• Have You Had Your Fermented Foods Today?

    (Originally posted February 6, 2013 at

    Whether it’s sauerkraut from Eastern Europe, miso from Japan, or yogurt from Bulgaria, cultures worldwide have appreciated the unique benefits of fermented foods for thousands of years. Traditionally, people have used fermentation to preserve foods or to make them more digestible; in the process, they found that these foods also kept them healthy.

    Naturally fermented, unpasteurized foods are rich in a variety of helpful bacteria called probiotics, and research shows that these beneficial microbes provide essential support for gastrointestinal, immunological, and overall health. There are many good reasons for including naturally fermented foods in your daily diet:

    • The regular consumption of fermented foods helps to restore the proper balance of beneficial bacteria in the intestinal tract. Many common health issues (including irritable bowel syndrome, yeast infections, allergies, asthma, and eczema) appear to be rooted in a lack of healthful intestinal flora.
    • A healthy population of beneficial bacteria forms a living barrier that prevents harmful microbes from entering the blood and lymph through the intestinal walls. Although we may not think of our digestive tract as having much to do with immune function, almost 80 percent of our immune system is located in the intestinal tract, providing first-line defense against ingested toxins and pathogenic bacteria.
    • Fermentation improves the digestibility of foods. For example, many people who are lactose-intolerant and can’t drink milk can eat yogurt, sour cream, kefir, or other fermented dairy products. This is because beneficial bacteria digest lactose during the fermentation process.
    • The probiotics contained in fermented foods assist the body in its natural detoxification processes, including helping to extract and neutralize heavy metals and environmental toxins.
    • Fermented foods help us to better absorb the nutrients that we consume. By improving digestion, you improve absorption.
    • Eating fermented foods regularly is associated with a significant reduction in cancer. Miso, in particular, offers profound protection from radiation toxicity.

    In recent history, fermented foods have all but disappeared from the modern American diet, much to the detriment of our digestive health and overall wellbeing. Many foods that were formerly excellent sources of probiotics (such as sauerkraut, pickles, olives, yogurt, sour cream, and cheese) are now subjected to pasteurization, which eradicates beneficial bacteria.

    One of my favorite fermented foods is miso. It’s versatile and tasty and can be added to soups, stews, salad dressings, sauces, or made into a spread. We always have at least a couple of different varieties of miso—both dark and light—in the refrigerator.

    Dark (red) miso is saltier and considered more suitable for winter. A bowl of red miso soup garnished with scallions is the perfect remedy for helping to ward off fall and winter colds. Light (white) miso is sweeter and less salty, which makes it more appropriate for spring and summer.

    Try these simple recipes that we enjoy at home:

    Miso-Carrot-Ginger Salad Dressing

    • 2 tablespoons sesame seed oil (untoasted)
    • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
    • 2 oz. rice vinegar
    • 3 tablespoons white miso
    • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into small pieces
    • 1-inch gingerroot, peeled and cut into small pieces, or 1-2 tsp. ginger juice
    • 1 clove garlic
    • 1-2 teaspoons raw honey
    • 1 tsp. tamari
    • ¼ tsp. turmeric powder
    • salt and pepper (white or black), to taste


    1. Put all ingredients except salt and pepper into a blender or food processor; pulse briefly several times to begin combining ingredients.
    2. Let machine run for a minute or so until mixture is chunky-smooth.
    3. Add salt and pepper to taste and drizzle over mixed greens.

    Sesame-Miso Spread

    This simple and tasty spread goes well on bread or toast, rice cakes, crackers or chapatis. Makes 1/2 cup.


    • 4 tablespoons tahini
    • 4 tablespoons water
    • 1 level tablespoon brown rice or barley miso
    • 1 rounded tablespoon minced onion, scallion, or chives
    • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil or 1 teaspoon fresh chopped basil (optional)


    1. Mix all ingredients thoroughly in a small saucepan or skillet and bring slowly to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring constantly.
    2. Gently simmer for 1 to 2 minutes while stirring constantly, remove from heat. If too thick, stir in more water, one teaspoon at a time.

    Gingery Miso Spread

    This delicious spread is quick and very easy to make. For a mild flavor, use mellow white, yellow, or chickpea miso. For a bolder, saltier flavor, use red miso.


    • 2 Tbsp miso paste
    • 3 Tbsp toasted sesame tahini
    • 1 Tbsp water
    • Fresh lemon juice, to taste
    • 1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger root, plus juice
    • 1 clove garlic, pressed
    • 1 Tbsp slivered scallion greens or chives


    1. In a small bowl, combine all ingredients, mixing until smooth.
    2. Spread a thin layer on bread or crackers.

    Miso Vegetable Soup

    This soup makes a healthful lunch and is especially beneficial when recovering from a cold or flu. I also recommend miso soup for weight loss; enjoy a cup before 1-2 meals a day. Feel free to substitute whatever seasonal vegetables you have on hand. You can use tempeh instead of tofu, which is another naturally fermented food. This recipe serves 4.


    • 1 onion, thinly sliced
    • 3 carrots, sliced into matchsticks
    • 2 stalks celery, chopped
    • 1/3 pound tofu, cubed
    • 3 tablespoons sesame oil
    • 4 cups vegetable stock
    • 1 strip kombu or wakame
    • Fresh juice from 1 small piece ginger
    • Splash of tamari
    • 2-3 teaspoons miso
    • 1 scallion, sliced thinly


    1. Sauté onion, carrots, celery, and tofu in sesame oil.
    2. Add stock, kombu, ginger, and tamari. Simmer for 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
    3. Dilute miso with a small amount of hot broth, add to soup, and stir well.
    4. Garnish with scallions and serve.
  • Do You Know What's in Your Supplements?

    (Originally posted January 8, 2013 at

    Vitamin and mineral supplements can be found almost everywhere these days—grocery and convenience stores, big box discount stores, and drugstores commonly carry a plethora of supplements, and online retailers offer thousands of choices of every supplement imaginable. The supplement industry is enormous—it’s estimated that one of every three American adults uses nutritional supplements on a regular basis.

    On the one hand, I’m pleased to see the exponential growth of the supplement industry—it’s an indicator that people are increasingly interested in natural approaches to health. On the other hand, I’m concerned about the quality of the supplements that are flooding the market. I’ve spent decades working with supplements—my education is in clinical nutrition and medical herbalism, and in the early 80’s I owned a health food store, where I gained a great deal of knowledge about the supplement industry. For the past 25 years, I’ve practiced as a clinician, creating healing protocols for people with serious illnesses. I believe in the use of supplements—they provide concentrated nutrition and dosages of healing nutrients that are unobtainable by diet alone. Nutritional supplements are an essential part of my practice, and I personally take a variety of supplements.

    However—and this is a big however—nutritional supplements are only as good as the raw ingredients from which they are made. Unfortunately, the majority of nutritional supplements are made in a laboratory from synthetic ingredients. These man-made chemicals are called isolated chemical nutrients, or USP (United States Pharmacopeia) vitamins and minerals. Many of these nutrients are made using toxic substances, such as petroleum esters, formaldehyde, and acetylene. An additional problem is that the body does not recognize USP isolates in the same way as nutrients from real food.

    USP isolates are analogous to refined foods; for example, while organic unrefined brown rice is a nutritious dietary choice, refined white rice has been stripped of nutrients and does not support health. Another example is the misguided notion of using only egg whites to make omelets or scrambled eggs; while whole organic eggs from free-range chickens are an excellent source of phospholipids, carotenoids, B-vitamins, iron, and sulfur, egg whites merely contain protein. For the most part, foods that have been refined are not the best choices for long-term health, and the same is true for dietary supplements.

    For this reason, in creating Natura’s formulas I have chosen as much as possible to use Re-Natured® vitamins and minerals (from Grow Company, Inc.), which offers nutrients in a form similar to those found in food. Grow-Nutrients® utilizes a single-celled yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) that is grown in enriched molasses under carefully controlled conditions. The culture is then fed specific concentrations of vitamins and minerals. S. Cerevisiae takes up the micronutrients during growth and metabolization, and thus the vitamins and minerals become bioavailable through the yeast. Another Grow nutrient source is their Biogrow® vitamin and mineral technology, in which natural products derived from a pure culture of Lactobacillus bulgaricus are grown in enriched media under carefully controlled conditions. These forms of nutrients are similar to how they would be found in plants grown in nutrient dense soils. Not only are these nutrients natural and non-toxic, they are also much more bioavailable, because the body readily recognizes them as nutrients.

    The Natura formulas that contain Re-Natured® nutrients are Cell GuardianUp-LiftIG Sensitizer.

    Re-Natured® vitamins and minerals are an excellent source of complex carbohydrates (beta-1, 3-glucans and mannan), dietary fiber, SOD (superoxide dismutase), and glutathione (an antioxidant found in yeast that plays a major role in cellular defense mechanisms). These products are not derived from dairy (such as whey yeast), nor do they contain added sugars, colorants, or preservatives.

    Studies have proven that Re-Natured® nutrients are better absorbed, retained and utilized than any USP or chelated nutrient. There have been over 50 studies performed on Re-Natured® nutrients, many of which have been peer reviewed and published in reputable journals. Following is a summary of the findings:

    USP nutrients vs. Re-Natured® nutrients
    Vitamin A 1.54 times more absorbed into blood
    Vitamin B-1, Thiamin 1.38 times more absorbed into blood
    Vitamin B-2, Riboflavin 1.92 times more retained in the liver
    Vitamin B-3, Niacinamide 3.94 times more absorbed into blood
    Vitamin B-6 2.54 times more absorbed into blood
    Vitamin B-9, Folate 2.13 times more retained in the liver
    Vitamin B-12 2.56 times more absorbed into blood
    Vitamin C 1.74 times more absorbed into red blood cells
    Up to 15.6 times the antioxidant effect
    Vitamin E 2.60 times more absorbed into blood
    Up to 7.02 times more retained by the body
    Calcium 8.79 times more absorbed into blood
    Chromium 3.56 times more effective reducing fasting
    glucose Up to 25 times more bioavailable
    Copper 1.85 times more retained in the liver
    Iron 1.77 times more absorbed into blood
    Magnesium 2.20 times more absorbed into the blood
    Manganese 1.63 times more retained in the liver
    Molybdenum 16.49 times more absorbed into blood
    Selenium 17.60 times greater antioxidant effect
    Zinc 6.46 times more absorbed into blood
    Vitamin ‘H’ Biotin Over 100 times the biotin activity

    Of course, I’m always interested in clinical studies, which provide further information as to the efficacy of nutrients in actual patient trials. In a study on the clinical effects of Re-Natured® nutrients and colon polyps, Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland conducted a one month trial using Re-Natured® nutrients vitamin C and beta-carotene (Cahill, et al., 1992). The study was conducted on participants with abnormal cells in their colon polyps, and thus at high risk of colon cancer.

    The control group with a higher initial level of abnormal cells in their colon polyps who took no supplements saw no change, but for those taking Re-Natured® supplements, the effects were dramatic. (Participants took 9mg of Re-Natured® Beta-Carotene daily in one group, and another group took 750 mg daily of Re-Natured® Vitamin C.)

    While the control group taking no supplements showed no signs of improvement, the Re-Natured® Beta-Carotene group experienced a significant drop in abnormal cells in colon polyps, and the group that took Re-Natured®Vitamin C actually experienced a drop of abnormal cells in their colon polyps that was even lower than in the normal groups. The results were so astonishing that the study was continued for a full year.

    Finally, it’s important to me that Re-Natured® nutrients have been proven to be much safer than USP isolates. For example, a study on selenium (Vinson, 1981) found that selenium as sodium selenite (the USP form) has a 2.94 higher lethal dose than Re-Natured® selenium.  This is because sodium selenite, as with all other isolated nutrients, is not found in nature’s food complexes.They are simply isolated chemicals. If you analyze yeast, which has a natural affinity towards selenium, you will never find the isolated nutrient sodium selenite. When yeast is fed the important isolated nutrient during its growth stage, the yeast metabolizes the isolated nutrient, and is now organically bound in its natural food complex, without the remainders of toxic isolated chemical components. Grown By Nature’s Re-Natured® Selenium & Amino Acid Complex is not toxic because it is found in a food complex, not as an isolated chemical.

  • A Healthy Holiday Treat: Chocolate Brownies

    (Originally published December 28, 2012 at

    As I write this, our home is filled with the welcoming scent of home-baked cookies. Over the past few weeks, Jen and I (with plenty of help from our children) have been busy baking treats for the holidays, which we enjoy sharing with family, friends, and neighbors. I believe that treats can be a part of a healthy diet, if made with good quality ingredients and eaten in moderation.

    Dark chocolate, in particular, provides a sweet, sensual, and sin-free pleasure food as well as some significant health benefits. Chocolate is a good source of magnesium, a nutrient that many people don’t get enough of in their diets. Chocolate also contains phenylethylamine (PEA), a natural compound that promotes mental alertness, clarity, and enhances the ability to concentrate and retain information (dark chocolate has even been shown in studies to reduce the onset of dementia). Many people feel happier and calmer after consuming a bit of chocolate, and there’s a scientific reason: Chocolate contains the amino acid tryptophan, which makes the neurotransmitter known as serotonin; together with the neurotransmitters dopamine, and the compounds phenylethylamine (PEA) and anandamide (known as the “bliss chemical”), these natural compounds exert beneficial effects on the brain and nervous system and help to prevent depression. Finally, research indicates that dark chocolate has positive effects on blood pressure and insulin sensitivity, apparently through reducing inflammation.

    To be beneficial, chocolate must be dark (milk or white chocolate doesn’t have the same healthful properties). The cacao bean from which chocolate is made is rich in antioxidant phytochemicals known as flavanols, however, the concentration of the flavanols in chocolate depends on how the cacao bean is processed. When choosing chocolate, buy dark, good quality chocolate (at least 70% cacao content or higher). For baking chocolate, choose unsweetened cocoa powder that has not been “Dutch processed” (a process that washes the beans with an alkali substance that destroys the beneficial flavanols).

    These brownies are made with rich dark unsweetened cocoa powder, which is an excellent source of healthful polyphenols (our favorite cocoa powder is Dagoba or Ghirardelli). They also contain coconut in several forms: coconut flour makes them appropriate for those who must avoid gluten, and coconut oil provides beneficial medium chain triglycerides, which have been shown to increase beneficial HDL cholesterol. Coconut oil is a good substitute for butter in any recipe. Sweetness is provided by coconut palm sugar, a natural sugar lower on the glycemic index that doesn’t wreak havoc with blood sugar levels. Finally, they’re loaded with shredded coconut, pecans, and dark chocolate chips. These brownies are a delicious, satisfying, and healthful holiday treat. Enjoy!

    Healthy Chocolate Brownies


    • 1/3 cup coconut oil (plus additional for pan)
    • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 6 eggs
    • 1 cup coconut palm sugar
    • ¼  teaspoon sea salt
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • ½ teaspoon powdered cinnamon
    • ½ cup coconut flour
    • ½ cup roughly chopped pecans, lightly toasted
    • ½ cup flaked coconut (unsweetened)
    • ½ cup bittersweet dark chocolate chips


    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 8×8 baking pan with coconut oil.
    2. Melt 1/3 cup coconut oil in saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and mix thoroughly. Set aside and let cool.
    3. In large mixing bowl, beat together eggs, sugar, salt, and vanilla. Add cooled coconut oil-cocoa mixture and blend.
    4. Add coconut flour and cinnamon, blending until smooth.
    5. Stir in pecans, coconut, and chocolate chips.
    6. Spread batter into prepared pan, and bake in preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until done. (Brownies are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.)

    Cool, and cut into 16 pieces.

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