Archive for the ‘Knowledge’ Category

Last week I led a lovely group in a herb & spice workshop at 18 Reasons and aside from making some delicious dishes with cumin ( a favorite spice) we also talked about the health properties of various spices.

Culinary herbs and spices are the grandparents of the “food as medicine” movement and have been used for thousands of years, not only to add flavor to foods but also to prevent illness and keep food safe from bacteria.

Did you know…

Adding cinnamon to your oatmeal, coffee or cous-cous can help control blood sugar and act as a powerful anti-inflammatory.

Turmeric also acts as an anti-inflammatory agent, which helps protect against cardiovascular disease and can even help prevent blood clots.

Mint really does help with indigestion, even folks with IBS, as it helps relax your smooth stomach muscles.

Basil (a member of the mint family) also helps with indigestion and symptoms such as diarrhea and gas.

Rosemary is an anti-oxidant (cancer protective) and also an antibacterial so makes for a great meat marinade.

Getting in the habit of using more fresh and dried spices will also displace the need to flavor with salt or need loads of fat or sugar to make the dish flavorful.

Tip: You get a more potent flavor and health benefits if you buy spices like Cumin seed, Coriander seeds, Dill seed,Fennel seed and Fenugreek seeds in their whole form and grind them (use a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle) right before using.

teaching a workshop on spices & health

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Perhaps it is because I have been sitting more than usual (mostly in the car and at my desk) that I wanted to devote a post to the power of moving the body.  Of course I am sitting as I write this but the sit-all-day phenomena really hit me last week after another day of bed to driving chair to office chair to dinner table chair to home office chair to bed. I was so thankful to be able to break up this routine a bit by going for a run in my neighborhood after an almost 2 hours in traffic but I am also working on ways on getting more movement in to my work day as well.

One tip includes making many more stops to the water cooler to fill up on water or hot water for decaf tea (my favorite lately is the Pomegranate White Tea from Trader Joes).  The side benefit of so much more fluid intake (which we all know is key for good health) is that it increases the trips to the bathroom.  More steps in my day!

Speaking of steps, getting a pedometer is another way to track and monitor your movement and challenge yourself to go a few more steps each day.  If you can get 10,000 steps in your day that is the equivalent of walking about 5 miles!

Steps per day Activity Level
<5,000 Sedentary
5,000-7,499 Low Active
7,500-9,999 Somewhat Active
10,000-12,500 Active
>12,500 Highly Active

Another ways to get moving from your desk job…try a trip to your co-workers cubicle to give her/him the message rather than picking up the phone or sending an email.  Take a walking lunch or walk to get your lunch instead of driving.  Finding a buddy to do this with you may keep you motivated and make it more fun too. Use those stairs as much as possible and you can even do a few “sets” of stairs if the weather is not inviting you to go outside.  Of course you can park farther away or get off at the bus/train stop just before or after yours and be sure to pick up the pace when you walk so that you can count it as exercise rather than a leisurely stroll.  We like to say think about walking as if you were late for the train.  This makes it a “moderate” intensity activity (vs jogging which would be vigorous intensity) and another good way to check is to see if you are breaking a sweat but can still talk (but not sing).

The American Heart Association and American Council on Sports Medicine recommend that to stay fit and maintain their weight most Americans get 30 minutes of moderate intensity cardio for 5 days a week  OR do vigorous intense cardio for 20 minutes 3 days a week AND do 8-10 strength training exercises (with 8-12 reps of each) twice (2X) a week.   To lose weight atleast 60 minutes of cardio is recommended as well as the strength training.

You can break the 150 minute recommendation into whatever chunks suit your schedule- whether that is 10 min bursts throughout the day (but do at least 10 min) or longer chunks a few times a week.

How are you going to move more this week?

Check out the guidelines here along with some good tips on getting started.

Take a break from a hike by climbing a tree!


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Tonight was one of those nights.  I was tired after work and uninspired to cook/shop or even deal with food at all.  I knew we had some leftovers, boiled baby potatoes and string beans along with a side of grilled asparagus (some gorgeous early spring ones) but we had eaten the fish portion of the dinner last night.  A small round white light bulb went off.  Eggs! After contemplating making a quiche (too much work for the mood I was in) I just heated the pile of leftovers up in one big pan and served them with light fluffy scrambled eggs with some herbs and a splash of milk (all cooked in the same pan…less to wash).   A bit odd for dinner at first, but then I put some French music on and savored in the time dinner didn’t take to make.  Literally 10 minutes to heat up and scramble.

Eggs aren’t just for breakfast!  They are a great source of protein (~6g per egg or about 10% of your daily needs) as well as vitamins A, D and B12, the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin (antioxidants) and the nutrient choline.  They last a while in the fridge (2-3 weeks at least) and take very little time to cook.

Of course there is the cholesterol thing (an egg contains ~ 215 milligrams of cholesterol) but I tell my clients not to be afraid of eggs since the cholesterol is still under the recommendation of <300mg/day).  If you are watching your weight, you could do the egg white thing and get all the protein without the ~5 grams of fat contained in an egg yolk. A large egg is 70 calories.

And by the way, don’t get too overwhelmed in the egg section.  While you can choose organic, fertile, free-range, different sizes and brown or white, there is no nutritional differences between them.

Got more egg questions?  Check out the American Egg Board FAQs or a handy guide from the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA/eggs)

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I think of Winter as a time for self reflection. The weather is colder, the days are shorter and you are eating more root vegetables. This can also be a nice time to get to the “root” of any behaviors you want to modify. Instead of setting overly ambitious New Year’s Resolutions, what about taking the whole winter to check-in with yourself? See where you are growing and blossoming and where you want to prune.  In my private practice I often talk about “Mindful Eating” and I think most people could benefit from slowing down and being mindful, take a minute to ask yourself “am I really hungry?” Another way to evaluate if you are being present with your food/beverages is to answer these questions regarding Emotional Eating. When you are done answering the questions, add your score and see below.  This simple scale can help you recognize if you have tendencies to eat as a reaction from an emotion rather than true hunger.

Emotional Eating Quiz

  1. Do you have a tendency to eat when you are bored, even if you are not physically hungry?
    1. Frequently
    2. Sometimes
    3. Never
  2. Do you eat when with friends or family, or at special celebrations, even though you are not physically hungry?
    1. Frequently
    2. Sometimes
    3. Never
  3. Do you eat when you are sad about something that has occurred in your personal life, even if you are not physically hungry?
    1. Frequently
    2. Sometimes
    3. Never
  4. Do you eat when you are stressed or anxious about an upcoming event or situation, even if you are not physically hungry?
    1. Frequently
    2. Sometimes
    3. Never
  5. Do you tend to have strong cravings for specific foods or food combinations?
    1. Frequently
    2. Sometimes
    3. Never
  6. Do you feel that you spend more time thinking about food than other people do?
    1. Frequently
    2. Sometimes
    3. Never
  7. How often are you ashamed of the quantity of food that you eat?
    1. Frequently
    2. Sometimes
    3. Never
  8. How often do you clean your plate, even after you are full, to either avoid wasting food or to not offend the person who prepared your meal?
    1. Frequently
    2. Sometimes
    3. Never
  9. How often do you eat specific “comfort foods” when you are upset?
    1. Frequently
    2. Sometimes
    3. Never
  10. How often do you find yourself eating, even though you are not physically hungry, in an attempt to “perk up” when your energy lags?
    1. Frequently
    2. Sometimes
    3. Never


Frequently=2 points
Sometimes=1 point
Never=0 points

14-20: It is likely that you have a serious problem with emotional eating, and this is likely impacting your ability to eat a moderate and well-balanced diet. It is highly recommended that you follow the recommendations that follow to help cope with the emotional eating habits that you have formed.  Additionally you might want to work with a Dietitian or Therapist to assist you in behavior change.

7-13: You have a tendency toward emotional eating and may find it helpful to read through the recommendations that follow. It is likely that you are sometimes able to exert adequate self-control when it comes to emotional eating, but have a very difficult time doing so during other situations. It is important that you recognize what your triggers are in order to set up a “game plan” for difficult times.

0-6: You do not seem to have a tendency toward emotional eating. You may, however, want to read through the following tips in order to gain a greater understanding of others who struggle with emotional eating.

Tips for Emotional Eaters

The following tips can help you or someone you know deal with emotional eating.

Why are you eating?
The first step to quitting emotional eating is to become aware of why you are eating. Humans feel many different things on any given day, but rarely register these feelings unless they are severe or a drastic change from the norm.

What is missing?
It is important to determine if you are neglecting a part of your life. Spirituality, family, friends/social life, and creative expression are common examples of areas that are important to many people. Although each person is unique, all humans share some common needs.

What areas need more focus?
Many people eat in an attempt to fill a part of their life that was abandoned. Once you figure out what area needs more focus, you can find effective ways to gain more balance to your life and values.

Are you planning activities that do not involve food?
Many people have difficulty separating food and the fun of spending time with loved ones. Planning activities that do not revolve around food takes time and energy, but it is well worth the effort.

Are you prepared?
Preparation is key. Keeping a nutritious snack in your purse, pocket, glove compartment, or desk at work can help to stop you from reaching for the first comforting food that you come across.  This is a big thing we talk about in my private practice.

Whatever your “score” above, know that we humans are incredibly adaptable and we can change. So start a new healthy habit, or keep doing what you are doing!

Take a deep breath with gratitude before you dig in!

adapted from a professional resource on RD411.com

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Taught a great class last night at 18 Reasons about healthy meal planning and I wanted to share some key tips with all of you…

Tips for Healthy Meal Planning
•    Look ahead for extra-busy days and plan something quick for those days
•    During the week, plan simpler meals: one-pot meals, broiled or roasted meats, steamed vegetables, salads, fresh fruit desserts. Save sauces and multi-step meals for weekends.
•    Have a cook swap with your friends/co-workers or make cooking a meal together the fun activity you do one night (with a glass of wine?)
Efficiency tricks:
o    Read ahead in the recipe- so you can plot out what to be cutting while oven pre-heats, or chop 1 Cup of carrots when two recipes each call for ½ Cup.
o    Brown extra ground beef for dinner to use in another dish, like tacos, later in the week.
o    Cook two more chicken breasts and then cut some up for another meal such as stir-fry with vegetables and brown rice. Freeze or Refrigerate.
o    Cook extra rice, put it into a container, and refrigerate or freeze. On a busy night, microwave it, stirring occasionally, until heated through, then use as you would fresh.
o    Chop a whole onion or several cloves of garlic, even if you only need part of it right now. Store the rest for another meal.
o    Grate extra cheese and store it in a zippered plastic bag in the freezer.

3 Day Sample Menu for 2 people:
Night before- leave 7 Cups White Beans out to soak
Day 1
Bfast- Make big batch of oatmeal (2C), serve ½ C each with nuts & fruit, refrigerate 1 C
Lunch- Salad (pre-washed) with canned fish/beans, veggies, WW crackers
Dinner- Make big pot of simple white beans (7C), save bean liquid (1 C for bean dip),set aside 4 Cups to make Kale/Sausage/Bean Ragout (7C) (Recipe to come this week), Enjoy Ragout (3.5 C). Refrigerate the rest of the beans (2 C) and Ragout leftovers (aprox 3.5 C left). Cut up raw veggies enough for 2 days and put in ziplock baggies.
Day 2
Bfast- ½ C each Oatmeal from Day 1 w freshly added fruit & nuts
Lunch- Leftover Ragout (1 ¾ C each), side of cut up raw carrots & celery (“Crudite”)
Dinner- Make big pot of brown rice (4 C), serve 2 C of it with protein (fish, chicken, tofu etc), steamed veggies (fresh or frozen). Set aside 2 portions of protein. Make a rice  salad (try this one) with leftover 2 C rice. Blend remaining White Beans (2 C) with olive oil, lemon, parsley to make dip/spread for crudite or sandwich filling
Day 3
Bfast- WW Toast, nut butter, piece of fruit
Lunch- 2C Rice Salad, leftover protein on top, with Crudite and Bean dip
Dinner- Make a big pot(~14C) of Lentil stew (try this one), serve 2 C each w pre-washed salad, crusty WW bread.  Reserve 2 C for tomorrow’s lunch w sandwich, Freeze 4 Cups for future.

Menu Planning Resources:
www.simpleskillet.com (weekly menus- including budget, kid freindly,low carb, diabetic, vegetarian- plus shopping list)
www.eatingwell.com (28 Day diet meal plans at 1200, 1500 and 1800 kcals or customizable plans)
www.rachelraymag.com (weekly menu + shopping list)

www.familyeats.net (local Bay Area mom cooking healthy for her family of four, weekly menu+ shopping list)
www.myfoodmyhealth.com (specializes in health conditions and food allergies)
www.mealeasy.com (health conditions etc)

Here is a Weekly Meal Planner to fill out.  Feeling intimidated? No need to fill out the whole thing, just start with a few days or even just dinners. Give it a try!

Let me know of any time saving tricks you use, recipe/meal planning sites you love or just give a shout-out if you support planning to cook more for fun and health.

Have to chop garlic? Chop enough for several recipes and refridgerate


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Here is part two of my pantry basics post….and I have compiled the whole thing together as a handy checklist you can take to the grocery store!

Herbs & Spices:

Learning to use fresh and/or dried spices can enhance flavor and your capacity for cooking immensily.  Start with a few and then build from there.  This list is not extensive but a place to strat A note on fresh vs dried, fresh counts in your goal to get more leafy greens in your diet and nothing is better than a handful of fresh herbs but in a pinch dry is flavorful, can displace salt and often chock full of antioxidants. Here are some herbs to start with along with their health benefits:
Basil-aid digestion & flatulence (mint family), holy basil is anti-cancer
Bay leaf
Black pepper
Cinnamon– antioxidant, anti-inflammatory,
Cayenne/Red Pepper– anti- inflammatory, increase satiety and boost metabolism
Garlic powder– helps with high cholesterol, heart disease, and high blood pressure since anticlotting affect. TIP: Let sit for 10 min post chopping  so that the phytochemicals have time to activate.
Ginger powder– anti-inflammatory, decrease nausea (try candied ginger on your kids next car trip), in terms of amounts 1” squared fresh root is often used in trials.
Italian seasoning– has Oregano, which is top antioxidant
Mint– helps with indigestion
Mustard seeds– anticancer,anti-inflammatory
Rosemary– high in flavanoids (antioxidant)- anti-cancer-
Sage/Thyme also high in flavanoids.
Sea salt– less sodium per tsp than coarse salt, contain trace minerals eg iodine, magnesium, potassium since straight from the sea and minimally processed.
Vanilla extract- anti-oxidant, helps with digestion and said to be an aphrodisiac (pods vs extract) go natural vs artificial flavoring.

Nuts & Seeds:

One of my favorite food groups- my pantry always has jars of various nuts and seeds to nibble on or throw in sweet or savory dishes.  Nuts contain heart healthy fats but are still high in calories and fat, so if you looking to lose weight be mindful of your portion size (eg. 12-24 almonds). Nuts and seeds are a great source of FIBER and protein and great portable snack.

Almonds– tree nut highest in protein, fiber, calcium, vitamin E, riboflavin and niacin
Cashews– lower fat nut, copper, magnesium, antioxidant
Flaxseed– great source of Omega 3,contains soluble fiber which is great to keep things moooving.
Pecans & Walnuts– anti-inflammatory, good for heart health, bone health
Pumpkin seeds– Omega 3, mild flavor
Sunflower & Sesame seeds– vitamin E, and phytochemicals

Try making your own trail mix or getting creative by adding seeds to stir-fries and/or nuts to grain dishes.

Dried Fruit:

Moderation is key here (just like with nuts) but dried fruit can be a great way to get your 2 cups of fruit a day (1/2 C dried= 1 C fresh). Like fresh fruit, contains lots of fiber, vitamins A and C, potassium and folate BUT more calories per serving than fresh, and some dried fruits are preserved with sulfite, which can trigger allergic reactions in some people. TJ’s sells un-sulfored dried fruit.  Dried fruit can help with sweet tooth as well and makes a great dessert.
Dried cranberries
Dried apricots

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Taught a great class at 18 Reasons on Tuesday night and thought I would share some basics we covered in our “New Pantry, New Year” class. At the end of the class we made the Asian Salmon Salad and for vegetarians we substituted Black Soy Beans.  It seemed to be a hit!

It’s a lot of material so I will post this in two parts with part two next week.

Why is stocking a pantry with healthy choices important? Other than being prepared for an earthquake (I live in San Francisco), if you have healthy things handy it is easier to whip up healthy meals rather than speed dial take-out.  Healthy items displace unhealthy highly processed “junk” food, and if the junk food is not there you can’t be tempted and eat.

I broke down the pantry into 6 sections…here are the first three ( herbs & spices, nuts & seeds and dried fruit next week)

1) Whole Grains & Legumes: Grains and legumes have been at the center of most civilizations for thousansd of years. One can survive on beans and rice (a complete protein) and even in this day and age they are still relatively inexpensive and can be the cornerstone of a healthy diet. I am sure you have been hearing the whole grain thing for a long time but WHY are they better for you?  Fiber is the #1 reason (bran, germ not removed as with processed grains) but whole grains also retain important nutrients, such as selenium, potassium and magnesium.  Look for: Brown Rice, Wild Rice, Barley/Millet/Quinoa/Bulgar, Lentils & Dried beans, Whole Oats, Popcorn

2) Canned & Bottled Goods– Look for least processed, simple ingredients on the nutrition label (nothing you can’t pronounce) and low sodium (ideally less than 140mg per servin g).  Some great pantry staples are canned beans (chickpeas/garbanzos, black beans, white beans/cannellini, soybeans etc), whole tomatoes (why buy salty expensive bland spaghetti sauce when you can make your own) and canned fish (Sardines and wild Alaskan salmon are great sustainable choices).

3) Oils & Condiments – Oils are great for sautéing, for dressings, sauces, dips (pesto) and can the fat actually helps us feel satiated/full. The heart healthy/med diet thing has led to people basically drinking olive oil- which is still a FAT- so especially if you are trying to watch your weight GO EASY ON PORTIONS shoot for no more 25-35% of your total daily calories to be fat. For example if you eat 2000kcals that’s 56-78 grams (500-700kcals worth since each fat gram is 9 kcals).
Start with: Extra Virgin Olive Oil (The difference in olive oils lies mostly in the flavor. Extra virgin has a fruity flavor, so you don’t need to use as much).
Canola oil (a healthy Omega 3 fat) and Sesame Oil for a different flavor and Asian inspired cooking.
Condiments that are nice to have on hand….Vinegars (build a repertoire but start with Balsamic and Wine Vinegar). Sweeteners (honey, brown sugar, maples syrup) that are still to be used in moderation even thought they are a smidge more healthy since they have added minerals that processed white sugar does not. Tahini paste so you can whip up a hummus or creamy sauce for veggies/rice, and some Low Sodium Soy Sauce to dash on as needed.

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Winter is in full force and we want to make sure to eat lots of fruits and veggies to fight off infections and boost our immunity. See this previous post for more immune boosting foods and today’s post is a closer look at Vitamin C…

Vitamin C is an antioxidant (protection from free radical’s which damage  the body cells) that has a wide range of health benefits, including protecting from infection,  helping produce collagen and helping in the absorption of iron and folate. Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin, found in many fruits and vegetables. Did you know:
•    Most animals, except  humans, primates and guinea pigs, can make Vit.C in their  bodies and don’t need to ingest it for survival like we do.
•    Vitamin C’s role in producing collagen (the connective tissue between bone and muscle a) means it is good for the skin and also for wound healing.
•    Ongoing research is looking to see if Vitamin C, due to its antioxidant activity, helps prevent or delay the development of certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, and other diseases in which oxidative stress plays a causal role.

•    By eating sufficient amounts of a variety of fruits and vegetables daily you will most likely get enough Vitamin C.

Tips to Increase Vitamin C:
•    When in season (Oct-May), have a California Kiwi a day! For added fiber, try eating the entire kiwi- skin and all (scrub lightly and chop off top and bottom nub).
•    Add ½ cup of raw red peppers to your sandwich or salad.
•    For dessert, try 1 cup of fresh strawberries with low/no fat vanilla yogurt on top (3 oz).
•    Eat lots of fruits and vegetables and be sure to add variety (think rainbow).
•    Some Vitamin C is lost when vegetables are cooked in the water, so steam lightly or microwave to reduce loss. Be sure to eat some vegetables in their raw form as well.

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Have you ever noticed that alcoholic drinks don’t come with nutrition labels?  And did you know that alcohol has almost as many calories per  gram as french fry oil?  Alcohol has 7 calories per gram and fat has 9 calories per gram making both of these choices more caloric than carbohydrates or protein which have 4 calories per gram.  Now imagine that eggnog or kahlua coffee which has both fat AND alcohol!  Not only in the alcohol caloric but so are the mixtures and then we haven’t even mentioned that slice of pizza you grabbed on your stumble home.

Not to be a buzz-kill but I think its important to get a sense of how many calories you are consuming this holiday season….so here it is…and a reminder, water is your friend and as with most things moderation is key.

Kcals for Alcoholic Drinks

Oh ya and Eggnog is 305 kcals for 4 oz- I think I’d rather eat Santa’s cookie with a glass of unsweetened vanilla soymilk….

Download the list here: Calories in Alcoholic Beverages

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After a 15 hour travel journey yesterday with planes, boats and automobiles and little sleep, I was feeling a little under the weather this morning. Thought I would share some immune boosting foods I will be adding to my diet today/this weekend to ward off any sickness. I personally also like to OD on warm liquids like tea and soup and eliminate dairy if I am feeling at all sickly.

Vitamin C is one of the best-known immune supporting vitamins! It is found in most fruits and vegetables but in highest amounts in green peppers, citrus fruits and juices, strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli, turnip greens and other leafy greens, sweet and white potatoes, and cantaloupe. Other excellent sources include papaya, mango, watermelon, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, winter squash, red peppers, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries, and pineapples.
Vitamin A helps maintain vision and supports the immune system. It is found in liver, milk, eggs, carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach and certain fortified foods and beverages.
Vitamin E helps protect our hearts and immune system. It is found in nuts, like sunflower seeds, almonds and hazelnuts, leafy greens and in oils, including soybean, olive and canola oils.
Vitamin D has also been shown to help support the immune system and is primarily obtained through the skin after exposure to sunlight.  It can also be found in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines, and also in certain fortified foods, including yogurt, milk, certain cereals, some mushrooms (!) and juices.  Supplementation may be necessary for those who live in the North or don’t get much direct sun exposure (eg. sunblock).
Vitamins B6 and B12 also help maintain healthy immune function. B6 is found in beans, nuts, legumes, eggs, meats, fish, whole grains, and fortified breads and cereals. B12 is found in eggs, meat, poultry, shellfish, milk, and milk products as well as fortified nutritional yeast. Vegans should supplement with B12.

Selenium has been shown to support immune function. Plant foods, such as vegetables, are the most common dietary sources of selenium. How much selenium is in the vegetables you eat depends on how much of the mineral was in the soil where the plants grew. Fish, shellfish, red meat, grains, eggs, chicken, liver, and garlic are all good sources of selenium as well. Meats produced from animals that ate grains or plants found in selenium-rich soil have higher levels of selenium. Brewer’s yeast, wheat germ, and enriched breads are also good sources of selenium as is my person favorite- the brazil nut! Two a day gives you all the Selenium you need.

Other anti-inflammatory foods that may help with the immune: Curcumin (Turmeric), Garlic, Wheat Grass, Chlorella, Kelp, Spirulina, Maitake and Reishi mushrooms.

Pre and Probiotics help keep your gut’s “good bacteria” up which crowds out opportunities for bad bacteria. Did you know that most of your body’s immune system is in your gut! Keep it healthy by eating fermented foods like kefir, yogurt, live cheese, live sauerkraut, and kimchi (probiotics) and prebiotics like whole grains, honey, strawberries and soy which ”feed” the probiotiocs.

During cold season especially, don’t underestimate the importance of sleep, washing hands, and exercise to boost your immune system and overall health.

Eat strawberries (fresh or frozen) to boost your Vitamin C intake!

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