Roasted Sweet Potato Tacos

Roasted Sweet Potato Tacos

Cook and Prep Time: 50-60 minutes

Serves:  4-5

You Need

  • 2 Sweet Potatoes, cubed
  • 1 tbsp. Garlic Powder
  • 1 tbsp. Onion Powder
  • 2 tsp. Smoked Paprika
  • 1 tbsp. Ground Cumin
  • 1 tsp. EVOO
  • Salt & Pepper, to taste
  • 1 15 oz. can Pinto Beans, rinsed & drained
  • 1 Red Onion, diced
  • 3-4 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. Garlic Powder
  • 1 tbsp. Onion Powder
  • 2 tsp. Smoked Paprika
  • 1 tbsp. Ground Cumin
  • 1 tbsp. Tamari
  • Salt & Pepper, to taste
  • Vegetable Stock, as needed
  • Taco Shells, as needed

DIRECTIONS

  1. Rinse and chop the produce accordingly.  Preheat your oven to 400˚F.  Line 1 baking tray.
  2. Make the potatoes.  Toss sweet potatoes in garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, cumin, salt, pepper, and 1 tsp. olive oil.  Roast for 25-30 minutes, until tender, tossing halfway.
  3. Make the beans.  Set a skillet to medium heat.  Once hot, add red onion and garlic.  Cook until onion is translucent.  Then, add beans, and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add spices, and toss to combine.  Remove from heat and set aside for plating.
  4. Warm the tortillas.  Place each tortilla on an open flame and grill for 30 seconds per side.
  5. Plate tacos and serve with lime wedges.  Serve with slaw, hot sauce, and guacamole. Enjoy!

Is it All About Calories?

This one hits close to home. This is a topic that I have been around really my entire life to this point.

I am so passionate about this topic that not only is there an 11-minute YouTube video on this, Dr. Kali and I decided to do a 6-PART podcast series on weight loss and other factors that going into it besides counting calories.

You can find that on iTunes here, or wherever else you listen to The Art of Eating.

But this episode is a great place to start:

Also, feel free to check out my live cooking classes here!

We’ve all heard it before, no doubt: eat less and exercise more. You will burn more calories and lose weight.

Many doctors and experts cite the dramatic weight-gain epidemic as being due to simply consuming more food and being less active as a whole.

On the face of it, it seems hard to dispel: people gain weight because they consume more calories than they burn off. After all, a calorie is a calorie, right?

Today, we take a look at all the factors that led to how this mantra came to be, and more importantly, is it useful?

How to Live Longer and Healthier: The 5 Pillars of Health

In this episode, we discuss the foundation for longevity, which consists of five basic pillars of health.

The five pillars consist of Nutrition, Stress, Sleep, Physical Activity, and Psychosocial Health.

In order to live optimally and function at our best as we age, we should aim to address and improve each of the of these pillars going forward.

If these seems overwhelming, don’t worry! This is a lifelong journey. It is impossible to make all these changes today.

Instead, use this time to simply identify which pillars can be improved upon and start there.

In the upcoming videos, we will break down each of these pillars specifically, and highlight ways to improve upon them.

The first step is identifying what can be improved upon, and that is half the battle! So stay tuned! I’m excited to be a part of your health journey!

The HPA Axis and the Stress Response

Stress can come in many different forms.  Yes, there are some obvious forms of stress: being fired from a job, divorce, a cancer diagnosis, and death of a family member are obviously incredibly stressful events.  However, positive events, like a wedding, promotion, or a birth of a child can be stressful too.  There is a large spectrum in which stress can lie. 

Physical or emotional stress can threaten homeostasis.  Homeostasis is the body’s ability to maintain or reach equilibrium, or balance.  Whether we know it or not, the body is constantly responding to external and internal stimuli, including stress, to reach and eventually maintain homeostasis.  Reaching this balance allows us to function at our best, increasing our chances of survival.

Luckily, we each have a variety of mechanisms in place to help manage and respond to stressors. All our systems, from cardiovascular, to endocrine, to neurological, to immune, to digestive, so on and so forth, help us maintain this balance known as homeostasis.  These mechanisms collectively are known as the “stress response.”

Stress helps us deal with acute situations, like meeting a deadline or running from a sabertooth tiger, more effectively.  However, it can become dangerous when we expose ourselves to constant acute stressors, or chronic stress.  These can cause an overload, and it compromises both our ability to handle stress and our overall health.

Added stress can play a role in many chronic disease processes.  There are studies that suggest continuous stress can play a role in the development and proliferation of disease

Increased stress on the body means increased levels of cortisol.  Cortisol is the main stress hormone in the body, which is necessary in certain situations.  However, problems can arise when there is too much cortisol!  Excess cortisol can lead to carbohydrate cravings, particularly high-sugar carbohydrates, and can turn into storing fat around the midsection.  In other words, you can gain weight due to stress even if you are eating the same amount of food!

Some stressors that can lead to a chronically elevated stress response include:

  • Poor sleep
  • Poor nutrition (including crash dieting)
  • Stressful experiences
  • Environmental toxins
  • Toxin exposure (fragrances, makeup, pesticide usage, molds, etc.)
  • Surgery
  • Adverse childhood events
  • Reliance on stimulants, like energy drinks or caffeine
  • Negative attitude/mood
  • Pain
  • Food sensitivities
  • Prolonged exposure to stressors (poor relationships, financial stress, etc.)

In order to help improve stress-related concerns, it is important to understand how the body regulates the stress response with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, or the HPA axis.

https://embryology.med.unsw.edu.au/embryology/index.php%3Ftitle%3DFile:HPA_axis.jpg&rct

The HPA axis is responsible for the production of cortisol, and other steroid hormones.  It consists of the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland (the anterior portion), and the adrenal gland.  Proper function of the HPA axis relies on all the components of the axis working and communicating effectively.  This allows us to reach and maintain homeostasis and regulate cortisol levels.  They are managed by a series of feedback loops.

The mechanisms that make the HPA axis work are the same for everyone, but how they function can vary.  A variety of factors can affect how well the HPA axis functions, including neurotransmitter activity, environmental factors, genetic variations, stressful events early in childhood, and overall day-to-day stress levels.

When we are exposed to a stressor, the hypothalamus releases corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF, also known as corticotropin-releasing hormone, CRH).  When CRF binds to the anterior pituitary gland, adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) is released.  When ACTH binds to the adrenal cortex (part of the adrenal glands), it releases cortisol into the bloodstream. 

Once the bloodstream is concentrated with enough cortisol, cortisol exerts a negative feedback effect on both the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, slowing the release of CRF and ACTH respectively.  This is how the body maintains homeostasis via the stress response.

Normally, exposure to cortisol is short and effective, as the stress response is able to do its job and regulate itself.

However, when we are repeatedly exposed to stressors, the negative feedback loops begin to malfunction, meaning cortisol levels can become chronically high.  Therefore, it is crucial to support healthy cortisol release and maintain the sensitivity of the hypothalamus and pituitary glands. 

In terms of supplements, there are a few options that can be helpful in addressing stress and sleep issues, including lavender, kava, passionflower, and valerian.   Adaptogenic herbs, like ashwaganda, holy basil, and rhodiola are great for addressing the stress response overall.  These are all slightly different, and have different side effects, so try them and see which one works best for you.

In addition, there are other practices you can employ to help regulate the stress response:

Practice meditation. Try to recall times you felt loved and appreciated.  Reflect on them.  Recall how you felt when you were loved and appreciated at that time.  Look back on this at least once a week, and cherish the times you were happy with others.  Reflecting will help you appreciate all the great people and moments you have had in your life.

Relax and let go.  Life is hectic nowadays, and there’s not much you can do to avoid all the commotion.  Even when you might think you are relaxed, other things might be on your mind.  Things like work, family, friends, and other commitments tend to creep back in.  Do yourself a favor and allow yourself some time to really unplug.  Ditch the cellphone, computer, and TV completely for a bit.  Even if it just for five minutes a day, make sure you spend it completely free of distractions. 

Find your creative side.  Having a creative outlet gives you a method of self-expression you would not otherwise have.  Find something you truly enjoy, and explore your own methods of creativity. 

Focus on your breathing.  Try breathing only through your nose slowly and steadily into your abdomen.  Monitor if you snore, yawn, or mouth-breathe, and make an effort to consciously change this.  When people are stressed out, they tend to breathe at a faster and more shallow rate.  You should be taking slow, deep breaths into your belly.  This is a fantastic way to relieve stress and can help you think more clearly.

Monitor your sex life.  Believe it or not, your libido can be affected by your overall health.  There are many studies out there that point to the correlation between heart disease and diabetes with erectile dysfunction (ED) in men, for example.  Research indicates oxytocin, which is a hormone that is released after orgasm and other intimate acts (cuddling, holding hands, simple touch), has soothing qualities and can uplift your mood.

Reduce your usage of social media.  While it may not seem like it, social media is more likely stressing you out than calming you down.  Stress levels go up when you are on social media for a few reasons. 

First off is the blue light exposure, which is more of an issue when scrolling through social media or favorite news outlets at night.  Secondly, you may get into arguments, fights, or read upsetting posts without another means to process your information.  It is fine to go on your social media once or twice per day. 

Use this time instead to actually spend time your friends and family in real life.  This is a great way to reduce stress levels, as you will gain a sense of security and connectedness with people in the real world. 

Environmental stresses are a major issue as well.  From the air we breathe to the water we drink, there is simply no way to avoid all the toxins we are exposed to on a daily basis.  However, we can take steps to minimize our exposure and lessen the burden on the liver and our detoxification pathways.  Here are some simple changes you can make to lessen this burden:

Use a water filter.  Bottled water is harmful for the environment and is usually of poor quality following the packaging and shipping process.  Bottled water companies do not have disclose where their water comes from, or what materials are used in making the bottles themselves!  Additionally, a shower water filter can also be helpful.  Shower filters will remove all the chlorine from your water.  Chlorine can be harmful to your skin, lungs, and hair.  You will be surprised how quickly you will feel the difference in your skin and hair once you install one of these filters.  You can find out what is in your tap water by going to https://www.ewg.org/tapwater/ and plugging in your zip code.

Clean your air ducts and furnace filters.  These should be cleaned at least every two years, as build up can lead to toxins in your air supply. 

Avoid herbicides, pesticides, and insecticides.  These products kill soils, deplete nutrient stores, and are everywhere nowadays.  They are in our food, workplaces, schools, backyards, parks, the list goes on.  You can begin by making changes in your own home.  Weeds and other lawn invaders can be killed with a vinegar-water solution.  Healthier soils lead to healthier plants. 

It is almost impossible to eliminate all stress for good, but there are a variety of strategies that can put into place to help minimize the stress in our lives and improve our ability to cope with it.  Stressors in our life trigger stress responses in the body, and these can disrupt normal balances.  By employing some of the strategies outlined above, you can help normalize the HPA access and the stress response overall.

Disclaimer

Though based in research, personal, and clinical experience, the opinions in this article should not be taken as medical advice. The information is designed for educational purposes only and is not designed to diagnose, treat, or cure disease.  Botanical medicine and nutraceuticals should be treated with the same caution and care as pharmaceuticals, as both have the potential for strong, potentially adverse effects and allergic reactions. Please consult a trained, licensed health care practitioner before proceeding.  Neither the publisher nor the author takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person reading or following the information in this book. All readers, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition or supplement program.

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How to Combat Chronic Inflammation

The funny thing with chronic inflammation is you might not feel anything developing until it becomes a full-blown, obvious disease. Chronic inflammation is a major contributor to a variety of major diseases we see today, like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.


The reason chronic inflammation is not too obvious initially is because individual cells are damaged in the process. When healthy, properly-functioning cells become dysfunctional, it leads to inflammation.

The term “inflammation” is often generalized, and refers to an immune system reaction to a stimulus. Our immune systems tag foreign invaders as “non-self” bodies. The cells responsible for tagging these foreign bodies are the “scouts” of the immune system, known as macrophages and dendritic cells. They are responsible for identifying antigens (foreign bodies), and sending messages back to the rest of the immune system, informing them about what is going on. This promotes activity within the immune system allowing for a planned, organized attack.


When we are injured, say a cut for example, the local area becomes inflamed for a short period of time to prevent excess loss of blood. This then activates a cascade to form a clot to protect the area from the outside world and loss of more blood. Inflammation is useful as a reaction to an infection to either destroy the pathogen or flush it out. In acute situations, inflammation is a useful tool in response to invaders or wounds.


The immune system isn’t involved in acute situations exclusively. When chronically low levels of inflammation are present, it leads to a variety of issues. These can include diabetes, cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, kidney disease, inflammatory bowel disease, depression, heart disease, hypertension, and more.


A state of chronic inflammation lessens our ability to function properly at the cellular level. This is precisely why chronic inflammation can affect so many different body systems and organs. Therefore, when it comes to alleviating any of these conditions, addressing inflammation is the pivotal first step.


Consume Healing, Anti-Inflammatory Foods

The best place to start is with what you are eating. Unfortunately, today we live in a world where there is no shortage of food options, but many of them happen to be questionable or even detrimental to our health. Instead, the goal to should be to consume minimally processed, organic foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. These basics give you these baseline of where to get started: https://youtu.be/D3KDJ20yBls


Unfortunately, with the widespread use of pesticides, genetically-modified (GMO) crops, and runoff, our food supply can contain a great deal of toxic compounds. While it is almost impossible to eliminate toxin exposure completely, there are definitely things you can do to limit your exposure and take some of the toxic burden off your body.


Food sensitivities play a key role as well. Please note that these are different from food allergies. Food allergies are obvious, outright negative reactions to certain foods, like peanuts or gluten, that can be life-threatening. Food sensitivities, on the other hand, are much subtler, but mediate inflammatory reaction in the gut and body. Regularly consuming these foods can harm the gut lining and trigger immune responses that can affect other areas. Food sensitivities are incredibly common in those who suffer from an autoimmune disorder, have leaky gut syndrome, IBS, or other inflammatory disorders.


Limit Toxic Exposure from Other Sources

Focusing on the list outlined above is a great place to start when it comes to food. It is really important to stress the focus on organic produce, pasture-raised meats, and healthy fats. These foods will be the most nutrient-dense and contain the most anti-inflammatory compounds. By contrast, for example, congenitally raised animal products are usually loaded with pro-inflammatory compounds like omega-6 fatty acids and can even contain pesticide and antibiotic residues.

Additionally, you could do yourself a great service by checking your water supply. Depending on where you are getting your water from, your drinking water might also contain toxic chemicals, chlorine, fluoride, radioactive substances, heavy metals (like lead), and/or a diverse cocktail of synthetic chemicals. Some city water supplies might even contain trace amounts of prescription medications!


The skin is the largest organ of the human body, yet many of us pay little attention to the things we come into contact with on a daily basis. We knowingly or unknowingly expose ourselves to a variety of toxins on a daily basis. Why is this a problem? For starters, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has identified over 5,000 different chemicals found in cosmetic products. Luckily, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has a database, known as Skin Deep. You can check the safety of over 78,000 products and their ingredient lists, which can be a valuable tool going forward. They constantly update their lists, so be sure to check back from time to time.


We are exposed to toxins from a variety of different sources, as you can see. Once toxins enter our bodies, there are generally two different routes they can go, and which route they take is dependent on our ability to process and eliminate them effectively or not. The more toxins we exposure ourselves to, the less likely we are to process them effectively. When toxins are not eliminated, they end up getting stored in body tissues. The primary destination for storage tends to be body fat.


Along with choosing the right foods and limiting toxic exposure, there are some other things to keep in throughout this process.


Drink Enough Water

The first thing to address is water intake. Consuming adequate amounts of water is crucial in aiding in the body’s ability to flush toxins out. Urine, after all, is one of the primary ways we get rid of waste products. Sources go as far as to recommend the amount of water needed per day is equal to half your body weight in fluid ounces. In other words, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should drink 75 fluid ounces of water daily. This is the goal you should be shooting for.


Move Around Often

Being physically active and getting regular exercise is important when addressing chronic inflammation. The lymphatic system, the body’s sewage system, actually requires movement (muscle contraction) to pump lymph through the body. Physical activity improves lymph flow, cardiovascular health, respiratory health, and allows us to expel more toxins via sweat. Moving often also releases endorphins- or chemicals in the brain- responsible for a happier mood, and promotes creation of new blood vessels in the brain (especially the part responsible for memory and coordination).


Address Emotional Stress

While it might not be (and usually is not) the first thing addressed when we talk about oxidative stress and inflammation, emotional and mental stress can have a massive impact. You can find out more information on how you can improve sleep habits and stress levels here: https://insideouthealthwellness.com/pillar-3-addressing-sleep-deprivation-how-to-sleep-better/ .


Targeted Supplementation

If you incorporate the lifestyle strategies outlined above, you can effectively lighten the toxic load o the body, and keep it away over time. Sometimes, support is needed, and certain supplements can be incredibly effective in enhancing the process.

For more information on what options might be best for you, check out this video:

https://youtu.be/Q3GxtDFRpdM


Sources:


Aggarwal BB, Van Kuiken EE, Iyer EI, Harikumar KB, Sung B. “Molecular Targets of Nutraceuticals Derived from Dietary Spices: Potential Role in Suppression of Inflammation and Tumorigenesis.” Experimental Biology and Medicine. 2009. 234(8):825–49.

Blum C et al. “Low-Grade Inflammation and Estimates of Insulin Resistance During the Menstrual Cycle in Lean and Overweight Women.” Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2005. 90(6):3230-35.


Carvalho BM, Saad MJ. “Influence of Gut Microbiota on Subclinical Inflammation and Insulin Resistance.” Mediators Inflamm. 2013. 2013: 986734.


Fasano, A. (2012). Leaky gut and autoimmune diseases. Clinical Reviews in Allergy and Immunology, 42(1), 71–78. PMID: 22109896
Jin C Flavell RA. “Innate Sensors of Pathogen and Stress: Linking Inflammation to Obesity.” J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2013. 132(2):287–294.


Teodorczyk-Injeyan, J. A., Injeyan, H. S., & Ruegg, R. (2006). Spinal manipulative therapy reduces inflammatory cytokines but not substance P production in normal subjects. In Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics (Vol. 29, pp. 14–21). PMID: 16396725 Ross MR. “Chronic Inflammation: Rocking the Medical World.” Health Matters Monthly Supplemental Report, fall issue. 2004.


Semba RD, Houston DK, Ferrucci L, et al. “Low Serum Hydroxyvitamin D Concentrations Are Associated with Greater All-Cause Mortality in Older Community-Dwelling Women.” Nutrition Research. 2009. 29(8):525-535.


Slavich, G. M., & Irwin, M. R. (2014). From stress to inflammation and major depressive disorder: A social signal transduction theory of depression. Psychological Bulletin, 140(3), 774–815.


Disclaimer

Though based in research, personal, and clinical experience, the opinions in this article should not be taken as medical advice. The information is designed for educational purposes only and is not designed to diagnose, treat, or cure disease.Botanical medicine and nutraceuticals should be treated with the same caution and care as pharmaceuticals, as both have the potential for strong, potentially adverse effects and allergic reactions. Please consult a trained, licensed health care practitioner before proceeding.