I’m super excited to share this new series and collaboration with my friend and fellow health coach, Gabriela. We’re thrilled to have kicked off our first series all about BREAKFAST! For the next 4 weeks, we’ll be coming to you on Instagram LIVE on Saturdays at 12 PM (CT) to share tips, resources and recipes to help you get back into the kitchen! You can find us on Instagram @dawnlaflinhealth and @gabriela_wellnessbloom. Give us a follow so you don’t miss an episode! We’ll be sharing ingredients to our next series a few days beforehand so you can cook along with us. To truly lead a healthy, anti-inflammatory lifestyle, carving out time in the kitchen is a must. BUT that doesn’t mean it has to be boring or a chore!
Cooking can be so much fun! Take time to experiment. Don’t be put off or confined to the exact ingredients listed in a recipe. Missing some of the required ingredients? Are there alternatives that would work just as well? Would it greatly be missed if you omit the ingredient altogether? If it’s someone else’s recipe, check the comments. Many times people will share where they substituted an item. If it’s a recipe from my site directly, feel free to contact me. Sometimes the only way to know for sure is to experiment. Think outside the box; get creative.
The more you cook and give different recipes a try, the more confident you’ll become in the kitchen. Not only that, but you’ll start to truly discover what foods, flavors, textures and tastes you really enjoy.
Protein Packed, Sugar-Free Granola
You guys! Gabriela introduced this granola to us on the episode today and let me tell you…the aroma filled my kitchen even before I put it into the oven. It smells heavenly! But aside from that, it’s LOADED with protein, healthy fats, spices (that are packed with antioxidants…hello anti-inflammatory fightin’ goodness!!) and flavor.
PREP TIME: 15 Minutes
COOKING TIME: 25 Minutes
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut or coconut flakes
1 1/2 cup raw pecans, chopped
1 1/2 cup slivered almonds or raw almonds, chopped
1 cup raw walnuts, chopped
3/4 cup raw sunflower or pumpkin seeds (or a mix of both)
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a bowl, mix together all the ingredients except the vanilla and coconut oil. Once combined, add the vanilla and coconut oil; stir well to combine.
Spread mixture evenly onto a baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes.
Stir, then bake another 8-12 minutes until nice and golden, adding in any dried fruit right at the end of baking time.
Store in an airtight container for up to a couple of weeks.
24 servings (1/4 cup/serving)
For extra sweetness: add a couple tablespoons of coconut sugar, maple syrup, date syrup, or agave in with the coconut oil.
AUTHOR: Adapted from Minimalist Baker. Original recipe from Veganchickpea.com
Now let’s talk non-dairy milk. With so many people not able to tolerate dairy or choosing to move away from it for other reasons, knowing how to make a super simple batch of nut milks is a must. You’ll not only save money, but you’ll also be saving your body from the preservatives, chemicals and added sugar that many of the nut milks include. Today I share a super simple way to make almond and cashew milk.
What I love about making my own at home is there’s no more almond milk going to waste in the refrigerator (because we couldn’t use it fast enough). AND I’m able to customize it to my liking as far as flavors and sugar content.
Friends, making almond milk can be as simple as adding pure almond butter to water. Add your choice of flavor enhancers and natural sweetener and call. it. done! Yep, it’s that easy! Don’t have almond butter on hand, no worries, I got you! I’m also including how to make it with fresh almonds. This recipes makes 12 oz. of almond milk, adapt as necessary for your family.
1 tablespoon almond butter (or 14 raw almonds)
1 1/2 cups water
1/4-1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1-2 Dates, pitted (or other natural sugar such as raw honey or pure maple syrup)
Add all ingredients into a high-speed blender and blend. Use immediately or pour into glass storage jars. Seal tightly and store in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. Enjoy with overnight oats, chia pudding or any of your favorite non-dairy ways!
Cinnamon Date Cashew Milk
The name alone makes me want a glass! This milk is another home-run as far as ease in making. It does take a little prep ahead of time, but comes together in minutes. Get creative and make this your own. Add flavors and natural sugar as you see fit for your family.
1/2 cup of cashews (pre-soaked and rinsed)
2 cups of water, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-2 Dates, pitted (or other favorite natural sugar such as raw honey or pure maple syrup)
Soak cashews for 4 hours. Rinse and drain. Add cashews and 1 cup of water to a high-speed blender and blend until cashews are fully broken down. Add remaining water, vanilla and dates (or natural sugar of your choice). Blend again and enjoy! Store any remaining milk in glass storage jars. Seal tightly and store in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.
When it comes to ingredients and the pursuit of an anti-inflammatory diet, eating whole, real food will serve your body every time. By making these items from scratch, you’re avoiding the added chemicals, preservatives and excess sugar that comes with most store bought granolas and nut milks. Give it a whirl! I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to whip up a batch of nut milk to use for the next couple of days. And that granola we made today…it’ll easily last you a couple of weeks! We’ll work the 15 minutes it takes to throw it together!
Be sure to catch us LIVE next week as we continue to share ways to think outside the box when it comes to breakfast! We’ll see you LIVE on Instagram @dawnlaflinhealth at 12 PM (CT)
Living an anti-inflammatory lifestyle means getting back to the kitchen. Take control of the ingredients in your food so that you can feel your best
Skip the preservatives, chemicals and added-sugar of most store-bought granola and nut-milks
Enjoy a batch of high protein, sugar-free granola that helps add healthy fats, protein, texture and flavor to your dishes and snacks.
Making almond and cashew milk can’t be any easier than this
Join my Anti-Inflammatory Lifestyle Support Facebook Group, click HERE to join. Here you’ll stay in the know and ahead of curve for your inflammation game
Make an appointment for a free discovery call with me (your anti-inflammatory lifestyle coach) to chat about your safer beauty swaps. Click HERE to schedule
About Gabriela and Dawn:
We’re PASSIONATE about helping people feel more confident in the kitchen! We know first-hand how challenging it can be to start this journey with food. Through our series, we’re hoping to empower others to try new foods, learn what ingredients to avoid (and why) all-the-while becoming more confident cooks when it comes to leading an anti-inflammatory lifestyle.
The key to a boosting your immune system is living a lifestyle of good-for-you behaviors. When you take care of yourself, your immune system will take care of you.
As a first line of defense for your body to fight off infection and illnesses, your immune system requires some TLC. It’s a complex system of cells, tissues and organs including your digestive system, skin, tonsils, bone marrow, lymph nodes, and the thin membrane tissues inside the nose, throat and genitals. Basically it plays a prominent role in your entire body.
Taking action today, will help ensure your tomorrows are healthy and happy. Wondering where to start? Here are 6 ways you can boost your immune system.
Eat More Whole Plant-Based Foods
When it comes to supporting your immune system, plant based foods will always serve you well. They are loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients and fiber…all the things that keep your body healthy, happy and operating at an optimal level.
The antioxidants found in plant-based foods will go to work gathering up the excess free radicals floating throughout your body. Free radicals are a very normal part of our body’s make-up. And although we naturally have antioxidants in our body to balance out free radicals, their availability decreases as we age. If left unchecked, these free radicals can wreck havoc on our systems, building up to the point of chronic inflammation which leads to numerous health conditions ranging from autoimmune diseases, heart disease, alzheimer’s to certain cancers. That makes it even more imperative that we increase the amount of antioxidants we take in through our food.
In addition, plant-based foods will add a great deal of fiber to your diet. This makes the members of your gut flora (your microbiome) do the happy dance. Fiber feeds the healthy bacteria found in your gut, meaning they thrive, keeping the unhealthy bacteria to a low roar. When your gut is out of balance, your unhealthy gut bacteria are thriving…leaving you with the feeling of bloating, gassiness, constipation, diarrhea, etc. Not so fun!
Focusing on eating more plant based foods supports your gut which supports your immune system, lowering inflammation and improving your overall health.
Cut Back on Sugar and Processed Foods
Sugar. Ahhh…we all love the short-lived sweet sensation of a treat, but the long term effects of having too much sugar in our diet significantly increases not only your weight, but also the chance to develop Type 2 diabetes or heart disease. All three of these conditions weaken the immune system, leaving you more susceptible to colds, flu and infections.
Did you know there are over 56 different names for the types of “sugar” you’ll find in processed foods? Looking at the ingredient list for just SUGAR may leave you with a false sense of security. Stick to whole, real, natural sugars, (i.e. maple syrup, honey, date paste, etc.) if you find you find yourself in need of a sugar source. Have an urge for something sweet? Reach for some fresh fruit and add a couple of nuts in as well. And above all, try to limit your intake to 5% of your daily calories (i.e. 2 tablespoons or 25 grams in a 2,000 calorie diet),
Water has a starring role in many of your body’s functions, especially the immune system. Keeping your cells hydrated with water allows them to operate at an optimal level.
Water helps carry oxygen to your body’s cells, remove toxins from the body, aids in digestion and helps the body produce lymph fluid which is a critical component in the lymphatic system working properly. It also helps keep your eyes, mouth and skin properly hydrated, which is critical because these are points of entry for fighting off invaders.
Be sure you’re drinking adequate water each day.
Make Movement Part of Your Everyday
Being on stay-at-home orders does not mean we shouldn’t be moving our bodies on a daily basis. Engaging in regular exercise is an important part of supporting a healthy immune system. As little as 20 minutes of daily moderate exercise has been shown to boost the effectiveness of your immune system.
Not only will it improve immune function, it will also decrease inflammation, reduce stress, brighten your mood, keep your muscles strong and your joints fluid. It’s safe to say, regular exercise can have a profound affect on your health!
When you exercise, your sympathetic nervous system gets activated. This triggers a rise in your heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate, all of which boosts your body’s circulation. This enhanced circulation enables immune cells to travel more easily through your body, doing what they do best, enhancing the immune function.
Catch Plenty of Zzzz’s
Sleep is all too often over-rated. Once upon-a-time, I was guilty of believing that myself. However, I’ve come to learn nothing can be farther than the truth. When you sleep, your body kicks into over-drive. That is, it goes into maintenance and repair mode.
Research shows that sleep improves and strengthens immune cells, in particular, the T cells. These T cells are critical for fighting against intracellular pathogens. When your body lacks sleep, the effectiveness of your immune cells decreases and other hormones (such as stress hormones) remain high, potentially further inhibiting the function of T cells.
At a minimum, adults need at least 7 hours of sleep for optimal health. That is a baseline number. Some people find they need much more, especially if they are battling chronic inflammation. It’s important to learn what your body needs and take steps to get there if it struggles to stay asleep through the night.
Did you know that 60%-80% of doctor’s office visits are due to chronic, unmanaged stress? Symptoms such as headaches, insomnia, heartburn, stomaches, anxiety, depression, etc. are just some of what sends people to the doctor’s office.
While stress is a natural part of our everyday lives (and our body was created to handle it in a fight or flight situation), stress that is ongoing can wreck havoc on our health. When your body is stressed long-term, it depresses the immune system’s ability to function properly, leaving you more vulnerable to colds, flu and infection.
High levels of stress can also lead to chronic inflammation. Inflammation left unchecked not only causes you to age faster, it also increases your risks of autoimmune diseases, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, to name a few.
Some ways to combat stress include: meditation, exercise, yoga, talking with a trusted confidant, deep breathing and journaling. Keep in mind what works for one, might not work for another. It’s important to find what works best for your stress levels and do that.
Supporting your immune system looks like living a lifestyle full of good-for-you behaviors. Make each of the above a priority and you’ll start to notice how good you can feel in life. Additionally, you can feel good knowing you’ve increased your odds for fighting off or at least decreasing the severity of any colds, flus and infections that might come your way.
Focus on plant-based foods for optimal intake of antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals and fiber
Reduce your sugar intake
Stay properly hydrated
Move on a regular basis for at least 20 minutes per session
Get adequate sleep each night
Manage your stress levels
Join my Anti-Inflammatory Lifestyle Support Facebook Group, click HERE to join. Here you’ll stay in the know and ahead of curve for your inflammation game
Our emotions, positivity and negativity, have an impact on how our body’s immune system responds in our day-to-day lives. Finding ourselves in the midst of something as serious as a world pandemic is enough to send even the most positive of people into a tailspin.
As towns, cities and states start to make stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders, it can feel like we’re loosing control of our own lives. The news is bleak and constant. We’re at home 24/7, with everyone in the house. Homes have been transformed into schools, offices and residences. There’s a lot of meal-making, cleaning up, doing laundry, etc. It can all feel very heavy, raising our stress and anxiety levels.
More than ever we need to take stock in what we’re feeling and reframe our thoughts before it makes an impact on our already taxed immune system (for those of you already dealing with chronic inflammation).
How Do Our Emotions Effect Inflammation?
Research shows negative mood and emotions have been associated with increased levels of inflammatory biomarkers. Meaning, when you’re stressed, anxious, sad, angry, etc. your immune system responds by increasing the release of inflammatory cytokines into your body.
While experiencing negative emotions is part of life, it’s important to note if we become stuck in a place of negativity, the inflammation in our body begins to build up. These high levels of inflammation can then become chronic, increasing your risk for chronic illnesses. Chronic illness can include anything from autoimmune disorders, heart disease and cancer to diabetes, just to name a few.
The good news? Positivity has been shown to decrease the levels of inflammation circulating through the body. That’s powerful information, especially in a circumstance where you feel you don’t have control! Learning how you choose to view a situation gives YOU the POWER to positively impact your immune response.
What is Positivity?
Now that we know how good positivity is at tamping down inflammation, what exactly is it? And how do we learn to seek it?
According to Oxford’s Online Dictionary, positivity is the practice of being or tendency to be positive or optimistic in attitude. When you have a knack for being positive, you’ll look at the bright side of things; seek the silver lining in tough situations. Sound easier said than done? Maybe, but with a little practice you can cultivate a more positive outlook on life. One that carries you though your good and hard days.
Before we go further, know that having positivity in your life doesn’t mean you’re striving for perfection or living in a world where hardship doesn’t effect you. Two truths I know to the core of my being: hard times are inevitable and perfection doesn’t exist. It’s ok to experience the emotions you feel when you find yourself in a challenging situation or season. That’s natural and expected.
The difference between a person who displays positivity and one who is negative, is their attitude and outlook for the future. A positive person will see a hard situation, experience the emotions, then keep moving forward. They share their feelings, lean on their faith knowing that things will get better and look for glimmers of hope in the midst of a dark storm or season.
What are Some Ways to Improve Your Positivity in the Midst of a Challenging Time?
When going through challenging situations or hard times, it can be hard to focus on positivity if you haven’t made it part of your everyday life. That said, it’s never too late to start!
Now more than ever, as we’re in a season of uncertainty and unknowns with the coronavirus pandemic, we should use this time and these activities to help lift spirits and improve mindsets.
Acknowledge what you’re feeling, share it with someone you trust, take stock in the things you can control and let go of the ones you can’t.
Be informed with the latest information, but limit how much media you consume regarding the news.
Listen to your favorite music, and dance like no-one’s watching or sing like you’re in your shower!
MOVE! Make sure you get out and move everyday. Practice yoga, exercise, walk the dog, etc. It all counts!
Listen to an uplifting podcast that inspires, encourages and motivates you.
Start a daily gratitude journal: take time to find 3 things you’re grateful for each day. Focusing on your blessings makes it hard to sit too long on the things trying to weigh you down.
Encourage others with uplifting thoughts and sentiments: let those in your circle know how much you love and appreciate them; make a goal of complimenting 3 people throughout your week; etc. By lifting others up you brighten their day and raise your positivity meter!
Create a space that inspires you. In our current situation, we’re all spending a lot of time at home. Use this time to clear the clutter and reset your spaces. It doesn’t cost you a dime to repurpose your furniture into new spaces, toss old paperwork and create boxes for donations.
Share kindness with those in your neighborhood and within your circle.
Seek Positivity and Enjoy the Good Vibes (and Lowered Inflammation Levels) that Comes with It
There’s no time like the present to make change in your life. Choosing positivity is a great place to start, especially as we’re in the midst of one of the most challenging times of our lives as a society and country.
Looking for resources to start (or deepen) your journey toward more positivity? Download my Positivity Tips and Resources Guide in the form below.
Friend, you are not alone in this journey. Be sure to share what you’re experiencing with others. Take time to surround yourself with positive people (yes, even if it’s only virtually!), practice some of the positivity tips listed above and look for the glimmers of hope. There are beautiful moments to be found in this season, you just have to be willing to look for them.
Stress, anxiety and negativity all have an negative impact on your inflammation levels
A correlation has shown between positivity and lower inflammatory biomarkers
Review the list of ways you can increase your positivity and put a few into practice this next week. Note how you feel, how your mindset starts to shift
Join my Anti-Inflammatory Lifestyle Support Facebook Group, click HERE to join. Here you’ll stay in the know and ahead of curve for your inflammation game
Clean Beauty – a hot topic these days, and for good reason. Add in chronic inflammation and suddenly the conversation escalates.
Did you know that according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), on average, a women uses 12 products containing approximately 168 different ingredients on her skin before even leaving the house each morning?
Whew! That’s a lot of ingredients before 8 a.m.!
It’s a statistic that made me pause and ponder. Until I heard the next one which stopped me in my tracks: Currently there are only 11 beauty ingredients banned by the FDA for safety reasons. A law in 1938 made that possible…over 80 years ago!
I don’t know about you, but to me, a lot has changed with skincare and beauty products in the last decade. Broaden that to EIGHT decades…and I’m speechless!
Learning this information lit a fire in me. I feel compelled to share what I know so everyone is able to make informed choices.
The Beauty Industry Free-for-All
Here in the U.S. there are countless products being made with ingredients that have known or questionable negative impact to our bodies. Ingredients such as phthalates, parabens, formaldehyde and fragrance are known to be linked to chronic health problems and yet they’re still being manufactured and sold in products with little regard to our safety.
These four ingredients are just a few of the more than 1400 chemicals banned in the European Union due to safety. Again, remember our number here in the U.S. is 11.
Eye-opening, right? No wonder we’re a country that’s getting sicker and sicker by the year.
Currently companies aren’t required to provide a list of their ingredients or even register their products with the FDA. There are no standards of manufacturing in place nor protocols for notifying customers of recalls or serious injury from their products.
The bottom line: beauty product manufacturers are in the business of making money, not protecting our health. We HAVE to become advocates for our own health.
The Effects on Chronic Inflammation
Mainstream beauty products have an ever-evolving list of ingredients, many with a history of negative health impacts on our bodies. From disrupting the endocrine system (the place where hormones are secreted), to leaving us skin itchy and inflamed to even causing cancer.
As these chemicals are introduced to the body, it amps up your immune system to alert of an invader. The purpose of our immune system is to protect us from injury and infection. It’s our first line of defense in keeping us healthy. Once the body takes care of the injury or infection, inflammation subsides.
If, however, inflammation goes unchecked (meaning the chemicals keep coming and our body continues with a disrupted normal flow), the inflammatory response changes from a good thing to one that’s chronic and problematic.
Unfortunately chronic inflammation increases your risk of developing one or more of many health conditions and diseases. If you already have a chronic health condition, it opens you up to developing more.
Ready for Some Good News?
For the first time in 80 years, legislation has been introduced that will help protect consumers. Thanks to the activism work of Beautycounter, The Personal Care Product Safety Act is in the works! Friends, this is just the beginning of exciting changes to come.
Until things improve, however, it’s up to each of us to be informed.
When we know better, we do better
Knowledge is Power
So what do you need to know? There are hundreds of chemicals to watch for and avoid. In an effort to not overwhelm you in one post, I’m sharing eight here with a link to view more. Look for the following ingredients in your skin care products. If you find them, make a plan to switch to safer once you finish the bottle.
Formaldehyde Releasing Preservatives
Synthetic Flavor or Fragrance
Ethanolamine Compounds (MEA, DEA, TEA)
Butylatedhydroxy Anisole and Butylated Hydroxytoluene
Polyethylene Glycol (PEG Compounds)
Keep in mind this is a very short list. To see a more detailed list, hop over to our Never List, click HERE. Here you’ll read more information on the chemicals, the products that use them and the negative effects they have.
A word of warning: it can be overwhelming when you see the list and discover these chemicals in many of your products. Know that you are not alone.
Like the rest of us, you’re newly informed and probably ready to make some changes! It doesn’t mean you need to dump all your products at once, unless of course your ready for a fresh start. Many people choose to slowly swap out their old products for safer options as they run out.
The Safer Beauty Movement
Want more good news? The safer beauty movement is starting to take hold!
More and more companies are cleaning up their products!! The goal of Beautycounter is to get safer products in the hands of everyone. When companies start listening and changing their products, we know we’re on the right path.
The Today Show did a recent spotlight on Safer Beauty Products for 2020. To view the 39 products highlighted, click HERE. There are quite a few clean beauty brands for you to check out, including my favorite, Beautycounter!
Have questions regarding safer beauty and where to start? Email me firstname.lastname@example.org or drop a reply in the comments below!
Don’t let this information overwhelm you! Remember you’re on a health journey. One that is a marathon, not a sprint. While so much of what I talk about is around diet, it’s important to understand reducing inflammation is about looking at your lifestyle as well. Use this check list as a guide toward building a safer beauty supply as you continue reducing your inflammation!
Exercise is Beneficial on So Many Levels, But How Much is the Right Amount?
How much exercise do you *actually* need to get in shape?
Twenty minutes three times per week? Half-hour per day?
And how much is too much?
Do you need to sweat it out for an hour or more every day?
Let’s go over the (sometimes) mysterious amount of exercise that is ideal. Ideal for your health and wellness. Ideal for getting into shape.
Starting with the minimum.
What’s the Minimum Amount of Exercise?
Of course, you’re going to have to start from where you are right now. If you’re not already exercising regularly, there is no need to go overboard. In fact, trying too much too soon may derail your motivation, and become a reason you just throw in the towel.
So, let’s say you’re not that active (yet). What if I were to recommend “ten to twenty minutes every other day at a level you think you can do?” How does that sound as a starting point?
Pretty do-able, I’d say!
If you’re not training for a competition, you can absolutely get into great shape starting with this plan.
It’s going to longer, I’m not gonna lie. But that time is going to pass anyway, so when the next season comes around wouldn’t you want to be proud of your improved strength and fitness?
Yes, I thought so!
How to Design Your Exercise Plan
Now, there isn’t one answer for everyone. The main rule is to begin with where you are. Take note of your fitness level and your goals and increase and improve slowly. There really is no quick fix (at least no quick fix that will give you lasting long-term results).
Always consider what is reasonably sustainable for you, based on:
What is your long-term fitness goal?
What else is going on in your life (i.e. how much time do you really have)?
What is your current state of fitness?
But don’t stop there!
As you create a sustainable exercise habit, it will start getting easier. So, don’t forget to make it a bit more challenging as you go. Every week do something to push yourself a bit farther than you were before. If you’re strength training, do another repetition or grab the next heavier weight. If you’re doing cardio, go a bit longer, farther, and/or faster.
A great motivational tool is to log your workouts. A simple notepad or workbook (or app) will do! Just enter your reps, sets, and/or times each time you workout. This will not only help you to keep motivated to continue, but it will also help you see where you can squeeze in that extra challenge as you progress.
After several weeks you can stop and evaluate. Keep going the way you are, ramp it up, or change it completely. Eventually, you will find yourself getting stronger, and more fit!
Don’t Forget Your Nutrition
While exercise is very, very good for your health, wellness and longevity, it’s not the only thing to consider. What you eat is going to have as big, or bigger, impact on your shape.
Some of my favorite super-simple tips that give you the biggest “bang for your buck” are:
Eat more veggies
Swap the soda for soda water with fruit
Cut your treats and sweets in half (and hide half) before indulging
Reduce the serving size of your main meals (try using a smaller plate)
Eat slower and savor it more by chewing each bite of food more thoroughly
Carry around healthy (unsweetened fiber-rich) snacks like nuts, fruit and berries
You don’t need to exercise like crazy to get into shape. I promise! But you do need to do the following:
Start from where you are, and don’t go overboard.
If you’re a beginner, that means 10 – 20 minutes every other day at an easy level.
Log your workout progress to track improvements and keep motivated.
Slowly increase the difficulty every week as you get stronger and fitter.
Don’t forget to eat your veggies, reduce your serving sizes (especially treats) and carry around healthy snacks.
Talk with your doctor before beginning any new exercise or nutrition program.
Make an appointment to chat with me (your health coach) on how I can support you getting into shape
Ahh…there was nothing quite like the taste of a PB&J after a long day of swimming or chomping into the yumminess during my school lunch breaks…I have fond memories enjoying peanut butter growing up. Back in those days, there were fewer brands to choose from. However, today there so many!
On a recent trip to the grocery store, I paused as I came to the peanut butter section. It both amazed and overwhelmed me looking at all the options. How do you know which brand is providing the best quality? Some brands claim to be made with ‘Real Roasted Peanut taste’ or ‘Natural’ or made with ‘No additives, Sweeteners or Hydrogenated Oils’. What does all that really mean? Is it as simple as trusting the claims shown on the front packaging? Uh…unfortunately, no.
My goal as a health coach is to guide you in your anti-inflammatory lifestyle, providing clarity amidst the confusion. On the surface, this post appears to be about peanut butter. In reality, its largely about the conversation of reading labels and recognizing pro-inflammatory ingredients that aren’t serving your body well. That said, we start somewhere and today we’re starting with peanut butter! I put together a little comparison of two well-known brands (one of which claims to be ‘Natural’) and a ‘cleaner’ store brand. In keeping the playing field even, I made sure to stay within the same price-point, showing that you don’t have to spend a lot to make healthy changes to your diet. Prices range from $2.22 – $2.98.
Curious to know which peanut butter would I ultimately grab if looking for the least inflammatory option, for under $3.00? Read on to learn my thoughts on the ingredients and marketing strategies! And don’t forget to grab the FREE Inflammatory Ingredients Guide down at the bottom of the post! It’s the perfect quick reference shopping guide as you begin to kick inflammatory ingredients to the curb.
Before we dive into the comparison, let’s consider what causes us to typically reach for one brand over another. Bottom line, it’s a strong marketing strategy. Marketing teams work hard to make their brand stand out, to be the most visually appealing, make the biggest claims for health, etc. Food manufacturers, on the other hand, are in the business of selling products. Their concern isn’t necessarily about using the healthiest ingredients, it’s more about getting the biggest bang for their buck. They’ll hire marketers and graphic designers to highlight whatever increases their product sales the most. So more often than not, you’re drawn to whichever brand did their homework the best. It might look good and say the right things on the front of it’s packaging, but is it really made with quality ingredients? I know how overwhelming it can be to stand in front of shelves lined with the same type of product,
but, the one and only way you’re truly going to get the best quality product is by reading the ingredients list!
Now on to my peanut butter spread comparison!
Jif Reduced Fat Peanut Butter
Right off the bat, FOUR ingredients jump out to me: corn syrup solids, sugar, hydrogenated vegetable oils and mono and diglycerides (a.k.a. fillers). So let’s break these down.
Corn syrup solids, a.k.a. dried corn syrup, a.k.a. SUGAR: there’s no two ways about it, sugar is sugar. It doesn’t matter what fancy name you give it, they all lead to the same damaging effect in your body. Studies show too much sugar over time can lead to increased inflammatory markers. When it’s listed as the second ingredient for a food product, unfortunately, you’re getting a lot of it per serving.
Sugar: wait, we just talked about sugar above and here it is again listed as the third ingredient. Eating an excess of sugars in beverages and foods can have a negative impact on your overall health. It can drive up inflammation, lead to weight gain, blood sugar fluctuations, increase the risk of heart disease among many other things.
When you have chronic inflammation, it will only add fuel to the fire that’s already burning.
Fully hydrogenated vegetable oils: Any time you see this ingredient on the list, you should pause and reconsider the purchase. Although it’s considered to be a “better alternative” to partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (PHOs…which are basically trans fat and as of June of 2018 are no longer allowed in our food), they may prove to be just as unhealthy. There is another oil modification process that’s being used called interesterification. It’s a process that provides the same functional properties manufacturers are looking for regarding texture, spreadability, extended shelf-life, etc. But the problem is, long-term health ramifications are not well known. Early studies are showing that they may be as unhealthy as trans fats.
Bottom line, if you can find a peanut butter free from any type of hydrogenated vegetable oil, I’d go for that.
Mono and Diglycerides: These ingredients are additives that act as emulsifiers. They help blend the water and oil together, improving the texture and stability of the product, along with extending shelf-life. Here’s the deal, mono and diglycerides contain small amounts of trans fat. Wait, what?!?!? Didn’t I just say trans-fats are banned from our products? While that’s true, there’s this one little loop-hole that manufacturers can skate through. As long as the trans-fats are less than .5 grams per serving, manufacturers are in the clear and don’t have to note it on the label. The only way you’ll know which products are in alignment with your health goals is to read the ingredients.
Central Market Peanut Butter
Ahhh…looking at this ingredient list just makes me smile. 🙂 Peanut Butter with one simple ingredient….dry roasted peanuts. How good is that?? A brand with simple ingredients and a label that delivers on the claims it makes! No added sugar, no added preservatives, no added fillers…just wholesome peanut butter. Open the jar, give it a stir and enjoy without worrying if it will drive up your inflammation markers – unless you’re allergic to peanuts, then just focus on the label reading strategies here! ;).
Skippy Natural Peanut Butter
First, what I like about this list: it’s small AND I can pronounce all the ingredients!! The fewer ingredients in a product the better chance you’re getting closer to a real food item. That said, there are three ingredients that cause me to choose another option. Let’s dig into why.
Sugar: for the same reasons listed in the Jif peanut butter comparison, sugar is a pass for me here. It’s an added element you just don’t need and being the second ingredient, your per serving dose is quite high. Do we really need sugar with our peanuts??? Sugar is present in almost every processed food we eat. Make cuts where you can and you’ll start to see a huge improvement in how your body is feeling and living day-to-day!
Palm Oil: this oil is showing up more and more as a ‘better alternative oil’ in manufacturing. However, its controversial and the verdict is still out on whether it’s truly healthy or not. Its added to peanut butters as a way to keep the oil from separating and settling at the top. Hmmm…so if I just plan to stir my peanut butter before loading up the knife I could have it without the added oil?? Something to consider.
Salt: Here I’m being a little picky. While it isn’t a huge amount of salt, there are other brands that offer less. Salt is another ingredient added in abundance to a lot of processed foods. Without even knowing it you can be over-consuming it. Excessive salt in your diet can lead to issues with your heart health. You have more control when you’re salting your own food. What if you were to buy a low sodium option and add a sprinkle if you’re truly missing it? Something else to consider.
Which Peanut Butter Would I Choose as Part of My Anti-Inflammatory Diet?
So there you have it – a comparison of two brands you’ll find in most stores along with a generic store brand. Can you guess which one I’d go for? If you answered, HEB Central Market store brand, you’re correct! It’s a simple, clean and only one ingredient product and under $3.00. It makes this health coach smile!
Learning to look for pro-inflammatory ingredients gets easier the more you do it. If you found this article to be helpful and you’re to up your label-reading game, download my Inflammatory Ingredients Guide. It’ll help you navigate the grocery store as you work towards decreasing the inflammatory ingredients in your pantry.
Savoring the last days of summer this weekend? Looking for that perfect dish to bring along with you to BBQ so your body stays happy and you stay on track with your health goals? I’ve got you covered with these super yummy, nutrient dense recipes!
These veggie skewers scream of summer with their mix of summer squash, zucchini, red peppers, mushroom and red onions. They’re the perfect way to say adios to summer, while also helping you manage your inflammation.
Working to manage chronic inflammation and then staying on track with an anti-inflammatory diet can be challenging when it comes to a gathering like a BBQ or picnic. By planning ahead and bringing food you know you can eat worry-free, you’re not only guaranteeing a pain-free night (after the fun), but who knows, you might even inspire someone else to try these gorgeous dishes. So many people only think they don’t like veggies, but for many, when they give them a try and taste how rich and flavorful they can be, a whole new world opens up!
If you’ve been following me for any amount of time, you know I’m allll about REAL, WHOLE FOOD for managing a healthy lifestyle, no matter what your health circumstances are. And the more colorful you can make your dish, the better! Take this cool and refreshing cantaloupe and cucumber salad. The lively colors will call your name from any table or counter. Though it looks simple, it has layers of flavor, is nutrient dense, filling and DELICIOUS! This is a crowd pleaser…be sure to double the batch if you’re taking it to a gathering!
This bright, vibrant-colored chimichurri sauce gets me every time. It’s true love. Not only is it my favorite color, its made with ingredients that add another layer of inflammation fighting properties to any meal and it’s LOADED with flavor. I mean, the taste will literally blow you away. It adds such a depth of flavor to cooked veggies or salads and is sure to become a staple in your weekly meal rotation.
Bringing colorful produce together not only makes a dish look ah-mazing, it also vastly improves the nutrient content, raising the antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber, etc., all the things that help drive down and move excess inflammation out. You give your body the gift of being fueled by food that satiates, nourishes and tastes incredible. In return, your body takes care of YOU! You won’t find yourself at the end of the day, or the day after that, regretting your choices at the BBQ! You just keep rolling on with your weekend, savoring the end of summer. Seems like a no-brainer to me!!
This meal is the real deal. It checks all the boxes for fiber, good carbs, healthy fats, and protein. With all the colors, you know you’re getting loads of phytonutrients that equate to inflammation fighting goodness for your body!! A definite win for those on an anti-inflammatory diet!
While all this is good and well, you might be wondering, but what about DESSERT???” Don’t worry, I haven’t left that out!
I’ve always loved chocolate, but to be honest, it was Easter 2016 when I had a huge ah-ha moment in my health journey. I had already started making some minor changes, but hadn’t really considered the impact of the occasional processed sugary treat. After eating my beloved Reese’s Peanut Butter mini cup (the Easter Bunny was kind and left me quite a few…so there may have been more than one consumed that day!), I quickly noticed my body tailspin into a pain cycle. It was then that lightbulbs went off and I realized the true impact of processed sugar. It was that incident that set me on the path of healing and health that I now enjoy. BUT, that doesn’t mean a girl doesn’t want to enjoy the occasional chocolatey sweet treat!! It just means that she gets creative and comes up with ways that it can be done with whole, real food!
That’s where this Chocolate Almond Date Bite comes in. It’s so delicious, quick and super easy to make you’ll have a hard time keeping them on hand until you get to your picnic or BBQ!
So there you have it, a quick and easy meal plan for your Labor Day gathering! To make this super easy, like a grab and go file, I’ve combined all the recipes on one download. SUBSCRIBE BELOW, and your recipes will be sent to you. Check your pantry and fridge for ingredients you have vs. what you need, then head to the store (I’ve even included a grocery list for you!).
This Labor Day, enjoy time with friends and family and stay on track with your health. A holiday gathering shouldn’t set you back, it should fill your heart and nourish your belly. When you have a game plan, it’s possible to achieve both!! Have a wonderful, safe long holiday weekend!