Flaxseeds: A Hormonal Powerhouse

After taking some time to think long and hard about what is best to share via social media and the Savage Standard blog, I am starting a series on small POWERHOUSE additions that will benefit {MOST} women regardless of the life stage they are in. Trying to balance hormones, trying to have a baby, or trying to recover after said baby (maybe even years later), I want to encourage the inclusion of SUPERFOODS, if you will. The focus should be on the power of whole foods and how to get them in on a regular basis. Let’s not dwell on what is off limits or bad or how we are not measuring up. Just small, little grocery store items to add to the list that make you feel like super woman.


First up, FLAXSEEDS. These little guys are packed with vitamin E, a healthy dose of your omega fatty acids (caveat: they are not a source of DHA), and a compound called lignans. Lignans have antioxidant and phytoestrogen compounds which assist in healthy gut flora as well has balancing estrogen levels. While, I could write a term paper on their benefits, here are the top 4 for women:

Benefit 1: Stress hormones, which can completely cause chaos to overall hormonal balance, have been shown to be reduced by flaxseeds. Research has related that the intake of flax can decrease stress hormones, such as cortisol, as well as overall perceived level of stress.

Benefit 2: Studies have shown that flaxseeds aid in a woman ovulating during EACH menstrual cycle. If trying to conceive, ensuring ovulation happens each month is critical. If not trying to make a baby, releasing an egg every cycle is still very important for hormonal production.

Benefit 3: With its high fiber content, these seeds help to reduce excess estrogen in circulation. Reducing unwanted estrogen in conjunction with ensuring ovulation occurs promotes balance with progesterone to estrogen ratios.

Benefit 4: The powerhouse seed has been related to lower hemoglobin A1C levels. If struggling with PCOS, controlling blood sugar levels is very important in reducing symptoms and managing the disease.


Lets Game Plan:

Aim to get 1 to 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds per day.

Considering either buying whole flaxseeds and grinding yourself OR storing pre-ground flaxseeds in the refrigerator. The fats in the seeds go rancid very quickly which means money down the drain.

Add ground flax to smoothies, cold cereals, soups, or stews. Sprinkle them on top of salads or baked casseroles for a nutty crunch.

A personal favorite is to add a tablespoon on top of Ezekiel Sprouted Grain Cereal, served with a nut milk and sliced bananas.

SIMPLE BANANA FLAX BREAD: Mash 4 very ripe bananas in a bowl. Add ¾ cup coconut flour, 5 beaten eggs, ¼ cup coconut sugar, 3 tablespoons ground flax seeds (or flax meal), 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon baking soda, ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Pour the batter into a lined loaf pan, top with ¼ to ½ cup chopped walnuts (depending on liking) and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 50 minutes. Allow to cool before slicing and store in fridge.

PROTEIN: A NON-NEGOTIABLE DURING PREGNANCY

Protein, especially meat, has gotten a pretty bad rap in the last decade in the mainstream wellness community. Meatless Monday, anyone? However, no one can deny the necessity of protein, especially in pregnancy. From building co-enzymes, hormones, immune cells, and blood cells to maintaining and growing muscles cells which turn on the metabolic fire, protein is an ABSOLUTE necessity during any time in a woman’s life. Growing a baby on top of the everyday maintenance pushes the protein needs up and up throughout the duration of the 40 (LONG) weeks. After all, those sweet baby fingers and toes are built by the nutrition that momma takes in through her food and via her previous nutritional stores.

When building a baby, protein should symbolize the BRICKS that layer upon layer make up a healthy baby. These protein bricks are made up of amino acids that each play a specific role in a developing fetus. One specific but very important example is Glycine. This acid is an important during pregnancy as it becomes conditionally essential. This means that one must take glycine in through food in order to meet maternal and fetal needs. Glycine is important for mom’s stretching skin and uterus as well as the both mom and baby’s circulatory system and methylation processes. Secondly, protein rich foods generally contain the rich sources of micronutrients. These micronutrients include iron, zinc, vitamin B12, choline, and DHA. All of which are critical for brain, nervous system, and immune systems. Lastly, protein intake ensures hormonal balance through insulin levels and sugar metabolism. Just as the branches of government balance one another (well hopefully), the macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, and fats) have a yin and yang effect on hormones. And, trust me, balancing hormones throughout pregnancy really helps with mood swings and energy levels.

New evidence over the past few years has brought to light the increasing requirements for protein during pregnancy and the need to update current standards. The current recommendation set by the Institute of Medicine states that 0.88 grams per kilogram during early pregnancy and 1.1 grams per kilogram during later stages of pregnancy as the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA). In every day terms, this looks like 60 to 75 grams daily for an 150 pound woman. In 2015 and 2016 separate studies, researchers concluded that the protein needs of the average women were actually 1.2 grams per day during early gestation and 1.52 grams per day in later stages. This puts actually protein estimate needs up to approximately 80 to 100 grams per day. That is a substantial difference!

Prioritizing Protein During the Day: Here are a few tips and tricks to ensure mom is getting enough in for both herself and baby.


The PLATE METHOD WORKS! During a meal fill ¼ (25%) of your plate, bowl, or whatever vessel you choose with these guys. This is an easy way to get to your 80 to 100 grams of protein without doing all that MATH. Eating should be fun!


Use the following protein LIST as a resources to gain ideas, meal plan, and shop.

  • Grass-fed beef, cut or ground
  • Grass-fed lamb, cut or ground
  • Grass-fed beef liver or pasture-raised, organic chicken liver (include 1 to 2 times per month)
  • Pasture-raised eggs
  • Pasture-raised chicken: breast, thighs, wings, or freshly ground
  • Wild-caught fish: flounder, trout
  • Anchovies
  • Wild-caught salmon
  • Pastured-raised pork: cut or freshly ground
  • Wild-caught shell fish: shrimp, clams
  • Wild-caught scallops
  • Organic chicken, turkey sausage (Applegate is my favorite brand)
  • Protein Powders: Collagen, Grass-fed whey
  • Greek Yogurt: Grass-fed if possible, watch out for added sugars
  • Nuts and seeds

A few pregnancy all stars that are worth double checking your meal plan to include:

Eggs

Salmon

Liver (only 1 to 2 times per month)

Collagen Powder

 


Here is a sample menu for including 80 – 100 grams of protein.

Breakfast:

2 -3 eggs cooked in ½ to 1 tablespoons of grass-fed butter; 1 slice of sourdough topped with ¼ to ½ mashed avocado and sprinkled with sea salt; ½ cup berries; 1 glass of cow’s milk or higher protein vegan milk.

Lunch:

3 – 4 ounces canned salmon; 2 cups spinach; 1 cup chopped bell pepper; ¼ cup sunflower seeds; 2 tablespoons full fat dressing

Dinner:

3 – 4 ounces pull pork; ¼ cup coleslaw; 1 cup roasted broccoli; ½ cup roasted new potatoes; 2 tablespoons BBQ sauce

Snacks: (Optional)

½ cup Greek yogurt topped with berries and nuts

Beef jerky with carrot sticks

 


Animal sources (meat, poultry, and fish) are rock stars for pregnancy: I believe the break down between those who have it out for meat and those who praise meat (and eat WAY too much of it) happens when we forget to think about QUALITY and SOURCE of meat.  Quality protein is one that is wild and NOT injected with human-made chemicals or antibiotics, having non-natural feeding patterns, or other toxic breeding or producing factors. No doubt that the price tag of these boys is a bit higher; but I guarantee that it is worth it. Unfortunately, access to high quality meats is hard to come by in certain parts of the country. However, you now can have grassfed beef and organic chicken delivered to your front door. I recommend a company called Butcher Box. Find them at www.butcherbox.com. I also recommend Thrive Market for their protein boxes. Thrive has a ton of great products in their online store as well! Find them at www.thrivemarket.com.

 


What to do on days when eating feels impossible? I wish I could ask the answer was simple; however, some days it is just not going to be easy. I recommend eating smaller amounts of food spread throughout the day. Try to prioritize higher protein foods when feeling hungry. Utilize collagen powders in teas and other beverages as well as bone broths. Both are great sources of glycine and generally more tolerable on uneasy stomachs.

 


The SIMPLIFIED Savage Solution:

Aim to include approximately 80 grams per day during the first half of pregnancy and 100 grams in the second half as needs increase as the baby grows. Source of protein matters. Look for meat that is labeled “grass-fed” if possible as it ups the omega-3 ratio. Organic poultry and pork are preferable. Watch out for sources and types of fish as mercury levels can buildup and become toxic to baby. 

 


Resources:

Elango, & Rajavel & Ball, R. (2016, July 11). Protein and Amino Acid Requirements during Pregnancy. Retrieved from Advanced Nutrition.

Nichols, L. (2018). Real Food for Pregnancy.USA: Lily Nicholas.

Stephens, T., Payne, M., Ball, R., Pencharz, P., & Elango, R. (2015). Protein Requirements of Healthy Pregnant Women during Early and Late Gestation Are Higher than Current Recommendations. The Journal of Nutrition, 73-78.

 

New Food Rules: VEG OUT

Many people ask me, what do I need to do to be healthier? “Well… That depends… Healthy is such a relative term.” The answer is SO different for each person. Nonetheless, there is one universal piece of advice I give to absolutely everyone without fail: INCREASE your non-starchy VEGGIES DAILY.

 

Non-starchy veggies are loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and phytochemicals. They help you feel full and satisfied. They are very low in sugar, fat, and calories. Veggies enhance pretty much every body system from the circulatory to the skin.

Two distinct points to make with this (not so new) food rule. First, I did not say eat more FRUIT and veggies. I left all off the fruit apart of the usual phrase for a reason. Fruit is a very nutritious part of any diet; however, 2 servings per day is ENOUGH. Fruit is composed of vitamins, fiber, and yes sugar. More is not necessarily better with the sugary goodness.

Secondly, add more veggies of the NON-STARCHY type. Corn, peas, and potatoes are all examples of starchy vegetables. Just like with fruit, the main components of starchy vegs are vitamins, minerals, fiber, and carbohydrates (which triggers an insulin spike.) Not to say that these types of foods are bad, we just do need more than 2 – 3 servings per day of them.

More than likely, you knew the WHYS to consume veggies more often. But actually getting the goodness from the frig to your mouth is much harder. Here are 3 tips to making it work.

 

Prep Your Fridge: When prepping a quick lunch or going for a speedy snack, a head of cauliflower or whole carrots are not going to make the cut. In the moment, bringing out the cutting board and breaking down the item will just not happen. Especially when crackers or chips are much easier to grab. Instead make it your intention to cut each veg right after you purchase your stash. You will be surprised how much more appealing a strip of bell pepper or a wedge of zucchini are when they are bit sized and ready to go!

carrots and broccoli pic 2cut carrots and broccoli pic

 

Make a Tasty Dip: Let’s face it… raw veggies are not that punch of flavor that your favorite chips might be. Why not change this fact? Explore different sauces, dips, or hummus recipes that get you excited about the afternoon snack time.

carrots and broccoli pic

Here is one of my personal and recent favorites:

Ian’s GrIans Green Dressingeen Dressing

One big handful of basil | One handful of           parsley | 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard | 2 – 3 squeezed lemons | 1 ½ cups extra virgin olive oil |     2 – 3 cloves of garlic | Salt and pepper to taste

Blend all ingredients together. Enjoy! (NOTE: For a thicker version, sub half of an avocado for ½ cup of oil. Or try MCT oil instead of olive oil.)

 

 

Blend it Up: Have an “easy-out” on hand on those days that you just cannot seem to fit it all in. There are many brands of “green powders” on the market that you can add to either a full smoothie, a vegan milk, or even just water. I encourage purchasing a few different sample packs to do a bit of taste testing. Watch out for artificial sweeteners, added sugars, and preservatives. Vega One is currently the brand in my diet routine.

Vega One Mix Pic

Let’s Supper: 9th Edition!

The holiday season brings a ton of EXTRAS to the to-do list. De-stress with a comforting, nutritious, and simple meal at home.  *Note: All recipes serve 4.

Supper 1:

Squash & Sweet Potato Soup

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle olive oil over roughly chopped butternut squash (1 – 2 pounds), 2 small sweet potatoes, and 1 yellow onion on baking sheet. Season with a tablespoon curry powder, teaspoon cinnamon, teaspoon nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Roast for 30 – 40 minutes until lightly brown and tender. Transfer veggies to deep stock pot over with 1 – 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Begin to mash veggies to release flavor. Add 2 cups of low sodium, veggie broth and 1 cartoon of culinary coconut cream. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes before blending with immersion blender or stand blender. Transfer back to stock pot and bring back to simmer. Option to add toasted and buttered, gluten free bread on side. (I prefer “Food for Life” flax and rice gluten free bread).

Supper 2:

Kale & Cabbage Salad with Rotisserie Chicken

In a large serving bowl, add shredded bunch of kale and 1 head of cabbage. Massage 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of salt to greens for 2 minutes. Set aside to allow oil to soften greens. Combine 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of salt and pepper in small bowl before whisking in 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Add shredded rotisserie (organic if possible) chicken to greens with diced Fuji apples and crumbled goat cheese. Drizzle dressing over salad and toss to coat. Add salt and pepper for finishing.

 Supper 3:

Pork Chops with Roasted Carrots & Greens

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut 12 carrots into 1 – 2 inch slices. Toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon raw honey, salt, and pepper. Transfer to sheet pan and roast for 20 minutes. Season pork chops with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a sprinkle of curry powder. In cast iron skillet, cook chops for 1 – 2 minutes on each side. Place 1 pat of butter on each chop before placing in oven for 5 – 10 more minutes (depends on thickness of chop and temperature preference.) At the end of pork chop and carrot cooking, sauté 2 bags/bunches of spinach in 1 – 2 tablespoons of olive oil and chopped garlic. Season spinach with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Plate pork chop, carrots, and greens as soon as spinach is wilted.

Supper 4:

Sausage and Brussel Sprouts

In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon and add large diced yellow onions. Once onions are softened, add 1 package of diced chicken and apple sausage. Allow to heat through before adding 1 pound, halved Brussels sprouts. Season with salt and pepper, and stir to incorporate. Pour 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and 1 cup of chicken broth to pan. Cover and allow sprouts to steam for 8 minutes or until tender. Uncover and add 2 – 3 sliced apples to pan. Stir again to combine. Once apples are tender, the dish is ready to serve.

 

Grocery List:

Produce:

1 large sweet potato (or 2 small)

1 medium butternut squash

2 onion, yellow

1 bunch lacinato kale

1 head cabbage

1 lemon

4 Fuji apples

12 carrots

2 bunches/bag spinach

Garlic

1 bunch/1 pound Brussel sprouts

 

Protein:

1 rotisserie, store bought chicken (organic is preferable)

4 small pork chops

1 package apple chicken sausage (I like Applegate brand.)

 

Cold/Diary:

Butter (unsalted, grass-fed)

1 round goat cheese (grass fed, if available)

 

Pantry:

Extra-virgin olive oil

1 carton of culinary coconut milk

Vegetable broth, low sodium

Chicken broth, low sodium

Apple cider vinegar

Maple syrup, grade A or B

Raw honey

Dried herbs: Curry powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, red pepper flakes

 

 

Food For Thought: Grass-fed Craze

Grass-fed has become a huge buzz term in the health arena. Here is a amazing video from the Weston A. Price foundation explaining not only why eating grass fed is important for our health but also why is important from an agricultural stance.

Remember, every grocery store visit or meal ordered is a vote you have to influence farmers, distributors, big food companies, and restaurants. The buying power is a very effective tool to help change how our food is produced to how much it cost.

All Health Begins in the Gut

All health begins in the gut… Wait, what?!? In the traditional sense, most of us think that the stomach as having one function of getting our food where it needs to go. Instead of taking the gut for granted, we need to recognize it as a vital role for both the WHOLE body.

 

Many in the health arena are coining the term of Gut-Brain. There is a close collaboration between the gut and brain in order to maintain both physical and mental health. Our nervous system is tightly integrated into the stomach with almost 100,000,000 neurons (this is as many neurons in the spinal cord) in the stomach lining. These neurons ensure that our food is digested, our IMMUNE system is regulated, and our brain is informed about nutritional status, inflammation, and stress.

So, the gut is a big deal. How do we keep it healthy? One answer: Nurture our bacteria. Our guts house 100 TRILLION bacteria. I’m going to let this Ted Talk scientist give a vivid picture of the impact of these microbes.

For your gut microbes, diversity is good! Low microbial diversity, or dysbiosis,  is associated with inflammation, metabolic syndrome, and the presence of disease causing bad bacteria. Healthy individuals’ microbes have also been shown to produce more fatty acids to aid in weight management. To top if off, dysbiosis is associated with inflammatory bowel disease or syndrome.

The Savage Solution:

Each fermented, probiotic foods such as grass-fed cow-milk yogurt, goat’s milk yogurt, kefir, komucha tea, saucerkraut, pickles (check label for additives), or raw cheeses. Include a serving or two of these foods every day.

Supplement with a quality probiotic. Look for a high number of probiotic stands (15 billion to 100 billion) and over 10 different strands. Also be sure to check the expiration date on the bottle. (If taking a probiotic for a specific purpose, be sure to research what best strains to consume.)

Avoid the overuse of antibiotics in both medicine and food supply (ie antibiotics in meats).

Avoid the overuse of such medications as antacids, steroids, acid blockers, and birth control.

Avoid excess processed sugar in your diet.

Asian Spiced Chicken with Root Vegetables

Combining Asian spices with fall friendly root vegetables is a twist on the usual side dish. Trust me, this will be a go to veggie dish to pair with any meat. Chicken goes nicely here but pork would be an tasty sub.

Ingredients

4 bone-in chicken breast (organic, if possible)

1 tablespoon garlic powder

2 tablespoons yellow curry powder

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 large turnips, large dice

3 medium parsnips, large dice

6 medium carrots, large dice

10 small golden beets (or 2 large), large dice

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoons dried thyme

1 tablespoon dried rosemary

1/2 tablespoon dried sage powder

2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar

3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce (or tamari for gluten free option)

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix spices for chicken rub (garlic, curry, chili powder, plus salt and pepper to taste). Drizzle chicken breast with olive oil and rub spice mixture on each piece. Place on baking sheet and cook for 35 to 45 minutes (depending on oven).

While chicken is cooking, bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the diced turnips and parsnips to the water and cook for 2 minutes. Using large spoon, transfer the turnips and parsnips to baking sheet. Continue with carrots in boiling water for 2 minutes followed by beets for 5 minutes.

Season the vegetables with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, thyme, rosemary, and sage. In the same oven, cook the veggie mixture for 25 minutes.

Once slightly browned, remove the vegetables. In small bowl, combine white vinegar and soy sauce. Drizzle with over the vegetables and taste for any needed salt and pepper.

Fill over 1/2 of plate with veggies and a side of chicken for a great Savage Standard portioned plate!

(Note: Some bone-in chicken breast may be larger than protein need. Cutting in half is always an option! Save for lunch!)