The Nourishing Health » Whole, nourishing, plant-based health and nutrition

So far in my series on the human microbiome I introduced you to some new friends and shared why cultivating a healthy microbiome is important to overall health as well as how to promote microbial health from the beginning.  Today we’ll take a look at how our health is impacted by the products we use every day.  That’s right – what we rub on our skin, spray in our hair, and use to clean our home impacts more than whether its a good or bad hair day and how much our countertops sparkle.

I believe you would agree that what we put in our mouths matters.  Are we going to have better long-term health outcomes if we are more consistent in our cookie or kale consumption?  You may be surprised to learn that what our skin comes in contact with and the air we breathe on a daily basis also has a rather significant impact on various factors of our health and well-being.

The Hygiene Hypothesis

This theory suggests that the less childhood exposure to bacteria, parasites, and symbiotic microorganisms (such as gut flora and microorganisms) in affluent societies, like the United States and Europe, actually increases susceptibility to disease by suppressing the natural development of the immune system.  This concept is being linked to the rise of other chronic conditions such as obesity, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, psychiatric conditions such as depression, autism and even some forms of cancer. [1]

Are we obsessed with being clean?

Coming from a former hand-sanitizer addict, I believe we are.  Every grocery store has sanitizing wipes in order for us to wash off our entire shopping cart before grabbing hold, hand sanitizer is no longer limited to hanging wall units but now dangles from our key chains, and scrubbing down in the shower is a daily (maybe twice a day?) occurrence for most of us.

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Our Largest Organ

Our skin is our body’s largest organ.  The skin of an average adult weighs approximately 8 pounds and covers 22 square feet [2].  Much of what we put on our skin is absorbed into our bloodstream.  Think about patches like nicotine, birth control and Lidoderm patches.  The substance on the patch penetrates the skin to be absorbed by the bloodstream in order to have its desired affect.  Some chemicals are too large to penetrate our skin and enter the bloodstream, but many are small enough to enter quickly.

In 2005 the Environmental Working Group (EWG) in collaboration with Commonweal, published a study showing the presence of and average of 200 industrial chemicals, pollutants, and pesticides in umbilical cord blood.  The ten umbilical cords studied harbored pesticides, consumer product ingredients, and wastes from burning coal, gasoline, and garbage.  Among them are eight perfluorochemicals, which are used as stain and oil repellants in fast food packaging, clothes and textiles.  [3]  The presence of chemicals from fast food packages, clothing, and textiles in the blood of the umbilical cord means it entered the mother’s blood stream first, showing the importance of not only what we put in our bodies but also what our bodies come in contact with.

But, this does not mean we retreat and live in a bubble!  As I mentioned regarding the hygiene hypothesis our immune systems are buoyed when from a young age we are allowed to get a little dirty and come in contact with the dog and our siblings and cousins.  There is obviously a difference between that which promotes a healthy microbiome and immune system and that which damages, such as synthetic chemicals.

The combination of depleted immune systems and continuos chemical exposure in our daily lives is wrecking havoc on our health in more ways than we realize.  I know this was the case for me.  Continuous digestive and a few other ongoing health issues had me perplexed and frustrated.  I couldn’t seem to figure out why these issues plagued me when my diet was full of whole, unrefined plants.  As I read The Microbiome Solution and the list of items that had depleted my microbiome since birth grew longer and longer I felt like the puzzle was being pieced together and I finally began to see improvements as I slowly implemented more lifestyle changes.

So where do we begin??

Does the thought of completely upending your personal hygiene and household products overwhelm you?  I completely understand!  I worked in simple steps to make our lifestyle and home chemical-free.

  1.  Identify and make a list of the products you use most regularly.  For me it was make-up, shower products, and kitchen cleaner.
  2. Find the biggest offenders.  Look up these products on the Environmental Working Group‘s website.  The EWG is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment through sound research and education from a team of scientists, policy experts, and lawyers.  You can search your make-up and skin care products in their Skin Deep Database where they provide each item with a hazard score from 1 (least hazardous) to 10 (most hazardous).  The healthy cleaning page helps you decode labels and find replacement products.
  3. Replace!  From the items on your list strive to replace those that are the most hazardous immediately.  If you can replace everything right away, wonderful!  However, if it isn’t financially feasible, work it into your budget to replace items over time.
  4. Be cautious with labeling.  When you replace an item don’t automatically select the one of the shelf titled “natural”, “organic”, or “green”.  Much of marketing is loosely regulated.  I began by selecting items that had a hazard score of 1 in the category I was needing a replacement for, however I now love making my own products at home using a lot of the products you already have in your cupboard (think coconut oil, epsom salt and baking soda) along with essential oils.  I know exactly what is in each item I create and it saves on cost enormously!
  5. Look into essential oils.  It took me awhile to begin utilizing the amazing benefits of essential oils simply because it was a bit foreign to me and I thought it would be super expensive.  Yes, a high-quality oil may be pricy at first glance, but when you consider that you only use a few drops of lemon and Thieves combined with vinegar and distilled water to make an entire bottle of surface cleaner it can really keep your budget in check if you’re striving to have a chemical-free home.  Plus, they’re not only used creating replacements of household products, but for a host of health benefits and have endless medicinal uses.

[1]  Chutkan, M.D., Robynne.  The Microbiome Solution:  A Radical New Way to Heal Your Body from the Inside Out.  New York, NY: Avery, 2015.

[2] National Geographic.  Skin.  Retrieved from http://science.nationalgeographic.com/science/health-and-human-body/human-body/skin-article/.

[3]  Environmental Working Group.  July 14, 2005.  Body Burden:  The Pollution in Newborns.  Retrieved from http://www.ewg.org/research/body-burden-pollution-newborns.

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Protein is essential to our health and development, playing a crucial role in almost all structural and functional mechanisms of the human body.  However, simply because it is essential doesn’t mean that more is better.  Current research shows we require only about 10% of our total calories to come from protein each day [1].

You can most certainly acquire adequate protein from a well-balanced, plant-based diet if you are consuming adequate calories each day.  Virtually all whole plant foods contain protein.  Take a look at just a few of these excellent sources of plant protein and enjoy including these in regular rotation in your diet!

  • Quinoa – 11.1 grams in ½ cup cooked
  • Pearled barley – 16.4 grams in 1 cup cooked
  • Lentils – 17.9 grams in 1 cup cooked
  • Chickpeas – 14.5 grams in 1 cup cooked
  • Black beans – 15 grams in 1 cup cooked
  • Hemp seeds – 11 grams in 3 tablespoons
  • Oatmeal – 7 grams in ½ dry cup
  • Tofu – 19.9 grams in ½ cup
  • Spinach – 5 grams in 1 cup

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As I mentioned, there’s no need to count grams of protein or worry whether you’re consuming enough if your body is receiving adequate calories and you’re eating a diverse diet focused on whole foods.  However, there are times when increased protein consumption may be necessary, such as if  you’re an endurance athlete or pregnant or breast-feeding.  There are so many ways to incorporate more plant-protein into your diet.  A few of my favorites include:

For further reading check out this excellent article by T. Colin Campbell, PhD discussing the differences between animal and plant protein and further understand why protein combining is not necessary on a plant-based diet in this helpful article by Jeff Novick, MS, RD.

[1] Fuhrman M.D., Joel.  Eat to Live. New York City: Little, Brown and Company, 2003, 2011.

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  • Sophia, Veggies Don't Bite - Thanks so much for linking to my Fava dip! I’m totally with you on the hearty salads!!ReplyCancel

    • Stacy Lingle - Yea, I loved your recent Instagram pic of your hearty salad bowl! That was some serious plant-power. :)ReplyCancel

Spring has finally arrived and we’re enjoying beautiful weather here in North Carolina, which has included a lot of walks, planting our garden, and new recipes, of course!

It had been awhile since I checked out the recipes on MinimalistBaker.com and I won’t let that happen again!  Dana is incredible at creating simple, delicious recipes that require 10 ingredients or less, one bowl, or can be made in under 30 minutes.  Many of her recipes meet all 3 of these criteria!  Needless to say, Dana’s recipes dominated our menu in March and we absolutely loved them all!

Salads

Mediterranean-spiced chickpeas, crunchy pita chips, and garlic dill dressing tossed with fresh greens make this Chickpea Shawarma Salad flavorful and satisfying.

I’m absolutely in love with this Mexican Quinoa Salad with Orange Lime Dressing.  If the name isn’t convincing enough to have you try it, would telling you that it took only 15 minutes to make be enough?  I thought so!:)

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Last year I discovered kelp noodles and we absolutely love them!  Kelp is a sea vegetable particularly high in iodine, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and iron.  It has a neutral taste that when mixed with a sauce softens its texture leaving the noodles soft and bit wirey with a nice crunch.  Almond Butter and Kelp Kale Noodles is a great way to try kelp if its new to you.  The freshness of cilantro and tangy almond butter dressing are the perfect combination.  We served this salad alongside vegetable sushi rolls using this excellent tutorial for how to make sushi without a mat.

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Other Main Dishes

This Spicy Red Lentil Curry was so tasty and easy that I made it three times this month!  It utilized ingredients that I always have in the cabinet so it makes for a great dish when you come home from a busy day or return from a trip to an empty fridge.

Looking for a fun way to mix up your usual dishes?  This Asian Noodle Bowl with Ginger Peanut Dressing will do just that!

Maybe Sophia’s Ultimate Mexican Nacho Burger is what you’re looking for to add some fun to your weekly menu.  My husband absolutely loved these burgers smothered in Ultimate Cheese Sauce with a side of sweet potato fries.

Have you cooked or created a great recipe recently that you’d like me to share?  I love trying new recipes, so please send your favorite plant-powered to Stacy@thenourishinghealth.com for a chance to be featured in the months to come!

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  • Sophia, Veggies Don't Bite - Thank you so much for including my burgers in your post! I am so happy you liked them!ReplyCancel

    • Stacy Lingle - You bet! Thanks for another great recipe. They froze really well too so we’ve enjoyed them multiple times with little work. Two thumbs up on that! :)ReplyCancel

Preparing nourishing meals for you and your family can be time consuming, stressful and maybe even exhausting.  I’ve found that taking time on the front end can save immense time in the week  to week functioning of my kitchen and my entire home.  Begin implementing all, or even just one, of these tips and see your meal time stress slowly melt away.:)

1.  Meal Plan – For some of you it may sounds more fun to just go with the flow, but I find this to lead to increased stress and undo time spent in the kitchen trying to figure out what I’m going to make and then realizing half way through a recipe that I don’t have an ingredient or I failed to prep some essential item ahead of time.  If you’re not used to meal planning, give it a try for a few weeks and see if it benefits you!  Use my meal plan template or check out this fun design I selected on May Designs after a client showed me her adorable meal planner (this is definitely on my wish list!)

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2.  Create a document with your favorite meals – I take no credit for this one.  It was my husbands idea.  We started a shared google document where we can add meals we both love.  This has made meal planning so much easier.  We all have those times where we’re staring at an empty weekly meal plan completely brain dead.  This document has saved me immense time as I prepare each week!  This is simply something we have built on.  Each time we have a meal where we’re left saying “yes! That was SO good!” one of us takes less than 30 seconds and adds it to the appropriate category referencing the cookbook and page where it can be found.  I do this with my clients as well.  After we’ve worked together to create several weeks of satisfying meal plans I create a similar document so they are ready to be successful for the long-run!  Below is a small section of our document.

PINIMAGE3.  Get Organized – I recently worked with my friend and professional organizer, Allison Flinn of Reclaim, to get my kitchen in better shape and let me tell you it has paid off!  It’s amazing how getting rid of clutter and having everything in orderly fashion can make you more clear-headed and efficient when trying to get dinner on the table.  Check out Allison’s 4 tips for organizing your kitchen and get started today.

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4.  Prep Ahead – In the winter I’m more apt to enjoy being in the kitchen a bit more – humming along to my favorite tunes while creating fun new dishes, but when warmer weather rolls around I want to finish a busy work day, go on a walk or bike ride, and come home to a simple, fresh meal.  This is where preparing items in advance is really beneficial. Considering trying any of the following:

  • Complete most of your prep work one day a week –  I have a friend who leads a busy career and is a wonderful wife and mother of two.  She has also been called the “Martha Stewart of Raleigh”.  When asked how she does it all in the kitchen she shared that on Sunday she looks at every meal she has planned for the week and preps necessary items at one time.  Chopping produce, mixing sauces, and pulling items out of the freezer.  It’s all complete in one hour and off of her mind.
  • Look to dinner at lunchtime – If you work from home or are a stay at home parent you can use lunchtime to prep ingredients for dinner.  This is the route I take.  After lunch today I prepared produce for tonight’s dinner and mixed up the peanut sauce.  After work I can go on a bike ride with my husband and all I need to do when I come home is cook the noodles and toss everything together!  I’m not able to do this every day depending on my client load, but its a nice routine when I can pull it off.
  • Look to tomorrow’s dinner tonight – If you’re waiting for tonight’s dinner in the oven use that down time to get ready for tomorrow night in the same fashion I mentioned above.

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There you have it!  Four simple tips that can truly streamline your time in the kitchen allowing you to nourish your family and still have time for some fun!:)

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