Jill's Blog

Since 2007, Jill has been sharing health and weight loss tips and tricks here on her blog.

She also writes about nutrition for chronic illness at NutritionWithJill.com and about nutrition for gut health at the LDN Research Trust.

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Healthy Yummy Thanksgiving Treats

Thanksgiving is one of the easier holidays to keep healthy, so long as you plan ahead. Here are some festive, delicious, healthier menu ideas:

  • Toasted pumpkin seeds, sprinkled on a salad, perhaps with pomegranate seeds or sliced pear and lowfat feta cheese

  • Steamed green beans with garlic, toasted sesame oil, tamari sauce and toasted sesame seeds

  • Baked yams, purple yams, or sweet potatoes with cinnamon (no sugar needed for those with un-blitzed taste buds)

  • Roasted squash with warm curry spices and a splash of coconut milk

  • Mashed faux-tatoes (steamed cauliflower) with herbs, spices, garlic, onion, olive oil or whatever you like

  • Slow-roasted Brussels sprouts with a bit of butter and parmesan or (for vegans) avocado oil and nutritional yeast sprinkled on top

  • Slow-roasted veggies with herbs, like zucchini, yellow squash, onions, mushrooms, fennel, cauliflower, garlic, carrots, tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplant

  • Soup, full of autumn veggies and broth, or made from turkey leftovers

  • Toasted spiced pecans, perhaps served over berries

  • Pumpkin cream, made with almond milk, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg (if your tastebuds are sensitive, this will be a very sweet treat, even without added sweetener)

AND we know you have lots of great ideas, too. We'd love to hear 'em!

Have a very happy Thanksgiving and please know how thankful we are to be connected with you.

Healthier Halloween, Part 2

Halloween forces the question: Is the occasional sugar indulgence a harmless tradition or a foolish assault on your health?

That may sound overly dramatic--and goodness knows many of us have survived our share of sugar binges--but the latest research on sugar is pretty damning. So here are some ways to minimize sugar's effects:

  1. If you're gonna have sugar

    • favor long-lasting hard candies over soft ones that are gone in seconds
    • favor dark chocolate, which has some magnesium and antioxidants
    • enjoy it earlier in the day, when your blood sugar may be less likely to spike
    • enjoy some veggies and protein beforehand, to blunt the spike in blood sugar
    • enjoy it at a time of day when you are physically active
    • decrease the amount of starch or alcohol you eat that day
    • eat extra-nutritious foods the rest of the day, to help offset the empty calories
    • get rid of leftovers once you've had your fill

OR, better yet,

  1. Replace candy with healthier edible treats, such as

    • toasted pumpkin seeds from carved pumpkins
    • pumpkin, fresh baked, with cinnamon
    • bobbing for apples
  2. Consider replacing trick-or-treat candy with

    • stickers
    • coins
    • glow bracelets
    • small toys

Or, just fill your day with the non-edible delights of Halloween, such as costumes, pumpkin carving, decorating, scary movies and such. No need to have sugar-induced health problems on your list of scary, spooky frights.

Smarter Halloween Treats, Part 1

Happy almost-Halloween!

Before you dive into the Halloween candy, consider these spooky findings:

  1. Sugar is addictive. Every time you eat candy, you strengthen the addiction, making cravings stronger and making it harder to quit.

  2. Sugar depresses mood, after the brief high. It's like borrowing happiness from the future, which you'll have to pay back with interest. Higher consumption of sugar is associated with higher risk of depression.

  3. Sugar promotes poor gut health, because unfriendly bacteria thrive on it. Poor gut health is associated with a huge range of physical and mental health problems. Research increasingly suggests that gut health is at the core of all health.

(I could go on and on about sugar contributing to Alzheimer's, cancer, etc., but I think you get the point!)

Thank goodness we don't need candy to make Halloween festive! Here are some favorite sugar free Halloween treats:

  • Pumpkin custard with cinnamon and shredded coconut
  • Toasted almond butter on fresh apple slices
  • Toasted pecans, with or without spices
  • Roasted fresh pumpkin seeds
  • Autumn squash with toasted chopped walnuts and warm grass-fed butter drizzled on top
  • A pumpkin and Greek yogurt sundae, sweetened with fresh fruit, cinnamon, cocoa nibs, and vanilla extract

You get the idea...any fall food that isn't a sugar binge. Why not eat these unprocessed treats and use your candy like mosaic pieces to make art? It's an opportunity to enjoy Halloween without the spooky health consequences of a sugar binge.

Happy Halloween!

Four ways to boost willpower

Want more willpower? Of course you do! Here are 4 ways to get more, according to Stanford health psychologist Kelly McGonigal:

1. Get more sleep.

Sleep helps you maintain the brain chemistry needed for good willpower, by helping the prefrontal cortex stay strong and engaged. 8 hours is enough for most people and 6 hours leaves you in trouble. Power naps can help.

2. Meditate.

Just 10-15 daily minutes was shown to improve willpower and increase gray matter in the prefrontal cortex in just 8 weeks! The Headspace app will show you how to meditate for free.

3. Replace self-criticism with self-compassion.

Studies have shown that if you speak kindly to yourself, as you would a good friend, you actually become more able to resist candy!

4. Practice using it.

Start small, perhaps with just a goal of having better posture, and watch how succeeding at small goals will lead you to succeed at meeting ever bigger ones.

Details and more great tips are in McGonigal's book: The Willpower Instinct: How self-control works. Why it matters. What you can do to get more of it.

Ok, be great with all that willpower!

Limit seafood to 12oz per week

Many of us try to eat lots of seafood expressly to be more healthy. The FDA used to recommend that most adults eat at least 8oz per week...implying the more the better. Not any more. Although they still recommend eating 8oz per week for its benefits to heart and brain health, they now recommend limiting intake to no more than 12oz per week.

The reason is depressing, but not surprising: As our oceans and lakes get more polluted, so does our seafood. We don't want to overdose on mercury, flame retardants, or the many other pollutants that can be in seafood.

In addition to limiting quantity, we should be choosing fish that are lower in mercury, like wild Alaskan salmon, and avoiding fish at the top of the food chain, like shark, tilefish, king mackerel and swordfish.

So what should we eat instead?

For protein sans bioaccumulation of pollutants, nothing beats eating plant proteins: Beans, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains.

Another option is to replace excess seafood with animal foods that are believed to be "cleaner", like organic grass-fed beef or dairy, buffalo or bison, organic cage-free poultry or eggs, wild game, emu, ostrich and such. Conventional chicken is not considered a cleaner protein, according to NutritionFacts.org, because arsenic and flame retardants are among the common pollutants in non-organic chicken.

But since most Americans already overeat protein, many of us could just consume more veggies to replace the lost seafood.

We can also help pollutants leave our bodies by eating cruciferous veggies. Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage and other crucifers are known for helping to rid the body of toxins, in addition to their many other benefits.

I hate to be a pessimist, but if our oceans continue to get warmer and more polluted, we might have to keep cutting back over time. So...savor every bite of that yummy wild Alaska salmon and keep an eye out for future updates to the recommendations for consumption.

New tool for avoiding contaminants in drinking water

First the bad news: Data recently compiled by the Environmental Working Group shows that the vast majority of American drinking water supplies have issues with contaminants. Out of 50,000 utilities studies, 40,000 tested positive for cancer-causing chemicals and 19,000 had lead levels high enough to potentially harm children. That's depressing...

But now for the good news: They have created a website where A) you can enter your zip code and see results for your local tap water, and B) find the best water filters to reduce your exposure.

The website is here:


This work was done by the same heroes that produce the yearly "Dirty Dozen" and "Clean Fifteen" lists to help us know when it matters most to buy organic produce. If you value their information, consider supporting them. Thanks, Environmental Working Group--we appreciate you!

Why NOW is the easiest time to give up sugar

If all the latest reports of how sugar is truly addictive, feeds cancer cells, raises cholesterol, inflammation and risk of depression--just to name a few--has you thinking you need to ditch it once and for all, then consider doing it NOW.

Here's why THIS IS THE BEST TIME OF YEAR to get off sugar with the least struggle:

  • Summer fruit can help transition your taste buds. Try putting cinnamon on peaches, plums, berries and apricots. Try filling a hollowed-out half of papaya with unsweetened yogurt and chopped nuts. See how unsweetened cocoa sprinkled on watermelon tastes like fudge cake. By the time these delights are out of season, your taste buds will have adjusted to hopefully not even enjoy sugary foods anymore.

  • The long days, fun and warmth of summer are better than dark cold winter nights for riding out the discomfort of any withdrawal symptoms.

  • Extra sunlight and heat help lighten appetites and weaken cravings.

  • Getting out for a walk at night can replace the endorphins or comfort that a sugary dessert may have been giving you.

  • Extra sunlight helps boost mood, which makes it easier to resist the brief high of sugary treats.

So consider saying goodbye to sugar...at least for the summer. Most clients who do so are amazed at how much better their bodies and brains feel without it. You'll never know til you try it.

Happy summer!

Join me at the 2017 LDN Conference

I know...I've been MIA for a bit, but only because I've been neck-deep in great research about nutritional strategies for fighting autoimmunity and "inflammaging". I'll be presenting the latest findings at the 2017 LDN Autoimmune Conference in September. You can attend online or in person, and the details are here: https://ldnresearchtrust.org/

There are loads of exciting new findings about fighting inflammation and autoimmunity with diet. Patients are more empowered than ever, thanks to new knowledge about "leaky gut" (excessive intestinal permeability) and the role of microbes that live in and on us. Those are huge topics, so I'll tackle those in future posts, but if you or someone you love has an autoimmune condition, chronic pain, or cancer, you may want to check out the LDN conference.

So what is LDN? It's low-dose naltrexone, a tiny dose of an old, generic drug once used for treating alcoholism, but coincidentally effective at helping some people with pain, autoimmune conditions, cancer, and more. It appears to work by briefly blocking the brain's opioid receptors, making the brain upregulate production of and sensitivity to natural endorphins. This translates into less pain, less inflammation and modulation (but not suppression) of the immune system. I learned about it from a top expert, Dr. Pradeep Chopra, a Harvard-trained pain specialist who now teaches at Brown Medical School. It is somewhat controversial because it lacks extensive research for these new applications, but many patients and doctors report that is extremely safe and effective for many otherwise hopeless conditions. Because it is so cheap and generic, drug companies lack a profit-motive for funding clinical trials. If you are interested in learning more, the LDN Research Trust, a grassroots non-profit, is a good starting point: https://ldnresearchtrust.org/

Walk this way to improve blood sugar

If you are working to control high blood sugar, then you probably know that walking can help. A new study shows us that when we walk can make a difference. Get this:

Researchers asked 41 participants with type 2 diabetes to walk 30 minutes per day. Half were instructed to do one daily 30-minute walk, while the other half were told to do a 10-minute walk after each main meal. They did this for two weeks, and guess what:

Walking 10 minutes after each main meal is significantly better than walking 30 minutes all at once.

The researchers suggest that post-dinner walks may be especially beneficial, because that's when people tend to eat the most carbohydrate and also tend to be most sedentary.

So give it a try and enjoy the summer evenings outside. If you'd like to read the full article, it's here: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00125-016-4085-2

Arsenic in rice

OK, get ready for some depressing news: Our beloved, easy, yummy, nutritious brown rice (and white, and other varieties) may contain enough arsenic that we should cut back. This goes for rice milk, rice syrup (common in nutrition bars), rice cereal, rice crackers, rice pasta, and any other rice products. Bummer!

Here's the problem:

Arsenic has long been known to be poisonous at high doses, but chronic low-level exposure can also be carcinogenic and may contribute to diabetes, heart disease, and other conditions. Arsenic is in our soil because crops such as cotton used to be grown with arsenic-based pesticides.

The Findings:

Both the FDA and Consumer Reports each recently tested over 200 rice samples of all kinds, and the results were disturbing. To quote the Berkeley Wellness Letter:

"Virtually all were found to contain both inorganic arsenic (a known human carcinogen) and organic arsenic (considered less harmful, but still of concern)--many at "worrisome levels."

Brown rice was worse than white, because some arsenic gets stripped along with the outer coating. White rice from the southern US (where most US rice comes from) was worse than rice from California, India and Thailand.

A study by Dartmouth College found that cereal bars, toddler formulas and other products made with organic brown rice syrup contained elevated arsenic levels.

Yikes! What can we do about it? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Arsenic can be reduced by boiling rice like pasta--using lots of water and dumping out the excess. Nutrients will be lost, but some of the arsenic will be, too.

  2. Consumer Reports recommends that adults eat no more than 2-3 servings rice per week, and that children should eat no more than 1-1.5 servings (a serving is 1/2 cup rice). They recommend that children under 5 avoid rice milk.

  3. Dr. Michael Gregor, vegan educator and researcher extraordinaire from NutritionFacts.org, recommends that adults limit rice intake to 2 cups per week.

  4. Consuming more quinoa, barley and other grains can help make up the difference.

  5. If your home uses well water, get it checked. Some wells have unhealthy levels of arsenic.

This is a good reminder of why it's important to eat a diverse diet, even when eating nutritious foods. We never know when new findings will make us wish we hadn't eaten too much of any one thing.

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