Ever Thought About Going Vegetarian?

Tips for Going Vegetarian

There’s Vegetarian. And there’s Vegan. Related, yet different. Both diets eliminate meat, fish, and poultry. Vegans don’t eat any dairy, eggs, or other products derived from animals. Sub-types of vegetarianism, however, make exceptions for certain animal products:
  • Lacto-ovo-vegetarians eat both dairy products and eggs.
  • Lacto-vegetarians eat dairy products but avoid eggs.
  • Ovo-vegetarians eat eggs but not dairy products.
Whatever your reason for choosing this dietary path – your health, concerns for the environment, or for spiritual reasons (or a combination of these reasons) – be aware of common mistakes that can adversely affect your health. Understanding these pitfalls can help you maintain a nutritionally sound vegan or vegetarian diet:
Consuming too much fruit sugar. Fruit is an important part of any healthy diet, but consuming too much fruit sugar on a daily basis can have a detrimental effect on blood sugar. Also, fruits alone fail to provide the diversity of nutrients a body needs to thrive. Balance fruit intake with veggies, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
Lacking dietary variety. Being a creature of habit, or being afraid to try new foods or recipes, can leave your diet deficient in nutrients, and your taste buds in a sorry state. You’ll have food cravings, hunger pains, and might just give up on vegetarianism. Follow those famous Dr. Seuss characters’ advice: Try New Things; You Might Like Them!
Tipping the carb scale in the wrong direction. With so many convenience foods for vegetarians, it’s easy to get tricked into thinking you’re making a healthy choice by selecting “fortified with (fill in the blank)” products over fresh foods. Many of those products are loaded with hidden sugars and sodium. Get complex carbs and grains from whole, organic food sources such as barley, wheat, rye, millet, flax. Buy dried berries and nuts without added sugar or salt.
Mismanaging your protein. Folks new to vegetarianism don’t properly combine foods to provide sufficient amounts of complete protein for their age and activity level. Many people wind up relying on protein shakes, which is not the ideal way to obtain protein. Most of your protein should come from whole, real, fresh foods.
Dr. Myra Reed or health coach, Brooke,  can help you establish good, flavorful meal planning strategies.
Both vegetarians and vegans need to pay attention to the intake of nutrients lost by omitting meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. As noted above, “fortified with” foods aren’t the best because the nutrients aren’t in the most bio-available state for the body to utilize. The nutrients most commonly lacking in vegan/vegetarian diets are:
  • B vitamins, particularly B12 and B6
  • Calcium
  • Iron, Zinc and Selenium

To track your nutritional intake, try this awesome program: cronometer.com. It has both free and paid account options. To understand your nutrient needs and assess risk for deficiency, see Dr. Myra Reed for a nutrient assessment test (details below). This simple blood test indicates if deficiencies are present and need to be corrected, as well as how to best support already good health with the right dose and type of supplements for you.

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Astragalus (Astragalus spp.) / Viracid

The amazing and powerful immune boosting herb, Astragalus root has been used for centuries to strengthen the blood and spleen and over time, help maintain the strength of the immune system, building resistance to illness and disease.

While clinical research on Astragalus is in the early stages, researchers are currently examining how it may help prevent the common cold and also be useful as a complementary treatment during chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and immune deficiency syndromes. Meanwhile, laboratory studies and a long history of use in Traditional Chinese Medicine and botanical medicine indicate how Astragalus may help fortify the immune system:

  • Astragalus contains polysaccharides, which enhance the ability of white blood cells (instrumental in immune function) to eliminate foreign substances from the body.
  • Saponins found in Astragalus are known to protect the liver and stimulate the release of cytokines, chemical messengers in the immune system.
  • With its antioxidant properties, Astragalus facilitates the breakdown of free radicals, thus reducing free radical damage in the blood system.
  • Astragalus supports the liver, which plays an important role in detoxification.

Dr. Myra can determine the best way to take Astragalus to support your health and well-being. Supplements are available in capsule, liquid, tincture, injection, and extract. This herb is commonly used in combination with other botanicals such as found in Viracid, which we carry at our office!

Medicinal Mushroom Blend

For thousands of years, practitioners of Eastern Medicine, Native Americans and indigenous cultures have used specific mushrooms for their health benefits. These fungi are often referred to as medicinal mushrooms and like all fungi, contain compounds called beta glucans within their cell walls.

Beta glucans provide support for the immune system by activating killer T-cell response to invaders in the body. Other facets of this powerful medicine include anti-cancer properties, antioxidant activity, cardiovascular support (anti-hypertensive and cholesterol-lowering), liver protective, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, and anti-viral and anti-microbial properties.

Mushrooms work synergistically, so a variety are usually blended to provide support to the immune system and natural detoxification. These blends are available in a variety of forms, such as powders, capsules and tinctures. Types of mushrooms you may find in a medicinal blend include:

Cordyceps is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for immune support and to replenish energy. Cordyceps extract is considered the highest class of tonic herbs for balancing the body’s internal systems (Yin and Yang energy).

Lion’s Mane tea has been used in Japanese herbalism; research indicates extracts may protect and support the immune system and play a role in stimulating nerve growth.

Maitake is used in Japanese medicine for supporting immune health and is noted for its antiviral effects. It contains a variety of beta glucans, minerals, and amino acids.

Shiitake supports the health of the liver and the immune system. It contains lentinan, an active compound associated with a healthy immune response. Shiitake also contains minerals, vitamins, and many essential amino acids.

Reishi, “the mushroom of immortality” is used in both TCM and Japanese medicine as a daily tonic for boosting immunity and protecting against cancer and inflammation. Reishi is not a culinary mushroom because of its tough texture, which makes it difficult to chew.

The best choice of blends can vary from person to person; Dr. Myra can determine the best choice of medicinal mushrooms for you.

Fabulous Fungi? The Nutritional Benefits of Mushrooms

Throughout history mushrooms have been regarded as magical and mysterious… a delicacy, and deadly. Foragers put their lives on the line when hunting fungi for medicinal and culinary use. Even today, foraging for wild mushrooms should be done with an expert mycologist by your side! Fortunately, at most local grocery stores you will find a tasty selection of mushrooms that are safe to eat.

Edible mushrooms offer many nutritional benefits including protein, vitamin D, potassium and other minerals, and antioxidants. Mushrooms contain compounds called polysaccharides that promote the healthy function of the immune system.

Many mushrooms have to be foraged by hand, while others can be harvested like a small crop. This results in a difference in price. You may want to occasionally splurge for these varieties of fabulous fungi:

Truffle, crown jewel of mushrooms, is one of the most expensive foods in the world. Trained dogs are required to sniff out truffles from beneath the roots of certain types of trees. Truffles are used in exotic dishes, side dishes, soups, and dips.

Maitake is a late summer and autumn fungi found at the foot of oak trees. Best harvested when young and tender to retain their flavor. These are wonderful for soups, sauces, and breads.

Chanterelle mushrooms are unmistakable with their cheery yellow-gold coloring. This mushroom has a woodsy, apricot flavor. Found only in the wild, chanterelles live in a symbiotic partnership with its host tree, allowing it to store nutrients it could not acquire on its own. Chanterelles pair nicely with eggs and over rice/other grains.

Crimini (“baby bella”) and porcini mushrooms have mild flavors and medium texture. Less expensive than the others, these can be used in a variety of recipes, from breads and muffins to sauces and stews.

Mushroom selection and storage can vary by type. Generally, mushrooms should be tender but firm to touch, not wet or gummy. Organic is best. Store in the fridge in a ventilated package to keep moisture out. Most mushrooms should be used within a week.

Keep Your Immune System in Peak Condition

The Great Defender: that’s our immune system, uniquely designed to keep us healthy and defend against illness and infection. Made up of organs, including the skin, lungs, and gut, as well as specialized cells, the immune system’s job is to remain on alert for disease-causing invaders and to protect our body against them.

Our immune system’s first responders are white blood cells (WBC) that are alerted to the presence of an invader. Some WBCs seek and destroy invaders while others have a cellular memory that enables the body to remember and recognize previous invaders and help destroy them. For example, if you get chickenpox, your body develops immunity to the virus; if you’re exposed to chickenpox again, you won’t contract it.

Sometimes the cellular communication goes haywire and the immune system starts attacking healthy cells in the body. This is called an autoimmune response; it can lead to autoimmune disease, of which there are many types, such as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis or Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Each of our immune systems are as unique as our individual family health history, our lifestyles, and the environmental conditions with which we live. Some folks seem to never get sick, while others catch every bug going around. The strength of the immune system also changes as we age. Because the immune system is our greatest defender against disease, it’s critical that we keep it strong, healthy and balanced.

Four Natural Ways to Boost Immunity

Get Your Zz’s. Sleep regenerates the entire body. Research shows that restful and regular sleep generates the hormones that help fight infection, whereas insufficient / poor quality sleep makes us prone to infection and prolongs recovery from illness.

De-stress. Persistent stress raises the level of a hormone called cortisol in the bloodstream. Over time, this creates a cascade of physiological events that result in weakened immunity. Take time out with meditation, yoga, exercise, or a walk in nature.

Say No to Sugar. A diet high in sugar interferes with optimal immune system function. Limit your intake of all sweets. Choose organic fruit or a small amount of organic dark chocolate when you need to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Crazy ’bout Shrooms. With 38,000 varieties, you’re bound to find a mushroom you like! They’re versatile in cooking, full of nutrients, and contain compounds that research shows are important to building a strong immune system. Make shrooms a part of your whole foods diet.