Eat for Exercise: Nutrition is the key to success

It is kind of true “you are what you eat” especially when it comes to pushing yourself with exercise. I have many people that have joined me on the exercise challenges in the past few months, and I made comments about certain workout days being rougher due to poor diet the day before and that always brought on a slew of questions wanting me to clarify further, so I thought I would! Plus, it is crucial to eat correctly when pushing yourself physically, so that your body can work optimally, otherwise you put yourself at risk for overtraining and getting hurt or sick.

What should I focus on?

There are a few different schools of thought, and it does truly depend on your goals of working out.  For example, if you are looking to build large amounts of muscle, you will need to significantly increase your protein intake (lean proteins).  But, if you are someone who is doing a workout challenge, and the goal is to tone up and perhaps slim down, you want to focus more on endurance, so that your body is able to keep up the intensity with exercise, and you aren’t starving all of the time, but you are eating clean and healthy to maybe lose a few extra pounds.

You should start your day out right, whether you eat breakfast or drink it (in smoothie form) you really should include oatmeal: it is a complex carbohydrate that is full of fiber, so it is slow for your body to digest, and it helps keep your blood sugar at a steady level, so you don’t get a sugar crash, and it will help keep up your stamina for the day. So either eat oatmeal in the morning with some fruit OR add it to your smoothie. Smoothies are great because you can get your calcium from dairy, carbs from oatmeal, and your daily fruits all in one meal!

Oats, Flax, and Chia (all parts of my morning smoothie)

Oats, Flax, and Chia (all parts of my morning smoothie)

For a snack, eat either nuts or peanut butter, almond butter, etc to boost protein and despite a high fat content, it is good for you because it gives you the energy you need, satiates your hunger, and also gives you that boost of protein power. I like to eat peanut butter on celery or carrots to get my vitamins and nutrients from the vegetables and also get that extra bit of protein. You can also make a trail mix with dried fruits and nuts to boost your energy and get in some endurance boosting proteins.

Your lunch and dinners should consist of vegetables and lean proteins. Honestly, for people on the go, the Bolthouse Farms Protein shakes are a great alternative (the salted caramel latte is my FAVORITE), and what I normally drink for lunch; at work I rarely have time for a sit down meal so they help me to get my protein and a bunch of nutrients on the go!

The vegetables that help to boost your stamina are: red beets (I really don’t like them, but they have been shown to increase your muscle stamina), spinach (filled with fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, and  calcium), green cabbage (filled with phytonutrients that fight off free radicals and help heal damage), watercress (full of Vitamin A, B, C, Iron, magnesium, and calcium), and pumpkin (has anti-inflammatory effects to soothe those hard worked muscles and fiber filled). But truly, as long as you get your favorite veggies in, and they aren’t laden with butter (use extra virgin olive oil instead), your body will be happy.

Lean proteins should also be included in your diet: fish (shellfish and regular swimming fish), chicken, quinoa, chia seeds, and beans. If you are looking to boost muscle mass, you can always eat your proteins atop a protein, like eating some black beans, and maybe using the alternative of a bed of quinoa instead of rice.

You should be getting carbohydrates from your veggies, remembering that the more colorful your plate, the more vitamins and nutrients you are getting, which is good for you! And, of course you can eat breads, but make sure that they are whole grains and eat veggies with your carbs (think toast with some avocado atop it for breakfast!)

The cleaner your diet, with more protein the night before your hard workouts, along with your 2 liters of water throughout the day, your body will feel strong, you will feel good about yourself, and you will have the stamina and endurance to get through your hard workouts. Eating things that are high in fats will not make you feel good, and your workouts will reflect that….that being said, everyone has a cheat day on their diet, just make sure to use those cheats sparingly and your body will thank you!!

P.S. Don’t forget to join the June Exercise Challenge on Facebook!

Yours in Good Health


Are you a part of the Clean Plate Club?

Growing up, I remember sitting at the kitchen table and staring at a plate of goulash, trying to mentally will it to go away….but my mother telling me I couldn’t leave the table without cleaning my plate because there were some children who didn’t have food. Ugh. I remember thinking, they wouldn’t want the goulash! But, when there were foods that I liked, I was in the “Clean Plate Club” in no time flat (I am a ridiculously fast eater for some reason.) But despite us not wanting to waste food, this may be a bad thing to teach children; it can cause some bad habits later on.

How can it be bad?

A few studies have been done recently to look at how often parents these days are actually pushing this “clean plate club” idea on kids, and the journal Adolescent found that 2/3rds of parents actually still push this idea on their adolescent and teenage children. When you encourage your children to eat based on how much you offer them, and teach them to eat ALL of the food, they learn to eat what is in front of them, and not to eat based on what their body is feeling and needing, or on satiety.  As portions seem to get bigger and bigger, and children are just eating what’s given to them, they are consuming more and more fat and calories than necessary.  They will consume more than their bodies need, and tend to gain weight over time. While they are growing quickly and hormones are changing, it doesn’t always take effect immediately, but it will lead to bad habits as an adult too. Also, the study (which looked at around 2200 children and 3500 parents) found that parents of overweight children, despite encouraging the clean plate club earlier on in life, started encouraging less food consumption (possibly under eat), while children that were skinnier were still being encouraged to eat large amounts (possibly overeat).  The Center for Disease Control has found that in the past 3 decades, childhood obesity has increased by 2 fold and adolescent obesity has tripled, and in 2010 alone 1/3 of all children were noted as obese.

healthy foodsIt is really important to teach portion sizes, but also healthy eating, and proper eating: fill your house with healthy foods and snacks, let them make the right choices.  If they choose to fill up on carrot sticks (even with peanut butter), great, it’s much better than potato chips! They can learn when they feel full on their own without parents hovering; sometimes pressuring them to eat more or less makes the situation worse, they can learn to eat on their own.  When they are growing, they will eat more because their bodies need the nutrition, and when it slows, so will their intake. As parents, we need to supply the healthy foods for them to eat, and to teach them to make the right choices.

So don’t push that clean plate club! Just push the healthy foods.  And sometimes having your child talk to their Healthcare Practitioner (HCP) or a nutritionist can help them to learn better food choices, if they are making poor choices on their own, and so they can also learn the long-term implications of poor eating habits. Regulate what they eat by making healthy food available, not by forcing, and you will have a better chance of them learning to eat healthy!

Yours in Good Health


Does eating yams increase fertility or rates of twins?

Well, I heard one of the “housewives” on the Atlanta series make a statement that eating yams increases ones rate of conceiving twins, but I honestly did not think much of it….until I was sent numerous emails to from various readers asking about this one.  There is some research on the topic, but since it seems to be a hot topic with my readers, I wanted to just settle this one, once and for all.

yamsWhat is the deal?

There was a study in 2008 focusing on an African tribe that as rather high numbers of twins and multiple births in their village.  A main source of their diet is yams, and yams are said to effect certain female hormones, that may relate to a 1% higher rate of twins, but yams would need to be ingested in significant amounts to have even a minimal effect (think three times a day). So because the people of this tribe, who eat yams as a mainstay of their diet (due to a their environment), so the conclusion was made that the high yam diet was related to the multiple births by the women of the tribe. The research has not been validated (proved again), so  I am not convinced that eating yams will help you conceive twins.

The highest rate of multiples (or twins) are born to those that have a family history of twins, are older when attempting to get pregnant (the eggs can mutate and split causing twins), or the use of fertility drugs. There are also some rumors that immediately after stopping birth control, you are more likely to conceive twins, but that is not necessarily true; what IS true, is that your fertility is usually increased for that first month as your body is surging with hormones.

It’s a bummer for those of you who wanted to eat (or were already force feeding yourselves) yams in hopes of having two babies all at once, it’s not looking like that is the answer for you.  Your best bet is to find a man with a history of twins and see what sort of magic you two can create…unless you want a designer baby, in which they are genetically designed, which is quite pricey, but you can talk to your OBGYN about your options if this is something super important to you. I am being tongue in cheek, and not at all suggesting that you daddy shop for a man who has a history of twins! But unless you love those yams, you can chill on them and just eat a healthy well-balanced diet; there is no magical food that can increase your rate of twins.

I can’t believe that a fact from “the Real Housewives…” would ever be incorrect!! 😉 Just goes to show you that you shouldn’t believe everything you hear!

Yours in Good Health


Not enough sleep? Weight gain will become a problem.

You hear it all the time: If you don’t get enough sleep, you will gain weight. When I think about it, it doesn’t totally make sense because you aren’t sleeping, so you are being more active, right? Then I think about those days after I work a night shift, when I am getting things done in a haze, my brain is not fully functioning, and thinks happen a little bit slower, I feel miserable, and when I have a chance to stop and rest, I take it…so I begin to understand a bit more the whole weight gain portion.

sleep and weight gainWhy exactly does sleep make me gain weight?

When you do not get enough sleep, you are feeling tired and energy levels are low, leading to the use of caffeine and/or sugar to boost your energy levels to help you get through the day, which leads to energy crashes later in the day.  For those of you who exercise in the afternoon, it usually means that it doesn’t happen, because your energy is zapped. And if you are a morning exerciser, you tend to feel to exhausted to get to your workout; a lack of energy leads to a lack of drive.  And when you become dependent upon stimulants to get through the day, it can become a cycle, as sometimes you can overdo it with the caffeine and then have trouble shutting it down, even if you do have time to sleep. When you are tired and sluggish, you also tend to be more lazy; you don’t shop for healthy foods and/or cook for yourself, so you tend to eat what is available and easy.  None of these things are particularly good for your waistline.

There are two main hormones that regulate your eating cycle: ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is the hormone that tells you when you are hungry and you should eat, and it is at much higher levels when you are sleep deprived. Leptin is the hormone that tells you to stop eating because you are full, and unfortunately it is in lower levels when you are without sleep. A lack of exercise, high ghrelin, and low leptin levels is basically the trifecta for weight gain.

Add on top of that, your body is not functioning optimally with a lack of sleep, so it’s not just your brain that feels fuzzy, so do the cells in your metabolism, so they aren’t working at their best either. It’s not as if one night with a lack of sleep is going to make you gain 15lbs immediately, but when it becomes a cycle of sleeping less than 7-8 hours per night, and we are frequently reaching for comfort foods, eating more than we normally do, skipping on our exercise, and relying on stimulants to get through the day, it’s not healthy, and you will gain weight.

What can I do?

Cut back on the stimulants and don’t have any after 12pm, and start making a bedtime routine (essentially set a bedtime for yourself) to try to break the cycle.  Also, forcing yourself to get some exercise, even though you already feel exhausted, even if it is just a long walk, really will exhaust your body….in a good way!  It will help to relax your muscles when you are done, and get your brain ready to shut down and get a better sleep/rest. Also try to avoid heavy meals and alcohol right before bed, it can make you have troubled sleep and increase the risk of heartburn. Also, maybe a soothing lavender bath/shower before bed, to help calm your system and ready yourself for sleep.

Once you start sleeping regularly, you will feel a boost in energy, be more efficient, and be healthier.  You can get into a health and wellness cycle by getting regular exercise, and eating healthier, which will lead to a really easy drop in weight…all by making one lifestyle change!

If you DO get 7-8 hours of sleep at night but it is troubled sleep or you always still feel exhausted in the morning you should see your Healthcare Practitioner (HCP) because you may have Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) or another process going on that requires a sleep study or more in-depth review.

Try to set a routine, and breaking the habit of caffeine can be miserable (I used to be a complete caffeine addict and have sleeping issues, so I KNOW how hard this is) but it is so worth it to be able to cut the cord and feel yourself without relying on caffeine and starting to be healthy again.  It seems impossible sometimes, but, I promise, it isn’t!

Yours in Good Health


Give me Liberte….or nothing!

I do love yogurt, but after living in the UK and getting hooked on real life Greek yogurt, it was hard to come back to the states and get a yogurt that compared with the consistency and flavor.  Honestly, I was a total Chobani convert, as that was the closest I could find, and I like it.  It wasn’t quite the same, but it’s decently priced, full of probiotics, and delish, so I was a pretty happy girl. But a few weeks ago, on my trip up to the Natural Food Market that I have to travel to for my raw milk, I was perusing the aisles and looking for some new products, mostly because I’m a nerd and that’s what I like to do, and a yogurt brand I had never seen caught my eye.  I saw a brand called Liberté, which is not local to me in New England, but from Colorado, and from a smaller company, as opposed to the larger corporations that usually sell yogurts nationally.  Of course I bought it in every flavor to give it a try!

LIBERTE What is Liberté?

It is a small family owned company that began in Montreal, Canada in 1936 as a kosher dairy farm and in the 1980’s changed their focus to yogurt, but still only using pure, clean ingredients, to make a pure product.  They now produce out of Colorado, and use only dairy products that are antibiotic and hormone free, certified, and from local resources. Plus, they do not use anything artificial at all in their products; their cultures are specific to their product and all yogurts are hand-processed. They use skim milk and real fruit, which makes this yogurt not only 100% real, but 100% amazing. It is almost decadent how delicious it is, and for 130 calories with 0 fat per serving? I’m sold! It truly has a perfect texture, so much like the Greek yogurt from Greece, and it just tastes so fresh.  Each flavor was really yummy, of course they have plain, but they also have five others: blackberry, blueberry, lemon, peach and passion fruit, and strawberry.  The price was slightly more than the large corporation equivalent, but for getting a pure and clean product, it’s totally worth it to me!  I must say, I am a huge fan of Greek yogurt, but they also make a Mediterranean yogurt that has a thinner consistency for those of you who don’t dig the Greek.

To clarify, I am in no way sponsored by Liberté, I just like to bring to you healthy products that are made in the freshest, healthiest, and least processed way.  Plus, supporting smaller companies that use local resources for their products is something that I feel very strongly about; if you know where your products come from, the better your chances of getting products that are clean without fillers or anything else not listed!

Give Liberté a try, and see if you can taste a difference form your regular yogurt. I have made the switch, and love every second of it! Go out and get some.

Yours in Good Health


Sodium: Is how much you ingest bad?

For years and years and years HCPs have been telling you to cut out sodium as much as you can from your diet, and I feel like it is everywhere that people know they shouldn’t eat too much sodium, but, why?  And some ways to make sure you aren’t being duped into eating more sodium than you have intended!

SaltmillWhy is too much sodium bad?

Sodium is necessary for your body to thrive because it helps with a lot of the body processes like muscle contraction and relaxation (like with one of the most important muscles: our hearts), so it helps with blood pressure and also functions in our brains. But too much sodium can lead to a body retaining too much water, increase our blood pressure (due to the extra fluid retention related to the sodium), but this puts you at a higher risk for heart attacks and strokes.  For something that is a pretty attainable, lowering your sodium intake, it’s a great way to he healthy and protect your heart.

Where is sodium lurking?

If you are healthy with no medical issues, you can take in up to 2300mg of sodium per day (that’s about a teaspoon of salt) but if you have chronic kidney disease, heart disease, high blood pressure, or are over 50 years old, the suggested daily amount of sodium is 1500mg (which is not very much at all).  Sodium is in almost everything, and if it is pre-made or pre-packaged, the sodium content is usually unbelievably high!  So, if you are on (or should be on) a sodium restricted diet, there are some things you should skip or use sparingly:

– Pre-made foods from stores ( both fresh AND frozen, unless they are labelled as low sodium, but read the labels to be sure)

– Canned foods (even veggies/beans are loaded with sodium as a preservative; I have been buying dry beans and giving them a super soak, much healthier and no sodium added!)

– Condiments (including various spices!)

– Processed meats

– Fast foods

– Processed snack foods (potato chips, cheese curls, etc.)

– Cheeses

– Soups (even low sodium still has a lot of sodium, so I tend to make my own and not add any salt!)

And remember that fresh foods like fruits and veggies naturally have sodium in them, so even though you might think that you are not eating any extra sodium, you might be. Plus, always read the labels to be sure how much sodium is present in various foods! Many different beverages, including some bottled waters have sodium in them, so your best bet at sticking to a low sodium diet, is to reach for foods labelled as “low sodium”, reading package labels, shy away from beverages other than water, and don’t add any salt to your foods when you are cooking!  Plus, half the battle is being aware of how much sodium you should be taking in, and making an effort to stick to it.

And, if you do splurge, make sure to drink a lot of water, and get some exercise to help flush that extra sodium out of your system.

Yours in Good Health


A Secret to Healthy Eating: Cheating!!!

I was asked by a few readers about how I am able to eat healthy all the time, and how I have such willpower to forgo sugar laden or fatty foods all the time, and I realized that if that is the way I have portrayed myself, I need to apologize! I am a regular person, and I have the same cravings as anyone else….probably the strongest cravings for skittles and chewy candy of anyone on the planet! Yet, I still do consider myself a healthy person, because while I do give in every now and again, the rest of my diet is really clean, organic, and I make pretty decent choices (lean proteins, veggies, fruits, and lots of whole grains .)

How do you stay healthy amid cravings?

It is so easy to be having a stressful day (or a hormonal day!) and have your body tell you “eat massive quantities of chocolate (or insert most intense craving here)” so you find that food, eat it, and your brian is happy for a millisecond, then you feel slow, sluggish, gross, and sometimes regret eating it. Whereas, if you reached over that candy bar and grabbed some nuts, or a yummy (healthy) salad, you eat your healthy option and you feel light, satiated, and stronger for skipping that craving! Why wouldn’t you skip that craving? I get it though.  I have hungry hungry hippo days where I feel like I want to consume everything in front of me….including people’s appendages, if they aren’t careful.  But on those days, I do what almost everyone who eats healthy or is trying to lose weight does: I have a cheat! Now, a cheat day is what can separate those happy with their waistlines from those who aren’t; a cheat day is not when you give into your cravings ALL day, it is merely when you give yourself a little treat, a serving sized treat, not a couple of king sized Snickers bars and an entire bag of potato chips!

Hot Chocolate All day today I honestly felt like I could kill for chocolate, and despite being offered (close enough to smell) my favorite chocolate chunk cookies, I held strong, I stuck to the lunch I brought to work, ate my healthy dinner, and after getting a little work done, my big treat was a cup of hot chocolate.  It satiated my chocolate craving, it was warm and cozy on a cold night, and it helped to alleviate my stress as I drank it while cuddling with my puppies, doing my nightly mental recap on the day. It was low-fat, and it satiated my craving, plus it was a special treat for accomplishing all I needed to do today, and I only ended up drinking half of it, because a whole cup is usually too much for me, so there is no guilt whatsoever! So, it is a cheat, but it is also a treat for sticking to my diet and a job well done; if you can’t pat yourself on the back, no one else will!

Also, if you are really super craving something, have a snack like an apple (full of fiber but sweet) or a handful of nuts (if you are a salt craver) and drink a glass of water and wait 20 minutes. Sometimes you can trick your body to hit those sweet/salty receptors and stave off that craving with a healthy snack…then it is merely dealing with the mental part of it, where you just want to nosh on your favorite snack! Plus, sometimes cravings mean that you are missing something from your diet, like when I am craving spinach, I clearly have not had my fill of green leafy veggies, so that craving I feel like I can go over the top with. That being said, If you don’t give yourself that cheat, then you will end up splurging later…like I tend to do with veggies that I am craving, but I keep it in check and stick to serving sizes with things that are not as good for me.

Plus, I get my daily exercise in, and when I step it up and have much harder workouts, I know I have a caloric deficit, so a “fun size” serving of skittles won’t knock me over the edge or ruin my diet for the day. On days that I don’t work out, you are hard pressed to find me giving myself a “cheat” simply because I haven’t burned off those extra calories.

And remember, that you can do whatever you want with your daily calories, if that means eating three candy bars, french fries, or healthy meals throughout the day, it is your choice how to live and eat. I understand the cravings, but I urge you to see try the other side of eating because at the end of the day you need to feel good about yourself and your choices; seeing food as fuel and taking emotion out of it gives you a whole new outlook and it feels great. Try healthy alternatives to fatty snacks (see a cup of hot cocoa, or baking sweet potato french “fries”) and ditch the guilt at the door.  And the best? Having a friend that also opts for a healthy lifestyle that will urge you to snack/eat healthier instead of telling you to go for it with the bad food…but who also knows you gotta give in sometimes (just in moderation!)

Be healthy, makes choices that make you feel good, and allow you to live your life positively.

Yours in Good Health



Another reason to know the source of your food…

There have been numerous times that we have consumed products and then found out there were different additives or harmful substances present, which is usually due to a lack of adherence to regulations, or knowingly contaminate the product to make a larger profit.  This has recently become a rather hot issue is because of contaminated found in the UK, Ireland, and a few countries in the EU.

horse meat

What was the contamination?

Some rather large quantities of commercially sold hamburger (“beef”) meat in Ireland was tested for DNA, per regular testing standards, and meat that was labelled as beef was found to actually have the DNA of pigs and horses present.  The meat was found to have come from suppliers in France and Ireland that have then supplied major retailers such as Tesco (for Americans, Tesco is like Stop & Shop, Winn Dixie, or Ralph’s, a pretty major chain of grocers) which produces its own foods.  Since the contaminated meats were found at one source, they were traced back to the sources and the issue was found to be much more widespread.  Tesco products such as Bolognese sauces, lasagna, and other products have been contaminated with horse meat.  Not only is the pig and horse meat contamination an ethical issue for many people, but there are also certain religious groups (such as Muslim or Jewish groups) that don’t eat porcine products due to beliefs, which makes this a huge issue.

One of the other issues is that the horse meat was found to have phenylbutazone (also known as bute) present in it.  Phenylbutazone is a non-steroidal anti inflammatory drug (NSAID) that is used for short-term pain control in animals.  It has been banned in both the US and the EU due to issues of aplastic anemia which results from suppressed bone marrow, so your white and red blood cells are not adequately produced, to properly clot or fight off infection. Even ingesting these meats, which were found to be up to 60% horse meat that was contaminated with phenylbutazone, which can be absorbed by humans and cause this bone marrow suppression and anemia.

Up to 16 countries in the UK and EU that have been affected by this meat contamination, not to mention that these suppliers also sent contaminated meat to large fast food retailers such as Burger King in the UK/EU, thus numerous people have been exposed to these different meats and the phenlybutazone. If you think you have been exposed, you should go to see your Healthcare Practitioner (HCP) and get assessed, but you should know that they are currently making the statement that ingesting these small amounts of the drugs through horse meat is presumed to not have an impact on your health, but it truly is unknown. If you feel unwell, and have been at risk, it is best to see your HCP and get checked out, especially if you have any other medical issues.  For a list of affected foods check here.

Another reason to eat local and support local agriculture when you can, you know what kind of meat and the source!

Yours in Good Health


Should I take Vitamins?

I am asked frequently who should take vitamins, and by frequently, I mean on a daily basis.  And there are certain subsets of people who should take vitamins, and for others it’s a complete waste of money.  Many times people tend to take more vitamins and supplements than is really necessary.

Should I be taking vitamins daily?

Vitamins and other supplements can be really pricey, and not really worth the price tag. Most of the vitamins and supplements that you find are not FDA tested to ensure that the claims on the labels actually match what is inside of the product, even commercially sold vitamins, are not approved.  Most of the time, if you really need to be on a vitamin supplementation, your Healthcare Practitioner (HCP) will write you a prescription for it, then you know that the amount of supplement you need is what you are actually getting.

Truly the only people who should be taking vitamin supplementation are people who have a malabsorption disorders:

Chron’s disease, Irritable Bowel Disorder (IBD), Celiac Disease, lactose intolerance, severe food allergies, bariatric surgery (gastric bypass), pancreatic insufficiency, hypothyroidism, Addison’s disease, among other issues.

Also, if you are pregnant, you should be taking prenatal vitamins, folic acid, and iron supplementation to ensure that your fetus is getting adequate nutrition, and your HCP will order these for you so they are FDA approved supplements.

vitamin veggies
If you have a truly poor diet, where you really don’t eat fruits and vegetables,even in juice form, and eat fast food on the regular, then you should probably take vitamins, but if you eat a regular diet, get in fruits and vegetables, then you really don’t need to take any sort of supplementation. It’s just a waste of money. Most of the vitamins and nutrients that are found in supplements can be added to your diet through adding a few fruits and or veggies a day to your diet. I think of my morning smoothies as my vitamins: jam-packed with 4 different fruits, of various colors, which basically gets me all I need for the day (but good thing I add in other fruits and veggies during the day.)

I’m not saying you all have to be smoothie converts, but it actually ends up being cheaper for you to add some fruits and veggies to your diets, and ditch the pills!

Yours in Good Health



An alternative sweetener and a yummy fruit?

This may sound a little too good to be true, and not everyone will be a fan, but there is a fruit that is grown locally in Peru that is full of nutrients, and can be eaten as a fruit, then when dried, used as a sweetener.

What is this fruit?

The fruit is called lucuma (or a lucma at times.)  It’s full name is the Pouteria lucuma, and is primarily grown in Peru and Chile as they need to grow in altitudes between 1,000-2,400 meters, and in warmer weather.  They can sometimes be called “eggfruits” because the flesh of the fruit is the consistency of a hard-boiled egg, but don’t let that turn you off from trying it, because the flavor has been described as everything from caramel to maple, sweet potato to pumpkin. I know, not what you normally expect from a fruit, and due to the consistency (I am a very tactile eater) I don’t want to jump right in with a spoon, but it is quite tasty added to smoothies, and in ice cream (on its own as a flavor or when mixed with vanilla.) Yum! And besides its unique flavor, it is full of vitamins and nutrients: calcium, Vitamin A (beta carotene), Vitamin B3, iron, and zinc. And as an added bonus?  It has fiber and antioxidants in it!

lucumaHow is it used as a sweetener?

When the flesh of the lucuma fruit is dried, then ground into a powder, it still contains all of those vitamins and nutrients, and because of the inherent fruit sweetness (fructose), it is still sweet when dried and ground.  It is a low glycemic index food, which means it adds the sweetness, but it does not have a huge impact on your bodies insulin levels (with a surge up then crash like sugar.) It is a different kind of sweet than straight sugar cane sugar, so it cane take some getting used to, but I quite enjoy the different flavor that it has, and if you are looking to cut out sugar from your diet but still have some sweet in your life, it is a great option!  And it is an option for diabetics too.  And you can use it in anything that you would normally sweeten: smoothies, ice cream, coffee/tea, and when baking!

These fruits can be hard to find outside of Peruvian/South American specialty stores, but if you are lucky enough to find one, give it a try.  And, you can find lucuma powder at any health food store and many organic stores.  Try it and let me know what you think!

Yours in Good Health