Artificial Sweeteners Threaten Your Health

Artificial Sweetener

It seems self evident that consumption of sugar sweetened beverages would be associated with increased risk for type 2 diabetes (T2D). And in fact, this has been demonstrated in multiple studies. This is understandable when you consider what a powerful slug of fructose is delivered by each can or bottle of this stuff.

So it is that the term, “sugar free” is being exploited to death by soft drink manufacturers because of the mistaken public perception that choosing artificially sweetened drinks would be a healthier choice. It is a mistaken perception as now we’re seeing studies that have demonstrated that the risk for T2D is also dramatically increased in individuals who choose not to drink sugar sweetened beverages, but opt for those that contain artificial sweeteners.

In a recent report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, French researchers evaluated more than 66,000 women over a 14 year period and found that those who favored sugar sweetened beverages did in fact have an increased risk of T2D, by about 34%. Incredibly, those choosing artificially sweetened drinks had a risk increase for T2D that was more than twice what that amount.

In trying to explain this seemingly paradoxical finding, the authors speculated that artificially sweetened beverages, because they don’t cause the body to secrete insulin, may therefore not stimulate the satiety response. This lack of appetite suppression may ultimately lead to increased calorie consumption in the form of other foods.


Posted by on Apr 28, 2015 | 0 Comments

7 Ways to Embrace the Art of Optimism

Thumbs Up

Optimism – it does both your mind and body good. In fact, numerous studies indicate that optimists generally enjoy healthier hearts, brains, immunity and tend to live longer than their less upbeat counterparts. In short, if we all took a page from the Pharell Williams songbook and worked on getting “Happy,” our health would reap a number of benefits.

Truth be told, for some people, optimism is easier said than done. Let’s say you weren’t born with an innate abundance of optimism, or perhaps life’s challenges have tamped down some of your enthusiasm, then what? The answer is to teach yourself a few of the skills that can help develop a greater sense of optimism and resilience. This health-supportive turn of mind is learnable. Just like eating well or staying fit, it becomes easier with a little practice and, of course, a roadmap.

To follow are a few ways to help guide yourself in a more optimistic direction. Try adding one or two and keep adding new skills to your repertoire over time. As your experience with and capacity for optimism grows, you’ll be on your way to becoming that healthier, upbeat person you wish to be. In the words of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, “Choose to be optimistic, it feels better,” to which I say “amen.” So, let’s get started:

1. Gratitude – Make a Note of it Every Day

Live like an optimist and celebrate all the gifts and blessings you have – not what’s missing. At the beginning or end of each day, in a journal or on your calendar, jot down three simple things you’re grateful for, no matter how inconsequential they might seem. Periodically revisit the ever-growing list to keep you connected with that sense of gratitude and appreciation for all the things that go right in life every day.

2. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Have a little empathy: Don’t flip the bird at your fellow drivers. Don’t berate the coffee guy when he mangles your order. Don’t go bananas when your plane is 10th on the runway. To behave more like an optimist, learn to embrace patience and let minor irritations go. Consider it an informal exercise in Zen. Learn to go with the flow and limit slash-and-burn freak-outs to actual emergencies (and even then, do so sparingly). 

3. Look for the Silver Lining – It’s In There

When things get tough, the optimist looks for the silver lining in the midst of adversity. So should you. By making the effort to find the good and extract the lessons from a difficult situation, you lessen the sting and can bounce back more quickly. Rather than dwelling in fear and regret, learning to be more resilient – to bend without breaking – will enable you to greet future challenges in a can-do frame of mind, with patience and wisdom versus fear and regret.

4. Have Faith You’ll Get Beyond the Bumps


Posted by on Apr 27, 2015 | 0 Comments

Low-Carb Swaps

Collard Wrap
By Be Well Health Coach Katrine van Wyk

Rest assured, you can still have some comforting, familiar dishes when cutting back on carbohydrates or cutting out grains. Here are some of my favorite healthy swaps for pasta, bread and wraps.

Vegetable Noodles

Try making noodles or spaghetti with vegetables like zucchini, sweet potato or carrots. If you are looking to cut down on calories, carbs and starches, these “noodles” are sure to satisfy that pasta craving! Use a spiral slicer or a mandolin to make thin, long spaghetti-like strips, dress with some fresh tomato sauce or a nutty pesto!

Kelp Noodles

This is another great noodle or pasta alternative made from the sea vegetable kelp. It has a nice chewy texture and requires no cooking. Eat it cold tossed with a pesto or an almond butter sauce. Deliciously satisfying.

Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti squash is a wonderful comfort food! Roast it and scoop out all the insides – it will look a little like spaghetti and is delicious with some stew on top or a nice bolognese. Here’s a great article on how to cook it.

Lettuce and Collard Greens Wraps

Instead of bread, wraps or tortillas, try using leafy greens. Boston lettuce and romaine works great as little cups or shells to hold minced meat and some guacamole, while the larger, sturdier collard greens work great as wraps. Fill them with vegetables and leftover chicken for a quick lunch or snack.

Root Vegetable Medley

Roast a variety of root vegetables – turnips, carrots, daikon radish, beets etc. You can also toss in some Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and onions! Serve it as a side dish with dinner and use the cold leftovers as a salad topping the next day.

Posted by on Apr 24, 2015 | 0 Comments

Be Well Kitchen:
Simple Roasted Chicken with Veggies

Roasted Chicken
By Be Well Health Coach Amanda Carney

This hearty dish is delicious and simple, making it one of my favorites to make on a regular basis.  With everything being cooked on the same baking sheet, the cleanup is extremely easy AND the vegetables are flavored with all of the chicken’s juices. Additionally, this meal makes for really good leftovers.

You will need:

  • About 2 pounds organic chicken – I like to use bone in breast and some legs.
  • 1 head broccoli
  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 1 pound brussel sprouts
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, whole, skin removed
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • About 1 tablespoon dried herbs (oregano, parsley, thyme, etc)

Feel free to use other hearty veggies as well, such as sweet potatoes or beets.


  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Chop veggies in big pieces – halving brussel sprouts and coarsely chopping broccoli and cauliflower.
  • Place chopped veggies and garlic cloves on a large baking sheet (lined with wax paper if you want to save on cleanup), drizzle with olive, and dust with salt and pepper.  Using your hands or a large spoon, mix veggies around so they are evenly coated in olive oil, salt and pepper mixture.
  • Next, rinse chicken pieces and blot dry with a paper towel.  Drizzle with olive oil and dust with salt and pepper.  Place on baking tray over veggies and sprinkle with herbs. You can also use red pepper flake if you enjoy a little “kick.”
  • Place baking tray in oven and bake for about 30 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. You can check this by using a small knife and making sure that the inside of the chicken is not pink.  If you see pink, bake for another 5-10 minutes and check again.
  • Once cooked, remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes.  You can either serve chicken on the bone or remove before plating.  If you’d like, add more salt, pepper and/or additional herbs. Serve and enjoy!
Posted by on Apr 23, 2015 | 0 Comments

The Ugliest Beauty Ingredients

Ugly Cosmetics

While I’ve experienced an incredible amount of support since establishing my non-toxic skincare brand, S.W. Basics, I’ve encountered a considerable amount of resistance to the idea of “natural beauty,” too. I guess it shouldn’t be all that surprising. No one wants to be told that their favorite cleanser (the one they’ve been using since high school) actually possesses ingredients that might be harmful. It’s unsettling to have to forego your standby lip balm after you’ve used it for years and years (and you feel just fine). I get it – change is hard. And who likes being told what to do?

Not me! I like making decisions on my own, with my own information. Which, I realized, is actually very hard to do when assessing the beauty industry. That’s because the savvy marketers behind many of your most beloved beauty products are notoriously cagey about sharing information, plus they experience the benefits of operating in a largely unregulated industry. Did you know the FDA does not oversee or set standards for the safety testing of an ingredient before it is used in a product? Or, that besides color additives, no product or ingredient requires FDA approval before going to market? Not only does this pose safety concerns, it certainly doesn’t encourage transparency.

As such, I’m sharing the beauty industry’s Ugliest Ingredients, where you can find them, and the potential health risks they pose. The information is all there. I invite you to decide what to do with it.

Formaldehyde and Formaldehyde-Releasing Preservatives

Where it is: Nail polish, eyelash glue, hair gel, color cosmetics, and sometimes shampoo. Used as a preservative in a lot of products.

What it does: When inhaled as a gas, formaldehyde causes bronchitis and pneumonia. Also causes contact dermatitis and migraines. Formally classified as carcinogenic to humans.

Check the label for: DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, and quarternium-15, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1, 3-diol.

Plastic and Plasticizer

Where it is: Shampoo and conditioner, as well as in a wide array of other beauty products. Gives products a more uniform consistency and makes them more pourable.

What it does: Affects your hormones; is linked to cancer. Plastic microbeads soak up toxins and, when they get into our water supply, disrupt the digestion of small fish and other marine animals that are then eaten by larger fish, which pollutes the entire food chain.

Check the label for: polyethylene, polythene, PE, phthalates.


Posted by on Apr 21, 2015 | 2 Comments

17 Ways to Protect Your Microbiome and Keep Your Belly Blissful


Inside your belly is a thriving bacterial world, an eco-system commonly known as the ‘microbiome.’ It’s filled with bacteria – trillions of them, in fact – all going about their daily business of keeping you well. Without you’re being aware of it, they’re busily breaking down food; extracting nutrients; producing vitamins and brain chemicals; fending off microbial invaders; protecting you from disease; and performing hundreds of tasks essential to keeping your systems functioning optimally.

Problem is, few of us reach adulthood with our microbiome in the best of shape – it’s picked up a few dents and dings along the way, from gut-busters like drugs and antibiotics, junk food, GMOs, conventionally or factory farmed meats and other assaults on our inner ecology.

All of the things that impair our microbiome disrupt gut health as well. We’ve come to think of digestive symptoms as normal—doesn’t “everyone” have a bit of gas or bloating?—but, in fact, these symptoms can be the first signs of a microbiome that’s gone off the rails. A damaged microbiome can’t nourish the gut wall. The result – increased intestinal permeability or “leaky gut, ” — in which the one-cell thick, tightly woven net of cells lining the gut loosen, creating spaces that allow bacteria, toxins and pieces of the partially digested food to “leak” through. This ‘prison break’ triggers system-wide inflammation that can produce symptoms almost anywhere in the body.

In my book, repairing a leaky gut and protecting your microbiome, is one of the most important things you can to do sustain health. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to do it – and here’s where to start:

1. Avoid Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) Whenever Possible

Why? Because we simply don’t know enough about what negative impact they may have on our bodies in the long-term. To find out which  genetically modified foods to avoid, see the Non-GMO Project’s list.

2. Avoid Sweet and Starchy Foods

They feed the bad bacteria in your gut causing overgrowth that overwhelms the good bacteria and upsetting the bacterial balance, which in turn effects how well your microbiome functions.

3. Avoid Junk Food and Processed Foods

These “foods” have been altered and modified and are detrimental to the microbiome – they contain trans fats, additives, preservatives, GMO corn, GMO soy or industrial seed oils.

4. Avoid Preservatives and Artificial Ingredients

Lousy for your body, lousy for your microbiome. ‘Nuff said!

5. Avoid Gluten

This is a compound protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and some other grains, as well as in soy sauce, seitan, beer, and many packaged and processed foods. For many people, gluten is irritating to the gut, triggering the immune system to fight back by launching an inflammatory response.

6. Avoid Conventionally Farmed Meat, Poultry, Dairy Products, and Eggs

The majority of them contain antibiotics and hormones, and the animals were likely raised on genetically modified corn or soy feed, none of which support the health of your microbiome.


Posted by on Apr 20, 2015 | 1 Comments

Five Healthy Snacks for Your Child

Homemade Popsicles
By Be Well Health Coach Courtney Blatt

It’s so easy to break open a bag of goldfish, pretzels or fruit snacks for your kids. The companies producing these products make it simple with individual servings, fun character themes and cute little shapes. But, guess what? These cute little snacks are full of chemicals and are made in laboratories. The list of ingredients is long and confusing, full of strange chemicals and carcinogens. With the onset of childhood obesity and developmental issues, it makes me wonder how these foods are affecting our children.

As a parent with young children I’m often asked advice on healthy alternatives. In the words of Dr. Lipman, choose foods that come from God, not from man. Keep it simple and do your best to feed your children real, whole foods.

In reality, preparing fresh food can seem overwhelming for parents, especially when there is such little time. There’s no need to be holed up in the kitchen by yourself slaving away. Why not make it an activity and do it with your kids? It’s fun and an ideal way to generate awareness around the food you’re eating.

To make it easy, here are the top five snacks my children gobble up in my house:

1. Homemade Popsicles

Popsicles are a crowd pleaser and such a great way to pack a huge amount of nutrition into a fun treat. I take one of my favorite smoothies and turn it into a popsicle. Here is the recipe:

8oz almond or coconut milk, handful of spinach, scoop of cacao, handful of cacao nibs, tbsp of chia seeds, ½ avocado and 4-5 cubes of ice in a blender. Blend until smooth and creamy. Divide among molds or paper cups. Cover and freeze until firm and serve!

2. Sweet Potato Chips or Squares

Kids love the crunch of a good chip and it’s simple to make them on your own. Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees, slice 2-3 sweet potatoes (parsnips or carrots work well too!) in ½ inch circles or squares. Brush them with olive oil and pop in the oven for 45 minutes. Sprinkle with a little cinnamon and serve.

3. Ants On a Log

This is a new spin on this old school favorite snack and it happens a to be a fun project for the kids.

These days there are so many ways to make this filling, protein rich snack. I recommend swapping peanut butter for almond, cashew or sunflower seed butter. As an alternative, you can use dried cranberries instead of raisins.


Posted by on Apr 17, 2015 | 1 Comments

Be Well Kitchen:
Kale, Swiss Chard, and Butternut Squash Salad

Kale Salad

With raw butternut squash ribbons, crisp kale, delicate Swiss chard, and an orange vinaigrette, this salad is simple and one of my favorites.


For orange vinaigrette:

  • 1 medium shallot, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup pulp-free orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

For Salad:

  • 2 medium bunches (4 cups) kale, chopped
  • 1 medium bunch Swiss or rainbow chard
  • 1/2 medium butternut squash
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 6 ounces fresh chèvre (goat cheese), crumbled, optional


1. In a small mixing bowl, whisk all ingredients for vinaigrette to combine.

2. Clean and thoroughly dry kale and chard. With a sharp knife, remove woody stems from kale. Chop both greens into bite-size pieces.

3. Remove and discard seeds from butternut squash. Use a vegetable peeler to slice thin ribbons from inside squash.

4. In a large bowl, combine greens, squash ribbons, dried cranberries, and pumpkin seeds. Toss with half the vinaigrette. Transfer salad to 6 plates. Top with crumbled chèvre and serve additional vinaigrette on the side.

Posted by on Apr 16, 2015 | 0 Comments

The Care and Feeding of Your Mitochondria


Reprinted with permission from Experience Life Magazine.
By Pamela Weintraub

They’re essential to energy, focus, vitality, and metabolism. And yet most of us have no idea how our mitochondria work. Here’s how to tune up your body’s quadrillions of “energy factories” so you can perform at your peak.

We spend billions of dollars every year buying pills, potions, and creams that promise to slow the aging process. But what if we could enlist our own bodies to help us live longer, healthier lives?

Meet your mitochondria — the tiny factories in each of our cells that turn the food we eat and the oxygen we breathe into energy.

When the communication breaks down between our cells’ nuclei and their mitochondria, aging accelerates.

But here’s the exciting news — the opposite is also true: When intracellular communication is improved, the aging process slows down, and overall health and vitality improve.

Researchers used to think that unavoidable mitochondrial mutations were to blame for such aging-related miscommunications, but they’ve now discovered that such disconnects can be repaired if the mutations have not advanced too far.

“The aging process, we discovered, is like a married couple,” states Harvard Medical School biologist David Sinclair, PhD. “When they are young, they communicate well. But over time, living in close quarters for many years, communication breaks down.”

Fortunately, Sinclair notes, “restoring communication solves the problem.”

The great thing is, caring for your mitochondria and upgrading their communication network doesn’t just help slow down the aging process. It can also enhance your energy, metabolism, and cognitive powers. And it can reduce your risk of age-related diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and infertility.

Ready to embark on a mitochondrial makeover? Here’s what you need to know about your body’s primary power source.


Posted by on Apr 14, 2015 | 0 Comments

Get to Know The Avocado – The Superfood You Should Eat Every Day


It’s no secret that I love to eat and my favorite food of all? Avocados. I’m bananas for them! Avocados are truly one of nature’s little miracle foods and I encourage you to enjoy them several times a week. These little green gems can do so much to help keep you well from head to toe, they’re simply too good to pass up. Here are a few thoughts on why you need to get to know them better – and eat them more often:

1. Relax. Avocados Won’t Make You Fat!

The heyday of food-fat-phobia is over. If you’re still avoiding avocados because of some misguided, left-over-from-the-80’s belief that avocados will make you fat, you’re barking up the wrong tree. You’re also missing out on an excellent source of monounsaturated fat – the good fat also found in olive oil – that helps boost heart health. What’s more, those good fat and fiber-rich avocados can also help curb hunger. Studies indicate that meals which include avocado tend to increase feelings of satiety for longer than those without, so consider adding a few avocado slices to your daily diet to help tame between-meal munchies.

2. An Avocado Is a Creamy, Delicious Nutrient Bomb

As with many superfoods, it’s what’s inside that counts, and avocados are a nutritional goldmine. What’s inside? In addition to “good” monounsaturated fat, avocados pack plenty of health-boosting nutrients to help your body thrive. Underneath the tough green exterior lies over 14 minerals; protein, complete, with all 18 essential amino acids; soluble fiber, to trap excess cholesterol and send it out of the system; phytosterols; polyphenols; carotenoids; omega 3s; vitamins B-complex, C, E and K, to name a few.

3. Watch Out Heart Disease, Alzheimer’s and Diabetes – Avocados Are Coming for You

OK, so avocados are packed with nutrition, but what does it all mean in practical terms? It means a belly that feels fuller longer; a brain that’s being well-supplied with the nutrients needed to function optimally now and down the road; and a body that’s receiving the nutrition it needs to help protect it from heart disease, diabetes, cancer, degenerative eye and brain diseases. What’s more, all those nutrients, good fats and fiber in avocados can help naturally lower LDL and raise your good HDL cholesterol, help regulate blood sugar and tamp down inflammation throughout the body and brain. With benefits like these, it’s easy to see why it’s called a superfood.


Posted by on Apr 13, 2015 | 0 Comments