Popular Diets Reviewed: Features, Who May Benefit and Drawbacks


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Exploring all fad/popular diets would be impossible as there are hundreds of them. When assessing a potential diet for yourself, be sure to consider some basic information:

  • Does the diet omit major food groups? If so, how will accommodate for the nutritional deficit?
  • Is it sustainable? Success is higher for meal programs that are realistic and take a lifestyle approach to the program.
  • Is it affordable? Are you required to purchase pricey supplements or pre-packaged foods?

In addition, keep in mind that although we each have unique dietary needs, we share the same core nutrient needs. We need macronutrients (Carbohydrates, Protein and Fat) to provide us with calories. We all need micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) to maintain cellular and hormonal functions. And we all need a rich variety of phytonutrients (resveratrol, lycopene…) to support our detoxification systems and protect us from chronic disease. Extreme eating programs that disrupt this nutrient balance pose risk and should be considered carefully with a Registered Dietitian or your Doctor.

The table below explores some of the most well-known diet programs.

Diet Features Who May Benefit Drawbacks
Atkins Eat as much protein and fat as you would like as long as you avoid carbohydrates.


Those looking to lose weight fast. Hard to follow. May cause headache, dizziness, weakness, fatigue and constipation.


Salt-restricted diet emphasizing fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Includes low-fat or nonfat dairy. Sweets are allowed in moderation.


Heavy in minerals linked to blood pressure regulation:

Potassium, magnesium and calcium. Improves blood flow protecting against vascular damage which is linked to decrease risk for chronic disease.

No real drawbacks but may be tedious to some due to tracking.
Flexitarian Allows animal products occasionally.

5 main food groups: non-meal protein sources, fruits and vegetables, grains, dairy, sugar and spice.

Weight loss likely.

Research shows vegetarians eat fewer calories and generally weigh less.

No real drawbacks. Highly flexible.
Intermittent Fasting 5:2 plan – You eat normally 5 days per week, limit intake to about 500 calories on the other 2 days.

Another plan – Eating during a smaller window each day (ex. 9am-6pm)’


Those with multiple metabolic symptoms or metabolic syndrome. Giving organs and digestion a break may help to reset metabolism. Hunger pangs may make it hard to stick to.
Ketogenic Diet




70% to 90% of calories come from fat.

A metabolic state in which you use fat for energy once glucose – the fuel derived from carbs is depleted.


Evidence to support use for:

Seizure control and reducing cognitive decline for individuals with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease or those at high risk for these diseases.


Increased risk of dehydration due to water and electrolyte loss. Increases risk of certain chronic diseases. Dramatic surge in appetite once “typical eating” pattern resumes.
Diet Features Who May Benefit Drawbacks
Mediterranean Diet:



Healthy fats such as nuts, olives, plant-based oils

Seafood at least two times each week

Beans, legumes, fruit, leafy greens, and whole grains every day

Red wine is included on the program.

Leads to longer, heathier lives. High in fiber which controls blood glucose and allows for sustained energy. You may lose weight.

Improved cholesterol and lower risk for heart disease.

Consistently ranked best for overall health.
Ornish Plan Restricts your consumption of fat to under 10% of daily calories. Diet is plant-based.

It is high carb and lower in protein. It also emphasizes exercise, stress management and relationships.

Clinically proven to reverse heart disease. Stresses a holistic plan addressing more than just diet.


May be hard to follow for some as many foods are eliminated.
Paleo Diet Meat allowed– preferably wild game, fish, eggs, nuts and wild plants. No processed foods, sugar, salt, dairy, grains or legumes and limited starchy vegetables. A plus is it omits processed foods which lends itself to stabilizing blood sugar.

Blood pressure is usually lowered  because it is lower in sodium.

Supports weight loss and lowers chronic disease risk.

May lower waist circumference.

Omits major food groups (legumes and grains) which provide essential nutrients.

Lower in calcium due to the omission of dairy.

Expensive when buying wild game and grass-fed beef.

Whole 30 Meal Plan You eliminate sugars, grains, dairy, alcohol, baked goods and legumes and add them back one at a time.


Promotes weight loss & Improved energy.

People with chronic GI symptoms, allergies and chronic pain may benefit.


Since it is very restrictive, it can be difficult to follow even just for 30 days.

With regards to weight loss, many gain back what they lose.


The Zone Diet A low-glycemic load diet:

35-45% daily calories carbohydrates

30% each of calories from protein and fat


Reduced risk for heart disease appears to be the biggest benefit.

May reduce risk for metabolic syndrome.


Limits consumption of some healthy carb sources such as bananas and potatoes.


Weight Gain in the Peri-Menopausal and Menopausal Years

Alli and Tami

So many changes! My oldest daughter heading off to college soon, our exchange student returning to Italy and yikes, weight changes too! Menopause usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55. And here I am in the middle of that age range. I’m sure many of you can relate, keeping my weight in check has been tricky!!!

Many of the changes related to weight control during the menopausal years are rooted in circulating levels of estrogen.(1)

Estrogen has several actions including:

  1. Keeping the metabolism working well
  2. Insulin sensitivity
  3. Adipose tissue health and normal blood lipids

Estrogen Deficiency can result in:

  1. Increases in the amount of abdominal fat known as visceral fat
  2. Inflammation and fatty liver
  3. Impaired adipocyte health and inflammation of adipose tissue
  4. Impaired glucose tolerance

The changes in estrogen is exacerbated by the changes in progesterone and testosterone leading to

  1. Greater insulin resistance
  2. Decreases in muscle mass
  3. Impairment of leptin (the satiety hormone) signaling

When the cells become resistant to insulin, the pancreas is triggered to release more insulin which increases our capacity to store fat. All of these changes lead to increase risk for metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease in women.

Likewise, a set group of microbes called the estrobolome are needed to maintain a good balance of estrogen metabolites.(2) Dysbiosis of the microbiome can lead to disruption of estrogen balance which can prompt fat-burning pathways to be turned off.

At the core of battling this mid-life weight gain is maintaining a healthy microbiome:

  1. Aim for a more whole-food, plant-centered diet foods in your diet and less processed, refined, and highs-sugar foods. Higher levels of the anti-inflammatory short-chained fatty acids that promote a healthy microbiome and protect against leaky gut were found in vegans, vegetarians and individuals who follow a Mediterranean diet (3)
  1. Minimize exposure to environmental toxins. Chose organic food whenever possible. Avoid or reduce exposure to glyphosate (the chemical in Round-up and other lawn treatments). These chemicals have been shown to disrupt and kill the beneficial bacteria in our gut. They are also known to be obesogenic endocrine hormone-disruptors. (4) Visit the Environmental Working Group at for more information.
  2. Use antibiotics only when absolutely, medically necessary. Antibiotics not only kill bad bacteria, they kill beneficial bacteria in the gut leading to low species diversity in our microbiome.
  3. Exercise daily. Exercise promotes the growth of a diverse and varied microbiota which improves health and decreases your risk for disease.
  4. Avoid simple sugar and refined carbohydrates. These foods fuel the bad bacteria in your gut and are pro-inflammatory which increases your risk for developing a leaky gut.
  5. Eat fermented and other probiotic rich and prebiotic rich foods. Probiotic foods include fermented vegetables, kombucha, sauerkraut, tempeh, yogurt (unsweetened). Prebiotic foods are foods high in fiber that feed the good bugs (probiotics). These include asparagus, bananas, garlic, legumes, and peas. Also, consider adding a medical or professional-grade probiotic supplement.
  6. Limit or avoid foods that you are sensitive or reactive to. Food intolerances or sensitivities promote inflammation in the gut and disrupt the microbiome. If you are unsure of what foods may be causing trouble for you, talk to your dietitian or doctor about doing an elimination diet. Common culprits include gluten, soy, corn, dairy, eggs, fish, peanuts, and tree nuts.
  7. Drink plenty of water. Adequate hydration is critical for maintaining a healthy and balanced microbiome.

In addition to caring for the health of the microbiome, it is important to consider meal balance. With the insulin-resistance that accompanies menopause, we become less able to metabolize carbohydrates.(5) Because of this, it is helpful to limit carbohydrate intake to about 30 grams at a time. Here are some guidelines:

  1. Chose mainly whole-food carbohydrates with a lower glycemic index: non-starchy vegetables, fresh fruit, legumes, yams, potatoes, brown rice, quinoa
  2. Examples of 30 grams of carbohydrates:1 piece of fresh fruit with 1/4th cup dry steel cut oats; 2/3 cup brown rice;  1 medium or sweet potato; 2 cups green leafy vegetables with 1/3 cup garbanzo beans
  3. Be sure to round out the carbohydrates at meals with protein (organic lean meats, organic free-range eggs, nut butters…) and healthy fats (see below)
  4. Limit more refined carbohydrates such as: sweets of any kind, pasta, white rice, juices, breads and cereals.
  5. Do not use artificial sweeteners. Even more natural concentrated low or no calorie sweeteners like stevia can not only disrupt the microbiome, they can increase insulin resistance as well.
  6. Increase your intake of healthy fat to help promote satiety: avocados, extra-virgin olive oil, nuts, seeds, natural nut and seed butters, olives, coconut oil

Additional consideration:

Smart Supplementation. Here are some nutrients worth considering during the menopausal years.

  1. Drink green tea daily or take a green tea supplement. Green tea contains a potent antioxidant call epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) that boosts metabolism. (6)
  2. Coenzyme Q10 (ubiquinol). It is needed for the production of energy.
  3. Omega 3 fatty acids. For general anti-inflammatory properties but it has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity. Ground flaxseeds as well as a high-quality fish oil supplement would work.(7)
  4. Vitamin D. This is a hormone! It has many functions including estrogen and insulin regulation. Get your vitamin D levels checked. Most labs use a reference range that is too low and are appropriate only if you are trying to prevent rickets. Studies show that vitamin D should be between 45-60ng/dl for optimal health.(8)
  5. Curcumin. It is a phytoestrogen and a powerful anti-inflammatory. Not all supplements are created equal. Curcumin needs to be paired with black pepper to make it bioavailable. Check with your functional dietitian for a preferred formula.
  6. Magnesium glycinate. Many adults are deficient in magnesium. I take 200-400mg of magnesium before bed to promote a calm and restful night sleep. Sleep is critical for hormone regulation, detoxification and weight control.
  7. N-acetyl Cysteine. A precursor for your body’s most powerful antioxidant(glutathione). It is needed for liver health which is very important as the changes in estrogen levels increase risk for fatty liver.

Exercise and Stress management.

  1. We cannot maintain a healthy weight without either of these.
  2. Strive to burn a minimum of 400 calories via physical activity each day. Incorporate some form of strength or resistance training 2-3 times per week to help offset the drop in lean body mass that comes with lower circulating estrogen.
  3. Exercise is a great way to promote stress management. Stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol further exacerbate menopausal associated belly weight gain and negatively impact memory.

With all the changes headed my way, I’m choosing to be gentle with myself and seeking help where I need it. Controlling menopausal weight gain can seem daunting. Contact me if you would like some help with meal balance, exercise and stress management options to help promote a healthy body weight.


Precision Nutrition and Nutrigenomics


Nutrigenomics is an exciting new branch in the field of nutrition and dietetics. It has been nicknamed precision nutrition because it’s able to optimize health-related outcomes by looking at how a person’s genetic make-up influences how our body responds to our diet. Let’s do a brief primer on genetics and then we’ll get to the fun stuff!

The Human Genome Project which was an international research project to determine the DNA sequence of the entire human genome, became a spring board for the field of Nutrigenomics. Nutrigenomics sets out to assess how our genes interact with the bioactive components of food to either help or harm our health. (1)

Each human cell holds most of it’s DNA in the nucleus. DNA is composed of four bases or nucleotides; A, G, C and T. DNA is stored as chromosomes and humans have 46 chromosomes, 23 inherited from their mother and 23 inherited from their father. Genes are regions of DNA and each gene holds instructions to create amino acids and proteins. The Human Genome Project determined that humans have approximately 20,000-25,000 genes. (2)

Genetic variation can occur in several ways. The most common genetic variants are called single nucleotide polymorphism or a SNP (pronounced snip). This means that one base is different from the most common form. Depending on the genotype, the gene may interact with the food you eat to have an increase, no effect on or a decrease on a certain health outcome.

Let me provide you with a few examples from my nutrigenomics report to give some clarity.

1.      I possess the GA variant of the CYP1A2 gene which is the gene responsible for the metabolism of caffeine.  Because of this I am what is classified as a “slow metabolizer” of caffeine and I have an increased risk of high blood pressure and heart attack if I consume more than 200 mg of caffeine daily, which is approximately 2 small cups of coffee.  Prior to receiving the results of my genetic test, I easily consumed close to 400mg of caffeine per day. I now limit caffeine consumption to no more than 200 mg per day in order to reduce this risk. Pretty cool, right?

2.      I also possess the GA variant of the ACE gene. This gene is responsible for encoding the enzyme that converts angiotensin I to the active angiotensin II which controls blood pressure and fluid and electrolyte balance. Because of this, there is an increased risk of elevated blood pressure when my sodium intake is high. I am trying (this one is hard!) to limit sodium consumption to 1500 mg per day which should help to reduce the risk.

3.      I have the GA variant of the UCP1 gene, which means my resting metabolic rate may be approximately 150 calories (about 10%) lower than those with the typical risk variants. This is about 10% less than people with the typical risk genotype. I’ve always known that it is challenging for me to lose weight and now I have one reason why. I am trying to work to expend an extra 150 calories more per day through exercise above what I used to do. This has helped to stall midlife weight gain for me, at least for now!

The company that I work with and had my testing done through is Nutrigenomix. The tests analyze 45 genetic variants with research published in peer-reviewed journals. I found out about a total of 15 SNPs that I possess that have actionable personalized nutrition and lifestyle goals to support my health. I am an approved provider with Nutrigenomix. If you are interested in pursuing your own Nutrigenomics testing, contact me at





This Functional Dietitian’s Favorite Foods for 2019

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In contrast to many common resolutions which often begin with things to cut back on, here are some foods, I would like you to eat more of!

  1. Beautiful, bright berries. They have a lower glycemic index than other fruits and carry a powerful nutrition punch. They are packed with disease fighting phytochemicals and other nutrients. Toss some in your morning unsweetened oatmeal. Blend them into a green tea smoothie. Sprinkle them on top of a hearty salad.
  2. Avocados. Shocker! Most of you know how much I love this superfood! Rich in healthy fats and fat-soluble vitamins that help you stay satisfied for a longer period of time and provide fuel to keep your energy-producing units (mitochondria) healthy and running efficiently. Use avocados to add interest to your free-range organic eggs. Season with lime juice, salt and pepper and fill celery boats. Chop them and add them on top of black bean soup.
  3. Did I mention Free-range organic eggs?! Eggs are a great source of high quality protein. Be sure to go with free-range organic eggs to limit your exposure to added hormones and harmful pesticides. What I love most about eggs is how versatile they are. They are great for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Make a dozen hard-boiled eggs each Sunday and have them available for quick meals and lunch-box fillers.
  4. Almonds and other nuts and seeds. In people with Type 2 Diabetes, almond intake improves blood sugar control, decreases weight and lowers LDL cholesterol. Nuts and seeds are a good source of fiber, healthy fat, and other minerals (namely magnesium) which promote cardiovascular health and aid with weight management.(1)
  5. Green tea. Research indicates that the combination of catechins (epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG) and caffeine in green tea may help people lose weight. (2) Drink daily. If you are not a fan of the flavor, use it as a base liquid in soups and smoothies.
  6. Maca. A cruciferous vegetable grown in Peru and is related to broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and kale. Generally it is ground and consumed in powder form and is a good source of both iron and protein. Maca is excellent for a caffeine-free energy boost and may improve mood and decrease risk of depression.(3) Try it in oatmeal and smoothies or add to your favorite homemade granola bar recipe.
  7. Wild Salmon. Definitely skip the farm raised salmon! Farm raised salmon has been found to have high levels of PCBs (Poly-chlorinated bi-phenyls). PCBs have been linked to cancer and other health problems. Wild salmon also has a higher mineral and omega-3 fatty acid content than farm-raised salmon.
  8. Bone broth. Because it is made by boiling down bones and cartilage it is rich vitamin and minerals that promote healthy bones. Also, bone broth is excellent for promoting healthy digestion and may help individuals who are dealing with increased gut permeability and other inflammatory bowel conditions. Replace traditional broth with bone broth in recipes or sip on bone broth like tea.
  9. Seaweed. It is rich in a carbohydrate that feed the good bacteria of our intestinal tract. It has been shown to delay stomach emptying which helps you feel satisfied for a longer period of time. Seaweed also contains compounds which may reduce body fat. Seaweed is a great snack food. Be sure to read ingredient lists as some seaweed is made with maltodextrin which is a filler ingredient that has a high glycemic index.
  10. Last but not least – sweet potatoes. They are rich in antioxidants that help to protect every cell in our body. Try sweet potato toast or a sweet potato and tumeric smoothie!

Start 2019 right! Include the above foods in your diet regularly and in general aim for a whole-foods varied diet! Happy New Year!


  1. Yun Ying Hou et. al. (2018) A Randomized Controlled Trial to Compare the Effect of Peanuts and Almonds on the Cardio-Metabolic and Inflammatory Parameters in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus; Nutrients 2018, 10(11), 1565;
  2. Chacko SM, Thambi PT, Kuttan R, Nishigaki I. Beneficial effects of green tea: a literature review. Chin Med. 2010;5:13 10.1186/1749-8546-5-13 [PMC free article] [PubMed] [CrossRef]
  3. Meissner, H. O., Reich-Bilinska, H., Mscisz, A., & Kedzia, B. (2006). Therapeutic Effects of Pre-Gelatinized Maca (Lepidium Peruvianum Chacon) used as a Non-Hormonal Alternative to HRT in Perimenopausal Women – Clinical Pilot Study. International journal of biomedical science : IJBS, 2(2), 143-59.

Engineered for Overconsumption: Breaking the Cycle of Eating Highly Processed Foods

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Processed convenience foods are engineered to be easy to get and easy to eat. Not such a bad idea, after all, we’re all very busy and in a hurry.

Here’s the big fat problem. Sadly, they’re making us fat and sick.  Two-thirds of American Adults are overweight with about one-third suffering from obesity. One-fourth of our children under age 19 fit the criteria for obesity. According to the National Research Council, more than half the cancers diagnosed are a direct result of our diets.  And this is just a few examples, unfortunately, there are too many chronic diseases to name that are directly related to our intake of highly processed foods.

And guess what? It’s not our fault.

These sugar and pro-inflammatory-rich foods have been created to make us crave them. Many of these foods have been produced in a way to make them incredibly rewarding to the brain. They cause a surge in our feel good hormone dopamine. Our innate tendency is to continue to try to achieve the same response and eat more in an effort engage the pleasure center of our brain. We eventually override any control mechanism causing us to eat way more than we need.

Our sugar and pro-inflammatory fat intake skyrockets putting us at increased risk for metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and mood disorders.

To make matters worse, these processed foods are loaded with a chemical soup. Preservatives, colorants, artificial flavors, and texturants flood our system.

Maltodextrin for example is often used to thicken foods. It is made from highly processed corn, rice, potato skin or wheat. It has a higher glycemic index than sugar which may lead to a rapid spike in blood glucose followed by a crash. This causes us to crave more sugar. It has also been shown to change the composition of gut bacteria interfering with the growth of healthy probiotics. These changes have been linked to risk of overgrowth of disease causing bacteria.  Cellulose gel, which is wood pulp, is another example of a texturant that can disrupt the balance of the microbiome and increase risk for a host of diseases.

Let’s not forget the artificial dyes and preservatives. Six artificial dyes are approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use by manufacturers. Some studies link these dyes to hyperactivity disorders in children. Red 3 has been shown to increase risk of thyroid tumors in rats. Preservatives such as nitrites, commonly used in processed meats may increase risk of stomach cancer.

So how do we redefine convenience foods?

  1. Choose mostly unprocessed whole foods, preferably organic to minimize exposure to more harmful chemicals (ie glyphosate).
  2. Read ingredient lists!
    • Choose products with no or low added sugar. Remember sugar goes by many names such as agave nectar, brown rice syrup, corn syrup solids, evaporated cane juice, high fructose corn syrup…
    • Also choose foods without highly processed inflammatory vegetable oils that use chemical solvents to produce them. These include soybean, canola, corn, cottonseed, sunflower, peanut, sesame, and rice bran. Genetically modified soybean oil is currently the biggest source of pro-inflammatory omega-6 fats. It has also been found to have high levels of the pesticide residues from glyphosate.
    • Instead choose products made with anti-inflammatory fats such as avocado, extra-virgin olive oil and coconut oil. Oils that have been made by crushing or pressing plants or seeds are best.
    • Remember ingredients are listed in order from highest to lowest. Try to find foods that have whole foods as the first three ingredients. Try to avoid foods with long ingredient lists.
  3. Eat these convenient, reasonably-priced nutrient-dense foods:
    • Baby carrots, bagged spinach, pre-cubed butternut squash, potatoes, canned tomatoes, frozen vegetables
    • Brown rice, canned beans, oatmeal, quinoa, air-popped popcorn
    • Bananas, oranges, frozen unsweetened berries and fruit-blends
    • Canned wild salmon, organic eggs, lean pork, chicken breast, organic cheeses and low-sugar yogurts.
  4. Get creative with grab and go snacks:
    • Turkey roll: Fill a slice of nitrite-free turkey with pre-shredded carrots, a slice of cheese and a few sliced olives – roll and enjoy.
    • Energy bites: Mix together 1/2 cup rolled oats, 1 teaspoon pure maple syrup or honey, 1 tablespoon  of nut butter and a few dark chocolate chips.
    • Nut butter boats: Rill celery with all natural almond or seed butter. Top with a few raisins for added sweetness.

Change doesn’t happen overnight. But change does need to happen. Redefine what convenience foods mean. If you have more innovative ideas on how to create grab and go healthy whole food meals and snacks, I would love to hear from you!

This one thing or trillions of tiny things can impact your risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiometabolic disease, gastrointestinal disease, anxiety, depression and certain types of cancer….


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Microbes are microscopic organisms such as bacteria, mold and fungi. It is common for people to view microbes as only “bad” or disease causing however every human hosts billions of these microscopic organisms and most are vital to our life. A microbiome is all the microbes and their collective genes and genomes living together such as those in the gastrointestinal tract of the human body.1

The human intestinal tract is colonized by trillions of microbial cells. In fact, we have more microbial cells than we do human cells. Collectively, these microbial cells have 250 to 800 times more genes than our human cells.2

The microbiome first began being studied more that 300 years ago however, it wasn’t until recently that the evidence became clear that the microbiome has a dramatic influence on whole-body health.

Recent scientific research supports that a balanced, healthy microbiome plays a role in nutrient digestion and absorption, hormone generation, neurotransmitter production, detoxification of environmental chemicals, regulation of metabolism, anti-inflammatory pathways, and regulation of the immune system. In contrast, evidence supports that an unhealthy or disrupted microbiome are associated with type 2 diabetes, obesity, cardiometabolic disease, gastrointestinal upset and disease, anxiety, depression, and some forms of cancer.2,3

Obesity, Type 2 Diabetes and Cardiometabolic Disease

Studies support that there is an “obese microbiome” that extracts more energy from food and leads to metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors that increase your risk of disease. These risk factors include a large waistline, low good cholesterol (HDL), and high triglycerides, blood pressure and blood sugar. Most of the bacteria in our intestinal tract is divided into two major families: Firmicutes and Bactroidetes. Research shows that the obese microbiome has a high ratio of firmicutes to bactroidetes.2

Also, we know that disease risk increases when there is poor gut microbial diversity. Lower microbial diversity correlated with higher arterial stiffness, increasing risk for heart attack.4

Gastrointestinal Upset and Disease

When there is dybiosis, or an overgrowth of bad bacteria in the gut, we can develop a “leaky gut”. A leaky gut is one with increased permeability allowing undigested food particles and pathogens to get through and activate the immune system causing inflammation and food sensitivities. We also know that people with inflammatory bowel disease have lower levels of bacteria that protect against inflammation. Certain bacteria are associated with an increased production of the protective short chained fatty acid butyrate. Butyrate has been linked to a decreased risk of inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.5

Anxiety and Depression

Gut health has been shown to impact mood, stress, and pain. The gut-brain axis is a bidirectional communication between the central nervous system and the gut (the enteric nervous system). Because of this bi-directional interaction, evidence exists that dysbiosis in the microbiome is associated with increased risk for anxiety and depression.6


There is evidence to support that individuals who develop certain types of cancer have higher levels of disease-causing bacteria. The microbiome plays a major role in detoxification of environmental toxins and neutralization of reactive oxygen species. If the microbiome has too much disease promoting bacteria and not enough anti-inflammatory bacteria, these harmful molecules go unchecked and may promote cancer.

How do you promote a healthy microbiome?

The human microbiome is constantly changing and impacted daily by our environment, what we eat, our stress levels and other influencers. There are however evidence-based strategies you can implement to help feed the good bacteria in your gut and squelch the bad bacteria:

  1. Aim for more plant-based foods in your diet and less animal-based foods. Heavily plant-based diets tend to promote a “leaner” microbiome with higher levels of bactroidetes. Conversely, those who eat a higher animal product diet have higher levels of firmicutes which are associated with increased risk for overweight and obesity.5 Also, higher levels of the anti-inflammatory short-chained fatty acids that promote a healthy microbiome and protect against leaky gut were found in vegans, vegetarians and individuals who follow a Mediterranean diet.5
  2. Minimize exposure to environmental toxins. Chose organic food whenever possible. Avoid or reduce exposure to glyphosate (the chemical in Round-up and other lawn treatments). These chemicals have been shown to disrupt and kill the beneficial bacteria in our gut. Visit the Environmental Working Group at for more information.
  3. Use antibiotics only when absolutely, medically necessary. Antibiotics not only kill bad bacteria, they kill beneficial bacteria in the gut leading to low species diversity in our microbiome.
  4. Exercise daily. Exercise promotes the growth of a diverse and varied microbiota which improves health and decreases your risk for disease.
  5. Avoid simple sugar and refined carbohydrates. These foods fuel the bad bacteria in your gut and are pro-inflammatory which increases your risk for developing a leaky gut.
  6. Eat fermented and other probiotic rich and prebiotic rich foods. Probiotic foods include fermented vegetables, kombucha, sauerkraut, tempeh, yogurt (unsweetened). Prebiotic foods are foods high in fiber that feed the good bugs (probiotics). These include asparagus, bananas, garlic, legumes, and peas. Also, consider adding a medical or professional-grade probiotic supplement.
  7. Limit or avoid foods that you are sensitive or reactive to. Food intolerances or sensitivities promote inflammation in the gut and disrupt the microbiome. If you are unsure of what foods may be causing trouble for you, talk to your dietitian or doctor about doing an elimination diet. Common culprits include gluten, soy, corn, dairy, eggs, fish, peanuts, and tree nuts.
  8. Drink plenty of water. Adequate hydration is critical for maintaining a healthy and balanced microbiome.


  1. “Eating For Your Microbiome”; Institute for Functional Medicine; 2017
  2. Komaroff, A. The microbiome and risk for obesity and diabetes; JAMA. {published online December 22, 2016}/JAMA.2016.20099
  3. Reiman, D. The Human Microbiome and the Future Practice of Medicine; JAMA, September 15, 2015, Volume 314, Number 11
  4. Menni C, Lin C, Cecelja C, et al. Gut microbial diversity is associated with lower arterial stiffness in women [published online May 9, 2018]. Eur Heart J. doi:1093/eurheartj/ehy226.
  5. High Dietary Fiber Intake Linked to Health Promoting Short Chain Fatty Acids; {published online September 29, 2015}; BMJ
  6. Carbotti, M. et al..; The gut-brain axis: Interactions between enteric microbiota, central and enteric nervous systems; Annals of Gastroenterology, 2015 Apr-Jun, 28(2): 203-209



A Typical Day of Eating for this Functional Dietitian


Often times, I have people ask me, “what do you eat?”. I strive to feed myself and my family with clean, whole foods. You’ll notice from this sample day, my meals are simple, quick and follow a bit of the 80/20 rule (80% good choices, 20% fair).


One cup organic black coffee

Smoothie – 1/2-3/4th cup frozen unsweetened organic berries; 1/4th of a lemon (rind left on); 1/2 cup organic soy milk; 1/4th of an avocado; 1 Tablespoon almond butter; 1-2 Tablespoons flax or chia seeds. Blend all ingredients until smooth (add more soy milk if needed). Sometimes I top the smoothie with 2 or 3 tablespoons of gluten-free, low-sugar granola.

Snack: 12 cocoa almonds and a clementine; Warm water with lemon

Lunch: “Homemade Soup” – Mix together and heat organic vegetable broth, 1/2 can organic seasoned tomatoes, leftover roasted vegetables from last nights dinner, cubed tempeh or tofu, leftover brown rice or quinoa; 6-12 nut or seed crackers; Sparkling water with a splash of ginger infused balsamic vinegar.

Snack: 1 apple sliced and dipped in soy yogurt or nut butter; Organic mint green tea

Dinner: Baked salmon seasoned with lemon pepper, roasted sweet potato wedges seasoned with sea salt and coarse black pepper, roasted balsamic Brussel sprouts, a large salad made with mixed greens, chopped vegetables, fresh lemon juice and olive oil, a glass of wine and water.

Snack: 3-5 dark chocolate covered walnuts or 1/2 cup non-dairy frozen dessert; Herbal tea

Generally speaking, in order to stick to a healthy meal plan, make sure you are making choices that are realistic for you and your family. I would love to cook fancy different meals (and once and a while I do). The reality is, with our busy family, raising three teenage girls, we need to keep it simple. Our daily approach is to eat lots of vegetables and some organic protein at each meal and include daily whole unprocessed grains, calcium-rich foods and fresh fruit while limiting added sugar.


Tami’s Top 10 Health Tips for 2018

Tami's top 10 health tips for 2018

The new year brings promise for the healthiest, best version of you. Although I love to personalize and get very precise with individualized recommendations, there are some functional nutrition and lifestyle solutions that can positively impact just about everyone.

So here they are, my 2018 top ten recommendations for the promise of vitality:

  1. Hara Hachi Bu. Unless you are Okinawan, you are probably thinking “Huh?” I was just reading a great newsletter from Blue Zones (The Blue Zones identify regions where people live very long and healthy lives) and they reminded me of a great strategy that the people of Okinawa Japan use: Hara Hachi Bu. This phrase means stop eating when you are 80 percent full. It takes time for our brains to recognize that we are full. Practice eating until you are no longer hungry, instead of until you are completely full. Blue Zones encourages effective techniques such as eating from smaller plates, slowing down and mindful eating to work toward Hara Hachi Bu.
  2. Track your intake of added sugar and take steps to drastically cut back how much sugar you are eating. The American Heart Association recommends the upper limit of 37.5 grams of added sugar per day for males and 25 grams for females. Currently the average intake for American adults is nearly 100 grams per day! Added sugar is a major contributor to the health woes of Americans including and especially obesity. A new review in Obesity Facts confirms that sugar sweetened beverages are a major contributor to causing people to be overweight and obese. Obesity is linked to many chronic diseases plaguing our society including cardiovascular disease, depression, and certain cancers.
  3. Don’t just move more, incorporate interval training. Bursts of working intensely for short periods of time alternating with short periods of rest boosts your metabolism for the whole day, helping you burn calories more efficiently. Check out this great resource form The American College of Sports Medicine on High Intensity Interval Training
  4. If you are not taking supplements currently, consider adding them to your diet. Our food supply has been depleted of essential nutrients due to commodity-based agriculture and the mass use of highly processed corn, wheat and soy in the foods stocking our grocery shelves. For quite some time I believed we could get all the nutrients we needed from the food we ate, unfortunately, things have changed. If you would like to know what supplements I would suggest for you, please contact me via my website. I have partnered with fullscript to provide my clients with medical-grade supplements at below-retail price. If you are currently taking supplements, consider the source. Many supplements have no controls or safety checks in place making their quality and safety highly questionable. A couple seals that are helpful to look for when shopping for supplements are USP (United States Pharmacopeia) certified or GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) certified. This ensures a supplement has been third party tested for potency, purity and identity.
  5. Practice mindfulness. Check out this article from Berkely on mindfulness Many of the steps to achieve mindfulness center around breathing exercises. Focused breathing connects you to the present moment thereby allowing you to calm the mind, achieve focus, and appreciate the happiness that surrounds you.
  6. Take steps to protect and heal your gut. Our gastrointestinal tract is critical to maintaining the health of multiple systems in our body. If your gut isn’t healthy you increase our risk for mental health problems, diabetes, obesity, certain types of cancer and more. If you frequently experience gastrointestinal problems such as constipation, diarrhea, gas, pain, and/or bloating, consider an elimination diet to see what foods might be injuring your intestine. I can help guide you through the process. Look into Promise of Vitality Functional Nutrition Services
  7. Eat clean. Read my blog on limiting highly processed foods
  8. Live clean. Read my blog on limiting exposure to toxins
  9. Eat more healthy fats. These include foods such as extra virgin olive oil, nuts, seeds, and avocados. For years we have been told to follow a low fat diet and what that has led to is us eating too much added sugar and sodium which has caused us to become fat and sick. These healthy fats will help keep you satisfied for a longer period of time so you are less likely to graze on carbohydrate laden foods throughout the day. Our intake of carbohydrates generally needs to decrease as we age because our ability to metabolize them drops as we age. Most adults have some form of insulin resistance that prevents us from effectively using the carbohydrates we consume for energy. Instead it gets stored as fat.
  10. Finally, do what you can to connect with people. Having support and love in our lives promotes health. Likewise, surrounding ourselves with individuals who value health and healthy living promotes healthy behaviors and choices. Health is contagious!

Wishing you a wonderful 2018 filled with health and vitality!

Diet and Lifestyle Quality for a Healthy Body Weight – Part3: Stress and Weight

By: Tami Best, MS, RD, CDN

Manage stress


Seven out of ten adults fit the criteria for being overweight or obese. In this series, I have outlined critical steps that we can all take to help fight this epidemic. In part one of this series, I talked about the importance of limiting intake of all processed foods to promote a healthy body weight. In part two, the focus was on reducing exposures to harmful chemicals call obesogens that disrupt the weight control hormones in our body. In this final part, I will give you an overview on how uncontrolled stress can negatively affect your weight and strategies to help manage stress.

Stress can be defined as our perception of a real or imagined threat and our ability to cope with it. Once we perceive the threat, we signal a cascade of hormones in our body peaking with the release of the stress hormone cortisol. Of note, we do not need to be in real danger for cortisol to be released, we only need to follow our thoughts to think we are in danger and all of our cells will begin to be bathed in stress hormones. Therefore, if we are constantly ruminating and projecting on what might happen, we are activating the release of cortisol.

Cortisol is involved in energy regulation. Cortisol releases fuel into the body, halts digestion, and slows metabolism. In addition, this hormone plays a role in helping new fat cells grow into mature fat cells and aids in the deposition of fat in the mid-section. This fat that settles in our middle, surrounding our organs is called visceral fat and is the most dangerous type of fat in our body.

Not only does cortisol slow our metabolism and help us to deposit fat, it plays a role in our appetite. Cortisol causes a drop in leptin which is the hormone that is responsible for telling our brains that we have had enough to eat and that we are full. So on top of a sluggish metabolism and promoting fat cell growth, we are also craving more food.

The stress mounding on us today can feel quite overwhelming at times. We certainly can’t completely escape stress, however there is a lot we can do to improve our resilience and improve our coping mechanisms.

For starters, we need to work on strategies, such as those used in cognitive behavior therapy, to disarm negative thoughts. Consider this equation: A+B=C with A (the activating event), B(our thoughts), and C(the consequence). For example, and activating event(A) might be that you encounter an accident on the way to work and you are going to be late. Likewise we may begin a negative thought process (B) thinking – “My boss is going to kill me, he already thinks I’m worthless”. Finally the consequence (C) is a surge of cortisol being released into your blood stream. Changing our belief can protect our body. Actively work to change negative thoughts. In our example, you might use the following self-talk instead: “I’ll explain to my boss why I was late, I’ll listen to music while I wait”. With this more rational thought process, you can significantly reduce the release of cortisol.

Next, seek active relaxation. Mindful breathing is one great, free way to actively lower stress hormone levels and quiet the mind. Sit in a comfortable position, preferably with your feet on the floor. Breathe deeply into your belly for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of four and then deeply exhale. Repeating this pattern for just five minutes will dramatically cool your stress response.

Other great ways to actively relax include meditation, yoga, brisk walking, being outdoors and connecting with loved ones.

Finally, fuel and supplement your body in a way that quiets your mind. Eat whole, unprocessed healthy fats, healthy wild, grass-fed proteins, and organic fresh fruits and vegetables. Dramatically minimize sugar and all processed foods. Support your diet with quality supplements that have been tested for identity, purity, and potency. Here are some good options to consider:

  1. Our standard American diets are highly deficient in omega 3 fats which is needed for many things in our body including a healthy brain capable of  quieting anxious thoughts. I like Nordic Naturals fish oils because they are third party tested for environmental toxins and pass the strictest tests for purity and freshness. Consider adding 1000mg Nordic Naturals Arctic Omega Lemon which can be ordered here through fullscript.
  2. Also, a good quality multivitamin and mineral supplement can help bolster our intake of nutrients needed for a healthy stress response such as vitamin D, folate, B6 and B12. I like Pure Encapsulation’s O.N.E multivitamin which can also be ordered here through fullscript.

For more on how to manage stress visit The American Institute of Stress.