More from Nourishing Wisdom

Last Thursday I blogged about stress and the fight-or-flight response (here). I added some words from Marc David’s book, Nourishing Wisdom. I want to give you a little more from this book today, because he does a wonderful job of pinpointing the struggles and truths of peoples’ relationship with food. He talks about children and eating, and how their instincts develop and change into adulthood. I think we can all relate, in some way, to David’s eloquent description of how strongly our emotions are tied to the way we approach food and eating.

On children…

A crying baby is transformed into a calm and satisfied one with a little mother’s milk. And a miserable child can change into a creative, playful force with a helping of the right food. Children eat naturally and spontaneously, without fear and without concepts of what should or should not be eaten. They certainly have their preferences, but unlike adults they experience little guilt and make no judgments about the eating habits of others. Children eat because they enjoy eating.

As we grow older we lose some of the child within…

On change of seasons…

Metabolism decreases in the wintertime as body temperature mechanisms are challenged by the cold. Appetite naturally increases at this time as the body years for greater caloric intake to help keep its temperature within a normal range. Most people recognize this as a desire for hot foods and soups in the wintertime and an attraction to high-fat and high-protein foods such as meats, cheeses, casseroles, and fried foods… Researchers have discovered that body weight is generally greatest when the mean January temperature is lowest. This extra body fat is an evolutionary adaptation to insulate us from the cold and provide an emergency source of caloric energy.

On changing a bad habit…

Occasionally we can overcome a habit by fighting it with negative willpower. Yet the victory is short-lived, and the habit returns because it was only temporarily overwhelmed by strength, or the habit is re-formed into another, equally damaging habit… A habit is re-formed when we use negative willpower to suppress the habit… The key to changing a habit is positive willpower. Positive willpower accepts a habit and transforms it with a force that is directed by intelligence… This intelligence directs our efforts and helps us achieve our goals…

And the last one is my favorite, because it is the something I truly believe in.

On awareness…

Eating with awareness is the most important and powerful tool to transform your relationship to food and the body… There is no goal or ideal to strive for. All there is to do is eat, observe, and accept. No matter what kind of food you eat or nutritional system you follow, eating with awareness is the key to diet.

That is the essence of this blog and the goal I have for my future nutrition career. I want to help people become more aware of what they are eating, and specifically how it affects their health in both the short and long-term. I truly believe we can all be happier, healthier people if we give some attention to this.

(I did not cook the above meal. But I did catch that fish! And thanks to an amazing chef, it tasted fresh and delicious!)

Cinnamon Hummus

I absolutely love hummus. LOVE. And once I figured out how to make it in my food processor, I started experimenting with different flavors. I’ve made Hummus en Fuego (recipe here), green hummus (cilantro and avocado, yum), black bean hummus… you can find these last two recipes on my Facebook page.

And then I stumbled upon cinnamon hummus when Ed and I were out to dinner last weekend. So of course my first thought was, “Hey, I can make this at home!”.

And I came up with a recipe. Like most of my recipes, it’s easy. And the cinnamon is a perfect addition as we approach the season of holiday cocktail parties and festivities.

Cinnamon is one of my favorite spices. It is an anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial (stops growth of bacteria and fungi), and it slows down digestion which helps keep blood sugar from spiking. It can be used for menopause pain, as well as chest, neck and back pain. Just the scent of cinnamon has been proven to boost brain activity! Cinnamon is a great source of manganese, fiber, iron and calcium. Some even add cinnamon to hot tea to help with relief of cold and flu symptoms.

Anything that can be called sweet and healthy is going to make my list of favorites!


2 cups cooked, drained chickpeas (fresh or canned)

2 cloves garlic

½ cup olive oil

¼ cup tahini

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp cinnamon, plus more to sprinkle on top when serving

Put all ingredients into the food processor and mix until smooth and creamy. Serve with toasted pitas, crackers, vegetables, or sliced apples.

This twist on traditional hummus is sure to impress the crowd at your next party!

Stress and Fight-or-Flight

My grandfather, Grampie Ed, was a storyteller in a big way. A classic line found in many of his stories was about someone being so scared/surprised/shocked that “he wet his pants!”. As a kid, this was always very funny. Grampie Ed was known to create stories where he could insert his famous one-liners just to hear all the grandkids laugh hysterically.

Grampie Ed’s stories actually have some scientific backing. When the human body goes into “fight-or-flight” mode, all systems shut down except those necessary for survival at that exact moment. Increased blood flow to the brain, heart, lungs and muscles is done at the expense of things with lower priority, like the digestive system (and the urinary system!). This is a good thing because it helps us to be sharp, quick and strong in those rare times when we are facing danger.

What many do not know is that constant stress from our jobs, family life, or anything else can cause the body to remain in fight-or-flight mode. The fight-or-flight chemicals are released continuously into the body and can interfere with our natural balance. Therefore, those who experience chronic stress might not be digesting and absorbing the nutrients of their food into their bodies. If priority is always given to our brain, heart and lungs in order to cope with the continuous stress in our lives, when will we digest our food?

Marc David, in his book Nourishing Wisdom, describes fight-or-flight well:

During any kind of stress, whether a real or imagined one, the body clicks into the classic “fight-or-flight” response. This nervous-system mechanism is an evolutionary adaptation that protects us against outside dangers threatening biological survival – hostile attackers, natural disasters, and anything we must forcibly overcome or quickly avoid.

In the fight-or-flight response blood pressure increases, heart rate increases, blood flow is shunted away from the midsection and digestive system and toward the arms and legs, and digestive functions are shut down. All of the body’s energies are rerouted for powerful arm and leg movements and heightened respiration used for fighting or fleeing. What is most intriguing about the fight-or-flight stress response is that during a stressful day at home or at work when there is no actual danger to your life, the body interprets the emotional stress as life-threatening, and the stress response clicks in to varying degrees, depending on the level of stress.

If you decide to eat a meal in this state, the blood flow to your digestive system may be as much as four times less than the usual amount, and nervous system impulses to the digestive system may have signaled a complete shut-down. You may be eating, but you will not be digesting. Depending on the intensity of the stress and the rate at which your digestive system returns to normal function, food may sit for hours in the stomach undigested or pass through the small intestines with nutrients only minimally assimilated.

So no matter how healthy our diet, an unhealthy mood radically depreciates the nutritional value of a meal. We quite literally have less ability to digest food when our mind is improperly digesting life’s experiences.

And when we aren’t absorbing nutrients from our food, we create bodies and minds that are more susceptible to poor health.

Try to eat in a relaxing environment, even if you are stressed out. Take some time, even ten minutes, to get away from your computer, kids or anything else that stresses you out, and eat your meal in silence. This will help ensure proper absorption of all the essential nutrients.

It will also ensure you don’t wet your pants!


Peanut Butter vs. Almond Butter. But First…

I think it is time to thank the amazing person who designed this blog. Her name is Ellie, and she is the most patient person EVER! She answered every one of my questions immediately – I mean seriously, she’d send a tweet saying something like “Thanks everyone for being so patient; I am swamped and so behind; trying to catch up but I have the flu and MAN am I sick” etc. etc. etc. and then I’d have this sudden question or fix that needed to be made to my blog, and she’d do it within 3.2 seconds! She’s talented and creative and affordable, and if you or someone you know wants to start a blog, I highly recommend Ellie. Plus, she lives in California. No wonder she’s so creative and inspired and relaxed all the time!

So anyway, check out her work here and follow her on Twitter if you’re interested: @rainydaydesign.

Thanks Ellie… you’re the best!

And now on to the pb v. ab analysis:

Peanut butter has been a staple in the American diet since the early 1900s. It’s inexpensive to produce and is used in everything delicious! Peanuts are legumes that are naturally sweet and a good source of protein, iron and niacin (vitamin B3, which can help raise HDL cholesterol – typically a good thing). Once ingested, peanut butter helps lubricate intestines and can be settling for the stomach. In addition, it can increase the milk supply in nursing mothers. A pb&j sandwich is something EVERY kid remembers eating (except for my husband who was allergic and had to eat cream cheese and jelly sandwiches…).

Then almond butter entered the ring. Almond butter is a more recent development but can now be found in most grocery stores. Almonds are also naturally sweet, and are rich in protein, iron, calcium and vitamin B2. They have nearly half the saturated fat of peanuts. Almonds are sometimes used to treat people with lung conditions because of their ability to transform phlegm, alleviate coughing and help reduce symptoms of asthma. Almonds also help alkalize (reduce acid in) the blood, which is important (remember, disease can only grow in acidic environments).

When I first met Ed, I couldn’t believe he’d never had the pleasure of eating a pb&j sandwich. I mean, talk about missing out on an important part of childhood! He loves all other nuts though, so I made him an almond butter and jelly sandwich one day and he was hooked. Now we eat exclusively almond butter in our house. Well, with the exception of this past summer, when my peanut butter-addicted little sis was living with us and insisted we have peanut butter, and I was reminded of how delicious it really is – thanks Madsie!

SO which one is better? Which should you be feeding your kids?

I think both are good for young kids. The fats, vitamins and minerals in the two types of nuts complement each other well, so a mixture is beneficial. You can even make your own at home with ½ peanuts, ½ almonds (the best of both worlds!). Some kids have peanut allergies so you have to be cautious when introducing nut butters to them at a young age (it is recommended you wait until they are 8 or 9 months at least, and some doctors say 3 years, depending on a child’s tendency toward allergies). Peanuts can cause skin outbreaks and also slow the metabolic rate of the liver. People who are overweight, yeast-infected (thrush, candida, et.), or diagnosed with cancer should avoid peanut butter.

Almond butter is a bit more expensive, but if you make it at home you can save so much money (read about it here!). Whichever type you prefer, try to buy organic as they are less likely to have mold on them. Keeping nuts in the refrigerator helps them stay fresh.

I hope this helps – really, you can’t go wrong because both are packed with nutrients and most kids love a good nut butter & jelly/honey/banana sandwich!


Homemade Nut Butter

Have you tried it? Here’s what you need:

1. nuts

2. food processor

Yep, that’s it!

Note: My sister Madeline has tried this in a blender with some success. She has this amazing ability to make do with what she has available, and since she’s seriously addicted to peanut butter she’d try anything to be able to make her own fresh PB at home, short of buying an expensive food processor (not really in a college student’s budget)! I think she said it worked but took a really long time.

Making your own almond or peanut butter can save money and can be much healthier. I did a comparison between buying raw whole almonds/peanuts and using them to make your own nut butter, and buying premade nut butters. I bought the nuts in bulk at Whole Foods. Prices will vary depending on where you shop.

Here are the results:

For almond butter made from raw almonds, you save $0.42 per ounce, or about $6.72 per 16-ounce jar, by buying your own nuts and making it at home. For almond butter made from organic raw almonds, you save $0.35 per ounce, or about $5.60 per 16-ounce jar, by making your own. Nutrition facts were very similar for the two.

For peanut butter, buying premade appears to be cheaper or very similar in price. I spent an extra $0.04 per ounce, or about $0.64 per 16-ounce jar by making my own.


The store-bought jar of peanut butter had slightly more calories, fat and saturated fat; slightly less protein and fiber; and (get ready) 950% more sodium! The extra sodium and fats come from the added ingredients in store-bought peanut butter.

Saving money and enhancing nutrition is great. But the best part of making your own nut butter at home is you can add things like cinnamon, nutmeg or honey; or you can add other nuts, like walnuts or cashews. When you add cinnamon, the nut butter smells like freshly baked cinnamon rolls... yum.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Pour nuts into food processor using the appropriate blade (varies).

2. Turn food processor on.

3. Keep processing until desired consistency, typically 12-15 minutes (depends on power of your food processor).

4. Add flavors (honey, cinnamon, etc.) about 10 minutes into the process.

5. Make sure you grind the nuts long enough. You don’t want it to look dry. It should be very creamy and smooth!

I also did a taste test on Ed to see which of 3 almond butters (homemade, MaraNatha’s or Justin’s) tastes best to him.



Tomorrow I will do a nutritional comparison: peanut butter vs. almond butter.


Simple and Delicious Gluten-Free Bread

Okay, I know I told you I was going to write about homemade nut butters this week, and I will (because they are truly life-changing, I promise!). But, I came across this yummy gluten-free bread recipe (for you, Sheila!) and I made it on Friday and it’s SO GOOD that I had to blog about it immediately. You guys have to try it. I adapted the recipe from one I found on a blog about organic, gluten-free cooking (found here).

There are so many gluten-free bread recipes out there, but I am always kind of turned off by the long list of complicated ingredients. This one is simple.


1 ¾ cups almond flour

1 cup arrowroot

¼ cup ground flaxseed

1 tsp sea salt

½ tsp baking soda

4 eggs

1 tbsp raw honey

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. In separate bowl, blend eggs for 3-5 minutes until frothy. Stir honey and vinegar into eggs. Mix in dry ingredients. Pour into a greased bread loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

I only had whole almonds at my house, so I ground the almond flour (more like almond “meal”) myself in the food processor. This makes the bread a little heartier. You can also buy premade almond flour at most health food stores. It’s great for bread and other baked goods, too.

I’d recommend doubling the recipe. My loaf turned out really flat, so I’ll just have to make tiny sandwiches this week. But it tastes awesome – hearty but not too filling, and you can taste the hints of sea salt and honey just perfectly.

(Please excuse my risqué pot holder… I had to buy it for Ed because he was feeling a little left out after his mom bought me these:

…aren’t they great? I love them!)

We’ve tried the bread for sandwiches, and also toasted with butter and honey for breakfast. I will definitely be making it again – it was so easy and nothing beats the smell and taste of fresh, homemade bread.