Blog

The Best Ever Pumpkin Muffins (Made Healthier)

When someone declares a recipe “the best”, it’s always worth a try (Adapted from Lovely Little Kitchen).  However, I cannot bring myself to add the 1 cup of white sugar the recipe calls for.  Also, I feel best with more paleo/ketogenic ingredients so that is what I used.  Here is my adaptation, though it is not strictly keto or paleo.   I like that it uses the whole can of pumpkin – more moist and pumpkin-y and I don’t have a half used can of pumpkin sitting in the fridge. I like to make healthy as easy as possible so I used only one bowl instead of one for the wet and one for the dry ingredients. Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 3/4 cup flour  (paleo flour mix, almond flour, gluten-free, oat flour, etc.)
  • 3 tablespoons date palm sugar (this replaces the white sugar and has zero calories)
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 15 ounce can pure pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted or other oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Prepare a standard size muffin baking pan with paper liners or by oiling each well.
  2. Measure out the flour, sugars, baking soda, salt and spices in a medium bowl and whisk together. 
  3. Add in the eggs, pumpkin puree, oil and vanilla extract.
  4. Stir just until ingredients are mixed.
  5. Distribute batter into muffin tin. 
  6. Optional toppings – pecans, brown sugar, raisins
  7. Bake muffins for 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

The Best Lentil Salad, Ever

This really is the best lentil salad ever. The spices and the raisins made it very yummy and the ingredients made it healthy. Copied from mynewroots.blogspot.com

The Best Lentil Salad, Ever
Ingredients:
2 ¼ cups (1 lb.) Du Puy lentils
1 medium red onion, diced
1 cup dried currants (you could also use raisins or other dried fruit)
1/3 cup capers

Vinaigrette: 
1/3 cup cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 Tbsp. strong mustard
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
½ tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
¼ tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon

Optional add-ins:
Arugula
Walnuts
Goat cheese
Fresh herbs: flat-leaf parsley, cilantro, basil
Sprouts
Crispy seasonal veggies 

Directions:
1. Rinse lentils well, drain. Place in a pot and cover with a 3-4 inches of water, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer. Check lentils for doneness after 15 minutes, but they should take about 20 minutes in total. You will know they are cooked if they still retain a slight tooth – al dente! Overcooking the lentils is the death of this dish. Be careful!
2. While the lentils are simmering, make the dressing by placing all ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake vigorously to combine.
3. Finely dice red onion – the salad is best if all the ingredients are about the same size. If using raisins, chop them roughly to make them a bit smaller, and do the same with the capers if they are large. 
4. When the lentils are cooked, remove from heat, drain and place under cold running water to stop the cooking process. Once cooled slightly but still a little warm, place lentils in a large serving bowl and toss with dressing. Add other onion, capers, and currants. If using other add-ins such as herbs, greens, or cheese, wait until just before serving. Otherwise, this salad can hang out in the fridge for a couple days.

Another View of the Thyroid

Abby Kurth, MPH, MS, CCN, Clinical Nutritionist + Wellness Coach, abbykurth@sbcglobal.net

The thyroid is a tiny little gland that has us by the throat – literally and figuratively.  This gland, located on the front part of the throat, impacts every cell in the body to regulate metabolism, and so impacts our energy and wellbeing every day.  Many people I work with don’t realize they have thyroid issues, while others are taking medication, but getting no or short term results.  Clearly, successful therapy is going to require finding the real reason behind poor thyroid function.

Primary hypothyroidism comes about when the thyroid produces less hormone due to aging, stress, thyroid gland destruction from autoimmune assault, or nutritional deficiency.  The nutrients iodine and tyrosine are required to make thyroid hormone.

When Functional Hypothyroidism is the issue, the good news is that the thyroid can make enough of the hormone T4.  The bad news is that the body cannot convert the T4 to the T3 hormone that is active in the body.  This is the person for whom basic thyroid tests may be normal, but they have all the symptoms of hypothyroidism.   Liver health and having enough of the nutrients selenium and zinc, which help the conversion is important.  It is also imperative to have normal levels of the adrenal hormone cortisol, which can become too high during stress or too low after a period of chronic stress.  There are proteins that may bind the thyroid hormone and they are increased if estrogen is too high or as a result of some medications.  Thyroid medication is one that can stimulate more binding protein and this is why some people may feel better the first month on thyroid medication, but the results don’t last.

The third scenario for our thyroid is Functional Hypometabolism.  This is where the hormone levels are adequate, but not getting into our cells .  Cells have receptor sites on their surface that allow hormones to enter and then the hormone is transported to the part of the cell where it is utilized.  High cortisol from stress can again inhibit these activities, and so adrenal gland support is often indicated when trying to help the thyroid.  Nutrient deficiencies of iron and vitamin D affect the receptors, as do autoimmune antibodies. 

If we aren’t always getting the right answer to what is happening with the thyroid, we may not be asking the right question.  A usual test of thyroid function is the TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone), a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland to stimulate thyroid production.  Unfortunately this may not tell the whole story of poor thyroid conversion or cell receptivity.  Complete testing of the thyroid would include TSH, free T4 (hormone not bound to proteins), free T3,  as well as Anti-Thyroid Peroxidase (the enzyme that helps thyroid conversion), and Anti-TG Antibodies to look for autoimmune issues impacting the thyroid.

Curing Food Cravings

Moving away from unhealthy foods is one strategy to move from “Sick and Tired, to Healthy and Inspired”, and prevent lifestyle related diseases. This video gives tips for taming your taste buds, and a free handout is available by completing the information at the bottom of the page. I have seen many people overcome their cravings using the strategies presented.

PROLONGED EXERCISE HAS POSITIVE EFFECT ON COVID

This was the headline in a recent newspaper article and, of course, it got my attention.  Exercise has so many benefits and this is a timely benefit in the age of COVID.

Researcher Zhen Yan, professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Virginia, noted in the article that the cause of death for 3-17% of patients with SARS-CoV-2 is an acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). This is when the immune system floods the lungs with fluid and cells in an attempt to rid the body of the virus.  

Yan has found that exercise promotes production of an antioxidant called extracellular superoxide dismutase (SOD).  Like it’s name, SOD is truly a super hero at targeting organs and decreasing the damage caused by free radicals in lung tissue.  

Yan did not give information on the amount of exercise needed to create this benefit, but the word “regular” was used in relation to exercise.  My book, “Sick and Tired, to Healthy and Inspired: 9 Steps to Prevent Lifestyle Related Diseases” lists exercise recommendations and provides hints for how to make regular exercise a habit.  I’m love seeing how many people and families have taken up walking and biking these last few months so ‘keep on truck’n’ America!

COVID-19 INCREASES CLOTTING

As new information comes in, I am adding to my list of recommendations for staying healthy.  Because COVID-19 is so new, there has been no research done on nutrients that may be beneficial to prevent or improve symptoms.  However, healthy foods have research to prove their use in many other types of diseases.  So, no harm in “letting food be your medicine, and your medicine be food” to paraphrase Hippocrates. 

The latest evidence is mounting that blood clotting is an issue behind the severe effects of COVID-19 syndrome.  A recent article in Science Daily stated that,  “Imaging and pathological investigations confirmed the COVID-19 syndrome is a thrombo-inflammatory process that initially affects lung perfusion, but consecutively affects all organs of the body.”   

Clots form when small disk-shaped cell fragments called platelets stick to the blood vessel walls and each other.  This plug is enhanced by long strands of fibrin.  In COVID-19, these plugs prevent the lungs from oxygenating the blood.

There are a few foods you can add to your diet that help keep the blood “thin”, but won’t affect normal blood clotting which is needed when you cut yourself.  Caution is given to people who are already on prescription blood thinners to not increase these foods beyond their usual intake without talking to their health practitioner. As stated before, these foods have been researched for other conditions, but not COVID-19.  

Garlic.  

Fortunately with social distancing garlic breath should not be an issue.

Per Dr. Michael Greget  “the protective mechanisms of garlic against cardiovascular diseases are multiple, and include a combination of anti-clotting, clot-busting, antioxidant, and blood pressure- and cholesterol-lowering effects. Dr. Greget recommends to eat garlic raw or crush the garlic and wait ten minutes before cooking to preserve the active ingredient, allin.  Dosages generally recommended in the literature for adults are 4 g (one to two cloves) of raw garlic per day – crush the garlic and wait 10 minutes to get the highest allin content.  Otherwise, one 300-mg dried garlic powder tablet (standardized to 1.3 percent alliin or 0.6 percent allicin yield) two to three times per day, or 7.2 g of aged garlic extract per day can provide benefit. 

Turmeric

Turmeric is a spice used in curry that reduces inflammation and is a natural anticoagulant and anti-platelet aggregator.  Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric that inhibits the development of blood clots.  Turmeric has relatively no known side effects, unless taken in extremely large amounts. Per the World Health Organization (WHO) Expert Committee on Food Additives, an acceptable dietary intake is considered to be 1.4 mg per pound of body weight per day. So, if you weigh 150 lbs. that would equal 210 mg per day.

Vitamin E Foods

Vitamin E is an anticoagulant that is helpful against stroke, an issue caused by blood clots.   Vitamin E-rich foods include almonds, hazelnuts, avocado, butternut squash, mango, sunflower seeds, broccoli, spinach, kiwi, and tomato and 2-3 of these should be eaten daily.  A supplement would ideally be listed as d-alpha-tocopherol plus mixed tocopherols to get the active natural form (instead of the synthetic form “dl-alpha-tocopherol).  An average dose for an adult is 400 iu daily. 

Omega-3 Fats

Fish and fish oils are frequently recommended for preventing heart disease and though the cholesterol clots (placque) are a bit of a different issue, the anti-inflammatory and anti-clotting effects have been well researched.  Omega-3 fatty acids can help keep platelets from clumping together.  Food sources with the highest amount of omega-3 fats are mackerel, salmon, cod liver oil, herring oysters, sardines,  and anchovies. 

I continue to offer a 25% discount on supplements during COVID-19 at wellevate.me/abby-wilson-kurth