Tea is one of the most versatile and well-loved beverages out there! It can help us kickstart a sleepy morning, or it can keep us company on a cold winter day. In the 4000-plus years since its origin, tea has become one of the most popular beverages in the world (second only to water). And, it just so happens that tea is just as health promoting as it is delicious!

“True” tea—opposed to herbal infusions we sometimes call tea (such as chamomile tea or rooibos tea)—is made from leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, an evergreen shrub native to China and Southeast Asia. Depending on how these leaves are harvested and processed, we end up with one of five different types of tea:

  • White tea, which is made from young tea leaves and unopened buds that are picked and allowed to naturally dry.
  • Green tea, which is made from leaves that are picked, withered, heat-treated (steaming or firing) to prevent oxidation, and rolled.
  • Oolong tea, which is made from leaves that are repeatedly rolled and oxidized many times over the course of hours or even days.
  • Black tea, which is made similarly to oolong tea but is allowed to oxidize more completely.
  • Pu-erh tea, which is made from leaves that have been prepared similarly to green tea, but also fermented and aged.

Would you believe that it takes about 2,000 tea leaves just to create one pound of finished tea?!

While green tea and black tea have been the most extensively studied, research has shown beyond a doubt that tea supports our health. For example, green tea consumption is associated with lower all-cause mortality and potentially weight loss, and both green and black tea have been associated with LDL cholesterol reduction, lower blood pressure, reduced risk of stroke and heart disease, potential reduction in dental plaque formation, and even a lower risk of certain cancers. And unlike coffee which benefits some people but causes inflammation in others (see Coffee and Autoimmune Disease and Coffee as a Mediator of Health & Longevity), all types of tea offer unique benefits across the board!

Tea Polyphenols

Tea owes many of its effects to its phenolic composition, which varies depending on the type of tea (see also Polyphenols: Magic Bullet or Health Hype? and The Amazing World of Plant Phytochemicals: Why a diet rich in veggies is so important!). The main benefits of green tea, for example, are attributed to its catechins—in particular the well-studied epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), which is the most abundant and active compound in green tea, as well as epicatechin (EC), epicatechin-3-gallate (ECG), and epigallocatechin (EGC). Green tea is so rich in these catechins that it’s between 20 and 45% polyphenols by weight!

Research has found numerous benefits associated with EGCG. For example, EGCG has been shown to exert anti-cancer properties by regulating enzymes involved in the cell cycle, resulting in inhibited cell proliferation, cell cycle arrest, and apoptosis. This catechin also has antimicrobial activity against pathogens via a variety of mechanisms—including damaging the cell walls of bacteria by interacting with surface proteins, causing oxidative stress to Gram-negative bacteria by producing hydrogen peroxide, and binding directly to exposed peptidoglycan layers in Gram-positive bacteria (see also What Is the Gut Microbiome? And Why Should We Care About It?). Studies have shown that EGCG prevents the cytotoxicity of Shiga-like toxin 1 from E. coli, and also inhibits the growth of E. coli 0157:H7, Salmonella typhimurium, Salmonella enteritidis, Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, and Bacillus cereus. EGCG also has high antioxidant activity, protecting against oxidative damage in cells and tissue by inhibiting pro-oxidant enzymes like cyclooxygenase, xanthine oxidase, lipoxygenase, and inducible nitric oxide synthase. It’s been studied for a potential role in treating rheumatoid arthritis due to its strong anti-inflammatory properties. And, EGCG has been shown to have neuroprotective effects, including for Alzheimer’s disease and HIV-associated dementia.

Although green tea tends to steal the spotlight due to its EGCG, black and oolong teas have some unique components of their own! Both of these teas contain theaflavins, which are antioxidant polyphenols that get formed during the oxidation of tea leaves (more specifically, from the condensation of flavan-3-ols contained in those leaves). One study compared the theaflavins in black tea to the catechins in green tea and found that theaflavin-3,3’-digallate had even higher antioxidant activity than any of the green tea catechins, and other theaflavins were likewise comparable to green tea catechins in their antioxidant potency.

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Given the above, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that theaflavins have been associated with many of the same health benefits as EGCG—including protection against cardiovascular disease and cancer, reduction in blood pressure, and reduction in LDL cholesterol. However, it’s also worth noting that even if catechins and theaflavins have similar effects in studies, the phenolic content of green tea is overall higher than in black or oolong teas—giving green tea a leg up in terms of benefits on a per-cup basis.

L-Theanine

Tea is also rich in a unique amino acid called L-theanine, which has been shown to modulate some aspects of human brain function and promote calmness—particularly by affecting neurotransmitters (see also How Stress Undermines Health). For example, L-theanine has a similar structure to the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamic acid, and is able to both blockade glutamate receptors and inhibit glutamate reuptake. L-theanine is also associated with higher concentrations and release of dopamine concentrations, increased GABA concentrations, decreased norepinephrine levels, and suppression of the general release of serotonin.

Research has shown that the amount of L-theanine found in just two cups of black tea (about 50 mg) is enough to increase brain activity in the alpha frequency band, indicating relaxation without drowsiness. (It only takes about 30 minutes for L-theanine to cross the blood-brain barrier and start influencing the central nervous system, and reaches maximum levels at about five hours after ingestion—explaining the long-lasting soothing effect we feel after drinking tea!) And, it appears that L-theanine can help counteract some of the effects of caffeine (another component of tea)! One study found that combining L-theanine with caffeine (in amounts and ratios similar to a cup or two of tea) eliminated both the behavioral effects and blood-pressure-raising effects of caffeine. On the whole, it seems theanine in tea may play a beneficial role in cognitive performance (due to increasing monoamines), anxiety (due to its effects on serotonin and GABA), and neurological health (due to antagonizing the effects of glutamate).

But, L-theanine has other potential benefits as well! One in vitro study found that L-theanine was able to attenuate or prevent a number of effects of the neurotoxicants rotenone and dieldrin, including DNA fragmentation, apoptotic death, the upregulation of heme oxygenase-1, the down-regulation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase1/2 phosphorylation, and the down-regulation of brain-derived neurotrophic factor and glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor. All of this suggests that L-theanine may be neuroprotective, including against toxins related to Parkinson’s disease, and may help explain tea’s apparent protective effects against this disease.

And it doesn’t end there. Theanine has been shown to alleviate some of the toxic side effects of anticancer drugs, suppress elevated cholesterol levels (by increasing bile acid excretion and helping eliminate cholesterol from the body), inhibit tumor growth (by targeting several growth factor receptor signaling pathways), improve memory, protect cardiovascular health (by increasing the production of nitric oxide and enhancing artery vasodilation), reduce alcohol-induced liver injury (by increasing the activities of alcohol dehydrogenase and aldehyde dehydrogenase and lowering cytochrome P450 CYP 2E1), and improving immunity in certain circumstances (especially when combined with L-cystine, which together enhance levels of serum IgG and antigen specific IgM, as well as protects against extreme exercise-induced alterations in immune response). Is it any wonder that drinking tea is associated with so many health improvements?!

Tea and the Gut Microbiome

Another way tea benefits us is through its impact on the gut microbiota (see What Is the Gut Microbiome? And Why Should We Care About It?). Because the polyphenols in tea aren’t completely absorbed in the GI tract, they can reach the microbiota in the colon and get metabolized by bacteria there, leading to the release of important metabolites. Along with antimicrobial activity against the previously mentioned pathogens, tea polyphenols and their metabolites have been shown to selectively repress the growth of Clostridium difficile, Clostridium perfringens, and some species of Bacteroides—all while sparing beneficial commensals such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species. (What’s more, green tea has been shown to actually increase the proportion of Bifidobacterium in the microbiota!) This suggests that tea polyphenols can help modulate the gut bacteria through their prebiotic activity.

In a study of mice, both green and black tea polyphenols altered the ratio of obesity-associated bacteria to leanness-associated bacteria, indicating prebiotic activity with potential benefits for weight regulation. Black tea polyphenols, specifically, also appear to be less readily absorbed than the polyphenols in green tea, allowing them to spend more time in the GI tract (where they can interact with the resident microbes!). Research has shown that black tea polyphenols increase the abundance of the Pseudobutyrivibrio (which is associated with energy metabolism) as well as the formation of beneficial short-chain fatty acids, helping explain the mechanism behind black tea’s health and weight loss benefits.

In mice fed high-fat diets, supplementation with green tea powder along with a single probiotic strain (Lactobacillus plantarum DSM 15313) dramatically increased the diversity of the gut microbiota, and more specifically helped the Lactobacillus strain flourish compared to mice given the probiotic but no green tea powder. This suggests a fascinating relationship between tea and beneficial microbes, with tea potentially enhancing the proliferation of probiotics we ingest from elsewhere!

In a mouse model of colitis, supplementation with the tea polyphenol EGCG not only inhibited carcinogenesis in the mice’s colons, but also counteracted other cancer-related changes in the microbiota profile. In particular, EGCG prevented the rise of potentially carcinogenic bacteria (including some members of Bacteroides) while also counteracting the decrease in beneficial butyrate producers such as Clostridiaceae and Ruminococcus. And, in rats, long-term consumption of green tea polyphenols was able to increase levels of Bacteroidetes and Oscillospira (which have been linked to the “lean” phenotype in both animal models and humans) and deplete levels of Peptostreptococcaceae (which has been linked to a colorectal-cancer-prone phenotype)—all in a dose-dependent manner.

And, what about in humans? Tea is no less beneficial for our gut health than it is for lab animals! One trial tested the effects of 10 days of green tea consumption on human fecal microbiota, and found that the tea increased the proportion of Bifidobacterium, one of the most well-studied probiotic groups. Using in vitro experiments with human gut bacteria, tea polyphenols have also been shown to enhance the production of SCFAs, inhibit the growth of potentially pathogenic members of Bacteroides-Prevotella and Clostridium, and encourage the growth of beneficial species. A similar study looking at growth responses of human gut bacteria to green tea extracts found that the green tea selectively inhibited some species of Clostridium, including C. difficile, C. perfringens, and C. paraputrificum.

Although teas other than green and black have been less thoroughly researched, we still have plenty of evidence for their benefits, too! For example, oolong and Pu-erh tea have both been shown to increase microbial diversity in the gut and reduce the ratio of Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes. When obese mice were fed an extract of ripened Pu-erh tea, they experienced reduced weight gain, lower adipose inflammation, less fat accumulation, and reduced endotoxin levels in the blood. And, when feces from Pu-erh treated mice was transplanted into recipient mice, it protected against metabolic syndrome and weight gain—suggesting an anti-obesity effect from microbiota-modulating compounds in Pu-erh tea. Likewise, polyphenols in Pu-erh tea have been shown to promote the growth of Akkermansia muciniphila, a potential probiotic that can improve metabolic health and immunity.

All of these findings point in a remarkably consistent direction: tea, regardless of the type, can help improve our gut health by enhancing populations of beneficial microbes and suppressing some potential pathogens—leading to benefits for our entire body.

The Impact of Brew Method and Steep Time

Intriguingly, the effects of tea can also differ based on how it’s brewed—including length of steep time, and whether it’s brewed hot or cold!

One study looked at eight different black tea brands steeped for up to 30 minutes, and found that the teas generally had an increase in total phenolic compounds (including catechin, gallic acid, propyl gallate, and rutin) until 5 minutes of infusion time, followed by stabilized or decreased phenolic compound levels until the 7.5 minute mark, followed by another increase until 15 minutes of infusion time. This unusual pattern was due to the way the water temperature affected the solubilization of tea compounds as it cooled down from its initial 100°C. And, what that means for us is that when we make tea, we can maximize the good stuff it contains by steeping it for either five minutes or for longer than 7.5 minutes—at least when it comes to black tea!

But, hot versus cold brewing matters, too. In one study, cold white tea infusions (infused at room temperature water for two hours) were shown to have higher antioxidant activity than hot infusions as well as a greater content of phenols, flavonoids, and catechins.

One study also tested hot steeping (75 – 90°C for 3 – 4 minutes), cold steeping (4°C for 720 minutes), and an unconventional method combining both: brief hot infusions followed by the addition of ice to speed up the cooling process. For green and black tea, the hot-cold method resulted in the highest overall extraction of compounds (caffeine, theobromine, and theophylline, epicatechin, epigallocatechin, and gallic acid), followed by cold infusion, and with hot infusion yielding the least. By contrast, for oolong tea, cold infusion yielded the highest level of total compounds—a difference that was due to the shape and dimension of oolong tea leaves: the longer exposure to water (720 minutes for cold steeping opposed to 4 minutes for hot and ice) caused the oolong tea leaves to unroll and expose greater surface area, allowing for more migration of their compounds into the water. In general, the lower levels of compounds in the hot-steeped tea compared to other methods may be due to high heat exposure degrading those compounds.

Another study tested five loose tea samples made with hot infusion (90°C for 7 minutes) or cold infusion (room temperature for 2 hours) and found that cold-steeped teas were better inhibitors of in vitro formation of LDL conjungated dienes, and in the case of white tea (but not other teas) also led to higher antioxidant activity.

What does this mean for us? If we’ve got the time, and if maximum phytonutrient intake is our goal, cold steeping is superior to hot steeping our tea. And if we don’t have time, we can add some ice to initially hot-steeped tea to prevent important compounds from degrading! Studies have also shown that cold water steeping has the added benefit of providing lower caffeine levels, higher aroma, and reduced bitterness.

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How Much Tea to Drink

So, how much tea should we drink to reap its rewards? Although there’s no exact answer, even one cup has been shown to offer benefits in some studies, and drinking five or six cups (or more) has fairly consistent benefits for a variety of health conditions. In observational studies, consuming three cups of tea daily has been associated with a 11% reduced risk of heart attack, with some studies showing up to a 70% reduction in risk for the same quantity of tea; drinking at least two cups of tea per day has been associated with a 30% lower risk of ovarian cancer in women; drinking more than four cups of tea per day is linked to significant increases in bone mineral density; consuming at least four cups of tea daily has been associated with reduced risk of depression; drinking more than three cups of green tea each day is associated with reduced risk of recurring breast cancer in women; drinking at least six cups of green tea per day is associated with a 33% reduction in diabetes risk; drinking at least five cups of green tea per day may reduce the risk of prostate cancer in men; and drinking at least three cups of tea per day may lower risk of stroke and heart attack.

Taken together, it’s a safe bet that three or more cups of tea each day could bring significant benefits!

Looking for a specific recommendation?  My preference is the  Numi loose-leaf teas (my favorites are Jasmine Pearls, Oolong, and Breakfast Blend], which I brew in a teapot with a stainless steel infuser insert for tea leaves. I also have a small stainless steel tea ball infuser for when I want to make a single cup!

Citations

Bond T and Derbyshire E. “Tea Compounds and the Gut Microbiome: Findings from Trials and Mechanistic Studies.” Nutrients. 2019;11(10):2364. Published 2019 Oct 3. doi:10.3390/nu11102364

Bryan J. “Psychological effects of dietary components of tea: caffeine and L-theanine.” Nutr Rev. 2008;66(2):82–90. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2007.00011.x

Chakrawarti L, et al. “Therapeutic Effects of EGCG: A Patent Review.” Expert Opin Ther Pat. 2016;26(8):907-16.

Cho HS, et al. “Protective effect of the green tea component, l-theanine on environmental toxins-induced neuronal cell death.” NeuroToxicology 2008;29(4):656-662.

Damiani E, et al. “Antioxidant activity of different white teas: Comparison of hot and cold tea infusions.” Journal of Food Composition and Analysis. 2014;33(1):59-66.

Dodd FL, et al. “A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study Evaluating the Effects of Caffeine and L-theanine Both Alone and in Combination on Cerebral Blood Flow, Cognition and Mood.” Psychopharmacology (Berl) 2015;232(14):2563-76.

Lantano C, et al. “Effects of alternative steeping methods on composition, antioxidant property and colour of green, black and oolong tea infusions.” J Food Sci Technol. 2015;52(12):8276–8283. doi:10.1007/s13197-015-1971-4

Leung LK, et al. “Theaflavins in Black Tea and Catechins in Green Tea Are Equally Effective Antioxidants.” J. Nutr. 2001;131(9):2248-51.

Liang Y-R, et al. “Health Benefits of Theanine in Green Tea: A Review.” Tropical Journal of Pharmaceutical Research 2015;14(10):1943-1949.

Lu X, et al. “Ripened Pu-erh Tea Extract Protects Mice from Obesity by Modulating Gut Microbiota Composition.” J Agric Food Chem. 2019;67(25):6978–6994. doi:10.1021/acs.jafc.8b04909

Nikoo M, et al. “Antioxidant and Antimicrobial Activities of (‐)‐Epigallocatechin‐3‐gallate (EGCG) and its Potential to Preserve the Quality and Safety of Foods.” Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety. 2018.

Nobre AC, et al. “L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state.” Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2008;17 Suppl 1:167–168.

Ramalho SA, et al. “Effect of infusion time on phenolic compounds and caffeine content in black tea.” Food Research International 2013;51(1):155-161.

Ruxton CHS. “Black tea and health.” Nutrition Bulletin 2008;33(3):264.

Schneider C and Segre T. “Green tea: potential health benefits.” Am Fam Physician. 2009;79(7):591–594.

Sheng-Dun L. “Effect of different brewing methods on quality of green tea.” Journal of Food Processing and Preservation.” 2014;38(3):1234-1243.

Venditti E, et al. “Hot vs. cold water steeping of different teas: Do they affect antioxidant activity?Food chemistry 2010;119(4):1597-1604.





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Have you thought about how many diets, detoxes, and plans you’ve tried in your lifetime?

When we have new clients in our Wellness Coaching practice or new students join The Method Membership, on average, they’ve tried three diets, plans, or trends prior to coming to see us for sustainable solutions.

And they’re not alone!

This is becoming increasingly more common with so much information online, new trends, and new quick-fix plans coming out weekly.

In this article, I’m diving into the 5 reasons why diets don’t work for most of us and what you could do instead to more mindfully care for your body and yourself.

Why Diets Don’t Work

Most dieting, for the sake of the example of reaching a societal ideal, includes calorie deprivation. When your body is calorie deprived, a few things may happen physically and mentally:

  • levels of leptin (the satiety hormone) decrease (1)
  • levels of ghrelin (the hunger hormone) increase (1) (2)
  • ability to burn calories decreases (3)
  • mentally dieters become fixated on food (4)
  • attention and focus leans towards anything related to food (5)
  • dieters may have improved smell function and report food tastes more pleasant (6) (7)
  • the metabolic effects of chronic dieting can last years later (8)

These changes lead to a variety of challenges that can prevent you from maintaining this way of eating for the long term. Let’s dive into what those are.

(It’s important to distinguish between dieting used as a tool to improve health conditions and dieting to reach a societal ideal which is not tied to a biological need to lose weight or improve health markers. Dieting can work as a temporary tool for those who need to improve certain health conditions and should always be done alongside a Registered Dietitian like those on my team.)

 

1. Dieting can take the joy and pleasure out of the food experience

The first issue that comes up with diets, detoxes, and plans, which I’m sure many of you have experienced is that dieting can take the joy and pleasure out of the food experience.

Not only that, but research has shown those who are on strict or rigid diets become more fixated on food (4), have increased attention and focus leans towards anything related to food (5), and have improved smell function and report food tastes more pleasant (6) (7) all of which reinforces the power dieting can have over our bodies and brains.

If you know me, you’ve likely heard me say this before, and it’s worth repeating: food is more than nourishment. It’s tradition, culture, pleasure, and joy and it’s okay to celebrate the many roles food plays in our lives!

Every day, I cook meals that not only nourish my body but also make me so happy and filled with joy to experience.

I love being in the kitchen alone or cooking with my husband Jesse, trying new recipes and new ingredients and then sitting down together over a delicious meal (not always “Instagram worthy looking) and talking about our day and our plans for the future. It’s such a great time to connect.

Food is such a powerful way to bring nourishment and joy into our lives, but unfortunately, so many diets are really strict, rigid, and completely ignore this “life/joy” element and it can make you feel as if cooking is a chore, that you’re meals are unsatisfying (both on a hunger level and also an emotional level), cause you to view food only as a means to an end, or can cause you to “look forward to” the next time you “can” eat that food causing a lot of stress and mental energy focusing on what you should or shouldn’t eat.

Try this: focus on creating a positive experience around your meals.

This could be finding recipes that excite you to try or even simply eating at the table with your partner without any devices and talking about your day. It could be turning on music while you cook a meal for yourself or invite a friend over for a mini-pot luck night in.

Reframing food in this way can help you create a whole new appreciation for fueling your body with nourishment, love, and joy.

2. Short-Term Thinking — Start and Stop Mentality

The second reason why diets fail most people so often is the short-term thinking — the 21-day this, 30-day that — what are you supposed to do after that time period?

What these things fail to do is set you up for success 365 days a year.

Not only that, but from a psychological perspective, the negative metabolic effects of chronic dieting can last years later (8) such as levels of leptin (the satiety hormone) decrease (1), levels of ghrelin (the hunger hormone) increase (1) (2), and the ability to burn calories decreases (3).

But most of those diets out there are not given in this sense of long-term change.

They’re designed to try to get you a big result as quickly as possible (most of it being just about the aesthetic/before and after photo or weight loss only), but they often fail to then teach you how to integrate that into your life.

It’s unrealistic to think that you can or should follow such strict guidelines 365 days a year.

Try this: the switch you need to make with your health goals is moving from this short-term, one-size-fits-all thinking and instead, to making choices for yourself that you can realistically sustain for years. Ask yourself, can I do this every day? If not, don’t add it to your life.

Think about this — following a diet can be a lot of work. You need to learn the rules, buy the right ingredients, follow the meal plan, potentially skip on or work around your normal social outings, and so on.

And then you end up following that for, let’s say, 30 days.

Imagine what would happen if instead, you refocused all of that time and energy into learning a new skill or developing a habit that would last you much longer than that.

Maybe instead of following a trendy or popular diet, you simply focus your energy on cooking more at home to avoid microwave dinners or drive-thru runs.

Or focusing on consuming more water in between meals instead of soda or fruit juices. Or focusing on increasing the number of vegetables at every meal to increase the fiber in your diet to improve your gut health and balance blood sugars.

It’s these types of small practices and longer-term thinking that can give you the skills to navigate all 365 days of the year.

3. They Often Require You to Have Foods that Are Off-Limits

This goes hand-in-hand with reason number three that diets don’t work for everyone — you are asked to eliminate certain foods or food groups.

Oh boy, we’ve all been there, myself included. We’ve been so “good” on our diet, but then we go out to eat or go to a social gathering and are offered foods we “can’t have” which increasingly make us hyperaware, hypersensitive, and focused on that food choice.

And that can cause two unhealthy extremes: either isolating yourself from others to avoid that temptation or completely overindulging, sometimes even to the point of feeling sick. There’s absolutely a path where foods are on a shouldn’t consume list if you have food allergies, or intolerances for example, that you’ve discovered with your Registered Dietitian and you have a firm plan on how to navigate around that.

So here’s my tip: don’t follow guidelines that tell you to eliminate specific foods or food groups for the sake of losing weight or because someone on social media told you to because they do. If you feel like you may need that for health reasons, for example, if you’re noticing dairy really doesn’t sit well with you or if you have a specific condition and can’t eat certain foods, a registered dietitian can help you navigate that safely.

But eliminating foods for the sake of any goal you’re trying to achieve with this trendy diet can contribute to that yo-yo diet cycle of falling-off-the-bandwagon and dieting over and over again while you’re trying to find something that works and sticks with your lifestyle.

Instead, focus your energy on learning to feel comfortable around certain foods that you might typically overindulge on.

4. Diets Are One-Size-Fits-All — They Don’t Take Into Consideration Your Unique Body and Life

And that brings me to reason number four, which is that following a popular diet’s set of rules and guidelines doesn’t always align with your wants and needs and your unique life.

While it may seem easy to pick a diet and follow it, because you don’t have to think about anything, you end up following rules you think you “should” be doing, without actually evaluating what you need in your life and why.

This can make it very difficult for you to integrate into your life, it can cause you to feel drained of energy or feeling like you lack motivation. In addition, you’ve started to create a new “normal” of what you should or shouldn’t be doing that you may interpret that as being a long-term change, but in reality, it was originally designed to just be a short term change/fix.

Do this: jot down exactly what healthy looks like and feels like for you, and why you want those things in your life.

When you have that clarity, you will begin making decisions that align with your unique needs, rather than what someone else says.

5. They Ask You to Do Too Much All At Once, Making it Hard to Maintain

Lastly, diets often are structured in such a short time-frame that they ask you to make dozens of changes overnight. When there’s so much change all at once, it’s nearly impossible to keep up with it all.

Instead, shift to slowly building up your changes and habits over time, intentionally stacking one on top of another so they’re all study and building a solid foundation for yourself.

This means taking that wellness vision you have for yourself and breaking it down into tiny action steps for yourself. It’s not waking up tomorrow and trying to do everything all at once. It’s taking it one item at a time and really working through it until it’s easy and fully integrated into your life.

Then adding on the next habit.

We covered a lot in this video, but if there’s one thing I want you to take away, it’s that we all have unique lifestyles and bodies to honor but most diets, detoxes, or plans don’t take that into consideration.

Why Diets Don’t Work For Everyone

It’s important to distinguish between 1) dieting used as a tool to improve health conditions and 2) dieting to reach a societal ideal which is not tied to a biological need to lose weight or improve health markers.

Dieting can work as a temporary tool for those who need to lose weight for certain health conditions. Dieting to reduce weight in order to reduce your risk of certain types of health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular conditions can be a useful temporary tool to utilize.

Dieting for the sake of reaching a subjective goal weight that on a 2-dimensional level doesn’t impact your health negatively, is a good example of why checking in with yourself about your intention to diet is key.

Your Brain and Body On A Diet

Most dieting, for the sake of the example of reaching a societal ideal, includes calorie deprivation. When your body is calorie deprived, a few things may happen physically and mentally.

  • levels of leptin (the satiety hormone) decrease (1)
  • levels of ghrelin (the hunger hormone) increase (1) (2)
  • ability to burn calories decreases (3)
  • mentally dieters become fixated on food (4)
  • attention and focus leans towards anything related to food (5)
  • dieters may have improved smell function and report food tastes more pleasant (6) (7)
  • the metabolic effects of chronic dieting can last years later (8)

5 Reasons Why Most Diets Don’t Work

Depending on how you change habits, your lifestyle, relationship with food, and health status diets might work for you — if not, here are four reasons why diets don’t work.

1. Short-term Thinking — Start and Stop Mentality

Like with most diets, dieting isn’t sustainable or else they would “work” for everyone for life and we wouldn’t see so many diets and trends pop up. We all have unique lifestyles and bodies to honor and most diets don’t take into consideration other pillars of our health. That also goes for diets and plans that have a start and end date — 21-day this, 30-day that, 5-day other — what are you supposed to do after that time period?

Most people who find themselves in this yo-yo or start and stop cycle end up dieting for years which takes them further from finding a balanced approach to eating they can live with. This all or nothing mentality makes it impossible for people to make a lifestyle change through behavior change that will last longer than the diet’s expiration date.

It also takes them further away from tapping into their own unique needs and closer to following some plan that may work for a short amount of time before trying something else. Developing healthy habits for life is key to maintaining health. (9)

2. Dieting can cause weight gain over time

As mentioned, dieting causes fluctuations in your hunger and satiety hormones. As leptin decreases (or you lose weight/lose fat), appetite will increase. Also, most dieting causes a person to lose lean muscle mass along with regaining any weight lost, back within a year. (10)

3. Dieting can increase the risk of developing disordered eating habits

In this article, we’re talking mostly about dieting as it relates to weight loss as the main goal, but dieting for the sake of reaching optimal or an idea of health can pose challenges as well.

“Clean eating” and Orthorexia Nervosa is defined by someone who takes “health” to an extreme with dieting thoughts, actions, and behaviors to achieve this ideal. This is characterized as disordered eating and can impact those who are dieting for weight loss or those dieting to reach an ideal picture of “health”. The more someone on a diet puts attention, mental, and emotional focus on their food or obsesses about food choices puts themselves at greater risk for developing disordered eating habits.

4. Dieting can increase the lack of mentality

If you’ve ever been on a diet before, this might sound like a familiar situation. You go out to eat or go to a social gathering while on a diet and are offered foods you “can’t have” which increasingly make you hyperaware, hypersensitive, and focused on that food choice.

Dieting or eating foods tightly regulated by counting calories, macros, or any kind of measuring may make a person dieting feel isolated or like they can’t relate to others around them eating. In addition to the fixation on food, it’s a fixation on the lack mentality — can’t have, aren’t allowed to have, off limited, etc. terminology that strengthens a storyline that some foods are bad or not allowed.

5. Dieting can take the joy and pleasure out of the food experience

If you’ve been on a diet before, then you know that we don’t need science or any study to tell us that dieting can take pleasure and joy out of the eating experience. We’ve worked with clients in our Wellness Practice who used to measure every ounce of food they ate, counted every calorie, and added up every macronutrient which not only preoccupied them with food choices but took any joy from the experience.

Many mainstream diets require constant, incessant tracking of food on a day-to-day basis. While it may begin with good intentions, this hyper-focus on food and food intake can lead to a negative association with hunger and mealtimes. The use of said tracking devices can absolutely be necessary on a case-by-case basis, but a constant use when not medically necessary can do much more harm than good.

Food is far more than just nourishment for our cells, it’s tradition, culture, pleasure, and joy.

Ditch the Scale and Measure Your Health in Other Ways

There are many ways to measure and reach your health goals without dieting — including ways to measure outcomes and success outside of the scale.

Some examples might include:

  • blood work/labs if you’re managing a certain health condition,
  • to be aware of how you’re feeling day-to-day,
  • better digestion,
  • feeling more confident,
  • expressing creativity and joy in your life,
  • honoring what your physical body allows you to do (i.e. give loved ones a hug, exercises, think, work, breathe, etc.)
  • eating free from distraction
  • less stress around food and food choices

Putting This Into Practice

By shifting your focus from these short-term fixes to long-term solutions that stem from what you need and want in your life, you can create a healthy lifestyle that’s maintainable 365 days a year, not just for 30 days. 

If shifting your mindset around this seems impossible, challenging, or really hard for you to do right now, you’re not alone.

One thing you can do when you feel your setting a goal that’s centered around your physical appearance is to simply observe your thoughts around it, call it out, and bring awareness to it. 

As soon as you start to shine a light on those old thought patterns and beliefs about the “all or nothing” mentality, the stronger you’ll become at intervening and taking an action that’s more aligned with how you want to eat and live.

If this message is resonating with you, grab my free guide for creating healthy eating habits without needing to follow a diet or plan. It walks you through a step-by-step process for eating well on a daily basis. 

Get Support for Your Goals

If your goal is to eat healthier, dieting isn’t the only approach. You can get a free exploration call with a Registered Dietitian on my team to discuss how you can achieve your goals without needing to diet so that the changes you make and the eating habits you create are maintainable 365 days a year.



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Welcome to episode 404 of The Whole View! This week Stacy and Sarah are sharing all about how they are feeding their beloved pups. What brands do they love, how do they prep and serve their food, do they supplement, and why do they make the dietary choices they do? All of this and more in episode 404!

If you enjoy the show, please review it on iTunes!

The Whole View, Episode 404: Is grain-free dog food a problem?

Welcome back to episode 404 of the Whole View. (0:27)

Stacy is almost getting use to saying that.

It has been a month since they changed over.

Sarah is proud that she has been using the correct name of the podcast, especially since she has puppy sleep deprivation.

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Stacy is feeling well, and thanks everyone for the positive vibes they have been sending her way.

Her heart rate is completely back to normal, and she is now symptom-free.

Even though you recover, it still takes time to rebuild and get back to full strength.

It takes time for inflammation in the lungs to heal.

Sarah has been wanting to do antibody testing to see if she had it.

The quality of the antibody tests is a huge range, so Sarah is yet to research this just yet.

Stacy firmly believes that knowledge is power.

From her entire coronavirus experience, that is really her big takeaway.

Stacy is so excited to host another pet show this week!

The last pet show they hosted felt like an uplifting conversation.

Remember, while Stacy and Sarah will refer to their dogs in this episode, they are also both cat owners and love their cats dearly as well.

They are talking about pets in general.

 

Listener’s Question

This was a question that Stacy wanted Sarah to cover for a while. (9:09)

However, just recently, this question was received from a podcast listener, before the last pet show was hosted.

When Sarah announced that she was getting a dog, this was the most common question she received.

What do I feed my dog?

Ashley says, Hi Sarah and Stacy! I started listening to the podcast several years ago while I was living in New York City.

Every evening after work I would get on the train, put in my headphones, and listen to an episode.

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I guess I am one of the listeners you are always apologizing to for the early episodes.

I have to say I have truly enjoyed them all and have learned so much valuable information.

Thank you for all your hard work to both educate and entertain your listeners, I feel like we are friends at this point and I still look forward to a new episode every week.

The Paleo View is my favorite podcast hands down!

As a person eating a nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory diet myself, I am wondering how to feed my dog in the same way.

My husband and I recently added a Bernedoodle puppy to our family and he is the most adorable and mischievous little guy.

There is so much conflicting information out there about what diet is best for dogs – they need grains, they don’t need grains, raw is best, raw is dangerous.

Most dog food is so highly processed and contains ingredients that to me seem highly inflammatory and nutrient-poor.

The organic and grain-free foods look good on paper, but then I read about concerns with grain-free diets and heart problems in dogs.

I like the idea of a raw diet, but that also requires a lot more work on my part to source and prepare his food which just isn’t practical for my life right now.

I would love to know the science on this topic so I can feel confident in what we are feeding our dog so that he can continue to be a healthy and happy pup! Please help!”

 

Knowledge is Power

Stacy is excited for Sarah to help. (12:11)

After a bit of research when Matt and Stacy for Penny, Stacy made a food choice and Sarah looked into as she was preparing to get a pup.

Sarah found that it actually isn’t that bad of a food choice.

Stacy has had two veterinarians that a grain-free diet for a dog isn’t good and that a raw diet for a dog is not good.

So when Stacy asks what is a good option and why the foods that they recommend are exactly as Ashley indicates.

They are foods that would be highly inflammatory.

After seeing Penny’s symptoms when she was adopted and knowing what kind of diet she was on, Stacy knows that she has sensitivities from her inflammatory diet.

So Stacy is excited to learn more about what is an ideal diet.

As a reminder to listeners, just as we humans make our own choices, we do the best that we can with the knowledge we have.

If you decide that you are going to transition your pet to a new food after this, or maybe not, there is no shame or guilt.

This is not Stacy and Sarah telling listeners what you need to do.

However, this is knowledge for you to be empowered to make your own choices.

Neither Stacy or Sarah are medical professionals, and information on this podcast should not be treated as medical advice.

Sarah thought it would be interesting to answer Ashley’s question with the ancestral diet approach.

This is so consistent with how we approach food.

Meeting the body’s nutrient needs is the primary criterion for a healthy diet.

So what are the nutritional needs of a dog?

And what is the ancestral diet that would help to meet those?

 

Let’s Start with Wolves

So let’s start talking about what wolves eat. (17:34)

Dogs and the modern gray wolf share a common extinct ancestor.

There is great debate among biologists about whether or not dogs and wolves are the same species.

Some biologists believe that dogs are a subspecies of the gray wolf.

While other biologists believe that they are their own species and that wolves and dogs are separate species.

Wolves are scavengers and hunters, and they really eat anything they can get.

They always eat the whole animal, and organ meat is the first thing they consume.

The highest levels in the pack get the most nutritious diet so they stay the healthiest and the fittest.

Then they eat the ribs, a lot of small bones, and nearly all of the hide.

Even the large bones are gnawed on.

The other thing that Sarah found really interesting is that by eating the stomachs and the intestines they are getting a fair amount of partially digested plant matter.

They also eat grass.

Researchers believe that wolves eat grass to purge the intestines of parasites.

The earliest evidence of dog domestication is about 40,000 years old.

And the earliest proof of domesticated dogs is about 14,000 years old.

Domestication has more points of change, in terms of genetics, than agriculture does in humans.

The genetic differences refer to changes in the nervous system, and it is thought that these are all underlying the behavioral changes that were central to dog domestication.

There are also ten genes that have changed that all have key roles in digestion and fat metabolism.

These genetic changes show a dog’s ability to digest starch relative to the wolf.

There are these well-measured changes in dogs compared to wolves that have made them more adapted to eating more starch.

This doesn’t mean that starches are the foundation for their optimal diet.

However, it implies that they need a little bit more starch and carbohydrate than the wolf.

 

Facultative Carnivores

So not a grain-based diet, as dogs are still considered facultative carnivores. (25:29)

Facultative carnivores are species that are not strict carnivores.

They eat some plant foods in addition to animal foods.

However, they can’t thrive on a truly omnivorous diet.

They still need to eat a dominant amount of calories from meat.

But they are well adapted and still need a small amount of their diet to come from plants.

Where science is pointing is that really the optimal diet for dogs is similar to wolves, with a whole-prey, whole-animal, approach.

Eating really every bit of the animal that is edible.

This should probably make up 85% of the diet, with a variety of plants making up the other 15%.

Which leads really well into the question of raw vegetables versus cooked.

Sarah shared on the research she did and specifically pointed out the details found from this study.

They showed that the safety profile of raw diets is very high.

Stacy asked about the risks associated with raw dog food being contaminated and recalled.

Sarah pointed out that there have been tons of recalls on grain dog food.

Stacy noted that it is helpful to be armed with information when you visit the vet.

If your vet isn’t working for you, remember that they are providing a service to you and you are choosing to go there.

You can always find another one when you feel that their beliefs don’t align with your beliefs.

Sarah shared some data on the recall rate for dog food.

Raw diets are highly digestible.

Processed kibble diets were not as digestible.

There was a 10% difference between the two.

High quality cooked diets were also found to be highly digestible.

So it wasn’t a question about whether or not the ingredients were raw, so much as how processed they were.

Sarah also referred to this study.

Personally, Sarah cares much more about the quality and processing of the ingredients, instead of whether or not each ingredient is cooked or raw.

This thesis also went into how the fiber content of food impacted digestibility.

This made a case for animal fiber.

You don’t want too much fiber, which decreases digestibility.

However, you do need some fiber, which should come from some plant foods.

When Sarah was doing this research she was expecting that they would be better adapted to consume cooked diets, and she shared why.

 

Grain-Free Foods and Diet-Induced Dilated Cardiomyopathy

The other part of Ashley’s question asks about the link between grain-free food and diet-induced dilated cardiomyopathy.(43:38)

This was a huge research point for Sarah because she doesn’t allow gluten in her house.

In July 2018, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a public notification about an uptick of reports of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) – a type of heart disease that can lead to congestive heart failure.

Symptoms include enlarged heart, decreased energy, lethargy, cough, difficulty breathing, loss of appetite, and episodes of collapse.

However, many dogs will not show symptoms of the disease right away.

If you suspect that your dog is affected, consult your veterinarian immediately.

In the FDA’s July 2019 update on diet and canine heart disease, they examined labels of dog food products reported in DCM cases to determine whether the foods were “grain-free” (defined as no corn, soy, wheat, rice, barley or other grains).

They also looked at whether the foods contained peas, lentils, chickpeas, beans, or potatoes (including sweet potatoes).

Their report states that 91 percent of foods reported in DCM cases were grain-free, 93 percent of reported foods contained peas and/or lentils, and 42 percent contained potatoes/sweet potatoes.

91% were eating grain-free food.

This is research that is ongoing.

The most likely mechanism is that that is some kind of antinutrient in legumes blocking taurine absorption.

Taurine is an amino acid found exclusively in meat.

It is not considered an essential nutrient for dogs because they can synthesize their own.

Some breeds appear to be predisposed to taurine deficiency from low-taurine diets.

Taurine deficiency is one potential cause of DCM.

Golden retrievers made up 20% of the effected dogs from diet-induced dilated cardiomyopathy.

There were a ton of other breeds represented in the findings.

Many of the dogs have responded to taurine supplements, even if they didn’t appear to be taurine deficient.

Taurine supplementation may be more effective as a prophylactic than a treatment, but this still needs to be studied.

So the culprit isn’t necessarily the lack of grains in the diet, but the fact that grain-free don’t automatically mean good, high-quality, or nutritionally balanced.

Remember, this is still an active area of research.

Look for options where legumes, especially peas and lentils aren’t in the top 10 ingredients.

Taurine is naturally high in organ meat.

There are no gluten-free dog foods that are also grain-free.

77 million dogs in USA, DCM reported in 560 probably under-reporting but still very low incidence.

CF 50% of dogs will get cancer in their lifetime.

 

What Sarah Feeds Soka

Sarah is looking to reduce the risk of everything bad that can happen to her. (55:21)

This was an area of high-importance to Sarah when they were preparing to get a dog, and she did a ton of research on her options.

Sarah was looking for dog food that was nutrient-dense, with a whole prey ratio of animal ingredients at 85%.

Probiotics were also on her wishlist.

She was also looking for a food that didn’t have too much protein.

Too much protein can be hard on a dog’s kidneys, so Sarah was looking for a brand with no more than 40% protein.

If the brand had legumes, they had to be at least eleven ingredients down.

The other thing that Sarah is doing is giving her pup a mixed diet so that not every meal is kibble.

She is buying a different flavor every time, of the same brand that she found.

Then Sarah is also doing a rehydrated freeze-dried food, which preserves nutrients better than the canning process.

So her dog is getting one wet can food meal a day.

In addition, Sarah’s dog is receiving training treats and chews.

The brand that Sarah selected is Orijen.

However, they are not the only good brand out there.

Orijen checked every single box of what Sarah was looking for, which was such a relief to find.

On the advice of her vet, Sarah is also giving Soka a taurine supplement.

The supplement is vetriscience cardio strength, which contains Carnitine, Taurine, Glycine, vitamin E, EPA, coQ10, GLA, vitamin B9, Magnesium, Potassium, and Selenium.

Sarah is mixing things up with training treats and Soka’s favorite is pastured turkey breast, cooked in the Instant Pot.

The other high-quality training treats that Soka likes are Grizzly’s Smoked Wild Salmon, Pupford Liver Training Treats, and Pupford Sweet Potato.

And Sarah just ordered Vital Essential Freeze-Dried Minnows and is excited to have her dog try those.

Sarah shared some of her training tricks and current approach.

So with, a focus on a nutrient-dense approach, the whole-prey ratio, and then round out her diet with mixed, diverse add-ins.

Sarah rounds it out with as many high-quality ingredients, using different training treats each time.

Soka is also getting natural chews like grass-fed beef bone (K9 Connoisseur), naturally-shed deer antler (Whitetail Naturals), and beef trachea.

Everything that Sarah is doing with Soka is about nutrient-density and nutrient variety, which are the same principles of how she chooses her own foods.

Stacy loves that all of the brands they pick are helping with the sustainability and the respecting of animals that she feels so passionate about with our food supply chain.

Eating nose to tail is so important.

Thank you dogs for helping us respect the whole animal!

 

What Stacy Feeds Penny

Like Stacy mentioned, they really struggled for almost a year in figuring out what to feed Penny. (1:06:05)

They started off transitioning her to a higher quality kibble because she came to them on the fast food of dog food kibble.

The easiest thing was kibble since that is what she was used to.

They found Stella & Chewy’s and they put her on a puppy kibble to start.

Stacy didn’t want her to be on kibble longterm.

However, to get her to like it they would mix in ghee or very gelatinous broth or homemade gravy.

They were trying to also help her be less underweight.

The problem though was that Penny grew accustomed to things tasting delicious and when they tried to feed her dry kibble alone she wouldn’t eat it.

While Penny is extremely motivated for treats, her food is an entirely different thing.

One time she went for almost four days without eating.

The process of trying to modify Penny’s diet felt a lot like sleep training.

Sarah pointed out that it is very important to recognize that there is no one way.

There are always going to be exceptions, and you need to do what feels best for you and your pet.

They eventually started adding a stew from Stella & Chewy’s on top of the kibble and then mixed it up.

However, this was an expensive route.

Stacy’s dog is very high maintenance with food.

Penny was underweight, and it was very important for them to figure out how to get her to eat something that was both healthful, as well as nutrient-dense for weight-gain promoting purposes.

Eventually they were able to find a long-term approach for Penny that she absolutely loves and is so much easier for them.

They now feed Penny freeze-dried patties from Stella & Chewy’s.

These patties also have taurine added to them, kelp, and are very clean for a dog.

They crumple up the patties and add a little bit of hot water.

Ninety percent of the time they also add two spoonfuls of rice for her.

Penny is still on the low side of what is considered her normal weight.

Her rice is cooked in broth once a week, and saved in the fridge for meals.

They trust and really like Stella & Chewy’s, and best of all Penny really likes their stuff.

 

Closing Thoughts

Stacy shared stories on Penny’s pickiness when it comes to even training tricks. (1:16:40)

Sarah shared on Soka’s adventures with trying to bring home pine cones to eat.

Soka even has a pile spot where she collects things she finds.

She is still learning what things are toys.

As they wrap up this episode, Sarah wants to mention that Soka does have her own Instagram account.

Stacy considered making Penny her own Instagram account but decided not to.

She felt like she couldn’t manage another Instagram account.

This show was very focused on dog food so if you need the same rundown on cats, let Stacy and Sarah know.

They both have been longtime cat owners, and both feed their cats Orijen.

Stacy uses Amazon Subscribe & Save to get the best deals on Penny’s food and treats.

Sarah uses PetFlow.com.

This episode was not sponsored by any of the brands mentioned.

As always, Stacy and Sarah tell listeners what they use and why in a genuine way.

We will be back again next week, and very much appreciate you being here!

Thanks for listening! (1:24:23)






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If you’re looking for a light yet satisfying meal that comes together with just a handful of staples, look no further. This light and lemony Skillet Chicken Piccata is delicious year-round, and it pairs perfectly with just about any side dish. We love it with veggies, but it’s also perfect alongside rice or pasta.

Fancy but not too fancy

Skillet chicken piccata may sound fancy, but it’s actually quite simple (and ridiculously delicious!). Thin chicken breast cutlets get tossed with a light coating of flour before browning them in a little olive oil—which doesn’t seem all that amazing until you add the lemon juice, butter, broth, and salty capers. That’s when the real magic happens.

My family really loved this dish, and they didn’t complain when we had it three times in one week while I was testing different variations of it. I love it served alongside fresh seasonal veggies, while my husband and daughters asked for angel hair pasta to soak up all of the rich buttery sauce.

This dish is traditionally made with flour, white wine, and a generous amount of butter. We’ve lightened it up and simplified it a bit by replacing the wine with broth and decreasing the amount of butter. But honestly, you really wouldn’t know unless we hadn’t told you.

We hope you enjoy this easy Skillet Chicken Piccata as an easy weeknight meal or elegant date-night-in. Asparagus, arugula, and lemons are all in season now, and this is the perfect dish to bring them all together in one happy lemony, buttery, and satisfying way.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links that will not change your price but will share some commission.

How to Make Skillet Chicken Piccata

  1. If chicken cutlets are not available, you can make your own by slicing boneless skinless chicken breasts in half to create 4 thin pieces. Thinner pieces mean faster and more even cooking. If you’re not comfortable slicing the chicken this way, you can place the breasts between two sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap and pound them to an even ½-inch thickness, then cut them in half. It’s totally up to you—both ways will work.
  2. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Toss the seasoned chicken with your flour of choice. We used Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free 1:1 Flour, but cassava flour also worked well during testing and of course, good old all-purpose flour will also work if that’s what you have on hand.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat (this covered enameled cast iron skillet is one of our favorites). Once the pan is hot, add olive oil and swirl the pan to coat the bottom before adding the floured chicken cutlets. Cook 2 minutes, or until they easily release from the pan and are lightly browned underneath. Note: Gluten-free flour may not brown as much as all-purpose flour so resist the urge to cook them longer—you don’t want to overcook them. When the chicken is lightly browned on both sides, transfer it to a clean plate while you make the sauce.
  4. Reduce the heat of the pan and add a little more olive oil to the pan, along with the garlic, and cook—stirring until the garlic is fragrant but not burned (about 30 seconds). Then increase the heat to medium-high and add the broth and capers to the pan. Cook while stirring and scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, until the liquid is reduced by half (about 3 minutes if you have a vigorous simmer going).
  5. Now add the butter (or ghee) and stir vigorously as it melts. The sauce should start to look glossy.
  6. Add the chicken back to the pan and continue to simmer until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce starts to coat the spoon (about 2 minutes). The sauce won’t be super thick but it will be thicker and will have a silky texture. Taste and adjust the seasonings (salt and pepper) to taste.
  7. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the lemon juice and garnish with fresh chopped parsley.

 

Ready, Set, Eat!

While this Skillet Chicken Piccata is most delicious when it’s right from the pan with is salty-lemony sauce mingling beautifully with everything it touches on your plate, don’t be afraid to make it for a weekend meal prep. It reheats really well and it’s delicious served over a bed of greens with a side of roasted veggies for a hearty lunch salad.

Looking for More Skillet Meals?

Try these easy, family-friendly meals you can make in a skillet.

Hungry for More? Subscribe to get our newsletter delivered straight to your inbox! And be sure to stay in touch on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram for all of the latest updates.

Let’s Get Cookin’

Skillet Chicken Piccata

  • Author: Jessica Beacom
  • Prep Time: 10 mins.
  • Cook Time: 20 mins.
  • Total Time: 30 mins.
  • Yield: Serves 4 1x
  • Category: Whole30, Gluten-Free

Ingredients

  • 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts or 4 chicken cutlets (~1 ¼ lbs)
  • 3 Tbsp. gluten-free flour blend (we love this gluten-free flour)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 cup chicken broth, homemade or store-bought
  • 2 Tbsp. capers, drained
  • 1 Tbsp. ghee or butter*
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice (juice of 1 lemon)
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • Lemon wedges or slices for serving

Instructions

1. To make the chicken cutlets, slice chicken breasts in half crosswise into 4 cutlets and lightly pound each piece between sheets of parchment paper until they’re about ½” thick. Season lightly with salt.
2. Place the flour in a shallow bowl. Working one at a time, place the cutlets in the bowl and toss to coat in flour. Shake off excess flour and transfer to a plate.
3. Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil starts to shimmer add the cutlets to the pan and cook, without moving them, until golden brown underneath—about 2 minutes. Turn each cutlet over and cook on the other side just until chicken is nearly cooked through (about 1 minute). Transfer to a clean plate.
4. Add garlic and remaining 1 Tbsp. oil to the skillet. Reduce the heat and stir continuously to keep the garlic from scorching, about 30 seconds.
5. Increase the heat to medium-high and add broth and capers to the pan. Cook, stirring and scraping up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the skillet until liquid is reduced by half, about 3 minutes.
6. Add the ghee or butter. Stir vigorously while the ghee melts (about 1 minute) until the sauce starts to look glossy.
7. Return the chicken to the skillet and simmer until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce coats the spoon (about 2 minutes). Remove from heat and stir the lemon juice into the sauce. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
8. Transfer the chicken to a platter, spooning the sauce over the top of the cutlets, and sprinkle with parsley. Serve with lemon wedges.

Notes

*To make this dairy-free: Substitute additional olive oil for the butter or ghee

*Use ghee to make this Whole30-friendly

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1/4th recipe (Chicken + Sauce)
  • Calories: 338
  • Sugar: 0g
  • Sodium: 369mg
  • Fat: 18g
  • Saturated Fat: 5g
  • Carbohydrates: 3g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Protein: 37g

Pin it now & make it later!


All photos and content are copyright protected. Please do not use our photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this recipe, please rewrite the recipe in your own unique words and link back to the source recipe here on The Real Food Dietitians. Thank you!

About Jessica Beacom

Jessica is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist living in Boulder, CO with her hubby and two daughters. She’s been described as a ‘real food evangelist’ and loves sharing her knowledge with others to help them break free of the diet mentality and find their own food freedom. In her spare time she enjoys CrossFit, telemark skiing, mountain biking, teaching herself how to play the banjo and camping out under the stars.





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How many of you have ever tried sushi?  No, not the one with the raw meat in it, but the other kinds that have rice covered with nori (a seaweed) and veggies and avocado inside. 

Besides the great taste of the veggie sushi, you may be surprised that you are getting more than a mouthful of flavor.  The sea vegetable called nori, which is one of numerous sea vegetables has many nutritious benefits.

Seaweed contains a massive variety of health-promoting components as compared to the majority of other plant and animal-based foods available on land. Seaweed is a rich source of essential minerals such as magnesium, calcium, copper, potassium, selenium, zinc, iodine, and iron, while also containing a very low amount of fats. Seaweed is also a treasure trove of antioxidants, phytonutrients and rich fiber content that is required by the body. Vitamins present in seaweed are vitamin A, B, C, E and K. Seaweeds also contains omega-3 fatty acids and all the vital amino acids necessary for the body.

Raw or Sun Dried Seaweed Contains:

Raw or Sun Dried Seaweed Contains
  • High protein content: from 20% in green algae to 70% in spirulina.
  • High mineral content, especially: iodine, potassium, selenium, calcium, iron, magnesium.
  • More vitamin C than oranges.
  • Vegans can rejoice in the fact that it’s one of the only natural, non-animal sources of vitamin B-12, which is essential for many cognitive and bodily functions.
  • Natural iodine maintaining a healthy thyroid function.
  • Anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory properties.

If you have seen the packages of different sea vegetables at the grocery store but were afraid to try them, let us assure you, go ahead and give them a try! Not only will you enjoy their salty addition to soups, salads and even smoothies, but your body will love the added nutritional benefits.

What Makes Seaweed So Great?

A member of the algae family, edible seaweed typically comes in three varieties: brown, red, and green. The most commonly eaten (and researched) are the brown varieties such as kelp and wakame, followed by red seaweed, which includes nori (yep — that’s what most sushi chefs use).

While seaweed-based cuisine has a proud history in many Asian countries, Japan has made it into an art form, employing over twenty different species in their fare. In a restaurant, you’re most likely to consume seaweed in a small kelp (kombu) salad, simmered into miso soup, or wrapped around a sushi roll.

Other Health Benefits of Seaweed

Cancer:

Seaweed contains cancer-fighting agents that may prove useful in fighting tumors and other cancer conditions like colon cancer and leukemia. Brown seaweed such as kelp, wakame, and kombu contain glycoprotein and sulphated polysaccharides called fucoidans that possess immuno-stimulant, anti-viral, and anti-cancer properties. Research studies on the effectiveness of dietary seaweed on breast cancer have shown promising results in reducing the production of cancer-promoting hormones, including estrogen, and have the ability to inhibit the proliferation of malignant cancer cells.

Source of Iodine:

Seaweed is a rich source of iodine, which it absorbs in ample amounts from the sea water. Iodine is a vital nutrient required for proper growth for all age groups. It is essential for the normal regulation of thyroid function, which also involves the brain and pituitary gland. The thyroid hormone also plays an essential role in the process of myelination of the central nervous system in newborns. A deficiency of iodine in the body can result in abnormalities such as thyroid enlargement or goiter, hypothyroidism, and mental retardation.

Obesity:

Scientific research has shown that edible seaweed possesses anti-obesity effects. The compound fucoxanthin present in seaweed helps in reducing the accumulation of fats and aids weight loss.

Digestive Health:

Seaweed has a mild laxative effect and is quite useful in maintaining healthy digestion. It aids in stimulating the release of digestive enzymes, supporting the absorption of nutrients, and facilitating the metabolism of fats. Studies have shown that polysaccharides exert prebiotic effects on the gut, which helps in normal functioning of beneficial stomach bacteria and shields the stomach wall against harmful bacteria.

Diabetes:

The Fucoxanthin compound present in brown algae has been proven effective in exerting anti-diabetic effects. Along with this, the triglyceride absorption of kombu, has been praised for its effect on diabetes. As stated by the research, the anti-diabetic effect can be attributed to the presence of alginic acid in the kombu.

Dental Health:

Seaweed extracts have long been appreciated for their preventative effect in the growth of dental cavities. The anti-inflammatory properties are responsible for the improvement in the functioning of salivary glands and making the oral tissues more resistant to damage.

Anti-Coagulant:

Laboratory research has made it evident that seaweed possesses antioxidant and anti-coagulant properties. Anti-coagulants, also known as blood thinners, prevent the formation of blood clots and decrease the threat of stroke, cardiac failure, and obstruction in the veins and arteries.

Detoxification:

Seaweed possesses the ability to detoxify and cleanse the body and facilitates the excretion of toxic waste. The binding property of the natural absorbent, alginate, which is present in seaweed, makes toxic materials, including heavy metals like lead, mercury, and other pollutants indigestible and eliminated them from the body through bowel movements.

Influenza:

Seaweed possesses anti-viral properties that have been proven promising in providing a protective effect against Influenza B virus. Seaweed extracts obstruct the absorption of harmful viral particles in the cells and prevents the body from getting infected.

Cardiovascular Health:

Seaweed has been useful in sustaining lower levels of triglycerides and cholesterol in the body. This helps in maintaining a healthy heart, smooth circulation in the blood vessels, and prevents fatal conditions like heart failure, and atherosclerosis.

Radiation Poisoning:

Seaweed has the ability to protect the skin from damage caused by exposure to ultraviolet B radiation from sunlight. This defensive effect can be attributed to the presence of fucoxanthin in the seaweed, which aids in preventing cell damage and enhancing the survival rate of the pre-treated cells. The antioxidant effect of fucoxanthin protects the skin from photo-aging, pigmentation, and wrinkle formation.

Protects Your Eyes:

The anti-ocular inflammatory effect exerted by fucoxanthin, present in seaweed, has shown promising results in the prevention of after-cataract. This complication is also known as posterior capsule opacification which can occur after cataract surgery. Fucoxanthin is utilized in the formulation of products used in ocular implants in the cataract surgery to avoid the risk of after-cataract.

Healthier Skin:

The wealth of essential vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants in seaweed helps in keeping the skin revitalized, moisturized, and youthful. These elements guard the skin against the harmful effects of environmental pollutants and helps to slow down the skin’s aging process. Scientific research has proven that seaweed extracts contain anti-aging properties. The anti-inflammatory properties present in seaweed are useful in treating skin rashes and wounds. The phytonutrients elevate blood flow and bring a healthy glow to the face. Seaweed wraps detoxify and cleanse the skin by expelling toxins out of the pores. Seaweed baths have also been admired among British and Irish people for ages due to their therapeutic effects.

Hair Care:
The high mineral content of seaweed also aids in maintaining healthy hair. They help in strengthening the roots and shafts of hair follicles and make them thick and lustrous.

So, What Else Is New?

And if that isn’t enough to get you singing the praises of seaweed, now scientists have found that a type of commercial red algae could help counteract food allergies. They report their findings in mice in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, June 1, 2016.

Food allergies are a major global health issue that can be life threatening in some cases. One 2014 study by researchers at Mount Sinai Hospital estimates that the condition affects about 8 percent of children and 5 percent of adults worldwide. In people who are allergic, certain compounds in food trigger a cascade of immune system reactions that lead to symptoms such as hives, wheezing and dizziness — and in the worst cases, anaphylactic shock.

Previous research has suggested that certain seaweed varieties contain polysaccharides with anti-asthmatic and anti-allergy effects. But no one had investigated whether similar molecules in Gracilaria lemaneiformis, a commercial variety of red algae, might have similar properties. Guang-Ming Liu and colleagues wanted to find out.

The researchers isolated polysaccharides from G. lemaneiformis and fed them to a group of mice sensitive to tropomyosin, a protein that is a major shellfish allergen. Another group of mice, also sensitive to tropomyosin, did not get the polysaccharides. After both groups were given the allergen, allergy symptoms in the treated mice were reduced compared to the untreated animals. Further studying polysaccharides from G. lemaneiformis could help lead to a better understanding of food allergies and their prevention, the researchers say.

So, if you are a bit reluctant to add a bit of the sea to your meals, go find yourself a great recipe and slowly introduce it into your diet.  Just two tablespoons once a week is enough for you to create a favorable change.  No need to add any more since the power isn’t in the quantity, it is in the quality.

A Few Precautions

There are a few considerations before you bring this to your plate.  Too much iodine can have its own issues, so since seaweed is high in iodine, treat it with respect and enjoy it only once a week as stated above.

There can be some drug interactions using seaweed.  Anti-thyroid as well as blood clotting drugs can be sensitive to the influence of seaweed.

But, if you are looking for a powerhouse of nutrients, and have no problems with medicines interacting, look no further than the sea to find what just may be the next best condiment you’ve ever had.





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