Zucchini Lasagna with cheese

I have tried eggplant lasagna but wanted to try something new. Instead I worked my way up to zucchini lasagna. If you have ever made traditional lasagna before this is quite similar with the exception of zucchini slices to substitute pasta.

Preheat your oven to 375F.

Combine cottage cheese and ricotta cheese in a bowl and mix in seasoning to taste. Put aside until needed.

Slice the zucchini into as thin slices as you can. Line the baking dish with a thin layer of sauce (your choice – meat or otherwise). Make one layer of zucchini slices. Top the zucchini with the cheese mixture and then top with sauce. Repeat this until you have 2-3 layers of each.

Top the last layer with Parmesan cheese. Bake in the oven for 30 min covered and 10 min uncovered.

With zucchini slices in place of pasta this is a more soggy alternative, so you will want the lasagna to set for a while until serving.

For this recipe you will need:

  • 1 can tomato sauce or homemade sauce of your choice
  • 5-6 zucchini
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
  • seasoning
  • Parmesan cheese

 

Post-run Power Breakfast

Because I am still keeping rice in my diet, I make these power rice bowls when I need a boost of flavor and protein. You can mix the ingredients up as much as you’d like.

I purchased a blend of long grain rice that contains some dried vegetables.  A few spoonfuls piled with cooked sausage, avocado and a fried egg is the perfect way to start the day.

IMG_3935

If you dont eat rice Im sure this could be well substituted for quinoa or lentils.

Part 3 – Juicing makes good poops

Ha! I dared myself to make that the title, but the truth is for me a good poop is worth a million dollars. Juicing was something I always wanted to do. I was merely curious what all the hype was about and while it made sense to me to consume fruits and vegetables in a form that wouldnt make me so full, I was skeptical. Like always I wanted to research what made juicers different, which ones had the best reviews, and more importantly how and why to juice.

I purchased the Hamilton Beach Juicer as a gift to myself. The reviews stated that it was cost effective, and cold, but unfortunately loud. I’ll go into this in detail but first – my story. I took a few quick recipes from the internet and bought the produce needed. Like any juicing beginner I wanted the first juice to taste good so I did a mix of fruits and veggies. The first juice I made was carrot and orange. It tasted great! But yes, loaded with sugar. So I decided to just jump right into it and do a green juice with spinach, celery, cucumber, apple and lime. First thing the next morning I cleaned my produce, cut them all up, and put them through the juicer. I did what I read – drank up real fast while the juice was still cold – and then waited. Ha! the waiting was not long. A little rumbly in the tummy but no pain. And then that sort of unsettling ‘i gotta go’ feeling. Because I have endo, I was expecting the usual um… how do I put it… more juice than pulp?? But when I sat down, it was the most beautiful, solid single effort poop. I did a little dance 🙂

juicing

If a single juice could make me feel this good, why stop? So I did some more research into combinations, advantages, benefits, etc, and came up with some delicious yet nutritious juices. I did this until – as weird as it sounds – I felt like I was cleansed. Like everything that was blocking my system was gone, and that I could start changing my diet to a cleaner more natural diet.

Today I juice if I feel like Im getting sick, or Ive gone home for Christmas and have snuck one too many desserts and pasta dishes. It is a staple in my house and I continue to explore new varieties.

But for you, I assume you are reading this because you are curious and have not yet started juicing.

There is a lot of skepticism around juicing. For heaven’s sake why not just eat your daily dose of fruits and vegetables?!? That is just it – I dont have enough time to eat the required amount every day. And that tends to be the issue with most people. Juicing allows you to get the nutrients you need without filling up on the fibers. If you have ever juiced, you will have noticed that juicers have a compartment where it spits out the skins and other components that do not have juice in it. Thats all the parts that make you full!

“Without the fiber, your digestive system doesnt have to work as hard to break down the food and absorb the nutrients. Juicing allows the nutrients to be immediately absorbed into the body” – Jamie Graber

There is also the question of the whole food diet. Is juicing contradictory? Maybe so, but again, the alternative is not getting enough nutrients.

When buying a juicer, you want one that does not create a lot of heat so your produce stays cold and therefore keeps the integrity of the nutrients. As soon as those warm up you change the activity and/or deactivate certain nutrients. Here are a few rules to live by when juicing:

  1. At first it is ok to have fruit juices but as you get used to the concept and the taste of juices try to reduce the amount of fruits (sugars).
  2. To achieve the highest absorbency of nutrients make sure to juice on an empty stomach and allow 30 min for your body to absorb the nutrients before eating or drinking anything else.
  3. Make sure to keep the produce in the refrigerator until you juice. This keeps everything cold along the way. I like to add an ice cube into the glass prior to juicing.
  4. Cut produce into relatively small pieces so not to overwork the juicer.
  5. Start with the leafy vegetable first and work your way to harder veggies. These latter ingredients will push remnants of the leafy greens through the mechanics.
  6. Do you research on recipes. Not all fruits and veggies work together. Trust me!
  7. Make sure to clean all materials right away. If the bits stick to the hardware or your glass for too long it stays… for what seems like forever.

So whats the end of the trilogy, you ask? Well, the truth is I continued to eliminate refined sugars and sweeteners, and use juicing as my detox. But the journey continued from there. The real beginning to my routine started when I cut out wheat. In due time I will write about that too.

Happy Juicing!

References:

‘Juice it, blend it, live it’ – a book by Jamie Graber.

‘Juice it to lose it’ – a book by Joe Cross

‘Fat, Sick and Nearly dead’ – a documentary by Joe Cross

‘Hungry for Change’ – a documentary by Jason Vale (life changing)

Part 2 – cutting out artificial sweeteners

Where do I even begin. OK, so if you read part 1, I had my aha moment and replaced diet coke with seltzer. That allowed me to take out the aspartame found in diet coke and feel the positive affects of eliminating the chemically manufactured sugars from my system.

So here is what happened next. My body was starting to transform from the inside out. As I mentioned before it wasn’t like my waist size changed or that I went from being flabby to fit. It’s just that my body started using the natural fuel and stopped feasting off the fat reserves that refused to go away. Thats when I got very nerdy and dug into some research to figure out what I had been – and what I am – doing to my body.

It all started with the science of google and facebook. The more I was googling about sugars the more I was being fed some interesting ads on facebook. But one stood out to me and I took the time to watch an animated video by Dr. Cary Nelson. His video articulated the affects of artificial sweeteners (specifically from drinking diet sodas) on the gut, and how our bodies are not reacting to these substances in a healthy way because they are not naturally found in nature. Hmm… Dr. Cary brought up a point about yeasts in our gut that feed off artificial sweeteners. This point is still debated, but I looked into the point about how the gut ends up storing these sugars as fat.

I know this video is long (and it ultimately is an ad for his probiotics) but it is very informative and very well told. http://probioticamerica.com/presentation.php

Was this for real? Because I, and millions of others, have been led to believe through powerful marketing that artificial sweeteners were approved by the FDA as a diet ingredient and was a healthier alternative to sugar. So how could this be?

Lets look at the differences between the types of sugars. Natural sugars are derived from fruits and vegetables. These sugars are processed in the body as a familiar substance because our bodies have been created to recognize and digest these. The fibers in these foods also aid in the digestion. Then there are sugars from sugar cane, or sugar beets. We can touch upon Stevia later. We can refine sugars by taking the ‘sugar’ compounds out of its natural form, and purifying it to make white sugar, brown sugar, and any other kind of sugar you care to eat.

Figure 1 Processing sugar beets.

Courtesy of StatCan

Now lets look at those ‘sugars’ and the ones we have manufactured in a factory – what we so commonly call artificial sweeteners or NAT (non-caloric artificial sweeteners). Lets go back to Dr. Nelson’s theory on how these chemicals are stored as fat.

Natural-Sugars-Vs.-Added-Sugars-Artificial-Sweeteners

Courtesy of greedyhealthjunkie.com

Check this out, courtesy of greedyhealthjunkie.com. It makes sense though, doesnt it? We dont know how to process them, we try to do something with it, out glucose levels rise, and in defense we store these substances as fat for later use. AAAHHHHHH.

Yeah thats a rude awakening.

Sugars:

Glucose (simple sugar) is found naturally in foods with carbohydrates.

Fructose (simple sugar) is found naturally in fruits and honey.

Sucrose (complex sugar) is half glucose and half fructose.

Other sweet substances include high fructose corn syrup, agave syrup, and molasses OR saccharine and aspartame.

So here is the skinny. Artificial sweeteners for the most part were stumbled upon over time, mostly as accidents. These were discovered to be non-caloric (or ‘fat free’) and hundreds of times sweeter than real sugar. A wonderful history of artificial sweeteners is outlined in a study published in Neuroscience 2010 by Qing Yang. These sweeteners were adopted by the dieting market to provide dieters with a sweet substitute to caloric sugar. The idea was to allow you to eat sweet foods without gaining weight. While the industry in the United States was booming, in parallel so many other countries banned these sweeteners due to the plethora of data showing linkages to waistline increases, occurrences of diabetes and obesity, and neurological imbalances. Despite these data points the government continued to push on with funding the production of artificially sweetened goods. During the Bush (Junior) administration it was time for the report (published jointly by the WHO and FAO Expert Consultation on diet, nutrition and the prevention of chronic diseases), which is reviewed every few years, to be reevaluated. The 2002 report which was about to be published, indicated that artificial sweeteners were in fact increasing weight, child obesity, and diabetes. But there was no way this article would be published ‘as is’ with the Bush administration so heavily backing the diet industry and its ‘ingredients’. The report, which can be found online, was published in 2003 with vague results on this subject.

Thereafter, although aspartame was banned for a short period of time in 1980, many other sweeteners have come on the market and the Non-caloric Artificial Sweetener (NAS) industry has boomed. And yet, an overwhelming amount of evidence has shown the causation of NAS linked to childhood obesity, obese newborns from mothers who are chronic NAS-sweetened beverage drinkers, diabetes, and depression. In fact, an out poor of Coka Cola funded research has conversely shown that NAS have reduced the waist sizes of individuals after switching from regular sugar sweetened beverages to NAS-sweetened beverages, but ignores the (or rather, omits) evidence showing increased waist size compared to controls (controls = those NOT consuming NAT-sweetened beverages) . We continue to ignore the facts, and we continue to promote new and ‘better’ sweeteners like Stevia – a natural sugar that today has been okayed by the FDA.

“Based on its review of information and data submitted by industry, FDA has concluded there is no basis to object to the use of certain refined Stevia preparations in food. These refined Stevia preparations may be lawfully marketed and added to food products sold in the United States.” – FDA

While I understand that the FDA is unwilling to ban a substance that may not yet be proven as a harmful substance, this also comes from the same administration that fails to do anything about the mass marketing of McDonald’s marketing toward children. You cant for a second tell me this quote was compelling enough to leave well alone:

“Ronald McDonald never sells to children. He informs and inspires through magic and fun” – Shelley Rosen, Senior Director/Strategy. McDonald Corporation.

But for sake of argument, how much would the FDA do even if there was proof Stevia and others sweeteners were in fact harmful? You can see here what they have done to rebuttal sound evidence put forth by reputable organizations.

Im rambling on now. Let me come full circle. In the last few years a field of study known as the human microbiome has shed light on the impact of good and bad bacteria in our bodies that 1) help us fight against illness 2) maintain stasis, and 3) when imbalanced can cause illness. This relates heavily to Dr. Cary Nelson’s idea of gut yeast feeding on our sugars. Key opinion leaders in the human microbiome field are now presenting strong evidence that artificial sweeteners have a direct impact on the bacteria in our gut that ultimately communicate with hormones and neurotransmitters to lead to weight gain and depression. While this is an indirect affect on our weight, it is compelling evidence to once again suggest these chemically manufactured substances are wreaking havoc in many ways.

If I can serve as one example of what happens when these NAS are eliminated from the body, I hope I can be the one voice of reason you are willing to listen to. If you know me, you know Im not a gimmicy person, I dont fall into diets and I dont follow anything without doing the research. Everything above is strong evidence, and my own internal body is all the evidence I need. After a month of no NAS in my body (as I became mindful of drinks and foods with NAS in them and quickly eliminated them from my diet) I felt better than I have ever felt in my life. I have been eating better – because I crave healthy food –  and the fat stores that were always with me since puberty (that slight little muffin top, those lovely love handles on my lower back, the discrete little gut) have all disappeared now that my exercise is actually burning MY fat.

What next?

…to be continued

Part 3: Juicing.

Resources: (additional to those linked within)

WHO/FAO TRS 916 report

 A bitter aftertaste: unintended effects of artificial sweeteners on the gut microbiome

Non-Caloric artificial sweeteners and the microbiome: findings and challenges 

Documentary: Fed Up

Documentary: Hungry for Change

Ted Talk: Jamie Oliver – Teach every child about food

Part 1 – a glimpse of a change; from skinny-fat to aware.

I am by definition ‘skinny’. I wear size 2 pants, on average an XS dress size, and Im too light to donate blood without having drastic side effects. My whole life I have done exercise but by no stretch of the definition am I athletic. I am a food blogger so naturally I love the taste of fat. Pork Belly is like my version of chocolate cake. And with a few fluctuating pounds here and there which I like to call water weight, I am skinny. In my teens I was vegetarian for 6 years and learned about amino acids found in meat substitutes, and how to obtain all the nutrients through fruits, vegetables and grains/pulses. But… I have always struggled to have definition in my body. Dont get me wrong, I have a butt and big boobs so Ive got me some curves, but you’d be hard pressed to find my abs or biceps. Over time I just kinda accepted that my genetics prevented me from having that type of body.

So the there’s what doctors would call TOFI (Thin on the Outside; Fat on the Inside), then there is skinny-fat where thin people actually have fatty organs,… and then there is me. Somewhere between skinny fat and skinny. Not medically red flagged but still unhealthy.

Last year I made a huge move in my life and relocated from the ever freezing Ottawa Canada to sunny Los Angeles California. No more hibernating in winters, no more woolen sweaters to hide behind, no more excuses not to run outdoors every day. So I did it. I made the pact to myself that I would pay more attention to my body and keep moving.

me when i loved here

Me when I arrived in LA. Skinny but no definition.

While the transition was absolutely amazing,  I started to struggle with adult acne. WTF!?! Maybe it was the heat. Maybe it was the sun. Maybe it was all the sweat causing clogged pores. I tried using organic makeup, acne preventing face wash, doing more facials, … you name it. I was doing everything I could because who wants to have adult acne at 32? Not me. I used to get a few pimples on my chin before getting my period, but this was full on devastating chin zits. I was trying so hard not to let it get to me. I even consulted my physician and asked if there was a birth control pill that could help prevent the acne. (note: I have struggled with endometriosis for half my life and have been on birth control to help with the pain, so no way around that).

And then I had my AHAA moment. My girlfriend and I had gone out to do some errands and had picked up an extra large diet coke on the way home. My favourite. In fact, this was one of those diet cokes with the Raspberry flavor shot in it. This was normal for us. I buy super sized diet coke and it lasts me all day long, sipping as I work. coke is always in my refrigerator. But I would NEVER buy regular coke. Its just not tasty. And, aspartame is way healthier than regular sugar. So there’s that. Well let me tell you, thank goodness for that diet coke because later that night I went out for some drinks… maybe one too many… and nothing cures a hangover like a diet coke. Its got something magical in it. And if you have a few slurps and then go back to bed, you wake up cured. Except the diet coke had been sitting out all day yesterday and it was flat. It was like caramel. It was absolutely positively disgusting. So, how come a flat diet coke is so much worse than a bubbly cold diet coke. I didnt know, and I didnt really care, but what I did know is I was actually addicted to the bubbles.When I sat back to think about it, its carbonation that I seek out. I rang my girlfriend and asked if she has a diet coke but all she had was a seltzer (club soda). AHA… the bubbles! So if the bubbles are what I like, screw the other ingredients I dont know how to pronounce. AND I dont even have a sweet tooth so I dont need whatever magic is in the diet coke to make it so sweet.

It wasnt like I was trying to be healthier, I just realized I could get the carbonation from a less conspicuous drink. So, I skipped the diet coke and bought a case of regular seltzer from the store that afternoon once I had recovered. Here’s what happened.

Within 24 hours, I was exhausted. So exhausted I could literally sleep all day. I had a headache the first day but after a loooooong nap I was good to go again. Day 2 was a little better. And by day 3 the headache was going away and I was able to get through the day without a power nap. Day 4 was incredible. I felt more focused than I have in a long time. And when presented with a diet coke on day 4 I was repulsed. I couldnt even think of putting that back into my body. On day 5, I went for a run and (though I have been running for years!) it was the first run where I felt the muscles working, my stomach flexed, my joints loose, and everything was functioning. I felt light, focused, and … healthy? I felt for the first time like I was burning parts of me, and not parts of left over gunk.

A few weeks later I was expected to have PMS> and for me this usually means mood swings and a lot of bloating. Like, totally uncomfortable, watermelon belly bloating. I started the countdown to my period. I have endometriosis so the countdown is a pretty normal routine for me every month. 5 days to go… no bloating. 4 days to go,.. oh I can feel some of those mood swings…. 3 days… 2 days… NO BLOATING! By cutting out aspartame, and by nature all other artificial sweeteners from my body I was functioning like a healthy human. My period was terrible but nothing new there. Post period, I started to get a firmer body. Not skinnier, just, firmer. I didnt go down in waist size I just looked trimmer. I dont know how to explain it, I just felt human. I felt light and focused and firmer and hotter and better.

WHAT WAS HAPPENING TO ME? AND HOW COULD I MAKE MORE OF THIS HAPPEN?

…to be continued.

Part 2: Eliminating Artificial Sweeteners

Part 3: Juicing

It just makes sense – Endo and Nutrition

Hello there! thank you for stumbling upon my blog. As you will soon realize this is kind of a ‘dear diary’ of all things pertaining to endo – less so about the woes and more about the positive things. I may throw you a few questions about symptoms here and there, but for the most part I am trying to see (and share) what works for me in every aspect.

The biggest thing for me is my diet. I have developed a diet called it just makes sense. Basically I try to base my diet around natural foods (ie those that can be found in nature). If it has been in a lab, it is not good for me. Here goes:

  • Sugar: I have removed refined sugars and sweeteners – instead I use honey, agave or maple syrup to sweeten my coffee. I also juice with fruit from time to time.
  • Wheat: I have removed wheat, so no flour – but I have not cut out carbs or gluten. This lets me still eat potatoes, rice, and other fruits and vegetables. I dont have enough evidence that it is the gluten that makes me feel gross so for now it stays. This does mean no bread of any kind. For tacos I only use corn flour tortillas.
  • Corn: Corn flour is one thing, but corn starch is a detriment. Sadly this means I do not bother with gluten free pastas as they replace wheat/semolina/durum with corn flour and corn starch. At this cost I would rather eat whole wheat pasta hen I have a hankering.
  • Dairy: If I eat dairy it has to be high fat content. While this sounds counter intuitive to the endo diet, the lower the fat content the higher the sugar content. So if I have milk it is 2% and if I have cheese it is always full fat.
  • Meat: I tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to meat. With the combination of endo and the lack of gallbladder (unlike with dairy) I choose meats that are low in fat content. Raw meat does not sit well with me, so Im usually that person who orders her steak ‘overcooked’. At home I stick to chicken and pork.

Another major part of my routine is probiotics. One probiotic a day can do wonders for your insides, in conjunction with your diet. One should not substitute one for the other. If you are to take a probiotic, try choosing one with at least 10 strains of bacteria and as high a number of live strains per capsule as you can find. There is some correlation between high strain count and vaginal health, so if you choose the right probiotic it will help with both the gut microbiome and the vaginal microbiome.

probiotic