Yes it is! Find out how the current recommendation of getting 45-65% of your calories from carbohydrates increases your risk of getting gestational diabetes:
You may be shocked to find out that the USDA's dietary guidelines IE "MyPyramid" and most recently, "Choose MyPlate" have made Americans fatter and sicker. Their recommendations have little to do with current nutrition science and more to do with food industry preferences. I highly recommend watching this video to learn more:
Nina Teicholz looks at the lack of science supporting the dietary guidelines and the importance of why they need to change immediately.
Nina Teicholz is a New York Times bestselling investigative science journalist who has played a pivotal role in challenging the conventional wisdom on dietary fat. Her groundbreaking work, ‘The Big Fat Surprise’, which The Economist named as the #1 science book of 2014, has led to a profound rethinking on whether we have been wrong to think that fat, including saturated fat, causes disease.
Nina continues to explore the political, institutional, and industry forces that prevent better thinking on issues related to nutrition and science. She has been published in the New York Times, the New Yorker, the British Medical Journal, Gourmet, the Los Angeles Times and many other outlets.
Do saunas promote health?
Saunas have been around for thousands of years, originating in Finland. Other forms of heat bathing have been used to break that sweat barrier for ages, like hot tubs, Turkish steam bath and Roman baths. The sauna stands out in its uniqueness of using dry heat. The idea of a sauna is to essentially create a self-induced fever by increasing the room’s air temperature between 150 and 185 degrees, thereby increasing the body’s temperature, which usually stays lower than 100 degrees. In doing this, research has shown there are promising health benefits to using a sauna.
Better workout recovery
While perspiring in the sauna, you will experience loosened muscles and sore joints will likely be relieved. This promotes better body recovery after exercise.
Lower Blood Pressure
Studies have shown that just 30 minutes in the sauna relaxes arteries and exercises blood vessels enough to lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. This, in turn, decreases risk of heart disease and other chronic diseases.
Boost Brain Health
Time in a sauna has been shown to induce relaxation in those with depression and anxiety, decrease stress, and lowers risk of development of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
Reducing Chronic Pain
Saunas appear to reduce chronic inflammation levels in the body. It has been shown to be a reprieve for headaches and musculoskeletal disorders.
Serve + Protect
Studies have shown that visits to the sauna can improve lung function and reduce risk of colds and pneumonia. Traditional saunas allow patrons to adjust the humidity of the room, which can be beneficial when needing to breath moist air when feeling congested.
Promotes weight loss
The high heat promotes sweating and an increased heart rate. This mimics the act of moderate intensity workouts. However, most weight lost after use of a sauna is water weight, and may be regained after re-hydrating. Although weight loss may be a benefit, this is not means to bypass exercise--there is no true replacement for healthy eating and exercise.
Practicing Sauna Safety
A few simple measures for sauna safety that are important for healthy people and heart patients alike:
Avoid alcohol before or after your sauna.
Don't overdo it; 15 to 20 minutes of a sauna is a reasonable time limit for most people.
Cool down gradually afterward.
Drink 2 to 4 glasses of cool water after each sauna. It is important to re-hydrate after sweating and prolonged heat.
Sauna use has been shown to have healthy benefits, however, more research needs to be done as to what specifically is the result of the sauna versus other variables. One of the most beneficial things that comes from sauna use is the relaxation and stress relief it promotes. So, on these chilly winter days, if you’re feeling like you need a breather and want to stay warm, hit both with a trip to the hot sauna and enjoy its soothing effects.
You might be wondering if there is another way to lose weight besides cutting calories because...cutting calories plain sucks.
It can be an unnecessary stress and a huge hassle to track every little morsel. You can also lose sight of food quality when you're focusing on quantity. Restrictive dietary rules can make people a little neurotic and it can even cause compulsive eating. And lastly, chronic calorie restriction can appear to be successful for weight loss, yet you can unknowingly lose precious muscle mass instead of fat (something you don't want!).
I am here to tell you that there is another (and better) way! You can avoid restriction all together and instead, build muscle. It’s the body’s fat-burning furnace and is a blood sugar sponge. Muscle tissue has been observed to burn roughly seven to 10 calories per pound per day, compared to two to three calories per pound per day for fat. And in a lot of situations, you actually need to eat more to build muscle! And no ladies, you will not end up looking like a massive body-builder. You will look strong, toned and in shape.
Truth be told, we have a muscle loss epidemic happening. The lack of muscle is linked to obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Various factors are to blame here, ranging from lack of stimulation—that is, sedentary activity—to increased cortisol (cortisol eats muscle for lunch) and age-related changes in anabolic hormones (growth hormone and testosterone). The equation to healthy muscle is simple: increase muscle protein synthesis (MPS) and reduce muscle protein breakdown. Said another way, the goal is to increase anabolism and decrease catabolism. As we age, muscle protein synthesis declines a lot—studies show up to a 30 percent reduction in protein synthesis.
The cellular switch that can pivot your muscle out of breakdown mode and into growth mode is called mammalian target of rapamycin or mTOR. Physical activity in general, and resistance training in particular and eating protein, activate mTOR. How to increase muscle mass:
Do some heavy lifting.
Ditch the 5 pound weights. The foundation of your routine should be the big compound lifts: squats, deadlifts, presses (bench and overhead), pull-ups, rows, dips, snatches, power cleans, clean and jerks. These engage multiple muscles while triggering your hormonal response systems. Squats and deadlifts are absolutely required as they engage the most muscles and produce the biggest hormonal response. Body weight, while valuable, simply isn’t going to get you the strength and mass increases you’re looking for. A popular routine is the 5×5 method. Popularized by programs like StrongLifts and Starting Strength, doing compound lifts for five sets of five reps allows you to strike a balance between strength building and superficial muscle hypertrophy.
If you’re lifting heavy and lifting hard, keep your workouts spaced at least a day apart and don’t lift more than 3x/week. Three exercises per session should be perfect. That may not sound like much, but it’ll be plenty if you do it right. Remember, you’re doing big compound movements that will really shock your system, with an emphasis on intensity and power. You don’t want to overwork yourself, release a bunch of cortisol, and set yourself back a few weeks.
An example for beginners, with sets coming first in the sequence:
Pull-ups 5xFailure (add weight if “Failure” is becoming more than 12 reps)
Overhead Press 5×5
Deadlift 1/2/3×5 (your choice; deadlifts can be incredibly taxing, and with exhaustion comes poor form, so be careful; sometimes it’s better to do a really heavy load for a single set)
Bench Press 5×5
Overhead Press 5×5
Do this sequence every week (maybe Monday, Wednesday, Friday) and steadily increase the weight each session. Once you’re making progress, feel free to add in other exercises like dips or more Olympic lifts. For more mass, more lactic “burn” (and more GH secretion), reduce your rest periods between sets or even superset them. If you feel like doing some cardio, stick to sprints once weekly, or even a Crossfit-style metcon (metabolic conditioning) workout, maybe some Tabata burpees. The key is conserving strength and giving your body time to rest and recover for the next round of squats, deadlifts, and presses.
Eat Lots of Whole Foods
You need to provide plenty of protein for all those hormones to synthesize. Never let your protein intake go lower than 1g/lb of body weight when you are aiming to add long-term muscle. It’s the building block of muscle, and your body is going to be starving for it. This means about 1-2 pieces of protein the size of a deck of cards with each meal.
Eat plenty of saturated and monounsaturated fat. Fat blunts insulin secretion while increasing testosterone production. Insulin may be useful for stuffing your muscles full of glycogen, but that’s not what you’re going for… right?
Dietary fat, in conjunction with all the growth hormone you’ll be producing, also spares muscle wasting.
Eat often. If you’re going for pure size and strength, fasted workouts and skipped PWO meals may not be the ticket. You’ll burn more fat with the extra growth hormone secretion and existing muscle will be spared, but you may be missing the chance at prime protein synthesis when you fast. A PWO meal of protein and fat will still blunt the insulin secretion and provide fuel for your muscles.
Increase caloric intake. You’re going to be expending so much energy on the lifts (and you’ll continue to burn through it even on rest days) while eating clean, Primal foods (and keeping insulin low as ever) that fat accumulation shouldn’t be an issue at all. Eat!
On those days when you do expend a ton of energy – maybe on your metcon or sprint day – having a Primal-friendly starch, like squash or sweet potato, is a decent way to replenish depleted glycogen stores.
A hardgainer is often someone who doesn’t eat enough. Sure, genes play a role, but you can ultimately have a significant say in how those genes rebuild you. To a point. Eat more and lift harder to grab the reins.
It's never too late.
Check out Ernestine Shepherd, she is an 81 years old woman who didnt start lifting until she was 56. She is also the oldest competing female bodybuilder. This iron-pumping Guinness World Record holding granny is the picture of aging gracefully. The body achieves what at the mind believes.
Did you know that for optimal health, we are supposed to have at least 5 cups of produce per day (and most of that being vegetables)? Dr. Terry Wahls who is a researcher and practicing physician and who also reversed her progressive MS, takes it even further and recommends 9 cups of vegetables and fruit daily! How many cups do you think you average? If you're like most people, you'll probably find that you're having between 1-2 cups per day.
One often overlooked area of opportunity is having vegetables at breakfast! Having vegetables for breakfast is a great way to fill you up and also gets you started early on your goal of 5 cups per day. You can throw them in a smoothie (greens like spinach or even frozen cauliflower!), mix them into your eggs, or make a hearty hash!
Here are some recipes to try:
Savory Oatmeal: Spinach, Peas, Chives, Parmesan and Mint. This pretty, bright-green bowl is topped with bits of shaved Parmesan, and the addition of a few fresh mint leaves gives a great flavor contrast and will remind you of spring anytime of year. Warm frozen peas in a pan with a little olive oil, stir in a handful of baby spinach leaves and cook until just wilted, then season to taste with salt and top with Parmesan, mint leaves and plenty of cracked pepper.
This is the time of year where we make the annual promise to "get our butt in gear" after potentially weeks of celebratory eating. We may seek support through various sugar detoxes, Whole30, or other kinds of "cleanses".... ANYTHING that will help kick our morning muffin habit, our afternoon stop at a coffee shop or the after dinner "I just need something sweet" fix. You are in the hamster wheel and you CAN'T. GET. OUT. And when you make a healthy choice (like eating fruit or vegetable or start exercising), it can actually feel disappointing and leave you scratching your head wondering what's wrong with you.
Like most Americans, you are caught in something Dr. Douglas Lisle calls “The Pleasure Trap". Understanding how this trap works is your exit route!
Long story short, processed foods and a sedentary lifestyle are great from an evolutionary/survival mechanism: innately we seek pleasure, avoid pain, and conserve energy in an effort to survive. Mother nature has built us a feedback-based guidance system known as happiness, a.k.a. the short-term mood state that lets you know when you are getting closer to pleasure and further away from pain. An unhappy state tells you to change your situation.
Mother Nature wants us to seek out calorically dense foods, but the kind that are found in nature, not created in a lab by food scientists and manufacturers. But processed foods hack into our hardwiring; nature can't provide the level of sweetness found in Skittles, the fun fizz of soda, the satisfying crunch from cookies or the energy conservation from cars or elevators. All of these man-made items max out our pleasure centers, putting us in the Enhanced Pleasure Zone (see chart to the right).
So, when we go from having processed foods or an inactive lifestyle, to having a strawberry or starting an exercise we actually feel displeasure (the Subnormal Pleasure Zone). The very experience we are programmed to seek out, the one that tells us that we are doing the right thing “feels wrong and when you do the wrong thing it feels right.” The nervous system has been “spun into a puzzle that it never was designed to solve.” Taking on a whole-foods focused lifestyle can be—and is for most folks—just as difficult as kicking drugs.
All is not lost, though. If you continue on a healthy track, the nervous system will bounce back. The human body is an incredible machine, capable of healing itself drug-free. It takes 2 weeks for your body to recalibrate and at least 30 days for the change to occur and stick. If you can keep reminding yourself that this force is there, ready to knock you off course, you can defeat it when it rears its ugly, confusing head. Then one day, you will have made your way back to the Normal Pleasure Zone, which is in line for what nature intended: plain water will taste refreshing, an apple will taste tantalizingly delicious and candy might taste just a little bit too sweet.
If you need help out of The Pleasure Trap, we can help!
Most people are familiar with Whole30. It's a popular diet that cuts out all added sugars, alcohol, grains, legumes, dairy and several common food additives for 30 days. Instead, you fill your plate with meat, seafood, eggs, “tons of vegetables,” fruit and healthy fats from oils, nuts and seeds.
How do you know if it's something you should try? And NO, I am not suggesting you start this over the holidays! However, starting in January we will be running a 2nd Annual Whole30 Group (for 6 weeks). If you think you might be interested in doing it with us, read on! I've compiled a list to help you determine if you should consider trying it with us.
You should join us if you:
Think you might be developing food sensitivities.
Need a reset button with your health, your habits or your relationship with food.
Won't use Whole30 as a tool for weight loss. It’s really about how your body feels as it moves throughout the day, rather than the digital readout at the start or end of a day.
Don’t live for Whole30. This is not a lifestyle and it ends after 30 days! It should be used instead as a way to gain a “clean slate,” then adding back in whatever foods make you feel good. It’s a reset button, not a religion.
Want to try it with other people doing the same thing and having one of us as a guide each week
If this sounds like something you would like to try for the first time, or do again, send us an email to be put on our wait list.
Imagine this scenario: You get your annual blood draw (blood sugar, A1C, cholesterol, triglycerides) at your doctor's office and upon reviewing your results with your doctor, you both can see that things are trending "worse" year after year. Your doctor is expressing concern and you are also worried because you don't want to go on medication or see your health decline. During your visit, your doctor gives you some examples on ways to improve your results - examples such as increasing exercise, reducing sugar consumption, eating more vegetables, managing stress, etc.
Maybe the conversation was super helpful and you were energized by your doctor to start making changes right away! Surprisingly what ends up happening in most situations is either: 1. You start to make changes for a few weeks and they don't stick so you go back to your old habits 2. Even though you feel motivated, ultimately you never make any changes and live your life as if the conversation with your doctor never happened. The intention is there, but the follow-through is nonexistent.
It can be perplexing that these endings are most popular among people who truly care about their health and deeply desire to make changes. If this is you, you're not alone. In fact: Researchers say that, unfortunately, 97.3% of American adults get a failing grade on healthy lifestyle habits. How do we get past this?
Enter in Health Coaching.
Health coaching is what we do with our clients in every single appointment and utilizing it is completely transformative. What is health coaching and why is it so powerful?
Health coaching literally bridges the gap between knowing what you want to be/should be doing and having yourself actually do it. Health coaching allows you to narrow your focus on what matters most to you and setting goals that help you get there. It uncovers barriers and gets you around them. Coaching provides accountability, consistency, and ongoing support so that you get the long lasting results you've always wanted.
At Thrive Nutrition, we don't just offer nutrition and lifestyle advice and let you figure it out on your own. We help you take that advice into your life with health coaching to achieve and maintain good health.
You may be surprised to hear that we don't make our clients meticulously track calories or weigh their food. Instead, we opt for an easier approach to help our clients reach their health goals without making them go crazy; our goal is to help our clients eat in a way that is sustainable long term. Who wants to have to log into MyFitnessPal for every single meal for the rest of eternity???
Now don't get us wrong, food journaling for some clients can be a helpful tool as they are able to develop awareness around what they are eating (if you remember from the previous Acid Reflux/GERD article, most people are asleep at the plate!). Also, reviewing what actual portion sizes are can also be enlightening. We can honestly believe we are eating a serving of vegetables, but barely having any or maybe we think we're eating a serving of pasta, but having 2 or three!
At Thrive Nutrition, we've created a simple equation to help you eat in a way that is nutrient dense, keeps your blood sugar low and taps into fat burning. The best news, you don't have to be a mathematician or glued to your phone to do it!
Protein, Fat + Fiber - The magic equation
Each time you have a meal - ask yourself - what is my protein, fat and fiber? Protein, fat + fiber keeps us full and stabilizes blood sugar levels to keep us satisfied until our next meal. Sounds easy, right? It is! Let's go over some real life examples:
Pork sausage, avocado and berries. The protein is the sausage and the avocado is fat and fiber.
Full fat Greek yogurt with berries and walnuts. The Greek yogurt is protein and fat, the walnuts are fat and fiber and the berries are fiber.
Eggs with cheese and greens. Eggs and cheese are protein and fat, greens are fiber.
Salad with steak and olive oil dressing. Steak is fat and protein, greens are fiber and olive oil is fat.
Cauliflower rice curry with cashews and chicken. The vegetables are fiber, the cashews and chicken are protein and coconut milk is fat.
Ancient grains thin crust pizza, loaded with veggies and meat. The fiber is veggies and pizza crust, the fat is cheese and protein is the meat.
Tolerant Lentil Noodles with creamy red sauce and meatballs. The pasta is the fiber and protein, the cream is the fat and the meatballs are protein and fat.
Foods that don't work:
Low fat Greek yogurt - Missing fat + fiber
Egg Beaters (egg whites) - Missing fat from the yolks
Donut - Missing fiber + protein (and the fat is low quality vegetable oils)
Fruit only for a snack - Missing protein + fat
In addition to that, there are a few other things we aim for:
Try to eat animal meat 2x/day. Women should eat 1 palm and men 2 palms full.
Stay under 25 grams of added sugar per day. Juice counts towards added sugar, while whole fruit does not.
Hopefully this simplifies the way you eat - we would love to hear how this works for you. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know!
Last Thursday Paleo promoter Chris Kresser went head-to-head against Vegan advocate Dr. Joel Kahn - it was a 3.5 hour long debate (and they have it all on video and audio file if you want to watch or listen)! Their goal was to clear up the confusion of which diet is the "best" diet.
I listened to it and I have to say Chris was the clear winner, though Dr. Kahn had some really good points.
Chris created a Why Eating Meat Is Good for You “cornerstone page” with a link to the replay of the show, a summary of his key arguments, and links to relevant new and existing articles, as well as links to studies categorized by topic.
This is without a doubt the single most comprehensive resource he's ever created to answer the question: “Should meat and other animal foods be part of the diet?”
Last week we discussed how low stomach acid, dehydration and gut overgrowths/carbohydrate malabsorption contribute to acid reflux/GERD symptoms. This week we will continue the conversation and explain ways in which how we eat also contribute to these medical complaints.
Stress reduces gastric acid production and impairs GI motility. Can you recall what your body senses are when you eat during a state of anxiety or stress? Most people report such symptoms of heartburn, cramping, gas, digestive pains, belching, intense hunger and minimal satisfaction from the meal. During stress, the body automatically shifts into the classic fight-or-flight response. Blood flow is rerouted away from the intestines and go to the head for quick thinking and limbs for fast movement and the power to fight. Most importantly, the digestive system shuts down. Biologically, you don't need to waste energy digesting food when you’re fighting for survival. This feature of the central nervous system is a brilliant safety mechanism that supported us during life-threatening events - confronting hostile attackers, experiencing natural disasters and quickly evading or forcibly overcoming anyone or anything.
However, in our modern-day world characterized by 24/7 stress, lowered gastric acid production can make heartburn a chronic condition. You can even eat the healthiest meal on earth, but if you eat it in an anxious state, your digestion is dramatically diminished. A chronic insufficiency of gastric acid allows a larger quantity of ingested bacteria to pass through the stomach unchallenged and enter the small intestine, where they can proliferate, causing gas and heartburn. Another problem is impaired GI motility allows food to stagnate in the small intestine, where it creates a breeding ground for bacterial overgrowth and again, gas and acid reflux/GERD. Stress is a 2-fold problem!
What We Do: We help clients shift away from the fight-or-flight response (sympathetic nervous system dominance), and activate the parasympathetic nervous system or rest-digest-detox-repair mode. We help them assess where in their life they are experiencing stress and set goals to mitigate it. For example - if stress is work related, can you make time to take a 5 minute walk outside or do 60 seconds of belly breathing (one of the quickest ways to activate relaxation)? If you feel overwhelmed by your to-do list, write out your top 3-5 things you want to accomplish each day. If rush hour makes you mad, is there a scenic back road you can meander through instead of being bumper-to-bumper on the highway? Or maybe you can explore podcasts that make you lose track of time. These are just a few examples on what some of our clients have found work for them.
However, one of the best places to start is to start relaxing around meal time. Relaxing around the meal is a great way to ensure better digestion. Increase your meal time by 5 minute increments and work your way up to spending 20 minutes with each meal. Instead of eating on the couch watching a suspenseful show or depressing news, move to the dining table with your loved one and catch up. Opt for outside instead of eating at your work desk. Use gentle, fuller breathing as a natural pause during meals. Deep breathe 3 times at each pause.
Falling Asleep at the Plate/Distracted Eating
When is the last time you ate a meal and don't remember tasting your food? Digestion begins in the mind. Cephalic phase digestive response, “CPDR” (cephalic means “of the head”) describes the pleasures of taste, aroma, satisfaction and visual stimulation of a meal. As much at 30-40% of the total digestive response to any meal is due to cephalic phase digestive response - our full awareness of what we are eating.
Digestion quite literally begins in the head as chemical and mechanical receptors on the tongue and the oral and nasal cavities are stimulated by smelling food, tasting it, chewing it and noticing it. A hearty awareness of our meal initiates the secretion of saliva, gastric acid and enzymes, gut-associated neuropeptides and production of the full range of pancreatic enzymes, including trypsin, chymotrypsin, pancreatic amylase and lipase. It also causes the blood to rush to the digestive organs, the stomach and intestines to rhythmically contract and electrolyte concentrations throughout the digestive tract to shift in preparation for incoming food. If you “fall asleep at the plate” then we are metabolizing the meal at only 60-70% efficiency and we can overeat, contributing to heartburn.
What We Do: Our clients work on developing a sense of awareness around meals; instead of eating until they are stuffed, we teach them how to eat to the point of energy. The yogis of ancient India described a special point in any meal whereupon, if you stopped eating at that time, you’d walk away from the table with more prana - more energy or life force- than when you sat down. Finding this “point of energy” takes some experimentation. Ask your gut: “How do I feel? How is my energy level? Do I still feel light? Am I starting to feel heavy?” Estimate the point at which you feel filled with energy yet not filled with food. Your belly will feel light; you’ll feel slightly “up”; you will still be a little hungry yet you’ll translate that hunger and desire for more food into the next thing you do after your meal. Conversely, when you eat even one bite past the point of energy, you’ll start to feel heavier.
We can help you with your heartburn or other digestive concerns!
In this two part series, I will discuss our holistic approach to addressing the root causes of GERD/acid reflux which are missed by the current medical care model.
Occurrence of GERD/Acid Reflux
2 in 5 Americans experience acid reflux symptoms and the proton pump inhibitor (PPI), Nexium, is the 4th most commonly prescribed acid reflux drug with 15.9 million people taking it. Mind you, this doesn't include those taking over-the-counter antacids on a regular basis which is millions of more people!
Studies suggest that up to 70 percent of PPI use may not be necessary (😳). Further, Nexium should only be given for 4 to 8 weeks only, but most people are on it for months or even years, which can lead to a whole host of other GI related problems and nutrient deficiencies down the road.
Common Causes + Risk Factors of GERD/Acid Reflux
Talk to a medical professional or search the internet and you will find that the common causes are laid out as such:
Bulging of the top of the stomach up into the diaphragm (hiatal hernia)
Connective tissue disorders, such as scleroderma
Delayed stomach emptying
Factors that can aggravate acid reflux include:
Eating large meals or eating late at night
Eating certain foods (triggers) such as fatty or fried foods
Drinking certain beverages, such as alcohol or coffee
Taking certain medications, such as aspirin
However, at Thrive Nutrition we work with clients who have addressed these causes and still experience GERD/acid reflux. What is conventional treatment missing?
Some Hidden Causes of GERD/Acid Reflux
Low Stomach Acid
Yes, you read that right. If you ask the average Joe on the street what causes heartburn, he’ll tell you “too much stomach acid.” That’s what most of the ads seem to suggest too. But there’s a big problem with this theory: the incidence of heartburn and GERD increases with age, while stomach acid levels generally decline with age. Numerous studies have shown this and in one study researchers found that over 30 percent of men and women past the age of 60 suffer from atrophic gastritis, a condition marked by little to no acid secretion. Another study found that 40% of women over the age of 80 produce no stomach acid at all.
Just as studies show acid secretion declines with age, it is also well established in the scientific literature that the risk of GERD increases with age. If heartburn were caused by too much stomach acid, we’d have a bunch of teenagers popping Rolaids instead of elderly folks. But of course that’s the opposite of what we see. In fact, according to Jonathan Wright, MD of the Tahoma Clinic in Washington state, when stomach acid is measured in people suffering from heartburn and GERD it is almost always low, not high.
Antacids and PPIs provide relief because they neutralize your stomach acid. Too often western medicine focuses on suppressing symptoms without paying attention to what is causing the symptom in the first place. The misguidedness of this approach is clearly demonstrated by the use of acid inhibiting drugs to treat heartburn and GERD – problems which are caused by not enough stomach acid!
What We Do: We help clients determine if they have low stomach acid levels with a simple at home baking soda test and follow up dietary and supplemental support as necessary such as betaine HCL, fermented foods, digestive bitters and/or apple cider vinegar.
Though digestion requires plentiful amounts water, our body needs water for numerous other bodily processes which makes it even more important to stay hydrated. Your body uses water in all its cells and in between cells, it hydrates your nose, throat and lungs, cushions joints, contributes to spinal fluid, is used to help regulate temperature and helps eliminate waste through urination, breathing (exhaling), bulking stool and sweating.
The stomach relies on mucus lining the walls to shield it from the effects of the stomach's hydrochloric acid. A bicarbonate solution is produced from the cells in the lining which neutralizes any acid attempting to break through the mucus. Water is needed to maintain this effective defense system. Too little water, and the mucus barrier is ineffectual, the acid will penetrate and will lead to pain. Ideally, water should be consumed half an hour before a meal, in time to anticipate the production of digestive acid from glands in the stomach wall.
What We Do: We assist clients with setting goals to increase their water intake to half of their body weight in ounces over time. Goals include having clients purchase insulated stainless steel water bottles, drinking 8-16 ounces upon waking by keeping water by the bed, drinking a glass while lunch is being microwaved, etc. A good way to tell if you're well hydrated is that you can eat a meal without an strong urge to drink something. However, it is important to note that our body is extremely adaptable so you may not be thirsty, even if you are dehydrated. Urine color is an objective way to see your hydration status. Very faint yellow or clear is what you're aiming for.
Carbohydrate Malabsorption/Gut Overgrowths
It is well accepted in the literature that GERD is caused by an increase in intra-abdominal pressure (IAP). Acid reflux occurs when pressure causes gastric distention (stomach bloating) that pushes the stomach contents, including acid, through the LES into the esophagus. According to current thought, factors contributing to this include overeating, obesity, bending over after eating, lying down after eating, and consuming spicy or fatty foods. In his excellent book, Heartburn Cured, microbiologist Dr. Norm Robillard argues that carbohydrate malabsorption leads to bacterial overgrowth, resulting in IAP (gas) which drives reflux. Low stomach acid can contribute to both bacterial overgrowth (independently of carbohydrate intake) and carbohydrate malabsorption.
At a pH of 3 or less (the normal pH of the stomach), most bacteria can’t survive for more than 15 minutes. But when stomach acid is insufficient and the pH of the stomach rises above 5, bacteria and other microorganisms begin to thrive. Pathogens in food can easily survive in a stomach treated with PPIs and antacids. At Thrive, at lot of our gut health clients who have been on PPIs tell us IBS symptoms (carbohydrate intolerances, gas, bloating) started after taking them; an indicator of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.
What We Do: We find bacterial, yeast, parasitic and viral overgrowths with a stool test and we work hard to resolve the overgrowths and restore good gut ecology. We utilize diets like Paleo, low-carb and the Specific Carbohydrate Diet when necessary (2-3 months on average) in addition to herbal antimicrobials and probiotics.
Inflammation is one of our biggest risk indicators for developing disease. Whether it’s in the gut causing poor digestion, in the brain causing diseases like Alzheimer's and Dementia, or throughout the body. Inflammation is the body’s response to the environment and its toxins and infections to prevent us from getting sick.
The strongest marker to measure for total body inflammation is high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP). This protein reflects the presence of inflammation in your body. We all make this protein, which at normal levels helps fight off infection. Research has shown that hs-CRP levels have been associated with risk for developing cardiovascular disease, where levels below 1 mg/L are associated with the lowest risk, levels between 1 and 3 mg/L are at average risk and levels above 3 mg/L are associated with highest risk. However, there is more to the story. Recent studies have shown that low grade inflammation is also associated with the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Multiple factors can exacerbate inflammation including stress, poor diet, physical inactivity and an overall unhealthy lifestyle. Below is a list of ways you can reduce your stress1.
Cut the sweets- sugar increases inflammation and is the fuel source for many chronic diseases. Reducing intake will not only help lower your CRP levels, but decrease your risk for diseases.
Eat a well-balanced diet- eating a diet rich in omega-3 source (like fatty fish and grass fed beef) can decrease inflammation since this healthy fat has anti-inflammatory properties.Fat soluble vitamins (A,D,E and K) can also lower your body's inflammation.
Get a good night’s rest- good quality sleep is beneficial in many aspects of our health. It can improve productivity, decrease risk of weight gain and chronic disease, improve your immune function and lower risk of depression. Another very important function sleep has is lowering CRP levels.
Get moving- exercising has shown to lower inflammation levels and decrease risk of all morbidity diseases. In addition, it can increase mood, energy and overall health.
Increase your probiotic intake- research has shown that consistent intake of probiotics (naturally sourced or supplements) can reduce inflammation and decrease CRP levels2. Good sources of probiotics include kefir, kombucha, yogurt and other fermented products.
Be positive and mindful- being positive and distancing yourself from negative relationships can decrease the inflammation present around the body. Practicing mindfulness through meditation and being present has also shown a decrease in inflammation by slowing down and decreasing stress.
Try becoming a tai chi or yogi master!- slower, relaxing activities also have a role on stress and inflammation reduction. By practicing these unwinding moves, you can also dig into self-reflection, more mindfulness, muscle strength and toning.
Get adequate B vitamins- although there are many B vitamins, they all play an important role in the body and in reducing inflammation. The most dominant one being the B vitamins involved in the methylation pathway3. When deficient in these vitamins, homocysteine levels can increase, which is associated with higher CRP levels.
Decrease alcohol consumption- lowering intake of alcohol has been associated with lower levels of CRP. When consumed in limited amounts, red wine consumption can actually lower inflammation as well. This is due to the antioxidant properties in the wine.
Grab a cup of coffee- Good news right?! Coffee, along with green tea, have been associated with lower CRP levels due to their polyphenols and other anti-inflammatory compounds.
At Thrive Nutrition we offer different types of lab testing, including a cardiometabolic test, which measures hs-CRP levels. Good news, you don't have to be a client to take us up on this opportunity. Just go to our website to read more and purchase the lab test you are interested in. We work with the most comprehensive and detail-oriented labs to get you the clearest results!
Most people already know that consistently accomplishing good sleep every night will have a direct impact on the way you feel throughout the day. You’ll more than likely feel the effects of a sub-par sleep come the next day with feelings of sluggishness, perhaps tired eyes, or generally noting that you’re not as happy and running at less than full capacity.
The long-term effects of continually sleeping less and getting poor sleep can cause you to suffer from some quite serious health problems if you aren’t careful.
If you, like many others, know how vital good sleep is, and you’re still not hitting the snooze levels you’d like to every night, then there could well be some underlying issues preventing this from happening.
In today’s modern world, we see lots of habits and distractions for day-to-day living and indeed sleep too, which is why we’ve put together a list of some common bad habits people have in their lives that keep you restless throughout the night. Take a look and see if any are in your life and think about changing it up so that you can get the all-important top-quality kip!
1. Tuck the tech away before bed
Yes, we’re sorry to have to break it to you, although you most probably already knew about the fact that technology and restful nights do not play well together.
It’s very common for people to have TVs in their bedrooms as well as other rooms in the house. And then there are the tablets, laptops and mobile phones that join you in bed too! this really is not the place for all your tech to be.
Screens attached to these devices, including TVs, emit a blue light which prevents your sleep hormones from doing their job. Instead of feeling sleepy when you go to bed, you before stimulated by what you’re staring at and the subsequent light too.
Therefore, shut the door on your smart devices and let the bedroom be your very own sanctuary for sleep.
2. Eat at the right time
If you’re a late eater, then you could well find yourself struggling to drift off. This is because your stomach acids are beavering away as they try to digest what you’ve just eaten, and they can also make their way up into your throat.
Give yourself a meal no less than two hours before you head off to that glorious bed of yours and allow it to digest properly. And roughly an hour before bed, drink a glass of water as this will help to prevent hunger pangs. This is a subject that The Sleep-Advisor discuss this quite a lot, among other sleep-related topics.
3. Leave that snooze button alone
When you go to bed, set your alarm and then place it out of arm’s reach. This will prevent the classic manoeuvre of playing cat and mouse with reality by constantly hitting the snooze button!
This is also a good time to let you know that if you have to keep your phone in your room to use as an alarm clock, then get an app that mutes all the notifications that could unsettle your night’s sleep.
Don’t be tempted to look at the time if you happen to wake up either, or you could end up staying awake for far longer than you want.
4. Kill off the coffee and cigarettes
Coffee and energy drinks that contain caffeine, along with cigarettes and even e-cigarettes, which contain nicotine are stimulants. If you have these types of things before bed, even as much as three hours before you slide under the sheets, it can cause difficulty when you want to get to sleep.
Surprisingly, a study showed that e-liquid labeled as nicotine-free for e-cigarettes contained nicotine! In the 35 samples labeled 0 mg/mL, nicotine was detected in 91.4% of the samples. Six samples from 2 manufacturers labeled as 0 mg/mL were found to contain nicotine in amounts ranging from 5.7 to 23.9 mg/mL. Why such labeling inaccuracies? Perhaps these companies want to keep you hooked on their products! If you're thinking about quitting, check your health insurance to see if they offer free tobacco cessation programs.
The state of Minnesota also offers a free tobacco cessation service called QUITPLAN. QUITPLAN is available to anyone who wants to quit tobacco and offers a wide array of tools for eligible Minnesotans. You can sign up for the QUITPLAN Helpline for a complete phone-counseling program or choose individual services in addition to free nicotine replacement therapies like gum, patch or lozenges.
5. Alcohol is a culprit too!
We know what you’re thinking, and it might seem like we’re picking on the things you enjoy doing, but despite the fact that you may wake up and think you had a terrific night’s sleep after drinking alcohol, the truth is that you didn’t and you never will.
You can have a few drinks and then once it’s being digested, the body kicks into metabolising mode. This period brings about a stage of arousal and consequently interrupts your sleep. Sorry guys, no beer before bed!
6. Are you being consistent?
Routine is a big part of avoiding restlessness. If you have a second job one night a week, or you stay out late in the week for an event, you’ll notice that it can throw you off for a couple of days.
Sticking to a routine is what humans love and benefit from. Don’t let that film you were watching keep you up, and simply make sure you’ve done what you need to before you start to wind down and eventually slip off to bed. Keep your sleep cycles the same and you will find restful sleep, continually.
By Guest Writer Sarah Cummings
If you've been paying attention this week to the media, you may have come across two major and shocking headlines:
- "Coconut Oil Is ‘Pure Poison,’ Harvard Professor Claims"
- "Low-carb diets could shorten life, study suggests"
These clickbait headlines sure stir up panic and I am here to break both articles down for you and provide advice.
Coconut Oil is 'Pure Poison,' Harvard Professor Claims
This headline is so scary! A lot of people eating coconut oil are doing so for health benefits, so imagine the terror a coconut oil eater would feel coming across this headline. What's even more frustrating is that people are busy, so not everyone is going to take the time to read the article and instead be influenced by the headline alone.
Let's dive into what the website article says:
It states that coconut oil is dangerous because of it's high saturated fat content: "Michels and the AHA cite the tremendous amount of saturated contained in coconut oil, nearly 82 percent (worse than lard!)." However, the SAME article also says: "But, saturated fat is a loaded term. While the AHA warns against it, people who cut saturated fat out of their diet might not necessarily lower their heart disease risk, a 2015 BMJ review suggested. That's because some people fill the void with sugar, white flour and empty calories. Also, some fat is important to help bodies absorb nutrients from other foods."
So as you can see the headline is very deceiving.
Thrive Nutrition's take on saturated fat and coconut oil:
- Saturated fat is not the primary driver of heart disease. There have been at least 17 systematic reviews and meta-analyses conducted in recent years that have not found a clear link between saturated fat consumption and heart disease.
- While saturated fats can be shown to raise the “bad” LDL-cholesterol, this elevated risk factor does not result in higher mortality rates, very likely reflecting a more complicated pathway for cardiovascular disease than simply LDL-C (i.e., saturated fats also consistently raise the “good” HDL-cholesterol, which may be a compensating effect).
- A number of studies suggesting that saturated fat feeding in rodent and primate models results in the development of atherosclerosis. However, there are major differences in lipid metabolism between humans and rodents, and even between humans and nonhuman primates. This is a major problem with animal nutrition research.
- While the AHA is a nonprofit organization, it receives significant funds from industry leaders. Representatives from companies like Nestlé, Coca-Cola, The Sugar Association, the United Soybean Board, and the US Canola Association also serve on its “Industry Nutrition Advisory Panel.” From the AHA website:
“The American Heart Association’s Industry Nutrition Advisory Panel (INAP) is a unique, strategic relationship between the American Heart Association’s Nutrition Committee and food industry leaders. In existence since 1995, INAP provides a platform for open dialogue, sharing of information and planning cooperative programs in areas of mutual interest such as diet and nutrition and cardiovascular disease.”
- The Verdict: Eating more healthy fat (not vegetable oils or trans fats) is satiating, reduces cravings for sugar and carbs and helps stabilize blood sugar levels while also promoting fat burning. Coconut oil is also a healthy fat, however since coconuts are processed into the oil, eat in moderation and eat a variety of other fats like avocados, cold-pressed olive oil, raw nuts and seeds, pastured dairy and eggs and grass-fed/wild-caught animals.
Low-carb diets could shorten life, study suggests
Last week, a new study was published in The Lancet Public Health that claimed to find that both very-low- and very-high-carb diets shorten our lifespan. Predictably, the mainstream media jumped on this finding without doing a shred of due diligence—more on that below—and we were subjected to splashy headlines like this:
- Low-carb diets could shorten life, study suggests (BBC News)
- Low and high carb diets increase risk of early death, study finds (CNN)
- Low-carb diet may cut years off life, study suggests (Newsweek)
- Your low-carb diet could be shortening your life (Fast Company)
- Paleo fail: meat-heavy low-carbohydrate diets can shorten lifespan, researchers say (South China News)
Unfortunately, this study has already been widely misinterpreted by the mainstream media, and that will continue because:
- Most media outlets don’t have science journalists on staff anymore
- Even so-called “science journalists” today seem to lack basic scientific literacy
A recap of the study is: A low-carb diet could shorten life expectancy by up to four years and it indicates that moderate carb consumption is healthier. After following the group for an average of 25 years, researchers found that those who got 50-55% of their energy from carbohydrates (the moderate carb group and in line with UK dietary guidelines) had a slightly lower risk of death compared with the low and high-carb groups.
Problems with the study:
- Using observational data to draw conclusions about causality. An observational study is one that draws inferences about the effect of an exposure or intervention on subjects where the researcher or investigator has no control over the subject. It’s not an experiment where they are directing a specific intervention (like a low-carb diet) and making things happen. Instead, the researchers are just looking at populations of people and making guesses about the effects of a diet or lifestyle variable. You can establish a correlation or an association between two variables, but you can’t establish causation conclusively.
- Carbohydrates in the study included vegetables, fruit and sugar but the main source of them is starchy foods, such as potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and cereals. The failing of this study is that it is fcusing exclusively on diet quantity and ignoring quality.
Low carb was not actually low carb! Low carb was designated as 30%-40% of their calories from carbs, which in Thrive Nutrition's standards is a high carb diet! Further, participants that were following a "low-carb diet" were not following a Paleo-type low-carb diet that is rich in natural, whole foods. The researchers themselves point this out.
“By contrast, the animal-based low carbohydrate dietary score was associated with lower average intake of both fruit and vegetables (appendix pp 9, 10).”
- The study relied on people remembering the amount of carbohydrates they ate by filling out questionnaires on the food and drink they consumed. Food questionnaires are notoriously inaccurate for a number of reasons. First, people almost always under report the "bad" food they eat (will report smaller serving sizes or omit food altogether) and overreport the "good" food they eat. Second, people often forget what they ate. Try journaling all of the food and portion sizes you ate in the last 24 hours and see how hard it is! Third, people don’t weigh or otherwise measure portion sizes and "eyeballing it" can be highly inaccurate. Also, people find tracking every bite and meal inconvenient. In this study, people were asked to report on what they ate over a previous six-year period!
The media loves sensationalized headlines and fails to provide accurate information. It's always good to be cautious and take what they say with a grain of salt (or a tablespoon of coconut oil)!
Written by guest writer: Scott Reid
If you eat lunch on the run and end up grabbing nutrient-poor sandwiches, or you are trying to lose weight but struggling with ideas, why not consider replacing your traditional lunch with a tasty, healthy smoothie? Easy to make and with no end of available varieties of flavor, smoothies can offer the perfect combination of protein, healthy fats and vitamins to make them a perfect lunch as well as helping with weight loss. You just need to pick your ingredients carefully to make sure your smoothie is balanced with healthy ingredients and not just full of sugar. But if you do, you will feel full all day as well as getting the benefits of all the wonderful nutrients. When selecting your choices, make sure you have a good balance of healthy fats, protein and carbohydrates and then you know that your smoothie is at least as healthy, if not more so, than your planned sandwich.
You can prepare smoothies in the morning or even the night before, and keep them in the fridge until you are ready to go and then just take them with you – incredibly simple and easy to do. Here are five great smoothies to have instead of your lunch:
1/2 cup of almond milk
1/2 cup of coconut milk
2 tablespoons of almond butter
1 tablespoon of honey
1 tablespoon of cocoa powder
1 tablespoon of protein powder (Such as Focus Performance Grass Fed Whey)
Blend all the ingredients together and serve over ice to taste – or make it the night before.
Banana and Peanut Smoothie
1 medium banana
1/2 cup of full-fat Greek yogurt
1/2 cup of coconut milk or cream
1 tablespoon of cocoa powder
1 tablespoon of peanut butter
6 ice cubes
Blend all the ingredients and serve. The yogurt and peanut butter contain vital protein, fat and fiber making it a perfect lunch replacement choice.
Ginger Spice Smoothie
1 cup of full-fat Greek yogurt
1 cup of ice cubes
1/4 cup of sliced banana
2 tablespoons of almond butter
1 tablespoon of molasses
1 teaspoon of grated ginger
1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon of cardamom
Blend all the ingredients ready to serve. The yogurt and nut butter pack this smoothie with protein and carbs helping to keep you full for longer.
Avocado and Spinach Smoothie
1/2 cup of spinach
1 tablespoon of hemp
1 teaspoon of chia seeds
1 cup of almond milk
Blend all the ingredients together adding the milk until it achieves the required consistency. This veggie based smoothie will leave you feeling full thanks to the avocado which contains healthy fats.
Pineapple and Kale Smoothie
2 scoops of vanilla protein powder
2 cups of kale
1 cup of pineapple
1 tablespoon of coconut oil
The combination of flavors makes this a nice tropical lunch replacement for a hot summer’s day! The pineapples work to boost immunity and help support gut health while the coconut oil is another great healthy fat.
Just because we love strawberries so much, we couldn’t resist giving you one last extra bonus smoothie recipe to add to your choices:
Strawberry and Oats Smoothie
2 scoops of vanilla protein powder
2 cups of kale
1 cup of strawberries
1/4 cup of organic oats
2 tablespoons of almond butter
Strawberries provide a great summer flavor but are also good for helping control blood sugar, while the almond butter is a great source of healthy fats. This is another perfect smoothie to replace that calorie-laden shop sandwich you were opting for, for lunch.
Smoothies can be an idea lunch choice as they are so easy and quick to make, either the night before and then stored in the fridge, or they can be made fresh that morning and taken with you in a drinks container. They also come in so many different flavors and varieties, from fruit-based to green-leaf based, so there really is one for everyone. It’s a case of trying different combinations to see which flavors you prefer.
As long as you get the balance right by making sure your smoothie is full of protein, carbs and healthy fats, and is not sugar laden, you are bound to see and feel the benefits of swapping out an unimaginative lunch for a flavorsome, nutrition-packed smoothie. If you are not convinced by the health benefits then think of all the money you will save by not heading to the sandwich shop every day for lunch!
Disclaimer: we are NOT saying you have to abstain altogether from drinking alcohol. Regular intake of alcohol has both risks and benefits. Research shows that men can have moderate intake (1 drink/day), while women can have low intake (less than 1 drink/day). Following these intake guidelines can lower risk of all-cause mortality. The risks associated with a higher intake include an increase in bone fractures and an increase in colon and breast cancers by blocking the absorption of Folate, which is essential for cell division.
It is important to be conservative when drinking. This does not mean you can save all your drinks up for the weekend and binge drink; this causes even more health risks. Studies have shown that drinking one drink a day versus seven drinks on a Saturday night are not equivalent. Being aware of your alcohol consumption can not only prevent alcohol abuse, but also decrease risk of mortality. Below are some helpful tips to reduce your consumption of alcohol.
Monitor your consumption. Keeping track of your alcoholic drinks will make you more aware of how much you are actually having. Make sure you know how much a standard drink is.
Include drink spacers. another trick is to space out your drinks by drinking non-alcoholic drinks between drinks containing alcohol. This could include water, or exchanging for a mock-tail. No matter how much you drink, it is always a good idea to drink water throughout the night if you are consuming alcohol.
Pace yourself. Taking small sips of your drink will make it last longer, providing the opportunity to have less drinks. Making your drink last at least an hour will help reduce the risk of over consumption.
Do something else. If you often find that certain activities always include drinking, try suggesting something else to do instead. Pick up a new hobby, or try incorporating exercise with that same group of friends.
Choose alcohol free days. Set aside a day or two during the week where you will choose to abstain from drinking. Taking a break from consuming alcohol may be the first step to help you drink less.
Keep alcohol off the dinner table. Pour yourself and others drinks, then remove the alcohol from the table. When it is in front of you, it's easier to over consume. Instead place a pitcher of water on the table to encourage drinking more.
At Thrive Nutrition, we work with clients who experience a variety of obstacles that prevent them from reaching their health goals. Working together to achieve those goals and crush those obstacles is how we help people be successful in the healthiest way.
Ahhh Monday. The worst kind of day. Nothing screams reality like the trudge back to work after a long fun weekend. No? GREAT!! I hope you don’t feel that way! Maybe some of you feel that Monday brings with it a long week of health obstacles, like the doughnuts that always seem to lurking in your breakroom. Not to worry! For the last We’ve listened to our clients over the last couple years and have heard their most common obstacles in the workplace, and have brought you tips on how to conquer those obstacles!
Take a 10 min walking break every hour- research shows that prolonged sitting significantly impacts your cardiovascular and metabolic function.1 Some suggestions could be to exchange your desk for a standing or treadmill desk, or use a stability ball instead of a regular office chair.
Pack your lunch AND snacks
Prevent that afternoon fatigue or that before dinner snacking by providing nourishment throughout the day. Listening to your body’s cues, like hunger, can reduce stress and increase focus on other activities.
Drink lots of water
Drinking fluids is crucial to staying healthy and maintaining the function of every system in your body, including your heart, brain, and muscles, increasing energy and improving focus in the workplace. Fluids carry nutrients to your cells, flush bacteria from your bladder, and prevent constipation. Healthy people should get about 2 liters of water per day.2
Have an accountability buddy
Having a support system increases the likelihood of success. Studies show that when people entered a weight loss program with friends or a support group, they lost more weight and kept the weight off longer than those who participated by themselves.3
Get a good night’s rest
Sleep quality is important for neuroendocrine function and glucose metabolism, reduction of stress, prevention of obesity and can increase energy and focus for your day at the office. Sleep loss has been shown to result in metabolic and endocrine alterations, including decreased glucose tolerance, decreased insulin sensitivity, and increased hunger and appetite. 4
The most common fear we hear is that people will mess up their healthy habits by consuming those tasty treats from the office break room. First, we want to make it clear that because you eat a treat, does not mean you’ve messed up. When you feel guilty or punish yourself for consuming food you don’t normally consume, that creates stress on your body, impairs digestion and increases calorie absorption. Chronic stress is one of the biggest influences to weight gain. Instead, allow yourself to indulge in moderation. This will leave you feeling more satisfied and leave you with a fuller metabolic breakdown and efficiently burning calories. At Thrive Nutrition we work with clients to conquer all obstacles in their lives to see the greatest success of their health goals.
10 Snack Ideas to bring to work
- Veggies + hummus
- Apple + almond butter
- Dried fruit + nuts
- Whole fat yogurt + berries
- Roasted chickpeas
- Hard boiled eggs
- Cottage cheese
- Dark chocolate
- Lentil chips + salsa
Family meals are rare these days. We're often on the go with food - eating while running out the door, in the car, stopping with for a quick bite, chowing down at sporting events, etc. However, several studies show how important family meals can be for children of all ages. Often our clients have to clean lots of clutter off of their dinner tables so that they can use it! Learn about the health and cognitive benefits associated with simply having sit-down meals together.
- Developmental Boosts
For the littlest family members, sharing a dinner at the table with parents does several awesome things. First, it helps promote language skills as you talk with them, and your partner, about the day. It also helps them develop patience and dexterity through the use of utensils. And it helps them develop social skills that include manners and taking turns.
Researchers found that for young children, dinnertime conversation boosts vocabulary even more than being read aloud to. The researchers counted the number of rare words – those not found on a list of 3,000 most common words – that the families used during dinner conversation. Young kids learned 1,000 rare words at the dinner table, compared to only 143 from parents reading storybooks aloud. Kids who have a large vocabulary read earlier and more easily.
Older children also reap intellectual benefits from family dinners. For school-age youngsters, regular mealtime is an even more powerful predictor of high achievement scores than time spent in school, doing homework, playing sports or doing art.
Other researchers reported a consistent association between family dinner frequency and teen academic performance. Adolescents who ate family meals five to seven times a week were twice as likely to get A’s in school as those who ate dinner with their families fewer than two times a week.
- Improved Mental Health
One study, published in the journal Pediatrics, found that kids who regularly enjoyed family meals were less likely to experience symptoms of depression and less likely to get into drug use.
A stack of studies link regular family dinners with lowering a host of high risk teenage behaviors parents fear: smoking, binge drinking, marijuana use, violence, school problems, eating disorders and sexual activity. In one study of more than 5,000 Minnesota teens, researchers concluded that regular family dinners were associated with lower rates of depression and suicidal thoughts. In a very recent study, kids who had been victims of cyberbullying bounced back more readily if they had regular family dinners. Family dinners have been found to be a more powerful deterrent against high-risk teen behaviors than church attendance or good grades.
There are also associations between regular family dinners and good behaviors, not just the absence of bad ones. In a New Zealand study, a higher frequency of family meals was strongly associated with positive moods in adolescents. Similarly, other researchers have shown that teens who dine regularly with their families also have a more positive view of the future, compared to their peers who don’t eat with parents.
- Bonded Families
Research also suggests that when a family eats together they feel a strong bond with one another. Everyone leads disconnected lives at work and school, and this time allows them to reconnect . And you’ll also be able to keep tabs on your kids’ lives.
In most industrialized countries, families don’t farm together, play musical instruments or stitch quilts on the porch. So dinner is the most reliable way for families to connect and find out what’s going on with each other. In a survey, American teens were asked when they were most likely to talk with their parents: dinner was their top answer. Kids who eat dinner with their parents experience less stress and have a better relationship with them.
- Physical Health
Families that eat together make better food choices. One study from Stanford University reported that kids who eat family dinners are less likely to grub on fried food, while seeking out stuff like fruits and veggies.
Additionally, research from the American Society For Nutrition found that young children who ate at home with their families had a lower body-mass index than kids who did not. That’s most likely due to the fact that home cooking is healthier than restaurant meals, which boast larger portion sizes and higher calorie counts. And the nutritional benefits keep paying dividends even after kids grow up: young adults who ate regular family meals as teens are less likely to be obese and more likely to eat healthily once they live on their own.
KEEPING THE CONVERSATION GOING
So, now that you’re at the dinner table together, how do you keep the conversation flowing? Here are some ideas - however for even more ideas, check out the book: The Family Dinner for recipes, table games and conversation starters.
- Find an inspiring story in the newspaper (yes, newspaper) to discuss with the family. Everyone has to listen to each others’ opinions or views without interruptions. No one can allow the conversation devolve to making fun. Understand that the “right answer” may not exist or a conclusion may not materialize by the end of the meal. It’s your choice if you want to wade into something controversial.
- Have conversations with your kids at the table about issues you care about. Longer conversations provide kids with a chance to think, hear new words and expand their own conversation skills
- Some conversation topics that may interest older kids:
- What do you do if a friend’s parent shows up to drive you home from a party but you can tell he or she has been drinking?
- If you had the change to read people’s minds, would you? What are the pros and cons?
- You see a schoolmate being bullied, but you don’t know her well. DO you step in and help?
- If someone tells you a secret and you promise not to tell before hearing it, and it turns out that it could hurt another person, do you break your silence?
- If you accept an invitation and a better offer comes along, is it okay to cancel the first one?
- Every June The New York Times and other newspapers highlight great commencement speeches chock-full of advice, insights and powerful tales of struggle and successes- why not share their valuable lessons at the dinner table?
- Get to Know you Games - think you know your group really well? Don’t be so sure! Try these games and learn something new about your loved ones!
- My special talent is…
- Something I like about myself…
- What I know about you or What I like about you…
- Personal pet peeves (an annoyance) and idiosyncrasies (any personal peculiarity or mannerism)
- Would you rather…
- Be really good at one thing or just okay at a lot of things?
- Listen to an opera on the radio or watch golf on TV?
- Sit next to a brilliant person at dinner who smelled bad or a boring person who smelled fantastic?
- Conversation Starters - here are some questions to get the fun started at your dinner table
- What was your high today and what was your low?
- Tell me one thing that made you happy today
- What was one cool thing you learned today?
- Name something you are afraid of
- Name 3 places where you would never go
- Come up with a family motto or mission statement (EX work hard, be kind.)
- Name some things you take for granted