BerriesThis is a great time of year to eat berries. Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries are all in season now.

Berries are sweet, juicy, and delicious! They are low in calories – only 70-100 calories per cup. What other sweet delight can you enjoy that is so tasty and has so few calories? Blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries have a low glycemic index which is good news, particularly for type 2 diabetics.

Blueberries are rich in fiber and vitamin K. Their vitamin C helps make collagen,the framework of our bones and skin, as well as helps make neurotransmitters in our brain which can improve cognitive function and memory. Vitamin B6 found in blueberries helps our body process protein, regulate blood sugar, and strengthens the immune system. The anthocyanin in blueberries gives them their blue pigment and helps fight free radicals that damage cells. Blueberries are also one of the healthiest foods for eye health.

Strawberries – what’s not to love! The are rich in vitamin C, help fight inflammation, and contain manganese which helps the body process sugar, cholesterol, and fat. Strawberries protect our skin against damaging ultraviolet light. I would suggest purchasing organic strawberries when possible, as conventionally grown strawberries have higher pesticide residues.

Raspberries are high in manganese which helps with wound healing, fiber needed for v elimination, and copper which plays a role in energy metabolism and helps form red blood cells. They are also high in vitamin C. New research has shown the phytonutrients found in raspberries can increase metabolism in our fat cells and may help in weight loss.

Berries can help you meet the goal of 3-4 servings (1/2 cup) of fruit a day. When not in season, berries can be found in the freezer section at the supermarket.

It is best berries be kept in the refrigerator. They also freeze well. Just put in a zip-lock bag and freeze. Easy!

Berries are nutrient powerhouses offering antioxidant protection and anti-inflammatory benefits. Mix berries with plain yogurt, add to salads or as a topping on your breakfast cereal. A quick and simple dessert is to add a bit of balsamic vinegar and honey to berries, mix, and enjoy. Berries are also delicious in smoothies and cobblers, or just eat them plain as a snack.

Want to learn more about how to make better dietary choices that can slow down, stop, and reverse chronic diseases including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and overweight? Enroll in the CHIP program that begins September 15th. www.CHIPhealth.com.
E-mail jody.perrecone@CHIPhealth.com or call 815-975-4523 for more information. Registration deadline is September 4th.


Go Millennials!

Baby Boomers step aside – the Millennials have taken over! According to Pew Research, the number of Millennials (those born between 1981 to 1997 and the children of Baby Boomers) has surpassed the number of Baby Boomers.

Why is this important? They have a voice – a loud voice. They are making it known to Big Agriculture and Big Business what they want and don’t want in their food, and the big guys are listening.

What don’t Millennials want? Antibiotics, GMO’s, and artificial ingredients.

What do Millennials want? Organic, locally grown, sustainable food and animals to be raised in humane conditions.

Here is just a snippet of who is listening. Pepsi later this year is removing aspartame from their Diet Pepsi. Kraft is removing artificial preservatives and yellow Dye #5 and #6 from their mac and cheese. (The European Union has required a warning label be put on packages of food with Yellow Dye #5 for years). Subway removed the chemical azodicarbonamide that is also used in yoga mats and shoe soles (no kidding!) from its bread dough. Azodicarbonamide is just one of many chemicals allowed in food in the United States but not in the European Union or Australia. McDonald’s will quit buying chickens that have been fed antibiotics that affect human antibiotic resistance (this too has been banned in the European Union for many years). Chick-fil-A’s is phasing out buying chickens that have been fed antibiotics and ionophores. Panera Bread is removing additives that are currently in 150 of their ingredients. Taco Bell is removing some of their artificial ingredients from the menu, including an artificial pepper flavoring. Chipolte’s menu items no longer contain GMOs. Jackson County, Oregon challenged big agriculture and chemical companies in court and won, banning the growing genetically modified crops in their county. The state of Vermont prevailed over Monsanto and foods with GMOs will not longer be able to be labeled “natural” beginning in 2016 (more lawsuits to follow). Many of the ingredient changes involve dyes and artificial flavors. Whole Foods does not allow products on their shelves that contain artificial sweeteners, flavors, colors, preservatives, or hydrogenated fats.

How did our “food” get so out of whack in the first place???? It appears some food manufacturers are more interested in manufacturing food products cheaply rather than making food that will sustain us in a healthy way. It seems every week another company is getting on the bandwagon. Is this just a big marketing ploy? I don’t know. While removing these artificial ingredients is a good step forward, much more needs to be done.

Not much discussion has taken place regarding foods that are still too high in fat, calories, salt, and sugar and are consequently making us sick. We need to keep moving the pendulum in the direction of demanding prepared foods be made with whole foods – whole grains, vegetables, beans, legumes, and fruits that our body requires to be healthy. Without adequate amounts nutrients that are found in whole foods, our body cannot do what it was designed to do – work hard 24/7 for our benefit to obtain and keep it in the healthiest state possible. Instead, it is using all of its energy to try to keep up with ridding itself of toxic chemicals we’re ingesting including herbicides, pesticides, heavy metals, and artificial flavors and ingredients. In addition, we are assaulting our body with high fat, high cholesterol, high salt meals three times a day. Just as the body recovers from one high fat, high cholesterol, high sodium meal that also contains toxic and artificial ingredients, the body gets hit again with a second meal, and a third meal. Eventually the body can no longer keep up and wears down. It cannot fight off diseases any longer.

The torch has been passed from Baby Boomers to Millennials. Don’t stop what you’re doing Millennials. We all need to join together in voice and our pocketbook to demand more be done to move the pendulum towards healthier foods.

vegetablesLast month I was at Mayo Clinic with my sister. While she was having some tests, I had time to go to the Patient Resource Center, a library of medical information located in the clinic.

Upon entering the resource center, painted in big letters on the wall was the following quote, “The object of all health education is to change the conduct of individual men, women, and children by teaching them to care for their bodies well, and this instruction should be given throughout the entire period of their educational life.”   Charlie H. Mayo

That was quoted in 1928 by one of one of the founding brothers of Mayo Clinic, Dr. Charles H. Mayo. Dr. Mayo wasn’t saying, “Come to Mayo Clinic, and we will take care of you.” He was saying that our health is a lifelong educational process. Through education, we can and should change our habits so that we may be responsible conductors of our health. That is not to say medical care doesn’t have its place. It certainly does! But not to investigate for ourselves how best we can care and maintain our health – expecting the doctor to “fix” it all in the precious few minutes he/she can spend with us during an office visit is wrong! Doctors can only do so much. They need our help. We must take responsibility for our health.

Perhaps you may have heard this quote: “Self care is the new primary care.” There is much we can do. We can stay fit and healthy, take action to prevent illness, achieve better use of medicines, manage minor ailments, and improve care of long term conditions.1 If we are proactive regarding our health, we will be the better for it in the long run. Be curious about your health. Make learning more about conditions you may have a 2015 New Year’s resolution. Find out what you can do to slow down or even reverse your conditions. Write down questions to discuss with your doctor next time you see him or her. Become an active partner in your health. If you are currently in good health, learn what do you need to do maintain your health.

Dr. Charlie Mayo 87 years ago said education is the key to good health. Reputable blogs/websites to investigate that have good health education information include http://www.plantbasedpharmacist.com, http://www.jeffnovick.com, http://www.nutritionstudies.org, http://www.forksoverknives.com, http://www.pcrm.org, and http://www.drmcdougall.com.

Be a detective regarding your health. Investigate the causes of your conditions, and take action so that you can become a good steward of your health.

1 11 Mar 2006, Society Launches New Self Care Strategy. The Pharmaceutical Journal, Vol. 276. Retrieved from http://www.pharmaceutical-journal.com/society-launches-new-self-care-strategy-document/20016851.article


thanksgiving-cornucopiaThanksgiving – it’s a feeding frenzy and a day of guilty pleasures. We eat more than we should – and oh my – the calories! Here’s how to have an epic Thanksgiving dinner with a nutritional boost, and save on the waistline at the same time.

1.  Serve soup as a first course. A vegetable soup would go nicely with the rest of your Thanksgiving meal. The water and fiber in the soup is satisfying, so we will eat fewer calories.

2. Add parsnips to the mashed potatoes. Two or three parsnips would be fine, depending on how much mashed potatoes you make. Parsnips look like a white carrot and can be prepared the same way. Peel the parsnip, cut in chunks and add to the potatoes when cooking. Whip as usual. Parsnips have vitamin C, folate, and manganese and will add a little sweetness to the potatoes. Use soy milk rather than cow’s milk when making mashed potatoes to forgo the antibiotics and hormones found in cow’s milk. Skip the butter – the parsnips add a subtle sweet flavor everyone will enjoy.

3. Add nuts to your vegetable dish to dress it up. Chopped walnuts, slivered almonds, or pine nuts are all good choices. Your dish will look fancy without much effort. Roasting the nuts before adding to the vegetables will add an additional dimension of flavor. These nuts have healthy monounsaturated fats and minerals. Almonds are a good source of vitamin E. Walnuts contain B6 and thiamin. Pine nuts have vitamin K, E, and niacin.

4. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds on the top of your salad. These add a burst of flavor everyone will enjoy. Wear an apron while removing the seeds, as the juice will stain clothing. One way to minimize the squirting juice is to fill a bowl with water. Cut the pomegranate in half. Under water, break open the pomegranate and separate the seeds from the white membrane. The seeds will float to the top of the water. Save time Thanksgiving Day by doing this the day before and refrigerate them. Pomegranates are loaded with vitamins C, K, folate and several minerals.

5. Instead of candied sweet potatoes, serve whipped sweet potatoes. Peel and boil the sweet potatoes in water. Drain and whip them. Since they are sweet, no brown sugar or butter is needed. A sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg is all you need. If they are thicker than you like, just add a little soy milk.

6. Desserts can really do us in! This Pumpkin Tofu Pie is a hit with all my family – vegans and carnivores alike. Don’t let the tofu scare you. This contains the same spices and tastes like a traditional pumpkin pie minus the eggs and cream. The pie crust is Mary McDougall’s recipe. The filling I adapted from several recipes. Use organic pumpkin and apple juice concentrate if possible.

Crust – 1 cup Grape Nuts Cereal, 1/4 cup apple juice concentrate. Preheat oven to 350º. Mix the Grape Nuts and apple juice concentrate. Pat into a 9” pie pan. Bake for 10 minutes and cool before filling.

Filling – 1 1/2 packages Mori-Nu Extra Firm silken tofu, 2 cups cooked pumpkin, 2/3 cups real maple syrup, 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1/4 t. ginger, 1/2 t. nutmeg, 1/8 t. cloves. Preheat oven to 350º. Blend the tofu in a food processor or blender until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and blend. Pour into pie shell and bake for about 1 hour.

7. Finally, spend some good quality time together with family and friends. Thanksgiving is a day of gratitude. After dinner, go for a walk together. (Yes, those of us in the Midwest can bundle up and get outside). Set the DVR before you leave. You can go out for a walk and enjoy each other’s company and not miss one play of the game.

low-back-painNearly  80% of Americans will have back pain in their lifetime. Americans spend at least $50 billion a year on back pain. Lower back pain is the leading cause of disability according to the Global Burden of Disease 2010. Various back disorders include sprains, strains, herniated disc, sciatica, spinal stenosis, and degeneration of disc.

The spine consists of 30 vertebrae and is the body’s main support structure. The vertebrae protect the spinal cord running through the central opening of the vertebrae called the vertebral canal and the nerve roots which extend from the sides of the vertebrae to various areas of the body. Muscles and ligaments that move and stabilize the vertebrae attach to the spinous process located at the backside of each vertebrae and to the transverse process located on the side of each vertebrae. Discs are flexible cushions located between each vertebra and hold the vertebrae together. They allow the vertebrae to bend and twist and minimize stress on the spinal column.

The risk of lower back pain increases if a person:

➣ Is overweight

➣ Does not exercise

➣ Feels stressed or depressed

➣ Is pregnant

➣ Smokes

➣ Works at a job requiring lifting, bending, twisting, or involves vibration such as a truck driver

➣ Has a job requiring sitting all day

Acute pain generally gets better on its own without treatment. Aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen may be taken to relive pain. Chronic pain is often treated with muscle relaxants to reduce swelling and pain killers to relieve pain. An epidural injection may be given if other methods of alleviating pain are not effective. These treatments can relief back pain, but they don’t address the root cause of the problem. Surgery is not always successful, but may be considered if there is damage to the vertebrae, nerve damage, or if pain does not improve with other treatments. Starting by taking the least aggressive form of treatment is the safest way to treat back ailments.

Alternative treatments that are less invasive include chiropractic, massage therapy, hot and cold packs, acupuncture, physical therapy, and yoga.

Prevention is the best medicine. Practice these safeguards to avoid back injury or back pain:

➣ Wear comfortable low heeled shoes.

➣ Bend your knees and use your legs when lifting weight, keeping the back straight.

➣ Maintain an optimal weight. Excess weight pulls the pelvis forward, causing strain to back muscles.

➣ Quit smoking. Smoking restricts blood flow to the back, reducing the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the back and increases the rate of disc degeneration.

➣ Drink plenty of water to keep discs well hydrated. Spinal discs are composed of 80% water.

➣ Sit in chairs with good lumbar support. Switch positions periodically if sitting for a long time.

➣ Stretch before exercise or other strenuous activity. Exercising regularly reduces pain and stiffness and strengthens and strengthens muscles and bones.

➣ Reduce stress. Stress causes the muscles to be tight and can cause back pain.

➣ Maintain good posture. It will put less strain on muscles and ligaments.

There are may reasons people experience back pain. Including alternative methods of treating the condition will offer relief and and can prevent the need for surgery in the future.







I encourage you to look at the checklist below and make note if you have any of the follow conditions:


1.  High Triglycerides – 150 mg/dL or more.

2.  Low HDL Cholesterol – below 40 mg/dL for men and below 50 mg/dL for women.

3.  Abdominal Obesity – a waist circumference of 40” or more for men and
35” or more for women.

4.  High Blood Pressure – 130/85 or higher (or if you are taking high blood pressure

5.  Elevated Fasting Blood Sugar – 100 mg/dL or more.

If you checked off three or more of these conditions, you have what is called “metabolic syndrome.” Those with metabolic syndrome are at a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases including plaque buildup in the arteries, stroke, and heart attack.

The association of metabolic syndrome and increased risked of cardiovascular disease is confirmed with research from the Pritikin Center for Longevity reporting that one out of four adults, or 64 million Americans, have metabolic syndrome, and the Centers for Disease Control stating one out of four deaths in the United States is caused by coronary disease.

Most often, metabolic syndrome is a result of being overweight, physically inactive, eating a large proportion of calories from simple carbohydrates, and is a result of our lifestyle choices.

This is the good news – we can reduce our risk of cardiovascular diseases by making some better lifestyle choices. It may be difficult to make all the lifestyle changes as once, so tackle one at a time if that works better for you.

Lower triglycerides by limiting alcohol consumption, avoid white flour products, limit sugar to 4 teaspoons a day or less, limit fruits to 2-3 servings a day, and begin walking – even beginning at 10 minutes a day helps.

Raise HDL cholesterol by exercising, lose extra weight, and stop smoking.

Replace high caloric foods with fruits and vegetables to reduce waist circumference. Include strength training in your exercise regime.

Reduce blood pressure by eliminating salt. Remember salt comes not only from the salt shaker, but from processed foods also. Increase potassium in your diet which can be found in Swiss chard, Romaine lettuce, celery, crimini mushrooms, and celery.

Reduce blood sugar levels by replacing simple carbohydrates (white flour, white sugar) with complex carbohydrates (brown rice, whole grain pasta, oats, millet, beans). Fiber found in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and beans will prevent unwanted spikes in blood sugars. Eliminate processed foods and beverages that contain high fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners.

By following these recommendations, you will feel better and the conditions associated with metabolic syndrome, as well as the risk of having cardiovascular diseases, will be greatly reduced.
erages that contain high fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners.

By following these recommendations, you will feel better and the conditions associated with metabolic syndrome, as well as the risk of having cardiovascular diseases, will be greatly reduced.

sprouted-nuts-seedsBooster foods are foods containing a high amount of phytonutrients which are needed to protect us from environmental toxins (car fumes, cigarette smoke, water, household cleaners), heavy metal contamination (mercury, lead, aluminum, iron. cadmium) and free radicals which damage our body’s cells.

Below are some of the less known booster foods. Below are some of the lesser known booster foods. Our defenses can be optimized by including the following booster foods in our diet:

Seaweed Vegetables: Algae, kombu/kelp, dulse, arame, wakame contain magnesium, B vitamins, protein, potassium, omega-3 fatty acids, and trace minerals including iron, manganese, and iodine. Seaweed vegetables are a chelator (binder) and help the body remove heavy toxic metals. Iodine supports the thyroid. Add while cooking whole grains and soups. Spices – Garlic, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, cayenne pepper, curry, mustard powder, nutmeg. Spices have anti-viral, anti-bacterial, antioxidant, anti-fungal properties. Replace salt with spices to reduce sodium in diet and add a new dimension of flavor to foods.

Nutritional Yeast – A good source of B-complex vitamins, selenium, folic acid, zinc, and chromium. Nutritional yeast is important for red cell production, maintaining the meylin sheath that protects nerve cells, regulates blood sugar, reduces cardiovascular disease, and supports the immune system (Mateljan, 2007).1 Add to soups, casseroles, dips, popcorn, vegetables, and rice to add the cheesy flavor of nutritional yeast.

Nuts and Seeds – Nuts and seeds are a powerhouse of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamin A, potassium, zinc, calcium, vitamin E, magnesium, and fiber. Walnuts, almonds, ground flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds. Omega-3’s support the prostrate, help with brain function, and reduce inflammation. Vitamin E helps keep our arteries healthy. Lignans can reduce blood pressure and improve cholesterol. Calcium and magnesium improve bone health. Add them to salads, vegetables, hot breakfast cereal, or have a snack.

The recommended serving size for booster foods is 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon. Eating 2-4 servings a day of these power-packed foods will help optimize your health.

1 Mateljan, G. (2007). The World’s Healthiest Foods. Canada: George Mateljan Foundation

2 Bauman, E. (2013). Foundations of Nutrition. Penngrove, CA: Bauman College