Industry structure now, but also the structure in 2007 to compare it to! Wow!  See other relevant info-graphics too at: Philip H. Howard Michigan State University  Click on the info-graph below to make it larger & then click again to zoom in.

What are the practical measures we can take to avoid these impostors? We can investigate every label & every certifier & boycott big box stores organic labels. That is not a practical choice for most of us. We are on a budget, and must be careful with each dollar spent on groceries.

Our first question to ourselves is why we are even buying organic. In my case it is a no brainer; for health. I see it as our health insurance. What is your answer? It will influence your buying decisions. 

Here are my steps to balance my budget & still be able to buy organic.

  • Buy local organic produce. Skip the oranges from Chili & the other out of season produce that you know had to come from another country or state. You can buy them locally when the season arrives.
  • Buy local organic products. Our natural foods store has a sign when a product such as honey, peanut butter, locally roasted coffee, olives & more are from a local farm, person, or company. Local means transported within one day from farm/factory to your store.
  • Use EWG’s Dirty Dozen & Clean 15 lists. I have the EWG App on my phone so I have it with me all the time.
  • I already use very few canned goods & rarely anything processed. It is amazing how easy it is to do without those items. I buy my beans & rice from bulk bins. Our store has their origin on the label of the bin.
  • I support my local farmers market during the season & our local organic farmer at his stand during the winter months.
  • I am going to stay out of Safeway & Fred Meyers (a Kroeger market). No Target or Costco up here & I have boycotted Walmart for hundreds of years 🙂  

What are you going to do? Don’t go with the fads or the headlines, or ME! 🙂 This is a personal choice. You need to decide what is right for you & your family.

This is a wonderful resource for your local farmers markets in San Diego County. Farm Bureau San Diego: San Diego County Certified Farmers’ Markets  Buy Local San Diego Produce by visiting one of the Certified Farmers’ Markets (CFM) in San Diego County allows you to experience agriculture. Farmers’ Markets provide venues for farmers to sell directly to consumers and supports small farming operations.

If you don’t live in San Diego County, then Google farmers markets in your county. 

I will continue to buy organic, support our local farmers & grow as much as we can. My budget will have to accommodate that choice. As I said earlier, this is our health insurance.

Until next week…Mary 🙂

July Nutrition Nuggets


I like to lead into our Nutrition Nuggets with a coffee article or research study. Did not expect this one! Washington Post: Coffee with Viagra-like ingredient recalled after FDA discovery By Alex Horton July 20  Ha! 🙂 No Comment! “The FDA announced last week that Yee’s company, Grand Prairie, Tex.-based Bestherbs Coffee LLC, is voluntarily recalling all lots of the uniquely spelled “New of Kopi Jantan Tradisional Natural Herbs Coffee” due to undeclared ingredients, including desmethyl carbodenafil and milk, sold between July 2014 and June 2016.” The desmethyl  carbodenafil is the problem. It is similar to Viagra.

I am big on telling you to read the labels before you buy anything new. Especially if you take any medications or have allergies. In this case the milk & herb were not declared on the ingredient list! The herb will interact with medications, especially nitrates. The milk could be dangerous for those with allergies or even sensitivities to dairy. 

There were no health issues reported to the FDA about this coffee. It is not clear why they were targeted by the agency. It is among other coffee brands laced with this herb that were recalled earlier this year & last year. Sigh…we need to be ever vigilant & stick with whole foods & familiar brands. 

There were two studies in the news about sugar. The first one is concerning the pairing of sugary drinks with high protein meals; think fast food & “super sizing”.  Drinking Sugary Drinks With High Protein Meals ‘May Prime The Body To Store More Fat’  07/21/17  The one quote in this article that stood out for me was that “sugary drinks are the largest single source of sugar in the American diet”The study showed that with an increase of protein & fat in the meal, paired with the sugary drink, the metabolism of the individual was impaired leading to storage of the energy as fat & weight gain. The study also found that the sugary drink did not satisfy the subject. They wanted more salty & spicy foods for hours after their meal. Good read.

The second study is in regards to artificial sweeteners. NPR…Artificial Sweeteners Don’t Help People Lose Weight, Review Finds, July 17, 2017, KATHERINE HOBSON  This is as a very good article to read. It explores various studies relating to artificial sweeteners and the reasons people use them. They are not used solely by people wanting to lose weight. They are, surprisingly, also used by people who feel they are a better, healthier, sweetener choice. The reasons that weight loss doesn’t follow when using artificial sweeteners are also looked at.

One of the studies they refer to, in this article, is from the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. Consumption of Low-Calorie Sweeteners among Children and Adults in the United States March 2017. “Our findings were that 25.1% of children and 41.4% adults reported consuming LCSs. Most LCS consumers reported use once daily (80% of children, 56% of adults) and frequency of consumption increased with body weight in adults. LCS consumption was higher in females compared with males among adults, and in obese individuals, compared with overweight and normal-weight individuals.” I was surprised at how many people, especially children, use artificial sweeteners. The numbers are even higher because they are in granola bars, energy bars & drinks that you wouldn’t know about unless you read the label. Thought provoking.

My personal opinion as to why people don’t lose weight & may even gain pounds, is twofold. One, because people add extra calories to their meal as a reward for drinking or eating products with artificial sweeteners in them. The second reason is that the body reacts to the brain saying we just ate something sweet. When it doesn’t find the sugar (just chemicals) it takes it out of our energy storage. Thus making us feel lethargic & needing more sugar. It ends up a circular process with no ending.

An added thought about weight gain…I found this video with Professor Traci Mann’s view on obesity refreshing. Take a look.  BBC: Think Again: ‘There is no obesity crisis’ A personal view from Professor Traci Mann, A film by Sahar Zand 

Alessandra sent me this very good article.  A Medicinal Shroom For Every Health Woe  The article starts out with “Medicinal mushrooms have been on the health scene for quite a few years now, but they’re just now reaching peak trendiness.” There are a few things to note about this information. 

These mushrooms have been prescribed & eaten by the people of Asia for millennium. The research we usually see is based on people who have been using them for generations. They are very important medicinally. Yet, like anything that has become “trendy” it has also become costly. Medicinal mushrooms are expensive.

Another thing to remember is that like herbs, to benefit your health, they must be taken/eaten daily. It takes at least 3 weeks for herbs to start to show their health benefits. Most Americans give up the first few days because they don’t see any benefit yet. Americans expect the mushrooms & herbs to be like aspirin, immediate relief.

My personal opinion is that these mushrooms are amazing. You can find them, dried & packaged, at Jimbo’s. You can also get them at a Chinese Herbalists. Just make sure that the Chinese Herbalist is trustworthy so that you get the correct mushroom & that it is safe to use. 

I use Mountain Rose Herbs to buy dried herbs & mushrooms that I can’t grow. Very respected company for their quality, safety & sustainable gathering practices. Here is their page for Mushrooms.

I am including this part for anyone with a gastric tube for nutritional purposes or needs an oral formula for added nutrition. I had the opportunity to research some of the liquid nutritional formulas being sold for home use.

Many patients I have helped in the past have wanted to make their own organic, whole food, liquid nutritional formula to put through their gastric tube. This way they could control the ingredients & calories. It is not only costly & time consuming, but you must plan ahead & have the equipment needed to puree the foods. If it isn’t pureed enough it could clog the tube.

I found two companies who make a good supplement for use with or without the liquid formulas you are sent home with. Make sure to check the calorie content. These are meant for gastric tubes not IV drips. If you have a j~tube, please consult your health care team before trying these.

Liquid Hope “Liquid Hope is the worlds first shelf stable organic whole foods feeding tube formula and oral meal replacement. Robin created Liquid Hope using the Functional Medicine/Food as Medicine model so each ingredient has been chosen for its potential to promote health and vitality and its ability to support the body’s natural immune system. When our bodies are given what they need… well let’s just say, food was our original medicine and Robin thought it was time to get back to our roots. This product is advertised as real food, plant based; dairy, gluten, soy, corn, GMO & BPA FREE! 450 calories per container. It can be used as a feeding tube formula or an oral meal replacement formula. Liquid Hope meets all food safety requirements and meets all GRAS, HACCP, CGMPS standards. Liquid Hope is processed in a FDA/USDA registered facility with USDA inspector on site. SID#: 2013-06-12/001 This is impressive. It is also Medicaid & Medicare approved. Other insurances may approve it also. The site has a billing code for them.

Real Food Blends  Originally inspired by their young tube-fed son, AJ, who is now the company’s “Chief Inspiration Officer”, and a belief that we all deserve real food, Julie and Tony Bombacino sought to create a company that provided easy access to 100% real food meals and nutritional variety to tube-fed people and their families, at home or on the go. Years later and with well over 1 million meals sold, you will still only find 100% real food in our meals. No corn syrup, preservatives or synthetic additives/fillers – just a variety of simple real ingredients to nourish your body and soul.” This brand is not organic or GMO free, but it is made with whole foods. Look at the nutrition labels, no chemicals added. It has 330 ~ 340 calories per container. It advertises that it is covered by many major insurances. Good choice for people who have financial issues.

Study finds a major uptick in calls to poison control centers over dietary supplements  By ABC NEWS Jul 24, 2017  Watch the video first. It gives an overview of the study. The increase in calls, by 50%, was not about life threatening situations but more about small problems. I agree with the reporter; I too was stunned by the fact that the majority of the calls, 70%, were about children 6 years old & under. Some of the children were given supplements by their parents/caregivers & some found opened bottles & ate them. 

The marketing of supplements has lulled the public into thinking they are natural & therefore safe. This is far from the truth. They are like any other medication. They can have side effects & interact with other supplements, over the counter medications & prescription drugs. It is important to research the brand & find companies that self regulate or have joined a group of other companies to regulate their products. was mentioned in the report. It is a very reliable source for identifying pills & finding any interactions with your prescriptions. Bookmark it for future use.

275,000 calls to poison control centers for dietary supplement exposures, study finds. Researchers calling for FDA regulation of yohimbe, energy products. July 24, 2017 Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Summary: US Poison Control Centers receive a call every 24 minutes, on average, regarding dietary supplement exposures. According to the study authors, lack of federal oversight has led to inconsistencies in the quality of dietary supplements, product mislabeling and contamination with other substances.

Researchers are not alone in calling for more FDA regulations of supplements. I have always been against it. With all the recalls recently of adulterated supplements & beauty products, I feel I must reevaluate my stance on this issue. Times change. 🙁

The coconut oil debate is not going to go away as seen in the emails I have received. There are ongoing debates concerning the American Heart Association’s announcement that coconut oil is a saturated fat which can cause heart disease & increase your cholesterol. This announcement stirred reporters to write sensational headlines causing a fierce debate within the medical & nutritional community about coconut oil. I believe the problem is solely semantics. Is coconut oil HEALTHY, is it DANGEROUS. The actual debate should have been about saturated fat. Recent research does not support their, the AHA’s, findings. 

I didn’t read anywhere that coconut oil is really dangerous, except for in those sensational headlines. What I did read is that it, coconut oil, is without a doubt a saturated fat. Saturated fats are okay to use when used in moderation. Bacon is okay when eaten occasionally. The issue is with those people who use coconut oil in EVERYTHING! The way it has been used/abused in the name of “health” is the problem; more than the oil itself.

I continue to use it as a substitute for Crisco or butter in recipes. When I want a buttery taste on popcorn or in a dish I have made, I use Nutritional Yeast. Once again, MODERATION is the last word!

Interesting topics coming up for our August blog posts. Check back every week…Mary 🙂 

Elimination Diet

Elimination diets can be quite helpful when you & your health care team cannot explain that rash, bloating, diarrhea, constipation or other mysterious digestive & health related symptoms. It could be food allergies, sensitivities or an intolerance caused by something in your diet.

If you think you have a food allergy or if you have had a severe reaction to a food then you need to be under the care of a physician. In extreme cases, eliminating the suspected food & then reintroducing it may trigger a severe reaction like *anaphylactic shock.  

An elimination diet is the removal of foods that you or your health care team think are causing these issues. My favorite way of identifying these foods is by keeping a food diary & noting when you have any symptoms & more importantly, describing them. Another way is to eliminate the foods that are known to be a food allergen. 

There is a difference between allergic reactions to foods & being sensitive or intolerant of a food or food group. An allergic reaction is much more serious & is caused by your immune system. The symptoms for an allergic response can be as simple as a rash, itchy eyes, runny nose to more serious reactions like gasping for breath. These can occur within minutes or hours of eating something that your immune system sees as a threat. 

Most food problems are from a sensitivity or intolerance of a food item or group. This is usually experienced as a digestive upset; cramps, diarrhea, bloating or gas. These symptoms are not related to an immune response. 

According to the Mayo Clinic’s All About Food Allergies,Some of the most common food allergens include:

  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Peanuts
  • Shellfish
  • Tree nuts
  • Soy
  • Fish

I would include wheat & wheat gluten to the list. Intolerance or a sensitivity to these two have been on the rise as I discussed in earlier posts. Processed foods & alcohol should also be on the list. Processed foods have hidden ingredients; those that are under the percentage that must be listed on labels by FDA rules. 

Lets look at the safest way to use an elimination diet for an allergy, sensitivity or intolerance to a food item or group.

To do this correctly it will take up to 6 weeks. During that time you should plan your diet carefully to make sure you are getting the nutrients you just eliminated. For example, if you have eliminated all dairy, make sure you are getting enough protein & calcium from another source. 

The article that I found most helpful is from Authority Nutrition How to Do an Elimination Diet and Why By Ryan Raman, MS, RD | July 2, 2017  The author discusses what an elimination diet is, how it works, what you can & can’t eat, the benefits & risks. If you are even thinking about an elimination diet this article is a must read.

Under the section, How it Works, Mr. Raman explains the two phases of an elimination diet: the elimination phase & the reintroduction phase. If your symptoms persist after eliminating the foods you thought were the culprits, you need to speak with your health care team. He describes how to reintroduce foods slowly, one at a time, over a period of days & what symptoms to watch for.

In his last paragraph, The Bottom Line, he  makes several good points to remember. The first is that an elimination diets should not be used with children without the supervision of a physician or certified dietitian. And the other point that I find extremely important is that an elimination diet is for short term only, because restricting your diet for long periods of time will lead to nutritional deficiencies. 

This is my favorite handout to print & use when you are doing an elimination diet. It is from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine & Public Health: Elimination Diet Handout  It has an example of an elimination diet calendar, it helps you to plan, has helpful tips & ends with a one week food diary chart. 

Still need information?

The Easy Way to Figure Out If You Have a Food Intolerance   JUNE 9, 2015/BY AMY SHAH  “Amy Shah, M.D., is a premier medical doctor specializing in food allergies, hormones and gut health.” A very good & informative article. It has an info-graph with 4 phases of what to eliminate when. 

A very simple plan from the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs: Simple Elimination Diet “The purpose of an elimination diet is to discover symptom-triggering foods. Everyone’s body responds to foods differently. If we are sensitive to a food, there are a host of symptoms our body can respond with, such as headaches, skin rashes, joint pains, and digestive problems, just to name a few.” 

Both of these articles have lists of what you can eat. Makes it easier to plan 🙂 As mentioned in the simple plan: “The more whole, unprocessed foods you eat the better it is for you, your sensitivities, and your immune system!” 

If you are in treatment, please speak with your healthcare team before you start an elimination diet. You don’t want to do anything that would compromise your immune system.

Next week: Nutrition Nuggets from July. Many to choose from! See you then…Mary 🙂

Additional information:

*Anaphylactic shock: an extreme, often life-threatening allergic reaction to an antigen to which the body has become hypersensitive.

Essential Oils

Herbs by MHollander

I am writing this post in response to several emails I have received recently about essential oils. This is a huge subject. What are essential oils? Are they regulated by the FDA? How are they made? Are there any safety issues?  When & how do you use them? These are great questions, keep reading for the answers!

On the FDA website, there is a page devoted to Aromatherapy. Under the law, how “aromatherapy” products are regulated depends mainly on how they are intended to be used.

FDA determines a product’s intended use based on factors such as claims made in the labeling, on websites, and in advertising, as well as what consumers expect it to do. We also look at how a product is marketed, not just a word or phrase taken out of context. Finally, we make decisions on a case-by-case basis.

If a product is intended for a therapeutic use, such as treating or preventing disease, or to affect the structure or function of the body, it’s a drug. For example, claims that a product will relieve colic, ease pain, relax muscles, treat depression or anxiety, or help you sleep are drug claims.

Such claims are sometimes made for products such as soaps, lotions, and massage oils containing “essential oils” and marketed as “aromatherapy.” The fact that a fragrance material or other ingredient comes from a plant doesn’t keep it from being regulated as a drug.

Under the law, drugs must meet requirements such as FDA approval for safety and effectiveness before they go on the market. To find out if a product marketed with drug claims is FDA-approved, contact FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER), at

This is important to know. If you see an essential oil that claims to cure cancer it is considered a drug & is subject to the same regulations as any medication. More than likely it is a false claim & should be reported to the FDA. I am not in favor of “over regulation” by the FDA but I am in favor of protecting vulnerable populations.

Essential oils have been very popular for several years.  Mountain Rose Herbs  sells 42 different essential oils. Other companies sell over 80 essential oil singles. There are countless numbers of combinations of oils sold as well. Amazing selections!

On the Skin Deep Cosmetic Data Base site, you can search for the safety of a product with essential oils or an essential oil itself by company. Here are examples for my search of the essential oils by NOW 

Essential Oils are an exceptionally concentrated oil that has been extracted from a plant by steaming, pressing or by a solvent. The preferred way is by steaming or pressing. The extraction process is dependent upon the plant. Some are very fragile & require a specific type of process. The resulting oil smells like the original plant & is volatile, which means it can evaporate easily at normal temperatures.

If you are interested in the different processes of extraction, NAHA, National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy, has a very thorough article on the subject. How Are Essential Oils Extracted? 

Essential oils can be used in cosmetics, cleaning solutions, lotions, creams, salves, steam inhalers, as aromatherapy & more. There are some basic facts that you should be aware of before using them. For more safety guidelines click here

  • They should be used externally in a carrier oil only. Never directly on the skin.
  • Essential oils should never be taken internally/by mouth. University of Maryland Medical Center: “You should never take essential oils by mouth unless you are under the supervision of a trained professional. Some oils are toxic, and taking them by mouth could be fatal. Be cautious with the words Trained Professional.
  • Use in a diffuser for aromatherapy. Don’t overheat the essential oil.
  • To use medicinally in a steam inhaler, use a small amount of the oil. Inhale a few times only. Prolonged use could cause problems.
  • Pregnant women & people with severe allergies, asthma or lung conditions should avoid using them. University of Maryland Medical Center: Should Anyone Avoid Aromatherapy? “Pregnant women, people with severe asthma, and people with a history of allergies should only use essential oils under the guidance of a trained professional and with full knowledge of your physician. Pregnant women and people with a history of seizures should avoid hyssop oil. People with high blood pressure should avoid stimulating essential oils, such as rosemary and spike lavender. People with estrogen dependent tumors (such as breast or ovarian cancer) should not use oils with estrogen like compounds such as fennel, aniseed, sage, and clary-sage. People receiving chemotherapy should talk to their doctor before trying aromatherapy.
  • A little bit goes a long way. 
  • Read the labels. Research the companies you want to buy from. The bottle should say 100% pure essential oil. Here is an example of some of the information you should see: Lavender I would also look for the scientific name & the part used to make sure they used the correct plant & the correct part of the plant; roots, seeds, leaves or blossoms.
  • Use only Organic essential oils. They come from plants & could have toxic pesticide residue on them. Research the companies!

I don’t have the time or the room on our Blog to list all the essential oils & their various uses. I will concentrate on the most popular essential oils. The uses I have listed have not all been verified by research or the FDA. They are from personal experience, articles by herbalists or physicians I trust, or anecdotal. ***See the end of this post for links to peer review journals for essential oil research & research articles.

Aromatherapy essential Oils for congestion & cough: Use these in a diffuser or humidifier~ using the manufacturers instructions~ in the “sick” room. Do not use directly on the skin or internally. You can also put a few drops of the essential oil onto a cotton ball & place it on your bedside table or even in your pillow case.

  • Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) essential oil: Congestion & cough. Anti-microbial.
  • Camphor (Cinnamomum camphora) essential oilCongestion. Can be combined with eucalyptus for use in diffuser/humidifier. Add equal drops.
  • Peppermint (Mentha Piperitaessential) oil: Congestion & headache. Anti-bacterial.
  • Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) essential oil: Congestion & cough.
  • Tea Tree (Melaleuca Alternifolia) essential oilClears sick room; anti-viral. Congestion & cough.
  • Oregano (Origanum vulgare) essential oil: Proven antibacterial. Fights sinus infections.
  • Orange (Citrus Sinensis) essential oil: Stimulates appetite. Add a drop to your place-mat or napkin.

Aromatherapy essential oils used for relaxation in a diffuser. I also combine the ones I like in a small spray bottle of water. A few drops of each is all that is needed. The following oils have been used to help with anxiety, stress & depression.

  • Bergamot: From the peel of citrus fruit, Citrus Bergamia, 
  • Chamomile: My pick would be Matricaria Chamomilla It can also be used to help with migraines.
  • Jasmine: Jasminum Grandiflorum.
  • Lavender: Lavendula Angustifolia, intensely calming. I combine this with lemon grass & chamomile in a spray bottle to use in my treatment room before my clients enter. 
  • Lemon: Citrus Limon.
  • Orange: Citrus Sinensis Brightens mood.
  • Rose: My favorite is Rosa Rugosa. 
  • Sandlewood: It is endangered due to over harvest in India. I would use this one:,Australian Sandalwood, Santalum Spicatum. It is being grown ethically on plantations.

These are a few essential oils that your can add to a carrier oil to use topically. Always test a patch of skin to see if you have a reaction. My favorite natural carrier oils to use are: Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Sweet Almond Oil, Jojoba Oil, Shea Butter or Vitamin E Oil. Yes, you can use Coconut Oil too. These oils have healing properties of their own. Vitamin E oil is also used as a preservative in salves, creams etc. This is a good guide for you from Healing Solutions: An Essential Oil Dilution Guide for Beginners and Beyond.

  • Peppermint oil: Mentha Piperita In a carrier oil it can be rubbed into your temples for headache relief. I also rub it under my nose to help a headache.
  • Tea Tree Oil: Melaleuca Alternifolia This oil should only be used topically with a carrier oil if used directly on your skin or nails. You can use it without the carrier oil but it is very harsh. I use it with carrier oils or add it to my homemade healing salves. It is an antimicrobial. It’s well known for it’s anti-fungal properties. You can add it to a steam inhaler, use a small amount, for lung & sinus infections. 

A few other oils people like to use topically are: Frankincense, Lavender, Sandalwood, Cinnamon, Clove, Oregano,Thyme & Lemon.

Another good article & guide is by Sustainable Baby Steps: How to Use Essential Oils with Four Applications Methods

Other Essential Oils that are popular & their uses.

  • Clove: Syzygium aromaticum Clove oil has been used for centuries for toothaches. It is our go to for a painful tooth or gum. It has an anesthetic, antibacterial & anti-inflammatory effect. Remember it is only a temporary solution. See your dentist if the pain persists.
  • Lemon Grass: Cymbopogon flexuosus One of my favorites. Very refreshing. This scent is all I need for those time I am tired & need a lift!
  • Pine: Pinus sylvestris Another uplifting scent. It is also invigorating. Combine with Cedarwood (Cedrus atlantica) & Juniper Berry (Juniperus communis) for a fresh forest scent.
  • Rosemary: Rosmarinus Officinalis Primarily used as aromatherapy to improve memory.

A couple of my favorite “recipes” for summer:

Natural Insect Repellant Spray  from the American college of Healthcare Sciences. Read the article about other essential oils to repel insects.

  • Lavender: Lavandula angustifolia oil: 15 drops
  • Lemon eucalyptus: Eucalyptus citriodora oil: 10 drops
  • Tea tree Australia: Melaleuca alternifolia oil: 10 drops
  • Lime Citrus: aurantifolia oil: 6 drops
  • Bergamot Citrus: aurantium var. bergamia oil: 6 drops
  • Distilled water: 2 ounces
  • Vinegar from your kitchen: 2 ounces (I prefer white vinegar, but apple cider works too! Leave the balsamic for the Caprese salad!)

Blend all the ingredients and put into a spray bottle. Shake well before using. Note: Both bergamot and lime are photosensitive oils. This is an aromatic blend meant to be diffused into the air around you and is not intended for topical or internal use. I make a similar one by adding Yarrow Oil (Achillea millefolium) to the same mix. I use 80 proof vodka rather than vinegar. I do this because I use it when I make tinctures. They last a long time.

DIY Hand Sanitizer by Live Simply  We love this hand sanitizer. I keep a glass bottle with a regular cap in the car & I have a plastic spray bottle to use when hiking. We have found that it also repels bugs! 🙂 Spray it on your hat.

Ingredients I found Thayer’s Witch Hazel with pure Aloe & Lavender. Makes it easier to put this together.

  • 3 TB aloe vera Get pure aloe vera. Check the labels!
  • 2 TB witch hazel or rubbing alcohol, if using alcohol reduce to 1 TB We only use witch hazel in our house. It is a great wound cleaner.
  • 1/2 tsp vitamin E oil You can get this in a small bottle or you can open capsules if you have them.
  • 16 drops tea tree Australia (Melaleuca alternifolia) oil
  • 8 drops lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) essential oil

I am going to add eucalyptus oil next time. Just a thought.

Instructions: I use a dark colored bottle.

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. To use the hand sanitizer store in a small jar or a squeeze tube. I also use these tubes for homemade toothpaste. Note: This recipe will make 2 fl oz (one tube.)

This is a simple way to make your own Lip Balm from MaryJanesFarm Magazine. 

Love this from HealingSolutions: RE-CREATING (10) OF OUR FAVORITE FALL SCENTS: Use these recipes to reawaken fall-time memories, freshen up your workplace and/or living environment, and promote good health in both body and mind!

I make my own herbal medicinal salves & tinctures. I use the herbs from my garden & I buy essential oils to add to the salves if needed. I make cleansing sprays for the house from water & essential oils & I use them in the cleaning supplies I make. My favorite scent right now is either lemon or orange. So refreshing.

Don’t be afraid to use essential oils, just follow the safety guidelines, read the labels & research the companies.

Until next week…Mary 🙂 

Research Articles for Essential Oil use:

  • American Journal of Essential Oils and Natural Products is a Peer Reviewed Journal. Prime Focus of the Journal is to publish articles related to the current trends of research. This Journal provides the platform with the aim of motivating the students and personals in the Essential Oil and Phytochemistry Research and Development.
  • Journal of Essential Oil Research  The Journal of Essential Oil Research (JEOR) is the major forum for the publication of essential oil research and analysis. Each issue includes studies performed on the chemical composition of some of the 20,000 aromatic plants known in the plant kingdom. JEOR is devoted entirely to all phases of research from every corner of the world by the experts in their field. JEOR can provide you with the information that you need to complete vital research projects. In a day and age of rapidly changing technology. JEOR can help keep you up to date on the latest discoveries. This is a journal from the UK. Very good information on research. You can see a summary for free, if you want access to the research you will have to pay for it.
  • International Journal of Advanced Biological and Biomedical Research (IJABBR) is a monthly open access, peer reviewed and international journal published by Center of Advanced Scientific Research and Publications (CASRP) in United Kingdom from September, 2015. IJABBR will be published high quality and novelty papers focusing on Biological and Biomedical Research.
  • Essential Oils for Complementary Treatment of Surgical Patients: State of the Art  Susanna Stea, Alina Beraudi, and Dalila De Pasquale 2014
  • Science Daily: Orange essential oil may help alleviate post-traumatic stress disorder Researchers find evidence that essential oil reduces fear, diminishes immune system markers of stress in mice. April 24, 2017