The Biology of Belief

In my most recent adventure into the nutrition world I have been learning about the world of Biochemistry. I just recently read The Biology of Belief by  Bruce Lipton. I chose a quote from Dr. Lipton that is crucial for all of us to know, remember and believe.

“You can live a life of fear or live a life of love…It is not our genes but our beliefs that control our lives.”

Below comes from a handout I created based on Dr. Lipton’s book.

Doomed by Genes? 

  • “My mother had breast cancer at age 49. It is only 10 years until I too will have breast cancer”
  • “My brother just had a heart attack. I am next”
  • “My husband has diabetes and takes insulin shots daily. Our kids have no hope of a normal life”

Genetic determinism is the belief that genes “control” biology. It is a hypothesis, not a truth. We believe it is true because we have heard it over and over again when in fact it has NEVER been proven. The belief has actually been disproven many times.

Single gene disorders affect less than two percent of the population. In the realm of human diseases, defective genes acting alone only account for about 2% of our total disease load. (Strohman 2003) Diabetes, heart disease and cancer are not the result of a single gene but complex interactions among multiple genes AND environmental factors.

What is the truth?

Epigenetics is the study of changes in biology based on environmental factors. Also known as “control above genetics”.

Research confirms that DNA (gene) blueprints pass on hereditary information. Your blueprint may look just like your mother’s who had cancer. The good news is these blueprints are not set in stone. Just because you have the gene does not mean it will be turned “on”. Environmental influences such as stress, emotions and nutrition can modify your genes.

“Eminent scientist and physician Dean Ornish revealed that by just altering diet and lifestyle for 90 days, prostate cancer patients switched the activity of over 500 genes. Many of their gene changes inhibited biological processes critical in the formation of their tumors.”

Imagine an image on a television screen. The image has a “blueprint” but the dials on the television can fine-tune and alter this image by turning the television on or off, turning the volume up or down, changing the color hue, changing the contrast or changing the brightness.

The environment controls the “dials” on the genes in your body. There are over 2,000 variations the dials in your body can affect on your genetic blueprint.

Prove it – how is that possible?!!

US Department of Health and Human Services (2005) perceives that the nucleus is “basically the cell’s brain” because it contains the genetic material (genes), or DNA.  “DNA determines the cell’s identity, masterminds its activities and is the official cookbook for the body’s proteins.”

We are back where we started, with genes controlling destiny, BUT WAIT…

Experiments have been done to remove the nucleus of a cell.  Removing the DNA (genes) contained within the nucleus should automatically kill the cell, but that isn’t what happens. The cells without a nucleus still exhibit complex, coordinated, life-sustaining behaviors. DNA and genes do not control the cell.

Epigenetics has found DNA (genes) is simply a basic blueprint. Your body decides what its blueprint will ultimately create. Each of your genes is covered with protein sleeves like a sleeve covers your arm. If the protein sleeve is removed, the gene can be read. If it is not removed the gene stays silent. ENVIRONMENTAL SIGNALS cause the protein sleeve to be removed or to stay intact.  The better your environmental signals the more likely your healthy genes will be uncovered and your genes of disease will remain covered and silent.

Control is in your hands – Lower your stress level, calm your emotions, improve your nutrition and alter your gene activity and genetic destiny. 

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Gluten Free Chicken Cacciatore

This brand new recipe was dinner tonight at our house and the food critics exclaim, “Definitely make it again!”.  It is gluten free, dairy free and sugar free. The top crust is made from my favorite pizza crust company Chebe – it is a Chebe Focaccia mix. I followed the recipe just as written (that’s not usual as many times I change at least one ingredient!) The most time consuming parts were cooking the chicken and chopping the onion, red pepper and garlic, but once those were done the cooking went quickly. View the recipe at Simply…gluten-free.

Taco Crusted Chicken

This recipe will spice up any occasion from a back-yard barbecue to a sophisticated dinner. Better yet it has a short list of ingredients and is simple to put together.

  • 4-6 chicken breasts
  • 1 – 1 1/2 cups of unsweetened almond milk (original or vanilla)
  • 1/3 cup dry minced/chopped onion (I found this at Vitamin Cottage in their bulk spices)
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoons sea salt (I use 1/2 of this or leave it out altogether)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 Tablespoons brown rice flour
  • 2 Tablespoons paprika

Mix all spices together (everything after the almond milk in the list above including the brown rice flour).  Put the mixture of spices onto a plate. Pour unsweetened almond milk into a bowl.  Cover chicken with milk by turning it over in the milk bowl and then place it on the plate and roll it in the spice mixture. Either place in cooking dish to bake or a plate to take out and grill.  You want to watch the chicken because you want the chicken to be done but you don’t want to burn the taco crusting. The best way to check to ensure the chicken is done is to use a meat thermometer – chicken is done at 165 degrees.

The brown rice flour above allows the mixture to “bread” the chicken without the gluten.  You can leave the brown rice flour out if you want a simple chicken seasoning.

Ready, set, spice up your chicken!

An unlikely pair – apricots and cherries

I have never tasted better cherries than the ones we have gotten the last couple of weeks from our CSA share. The last couple of weeks have brought not only fresh cherries but fresh apricots as well – an unlikely pair.  Inspired by a good friend and a recipe I found online by Erika Kerekes for Apricot Cherry Clafoutis (a baked French dessert) I created a gluten free, dairy free, sugar free version of the Apricot Cherry Clafoutis. It makes an unlikely pair into an easy, unique and delicious treat.
                    
  • 6 large or 8 small fresh apricots, pitted and cut into chunks
  • 1 cup fresh cherries, pitted
  • 1 1/4 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup agave
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1/8 tsp salt

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a small casserole dish or a pie plate with cooking spray (I used olive oil in a oil sprayer) and add your apricots and cherries (make sure to remove pits). Whisk together the almond milk, eggs, agave, vanilla and almond. Add the almond flour and salt and whisk until smooth.  Pour the mixture over the fruit and bake for 45 minutes.  The top should be lightly browned. It should no longer be liquid in the center but will be jiggly.  Let it cool and enjoy!

Choose Your Own Ending

What a fun experience the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture, a.k.a fresh farm produce) has been, only week two, but it has been such an adventure! It reminds me of those “choose your own ending” books we read as kids. There are so many endless possibilities and we get to choose the delectable treats, or endings, for all the food. The first week we received the normal lettuce and spinach but also parsley, garlic florets, beans, rhubarb and even sauerkraut. This week we received beets, more spinach, leeks, beans and cilantro.  What to do with all this fresh food – that is the question!  So we started cooking up some new delights…here are just a few of my favorites from the first two weeks – time to choose YOUR own ending!

Green and White Delight – we made a fabulous pizza (using Chebe crust).  We used an alfredo sauce (I am working on a healthier version of white sauce) and then piled the pizza high with an entire bag of fresh spinach from the CSA. (Spinach bakes down and dramatically reduces in size) We sprinkled the top of the spinach with Italian spices (oregano, basil, etc) and then topped with just a dash of parmesan cheese.  The spinach baked down with the pizza and resulted in the BEST pizza I have ever eaten.  Next time we are going to add some tomatoes and grilled chicken.

Sweet Tart delight – I found a recipe on the The Gracious Pantry for Strawberry Rhubarb Apple crisp with no added sugar.  I made the filling from this recipe and omitted the recipe topping and instead used a cinnamon walnut crumble from Elana Amsterdam’s Gluten Free Cupcake cookbook.  The result was a delectable and tart treat that when topped with a dollop of ice cream was superb.

White Chicken Chili – we have an abundance of cilantro and it is so fragrant that we cooked up a batch of white chicken chili and froze it for days in the future that we need a quick meal or in the fall when the weather starts to turn crisp and cool.

Spinach balls – the CSA provides recipes each week using the fresh produce for that week. They posted a fabulous spaghetti and spinach balls recipe complete with a “spaghetti sauce” that is a white sauce and not a red sauce…great recipe and if you are thinking what I am thinking a great and much healthier white sauce to try with our Green and White Delight recipe above.

This is just the beginning to our food adventures – here’s to choosing your own path – a healthy path!

Cornucopia of Summer Fun

This is our first summer as CSA members…we are newbies! We are very excited for our deliveries – they start today! CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. We have chosen Grant Family Farms as our CSA because they are an organic farm and they grow all their food locally as well as exchange for additional foods that are grown on the western slope of Colorado (mmm peaches and cherries).  All food comes from the state of Colorado. It is a great way to build local, fresh produce into your menu each week, support local farmers and not have to set foot in a grocery store to do it. Here’s how our CSA works:

  • You choose the size bin you want each week – small, medium, large
  • You can choose from vegetables bins, fruit bins, free range eggs and organic cheeses (interesting to learn the difference and standards required between cage free and free range eggs)
  • Each week you get a “share” of the local produce (your bin)
  • You choose your pick-up location – we have enough people participating from our work place to serve as a pick-up location
  • The Farm provides recipe ideas each week, especially for the “unique” items – I will be experimenting with lots of fruits and vegetables and posting exciting new recipes this summer – first week will be a strawberry rhubarb tart
  • There is an exchange bin where you can swap out items you won’t use
  • Work for your food – we earn a discount on our shares by choosing a time over the summer to work on the Farm

Check it out. Find a farm near you so you can support local and have your fresh produce delivered to you each week.  Share your recipe ideas. Share stories and pictures of the most unique fruit or vegetable you meet this summer. Let’s have some fun and optimize your health at the same time…if you run across any cornered tomatoes…let me know!

p.s. – make sure you plant plenty of basil even if you only have a porch or deck get some planters and plant away. I will be sharing pesto recipes with you during the summer and fall and you will want plenty of fresh basil to make fresh pesto for the summer and enough to stash to last you through the winter!

Gluten free, easy Chicken Cordon Bleu

A childhood favorite – I remember loving chicken cordon bleu as a child and choosing it anytime I got to pick the menu. How do I take a childhood favorite and turn it into a healthy, gluten-free adult classic?  Here’s the recipe:

  •  4 chicken breasts (We prefer Red Bird as it is hormone free and if you watch the sales you can get buy 1 get on free at King Soopers/Kroger)
  •  3 eggs
  • 4 slices of ham – we prefer black forest ham
  • 4 slices of Swiss cheese
  • Parmesan cheese

Put the chicken, one breast at a time, into a large zip lock bag and seal. Use a mallet or cup to hammer the chicken breast flat. Repeat for each chicken breast. Crack the eggs into a bowl and mix with a fork breaking the yoke (as if you are making scrambled eggs).  Lay each chicken breast in the bowl and coat with egg (you can add a bit of milk, we use unsweetened almond milk, to the eggs for easier dipping). Then lay the chicken breast flat and add a piece of ham and a piece of cheese onto the chicken breast and roll up placing in a baking dish. Sprinkle parmesan cheese over each. Bake at 350 for an hour or until golden brown and chicken is done.  Eat and enjoy!

***Time and cost saving tip:
We love this recipe at our house. When chicken is on sale we purchase as much as possible and make an assembly line to put them together. We then freeze them in groups of two in glass Tupperware and  take out for dinner in the future.

Vegetable Pasta Medley

This is my family’s favorite meal, it’s simple, it’s gluten free and it’s a crowd pleaser. This is a recipe I created after being inspired by a family recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag brown rice pasta (Tinkyada is the brand we prefer and can be found at any of your major grocery store chains.)
  • Grapeseed Oil
  • 1 red onion (we prefer red because of the cancer fighting benefits)
  • 1 bag frozen bell peppers (red, yellow and green mix) – you can use fresh if you prefer
  • 1 bag frozen broccoli (again you can use fresh too)
  • 2 cans of artichoke hearts
  • 1 package of Aidells chicken apple sausage (this is a family favorite, precooked and found for a great price at Costco – no MSG, No nitrates, No hormones. Aidells has many different flavors but we love this one because it does not include any added sugar.
  • Olive Oil
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Pesto – optional, but especially good if you have fresh made pesto from the garden

Vegetable Pasta Medley with Pesto

Start your water boiling for pasta – add a couple drops of oil to the water so the noodles don’t stick together. Heat a large sauce pan on low with a couple tablespoons of grapeseed oil. Chop your onion and add to the sauce pan.  Sauté (sauté = to cook and make the onion softer) the onion for 5 minutes on medium heat. Then add the frozen peppers and broccoli and cover to let simmer. Put your sausage in the oven on high broil for about 10-15 minutes since you are heating the already pre-cooked sausage (turning them at 5-7 minutes). Add your pasta to the boiling water, stir and set timer according to directions on back of package. Chop the artichoke hearts and add to the sauce pan. Remove the sausage from the oven and slice. Add to the sauce pan. Finish and drain pasta and dump into a large bowl. Make sure all ingredients in the sauce pan are cooked (thawed and hot), stir and then dump into the big bowl on top of the pasta. Add olive oil and parmesan cheese (pesto if you choose this option) to taste, toss, serve and enjoy! If you get adventurous try adding your favorite vegetable into the mix and let me know what you add and how it turns out!

Not only IN but ON

When thinking about optimizing health, I have recently been challenged by not only what I put IN my body, but what I put ON my body.

We use a myriad of products everyday that have the potential to add toxins to our bodies and most of us, me included, don’t think twice about it.  What are some of the items I am talking about that have potential toxins?

Body soap
Hand soap
Shampoo and conditioner
Hair dye
Hair products such as gel and hair spray
Makeup – foundation, eye shadow, eyeliner, mascara, blush, make-up remover
Lotions (including baby lotions)
Water bottles
Baby bottles
Lip Balm, chap stick, lip stick
Sunscreen
Nail polish, nail polish remover
Perfume
Deodorant
Toothpaste
Water – both drinking and bathing
Kitchen and bathroom cleaners
Candles, air fresheners
Dry cleaning

We inhale many fumes from the above items as well as absorb them through our skin and hair.  Check next time you use your lotion or shampoo and read the list of ingredients. Can you even pronounce some of the words?

Now, if you are like me, the above list seems overwhelming. Where do I start? Do substitutes exist that are as effective? I can’t switch everything out at once.  How much will this cost me? How do I know what is good and what is bad?

My advice is to pick one item from the list above. See what you are currently using. What’s in it? What does it cost? What is its toxic level? Compare it to toxin free items in the same category and try some different ones to see what works. The next question is how do you find toxic levels and options that don’t include the toxins?

The Environmental Working Group has an awesome website called EWG’s Skin Deep® Cosmetic Database.  It allows you to lookup any product and see the toxicity rating. EWG rates the products on a scale from 0-10 with 10 being the most toxic. They include the following categories:

Sun
Makeup
Skin Care
Hair
Eye Care
Nails
Fragrance
Babies and Moms
Oral Care
Men’s

Join me in my challenge to check out items I use daily to see how they rank. If you find items that are toxic, find an effective alternative.  Then share with me what you find. I would like to develop a list of recommendations that include effective, reasonably priced alternatives for each of the categories above

I’ll start…the first area I tackled was deodorant.  I’m sure you have all heard the reports that deodorant contains aluminum but does that matter when the alternatives don’t work and you smell all day?!!!

I tried many options before finding something I liked. Finding a solution is based on your body chemistry and preference of smells. I tried one of ALBA’s deodorants and it was not effective for me. Then I tried the Burt’s Bees products (yes, both the woman’s and the men’s). Either they weren’t effective in curbing my body odor or I smelled like an herb garden.  Then I found Pit Putty with Bubble and Bee Organic. They have a great program when purchasing deodorant – if that particular scent and combination doesn’t work for you, you can return it and pick a different one. I made my first purchase and it didn’t work – I still smelled and I wasn’t fond of the scent. I made my exchange and picked a different Pit Putty with different ingredients and scent. I LOVE it – it works wonders for me AND it rates a 0 on toxins with EWG’s Skin Deep®.

So tell me – what you have found in the above categories that is low in toxins and works well for you?

Heavenly Healthy Brownies

This is probably my favorite gluten free, sugar free recipe. I love brownies….

  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • 1 cup peanut flour (if you don’t have peanut flour you can just double the brown rice flour)
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 1.5 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • ½ cup grapeseed oil
  • ½ cup agave
  • ½ cup stong brewed coffee (we use a stovetop espresso, resist the urge to add more just because you made it – trust me, it makes it too liquid and will not bake)
  • ½ cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chocolate chips – we use the Sunspire Grain Sweetened Chocolate Chips 

(malted barley, corn and brown rice sweeten these chocolate chips and they are quite amazing especially if you have given up normal chocolate due to the sugar – here is what Sunspire says on their webpage about their Grain Sweetened Chocolate Chips, “Our proprietary grain-based sweetener is not only nutritionally sound, but also perfectly complements the rich flavor of our chocolate and confections. This complex carbohydrate is derived from a mixture of whole-grain barley and corn that is first boiled, then dried. No chemicals are used, and no nutrients are removed. This sweetener contains natural malt sugars and proteins.”

Heat oven to 350. Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and a pinch of salt into a bowl. Whisk maple syrup, oil, agave, coffee, almond milk, and vanilla in another bowl. Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Pour half the batter into a greased 9’by11’ baking dish, top with half the chocolate chips then pour the remaining batter and top with the rest of the chocolate chips. Bake 30 minutes and let cool. Don’t over bake. There isn’t anything that needs to be cooked (like eggs) so not over baking will give you a little bit more gooey goodness in your brownies unless you want more cake like brownies, which are good too!

Variation 1: We have done it without the chocolate chips and added little drops of peanut butter on top – we will try to swirl it next time.

Variation 2: Add 1.5 Tbsp of cinnamon to the batter and mix. This is probably our favorite variation.

Sit, put your feet up, grab a glass of milk and a brownie….mmm goodness!

Recipe is a modified spin off of a recipe from Gwyneth Paltrow.