Archive for the ‘Organic’ Category

Whether you overdid it or not, the New Year seems to spark the desire in everyone to clean up their act. But what of the cleanses we read about – are they healthy, do they work, what if I don’t have the $500 a week or more to go to one or have one delivered to my home? I hear you, so last year I developed the AKA New Year Cleanse and this year I’ve updated it. Keep in mind, I am still a fan of places like We Care or deliveries like IzoCleanse, Paleta cleanse, SoCal Cleanse, Blue Print and many others . The AKA Cleanse is a way to DIY and just because it says New Year doesn’t mean you can’t start this week or pick this up again in April – it’s a rebalancing tool. For those of you who are more visual and /or want to see specific product recommendations, watch my video on the components of the AKA Cleanse at http://fitperez.com/2010-12-26-the-411-on-cleanses/?from=PH . For product recommendations see the AKA lists at http://www.ashleykoff.com/approved/index.html

Before you begin your cleanse a few things to keep in mind:
1) This isn’t about weight loss (yes you will likely lose weight and inches) but rather setting your body up for a healthier year (and if your goal is weight loss that falls under the ‘healthier’ umbrella);
2) you HAVE to move your bowels daily – regularity is just that, meaning that you need to make sure you are not just stirring toxins up out of their resting spots but that you are actually eliminating them too – and that doesn’t mean rely on laxatives or even colonics …it means including fiber, the right kinds, and magnesium to aid motility;
3) Enter and Exit GRACEFULLY: I have blogged about this before but it deserves additional attention. The body needs to feel supported and nourished both as you enter into a cleanse and leave one – so the idea of cleansing from Christmas until New Year’s Eve then blowing it out with alcohol and food on New Year’s…very very bad idea…same goes with pre-wedding, pre-event cleanses. Give yourself at least a week between the conclusion of your cleanse and any planned event;
4) Sweating it Out: Yes you should! Whether it’s an infrared sauna, jogging with a hoodie, boxing, yoga etc you can incorporate it all into your cleanse but pay attention to your body. Make sure to hydrate and consume sufficient fuel prior to working out, during, and after. While cleansing can trigger headaches (especially if coming off caffeine), headaches are a usual sign of hydration and / or slowed motility (i.e. constipation) so follow the tips to address both and plan ahead. In terms of how much activity, that’s going to depend on your body and your normal routine as well as things like your menstrual cycle and how different the cleanse is from your norm;
5) The NO’s: It isn’t my goal to tell you what you can’t have but rather what you should have during the cleanse. The idea is that these foods and supplements will encourage detoxification and encourage renewal optimally. So you don’t see comments about caffeine, energy drinks, alcohol and sugar. My best advice is to use this as a time to “Come off” anything on which you depend or that makes you feel imbalanced.

1. ORGANIC: this tops the list because you can’t be effective or efficient at removing toxins from the body when you are putting them right back in. Simply put, certified organic food, teas, supplements are your best bet for the least amount of residues and no additional toxins.
2. Greens / Greens Powders: whether you have them juiced, raw, sautéed, steamed make sure that greens top your list during a cleanse. Daily and several times daily, greens will help to remove toxins, provide energy, and alkalinize your lower digestive system – all ideal for optimal cleansing and health.
3. Lemons: these deserve their own bullet point because they play such a key role in cleansing. Whether it’s the juice, the skin, or both lemons will help alkalinize, transition flavor away from sweet cravings, and purify the system.
4. Hydration: true hydration is more than water. That said, you need adequate water [equation: half your body weight in pounds gives you the minimum ounces of water (160 pound person would be 80 ounces or 10 8 ounce glasses of water)] remember that water used for your protein drink or a soup or a tea counts and water-based veggies are an added bonus. But back to true hydration, you need potassium too to get the water into the cells – so choose plain coconut water as an ideal source.
5. Fiber: The right fibers like chia and flaxseeds, psyllium, rice and oat bran among others will help to pick up the toxins from your digestive tract and remove them from the body.
6. Sweet sans sugar: ideally you don’t want to have any sweets during a cleanse. This is a great way to rebalance your palate which often sways so far in the direction of sweet. That said, we don’t want to miss out on valuable antioxidants and fiber so I recommend using organic fruits (see tip #1) especially those like organic blackberries and plain acai which have little to no sugar in them.
7. Vegetarian proteins: Cleanses DO require protein. While some popular cleanses promise better results without protein they miss the boat nutritionally. Proteins are used in our hormones, for our lean body mass, and to stabilize blood sugar – a cleanse that eliminates protein threatens an imbalance of these during the cleanse and potentially thereafter. But what type of protein and how much? I recommend organic vegan sources for all (unless allergies, intolerances or other personal nutritional issues warrant otherwise). Hemp and quinoa top my list as well as other protein sources like seeds, grains, and isolated rice or pea proteins.
8. Spices: are you aware of that spices are one of your best detoxifying and supporting components of a diet. Spices help fight off bad bacteria and their other benefits range from stimulating metabolism, helping you sweat out toxins, calming the digestive tract, and oh yeah, adding flavor naturally.
9. Regularity Aids: As mentioned above, it’s imperative that you “go” regularly. Many cleanses use tools that the body can become dependent on and thus don’t encourage the body to regulate itself. Hydration, fiber and motility are the keys to regularity and thus far I’ve addressed the first two. In terms of motility, we need the mineral magnesium. Magnesium relaxes the body and helps to encourage normal and optimal motility. We get magnesium from whole grains and many vegetables but you may also benefit from a supplement during the cleanse. The body may need a gentle boost (Here I recommend Smooth Move tea but not for more than 3-4 days in a row) if these other remedies don’t work.
10. Immunity: keep in mind that if you are sick or if you are immune-compromised a cleanse is not for you. Why? The body needs to harness all its energy to heal itself and that is not what a cleanse does. A cleanse stirs up toxins that are tucked in fat cells and other parts of the body to eliminate them. That’s a lot of work for the body and it can leave a healthy person feeling fatigued and even slightly flu-ish. To support your immune system during a cleanse I recommend all of the above as well as a good quality probiotic and to consume mushrooms like maitake, shitake and others or to take a good quality supplement.

Putting the AKA Cleanse into Action:

1. Sleep: Aim to get as much sleep as possible – that includes naps but ideally means going to be a little bit earlier than you normally do.
2. Eat regularly: Consume eating (or if doing liquids: drinking) occasions about every 3 hours. The goal of a cleanse is not to starve. It is okay to feel hungry but starving means the body will go into a shocked / storage / hibernation mode which defeats the cleanse.
3. Consume nutrient balanced eating occasions: – see the AKA menu worksheet for more on this http://www.ashleykoff.com/services/resources.html – but the idea is to have a carb + protein + healthy fat and unlimited vegetables at each eating occasion; here are some samples:
a. The ProHydrator: Coconut water + greens powder + hemp protein + healthy fat (flax, chia oils)
b. Quintessential BreakFAST bowl: quinoa + greens + seeds + few berries or lemon juice and avocado
c. Organic applesauce with cinnamon + hemp seeds and oat bran
4. Regularity aids: everyone is different but I often find it best to take the magnesium supplement at night, to consume fiber during the day, and to hydrate with teas like detox and ginger during the day as well as the coconut water.
5. Immune support: take a probiotic on waking or consume coconut water kefir or cultured vegetables during the day and add mushrooms to your meals as well as taking a supplement either morning or night.
6. Liquid versus solid: there are different schools of thoughts on this but my advice is to do what’s best for you. The benefits of a few days of liquids include digestive system getting some time off, as well as mentally separating from a reliance on food (what am I going to have, where am I going to go get it) as well as not going out to dinners which can mean you are home earlier and to bed earlier.
7. Medications and supplements: Before beginning any cleanse, if you are taking medications or supplements prescribed by a healthcare practitioner check-in with them so they can advise you how to adjust.

Send me your questions or tweet them @ashleykoff

More AKA posts on cleanses:



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Stephen Colbert hightlights Raw Dairy Raid in Venice, CA and it begs the question: Why are some people: celebs, athletes, and not-so-local folks enduring LA traffic and paying to join a private club (Rawesome) so they can consume these products?

Before The Raid
Rawesome was just a local private food club selling some of the best produce, oils, prepared food, nuts, supplements, smoothies, raw meats, wild fish, and yes, raw dairy, that happened to be up the street from me. When I met volunteer Lela Buttery who introduced me to James Stewart, a co-founder of Rawesome Foods in Venice, it was for an interview about what food is and isn’t today, how a grocery store could be run, and how one man’s journey to heal himself led to a business of helping others. So excited about what I saw and tasted, I became a member and began to write a story about James’ personal journey — how switching to whole organic, and yes raw dairy, foods helped him both physically and emotionally. My story would focus on words and phrases like “honesty” and “consumer trust” and “ethics in food production” and the interdependency of “food costs and health costs” of which James spoke so eloquently and passionately. My story wouldn’t be the story of raw dairy, it would be about quality food and the return of the truly local grocery store.

And Then Came The Raid
I heard about it from Lela. How was it? Were you scared? I asked curiously, sharing with her that my only close encounters with military force had been seeing the armed guards at the Dublin, Ireland airport and on Madison Avenue on September 12, 2000, when tanks came through the streets. I could understand their military presence based on the events at the time, but federal guns wielded in a private buying club? Why was our government crying over raw milk? Had it spilled? Had it killed? Had someone just got the address wrong and thought this was a drug bust? None of the above, I soon learned. I will leave the coverage of the raid to Colbert, as they did a most excellent job. However, despite them highlighting the issues in their piece, I left the segment wondering, had consumers’ thirsts been quenched, or was there more to the raw dairy story?

After The Raid
I sat down with Lela Buttery, a biologist, to talk about raw dairy and here’s what I learned:

Me: What does “raw” mean for milk, cheese, meats, produce?
Lela Buttery: When most people think about “raw” they associate it with vegan/vegetarian, but it actually isn’t about animal or not, raw means raw proteins. Raw proteins are virgin proteins. Straight from the animal, untouched — meaning not heated, added to or subtracted from. Raw milk is hand milked from the animal by a reputable farmer with whom you should be familiar and trust their practices. What comes out of the animal is what you consume. Dairy products are made from that raw milk such as: cheese, ice cream, yogurt and butter. Grass-fed, free-range meats (chicken, lamb, beef, pork and bison) are those that are freshly slaughtered and never finished on corn. This is what we mean when we say raw.

Me: How does it taste?
LB: Amazing! Most people think that raw milk is going to be thick or viscous, but the thick viscosity that one finds in conventional whole milk is due to homogenization. Raw milk tastes like milk, but with a fresher more enhanced flavor. Most people comment on how thin the consistency is to what they imagined it to be. The taste is the difference between instant mash potatoes and homemade.

Me: What should I look for when choosing raw on a label? Can I trust that if my grocery store claims a cheese to be raw that it really is?
LB: Due to the lack of an actual definition of the term “raw” it is open to interpretation. So don’t believe everything you see when reading “raw” on a label — investigate! Be your own scientist and test the product. Ask what temperature the product has been heated to. If it was over 150 degrees it’s probably not raw. Be aware! If the food doesn’t occur in nature the way it is packaged, then it was refined in some way.

Me: What if I want to try raw, what should I consider to try first?
Find a reputable farmer that has a small farm. A farmer should want to show off his or her good clean practices. I always tell people to get to know your farmer, visit their farm or know someone that has visited. If a farmer won’t let you visit then do not buy their product. In terms of what food to start with, it is pretty easy to get raw cheese, so I would say start there.

Me: Is raw dairy really safe for me, for my family?
You must know your source. Visit the farmer, watch their practices and sample the products that the farmer is offering. Then make a decision that is best for you and your family. It’s best when the meats are all slaughtered on a weekly basis, eggs the day after they have been laid, and milk hand milked the same week. All cold products are stored in a 30 degrees walk-in cooler. Conventionally products can be weeks old laced with preservative and washed with acids. Some poultry can be frozen up to two years by USDA standards.

Me: Are there any proven nutritional benefits of raw vs. pasteurized dairy?
There are very few studies done on the benefits of raw dairy, but I believe that it is due to lack of funding. However, I believe that raw milk is essentially a super food — it’s nutrient dense, enzyme and mineral rich, so it’s very natural. There are many countries that do not pasteurize and really it is only due to the mass production of dairy the U.S. began to pasteurize. We wouldn’t boil our breast milk, why? Because it may not be as nutrient-rich for the child. Exactly the reasons for not killing raw milk. Pasteurized milk is completely dead and has no enzymes. It is fortified with vitamins, but your body will have a hard time utilizing those vitamins in a media that is not bio-available. There are many consumers of raw dairy that claim it has aided in digestive ailments, like asthma and psoriasis, and does not seem to hurt those with lactose and casein sensitivities.

So whether or not you choose to consume raw dairy, this should help clear up some of the misconceptions.

Follow Ashley Koff on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@ashleykoff

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To help answer this issue, Ashley Koff RD created and moderated a panel at this year’s American Dietetic Association conference (FNCE) in Boston. The panel, sponsored by Earthbound Farm, Nature’s Path, Native, and Stonyfield Farms included an introductory video:

where each company discussed why they are committed to organic food and then opened up for a lively discussion with panelists: Chensheng (Alex) Lu, Ph.D., Mark and Catherine Winkler Assistant Professor of Environmental Exposure Biology Exposure, Epidemiology, and Risk Program Department of Environmental Health Harvard School of Public Health; Jeff Moyer, Farm Director, at the Rodale Institute; and Katherine Musgrave, RD, Professor Emerita of Foods and Nutrition at the University of Maine as well as a question period from dietitians. To view the entire video, please contact colleen@ashleykoffapproved.com to receive a download.

Are you a dietitian interested in learning more about organic farming, the science of organic food, and what patient resources are available? Email us to be included in upcoming events including a late spring trip / farm tour to the Rodale Institute.

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Please check out the GMA Health piece here.

A tiny seed, an ancient grain, the next wonder supplement – inquiring minds are wondering what is this seed and why is everyone from athletes to doctors to food manufacturers saying “add some chia to your diet” for optimal health?

Chia comes from a plant (salvia hispanica) in the mint family which grows around the world at latitudes 15 degrees north or south of the equator. Despite having an attractive blue flower which makes chia plants seem appealing, the plant naturally fends off predators and humans alike as its stems are bitter tasting so we harvest the seed instead. The seed, either black or white, contains a good source of fiber, and vegetarian omega 3 fatty acids.

I recently went to Australia where farmer John Foss started The Chia Co. to see how chia grows. Foss picked chia after traveling the world to pick an “it” food to bring back to Australia because he wanted to grow something that could help with Australia’s health issues – obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. And today, five to ten years later, his chia is doing just that. Whether added to already nutritious foods like a spinach egg white scramble, and antioxidant rich berry and Greek yogurt parfait, or notably more nutrient poor – white bread – chia is providing a nutritional upgrade (their white bread now has 4-5 grams of fiber vs the 1-2 of many white breads). (more…)

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What do you think of this assessment of gluten-free diets? ABC NEWS Is Gluten-Free Healthy?
I found the info a bit off and the one-size fits all assessment of gluten-free diets very off. It’s true that we get great nutrients from high quality gluten containing foods but we can also get them from high quality gluten-free foods too.  YES you CAN have a very healthy gluten-free diet if you choose nutrient-rich whole ORGANIC foods – many of which naturally contain nutrients like calcium and B vitamins that the doctor in this segment said could be deficient in a gluten-free diet (and what’s more important is that many of our best sources of calcium come from foods in nature that naturally have no gluten in them!).

When it comes to who can benefit from a gluten-free diet, practitioners like myself continuously see that there are people who are gluten intolerant or who have an auto-immune disease where avoiding or reducing gluten intake improves their symptoms. These individuals still need to focus on other components of the diet such as reducing known irritants and choosing anti-inflammatory foods, but gluten still appears to play a key role.

Net net, not all gluten-free products are created equal so not all gluten-free diets should be compared as equals. Organic, whole food, mostly plant-based diets provide nutrition for optimal health – it’s what I call a qualitarian diet — and if you add to it gluten-free because that’s an issue for you, you can gain health improvements overall as well.

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RSVP as space is limited (see invitation below).
If you cannot attend, please RSVP so you can receive information and products post-event.

ADA Food and Nutrition Conference Invite

ADA Food and Nutrition Conference Invite

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Check out my advice in this Hoffington Post on acai.

It’s happened to so many stars before, a sweetheart is discovered, she succeeds on her merit and talents, but then eager to get a piece of her success, some build her up so high she can only help but fall (in someone’s eyes) and she often loses fans as people are left wondering was she ever really “all that.” Is this the story of a Hollywood starlet or that of a Brazilian berry? For me, this is the story of my relationship with the Brazilian berry — açai.

I remember several years ago when açai came to the U.S. I thought that the little berry with big flavor offered a great option for antioxidants and noticed that it also contained fiber and an array of omega fatty acids. Was it more olive than blueberry, I wondered? When I saw that it was organic and fair trade, I decided it was worthy of my recommendation and added it to a coconut water smoothie recipe in my first cookbook (“The ProHydrator” Recipes for IBS) to provide antioxidants to athletes and those suffering from digestive inflammation, and all those in between. I played with frozen plain açai and found that its lack of sweetness (minimal fruit sugar natural to the berry) allowed me to use it for savory and sweet dishes. And all was açai berry sweet in the world. (more…)

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AKA explains on Good Morning America Health (Video)

Recently the phrase “made with Ancient Grains” has popped up on everything from pastas to cookies to granola packages at  Costco.  Today, I set out to explain the health benefits of  Ancient grains versus modern ones (and there are several) but also to point out that one still has to make the Qualitarian choice note that all the products I selected for the segment are organic which means by definition they are also non-gmo – when it comes to these oldie but goodies, as well as abide by my key nutrition principles of portion control and nutrient balance.   Special thanks to my new friends Bob Quinn (kamut Montana farmer and whole grain historian) and chef / writer Lorna Sass (her “Gruffles” made from kland’s / Nature’s Path Ancient Grains granola are divine and her cookbook “Whole Grains for Busy People” will allow you to enjoy ancient grain health benefits on a modern day schedule).

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ADA Food and Nutrition Conference Invite

ADA Food and Nutrition Conference Invite

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Originally posted on Huffington Post:
See the Energy Makeover Update ABC News

When not spending time at the office, at work meetings, or her son’s sporting events, Marissa comes home to her apartment. Home should be a place that fosters our best energy. And yet, as I learned when I was recently at a Smart Living event in Boulder, Colorado many homes today have numerous energy “deductors” that can detract not just from our energy, but from our overall health as well.

See this month’s segment on “Good Morning America Health” to learn what home energy makeovers Marissa received and why. Check back at the end of the month to see how she feels after having lived with these new items and routines. But first, here are some in-depth responses from my interview with Smart Living expert Scott Gwozdz. Gwozdz, a Harvard-trained ethnographer has researched this topic from several different angles for over 20 years. Currently, Gwozdz teaches corporate social responsibility and sustainable business at the University of Colorado, LEEDS School of Business and runs Kickstand Communications, a consumer research firm located in Boulder. At Kickstand, Gwozdz focuses on consumer insights in green and health living. Together with partner Robb Shurr, Gwozdz completed the 2010 Smart Living Research, one of the largest consumer ethnographic studies of its kind done on green and healthy living (includes 350 conversations, 17 communities around the country) to research the disconnect between what people say they want to do and what they really do.

Last month, I had Gwozdz conduct an interview with Marissa to assess her home energy, health issues and identify areas where she could improve her home energy and health. (more…)

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