A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words…How We Got Sick

This amazing info-graphic easily depicts how our current health woes have developed over the last few decades:

fat americans
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Natural Sodas? Taste Test Challenge: Zevia!

I admit it – I sometimes crave a soda.

It usually comes over me when I pass by some fast food outlet and smell the fried food aromas drifting through the air. It’s amazing how long that food-programming lasts, considering the last time I really ate fast food was in high school. Sometimes when we’re having pizza and movie night on Friday’s at home (yes, I eat pizza and I love it! Pizza Plus in my Brooklyn neighborhood delivers the best whole wheat pie with Diaya cheese and zucchini slices you can imagine!) I’ll indulge in a frosty beverage, but it’s not the iconic red cans of dark cola I used to enjoy.

Coke, Pepsi, and other major colas aren’t part of my diet anymore. I learned that most sodas contain phosphoric acid, which can cause your bones to lose calcium due to the high acidity. Back in high school and college I would drink a Super Big Gulp from 7-11 several days a week, and most Americans can relate. Sodas sweetened with high fructose corn syrup make up the majority of American’s calorie intake.

I get a lot of questions from friends about whether they should avoid certain foods, and soda tops the list. Diet sodas seem to elicit the biggest worries, because they might have heard about studies linking artificial sweeteners to cancer, Alzheimer’s, or other health concerns.

I never liked the taste of diet sodas, and still find artificial sweeteners like Splenda and Equal to leave a funny after taste. My friend Val, belly dancer extraordinaire, described it perfectly: “This tastes like toothpaste!”

So I’ve decided to do a little experimentation and test out the new range of naturally sweetened sodas that are lining the shelves of health food store aisles these days.

My first taste test brings us to the world of diet sodas: ZEVIA.

http://www.zevia.com/products_natural.html

Including stevia, erythritol (a natural sugar alcohol that, like xylitol, doesn’t contribute to dental decay), natural caramel, natural tartaric acid, citric acid, kola nut extract, natural caffeine, annatto, and ginger root, Zevia offers several flavors including ginger ale, orange, cherry lime, and cola.

ZEVIA is sweetened with non-caloric stevia extract, which is derived from a South American herb also known as sweet leaf. Although it appears to be a new trend, use of stevia is not new. South American tribes have sweetened their diets with with leaves from the sweet leaf plant and attribute medicinal properties to the herb. Stevia has been used in Japan since the 1970′s when sugar-free sweeteners began to grow in popularity.

Stevia has been banned in Europe, and has been labeled as a dietary supplement, but not as a sweetener, here in the US for decades. It is hundreds of times sweeter than sugar and truly has virtually no calories.

MY TASTE TEST: I tried the cola, ginger ale and orange flavors from Zevia. The cola tasted exactly like my memory of Diet Coke! I have to say I haven’t had a Diet Coke in at least 12 years, so my tongue might have a different opinion from a regular drinker. The ginger ale flavor tasted more like tooth paste (thanks Val), and wasn’t very gingery. In fact, we realized that Tom’s of Maine ginger toothpaste has more ginger flavor than this soda! Finally, the orange soda was my favorite, which was a total surprise. I grew up playing soccer and our coach always had orange soda for our half-time beverage. Even as a sugar-a-holic young kid, I didn’t like orange soda because it tasted so thick and unnatural. But Zevia’s orange soda was lighter and clean tasting without being overly sweet.

So, if you like diet soda but want to move away from the artificial colors and artificial sweeteners, try ZEVIA. You can also try these packets of Stevia to take in your bag, car, or to your office – they’re just like sugar packets, without the sugar!

Next time I’ll talk about another brand of soda and how to make your own at home!

How I Ate My Way Out of Depression, Weight Gain and Fatigue

I was 25 years old and I felt tired, cranky, foggy and depressed. Every morning was a struggle, my afternoons were often punctuated with migraines, and every evening I crashed into bed totally depleted. I knew I wasn’t supposed to feel this bad, and I didn’t want to go on this way.

I went to a doctor who wanted to prescribe an anti-depressant. I wondered – is my body lacking Prozac? Or is something else going on here?

I made an appointment with a more holistic doctor who used nutrition as part of his overall methodology. The first thing he asked about was my diet. No doctor had asked me what I ate in relation to how I was feeling. And so I decided to be honest:
Breakfast: cereal with milk, coffee with milk and sugar
Lunch: fast food, soda, french fries, potato chips, fruit
Snacks: candy, soda
Dinner: pasta, pizza, take-out, soda, alcohol a few nights a week
This doctor pointed out that I wasn’t eating any fresh food, and that I was literally eating myself into depression, weight gain and fatigue.

Once I discovered that what I was eating was creating my depression, exhaustion and mood swings, it didn’t take long before I was back to feeling like myself again. I was so inspired by the changes in my mood, that I decided to change my career so I could help other women to improve their lives without resorting to drugs, surgery or expensive therapies. Food addicts, chocoholics, caffeine addicts, and just plain self-described “moody girls” all flocked to my practice – I guess you attract what you know.

A common theme among my clients is they feel compulsively drawn to certain foods again and again. Daily battles unfold where office workers struggle to stay away from the mid-morning double latte, the afternoon chocolate fix, the after-hours grilled cheese sandwich. Working moms find themselves sneaking snacks like chocolate chips, soda or French fries throughout the day – foods they wouldn’t want their kids to eat.

Often these same foods that we crave every day have a deeper hold on our brain chemistry than we realize. Food sensitivities can cause a craving-withdrawal cycle that not only affects your mood, but your waistline. Common foods such as dairy, coffee, chocolate, wheat, corn or eggs may actually be triggering an undiagnosed food allergy, which often leads to addiction to these foods, causing long-term mood disorders.

The human brain will often produce opioids when you eat one of these trigger foods. These same opioids reduce your perception and reaction to pain. If you are allergic to wheat and diary, eating a grilled cheese sandwich is like taking a tiny hit of a narcotic. Years of constant consumption of these trigger foods lead to addiction. If your body starts to feel withdrawal symptoms because you haven’t eaten wheat or dairy in several hours, it will start to crave those same foods – your body needs its fix!

This allergy-addiction cycle can lead to irritability, migraines, depression, fatigue, constant digestion problems, arthritis and weight gain. Over the last 8 years I have worked with thousands of women to improve their mood and health by making simple dietary changes. Using a food-mood journal, getting rid of the junk, and analyzing cravings, I have successful assisted countless women to identify and eliminate the underlying causes of their food cravings and mood issues.

These days my food cravings are much easier to handle. They still show up during times of stress or when I’m tired, but I quickly realize my body needs rest, leafy greens, water or exercise instead of chocolate or coffee. I still indulge in delicious treats sometimes, but my cravings for trigger foods don’t have control over me – I understand where they’re coming from and how to make them dissolve. It has been an empowering process to learn what my body really needs and how to take care of these imbalances without relying on foods that will only hurt me over time.

To take control of your food induced mood disorders, lose weight and create amazing energy, join my 4 Week Power Detox Tele-Course, starting April 26th:

http://www.nutritionforempoweredwomen.com/services/reboot/

How to Lose 2 pounds effortlessly this weekend – healthy style!

Summer is upon us – finally! After the last 2 months of near-constant rain here in New York City, I’m really ready to break out my strapless dresses and flip flops. But I also have to get in shape for my upcoming (much deserved) vacation to Hawaii!

Here’s my plan to shed 2 pounds and feel amazing for my tropical trip in the next few days:

1. Go to yoga three (yes, 3!) times in the next week

2. Eat only raw fruits and veggies for 2 meals a day and all snacks

Raw? What? First, more raw food means more fiber to clean out the ol’ tubes. Second, the active enzymes, phytonutrients and vitamins will help your skin look amazing. Finally, I can eat as much raw as I want and still feel amazing and drop any excess bloat that’s hanging around (FYI: writing a book, working with clients and raising a 2.5 year old leads to bizarre snacking habits).

I’m not going totally raw, but now that the summer bounty is filling up the farmer’s market, this 2/3 raw diet will be easier and cheaper. Tons of delicious salad greens, fresh bell peppers, sweet carrots, cucumbers, delicious tomatoes and FRUIT GALORE! 

I’ll give myself the gift of truly delicious, fresh food and still allow for one meal a day that will be cooked (but still based on healthy whole foods like grains and beans) – this won’t be hard at all.

Join me and get a little raw this weekend – let me know how you do it and how you feel!

If you get inspired to try more complicated, gourmet raw food recipes, check out this helpful website:

http://www.living-foods.com/recipes/

Here’s to your health,

Alexandra