What Can You Do About Leaky Gut? 

What Can You Do About Leaky Gut? 

One of the gut’s important responsibilities is to selectively allow the foods we consume to be absorbed while keeping other unwanted particles and toxins out. But, this is only possible if the cells are working properly and physically joined together very tightly, via tight junctions. 

What can we do to keep those junctions tight? 

One way to approach a suspected leaky gut is to address inflammation and eat a more gut-friendly diet. This means reducing excessive alcohol and processed foods that tend to be high in fat and sugar or artificial sweeteners, adding in gut friendly foods, and focusing on fiber and plant diversity.  

It’s also a good idea to avoid foods that you’re allergic or sensitive to. For example, if you have been diagnosed with celiac disease, you want to be sure to stay away from gluten to avoid an inflammatory response. Or if you are lactose intolerant, it is best to avoid dairy products with lactose. 

Instead, enjoy more foods rich in gut-friendly probiotics and fiber which is a prebiotic, or food for your friendly gut microbes. These include:

  • yogurt or kefir
  • fermented foods/drinks (e.g., kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut, and miso)
  • fruits and vegetables (e.g., berries, grapefruit, broccoli, cabbage, leafy greens)
  • nuts and seeds (e.g., walnuts, cashews, and chia seeds)
  • whole grains (e.g., oats, corn, and quinoa)
  • prebiotic foods such as
    • onions 
    • oats
    • garlic
    • green bananas (or right when they turn yellow)
    • asparagus 
    • potatoes

There are also foods with phytonutrients that have proven to help heal the gut and maintain gut health. For example, ellagic acid found in pomegranate, feeds the good bacteria that help protect the gut by maintaining the biofilm in our gut that prevents leaky gut. Sulforaphane in cruciferous veggies (cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, etc) also feeds the good bacteria that are responsible for maintaining a healthy digestive system. Green tea is packed with phytonutrients that are great for the gut. 

Pro Tip: If you’re going to proactively increase your fiber intake, do it over several days or weeks because sudden increases in fiber can cause gas, bloating, and other gut discomfort. If you have IBS, talk to your doctor, or friendly Well Balanced Dietitian, to see if certain fibers may worsen your condition and which are recommended.

If you plan on making changes to your diet and lifestyle, consider keeping a journal to help see if the changes are helping your symptoms.

However, it’s not all about nutrition. Having healthy stress management tools is an important piece in keeping our guts healthy. Whether that is meditation, journaling, spending time in nature, exercise, or another activity that brings you joy. Regular exercise helps maintain the health of your digestive system. This means even a 15- or 20-minute walk after you eat to help you digest your food can have positive effects. And don’t forget the importance of sleep quality and avoiding tobacco products!

It’s not you, it’s your gut

When it comes to leaky gut, a few simple shifts toward a gut-friendly diet can help you tighten those junctions, reduce inflammation, and get rid of unwanted symptoms. 

A leaky gut is associated with gut and non-gut symptoms. It’s an inflammatory condition that has been linked to metabolic disorders, autoimmune conditions, and even mental health. There are certain laboratory markers, stool sample tests, and the Cyrex 2 array test to help diagnose leaky gut. And remember, this is still a rather new area of research, so more information emerges all the time. 

In the meantime, if you have symptoms that suggest a leaky gut, you can move toward a more gut-friendly diet. Try cutting down on alcohol, processed foods, and anything that you may be allergic or sensitive to. Replace these foods and drinks with ones higher in gut-friendly probiotics and fiber. And remember that regular exercise, stress management, and quality sleep are great lifestyle strategies for your gut and the rest of your body.

And of course, your Well Balanced coaches are here to help you! Click here to book a complementary call today!

Is Leaky Gut a Real Thing?

Is Leaky Gut a Real Thing?

Harvard Health calls it a “medical mystery” and “mysterious ailment.” It’s been linked to everything from gut troubles, autoimmune diseases, and even mental health concerns.

I’m talking about “leaky gut” or “intestinal permeability”—have you heard of it?

Many doctors and the established medical community may not recognize it, but there is growing research to suggest it is associated with many health conditions.

What exactly is “leaky gut?” Do you have it? How does it happen? What can you do about it? Hold on to your seats, because this leaky gut train is about to leave the station! 

What is “leaky gut?”

Your gut (gastrointestinal system) is not just a 30-foot-long muscular tube that starts at your mouth and ends with you using the restroom. It’s a vast and complex system with many functions. It breaks down food into smaller digestible bits, keeps it moving through the gastrointestinal tract, and skillfully absorbs water and nutrients while keeping out harmful substances. More and more research has revealed that these essential gut functions are interconnected throughout your body—to everything from your heart to your brain. This means that the foods and drinks you consume can directly affect your health and mood. So maybe it isn’t you after all, maybe it’s your gut. 

Your gastrointestinal tract is lined with millions of cells, all side-by-side in a single layer so thin it’s less than the width of a human hair. Those intestinal cells help the body to absorb what we need from foods and drinks while acting as a gatekeeper, allowing in what your body uses and keeping out what it doesn’t, which ultimately ends up as waste. This ability to selectively allow some things in our gut to be absorbed while keeping others out is only possible if the cells are working properly and physically joined together very tightly. The bonds that keep the cells tightly together are called “tight junctions.” 

Leaky gut happens when the tight junctions aren’t so tight anymore. The cellular barrier is inflamed, irritated or otherwise weakened, allowing tiny holes to appear. These tiny holes or gaps allow things that would normally stay out of the bloodstream into the bloodstream causing a number of issues. When things like food particles, waste products, and bacteria get into the bloodstream your immune system is altered and triggered, responding by attacking the foreign bodies similar to how your immune system would fight the cold virus and cause inflammation. 

Do you have a leaky gut?

The symptoms of leaky gut are similar to those of other digestive conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, and Crohn’s disease. Symptoms can include diarrhea, constipation, cramps, bloating, food sensitivities, or nutrient deficiencies. 

But, because the food particles, toxins, and bacteria have been absorbed into the bloodstream which travels throughout your body, symptoms can appear anywhere. Studies show that leaky gut may feel like fatigue, headaches, confusion, difficulty concentrating, joint pain, or skin problems (e.g., acne, rashes, eczema). Leaky gut is also linked with diabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome, liver disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, and autoimmune diseases such as lupus and multiple sclerosis. There may even be links to anxiety and depression.

Many of these gut and non-gut symptoms and conditions are linked to chronic inflammation, but more research is needed to understand how they are connected.

Even if you have some of these symptoms, the fact is, it’s very difficult to diagnose a leaky gut, or how leaky it is. However, many functional and integrative doctors are using the Cyrex Array 2 testing to help determine gut permeability. This means science is heading in the direction of developing tests to diagnose leaky gut. But, in some instances it is difficult to say whether your symptoms are from leaky gut, or whether leaky gut is a symptom of another issue. 

What causes leaky gut?

It’s not 100 percent clear what causes those bonds to loosen and result in tiny perforations in the gut barrier. In fact, we’re just starting to understand how the gut barrier functions and there is a lot of ongoing research.

Part of leaky gut may be due to the genes you inherit from your parents. It can also be from medications or gut infections. Leaky gut is also linked to eating a diet that is low in gut-friendly fiber (adults should aim for 25-30 g of fiber per day). It can also be from consuming too much added sugar and saturated fat. Leaky gut may even result from stress or an imbalance in the diversity and numbers of your friendly gut microbes. As you age your cells can get damaged more easily and heal slowly, including the cells that line your gut. This can leave you more susceptible to loosening of the gut barrier.

The bottom line

More and more research suggests that your gut is deeply interconnected throughout your body—from the brain, to your heart, to your immune system, and even to your mood. This means that the foods and drinks you consume can directly affect your health and mood. The gut’s ability to selectively allow the foods we consume to be absorbed while keeping others out is only possible if the cells are working properly and physically joined together very tightly, via tight junctions. When the cellular barrier lining your gut is inflamed, irritated or otherwise weakened, the tight junctions loosen, allowing tiny gaps for unwanted entities to enter your bloodstream and thus cause leaky gut. This then translates into a slew of symptoms and conditions. However, leaky gut is preventable and treatable. That’s why next week, we’ll discuss strategies for reducing gut inflammation, ways you can keep those tight junctions tight, and how to mitigate the onset of leaky gut (hint: it has a lot to do with nutrition). 

3 Steps to Super Tender and Flavorful Chicken Thighs

3 Steps to Super Tender and Flavorful Chicken Thighs

In this episode of Cooking with Chef Christy we get a brief overview (#lifehack) for adding juicy flavors without the fancy #sousvide equipment. She walks us through starting with a flavorful marinade for protein of your choice (such as chicken thighs). Then you cook them briefly on the grill. Lastly, you put the meat back in the marinade and bake in the oven for a flavor packed #protein.

Doing these steps in this order means that the active cooking time is finished early. You can use this passive cooking time to finish work, go play or prepare any other foods for this meal.

For more help making delicious meals like these, contact us to talk about how you can make more Well Balanced meals at home: https://wellbalancednutrition.com/contact-us/ #cooking #wellbalanced #homemade

First Add Flavor:

A marinade is a fairly quick way to add a ton of flavor to your chicken. We have this DIY recipe for you or you can buy premade spice blends at the store.

Option 1 – Moroccan Marinade (Recipe listed at the bottom of this post.)

Option 2 – Curry Blend (Recipe listed at the bottom of this post.)

Second Sear In The Flavor:

Grill the chicken for 10 minutes to for some caramelization and a bit of char if you’re into that. This step also adds a bit of texture, which holds up even after the finishing step.

Lastly, Finish Cooking In Oven:

In this method, the marinade doesn’t just flavor the outside of the chicken. Braising (which is what’s happening in the oven) allows these flavors to better penetrate the chicken. It also puts any excess marinade to good use here, as too much moisture on the grill tends to get messy.

Moroccan Chicken

  • 1  1/2 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 3 Cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric optional
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Whisk together all ingredients, except chicken, together in a small bowl or measuring cup. Add chicken and let marinade while grill heats or up to 12 hours.
  • Preheat grill.
  • Place chicken breasts on grill, brushing on additional marinade over top. Grill, covered, for 5-6 minutes per side.
  • Place seasoned, grilled chicken thighs into an oven-safe dish, along with any leftover marinade.
  • Add 1-2 ounces of chicken broth.  *In a pinch, just use water. You’ll have plenty of flavors already.
  • Cover the dish tightly with foil and place in a 350-degree oven for 60- 90 minutes. The chicken should be tender and fork-shreddable after 60 minutes but can cook longer for more tenderness.
  • Remove from the oven, allow to cool slightly, and gently shred the chicken with a fork before serving. You can also serve the chicken in larger pieces if desired.
  • SUGGESTION: Serve w/ rice, peppers, green olives, lemon. Add cilantro if you have it. You can use cauliflower rice, whole grain rice, couscous or your favorite grain.


  • While many ethnic foods have a reputation for being spicy, they don’t have to be. It’s very easy to omit chiles and build up a tolerance over time if you wish.
  • Fresh spices make a difference. Use dried spices within 3 months of opening for the best flavor.

Curry Chicken

  • 1 T ground coriander seeds
  • 1 T ground turmeric
  • 2 t ground fenugreek seeds
  • 2 t ground cumin seeds
  • 1 t ground ginger
  • ½ t ground black pepper
  • ¼ t ground cinnamon
  • ¼ t ground cloves
  • ¼ t ground cardamom
  • ¼ t ground cayenne peppers (optional)
  • coconut milk or Chicken Broth*
  • 1 lb chicken thighs
  • Whisk together all ingredients, except chicken, together in a small bowl or measuring cup. Add chicken and let marinade while grill heats or up to 12 hours.
  • Preheat grill.
  • Place chicken breasts on grill, brushing on additional marinade over top. Grill, covered, for 5-6 minutes per side.
  • Place seasoned, grilled chicken thighs into an oven-safe dish, along with any leftover marinade.
  • Add 1-2 ounces of chicken broth or coconut milk.  *In a pinch, just use water. You’ll have plenty of flavors already.
  • Cover the dish tightly with foil and place in a 350-degree oven for 60- 90 minutes. The chicken should be tender and fork-shreddable after 60 minutes but can cook longer for more tenderness.
  • Remove from the oven, allow to cool slightly, and gently shred the chicken with a fork before serving. You can also serve the chicken in larger pieces if desired.
  • SUGGESTION: Serve w/ jasmine rice, shreds of zucchini, and carrots


  • I (Christy) like a brighter, more floral curry powder and favor a little more turmeric and less cumin than some blends.
  • Fresh spices make a difference. Use dried spices within 3 months of opening for the best flavor.
  • Plain Greek yogurt (full fat) makes a great base for the marinade too if you have this rather than coconut milk.
Dietitians Give Meal Prep Solution a Try and Here’s What They Thought

Dietitians Give Meal Prep Solution a Try and Here’s What They Thought

Meal planning and preparation are some of the most common struggles we (Lucy, Kristen and Bella) hear about from clients. Whether it’s due to a time constraint, creative block, picky eaters at home, or disinterest in cooking, meal planning and prep often take a back seat in many of our lives. That’s why at Well Balanced we are always looking for new ways to help our clients plan and cook their meals without breaking the bank or requiring hours in the kitchen. So over the past few weeks Kristen and Bella decided to give some meal prep help a try from a local company, Long Life Meal Prep. 

Check out our reviews below!


If you were to talk to my friends and family you would quickly learn I am often the butt of many jokes due to the oxymoron of being a RD that doesn’t always do a good job at feeding herself. Between my work schedule and being a full time student, I often lack the motivation (and time)  to cook 3 meals a day. If I don’t meal prep on Sundays, then I often struggle to come up with dinner ideas. That’s why, just like my clients, I am always looking for new tips and tricks to get nutritious fuel without the hassle. 

So when I had the chance to try Long Life Meal Prep, I couldn’t resist. I found that their meals were a good base, and that adding some additional sauces, spices, and veggies took them to the next level. The convenience was the best part. All I had to do was reheat, add some additional flavors and within minutes BOOM, dinner was served! 

Chickpeas, spaghetti, and spinach – one of Bella’s favorites.

Veggie burritos with cilantro lime dressing


Countless times I tell myself I am going to put together a nice lunch for myself but something stops me from following through with lunch prep- whether it’s the overwhelm of starting or simply time already feeling stretched thin. If I’m lucky, I’ll have leftovers to reheat, but I’m not going to lie some days I end up just eating a granola bar or scramble to put a ho-hum lunch together.

I was excited to get a little help from Long Life Meal Prep since I can be so inconsistent with lunch. It’s funny how making a family dinner that we will all enjoy together is a lot easier to prioritize than my individual lunches. I know I’m not alone because I hear all the time from clients who agree that cooking for yourself is a lot harder to do.

Whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner you have a hard time keeping up with, consider getting a little help. It was so nice having these meals ready for me when things got busy. Why not take something off your plate and make healthy eating easier?

Mixed vegetables with potatoes, kale, carrots, and mushrooms. Kristen added leftover chicken and curry powder to round out the meal and reheated in a skillet.

Chicken and zucchini covered with tomato sauce and cheese.

Pro Tips for Using a Meal Prep service like Long Life Meal Prep:

Letting someone take over the job of prepping frees up more brain space and creativity to make the meals work for you. Don’t assume that every meal is perfect for you as is. Put some time and effort into making it satisfying and filling. These meals often start at a low calorie level. You may need more energy to make it through the day. Here’s what you can add to your meals.

  • Flavor. Some meals are loaded with flavor like Bourbon Grilled Chicken or Honey Sriracha Chicken Bowl. If you choose a more basic meal, think of it as a blank slate to add your own type of flare! It can quickly be jazzed up with your favorite sauce or seasoning blends.  Flavor boosters don’t have to add a ton of extra calories or unneccesary ingredients if you make your own or pick high-quality store bought versions. (Need help? Lucy and Bella will be sharing fast and easy ways to add flavor to your meals on this month’s webinar. Sign up now!)
  • Fiber. Some meals may be too low in carbohydrates for you and could use a fiber boost. Simply add some whole grains, starchy vegetables, beans, or your favorite bread to the meal to round it out and make it complete.
  • Fun. Long Life Meal Prep has some fun snack/dessert options that are made with minimal sugar and added protein. Adding fun items like this to your routine in addition to Well Balanced meals will make it easier to eat well without feeling like you are missing out on anything.

A few more tips:

  • If you have time, heat your meals in an air fyer, toaster oven or on a skillet. This delivers the best flavor and quality.
  • If you can’t eat your meal within the week, keep them in the freezer for later. The day before you are ready to eat it, put it in the refrigerator to thaw overnight before heating the next day.
  • Need help getting your meals just right? Give them a call. They will be happy to work with you to personalize your order.

Meals are tightly sealed to stay fresh.

Having the nutrition facts allows you to customize your meals to meet your nutrition needs.

Wanna Try Long Life Meal Prep, too? Here’s how:

Long Life Meal Prep is a company based in Jamestown, NC, but they ship anywhere. If you live near one of their “pick-up” locations you can save 20% off your order by dropping in to grab your meals each week.

Here’s how to order:

  • Simply browse the menu
  • Add meals, snacks and juices to your cart
  • Select either delivery or find your pick up location at check out
  • Enjoy your food!

Ready to try? Use the code: WellBalance10 to get 10% off your first order! Put Well Balanced Nutrition in the comments section on follow up orders to let them know who sent them.

Nutrition Tips for the Onset of Menopause

Nutrition Tips for the Onset of Menopause

Menopause. The change. Whatever you call it, it’s important to remember that it’s not a disease to be treated, but rather a normal stage of life. Menopause “officially” starts 12 months after your last period. That happens, on average, around the age of 51.  Perimenopause often starts in the early- to mid-40s. This is when some may start feeling symptoms like:

  • Weight gain—especially around the midsection
  • Hot flashes and night sweats
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Mood fluctuations

Why does this even happen? Some of the reasons behind all these changes include your changing hormones, metabolism, stress levels, and lifestyle.

Because your body goes through all these changes, its nutritional needs also change. Here are some expert nutrition tips to help you navigate the onset of menopause.

Nutrition tips for Perimenopause and Menopause

1. Hydration is Helpful

Some key menopausal symptoms may be improved simply by drinking more fluids. If hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, or bladder infections are affecting you, try drinking at least six 8-oz glasses of water per day to help hydrate you. It’s important to remember that we all slowly lose our sense of thirst with age. This means you can become less hydrated without even noticing it, through no fault of your own. So find ways to make it easy and appealing to sip on a hydrating beverage all day long. If water is challenging to drink, try herbal teas or jazz up your water with a lemon or lime. Start early in the morning so you get your fluids in well before it wakes you up in the middle of the night.

2. Rethink that Night Time Drink

Although that glass of wine feels like a great way to unwind at the end of the day, pay attention to how you feel when you have a nightly drink or two. Alcohol can worsen hot flashes and make it harder to stay asleep through the night. It can also increase your risk of getting or worsening many health conditions. Lastly, drinking beer, wine, or cocktails each night may be taking you over your energy needs for the day and contribute to weight gain.

3. Cut down on spicy foods, caffeine, and sugar

If hot flashes bother you, try avoiding common triggers like spicy foods and caffeine.

When it comes to sugar, the simplest way to cut down is to replace sugar-sweetened drinks with water or herbal tea. Also, excess sugar can be coming from things like chocolate, doughnuts, pastries, desserts, and snacks. If the thought of cutting out all sweets doesn’t sound fair (we agree), try eating smaller portions or even half-sized desserts. A recent study showed that menopausal women who consumed more sweets, fats, and snacks suffered from menopausal symptoms more than those who ate more fruits and vegetables. We’re talking hot flashes, night sweats, muscle and joint problems, and bladder issues were all worse for the dessert-lovers. Again, that doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself completely! Find creative ways to enjoy sweets in a new, healthier way.

4. Be mindful of your energy needs. 

For most, metabolism slows down gradually as we age. It happens for many reasons, including the fact that we tend to move around less throughout the day, exercise less, and lose muscle mass that doesn’t get used regularly.  This means that by continuing to eat the same amount of food as you did in your 30s and 40s, you’ll start gaining weight. On average, women in their 50s and 60s gain about 1.5 pounds every year. Mindful eating can help. Try starting with smaller portions and paying attention to how much you need to feel full and satisfied.

PRO TIP: Avoid eating large meals close to bedtime, particularly if you have trouble sleeping.

5. Eat higher-quality foods

Focus on quality foods packed with nutrients (i.e., nutrient-dense foods). Think fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains. Eating enough protein cans support your muscles and bones. You can get protein from legumes, nuts, seeds, fish, and/or poultry. A recent study showed that menopausal women who ate the most greens had the fewest complaints about typical menopausal symptoms like hot flashes. By eating more nutrient-dense foods like these, you’ll get more vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein—all of which are crucial to maintaining your health during and beyond the menopause transition.

PRO TIP:  Your bones love calcium and vitamin D. Some of the richest sources of these are dairy products, fish with bones, and foods fortified with these nutrients (check your labels).

Bottom Line

A few simple diet and lifestyle changes can help improve common symptoms during perimenopause.

Be sure to drink enough fluids while minimizing alcohol; cut back on spicy foods, caffeine, and sugar; eat mindfully and build meals around higher-quality foods.

If you’d like personalized nutrition recommendations and coaching to help you feel your best during perimenopause and menopause, let’s start with a phone conversation to see how we can help! Set up a call today. 


The Truth About Hormones and Nutrition – Free Workshop Recording. Nutrition can help support your hormone health. We share nutrition tips to help with sleep, your menstrual cycle, stress, and appetite.


Simple Arugula Radicchio Salad with Farro, Walnuts, and Oranges

Simple Arugula Radicchio Salad with Farro, Walnuts, and Oranges

In the second episode of Cooking With Chef Christy, you’ll learn how to make a delicious and hardy salad with heart-healthy additions.

Are salads really healthy?

Salads are a great way to get in a lot of colorful plant-foods, but not every salad is a great choice. It is easy to think a salad is the healthiest option on the menu when sometimes it can be more than you need. On the flip side, a salad can lack a balance of nutrients and elements that keep you full and satisfied. Salads vary widely and the right salad for you should fit your energy needs and keep you satisfied. 

How to make a salad balanced AND delicious?

Just like any meal, a salad needs a few things to be balanced AND delicious. First, include fiber, protein, and fat. Fiber can come from foods like starchy vegetables, beans, or whole grains. Protein can come from eggs, beans, nuts, seeds, meat, fish, or tofu. Fat can come from nuts, seeds, avocado, egg yolks, meat, and/or dressing. Having each of these nutrients present in your salad not only make it well balanced, but will keep you full longer.

Secondly, include an element that ramps up the satisfaction level of your meal. That might be a crunch factor, a bit of sweetness from fruit or dressing, something spicy, something creamy, or a combination. Both the nutrition and the satisfaction level of your food matter.

Be aware of how energy-dense ingredients like dressings, nuts, avocado, fried meats, cheese, dried fruit and bacon bits can add up quickly and come with more sugar, salt, fat, and calories than you may want or need in your salad. 

Here’s what ingredients makes up the Arugula Radicchio salad. The only thing left to add is a piece of salmon or other great protein-rich option to round out this colorful dish.


  • A cruciferous vegetable full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants
  • Offers some spicy flavors to the salad.


  • A member of the chicory family
  • Offers a pleasantly sharp and bitter flavor.
    • CULINARY NOTE – The fat from the salad dressing and the acid from the citrus help curb/compliment the bitterness of this nutritous and colorful veggie. 
  • It’s beautiful purple color is thanks to the anthocyanins present in the plant. Research shows that foods rich this chemical can have anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and anti-diabetic effects. It is also great for brain health and helping to prevent heart disease.


  • Farro is a high-fiber whole grain.
  • One serving of cooked farro (1/2 cup) contains about 100 calories and 1g of fat, 4g of protein, and 26g of carbohydrates.
  • It is an ancestor of modern wheat and contains gluten.
  • Commonly used in Italian cooking.

Olive Oil-Based Dressing

  • Olive oil is considered a healthy fat.
  • It’s the primary source of added fats in the Mediterranean diet.
  • It’s rich in heatlhy monounsaturated fat, which lowers total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (or “bad”) cholesterol levels. 


  • Walnuts are the only tree nut that is considered anexcellent source of Omega-3s fatty acids.
  • A one-ounce serving of walnuts provides 2.5 grams of plant-based omega-3 fatty acid (ALA), 4g of protein and 2g of fiber
  • A serving of walnuts is also a good source of magnesium (45mg)

Seasonal Fruit

  • Fruit is a great way to add some extra fun, flavor and nutrition to your salads. In the winter, citrus fruit is perfect. In the summer, you have a variety of berries and tropical fruits to choose from. 

How to make your own salad dressing

Nothing elevates a salad to “yum” status quite like a tasty, clingy dressing. Making your own salad dressing is simple, cost effective, and a great way to control additives, like sugar and preservatives, that might be hiding in processed varieties. Follow this DIY Salad Dressing Formula to make your own. You can play with the ratios but this is always a great to start! Have fun with it and find the combinations you love.


  • 4 TBS Oil
  • 2 TBS Vinegar
  • 1 TBS Fresh Chopped Herbs (or 1 tsp dried herbs)
  • 1 TBS Chopped Garlic
  • Salt and Pepper to taste


Simple Arugula Radicchio Salad with Farro, Walnuts, and Oranges

Simple Arugula Radicchio Salad with Farro, Walnuts, and Oranges

Well Balanced Nutrition
A beautiful, satisfying salad that pairs well with any protein-rich food.
Servings 2 salads


  • 3 cup arugula
  • 1 Heads radicchio lettuce chopped
  • 1 1/2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbs red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 lemon juiced (for 1 tbsp juice)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 Mandarin Oranges
  • 1/2 cup farro uncooked
  • 2 oz walnuts 1 ounce - 14 halves


  • Follow directions on the package to cook farro. (*Trader Joe's sells a small bag of farro that cooks in 10 minutes.)
  • Toast walnuts in a toaster oven at 300 - 325 degrees for about 8-10 minutes.
  • Wash and dry lettuces.
  • Chop radicchio.
  • Peel and slice oranges.
  • Add oil, mustard, vinegar, and lemon juice to a small mason jar. Shake to combine.
  • Add lettuces to bowl and toss to coat.
  • Add about 1/2 cup of your cooked farro on top.
  • Garnish with orange slices or wheels.



Eating for Each Phase of the Menstrual Cycle 

Eating for Each Phase of the Menstrual Cycle 

We all have something that makes us tick…. biological clocks. The fan favorite is the circadian rhythm, responsible for helping shape your behavioral, physical, and mental patterns on a 24-hour basis. However, those with female reproductive organs have a second internal clock called the infradian rhythm.  Alisa Viti, CEO of FLO Living, notes that this clock works on a 28-day basis, regulating the menstrual cycle which is made of 4 phases: menstruation, the follicular phase, ovulation, and the luteal phase. As you embark on the infradian journey, your hormones change with the seasons of the cycle causing a cascade of effects in your body. Therefore, nutrition can be a key component in supporting your body through each phase. So let’s find out what foods best fit the phase you’re in!


Menstruation is the phase of disposing the endometrial lining that built up from the previous cycle. On average it can last anywhere from 1-7 days. During this time hormone (progesterone and estrogen) levels start to decline. In fact, estrogen hits its lowest point right before the flow. So what does this really mean? Menstruation is the perfect time to slow down, rest, and honor your body because it is experiencing some inflammation during this phase. 

Foods to enjoy during your period include: 

  • Iron rich foods such as:
    • Canned or dried peas and beans 
    • Soybeans, tofu, tempeh
    • Lentils
    • Pumpkin, flax, and sesame seeds
    • Chicken, beef, liver, lamb, turkey, eggs
    • Clams, oysters, shrimp
    • Seaweed, nori 
    • Enriched grains (including enriched bread, pasta, cereal)
    • Broccoli, string beans, dark leafy greens
  • Protein packed foods like:
    • Chicken, turkey, lean ground beef
    • Salmon, shrimp, whitefish 
    • Tofu, spirulina, kidney beans, chickpeas, green peas
  • Healthy, friendly fats such as:
    • Avocado 
    • Olive oil 
    • Ghee
    • Nut butters 
  • Anti inflammatory foods/drinks to help with symptoms: 
    • Ginger 
    • Turmeric 
    • Green, black, oolong, or raspberry leaf teas
  • Avoid pro-inflammatory foods like fried foods, processed foods high in refined sugars, dairy products, and fatty foods as these can worsen symptoms

Follicular phase

As the bleeding comes to an end, you transition into the follicular phase, which typically occurs 7-10 days after menstruation ends. The coaches at Flo Living note, in the beginning hormones are at their lowest, but slowly begin to rise throughout this phase, preparing your body for ovulation. So, it is common to feel like your best, energized self. You might feel more focused, motivated, calm and in control during this time. You might notice you aren’t as hungry as other times of the month as metabolism is slower during this time. That is why it is important to focus on balance, nutrient density, fiber, and color during this phase. 

Foods to eat during this phase of your cycle:

  • Chicken and eggs
  • Oats and barley 
  • Broccoli, carrots, kale, spinach, and peas 
  • Berries, apples, pears 
  • Flax seeds, cashews, and walnuts
  • Sauerkraut and kimchi 


Up next is ovulation! Typically taking place mid cycle and averaging about 3-4 days in length. Estrogen levels continue to rise and luteinizing hormone (LH) triggers the release of an egg. Testosterone will also be on the up and up, making you feel energetic. This is a great time to focus on fiber to help your body flush out excess estrogen to avoid cramps or pain. Supplying your body with nutritionally rich foods will give it the fuel it needs. 

Foods to eat during ovulation include: 

  • Smoothies and salads 
  • Raw fruits and veggies like: 
    • Spinach
    • Tomato 
    • Cucumber 
    • Bell peppers 
    • Corn 
    • Asparagus 
    • Raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries 
  • Cruciferous veggies: 
    • Broccoli 
    • Cauliflower 
    • Kale 
    • Cabbage 
    • Radishes 
  • Pecans, pumpkin seeds, chocolate 

Luteal Phase

The 10-14 day period after ovulating is called the luteal phase. Estrogen and progesterone levels continue to climb, and metabolism speeds up. 

However, in the second half of the luteal phase, right before menstruation begins again hormone levels will dip down to their lowest point again. This is usually the time many experience fatigue, irritability, poor concentration, GI upset, bloating and/or appetite changes. However, adequate nutrition can help prevent the hormone imbalances that cause PMS. Since your metabolism is higher during this time, opt for nutrient dense foods and don’t refrain from protein and healthy fats.

  • Help stabilize your blood sugar during this phase with complex carbs like:
    • Sweet potatoes
    • Root veggies
    • Quinoa
    • Squash 
  • Help prevent fluid retention with magnesium and calcium rich foods such as: 
    • Cooked leafy greens 
    • Dark chocolate
    • Cocoa powder 
    • Pumpkin seeds
    • Almonds
    • Dark leafy greens
    • Yogurt 
    • Sardines 
  • If you experience painful cramps, try adding ginger to your meals or beverages, it has been proven to help with painful cramping 
  • Other great foods to eat during this time: 
    • Raisins 
    • Dates
    • Cabbage 
    • Turkey 
    • Chickpeas 
    • Spirulina 
    • Beef
    • Turkey

Monitoring your cycle is a great way to keep in touch with your body, allowing you to record symptoms and optimize nutrition depending on your body’s needs. There are many period tracking apps that help you do so. Cycle tracking provides you with the information you need in order to support your body and recognize when something may be out of balance with your hormones. Nutrition and lifestyle choices play a huge role in hormonal balance and reproductive organ health. Focusing on freshness, balance, nutrient density, and variety can benefit your body as it travels along its 28-day cycle. If you’d like to learn more about hormonal health and how nutrition can support it, please sign up for our monthly webinar by clicking the link below! 


Paleo Pineapple Upside Down Cake (Gluten-Free)

Paleo Pineapple Upside Down Cake (Gluten-Free)

In the first episode of Cooking With Chef Christy, you’ll learn how to make pineapple upside-down cake with a few twists!

Instead of white flour, Christy uses coconut flour which contains more fiber and is great for those avoiding wheat. She also uses coconut sugar rather than white table sugar which has a slightly lower glycemic index.

Because of those swaps, this version of pineapple upside-down cake has fewer calories and carbohydrates and higher fiber and protein than its more traditional counterpart. Another cool thing, this recipe comes together much quicker than a traditional upside-down cake.

Is coconut sugar healthier than white sugar?

No. Not really. While coconut sugar is a more natural alternative to white table sugar that contains small amounts of minerals and a slightly lower glycemic index score, in the end we recommend you treat coconut sugar the same as any other caloric sweetener.

Fun facts about coconut sugar:

  • The calorie and sugar content of cococunt sugar is identical to regular table sugar.
  • It comes from the sap of a coconut palm tree and is less processed than white table sugar.
  • It has a lower glycemic index than table sugar. Table sugar = 58, Coconut sugar = 54
  • It contains small amounts of naturally-occurring minerals (iron, zinc, calcium and potassium), which makes it a tiny bit more nutritious than white sugar. 
  • It contains a small amount of a soluble fiber called inulin that may make a blood sugar spike less likely to happen (if eaten in reasonable amounts).

Is coconut flour healthier than white flour?

  • Coconut flour is higher in fiber. In fact 1/4 cup serving contains 10 grams of fiber.
  • It’s fiber content makes it a blood sugar friendly option.
  • Great for people following a wheat-free or gluten-free diet.
  • A 1/4-cup serving contains:
    • 120 calories
    • 18 grams of carbohydrates
      • 6 grams of sugar
      • 10 grams of fiber
    • 6 grams of protein
    • 4 grams of fat
    • 20% of the daily value (DV) of iron

Fun facts about coconut flour:

  • It absorbs a lot of liquid during baking. Your dough will often be much thicker when baking with coconut flour.

What are Chef Christy’s thoughts on baking with alternative sweeteners, like coconut sugar?

Proceed with caution, and stick with natural, less-refined sweeteners when possible. Choose recipes from sources that have tested their recipes. 

Sugar Comparison Coconut Table Maple Honey

Pineapple Upside Down Cake with Chef Christy

Paleo Upside Down Cake

Paleo Pineapple Upside Down Cake (Gluten-Free)

Well Balanced Nutrition
This paleo version of pineapple upside-down cake has fewer calories and carbohydrates and a higher fiber and protein content than its more traditional counterpart. Another cool thing, this recipe comes together much quicker than a traditional upside-down cake.
Servings 6 pieces


  • 1/4 cup coconut oil melted
  • 1 cup almond flour blanched
  • 1/3 cup coconut flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 slices pineapple cut into rings
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup raspberries or cranberries


  • Preheat oven to 350° F.
  • Melt coconut oil and set aside to cool.
  • Line the bottom of an 8" springform pan with parchment paper [this facilitates a clean inversion of the cake] Note a 9-inch pie/cake pan will work also.
  • Spray parchment lined pan with oil.
  • Whisk together dry ingredients - flours, baking powder, and sugar.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, vanilla, and cooled coconut oil.
  • Add the wet ingredients to the dry and whisk until combined and you have a smooth batter.
  • Arrange pineapples rings in a single layer in your pan.
  • Add raspberries [or cranberries] to fill holes.
  • Drizzle the maple syrup on top of the pineapples.
  • Gently press the batter into the cake pan.
  • Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes.
  • Remove from oven a let stand for at least 10 minutes before releasing from pan.
  • Invert onto a plate and serve.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake Nutrition Comparison

Paleo vs Traditional from Betty Crocker
<All values listed per serving>
Calories: 279 vs 390 (~110 less)
Fat: 15 total, 9 saturated vs 14 total, 6 saturated (1 and 3 g higher respectively)
Cholesterol: 69 vs 40 (29g higher)
Carbohydrates: 32 vs 62 (30g lower)
Fiber: 4 vs 1 (3g higher)
Protein: 7 vs 4 (3g higher)

In summary, this paleo version has fewer calories and carbohydrates, higher fat and
cholesterol, and higher fiber and protein than its more traditional counterpart.

Gimme Some (Science About) Sugar: Types of Carbohydrates and Sugar

Gimme Some (Science About) Sugar: Types of Carbohydrates and Sugar

4 of 4

Different Types of Carbs and Natural vs. Processed sugar

Now that we know how our bodies process sugar and ways to optimize our blood sugar levels, it’s important we wrap up this series by discussing the different kinds of carbs and their major sources along with natural vs. processed sugars. 

What are carbs anyways? 

Carbohydrates are molecules made up of sugar units. Simple carbohydrates are made up of only one or two units, whereas complex carbohydrates are made up of many sugar units strung together in long, complex chains.

Types of carbohydrates

The three main types of carbohydrates are sugars, starches, and fiber. 

Sugars are simple carbohydrates. Their structure is the most basic form which makes them easy to digest and fast to absorb into the bloodstream. As we covered in the first post, the major types of sugars are:

  • Fructose and Glucose – the sugar found in fruits, vegetables, honey, but also in food products like syrups made with a combination of fructose and glucose
  • Sucrose (aka table sugar) –  occurs naturally in sugar beet, sugar cane, and fruits; also found in baked goods, candies, sugary drinks, etc. 
  • Lactose – a sugar found in milk and dairy products

Starches are complex carbohydrates. Since their structure is more complex, it takes more time to digest and metabolize starches. If you remember the discussion about blood sugar from post 3  then you know these kinds of carbs will promote a healthier rise in blood sugar and insulin after a meal. Examples of starches include: 

  • Starchy veggies such as peas and split peas, corn, and potatoes 
  • Beans, chickpeas, and lentils
  • Whole wheat grains, rice, oats, barley, quinoa

Fiber is also a complex carbohydrate. However, it comes from the indigestible part of plants. When we eat fiber it does not get digested and passes through our intestines until it reaches the colon where our gut bacteria use it for energy. Since fiber is not digested, it helps us stay fuller for longer, slows down digestion and prevents large spikes in blood sugar. Sources of dietary fiber include:

  • Fruits and veggies, especially berries, apples, pears, leafy greens, and avocados 
  • Beans, lentils, peas, and corn 
  • Whole grains 
  • Nuts and seeds 

Natural vs. Processed Sugar Explained

Natural sugars are ones that inherently exist in fruits, veggies, dairy products, nuts/seeds, and unprocessed grains/starches (aka corn on the cob, black beans, potatoes, etc). This means that there are naturally occurring sugar units that help makeup these foods. Thank you nature! Other forms of natural sugars can be found in 100% pure maple syrup and 100% pure honey.

Processed sugars are those that do not exist naturally and are often added to foods. Processed sugar is sometimes referred to as added sugar or refined meaning it comes from a process that extracts sugar from sugar cane or sugar beets. Examples of processed sugars include:

  • table sugar
  • high fructose corn syrup
  • brown sugar 
  • rice syrup
  • cane juice
  • molasses
  • other ingredients such as maltose or dextrose

A great way to know if there is processed sugar in a food is to read the label. For example, if a product like orange juice says 100% fruit juice and has no other ingredient other than oranges, then it contains only natural sugars. However, if the bottle were to list oranges AND cane sugar then it would contain both natural and processed sugars. 

The Difference Between Eating Natural and Processed Sugars

From a scientific perspective, our bodies break down processed and natural sugars into the same molecules. However, when we eat natural sugars from fresh fruits and vegetables we also get other nutrients such as fiber, vitamins, minerals, water, and protein. These other compounds help regulate blood sugar after we eat and provide our bodies with many benefits. Processed sugars on the other hand do not have other nutrients as the food they came from had to be stripped of them in order to extract the sugar. The difference can be seen in our blood sugar following a meal or snack. Let’s look at 2 scenarios: 

  • Scenario 1: If you eat an apple not only are you getting a source of natural sugars, but also fiber and vitamins. That means your blood sugar will steadily rise and the fiber in the apple will help you feel fuller longer and prevent a rapid crash in energy.
  • Scenario 2: If you were to eat a piece of candy you would not be getting fiber and your blood sugar would quickly spike and drop leading to what many describe as a quick increase in energy followed by a crash and fatigue. The lack of fiber can also mean you don’t feel as satisfied and full from one piece of candy as opposed to one apple. 


In summary, sugar can be a difficult topic to tackle that’s why I (Bella) want to end the series with these points:

  • Sugar aka glucose is the main source of fuel for our brain, therefore it is important to provide our bodies with carbohydrates every day.
  • Where your carbohydrates come from is what matters. Opting for whole foods that haven’t been processed is always a good choice. However, if you choose pizza over quinoa some nights, there is no reason to stress.
  • Eat the Well Balanced Way, meaning aim to have a source of protein, fat, fruits/veggies, and complex carbohydrates on your plate as much as possible.
  • Treat yourself! Sweets and treats are meant to be enjoyed. The more you deprive yourself the more likely you are to actually eat more than you would if you just enjoyed that brownie when you wanted it! 

If you are interested in learning more about the science of sugar, watch our free workshop on how to fit sugar in a well balanced diet: Watch the workshop!

The Gimme Some (Science About) Sugar Series

Gimme Some (Science About) Sugar: Optimize Your Blood Sugar and Insulin

Gimme Some (Science About) Sugar: Optimize Your Blood Sugar and Insulin

Post 3 of 4

Ways to Optimize Your Blood Sugar and Insulin Levels

Hooray! You’ve made it to the third post of the Gimme Some (Science About) Sugar Series. In the last two we’ve discussed how our bodies process sugar, what insulin and insulin resistance mean, and the effects of elevated blood glucose and excess sugar in the body. We’ve learned that too much sugar can have some serious health risks. Although the research linking elevated blood sugar to a wide variety of diseases can be scary, it gives us the knowledge to make choices that promote positive health outcomes. So let’s turn these facts into fuel for a healthier you!

Blood sugar imbalances can feel like a rollercoaster ride.

How to Detect Blood Sugar Imbalances

Before we dive into optimizing your blood sugar levels, it’s important to know the common signs that your blood sugar may be on a rollercoaster ride (beyond what is normal after a meal). The common symptoms of blood sugar imbalances include:

  • mood swings
  • fatigue
  • large bursts of energy followed by a crash
  • trouble concentrating
  • weight gain
  • dizziness and headaches
  • excessive thirst and excessive urination
  • dry skin
  • blurry vision
  • cravings for sugary foods/drinks

Ways to Optimize Blood Sugar and Insulin Levels 

Get Fiber Fueled

Fiber is a term used to describe any type of complex carbohydrate that our bodies cannot digest. Fiber slows the rate of digestion and absorption of carbs. This means your blood sugar will rise more gradually following a meal, and consistent intake of fiber can actually reduce our blood sugar levels in the long run, decreasing the risk of developing diabetes. Carbohydrates that are packed with fiber are always a great choice when you’re choosing a snack or meal planning. 

  • Examples include raspberries, strawberries, leafy greens, beans and lentils, oats, chia seeds, peas (especially split peas), pears, apples, avocados, and broccoli

Eat Well Balanced Meals

 When planning a meal it’s best to have a source of protein, complex carbohydrates, and fat on your plate. Extra bonus points if one or more of the foods you choose is packed with fiber. Each of these nutrients helps stabilize blood sugar levels on their own, but they’re even better together. Team work makes the dream work!  

  • Well Balanced Meal examples: 
    • veggie omelette with whole wheat avocado toast 
    • grilled chicken breast, a baked potato, and roasted carrots
    • black bean burger on a whole wheat bun with a side salad 
  • Snack examples:
    • apple with peanut butter 
    • veggies with hummus or yogurt dip
    • trail mix with dried fruit

Watch Your Added Sugar Intake

To clarify, added sugar is anything that isn’t already in our foods (fruits, vegetables, and dairy products have natural sugars in them already), so when we talk about added sugar we are NOT referring to these. However, any type of sugar (table sugar, brown sugar, syrups, etc.) that is added to a food or dish for flavor purposes, is the added sugar we must be aware of. 

  • Recommendations vary. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recommends that less than 6% of daily calories come from added sugars to achieve a balanced diet that is nutritionally abundant. The World Health Organization recommends 10% of your daily calories. Lastly, the American Heart Association breaks it down for men and women.
  • Plan out your meals and snacks so you can gauge how much added sugar is in your week ahead 
  • Avoid sugary drinks like sodas, juices with added sugar, or coffee/energy drinks loaded with sweet syrups 
  • Enjoy sweets in moderation

Move After a Meal

Research has shown that movement after eating can help reduce the spike in blood sugar. Sports Medicine recently published a scientific review of over 50 studies analyzing how single bouts of exercise help control post-meal blood sugar. The review found that a single bout of aerobic exercise (aka cardio) resulted in lower blood sugar levels. The best part? The exercise only had to be about 30 minutes in length and still had optimal effects as long as it occurred within 6 hours of eating! 

  • Exercise ideas: 
    • Take a walk on your lunch break after you eat 
    • Ride a bike whenever possible if you’re going out to eat, that way you have to ride it home after eating
    • Plan to eat before working out to not only fuel your muscles, but to optimize your blood sugar and insulin levels 
    • Have a family dance party after eating 

If you’ve made it through all 3 posts, thank you, and consider yourself a sugar specialist! However, our work here isn’t done yet. In the next (and last) post we are going to cover the different types of carbohydrates and discuss processed vs. natural sugars. See you next week! 

If you are interested in learning more about the science of sugar, watch our free workshop on how to fit sugar in a well balanced diet: Watch the workshop!

The Gimme Some (Science About) Sugar Series