Q: Geri, what foods should be avoided before sleep? Should they be avoided completely or just a number of hours before bed? Why? Also, what food and drinks promote a good night's sleep?
A: This is a frequently asked about subject. The first thing that comes to mind is caffiene. Many caffiene-sensitive individuals don't always think about the caffiene content of something like chocolate, often eaten as an after dinner snack. It can take several hours for caffiene to leave the system. Chocolate ice cream, pudding, or milk can have up to 10 mg in an oversized cup; this is enough to interfere with some people's sleep.
If you are prone to acid reflux, which definitely interrupts sleep, then a strict avoidance of caffiene, mint, alcohol and very liquidy foods is recommended for several hours prior to sleep (at least 3). While alcohol might make you sleepy at first, it does interfere with sound sleep even for those without reflux.
To promote a good night's sleep, calcium and magnesium come to mind. Both are natural muscle relaxants. Warm milk is one source of calcium and also is a natural source of tryptophan which relaxes the body by stimulating seratonin. Of course, turkey is a great source of tryptophan, but too much protein before bed can be difficult to digest as digestive enzyme production slows down at night as well as peristalsis (movement of the GI tract). The best sources for magnesium are deep green leafy vegetables. If eaten at night, make sure they are cooked as the fiber of raw vegetables be hard to digest for the reasons stated above.
The old standby is chamomile tea; passionflower is also calming and relaxing because of its chemical components.
Q: Geri, what are some quick tips for keeping healthy during our busy lives?
A: Eat breakfast! Fruits and nuts are nutrient-dense energy sources that are a great start to your day. During the day take a minute to breathe; even five deep breaths at your desk feels like a major break. At home, eat wild salmon once a week. Take a lavender infused soaking bath before bed.
Drink water. Call a friend. Shut off the news. That's all for now, get back to work!
Q: Dear Geri, on a Metagenics formula package it says that the formula is to help children with obesity. They whey formula does not specifically mention obesity but says something about improving lean muscle-to-fat ratio. Will this have the reverse effect of what we are hoping for (to help our child with obesity)?
A: The label info is designed to assure individuals that the product won't just put weight on in the form of fat. With the concern over obesity, the idea is to support the body with the right balance of macronutrients-carbs, protein and fat to maintain a proper lean muscle-to-fat ratio. Therefore, it is not just a "milkshake" as used in the past to fatten up skinny kids, many of whom became fat adults from excess sugar consumption as youngsters which simulated insulin levels, etc etc.
Thus, that product sounds great to support growth and muscle mass for kids who need extra calories and it is also used as a satiating and balanced snack or breakfast drink for overweight kids trying to maintain their weight.
Please note that while Geri recommends many Metagenics products to her patients, the above question is from an actual patient and is not a paid endorsement.
Q: How can I improve my health through cooking?
A: One good way to start is to make sure that you're cooking plenty of vegetables. When cooking vegetables, make sure not to cook them in an alkaline medium (adding baking soda, etc) because even though it makes them a pretty green color, it destroys the water-soluble vitamins, namely B1 (thiamine) and C. If you want to retain color, plunging vegetables in boiling water (blanching them), keeps them green and crisp. Also, they should be kept in large pieces to reduce the surface area thus reducing vitamin losses. Remember that exposure to heat, light, water, and air can cause vegetables to lose nutrients, especially the B's and C's. The same goes for grains which is why pasta in clear packaging have less nutrients than those boxed.
Steaming veggies also helps to retain more nutrients; cook them til tender, but still with a snap. Overcooked steamed veggies lose their bright green color and turn greyish. For larger quantities batch cooking is best. Let them be the last item prepared and one of the first to be served. Even frozen vegetables can be steamed.
A lot of folks like to microwave veggies as it minimizes the cooking time and therefore allows more nutrients to be retained. However, this impacts the molecular structure during the cooking process and some people are reluctant to use the microwave to cook and only use it to reheat. They days of cooking alongside mom or grandma are mostly over - most grandmothers I know are either working or on the golf course these days - NOT in the kitchen!