Q+A Tuesday: Balancing Female Sex Hormones.

Happy Tuesday, everyone! Today’s question is a special little sumthin’ for the ladies.

Q: “I’ve been seeing a Naturopath for a couple of years now and she’s been treating me for hormonal imbalances. What are some of the things I can change in my diet to help restore balance to my hormones? Is there a specific diet or supplement that should be followed depending on which hormones are out of whack or is there a general diet or supplement that will help restore order to my crazy hormones?” —Renee from Timmins, ON

A: (As complex and amazing humans, we have many different types of hormones in the body. For the purpose of this question, we will address nutritional support for sex hormones in women of reproductive age. Not to be confused with nutritional support for sexy time, which can be a topic for another day.)

Many women suffer from hormonal imbalances in the body, whether too much or too little estrogen or androgens, and for a variety of reasons. It’s not surprising, especially for those of us who live, work, and play in busy cities or manufacturing and mining communities where the exposure to environmental toxins is greater. Every day, our endocrine system works to neutralize a variety of assaults against it: we’re stressed, we are exposed to chemicals at home, at work, outside, and foods of “convenience” don’t provide the nutrients we need to fuel our tired hormone machines. On top of that, we may have inherited a genetic predisposition to endocrine-related conditions such as terrible PMS, PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome), or worse, reproductive cancers. That being said, healthy hormonal function definitely benefits from both nutritional and lifestyle support.

People who have read the few small articles and newsletters that I’ve previously written over the last year know how much I am a fan of the Brassica, also know as “cruciferous”, family of vegetables for hormonal support. These veggies contain Indole-3-Carbinole, which is a substance that has been studied for its ability to fight reproductive cancers (in women and men) by altering our metabolism of estrogen and at the same time, detoxifying toxic (xenoestrogens) or excess estrogens from the body. One note of caution with regard to these vegetables is their goitrogenic effect when eaten raw, meaning that they can suppress thyroid function and are not suitable for those who have low thyroid function, unless cooked. Some examples of these super awesome healthy estrogen-loving veggies are:

– broccoli,
– cauliflower,
– kale,
– collards,
– cabbages,
– turnips,
– kohlrabi,
– and brussels sprouts.

And not only do they contain I-3-C, these vegetables also are high in vitamin C and fibre, which help to give the boot to any free radicals and toxins that may be trying to crash your hormone-balancing party. Worried about having to eat broccoli and brussels sprouts every day for the rest of your female life? Don’t be! If you’re stumped as to how to get these foods into your diet, feel free to be creative! Sneak them into your sauces, soups, casseroles, stews, and stir-fries. Here is one of my favourite vegan broccoli soups to get you started: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/2011/11/vegan-cream-of-broccoli-soup (Shown in photo below.)
And who doesn’t love kale chips? (Try it with coconut oil, instead of olive oil): http://suite101.com/article/roasted-kale-a25130

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Now for the second part to this answer: some of the key hormonal reactions, including the synthesis of hormones via cholesterol and saturated fats and neutralization of excess or toxic hormones, occur in the liver, ladies. So that means we must also be sure to provide our liver with a lot of support when seeking to balance hormones because the liver is already a busy place and we’d like for it to do its best work possible.

So! In addition to cruciferous veggies, the liver also likes it when you eat your organic greens, organic fruit, whole and unprocessed foods, fibre, high-quality protein (if you’re an omnivore: organic, hormone-free, and pastured meat), healthy fats (plenty of avocados, Omega-3s, and use coconut oil for high heat cooking), and drink a lot of pure, clean water (a trusted spring source or reversed osmosis are best). In addition, a probiotic and a fibre supplement are helpful in removing and reducing the incidence of reabsorption of any excess estrogen that likes to linger in the large intestine.

So a few key things to remember to support a healthy female hormonal system:

– Limit your exposure to chemicals, especially at home, in household cleaning products and beauty products. (Check out a good book called “There’s Lead in Your Lipstick”.)
– Manage stress. Do things you love.
– Eat your cruciferous and leafy green vegetables.
– Support your liver by eating a clean, whole foods diet.
– Take a deep breath, implement the changes at your pace, and don’t feel like you need to go it alone. Find a qualified practitioner, like a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, who can provide you with support and guidance to ensure that you are following the best nutritional and lifestyle protocols for your best hormones yet!

Thank you for participating in Q+A Tuesday! Remember to keep sending in your questions! See you next week!

Much love and wellness,

Lee-Ann
xo

Brown Rice, Chickpea + Crunchy Veggie Salad.

Brown rice, chickpea, and crunchy veggie salad!

From: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Crunchy-Vegetable-and-Brown-Rice-Salad-102077

1/2 cup Short grain brown rice, pre-soaked
1/2 cup Dry chickpeas, pre-soaked
1/2 Large cucumber
2 Celery ribs
1 Carrot
1 Yellow, orange, or red bell pepper
1/2 Bunch of arugula
4 Scallions
2 tbsp. Fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup Chicken or vegetable broth
1 tbsp. Mustard
1 tbsp. Olive oil
1/2 tsp. Himalayan or sea salt
1/4 tsp. Freshly ground black pepper

Cook rice and chickpeas. In the meantime, cut cucumber, celery, carrot, and bell pepper into 1/4-inch dice. Remove tough stems from arugula and chop leaves. Chop scallions.

In a large bowl whisk together lemon juice, broth, mustard, oil, salt, and pepper. Add rice, chickpeas, vegetables, arugula, and scallions, tossing to combine well, and season with salt and pepper. Serve salad at room temperature.

This recipe would also be great using sprouted chickpeas. For a more pacific flavour that reap the benefits of sea vegetables, I’ll someday try this using bits of wakame or kelp.

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Homemade Vegan Protein Bars.

Homemade protein bars! And they taste GOOD! REALLY good! Awesome way to enjoy the natural mood boosting benefits of protein, healthy fats, and chocolate!

Based on this recipe: http://wholenewmom.com/recipes/homemade-protein-bars/

1 cup Raw walnuts
1 cup Raw pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup Vanilla Chai Vega One protein powder
1/2 cup Shredded, unsweetened coconut
1/2 tsp. Himalayan salt (Himalayan salt has 80 trace minerals and holds the wisdom of 1,000 yogis, but sea salt would also be fine)
1/2 cup Tahini
1/2 cup Coconut oil
2 tbsp. Maple syrup
2 100g gram bars of organic dark chocolate (85%)

Follow the same preparation instructions as the original recipe. To keep it simple, I melted the dark chocolate bars for the topping instead of making my own chocolate as the recipe suggests.

Also, I didn’t have any vanilla extract (just moved… everything is a little willy-nilly right now) so the Vanilla Chai Vega One protein powder was really perfect because of its vanilla flavour, protein, green food, probiotics, EFAs, and whole lot of other benefits (it’s a personal fave).

So easy and worth the ingredients if you don’t already have them!

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Bison + Quinoa Chili.

Bison and quinoa chili!

Recipe is based on this one: http://www.food.com/recipe/low-carb-chili-67654

I like experimenting with the recipe. Here is today’s version.

1 lb. ground bison
1 cup quinoa, soaked overnight with lemon juice
1 quart Water
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1 tsp. Cumin
1 Onion, chopped
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 cloves Garlic, crushed
2 tsp. Sea salt
2 tbsp. Chili powder
1 tsp. Black pepper
1/2 tsp. Cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. Allspice
1 (6 oz.) can Tomato paste
3 Bay leaves
2 cups Kale, torn into small pieces

Brown ground bison. Add all ingredients together in a large pot or crockpot, bring to a boil, then simmer covered for 3 hours.

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Soaking for Easier Digestion.

Make your quinoa, rice, lentils, or beans easier to digest! Before cooking, put any grain (quinoa shown in picture) or legume in enough water to cover with the juice of half a lemon (apple cider vinegar can also be used) and soak overnight. The soaking process combined with the lemon juice helps to neutralize the phytic acid present in the grains and legumes. Phytic acid inhibits the proper breakdown of foods during digestion so with less phytic acid present, we can enjoy easier digestion and assimilation of our beans and rice! This means less gas and more energy for everyone!

Peace out, phytic acid. See you in the morning, quinoa. 🙂

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Q+A Tuesday: Ancient grains Spelt and Kamut

TODAY! Our first Q+A Tuesday! Thank you everyone for all of your nutrition questions! Here is this week’s question:

Q: “Hey Doll! Ancient-grains! Flour substitutes! Oh so confusing!!! Which is better… or leave them out completely???” ­­—Candice from London, ON

A: Grrrainsss… All the information about ancient grains circulating out there can kinda make us feel like food zombies with no real clear answer. Are they better than wheat? Can we bake with their flours? To hopefully help you guys understand the nature of ancient grains, let’s talk about two ancient grain varieties that are common today: Spelt and Kamut.

Spelt and Kamut are the primitive ancestors of modern wheat. Yet they came from wheat. So yes, this means that they, too, technically are wheat. But! For those who suffer from wheat sensitivities, Spelt and Kamut may be tolerated by those who are following a rotation diet; this means that they are only consumed every 4 days (or longer intervals, ideally as a sensitivity to Spelt and Kamut may also result). However, Spelt and Kamut are not tolerated by those who suffer from gluten sensitivities because, although they contain a lesser amount, they do contain gluten.

To use Spelt and Kamut flours as substitutes to regular all-purpose wheat flour can be a little bit tricky and can take some experimentation on a recipe-by-recipe basis. Some favour Kamut for its rich-tasting flavour, making it a good choice for homemade breads, pastas, and baked goods. Many people say that Spelt can be substituted cup-for-cup for all-purpose flour, however you may encounter differences in consistency as the type of gluten in these ancient grains is more fragile and can break down more easily (this is one of the reasons they are easier to digest for those with wheat sensitivities). From my own personal experience, I have substituted all-purpose flour for Spelt flour in baked goods and have had good results. Some bakers may recommend adding ¼ tsp of baking powder or baking soda to the recipe to help with adding some of the fluffiness that regular wheat provides through its higher gluten content. So for use as a flour, a bread recipe vs. a pasta recipe may yield better results using either Spelt or Kamut flour, and for reasons based purely on texture and esthetics, the recipe may require adding gluten flour to achieve the desired result.

From a nutritional standpoint, whole cooked, sprouted, or cold-milled (into a flour) Spelt or Kamut can contain up to 12 B-vitamins, vitamin E, protein, some essential fatty acids, and trace minerals like zinc, iron, copper, manganese, magnesium, and phosphorous. Fortunately here in Northern Ontario, we have a few organic producers close by: LoonSong on Manitoulin Island and Poschaven Farms in New Liskeard. To be sure that you are not sensitive to either flour, you can always seek the advice of a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (oh hey!) who can guide you through an elimination diet.

Hope this helps to clear up any old grainy areas you may have had with regards to Spelt and Kamut!

Thank you for your question on our first Q+A Tuesday, Candice!

Much love and wellness to all,

Lee-Ann