5 Travel-Friendly Foods to Keep You Healthy In-Flight

immune system boosting superfoods

When you travel for business, you already know what you’re in for. Your sleep schedule will suffer; you’ll be constantly on the go; and you’ll be coming into contact with foreign environments your body isn’t used to. If you add to that mix the circulated air and un-sanitized seats of air-travel, you should probably just schedule your sick-time now, because you’ll need it.

But, while you might not be able to control your mode of travel or how much sleep you get, you can control your nutrition. Here are five foods that are airport security friendly and could potentially help you avoid getting sick while traveling:

Almonds

Almonds have high levels of vitamins E, B and magnesium. The combination of these vitamins working together creates an immunity boost that can help ward off upper-respiratory infections. As a bonus, the good fats in almonds also help you maintain level energy. To get the most benefits out of almonds, eat them raw.

Goji Berries

Goji berries are filled with powerful antioxidants and are rich in vitamins A, B, C and E. Goji berries also have trace minerals, such as zinc, iron, copper, selenium, calcium and phosphorous. Of these, the most active cold-fighting ingredients are zinc, selenium, vitamin A, and the extremely high levels of vitamin C.

Kale Chips

Kale is filled with cold-combatting antioxidants, vitamins A and C, calcium and is high in iron. Kale is also great for cardiovascular support.

Fresh Citrus

Believe it or not you can bring fresh fruit such as oranges and grapefruit on the plane. You just need to make sure it is wrapped or in a container when you go through security. High in vitamin C, citrus fruits boost the production of white blood cells which, in turn, help fight infection. Just be sure to wash-up before you eat.

Whey Protein Bars

Whey protein is rich in cysteine, an amino acid that converts to glutathione in your body which helps fight bacterial and viral infection.

Prefer to drink your whey protein? The rule is that you can’t bring fluids through security, but that doesn’t mean you can’t bring something you can mix with fluid on the plane. Get a bottle of water on the other side of security from one of the vendors or in-flight, then mix a package of whey protein powder to gulp down those immunity boosters.

To further boost your immunity while traveling, be sure to drink plenty of water and stay away from alcohol and soda.

True Confessions of a Cardiovascular Surgeon

Tomatoes at the farmer's market

Viral “confessions” rocked Facebook last month – the first tell-all was from a TSA Agent, but the second confession was one I found especially heartening. (Pun intended)

Last December, Dr. Dwight Lundell published an essay titled “Heart Surgeon Declares On What Really Causes Heart Illness” on the Tuned Body website. Now more than 200,000 people have his words plastered on their Facebook walls. It’s not that what he says is revolutionary – you’ll read the same information here on my blog – but the fact that a heart surgeon is questioning cholesterol drugs in favor of natural, nutritional healing is wonderful to see.

His findings (and if you read my blog, they’ll sound familiar) are:

  • A diet of natural, unprocessed food can prevent, and possibly reverse, heart disease.
  • Low-fat, high-simple-carb diets cause chronic inflammation, thereby destroying the walls of our blood vessels, and causing cholesterol stick to them and form plaque blockages.
  • The Western diet has excessive levels of Omega-6 acids from corn and soybean oils, whereas we should be eating far more Omega-3 acids (from nuts and fish).
  • To reduce inflammation, he recommends eating protein and complex carbs (ie. lean meats, fish, fruits and vegetables).
  • Saturated fats aren’t the enemy – eat moderately and enjoy olive oil, grass-fed meat, and dairy: Dr. Lundell writes, “Mainstream medicine made a terrible mistake when it advised people to avoid saturated fat in favor of foods high in omega-6 fats.”

His theme is that cholesterol doesn’t cause heart disease – inflammation does. And Inflammation can be caused, and controlled, through diet!

To read more about anti-inflammatory diets, check out my previous posts:

Anti-Inflammatory Foods for Joint Health

Women’s 5 Most Frequent Health Issues & Food Solutions

Diet Plans for The New Year – Which is right for you?

Banh Mi Gourmet Style

At Intelligent Gourmet, we know it’s not about losing weight – it’s about living your best life. And, the only way to do that is by giving your body everything it needs to thrive. That said, for many of us, part of becoming healthier, happier people involves undoing some of the less-great decisions of our pasts and, yes, losing weight. Unfortunately, changing your lifestyle doesn’t happen overnight (though one diet claims otherwise), and an actual “Diet” might be just what you need to kick-start your efforts. Here are a few Intelligent Gourmet-Approved plans.

With all the diets below, you can mix and match to create your own healthy and delicious eating plan that works for you. What matters is keeping your nutrition high, your calories controlled, and your exercise up! Be sure to combine your eating plan with a regimen of physical activity that is right for you. Whichever weight loss plan interests you, be sure to first discuss it with your primary health care provider.

The Mediterranean Diet
Resources: The New Sonoma Diet, The Mediterranean Diet, The Omega Diet, The New Mediterranean Diet

Who should consider this:
• People with families, since it has a wide variety of foods and is something everyone can do
• Those with a risk of heart disease
• Anyone who wants to maintain their healthy weight
• People interested in lifestyle changes and learning to eat for optimal health

The Mediterranean Diet is the recommended diet of the Mayo Clinic. Research has shown that the traditional Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease and cancer, as well as a reduced incidence of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. Every meal is based on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, beans, nuts legumes, seeds, herbs and spices – with moderate amounts of seafood, poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt. Red meat and sweets are a once-in-a-while treat.

The Anti- Inflammatory Diet

Resources: The Perricone Weight-Loss Diet, The Anti-Inflammation Zone, The Inflammation Free Diet Plan

Who should consider this:
• Those with a family history of heart disease
• A family history of arthritis or Alzheimer’s disease
• Anti-aging buffs looking for younger-looking skin
• Those with inflammation-related health problems

Anti-Inflammatory Diets focus on foods that are rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids. You’ll be eating salmon, lots of fruits and vegetables, nuts and low-fat dairy, but you’ll have to avoid processed foods made with flour, sugar or other sweeteners. No breads, cereals, crackers, fried foods, fruit juice, pasta, pizza, soda, or even frozen yogurt allowed. The up-side? You’ll look great!

Gluten Free Diet
Resources: Wheat Belly, Grain Brain, The G – Free Diet

Who should consider this:

• People with diagnosed celiac disease
• People with skin allergies
• Those with auto immune disease
• People with chronic inflammation
• Diabetics

If you don’t like to read labels this diet isn’t for you. It requires eliminating all contact with gluten to be effective. This diet is fabulous for people who love to make their food from scratch, using whole ingredients, since you’ll want more control over exactly what you’re putting into your body. Or you can always order Intelligent Gourmet meal plans. 😉

Vegan/Vegetarian Diet
Resources: Forks Over Knives, Eat to Live, The Kind Diet, The China Study

Who should consider this:
• People with hypertension
• People with high cholesterol
• Heart patients

The American Dietetic Association has given the official “Okay” to vegetarian and vegan diets as being healthful and nutritionally adequate. As if we needed their permission! The health benefits of a vegetable-centric diet are many, though it can lead to over-dependence on carbs unless you’re careful. Careful is really the watchword for vegetarian and vegan diets. You have to be careful to ensure you’re getting enough protein and micro-nutrients since you’re cutting out a significant source (meat). My tips are: Keep sweets and fatty foods to a minimum, go with whole grains, and eat a wide variety of whole foods that include protein-rich staples like lentils.

A Fat Burning, Low Calorie Diet
Resources: The New Abs Diet, The Flat Belly Diet, From Belly Fat to Belly Flat, The L.A. Shape Diet

Who should consider this:
• Those who want to drop a few pounds quickly
• Exercise junkies
• Non-foodies
• Models

What I like about these types of diets is the emphasis on eating less and moving more. That’s a recipe that always works! There’s a heavy emphasis on protein-rich foods like almonds and beans, allowing you to feel full for longer, and refined carbs and sweets are kept to a minimum. Just be sure that your “low calorie” diet is at a minimum of 1,200 calories a day – no less. Otherwise you’re burning muscle, not fat!

Pitfalls of Losing a Pound a Day

Vegan SushiYes, friends, it’s January, and the hucksters are peddling their Lose-Weight-Fast diets all over the internet. Enter Rocco DiSpirito’s “Pound a Day Diet.”

On paper, it sounds great. Lose a pound a day on what he calls “metabolic fasting” (the theory is that your metabolism won’t turn to sludge if you intersperse low calorie days with higher calorie days). While on the diet, you eat delicious food that only takes a few minutes and a handful of ingredients to make, with recipes based on the “Mediterranean diet,” including lots of protein, vegetables, and moderate carbohydrates. Here’s why it works: “Pound a Day” dieters are restricted to 850 calories per day on weekdays and 1200 calories on weekends, consumed in frequent, small meals. Yes, you will lose weight. But you might lose your health and well being too.

While the “Pound a Day Diet” sounds like the perfect quick-fix to all your weight-loss problems, there’s a reason health professionals don’t recommend going below 1200 calories a day. Several reasons, in fact.

The Real Consequences of Rapid Weight Loss

  • At less than 1000 calories a day, it’s nearly impossible to get the vitamins, protein and minerals your body needs to avoid malnutrition.
  • At less than 100 calories, your body shifts from active calorie-burning mode into calorie-storing mode, effectively shutting down your metabolism.
  • When your metabolism shuts down, you’ll feel tired and lethargic, even if you eat “snacks” throughout the day. Your body just doesn’t have enough fuel.
  • Your body will start to burn muscle, not fat. This has mental, as well as physical, effects, such as: confusion, anxiety, depression, and memory loss.

Personally, I think the “Pound a Day” plan needs to add 200 to 400 calories in order to be nutritionally sound and safe. No, you may not lose weight as fast, but you’ll be better off for it. In fact, supplementing this diet with a couple mason jars of good, green juice might be just the thing to replenish missing nutrients. And don’t forget a handful of nuts – good fats are important on any diet!

5 Flu-Fighting Superfoods!

Flu fighting superfoods, oranges

Flu season started early this year, with swine flu quickly asserting itself as the dominant strain (it’s a bad one folks!). Experts are encouraging everyone to get the flu vaccine this year (which they do every year), but I know there are quite a few people who won’t. If you’re not keen on the flu shot, then you’ll need to boost your immunity every way you can. Get enough sleep, get enough sun, and get enough of these five superfoods.

Catch some Catechins with Green Tea

Catechins are specific antioxidants that help prevent viruses – and reduce sick time if you’ve caught a bug already. Green tea is one of the best sources, but also cocoa, blackberries, raspberries, cherries, apples and pears.

Guard Yourself with Garlic
Studies have shown that when people take a garlic supplement for at least 12 weeks, they caught fewer colds – which may be because no one wanted to go near them! All jokes aside, garlic does have potent antioxidants and antimicrobial and anti-bacterial properties. The Flu, however, is a virus, and won’t be affected with antibiotics. However- garlic is also high in Vitamin C, which boosts the immune system no matter what your body is fighting.

Savor the Immune System Boost from Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes aren’t just high in vitamin C, but also in vitamin A – which supports mucus membranes, like those in your nose and throat. These membranes are your first line of defense against bacteria and invading viruses, so when your diet strengthens them, you’ll stay healthier.

Support the 70 Percent
Seventy percent of your immune system is in your gut, and the best way to support your health there is through the probiotics found in yogurt, tempeh, miso, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi.

Curb Illness with Herbs
Ginger, Garlic, Turmeric, and Chili are a powerful combination. Ginger, Chili and Turmeric are anti-inflammatory, while Garlic has anti-fungal and antibacterial properties. They can all be found in vegetable-packed Chinese food (time for a stir-fry!) and Indian recipes.

Come by Intelligent Gourmet and ask us to whip up an immune-system-boosting juice just for you! There’s no better way to help your body fight off infection than by helping it heal itself through food!

Vitamins Shmitamins – Scientists Confirm Common Sense

Citrus and beet saladAchieving great health isn’t as easy as popping a pill – so say five physicians from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and Warwick Medical School in a recent journal editorial in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The story has been making headlines this month because the news is shocking to many self-described “health nuts.”

For me, this news couldn’t be more exciting. I’ve been telling people for years that whole foods – WHOLE FOODS! – are what your body needs to process just the right amounts of nutrition. Whole foods are almost always naturally balanced so their healing, healthful properties work together, boosting each other and catalyzing each other. When you separate out and condense one good property from its support system, the result isn’t nearly as beneficial – in fact, it can even be harmful.

That vitamins can be harmful may be the real shocker in this revelation. The authors specify Beta-carotene, vitamin E, and high doses of vitamin A supplements as being particularly bad, and the physicians were not at all impressed with folic acid, B vitamins, mineral supplements and multivitamins either.

Their conclusion?

A balanced diet is the best approach.

No kidding! Antioxidants, vitamins and other nutrients aren’t meant to be solo acts – they’re ensemble players. They need their supporting casts to do their work. In fact, the only vitamin not yet on the “Naughty List” is folic acid for pregnant women (and I’d still recommend a whole foods approach of leafy greens, asparagus, broccoli and citrus). Oh, and that vitamin D3? Get it from sunlight (you can overdose by pill, but your skin absorbs only what you need from the sun).

The journal article is titled “Enough is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements” and I recommend everyone read it. Then come in to Intelligent Gourmet and drink some nutrition-packed juice. It’s better than any vitamin!

5 Exotic Superfoods You’ve Never Heard Of

Tokyo farmers market

Ancient cultures, Eastern cultures, native cultures – they all have so much to offer with their traditional foods and we are discovering more of them every day. This year, have a little fun with your healthy food and try some of these wild, fun, and freekeh superfoods!

Yes, I said Freekeh.

5 Exotic Superfoods You’ve Never Heard Of

1. Freekeh – This ancient Middle Eastern dish is made from green wheat that has been roasted. Compared with other grains, it has four times as much fiber and has a low glycemic index, making it ideal for dieters and diabetics.
2. Kukicha twig tea – Literally made from the sticks of the kukicha plant, this green tea has towering levels of antioxidants and has an alkalizing effect on the body. Curative bonuses include reducing bloating and easing nausea.
3. Cupuaçu – A pulpy tropical fruit that has both antioxidants and essential fatty acids, the Cupuaçu might show up in your face cream before it appears in the produce section of your grocery store. That’s because it nourishes, repairs and regenerates skin cells.
4. Fenugreek – Often used in Indian and Asian cooking, this herb just might contain the cure for the common cold and relieve sore throats. It’s also been claimed that it may improve diabetes symptoms, menopausal symptoms, and menstrual cramps.
5. Jerusalem artichokes – You’ve seen them, thought they were ginger, and when you found out they weren’t, you wondered “what do you do with these?!” Don’t let these unusual roots intimidate you. You can cook them just like you would potatoes or parsnips, though they taste like a nutty, crunchy artichoke. Boil, sauté, bake or steam – or eat them raw – and enjoy this rich source of inulin, vitamin C, fiber, potassium and magnesium.

5 Foods to Cure Your Cold Fast

Mushroom health properties

This time of year, everyone seems to have their own fail-proof “cure” for the common cold. Some swear by eating whole raw cloves of garlic (you can smell them coming). Others say the Vietnamese chicken soup, Pho Ga, with lots of spice added is what you need.  An apple a day keeps the doctor away for many, and Mom’s traditional chicken noodle soup (or Campbell’s canned comfort-food) is a beloved standby.

While all of these “cures” have good reasons behind them (garlic is an antibacterial and immune system booster; chicken soup and apples have cold-fighting enzymes), there are even more powerful cold-fighters out there if you know where to look.

5 Super Cold-Stoppers

  1. Goji berries are not only packed with antioxidants, they also have cold-fighting and immune system boosting properties. They contain more iron than spinach, along with lots of vitamin A, B1, B2, B6, vitamin C and vitamin E.
  2. Coconut oil not only boosts the immune system for colds, but has antiviral properties. So whether your stuffy nose is the result of bacteria or a virus, coconut oil will fight both. (Tip: You can also use a dime-size amount topically on your hair to relieve dry, itchy scalp and make your hair shine)
  3. Mushrooms are one of the best food sources for vitamin D – when you can’t get out to soak up the sun yourself. Vitamin D enhances your body’s immune system response to viruses, bacteria and fungi.
  4. Wheat germ is full of vitamin E (an immune system booster), calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, zinc, omega-6 fatty acids, and omega-3 fatty acids.
  5. Ginger is a powerful anti-inflammatory, as well as a digestion aid, which means it will help you feel better as it helps heal you from the inside-out. Try adding some ginger and garlic to a vegetable stirfry, soup, or green juice.

The 2 Worst Foods For Your Cold

  1. When you have a cold, sugar is the worst thing you can eat. Sugar actually works against your white blood cells, making it harder for them to fight infections. Natural sugars, like those you get from apples and oranges are fine, but stay away from processed, pre-packaged foods (even OJ!).
  2. Alcohol has properties that can suppress your immune system, preventing your body from fighting off infection. Even though a Hot Toddy with brandy, honey, tea and lemon might sound like just what your throat needs, you should leave out the brandy (the other ingredients are great!).

Stay well this season!

3 Weeknight-Simple Fall Salads

Fall salad recipesThere is a rainbow of Autumn colors happening right now on Pinterest as all the food bloggers are creating fabulous Fall salad recipes. If you love Autumn flavors as much as I do – butternut squash! pumpkin! beets! carrots! sweet potatoes! – then it’s like being a kid in a candy store. These salad recipes, inspired by Pinterest, are so easy that you can whip them together any night this week for a quick appetizer, dinner or side dish. But what I love best about them is how they combine sweet, savory, and healthy.

Rainbow Carrot Amuse Bouche

If you see rainbow carrots at the store – get them! These deep purple, dark red and yellow carrots are the result of selective carrot-breeders trying to increase the amounts of nutrients found in the pigments. So not only do they look pretty, they’re even more packed with anti-oxidants.

For the best visual appeal, shave off thin slices of rainbow carrot for a raw salad, combine with slices of avocado or beets, and drizzle with a tangy ginger-lime salad dressing.

Ginger-Lime Dressing Recipe –

Combine: 3-4 Tb lime juice, 1 Tb agave nectar, 1 Tb fresh grated ginger root, 3 Tb extra virgin olive oil.

Sweet & Savory Roasted Side Salad

Chopped apples, chopped butternut squash, chopped sweet onion, and sliced brussel sprouts – with a drizzle of maple syrup or agave nectar and olive oil – are all you need for a delicious roasted salad. Toss the vegetables with the maple syrup and olive oil, then bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes, tossing once or twice. Take out when nicely browned and serve hot! Perfect for a chilly Autumn night.

Hearty Dinner Spinach & Pear Salad

Spinach is one of the healthiest dark leafy greens you can eat, packed with iron and anti-oxidants. For a delicious and filling Fall salad, I like to combine spinach with ripe sliced pears, blue cheese, candied walnuts, dried cranberries, and pumpkin seeds – dressed with your favorite balsamic vinaigrette. The protein in the nuts and the fat in the cheese will help you feel full after having “just a salad” for dinner, but be careful not to overdo them. Spinach should be the main ingredient.

Want to see what other recipes I’m pinning? Follow Intelligent Gourmet in Pinterest for daily inspiration

3 Ways to Boost Your Willpower Before Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving apple pie

I don’t know about you, but as soon as November hits, I feel the Holiday pounds getting ready to pounce. Thanksgiving and Winter Holiday goodies are irresistible – or are they? If you can free your brain chemistry from its dependence on refined sugars and processed carbs, it is possible to look at a delicious Thanksgiving spread without wanting to eat all of it. The secret isn’t so much self control as it is learning how to help your body work better.

Blood sugar, brain chemistry and hormones all influence our abilities to make good or bad food choices – but once you understand that these physiological factors are responsible, you have the power to stay on track with your goals. If you’ve noticed that your self-control is strongest in the mornings, but by 8 p.m. your hand is in the cookie jar – that’s normal. Like any muscle, your resolve wears out over the course of the day. And, studies have shown that if you exercise self-control over too many areas of your life at once, you’ll lose it faster. Don’t try to be too “good” this year – just try to be healthy. Here are some ways to help you do that.

3 Ways to Boost Your Will-Power Before Thanksgiving

  1. Do a mini-cleanse – either by spending three days juicing, or even just avoiding all starches, alcohol and processed foods. The goal is to clean out your system of unhealthy fuels that spike the desire to eat unhealthy foods. Stick with vegetables, nuts, and legumes for at least three days and you’ll feel better able to say no to seconds on pie.
  2. Keep your blood sugar steady with small meals and protein-rich snacks (walnuts, cashews, almonds and pistachios are all nutrition-packed superfoods!), since even a small dip in blood sugar can tip you over into losing control.
  3. Start off on the right foot each day by exercising first thing in the morning, followed by a “clean” breakfast (egg white omelet with spinach is one of my favorites). By lunchtime, you’ll probably want to keep the positive momentum going with a great salad.

Just because the Holidays are here doesn’t mean you have to give up on your health goals – and it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a feast with friends and family either. You can have both!