Before You Eat that Avocado Seed

avocado seed 2

Avocados are one of my favorite foods. They’re a perfect addition to an anti-inflammatory whole-foods-based diet. They are so versatile and can be used in a number of different and creative ways. I’ve seen recipes for chocolate avocado pudding, lemon avocado mousse, fudgy avocado brownies, avocado deviled eggs, etc. (although, I usually stick to slicing them up and putting them on my food–hey, I like to keep it simple).

But the latest trend going around is eating avocado seeds. Yep, people are going wild drying out avocado pits by placing them in the oven for 2 hours at 250 degrees Fahrenheit, removing the outer skin, and pulverizing them before adding them to smoothies and green juices.

The reason most people added it to smoothies is because it tastes pretty bad and they want to conceal the flavor.One friend of mine decided to eat the pit by just baking it and slicing it into pieces. It tasted very bitter and she didn’t feel that well after eating it. I’m not all that surprised that it wasn’t fabulous. I imagine it would taste like a wooden ball, if I had ever tasted a wooden ball.

I’ve built BrightFire Living around the concept of simple, toxic-free, allergy-friendly living so I have to tell you this…

Avocado pits have been used medicinally in South America to treat high-blood, pressure, diabetes, and inflammation. While they do contain beneficial nutrients and fiber, avocado pits (and leaves) are mildly toxic but adults can usually eat them safely in small amounts. So, if you do decide to eat them, be sure to eat them in small quantities and pay attention to how your body reacts.

If you’re pregnant, you might want to forgo the seed. I wouldn’t recommend feeding them to children either. There just hasn’t been much research on the potential toxicity of consuming avocado seeds. Obviously, if you have an allergy to avocados, you want to avoid eating the pits as well as the fruit.

You also want to keep them away from your pets, as they are toxic to horses, birds, and possibly other domesticated animals.  According to Dr. Robert Clipsham, DVM:

“The parts of the [avocado] tree containing the toxic chemical are limited to the bark, leaves, and pits. There is no current evidence that the fruit has caused toxicities in any species of animal. Due to the parts of the plant which carry the poison, the most commonly affected animals tend to be horses, cattle and goats; however, cases have been reported in mice, rabbits and birds. Drying of the plant does not seem to modify the toxin as animals have been
poisoned by consuming dried leaves and pits. The nature of the toxin is unknown…”¹

 

Here’s the good news

The good news is that you don’t have to eat the bitter seeds to get the health benefits of avocado. The flesh of the avocado, especially the dark green part next to the skin, is loaded with phytosterols, polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols (PFAs) and omega-3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation.

They’re also a good source of potassium, antioxidants and monounsaturated fats, in addition to being low in sodium. This makes them great at protecting against high-blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease.

  1. A little bit of avocado goes a long way. You only need to eat half an avocado to get 600 mg of potassium. Half an avocado also gives you about 20% of your fiber for the day.
  2. You might want to stick to half an avocado if you have a histamine intolerance or IBS. If you’re on a low histamine diet, you should note that avocados are high in histamine. If you’re on a low FODMAP diet, guess what? Avocados are a FODMAP (they’re one of the P’s for polyols). If I eat more than half an avocado at a time or in combination with a lot of other high-histamine foods or certain FODMAPs,  I have issues. It’s important to find out what amount works for you, so pay attention to your body.
  3. Obviously, again, don’t eat avocados if you are allergic to them. You should also know that there is high cross-reactivity between latex, banana, kiwi, and avocado so proceed with caution if you have one of those allergies. Pineapple is also another potential cross-reactor, among others (like melons, peaches, etc).²

Because my girls have seed allergies, I don’t foresee feeding them giant avocado seeds in the future. Plus, one daughter has a banana allergy and another one has a pineapple allergy, which means I’m usually the only one eating avocado so I don’t get too fancy with it. In fact, I very carefully pitch the seed, but hey, you might want to give it a try.

I would love to hear how you use avocados. Planning on eating the seed? Feel free to leave a comment below!

References

  1. Clipsham, Robert, D.V.M. “Avocado Toxicity.” Watchbird Apr.-May 1987: 14-15. Web. 06 Apr. 2016.
  2. Grier, Tom. “Latex Cross‐reactive Foods Fact Sheet.” Latex Cross‐reactive Foods Fact Sheet. American Latex Allergy Association, 08 Oct. 2015. Web. 06 Apr. 2016.

 

Blueberries May Protect Against Alzheimer’s Disease

blueberries

Blueberries have to be one of my favorite foods on the planet. In fact, blueberries are the one thing that I absolutely will not go a day without eating. I love them that much.

Lucky for me, blueberries are typically easy to come by in the U.S., as they are native to North America, and they are one of the most nutritious foods you can eat. Studies have shown that blueberries have the highest levels of active antioxidants per serving of any food.

Blueberries also contain a high concentration of proanthocyanidin compounds which can slow the growth and spread of cancer cells. Blueberries also contain anthocyanins which protect against gastroenteritis and diarrhea, may prevent cardiovascular disease, and improve eye health.

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The 5 Biggest Modern Environmental Health Challenges Facing Women and Children (and 5 Tips to Overcome Them)

Many modern conveniences, luxuries, and lifestyle habits seem great. And many of them are great when it comes to saving 5 Big Environmental Challenges1time and convenience. But they are not necessarily healthy for us.

In fact, most of the common chronic illnesses and conditions that we see skyrocketing today are directly related to our modern lifestyle, or what experts call, “environmental factors.”

Chronic illnesses like obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, allergies, asthma, reproductive issues, Alzheimer’s, cancer, mood disorders, etc., are all triggered by lifestyle and environmental factors.

Right now we are living in what I call, “The Age of Modern Chronic Illness” which is characterized by a general state of “un-wellness” and soaring rates of diseases that were fairly rare in the western world just 50 to 100 years ago but are frighteningly common today. Unfortunately, women and children are disproportionately paying the price and bearing the brunt of our modern lifestyle challenges.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chronic diseases and conditions are among the most common, costly, and preventable of all health problems.

Here are just a few statistics you should know:

• As of 2012, about 50% of all adults had at least one chronic health condition (CDC).
• 65.8% of US women are overweight or obese (source: NHANES, 2011-2012).
• 78% of people affected by autoimmune disorders are women (source: AARDA). As a group autoimmune disorders make up the 4th largest cause of disability in the US and they are increasing.
• The #1 cause of death for women (and men) is heart disease (source: CDC, 2013).
• The #2 cause of death for women (and men) in the US is cancer (source: CDC, 2013).

The good news is …

As I mentioned above, chronic illness is preventable. Research shows that only 5-10% of all cancer cases can be attributed to genetic defects, whereas the remaining 90-95% have their roots in environment and lifestyle. In fact, lifestyle and environment account for 90-95% of MOST chronic illnesses, not our genes.¹ This is good news because we can’t change our genes but we can change our lifestyle and environment.

Here are the 5 Biggest Modern Environmental Health Challenges:

#1 Threat:  Exposure to Toxic Substances

This is one of the biggest health challenges we face in the modern world. There are thousands of chemicals in use today and only a small portion of them have undergone toxicologic evaluation to determine whether or not they are safe.
In fact, research shows that many of them are not safe and have a significant impact on our health and the environment.
According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, environmental toxins may contribute to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, reproductive issues, cognitive impairment and many other chronic health conditions. Children are particularly susceptible to chemical exposures and exposures during child development may contribute to health problems that arise later in life.

In a recent report issued by the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics, it states that the widespread exposure we experience in daily life to toxic environmental chemicals, such as pesticides, plastics, and metals (like lead), can lead to fertility problems, stillbirths, miscarriages, cancer, and neurological problems.²

What can you do today? Begin reducing your exposure to toxic substances in your home. Choose paper, cloth, glass, wood, or stainless steel containers over plastic whenever you can. If you live in a home that was built before 1970, consider lead testing. One way to reduce your exposure to pesticides is to buy organic foods as much as possible.

For more ways to reduce your family’s exposure to harmful pesticides download my FREE guide, “Pitch the Pesticides: 5 Strategies to Reduce Your Family’s Exposure to Pesticides.”

Click Here to Get the FREE Guide: Pitch the Pesticides

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Never Eat Directly From a Bag of Chips and 6 More Ways to Overcome Mindless Eating

How many times have you sat down in front of the TV with a bag of chips for a quick snack only to mindfulness eating quoterealize moments later that you have practically consumed the entire bag?

We’ve all had this happen at some point in our lives. This is just one common example of mindless eating and how it can derail your efforts to get or stay healthy.

The good news is that this problem has several solutions, from not eating directly from the bag to not buying the potato chips in the first place. The one thing that each of these solutions has in common is that they stem from a place of mindfulness.

Mindfulness is the foundation of healthful eating.

What does it mean to be mindful?

Being mindful means being attentive, careful, conscious or aware of something. According Merriam Webster, mindfulness means the practice of maintaining a non-judgmental state of heightened awareness of one’s thoughts emotions or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis. It is a state of awareness.

So why does mindfulness matter when it comes to eating real food? Because when we’re not mindful this happens:

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Kids and Kale Chips

A couple of weeks ago Food Network posted an article to their Facebook page called, “8 Kids’ Foods That Sound Healthy ButKalechips Aren’t.” As the title suggests, the list consisted of processed and prepackaged foods that aren’t healthful despite being marketed that way. Boy did it cause an uproar! Many of their posts get thousands of likes and some even get 100+ comments, but this post got nearly 6,000 likes and 503 comments. The comments ranged from “Of course these aren’t healthy” to “Oh, no! I just fed these to my kid.” However, there was a huge number of negative comments condemning Food Network for pushing the “healthy foods agenda,” judging parents, and being out of touch with what kids will really eat.

Many people chimed in to ask “What are you supposed to feed your kid?” as if there aren’t any alternatives to prepackaged foods. I get it though. Our culture is so conditioned to eat manufactured food produced by big food companies that it is almost unimaginable to go without them or even suggest that they might not be good for us. One comment stated, “Oooooo spare me. The only thing that makes kids unhealthy and obese is the electronics they spend all day glued to.” Sure, a sedentary lifestyle contributes to the development of chronic illnesses, but you cannot discount the impact of diet. In fact, when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight, a healthful and nutritious diet actually trumps exercise.

A large number of parents took the time to write that their children just won’t eat fresh fruits and vegetables. And kale chips? Kale chips were definitely out of the question! Many refused to “starve” their children so they give in and let their children have their favorite unhealthy snack foods.

Here’s the truth, not every kid is going to eat kale chips, but they might if given the chance. It may take more than one exposure before they develop a taste for a particular food. Even as an adult, I used to gag whenever I ate a sweet potato, now I love sweet potatoes and yams. When you begin to eat more real food, your palate adjusts and you begin to crave more real food.

The more you eat processed foods, the more you want processed foods. In fact, processed foods are created to be highly palatable. They are full of salt, sugar, and fat–which we love! They are actually quite addictive, which is one of the reasons why the whole “everything in moderation” argument doesn’t always work. It is no accident that the Pringles tag line is, “Once you pop, you can’t stop” and why Lays says, “betcha can’t eat just one.”

Here’s the simplest solution, if you don’t buy them in the first place, you remove the temptation to over-indulge and your kids know that they aren’t getting those foods no matter how much they protest because there aren’t any to get. This removes the struggle.

On a side note, I’ll also add that when you’re managing a potato allergy and celiac/gluten sensitivities, you quickly learn that potato chips, crackers, and even “veggie” chips aren’t going to be players in your diet. Kids will not go hungry if they can’t get their hands on the most popular snack foods.

My oldest daughter is in the “won’t touch a kale chip” camp but she loves fruit and she knows she is not going to get certain processed foods no matter how many times she asks. The result: she rarely asks for junk and eats mostly real whole foods. My other two daughters like kale chips. My youngest daughter actually loves them! She even sneaks them when I’m not looking.KalechipsRd

If you want your kids to eat better, feed them better and don’t give into their demands for junk. It really is that simple. It’s okay to have treats occasionally, but do make sure the majority of their diet comes from real whole foods that are produced from the earth, not a factory. And if you decide you do want to experiment with kale chips, they are about the easiest thing you can make.

Here’s all you need to make kale chips:

1 bunch of kale

2 tbsp of olive oil or coconut oil

sea salt

garlic powder

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Rinse the kale. Pull the kale leaves from the stems and place in a large bowl. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and garlic powder to taste. Mix with your hands to make sure the kale is evenly covered, then place on a cookie sheet and bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the kale is crispy. Enjoy!

I’d love to hear your thoughts and how you incorporate healthy snacks into your diet. Feel free to leave a comment below.

Have Food, Will Travel

Last week I had the fabulous opportunity to travel to New York City to present my book, Fantastically Free: The Savvy Mom’s Guide to Living a Safe, Happy, and Healthy Life with Food Allergies. Overall, it was a great experience, but getting there was a huge pain in the rear, if I do say so myself.

First, my flight was delayed because of wind conditions. Next, my flight was delayed because the cargo door wasn’t showing that it was closed. Then, my flight was delayed again because it was too complicated to fix the door so they decided to get a different plane from Cincinnati. Finally, my flight was canceled at around 11:00 pm because they couldn’t find another crew to fly the new plane. This was very frustrating to say the least–especially since I needed to be in New York by 8:00 am the next morning. In this moment of shear frustration and despair I decided to adopt an attitude of gratitude.

What was the one thing I was grateful for in that moment? Well, I guess it was two things really. First, I was grateful that we didn’t crash due to an open cargo door. But, the second thing that I was grateful for was the fact that I had packed my dinner.

You see, after being at the airport for 7 hours of wasted time, while everyone else was sitting in their seats being served soda and pretzels, I was eating grilled chicken breast, broccoli, berries, and a sweet potato that I packed in my cooler bag. One thing

10-Inch PACKiT Folded

10-Inch PACKiT Folded

that I have learned from managing food allergies and autoimmune conditions and from just being committed to being healthy is this: never travel without food.

One of the biggest challenges my clients (and nearly everyone else I know) have is eating healthfully while on the go. If you have food allergies, an autoimmune disorder, or another condition that impacts what you eat, you have the added challenge of finding safe food while eating away from home–you don’t have the luxury of eating at any old place or grabbing any old snack food off the shelf. You have to plan ahead. The same is true if you’re committed to eating healthfully.

On the flight back home from New York, I enjoyed pastured herb-roasted turkey, avocado, a mixed green salad with olive oil and vinegar, roasted cauliflower and kale, and blueberries, which I had packed in my PACKiT cooler. Everyone else had their choice of cookies, pretzels, or peanuts–not exactly a satisfying or healthful dinner, if you ask me.  No wonder everyone is so grumpy when they fly. They’re tired and hungry! This must be how the term “hangry” originated.

Before I go any further I should tell you about this PACKiT cooler that I keep mentioning. The PACKiT is actually a freezable lunch bag that cools your food for up to 10 hours. I love it! I am not an affiliate or a reseller of PACKiT and they don’t sponsor my site (although it would be great if they did). I just think their products are a life saver (literally, figuratively, and however else you might use the term). We use their lunch bags and salad bags every single day because they allow us to basically take a tiny fridge of safe and healthy food wherever we go. My girls use them to take their lunches to school each day and I use it anytime I will be eating away from home. They also make picnic bags and shopping bags.

10 inch PACKiT Freezable Lunch Bag

10 inch PACKiT Freezable Lunch Bag

If you’re committed to eating well while traveling, here are 5 tips to help you on your journey:

  1. Plan ahead. If you are traveling with a group of kids, you might find it easier to schedule your flight or travel time around your eating schedule so you only have to worry about packing snacks rather than full meals during the flight or the car ride. Sometimes this just isn’t possible, though. Either way, make a list of food that you plan to take with you.
  2. Be prepared. Cook and prepare your food ahead of time so you can just pop it into your freezable bag before you leave. And don’t forget to put your freezer bag in the freezer the night before.
  3. Scout out the area. Before you leave for your trip, get familiar with the grocery stores and healthy restaurants that are near your destination so you aren’t scrambling to find someplace to eat while you’re starving. That never leads to a good decision-making.
  4. Make sure your accommodations meet your needs. When I travel with my entire family, we only stay at places that have a full kitchen. This allows us to make most of our meals “at home.” When it’s just me or the hubby and me, I make sure that I at least have a mini-refrigerator in my hotel room. This allows me to keep fresh fruits, veggies, salads, and meats. It also allows me to refreeze my PACKiT for the trip home.
  5. Make some of your own meals. When I travel, I definitely still eat at some sit-down restaurants that can accommodate food allergies and that have healthy choices available, but the majority of my meals are made by me. When I don’t have a full kitchen available, I eat a lot of fresh green leafy vegetables, avocado, olive oil, vinegar, and the healthiest/safest protein options I can find. If you’re really feeling adventurous, you can experiment with coffee pot cooking. I haven’t tried it myself but it looks interesting.

Next week I will discuss some quick and easy, healthy, Top-8-Free, snack options that even your kids will love. Yep, kids do like healthy snacks, too. In the meantime, I would love to hear how you eat healthy while you’re on the go or what challenges you face when trying to eat healthy away from home. Please feel free to leave a comment below.

Coconut Milk: My Personal Dairy Alternative of Choice

Hey there! Did you know that June  is Dairy Alternatives Month? It’s also Dairy Month, but since I can’t consume any dairy without having a coconutmilkcrazy autoimmune response that makes my arthritis flare like a raging brushfire, I’m just going to focus on dairy alternatives.

I’m sure you have noticed a whole slew of commercial dairy alternatives on the market recently. First there was soy milk, rice milk, and almond milk. Now you can even find pre-packaged hemp milk, oat milk, cashew milk, etc.

There are so many options available on the market if you have a dairy allergy, intolerance, or sensitivity. The downside is that most commercial dairy alternatives are highly-processed foods.  Most of them contain additives like Carrageenan and guar gum. Some of them also have added ingredients like sugar, salt, and canola oil. If you have autoimmune or digestive issues, you have to be careful with additives and extraneous ingredients.  For this reason, I recommend making your own dairy alternative at home or searching for a commercial brand that only contains two ingredients (the main ingredient and water).

My personal dairy alternative of choice is coconut milk. Firstly, my girls have life-threatening tree nut allergies so I am not about to fool with any nut milks–plus I have my own autoimmune issues with  nuts (in case you’re wondering, coconuts are tropical fruits in the drupe family, not nuts). Secondly, coconuts are a very nutritious choice. They are full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

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5 Steps to Make Time to Cook Healthful Meals

I often hear many women say that one of their biggest challenges to eating healthy is not having enough time to cook. In fact, I used to be one preparing foodof those women before I had children.  When I was in my early twenties, I didn’t realize how important cooking real food was to my overall health and well-being.

According to one study, “time scarcity, the feeling of not having enough time, has been implicated in changes in food consumption patterns such as a decrease in food preparation at home, an increase in the consumption of fast foods, a decrease in family meals, and an increase in the consumption of convenience or ready-prepared foods. These food choices are associated with less healthful diets and may contribute to obesity and chronic health problems such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer.”¹

Another study published in Public Health Nutrition, maintains that frequently cooking your meals is associated with living a longer life and enjoying a more nutritious diet.² This does not surprise me considering that most of today’s modern illnesses are associated with the highly processed foods we eat today. The more you cook your own meals from scratch, the better off you are.

As a mom of three young girls and a business owner, it can be quite challenging to make homemade meals everyday but I have found a way to make it happen. The truth of the matter is that we make time for the things that are really important to us. Once you make cooking a true priority, you make time to do it.

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Two of My Favorite Things Just Had the Sweetest Baby!

I’m a bit of weirdo in that I eat Kale and Brussels Sprouts like other people pop potato chips. I absolutely love them! So, imagine, if you will, my

Kale Sprouts

reaction when I stumbled upon these little gems called, “Kale Sprouts.”

When I first saw them in the produce section of my local Whole Foods, I thought they were teeny, tiny, little miniature heads of Kale. As I leaned in for a closer inspection, I noticed the label, which read, “The New Superfood! Powerful source of antioxidants, vitamins & iron. The perfect fusion of Brussels Sprouts & Kale.”

My next thought was, “Oh no! What have they done to my Brussels Sprouts and Kale? Is this some kind of GMO Frankenfood?”

Curious, but still afraid to eat them (hey, GMO’s are scary), I scooped up a bag and added them to my shopping cart. Once I got home, I decided to call the company that distributes this new curiosity in my region, 4EARTH FARMS.  Kale Sprouts were just released in my area in March 2014. If you haven’t seen them in your neck of the woods, yet, don’t worry, they are probably on their way. It turns out that Kale Sprouts are a natural hybrid between Russian Red Kale and Brussels Sprouts. The small sprouts look like Kale but grow on a stalk like Brussels Sprouts. Very cool, huh?

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