Water with Lemon

I’ve had some recent questions about adding fresh lemon to drinking water. Some think it’s very powerful for health, while others have heard rumors that it’s not good for endurance athletes.

So what’s the truth?

Lemons can be very cleansing to our internal environment. They are rich in vitamin C, potassium and magnesium. These are three very powerful nutrients that can help maintain optimal health inside of us. Some of the benefits of adding lemon to our water are listed below:

• Lemons are antiseptic and can prevent growth of bad bacteria in our digestive system

• Lemon juice helps alkalize the body (remember, cancer and other disease can only thrive in an acidic environment, so the more alkalizing foods we can incorporate into our diet, the better)

• The potassium nourishes brain and nerve cells

• When a pregnant woman drinks lemon water, she is helping the bone health of her child

• Gargling lemon water can soothe a sore throat

• Lemon aids in digestion by stimulating digestive juices, and helps reduce bloating and gas

• Lemon water contains powerful antioxidants, which help flush toxins from the body and cleanse our liver and kidneys

• It can ease constipation

I recommend avoiding the prepackaged lemon juice (you know, the fake plastic lemons). This is not fresh and could have preservatives or other chemicals added to it. Organic lemons are best, and make sure to scrub the outside of the lemon prior to dropping it into your glass. Some swear by the practice of drinking a glass of warm water mixed with the juice of ½ lemon each morning. It cleanses your body and jumpstarts your digestive system for the day. Other ways to enjoy lemon include squeezing lemon into your tea, adding lemon juice to your salad dressings and squeezing lemon juice over foods such as chicken, brown rice and black beans.

We squeeze fresh lemons into our Aquasana drinking water so whenever we fill up from the fridge, we are getting a little boost with the added lemon. And when Ed and I felt a cold coming on a couple weeks ago, we were pushing the warm lemon water morning and night, which seemed to help. I love the taste of lemons, so I find it easy to incorporate them into my diet.

As for the rumor that drinking water with lemon can be bad for endurance athletes…

I could not find much information supporting this statement. I did find out that lemon contains magnesium, and magnesium is known to decrease cortisol levels after aerobic exercise. Cortisol, also known as the “stress hormone”, helps restore balance after any type of stress. So I suppose if the magnesium from the lemon blocks cortisol release, an endurance athlete who drinks water with lemon could take longer to restore their body after a race or long workout. However, this is just my own derivation and I really did not find much information claiming this to be true. With all the powerful things lemon water can do for us, I think an endurance athlete would actually benefit from adding a little lemon juice to their water every once in a while.

Have a great weekend! I am off to a nutrition conference in St. Paul, MN (my hometown!), so I am hoping to return next week with some great new information to share with all of you.


Weight Watchers, Day 1

Today I am attending my first Weight Watchers meeting.

Let me explain.

One component of my Food Therapy class is to understand some of the popular diets that exist. There is a good chance some of my future clients will walk into my office (or, dining room table) and tell me they’ve been on Weight Watchers, or Atkins, or the Paleo diet for the past two years. And, as their Nutrition Therapist, they will expect that I know what that means.

So, we split the class up amongst the ten most popular diets we could come up with, and we will all research our diets, try them out, and present on them over the course of the semester. The ultimate goal is not only to familiarize one another with these diets, but also to pull out the good things from each one and possibly use them in our own practices.

I chose Weight Watchers. I think that a lot of people try Weight Watchers, and I want to know more about it. So far I have heard from a few people who have done it, and the overall experience seems fairly positive. People seem to like the weekly meetings because it holds them accountable, and the points system allows for some freedom. However, I am curious to find out more about the Weight Watchers branded products. Are they healthy, or are they just processed foods full of sugars and artificial ingredients? Also, does Weight Watchers put too much emphasis on calories and fat and not enough on eating fresh, high-quality whole foods (think sugar-free lite yogurt vs. plain full-fat yogurt sweetened with raw honey)?

I guess I’ll find out. Thanks to everyone who has sent me input so far! It is so helpful and I will definitely include (anonymously) some of your feedback into my presentation. If anyone else wants to share some pros or cons, e-mail me at annpierce09@gmail.com!


Does anyone else read Running From the Law?! It’s this great blog my sister’s friend Sara started. Sara blogs about pretty much anything BUT being a lawyer, and she happens to know a lot about things like decorating, cooking, traveling and fashion! She had a beautiful wedding in Jackson Hole that was featured all over the blogworld. I love her thoughts and ideas and was super excited when Sara announced her first giveaway, a cookbook! Read about it and enter to win here!


Just A Spoonful of Sugar...

...can harm your eyesight!

Yesterday in class, my teacher was describing some differences she notices in herself when she eats too much sugar. One thing that caught my attention: the day after a sugar “binge”, she notices her eyesight is cloudier. She said there is a definite link between high sugar diets and quality of eyesight.

This was particularly interesting to me because of what happened at my last eye appointment. I know that I have always eaten too much sugar, but in the past six months I have cut back significantly. When I went to my annual eye appointment in December, the vision in my right eye had actually improved! I didn’t think much of it until now. I wonder if it is because I have decreased sugar in my diet?

Another interesting observation: I had better-than-perfect eyesight all the way until my sophomore year of college, when suddenly I needed glasses to see even the white board in class. Let’s piece this puzzle together: ages 0-18 I was living at home, playing sports, and eating my mom’s home-cooked meals that always included fresh, high-quality foods. Then at age 18, I move to Milwaukee, WI, the Beer Capital of the World, and live in a dorm nicknamed “The Beer Can”. I was partying a lot (excessive alcohol intake causes high blood sugar), but also working and studying hard, so I drank too much coffee (usually with a sugary syrup) and ate poorly. And to top it off, I was not getting as much exercise as I got in high school. I think I was walking evidence that high-sugar diets and poor eyesight are linked!

Besides our brains, our eyes need more oxygen and nutrients than any other part of our bodies. When we eat excess sugar, the sugar molecules attach to hemoglobin in our blood. This, in turn, makes it more difficult for our blood to deliver oxygen throughout the body. Oxygen is needed to power most metabolic processes and is vital to the proper functioning of many things in our bodies.

A high sugar diet causes blood sugar to spike and dip very quickly. When our blood sugar fluctuates, our tiny blood vessels are shocked and they weaken and become very narrow. This reduces blood flow throughout the body, including oxygen transport to the eyes.

There are other studies I found that link nearsightedness, or myopia, in children to their high-sugar and high-carbohydrate diets. When blood sugar is high, insulin levels elevate. And when the insulin levels go up, the body does not produce as much of a certain protein that is used to shape eyeballs and lenses for clear vision.

In older people, cataracts are a common problem. Cataracts form when sugar molecules attach to the proteins in the lens of the eye. This causes the lens to twist and fold, which leads to cloudy vision. Many older people with cataracts have eaten too much sugar throughout their lives.

Sugary foods include the obvious cakes, pastries, candy and ice cream, but also other simple carbohydrates such as white bread, processed cereals and white pasta.

And now for the good news…

All of these processes can be controlled or reversed through nutrition! Don’t you just love nutrition?!

When you eat carbohydrates, try to stick with only complex carbs such as whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and legumes. And be sure to buy the highest quality you can afford of these items (think Whole Foods freshly baked whole grain bread, not Oroweat 7-grain bread). In addition, making sure you get plenty of antioxidant nutrients like vitamins A, C and E will help prevent or repair poor eyesight. These are found primarily in fresh fruits and vegetables. Controlling alcohol intake will also benefit eyesight (and countless other things) throughout our lives.

So, if you’re like me, you may have taken a little hit in college (but it was oh so worth it… college was so great!), but it is never too late to improve our diets and reverse or prevent the many diseases that are associated with high sugar intake.


Roasted Cremini and Red Pepper Tapenade

Before I started nutrition school, I attended a few of the senior presentations. They were on a variety of topics, such as the link between nutrition and childhood eczema, and how nutrition can be used to prevent Alzheimer’s and age healthily. However, one that really stood out was the presentation given by Amy Habuda entitled Mushrooms: A Look at Their Culinary Uses and Therapeutic Values. Amy talked for almost an hour about all the different ways mushrooms can be used to support our health, and I was completely fascinated the entire time!

And to top it off, she had actually prepared mushroom tapenade lettuce wraps for everyone to sample. Amy is not only a nutrition therapist but also a personal chef, so needless to say this mushroom tapenade was absolutely delicious and full of flavor.

Amy happened to distribute her recipe, and I realized last week that I had all the ingredients in my fridge! So I gave it a try. Maybe not the first recipe you’d turn to in the middle of winter, but now I have practiced it and will be ready to make it again for a summer cocktail party!

With Amy’s permission, I am going to share it with you today. Amy served this in lettuce wraps. Ed and I ate it with crackers and also mixed into quinoa and chicken for dinner. It was simple to prepare and contains 100% healthy ingredients that are safe for gluten-free eaters as well.


8 ounces fresh cremini mushrooms, halved

1 large sweet red pepper, seeded and quartered

1 medium sweet onion, unpeeled and halved

2 tbsps olive oil, divided

2 large garlic cloves, minced

½ cup kalamata olives, pitted

2 tbsps balsamic vinegar

2 tbsps fresh basil, finely chopped

¼ tsp sea salt

¼ tsp black pepper

1 pinch cayenne pepper

Toss mushrooms and red pepper with 1 tbsp olive oil. Place mushrooms, red pepper, and onion on baking sheet cut sides down. Broil on HIGH of middle rack until skins are blackened (time depends on oven; took me 10 minutes). Cool 5 minutes and peel pepper and onion, discarding skins. Cut pepper and onion into chunks. Place roasted veggies, garlic, olives, vinegar and remaining oil in food processor and pulse until finally chopped (not pureed). Transfer mixture into a bowl and mix in basil, salt, black pepper and cayenne. Cover and chill until serving time.

Cremini mushrooms are usually labeled at the grocery store, but just in case, this is what they look like:

We ate this for snacks, lunches and dinners for two full days! Thanks to Amy for letting me share the recipe at PWN. If you have any questions for Amy or want to learn more about her personal chef and nutrition consultation services, you may e-mail her at amy.mnt@gmail.com or visit her website here.

Another thumbs up from Ed for this recipe! (Yes, that is our living room coffee table… we eat in front of the tv a little too often, please don’t judge! We got seasons 1 - 5 of 'The Wire' for Christmas and we are hooked!).


Salmon Skin: Do You Eat It?

Last week Ed and I made salmon for dinner. He noticed I was eating the salmon but leaving the skin on my plate, and commented on it. Ed happens to love the skin of any type of fish. He is even known to ask the waiter to please prepare his fish with the skin on. I never really gave this much thought until he asked me why I wasn’t eating it. I typically just eat the fish and whatever skin sticks to it, but leave the rest on my plate.

So I did some research on salmon skin, and other fish skin in general. Turns out there are many important nutrients in the skin of most fish, and almost all skins are edible. Salmon skin, for example, contains concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids. This is because the salmon’s fat is in the layer just beneath the skin, so when it is cooked with the skin on, the skin soaks up these (healthy) fats. However, all of this information is based on the assumption that the fish was swimming in uncontaminated waters. And, as we all know, this is usually not the case.

The salmon’s skin can also be a source of chemical pollutants that can be harmful in large quantities. Waters can become polluted from things like factories, sewage treatment plants, chemical spills, and city street or farm runoff. When these chemicals are transferred to the salmon, they become concentrated in the skin, the fatty layer right next to the skin, internal organs, and sometimes muscle tissue.

Some precautions to take if you are a frequent salmon-eater include removing skin and the darker fat layer right next to the skin, and also selecting smaller salmon, as they are younger and have had less exposure to toxins in the water. This applies to other types of gamefish too, such as lake trout, walleye or bass. Some fish, such as stream trout, perch or smelt, feed on insects and other aquatic life and are less likely to contain pollutants. Therefore it is probably safer to eat the skins of these fish. The bottom-feeders in lakes and streams, such as carp and catfish, are more likely to contain high levels of chemical pollutants.

Unfortunately, mercury is found throughout a fish’s tissue, so it is difficult to avoid. There are certain types of fish that tend to be lower or higher in mercury, and it is a good idea to become familiar with this information. A good website to reference is this one.

So, it seems like eating salmon skin is fine occasionally, but if you are someone who eats salmon twice per week or more, you may want to avoid it some of the time, and also choose the best quality salmon possible. This isn’t meant to scare anyone away from eating fish on a regular basis. The nutrients in fish far outweigh the risks, as long as you are choosing your fish carefully and staying aware of current warnings and information about what is safe to eat.

Eddo, you were right about the skin containing lots of omega-3s! And since we buy wild salmon and typically don’t eat it more than once per week, I’d say you’re safe to keep on eating the crunchy skin. And maybe I’ll give it a try every once in a while too!