Thursday, May 31, 2012

Walnuts: The Easy Super Food

When was the last time you had some walnuts? What if I told you that walnuts had the ability to:

-Reduce inflammation (always good for asthmatics)
-Control weight  (stop steroid weight gain!)
-Improve cholesterol (bad cholesterol is a side effect of steroids)
-Fight cancer (steroids increase insulin response, cancer feeds itself on insulin)

Would you eat them now?

Amazingly, just 5% of the population regularly consumes any kind of nut, which is a shame. They are packed with health, brimming with nutrients that can restore our bodies.

Here's a case study for you: me! Let's look at my cholesterol before I incorporated walnuts into my diet on a daily basis:

Total Cholesterol: 183.

This is not high, it's within range, but it's still a heart attack waiting to happen. Here's why:

HDL: 34                           Way too low
Triglycerides:165               High
LDL: 128                          Borderline
Non LDL: 149                  Not good
Total Ratio: 5.38               Too high
HDL to LDL Ratio: 0.266 Too low

Pretty much everything that isn't supposed to be high, is high and the HDL is low when it should be closer to 60. This is dyslipidemia, which I call 'cholesterol by steroids'.  Asthmatics, over the course of the disease, can easily be exposed to enough steroids to induce insulin resistance which leads to distorted heart attack cholesterol.

What is insulin resistance? It's what I call the 'triple calorie effect' of steroids. Calories are seemingly multiplied by a factor of three when on steroids, and, take them long enough, you'll have permanent metabolic changes due to steroid use (I do).

Prednisone puts your body into weight gain mode. With good nutrition and some planning, you can prevent weight gain, but no patients I know have ever received any nutritional guidance on how to do that (hence the raison d'etre for this blog).

Diet and nutrition are so critical for anyone taking steroids. If you don't counteract their impact on your physiology, steroids will ravage your health. Short term, they help asthmatics breathe. Long term, they mess up our entire body chemistry.

And the impact of steroids on cholesterol can be hard to fix. At least it was for me. I had lost weight, changed my diet, gained weight, exercised, stopped exercising--everything--and nothing touched my cholesterol. For years and years.

Then I started eating walnuts. Every day for a month.  And here's what happened to my cholesterol numbers:

Total Cholesterol: 151         Within range.
HDL: 43                             Improving!
LDL: 81                             Optimal!
Non LDL: 108                   Improved, but needs more walnuts.
Total Ratio: 3.51                 Good!
Triglycerides:137                Normal!
HDL to LDL ratio: 0.531   Normal!

While I want to get my HDL higher, for the first time in almost ten years, my cholesterol is trending toward normal.

This is the power of just a month of walnuts. "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food." (Hippocrates)

Of course, keep in mind, I didn't eat walnuts and then chow down on refined, processed foods. My entire diet supported my health and set up an environment where the walnuts could work their mojo.

It's not just about any one food, it's about the symphony of nutrition at play in your body.

In my next post, I'll discuss how to eat more walnuts. Including recipes!

Until then, take a moment to imagine how your health could change if you took a medicinal approach to nutrition. Start today by eating some walnuts.

More about cholesterol ratios.

More about walnuts.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Happy Lungs Chocolate Cake

Makes: One 8" round cake or 10 to 12 cupcakes/muffins

Time: 40 minutes. 20 minutes preparation, 20 minutes in the oven.

-1/2 cup coconut oil  (or butter if you don't have coconut oil on hand)
-1/2 cup Stevia
-1/3 cup water
-3 eggs
-1 tbsp. vanilla
-1 1/2 cup almond flour
-2 tsps. baking soda
-1/2 cup cocoa powder (organic if possible)
-1/2 cup ground flax seed

if making cupcakes add...
-1/2 cup Ghiradelli chocolate chip (FYI other chocolate chip brands are no longer real chocolate, also organic is always better)

if making cake, ice with...
-3/4 cup Nutella

-1 mashed banana to give the cake a chewy fudge texture as well as a nice banana flavor.

1.Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Mix coconut oil and Stevia. Add in eggs, vanilla and water.
3.Once all the wet ingredients are combined, mix in almond flour, baking soda, cocoa powder and flax seed.
4.Assess the batter texture. 'Pretty' cakes and muffins with almond flour rely on a soft, wet texture--like a mousse. If the batter seems dry, add a few tablespoons of water.
5.Bake for 20 minutes at 350F. This cake can over bake quickly so keep an eye on the oven.

When made as muffins/cupcakes, these will keep in the fridge for up to ten days--making them an easy breakfast option. I heat them in the microwave for 18 seconds to melt the chocolate chips--it's like having a chocolate fudge cake for breakfast.

How can chocolate cake be good for asthmatics?

Here's the short version of how this recipe nourishes your health as opposed to just filling your stomach with any old thing.

Gluten free: Emerging science shows that about half  the population is gluten intolerant or sensitive and asthmatics are even more likely to have food allergies. No gluten means less inflammation and better breathing.

Almond Flour: Adds protein and fiber to blunt insulin response which stops weight gain, especially for those asthmatics who are insulin resistant as a result of steroid use or who are using steroids currently.

Never cooked with almond flour? It's very easy and versatile...assuming you like nuts. It also can feel expensive, but a 5 lb. bag lasts a long time. Baking for my family, 5 lbs will  last us three to four months. Muffins work out to be less than $1 each, very affordable.

Note: Store almond flour in the refrigerator to keep the natural fats from going rancid and extend shelf life.

Read more about the health benefits of almonds.

Flax Seed: A great source of Omega 3 and ligands that promote good health and reduce inflammation. Good source of fiber to blunt insulin response which keeps you full longer and stops weight gain.

Ground flax seed is readily available at grocery stores. In terms of flavor, I prefer the golden flax seed. Because the oils in the seed degrade quickly, always store ground flax seed in the refrigerator to keep it fresh.

Read more about the health benefits of flax seeds.

Coconut Oil: A tasty fat less likely to pack on pounds. It has been shown to boost energy as well as metabolism.

Read more about the health benefits of coconut oil.

Eggs: Good source of protein which wards off hunger and steroid munchies.

Cocoa Powder: Packed with anti-oxidants that decrease inflammation. For me, personally, the cocoa powder in this recipe lowers my blood pressure markedly. This is good for those times I'm using a lot of albuterol which tends to increase it.

Read more about the health benefits of cocoa.

Stevia: Blunts insulin response, which combats weight gain. Further, studies have shown, at the right dose, that Stevia can lower cholesterol. This is important to asthmatics because dyslipidemia can develop with long term steroid use--all the good cholesterol disappears and the bad heart attack cholesterol takes over.

Read more about the health benefits of stevia.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Superfood Sweet Tea

This summer, swap out that sugar laden, low grade sweet tea for something that contributes to your health and nourishes your body. This healthy sweet tea recipe uses green tea and burns belly fat, which tends to accumulate in asthmatics due to steroid use. It is full of anti-oxidants to combat inflammation and even fights cancer by turning on protective genes in our bodies.

So, yeah, all that hype about green tea you've heard? Is totally true. And it can help asthmatcis breathe because it doesn't just slake thirst, it adds to health.

Note that green tea does cross-react with some medications. Check with your pharmacist or physician to make sure it's safe for you.

Ingredients for one 16oz cup:

-Two Matcha green tea bags. (Matcha is the highest quality green tea around. I buy it in bulk at Costco or online.)
-One mint tea bag
-1-2 tsps. of locally sourced honey (local honey is more likely to retain enzymes that benefit your health)


On a hot summer day, you don't even need to heat the water, you can cold brew your superfood sweet tea in just a few minutes. Simply pour the water into a glass, add the tea bags, let steep. Stir in honey just before consuming.

In cold weather, heat the water until just hot. High temperatures inhibit the potency of the Matcha green tea.

Don't just fill your belly, feed your body good health!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Hello Lungs of the World!

I'm a severe asthmatic with a deep interest in nutrition. I eat to breathe and so can you!