We're lucky to have some the country's best doctors as members of our family (many are even class instructors!), and throughout 2016, they've shared a ton of functional food wisdom on how to eat to get rid of PMS, to lessen anxiety, to heal your gut, and more. Below are a few of our favorite pieces of advice.
What to eat for a great night's sleep:
Almond butter is a superb snack to have right before bed. It has a high fat and protein content, so it's slow to digest and will be absorbed into your bloodstream gradually overnight, giving you a safety net of blood sugar. Steady blood sugar supports deep, consolidated sleep by preventing blood sugar dips, which can wake up your body. Almonds also contain magnesium and tryptophan to promote sleep.
—Dr. Ellen Vora, in her article on the five foods for better sleep
Why your liver matters so much for hormone balance:
One thing I've learned from Chinese medicine is that the liver is the powerhouse for all things hormonal. If you have a sluggish liver, your hormones won't break things down appropriately. If you have a fatty liver, your insulin levels will continue to be thrown off. And deficient liver energy can leave your hormone levels waning and disappearing, triggering infertility, irregular periods, and more. I think one of the greatest weaknesses of conventional medicine is not recognizing the liver as the powerhouse that it truly is—especially when it comes to our hormones.
—Dr. Taz Bhatia, in her article on the one drink she recommends for hormone balance
How to boost your body's own detoxification ability:
You've likely heard the refrain to eat more fruits and vegetables from your parents, doctors, and health experts many times, and for good reason. While colorful fruits and vegetables look great arranged on a plate, there are also powerful compounds at work under the surface that have incredible health and detoxing benefits. These compounds are called phytonutrients, and besides giving foods their colors, they can also support health and detox in every part of your body. There are hundreds of different phytonutrients, each supporting your body's health in a different way. It's easy to get overwhelmed with all the information about different phytonutrients and their benefits. On a broad scale, simply eating a wide range of fruits and vegetables of different colors ensures that you'll be reaping the benefits of a host of phytonutrients.
—Dr. Deanna Minich, in her article on everyday detoxing
Why gluten free grains might not be all they're cracked up to be:
By now, most of us are aware of the possible negative impact of gluten. However, I believe that in a few years research will find a similar—and possibly even worse—harm from even gluten-free grains. Grains contain an abundance of amylose sugars which could cause inflammation, as well as anti-nutrients such as lectins and phytates which bind to the intestines and can hinder nutrient absorption in the body.
I recommend removing all grains for a time, during an elimination diet, and then slowly reintroducing them to see how they work for your system.
—Dr. Will Cole, in his article on foods that cause digestive issues
What to eat to combat depression:
Kimchee and other fermented foods like sauerkraut, pickles, and tempeh support a healthy gut bacteria. When our gut flora is unbalanced, it has a direct effect on our brain chemistry via the vagus nerve and can lead to anxiety and depression. The vagus nerve is like the nervous system superhighway that allows our gut and brain to communicate. Adding a small amount of fermented foods daily to your diet can naturally calm the brain during stressful times.
—Dr. Tiffany Lester, in her article on the best mood boosting foods
The type of food that's crucial in healing concussions:
The hard jolt of a concussion basically bruises your brain, and the neurons get stretched out and then can't communicate with one another very well. As part of the brain's response, the levels of a natural chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) drop. That's a problem because BDNF is important for helping damaged neurons recover. The good news? Raising your BDNF levels can help you bounce back more quickly from a concussion. To support your production of BDNF and help heal your brain, you need plenty of dietary protein. Aim for 1 gram of protein for every kilogram of your body weight. If nausea and vomiting are creating problems and keep you from wanting to eat high-protein foods like steak and eggs, try a shake with whey protein and added branched-chain amino acids.
—Dr. Robert Silverman, in his article on nutrition to speed concussion recovery
The one mineral you need for thyroid health:
Iodine is the most important mineral when it comes to thyroid health; it's one of the two building blocks your body uses to produce thyroid hormones. It also supports the process of converting T4, the storage form of thyroid hormones, into free T3, the usable form of the hormone. The best dietary sources of iodide (the food version of iodine that must be converted into iodine) are seaweed and saltwater fish. However, I like to see my thyroid patients add in some small amount of supplemental iodine as well.
—Dr. Amy Myers, in her article on nutrients to balance hypothyroidism
What to eat for glowing skin:
Sulfur gives your skin luster and glow and is sometimes used to treat rosacea. David Wolfe calls sulfur the “world’s best cosmetic” because it’s fundamental to the health of your skin, hair, and nails. And Stephanie Seneff, senior scientist at MIT, claims that sulfur deficiency is far more common than most people realize, contributing to inflammation (acne, rosacea), weight gain, and other health problems. We are in agreement that a high sulfur-containing food plan is in order. So where can you find it?
- Greens, especially those with high nutrient-density like arugula, kale, watercress
- Cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, Brussels sprouts
- Radish (black, daikon, and red)
- Clean protein, including low-mercury fish like wild-caught salmon, organic and/or pastured beef and poultry
- Hemp seeds
- Bee pollen
- Blue-green algae (I like E3 Live)
- Maca (especially good if your estrogen is low)
—Dr. Sara Gottfried, in her article on how to eat for glowing skin
The superfood that's likely in your pantry right now:
The chickpea is also known as a garbanzo bean, a ceci bean, a cicer, a Bengal gram, or chana, depending on which part of the world this ancient food staple is found. And the scientific research is substantial: Health benefits attributed to diets rich in chickpeas have been identified in terms of diabetes, heart health, GI health, cholesterol, and even weight loss. Indeed, in a recent analysis of diets rich in chickpeas and other dietary pulses (lentils, peas, beans), weight loss was superior even when calories were comparable to diets without pulses.
—Dr. Joel Kahn, in his article on the surprising superfood no one talks about
Your cold drink may be wreaking havoc on your gut:
Say no to ice. Drink your water warm or at room temperature, and avoid chilled beverages of all kinds. No ice-cold lemonade, no ice-cold beer, no ice-cold soda, and no ice water. If room-temperature water and herbal teas are your beverages of choice, your digestion will run more smoothly. Just think about what happens when you stick your hands in cold water or snow. Your fingers turn white because cold reduces blood flow to the area and vessels clamp shut. When you drink cold liquids, such as iced tea or ice water, the same thing happens to your digestive tract: blood vessels constrict and blood moves out of the area. The channels that move nutrients in and waste out then close up.
—Dr. Kulreet Chaudhary, in her article on the concept of warmth in Ayurveda
What you should be eating to lose weight:
Studies show that healthy fats, not militant calorie counting or low-fat diets, can help you get lean. In human experiments, those who ate high-fat diets had a much faster metabolism. Low-fat, high-carb diets spiked insulin, subsequently slowing metabolism and storing as belly fat. The higher-fat diet group had a faster metabolism, even while eating the same amount of calories.
Other research, conducted by Dr. David Ludwig and his Harvard colleagues, compared high-fat, low-carb diets with high-carb, low-fat diets in a controlled feeding study (where researchers provide all the food). Again, the high-fat group did better.
—Dr. Mark Hyman, in his article on eating more fat to lose weight
The unknown Ayurvedic gut-healing wonder herb:
In Ayurvedic nutrition, herbs and spices are used not only to add flavor to dishes but also medicinally to ignite digestive fire (agni) and detox the body of metabolic waste (ama). In my research, I found one star kept coming up over and over again: the spice Asafetida. Even if you've never heard of it before, you've probably eaten it in Indian food many times. It's a staple in most curry dishes. But be warned: Asafetida, or Hing, is a bitter, pungent spice with a fetid smell. In fact, one of the many names it goes by is "devil's dung"! However, when cooked, it adds a bold flavor reminiscent of onion or leek. It's often used in Indian cooking with turmeric in pickles, fried meat, curries, or as a stand-alone tea.
Bitter and pungent flavors like Asafetida have been used in Ayurveda for centuries to aid digestion and burn away ama. They are known to:
- Soothe gas and bloating
- Promote circulation
- Relieve heartburn and other symptoms of indigestion
- Encourage digestive enzymes bile and HCL production
- Calm upset stomach and nausea
- Maintain healthy blood sugar levels
- Balance appetite
- Curb sugar cravings
- Ease constipation
- Kill parasites
- Remove phlegm
- Support liver function and healthy skin
Dr. Amy Shah, in her article on the one spice for better digestion
What to eat to eliminate PMS:
Many PMS symptoms are caused by a state of hormonal imbalance called “estrogen dominance.” This can be due to having high levels of body fat as well as by slow estrogen metabolism. A great way to increase the body’s rate of breaking down and disposing of estrogens is to eat cruciferous vegetables, which are high in a substance called indole-3 carbinol, which supports the phase-1 liver detoxification of estrogens. Indole-3 carbinol also lowers the 4-0H and 16-0H metabolites of estrogen, which are associated with higher breast cancer risk and PMS symptoms.
Dr. Robin Berzin, in her article on holistic cures for PMS
And are you ready to learn more about what anxiety, brain health, and your diet all have in common? Register now for our FREE Functional Nutrition Webinar with Dr. Mark Hyman.