Understanding Health Fads: Juice Cleanses

It’s hard to say when the juice cleanse craze began, but it’s definitely still here and probably not going anywhere soon. Whether it was the early 90s, or in the 2000’s when the internet started pouring out endless health tips, juice cleanses were deemed as the best way to “detox” and “lose weight fast”. Celebrities churn out endorsements for different juicing brands and you can even purchase pre-made juice cleanses sent right to your door step. The question is, are juice cleanses really a benefit to our health?

Let’s break down the two health claims that come from juicing and why they might not be so accurate…

Juice cleanses claim to act as a detox, a method to rid your body of toxins and reset itself to a healthier state. But what your body is actually detoxing from during a juice cleanse might be many of the essential nutrients we need for our body to properly function.

By only consuming fruit and vegetable juice we’re actually stripping out vital vitamins and minerals we need such as Vitamin D, E and B-12 that help power our metabolic functions, such as converting our food into glucose and energy.

And even though fruit and vegetable juices do contain many healthy vitamins such as Vitamin C, A & B, these vitamins need to work in conjunction with other foods to be best absorbed. Removing good fats from your diet prevents your body from processing those potentially healthy vitamins. In the end, you’re wasting your body's chance to absorb these great vitamins by restricting yourself to just vegetables and fruits and eliminating other valuable elements in your diet such as nuts, seeds and, yes even coconut oil (yes coconut oil can be part of a healthy eating pattern!)

Also, it’s important to note our body has its own detoxifying functions to keep you healthy and rid your system of anything it doesn't need. This is what your kidneys, liver and GI tract function as, organs that help rid our bodies of harmful substances. Keep those organs happy and healthy with a well-balanced eating pattern full of real foods and you should be fine functioning with just your own internal detox system!

The second biggest promise a juice cleanse offers is the opportunity to lose weight – fast. In a sense, this claim might actually be true because you are in fact reducing your daily calorie intake, sometimes to as low as just 1000 calories a day. However, if you're looking for a long-term weight loss solution, a juice cleanse will do anything but that for you.

The quick weight loss from a juice cleanse comes predominately from the loss of water weight because as your body is starved for calories it will turn to its stores of glycogen for energy and as your glycogen is depleted so is the water attached to it. So rather than any true fat loss being accomplished, your body is only losing the grams of water in the glycogen that it is burning to keep you functioning on the few calories you’re ingesting. Once you end the juice cleanse and return to your regular diet, your glycogen stores will quickly be replenished, along with the water attached to them, returning you to your initial weight.

If you really want to lose weight fast, you are better off with a fasting mimicking diet full of healthy fats and low carbohydrates. This helps you metabolize your own fat stores rather than burning through your stored glycogen. But even then, short term weight loss is not synonymous with health! In fact, it is usually quite the opposite.

In the end, a juice cleanse won’t deliver on either of its promises, and it will also lead to unpleasant side effects such as headaches, nausea and mood swings on top of faltering energy levels (usually from the lack of fiber and protein in your diet). As you can imagine, these side effects will only slow you down on your path to better health.

It might be appealing to consider a diet that promises to change your life in just 3-5 days, but with a juice cleanse not only is the change short lived, it’s not of considerable benefit to your overall health. To really make a lasting impact on your health, there are no short cuts. So don’t believe it when someone tries to sell you one.

Instead, make a long-term commitment to your health. Implement daily lifestyles that will help you feel better and be better. That involves smarter decisions around nutrition, exercise, mindfulness and more. To learn more and get practical tips on how to accomplish this, consider taking the first step to achieving your best health ever with the Boundless Health Program.

 

Don’t Invite Me to Your Dinner Party

Don't invite me to your dinner party.

 

Seriously. Don’t do it.

 

If you do, you may feel like I am judging you. Like I am watching your every move, critiquing and grading you.

 

I am not, of course. I wouldn’t think of doing that. But that is how many people feel. Whether it's the third course of the meal when you're already full, or any talk of dessert after you just ate the delicious third course, I can sense the glance in my direction to see how I respond.

 

And don’t get me started on your third beer or third glass of wine or the amazing homemade Challah bread. You feel like I am watching and judging.

 

At first, I was a little disturbed by the perception. Can’t I just be another friend at your dinner party? Can’t you just see me as Bret, and not as Dr. Scher?

 

But now I realize it's a sign of success. Success that you are starting to get the message. Success that you are starting to realize all the unconscious decisions that go into preparing a meal and hosting a party, and you are starting to make them more conscious.

 

Recognizing the automatic lifestyle decisions and giving them serious thought is a tremendous improvement for our lifestyle and our health.

 

That doesn’t mean we cannot indulge on occasion. You can still serve dessert, even if I am at your dinner party. You can still prepare more food than anybody needs to eat, including the homemade Challah.

 

But now you can do it consciously. Not because it is what you always do, or what you think your guests expect. You can do it knowing that it is a special occasion, a rare splurge that you intend to enjoy with your friends (and me, if I am invited).

 

Remember it's not about being perfect. It's about being better every day, every week, every month, every year. So, go ahead and enjoy your life. Indulge on occasion. Just understand that your path to health is an everyday path. Be present, and be aware of your decisions. Strive to be better.

 

And please keep inviting me to your dinner parties. I promise to behave.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Bret Scher, MD FACC

Cardiologist, author, founder of Boundless Health

www.DrBretScher.com 

 

 

 

4 Fitness Apps To Try

Living a healthy lifestyle has many benefits, from taking fewer trips to your healthcare provider each year to managing stress and anxiety with ease. Luckily, getting on the path to your best health ever is right in the palm of your hand. Here are 4 fitness apps you should try today.

MapMyFitness

If someone asked you to choose your favorite workout style, could you choose just one? With MapMyFitness, you don’t have to. Choose from dozens of traditional workouts, like swimming, jumping rope, and weightlifting, to less traditional activities, like bowling, fishing, and horseback riding.

MapMyFitness also offers outdoor training routes near you, which are created and shared by other users. Simply search for a route based on the type of activity you want to do, make sure the app has a good GPS signal, and start your workout. If you’re a creature of habit, you also have the option to add private routes to your profile and do them again as often as you like.

Got a favorite way to exercise outdoors? There are several versions of the “MapMy” apps to choose from:

  • MapMyRun
  • MapMyHike
  • MapMyRide
  • MapMyWalk

All versions work the same way in terms of functionality, but each one provides map suggestions tailored to the default activity.

Charity Miles

Make your workouts meaningful with Charity Miles. Research shows that giving can be good for your mental health. Why not give your mind and body a boost by earning money for charity while you get fit?

All you have to do is pick a charity, select an activity, and start tracking your mileage using your smartphone’s GPS. There are more than 30 world-class charities to choose from, including the ASPCA, Habitat for Humanity, and Girls on the Run. Are you passionate about multiple causes? Charity Miles gives you the option to switch charities at any time.

A donation will be made for every mile you complete, and you can log miles through your choice of 5 outdoor and indoor activities. Once you tap to start tracking, the app lets you know who’s sponsoring your workout. Be sure to stop and save your miles when you’re done or your activity won’t count. (You can always tell the app to send you a reminder.)

Fitbit

Walking is a great way to boost your fitness level, lose weight, and feel healthier. It’s recommended that you get 10,000 steps a day, but how can you be sure you’re getting all those steps in? By tracking your daily steps with a wearable fitness device, like the Fitbit.

The Fitbit family of devices sync with the Fitbit app to give you a real-time look at your day. And you can track more than just exercise—the app allows you to log and monitor your sleep, weight, and food, which all adds up to a healthier and fitter you. Just choose the device that fits your goals, and then register it with the app.

Are you motivated by friendly competition? Get an extra dose of motivation by creating challenges among your Fitbit friends. Choose from fun options like Goal Day, Workweek Hustle, and Weekend Warrior. Or go on a virtual Adventure Race together and see who can reach the finish line first. The Fitbit app also features a community tab, where you can share your wins, join groups dedicated to your favorite healthy lifestyle topics, and connect with other Fitbitters.

MyFitnessPal

Keeping a food journal can help you build healthy eating habits—and what you consume is just as important as what you burn. Based on your fitness profile, MyFitnessPal will suggest a daily net calorie target to help you meet your nutrition and weight loss goals. As you fill up on foods and log your meals, the app will display your remaining calories. It will also show you the distribution of where those calories are coming from, be it fats, proteins, or carbohydrates.

Being mindful of what you eat and drink is a good practice for healthy living. As you create new journal entries, MyFitnessPal shares a snippet of nutrition advice to keep you aware of the healthy (or not so healthy) choices you’re making. For instance, if you decide to go out for an ice cream sundae, the app may alert you about the amount of sugar it contains, along with a reminder of your sugar goal for the day. Likewise, if you opt for a fruit cup, the app may tell you it has lots of Vitamin C.

You can also use the app to track your activity. Depending on how many calories you burned, the app automatically adjusts your net calorie needs for that day. Just sync your daily step counts and workouts from your smartphone or wearable fitness device to the app, and MyFitnessPal will figure out the rest. Another option is to manually log your cardio and strength workouts—the app will estimate your calories burned based on your current fitness profile.

Using an app is a great to get in shape and stay fit. Making small tweaks to your daily routine—like moving more and eating better—can go a long way in helping you live your best health ever. Try out one of these fitness apps today and let us know how it worked for you.

 

 

How to Outsmart the Grocery Store 

It’s happened to all of us. You ended up in the grocery store, hungry, tired and unprepared and suddenly you have a cart filled with frozen pizzas and potato chips. You end up staring at shelves upon shelves of Kraft Mac & Cheese, intriguing cereal boxes, microwave dinners and twelve different types of fruity, sugary yogurts. You definitely don’t need any of these items but you somehow end up with a cart full of them and you leave the store guilty of falling prey to the hidden psychology tricks of grocery stores. Have you ever noticed how essential foods like milk and eggs are spaced farthest from the entrance and to get back there you have to walk by all those packaged foods you didn’t even think you wanted? Or what about all the candy and sodas that are so conveniently placed by the checkout to tempt you while you stand in line waiting for your turn at the register?  Or take a look at how large grocery carts are lately, do you really need to fill that much space or could you opt for a smaller shopping basket? Grocery stores are smarter than we think…but we can beat them at their own game and here’s how! 

Make A List

Do not enter the grocery store without a list, whether it’s on your phone or written down on an old receipt you found in your car. Make sure to plan ahead, list out the items you truly need and do not allow yourself to deviate from this list once in the store. It may take an extra five minutes to do before you head in but it will save your wallet will be thankful for taking that time after you’re done the shopping!Also, don’t even think of walking down an aisle that doesn’t have one of the items you need.Not only will this save you from purchasing that junk food you don’t need, it will also save you time AND money. You could even turn this challenge into a game by timing yourself each time you go into the store. How quick can you get in and out? Get your friends in on the challenge and see who can make the best time!

Never Go To The Store Hungry 

This is a rule everyone should live by. Your eyes are always bigger than your stomach and going to a grocery store with an appetite can land you in the frozen dinner section, or even worse, the bakery section picking out a donut to eat as you stroll through the rest of the store. Have a healthy snack before you go like an apple or a hard boiled egg. This will provide you with the energy you need to tackle the produce aisle and stock up with all your fruits and vegetables for the week! If you end up at the grocery store without a snack, just grab an apple or a banana from the fruit section (but don’t forget to pay for it on your way out!!).

Avoid Grocery Stores Completely

That’s right! Abandon the grocery store completely! Buy meat from a butcher and get your fruits and vegetables from your local farmers market. Or if you have a busy schedule, grocery shop online. There are countless platforms like Vons and Amazon that will deliver groceries right to your door. After having a snack and making your list, you can opt to shop online for the healthy foods you really need to stock your kitchen. If you’re interested in learning to cook new recipes you could also try one of a meal delivery service like Blue Apron or HelloFresh! These services can be very affordable and help you inspire you with creative & healthy new dinner options. 

Stocking up your kitchen with the right foods is just one of the first steps of living your best health ever! If you can successfully get through your trip to the grocery store you’re already on your way to improving your health with meals that feature the foods you really need to fuel your body and your mind. If you need inspiration for your next meal, try out this great recipe from our friends at Whole30! 

 

 

 

Coconuts are Driving Me Nuts!

How does this headline sound to you?

“Newsbreak! We have no new information about Coconut Oil, but we have a news alert that we still think all saturated fat is bad for everyone.”

That is the real story behind the headline “Coconut oil isn’t healthy. It’s never been healthy” that has grabbed the attention of millions.

The American Heart Association released a statement that, to summarize, says:

  1. Coconut Oil is a saturated fat.
  2. Saturated fat can raise LDL.
  3. High LDL has been associated with increased risk of heart disease.
  4. Therefore, coconut oil will increase your risk for heart disease

Is there any direct proof that coconut oil is dangerous to our health?

No.

Is there any new evidence directly linking saturated fat to heart disease?

No.

Can we say that because “A” is true above that “D” has to be true?

No way.

But that sure is an attention-grabbing headline to try to connect the dots.

What Evidence?

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like the AHA is making this up out of thin air. They are basing their opinion on decades of science. Decades of poor quality science. But since that was all the science we had for years, you can see why they came to the conclusion.

LDL cholesterol is an important part of the puzzle when it comes to your health. But it is exactly that. One piece of a very complicated puzzle.

What else does saturated fat do? It raises of HDL. For many, the total cholesterol-to-HDL ratio remains the same.  Does that increase the risk of heart disease? There is no good data to support that claim, but likely not.

Let’s look at it another way.

Is an LDL of 150 dangerous? That depends. Are you overweight, sedentary, have a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome, eating a high inflammatory diet, and have a strong family history of heart disease? Then an LDL of 150 likely is dangerous. And you likely also have a low HDL, high triglyceride level (TG), high blood sugar etc.

On the other hand, do you eat real food, mostly vegetables with appropriate portions of animal fats? Do you exercise, manage your stress, and have few if any other cardiovascular risk factors? Are your HDL, TG and glucose levels near ideal? Then that same LDL of 150 is likely not as dangerous for you.

It is misleading to suggest one size fits all.

(For more details on the saturated fat debate, and why the data is not as clear as most seem to think, see our prior article on the topic here.

Unfortunately, the American Heart Association discounts the evidence that shows no association between saturated fat intake and cardiovascular disease.  They continue to promote industrial, processed oils over natural fats. Again, rooted in decades of science. Poor quality science.

Both Sides Fail

In essence, the attention-grabbing news flash is simply restating the AHA’s longstanding position. There is nothing new.

To be fair, however, do we have good evidence saying coconut oil is healthy?

No, we do not.

Can we prove saturated fat reduces our heart disease risk?

No.

Can we believe Dr. Axe when he claims that coconut oil has 20 proven health benefits (including curing UTIs, protecting the liver and preventing osteoporosis)?

No way. That’s crazy talk.

If we are going to question the poor-quality evidence against saturated fat, we certainly have to question the horribly inadequate evidence supporting views like Dr. Axe’s.

So, what can we conclude?

We can conclude that nothing new was found for or against coconut oil.

Nothing new was found for or against vegetable oils.

Saturated fats (and by extension coconut oil) are not inherently bad, especially if they are a component of a real-foods, vegetable-based, Mediterranean style of eating.

Vegetable oils are highly processed, pro-inflammatory, fake foods that have evidence both for and against their use.

It’s all so confusing! I know. Trust me, I know.

What Can We Do?

What is someone to do in this sea of contradictory news?

Don’t believe the hype.

Focus on real, minimally processed foods.

When it comes to cooking fats:

  1. Olive oil is the best for low heat.
  2. Avocado oil is the best for medium heat.
  3. Higher heat gets tricky due to concern over smoke points.

    1. First, ask yourself, why are you cooking or frying in high heat to begin with? Can you get the same result with lower heat?
    2. If it’s something you have to do, you can choose from coconut oil, butter, ghee, and vegetable oil. Make you decision based on taste, or even better, mix it up.

Action Item: Do you want to know how cooking oils affect you, as an individual? Get your labs done (at a minimum check LDL, HDL, TG, TC, hsCRP, glucose. For more advanced testing try WellnessFX or other ways to get advanced lipid testing). Then switch to 100% coconut oil as your cooking oil for a month and recheck your labs. Review your labs with someone who has an open mind and looks at more than just your LDL number. LDL does not exist in isolation, but is part of the whole picture.  Now you know how it affects you. Individualized medicine beats general guidelines any day.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Bret Scher, MD FACC

Cardiologist, author, founder of Boundless Health

www.DrBretScher.com 

Herb-Crusted Roasted Salmon with Roasted Broccoli Steaks

Here is another great recipe from our friends at Whole30. Give it a try for a delicious twist on salmon. But don't stop with just broccoli for the veggie. Add cauliflower, zucchini, and sweet potato for an even greater array of colors and flavors!

Ingredients
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 cup almond flour
2 salmon fillets (6 ounces each)
3 small heads broccoli with the stems attached (consider adding cauliflower, sweet potato and other veggies here!)
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Instructions
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Combine the basil, parsley, 4 tablespoons of the oil, lemon juice, ½ teaspoon of the salt, ½ teaspoon of the pepper, and the lemon zest in a blender or food processor. Cover and pulse until smooth. Pour the herb mixture into a bowl and stir in the almond flour.

Place the salmon fillets in a large roasting pan or on a rimmed baking sheet. Pack the herb mixture on the top of each fillet.

Trim the broccoli stems to about 3 inches below the florets. Slice the broccoli heads lengthwise into 1-inch-thick slabs (two or three slabs per head), cutting from the bottom of the stems through the crown to preserve the shape of the broccoli. Brush both sides of each broccoli slice with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with the remaining ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Arrange the broccoli in a single layer in the pan around the salmon.

Roast the broccoli and salmon for 25 minutes, until the salmon just barely starts to flake when pulled apart with a fork and the broccoli is lightly browned, turning the broccoli once halfway through roasting. Sprinkle the broccoli with the toasted almonds before serving.

Text excerpted from The Whole30 Cookbook © 2016 by Melissa Hartwig. 

Breakfast Smoothies

I have posted a few times about my quick, easy and delicious veggie eggs that I eat at least three days per week. As a response, many of you who aren’t big fans of eggs have reached out and asked for other options. First, I encourage you all to explore intermittent fasting at least two days per week. Another option is to turn to smoothies. Smoothies are a great way to get your greens and veggies, plus you can easily add healthy fats and proteins to start your day with balanced nutrition. Just don’t fall into the trap of the “easy” bagel, muffin or cereal! You can do better. Here is a link to a delicious Strawberry & Kale smoothie from Amy Krasner at Nourished Balance. It’s easy and very tasty. Give it a try!

http://www.nourishedbalance.com/recipes/breakfast/strawberry-kale-smoothie/

Are Gluten-Free Diets Killing Us?

Gluten has come full circle in the eyes of popular media. It was initially portrayed as the cause of all our health concerns. Eliminating it was the quickest path to feeling better and living healthier. After all, how else can we explain Tom Brady’s Super Bowl prowess????

 

Now, however, avoiding gluten has been implicated in increasing our risk of heart disease and causing a harmful disruption of our gut microbiome (the bacteria in our digestive tracts and plays an integral role in our health).

 

So, which should we believe?

 

As with most health topics in popular media, the key is in the details. But first, a quick primer on gluten and gluten sensitivity.

 

Gluten 101

 

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye, and in foods made with those grains, like bread, cereal, cookies, crackers and pasta.

 

In people with the medical condition of celiac disease the body sees gluten as a foreign invader and is unable to properly absorb it. Gluten causes an autoimmune response against the lining of the intestines causing intestinal damage and decreased absorption of necessary nutrients.

 

Symptoms of celiac disease include abdominal pain, bloating, and rashes. It can also cause anemia, bone problems, and malnutrition. Your doctor can diagnose celiac disease with a blood test and a biopsy of your small intestine.

 

Without question, those with proven celiac disease must avoid gluten. Fortunately, it is a rare medical condition.

 

More commonly, people may be sensitive to gluten even though they don’t have celiac disease. They simply find that they feel much better when they avoid gluten-containing foods. They have more energy, less bloating, clearer skin, and have improved concentration and mental clarity.

 

This is not a medical diagnosis. There is no way to objectively prove if this is the case or not. This is a subjective feeling. Do you feel better while avoiding gluten or not? It’s that simple.

 

This is similar to numerous other food intolerances that abound. Some people feel better avoiding dairy. Some feel better avoiding meat. Some feel better avoiding legumes. Gluten is no different. It just gets more attention lately given its popularity among celebrities and weight loss pundits.

 

If you feel better avoiding gluten, then you should avoid it. After all, our bodies do not require gluten for good health.

 

Our bodies need proteins and fats, vitamins and minerals. There is no physiological need for gluten. If it makes you feel poorly, there is no need to eat it.

 

Gluten Coming Full Circle

 

Now, however, people are starting to question the safety of gluten-free diets based on recent research.

 

An article published in May in BMJ (British Medical Journal) suggested that avoiding gluten increased our risk of heart disease.  What followed was a social media and popular media storm of gluten-free backlash with the end result being confusion and frustration.

 

Who do we believe and what do we do now?

 

Take A Breath, Then Dive Deeper

 

First, take a breath. Remember that health claims, good or bad, are rarely as extreme as portrayed by the media.

 

Next, dive deeper. Understanding the implications of the study depends on understanding the details of the study. I know that not everyone has the time/desire/resources to dig deeper into the studies, so we did it for you.

 

This study was an observational study that followed healthcare workers without heart disease (at the time of enrollment) for 26 years. There was no specific intervention, the researchers simply collected data over time on who had heart attacks and who did not, and also collected data on what they ate. By going back and statistically crunching the data, they tried to find an association between the amount of gluten eaten and the risk of heart attacks.

 

Here is the main conclusion to the study. There was no significant difference in heart disease risk between those who ate the most gluten compared to those who ate the least. No significant difference.

 

Why all the news reports that it increased the risk of heart disease?

 

Statistical massaging of the data showed that those who ate the least amount of gluten and the least amount of whole grains did have a small increased risk of heart disease.

 

So, what was the problem? Was it the missing gluten? Or the missing whole grains? This study does not prove cause and effect. It does, however, suggest it was the lack of whole grains, not just the gluten, that was associated with a very small increased risk of heart disease.

 

How small?  There was a 15% relative risk increase. The absolute increase was not reported, but looking at the numbers it was around 0.1%. The difference was 1 person out of 1000. Hardly earth shattering.

 

Said another way, if the subjects avoided gluten containing cookies, crackers and processed bread and substituted gluten-free cookies, crackers and processed bread, they were not any healthier, and may have increased their heart disease risk by 0.1%.

 

Yawn. That type of analysis wouldn’t sell many papers or get many clicks. Thus, the media did not report it as such. Yet that is what the paper found.

 

Gut Bugs

 

What about gut microbiota? Can gluten-free diet hurt our gut bugs?

 

A 2010 study suggested eating a gluten-free diet harmed our gut microbiome. This one should be an easy one to explain.

 

What helps healthy gut microbes flourish? Fiber. Specifically, fermentable fiber.

 

The most common gluten substitute is rice flour. Rice flour has very little fiber, thus very little ability to feed the healthy gut bacteria.

 

The result? A relative overgrowth of the unhealthy gut bacteria. The bacteria that like high-sugar and low fiber foods flourish while the fiber-eating bacteria die off.

 

Wheat on the other hand, tends to have more fiber. Especially whole grain foods. So once again, it is likely that limiting whole grains in favor of low-fiber, processed foods is not helping our health, whether we are talking about our guts or our hearts (and by extension, likely our brains as well).

 

Gluten- Guilty or Not?

 

Is there anything inherently dangerous about eating gluten free?

 

No.

 

The key is what are you eating instead. If you are eating low fiber, processed gluten-free foods, then you are not doing yourself any favors.

 

But if you feel better avoiding gluten, and you are replacing it with real food, fresh veggies (both starchy and non-starchy), fruit, seeds and nuts, then chances are you will feel better and be healthier.

 

What if gluten doesn’t bother you? Then there is no real need to avoid it as long as you are eating whole grains, minimally processed versions of gluten, and avoiding the processed and refined junk.

 

It’s that simple Let’s not over complicate it.

 

Action Item: Take two weeks to see how you feel without eating gluten. Do you feel any better? More or less energy? Can you think or focus better? Do you have fewer aches and pains? Did your weight change? If not, then eat what you want (as long as you continue to follow a real food, vegetable first, low sugar and low processed food way of eating). If you do feel better without gluten, then stock up on the foods listed below. Avoid gluten, but also be careful not to add processed, low-fiber, gluten-free alternatives. Just because it is gluten free doesn’t mean it is good for you!

 

Whole grain gluten-free foods:

Amaranth, buckwheat, brown rice, millet, quinoa, oats. 

 

Other fiber containing foods:

Legumes such as beans, lentils and peas

Green leafy vegetables

Starchy vegetables such as yams, sweet potatoes, carrots and other root vegetables

Apples, pears and berries

Nuts and seeds

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Bret Scher, MD FACC

Cardiologist, author, founder of Boundless Health

www.DrBretScher.com

 

A Healthier Grilled Cheese For The Whole Family

I know what you are thinking. Grilled cheese, healthy? What? I admit it may not be the healthiest choice, but sometimes you want to mix it up and your crave some comfort food. It helps to have a healthier go-to version of the old facorite. Plus, my kids love this. They love it so much that my 7-year old insisted that he film us making it for all of you. Enjoy!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCg6pXO7gfB2GapwRjMKEIbQ/videos

Why I Ate My Wife’s Chocolate Chips. All of Them.

I didn’t sleep at all Saturday night.

 

 In college, that may have been an exciting statement full of fun and intrigue.

 

In medical school and residency, it was a badge of honor and usually involved clinical challenges and valuable experiences.

 

This past Saturday, it involved consoling my son as he kept throwing up. Changing his sheets, wiping his head with a damp towel, and most importantly, just letting him know I was there and that he would be OK. It is a rite of passage all parents go through, more than once.

 

On Sunday, he was much better and slowly getting back to his usual self. Me? I was hungry and craving carbs.

 

I also almost never crave carbs. I practice intermittent fasting, I eat a “veggie first diet” with healthy fats, appropriate portions of animal sources, some fruit and almost no refined carbs. Through years of this practice, I have been able to drastically diminish my sweet tooth and control my hunger and cravings

 

A Different Story

 

Sunday was a different story. I had the carb cravings and munchies all day. Instead of eggs, veggies, and avocado, I had fruit and granola for breakfast. But didn’t stop there. I still had this crazy craving so I added toast and a banana.

 

Later in the day the cravings really hit. Chocolate.

 

I was craving chocolate like you wouldn’t believe. Fortunately, my wife had some chocolate chips in the freezer. Let’s just say I need to make a run to replenish the supply before she sees what I have done. Without thinking, I polished off what was left in the bag.

 

How could this be? This was all so unlike me. What could have happened?

 

Sleep.

 

Or more importantly, lack of sleep.

 

Sleep and Our Hormones

 

Sleep is intimately involved with our hunger and our cravings. As a result, sleep is intimately involved with our weight gain, weight loss and our health. It effects not only our ability to make decisions, but also alters our hormones, our cravings and our feelings.

 

That’s powerful stuff!

 

It turns out that inadequate sleep affects our hormones ghrelin and leptin. They sound like comic book villains, but they are hormones that control our feelings of being hungry or feeling full. Ghrelin, the “hunger hormone,” signals to your body that you’re hungry and need to eat. Leptin has the opposite effect, and signals that you’re full and don’t need to eat. Research consistently shows that poor sleep spikes ghrelin and suppresses leptin levels.

 

The result? Poor sleep leaves you feeling hungrier than usual regardless of what you eat or how much you eat. You eat more and expend less energy. Bad combination.

 

Leptin and ghrelin load the gun, our lack of mental clarity pulls the trigger (it’s a terribly violent analogy, but it makes the point none the less).

 

When we are sleep deprived we don’t think with the same level of clarity and with the same emotional control. We tend to react impulsively when we feel hungry. Impulse decisions rarely end in a well-balanced meal of veggies with healthy fats and proteins. More often, the result is standing in front of the freezer, door open, eating your wife’s stash of chocolate chips.

 

Guilty as charged.

 

Ripple Effect

 

Guess what else I did (or more importantly, didn’t do) in my sleep-deprived state on Sunday.

 

I didn’t go to the gym as I had planned.

 

I didn’t get out for a hike or nature walk.

 

I drove to the grocery store instead of riding my bike.

 

I sat and watched a movie with my son rationalizing that he wanted me there so it was OK to plant myself on the couch for an hour and a half.

 

Sound familiar? When we are tired and run down from poor sleep, the rest of our healthy lifestyle decisions suffer. It is the classic ripple effect.

 

And poor sleep can cause it all.

 

The solution?

 

Sleep better.

 

“No kidding. We already knew that. Thanks for nothing doc!”

 

Ok. We all know we need more sleep. And there is a laundry list of sleep hygiene techniques that I review in more detail in my book and elsewhere.

 

But life happens. We can’t always prepare for the night of consoling our children. Or the night before a big presentation when we are too excited/nervous/scared (take your pick) to get to sleep. What do we do then?

 

Be mindful and be aware.

 

Mindful Power

 

In this case, knowledge truly is power. Simply being aware that our hormones will be off kilter and our decision making will be impaired gives us the power to control our day.

 

You may need an extra reminder, or you may have to try harder than usual, but staying in the present and being mindful of your decisions is the skill you need to counteract the effects of poor sleep.

 

Instead of acting rashly, take a breath. Step back, breathe and realize you did not sleep well. Remind yourself that poor sleep alters your hormones and your perceived needs. And realize that you can still control these feelings and cravings. When you are mindful, you are in control.

 

It turns out, studies show mindfulness also helps you sleep better. When compared to a group of individuals given sleep hygiene education, individuals who practiced regular mindful meditation slept more and felt more refreshed. So not only does being mindful help you get through your day with minimal damage, it also helps you get back on track.

 

Once again, that’s a pretty powerful effect. If that were a pill you better believe there would be a multi-million-dollar marketing campaign behind it.

 

But it isn’t a pill. It’s free for anyone to do. It’s a skill anyone can try and everyone can improve. Being mindful is like exercising a muscle. The more you practice it, the stronger it becomes. The stronger it becomes, the easier it is to use.

 

You won’t be perfect and it may not always be easy. But I promise you this. Practice being mindful, practice your breathing, and you will be better.

 

Action Item:

Start recording your sleep. Activity monitors like FitBit Alta HR, FitBit Charge, Garmin Vivosport, Mio Slice, the Apple watch and many others all record sleep duration. Or simply record it yourself with a pen and paper (old school). When you get less sleep than usual, make a concerted effort to control your surroundings more. Make a concerted effort to practice your mindfulness techniques more. Treat yourself with more compassion and more love.  And make sure you get to bed a little earlier that night to help break the cycle. You can do this. You just need to be aware.

 

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Bret Scher, MD FACC

Cardiologist, author, founder of Boundless Health

www.DrBretScher.com

 

 

 

 

Bret Scher, MD FACC

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