Grass-Fed Beef: What the Big Deal?

Chances are if you have looked at a health food magazine or follow any health blogs, you’ve heard that you should be eating pasture-raised, grass fed meat. If you have actually checked out these options at the grocery store, you probably noticed the bigger price tag on them. So, is it really worth it?

In short, absolutely. But there are many different aspects of grass fed beef that make it the best possible option, and it’s important to know why you’re spending that couple extra bucks.

First, let’s look at it from an ethical perspective. Cattle, like humans, have changed over the millennia and now prefer a certain environment to remain the healthiest they can for the longest amount of time. For cattle, being able to graze freely and consume nutrients that their bodies are best suited to break down makes them the healthiest that they can be.

Until recently, the differences between grain fed cattle and pasture-raised, grass fed cattle as well as the differences in the quality of meat between the two were largely unknown. There have been several “exposé documentaries” in the past few years that have showed the true colors and inhumane methods of slaughtering animals. Conventional, commercial beef is stuck in a cage, fed grain that it is unable to digest efficiently, and eventually slaughtered cruelly. When you buy grass fed, pasture-raised beef from the supermarket, you are joining the minority of people supporting ethical practices.

From a nutritional point of view, grass fed beef is a wonderful source of clean protein. You want to feed your body nutrients that align with what it needs, as well as keep out toxins and “anti-nutrients” as much as possible. Studies suggest that grass-fed beef as compared to grain-fed beef has less intramuscular fat, tougher meat and darker muscle color, as well as being more stable to oxidation. More importantly, grass-fed beef has a drastically lower omega-6 to omega-3 ratio than grain fed beef. This is important because high omega-6 to omega-3 ratios like those in grain fed beef have been linked to many chronic diseases including heart disease and cancer. Grass-fed beef has also been found to contain higher antioxidant levels than grain-fed. This beef had considerably higher levels of superoxide dismutase, vitamin E, vitamin A, and glutathione (the body’s master antioxidant). High levels of antioxidants, like the ones in the grass-fed beef, help protect the body from oxidative damage caused by free radicals.

Lastly, there is the financial perspective on grass-fed beef. This often seems to be the biggest barrier people face in switching to grass-fed beef, because it is more expensive. This is because grass is not available worldwide all year round, so the cost of allowing cattle to graze freely and storing the grass reflects in the price of the beef. If the extra money really bothers you, try buying in bulk, or find a local farmer that raises grass-fed cattle, as cutting out a middle man will definitely reduce the price you are paying for your food.

If you would like to know more or have any questions about the healthiest options for you, please contact Flourish Integrative Health at or 415.721.2990.

Giving up Gluten – Is it Really Necessary or Just a Fad?

One of the most common questions functional medicine practitioners hear is, “Do I really need to give up gluten??” As appetizing as that garlic bread or pasta may look, consuming gluten truly is not worth the consequences on your body.

Let’s start with what gluten is. Gluten is a protein used as a binding agent in many foods, and found in almost all wheat containing products. The history of gluten dates back millennia, referenced in the Bible and sources from the Roman Empire. Gluten is a staple and the majority of diets around the world. If you believe in our hunter/gatherer genetics and follow a “Paleo” diet, grains are a recent addition to what you are able to eat. It takes a ton of work to create just one loaf of bread, so without modern day advances, the amount of work going into making bread greatly outweighed the energy you would actually get from the bread itself.

But contrary to some people’s opinions, not everything is bad with grains! Grains store extremely well, are easily accessible, and have a high caloric content. Large populations of people are able to be fed with grain and the use of modern machinery.

The term gluten comes from the word glue in Latin. Ever make paper maché as a kid? Well, the only two ingredients in that were flour and water, and in the end it turned into a rock. The human body is comprised of more than 75% water, so I’m sure you can imagine why gluten may not be compatible with the body. Gluten has been implicated in many disease processes such as:

  • Autism
  • Fatigue
  • Cancer
  • Depression
  • Anemia
  • Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
  • Irritable Bowel Disease
  • Autoimmune Conditions
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Infertility
  • Schizophrenia
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Neurological Disease

As I’m sure you realized, this list is not only long, but these conditions aren’t just associated with one system of the body, they involve multiple systems. Studies have shown that even individuals without celiac disease can react negatively to as little as 4.5 grams of gluten per day. Some of the symptoms these people experienced are: brain fog, pain, intestinal symptoms, abdominal bloating and depression.

Another extremely common question we hear on a daily basis is “What should I eat to replace gluten?” Even though we understand gluten has been a daily part of your diet most likely forever, you cannot replace something that isn’t supposed to be in your diet in the first place. Good “replacement” foods are nuts and seeds, fruits, vegetables, and starchy roots like sweet potatoes.

  • Here are some things and tips you can use right now to determine if eliminating gluten from your diet would be beneficial for you
  • Do not eat gluten for at least four weeks and keep track of how you feel
  • Don’t be surprised if you get gluten withdrawal symptoms from gluteomorphins
  • Research hidden sources of gluten you may not be aware of in your diet
  • When eating at a restaurant, there are gluten-specific enzymes you can buy to avoid symptoms from cross-contamination
  • Try elimination with cross-reactive foods if your symptoms do not improve
  • Replace gluten with more fruits and vegetables instead of “gluten-free” baked goods

If you would like to know more about eliminating gluten from your diet and how it can help you feel better soon, please contact Flourish Integrative Health at or 415.721.2990.

Sleep: Tips on How to Get it!

Just like eating and breathing, sleep is a vital process to keep us alive. Also just like breathing and eating, the quality of sleep the general population gets is extremely variable. In our society, our lives are focused on keeping appointments, meeting deadlines, and almost never finding time for ourselves. When we are at our busiest and time seems to move too quickly, many of us borrow time that we should be sleeping during just to be able to get our work done and keep our heads above water.

If you are the type of person who sleeps five hours a night during the week and twelve on the weekends, you may think you’re averaging seven hours a night and that’s fine, but in reality it is not the same as getting a consistent amount of sleep. This tells us that not only is how much we sleep important, but also what we eat or do before bed, how we sleep, and our internal environment can affect how our bodies respond to sleep.

Sleep has been studied thoroughly and there are places around the world to study the biochemistry of the body and how sleep affects it. Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to many disease processes and disorders such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and cardiovascular disease, all of which can be fatal. Also, there have been studies done on shift workers who have reversed wake-sleep cycles. Our bodies release hormones at certain times of the day that control how our bodies function, because we have a natural 24 hour circadian rhythm that is determined by our biological clock. The circadian rhythm is drastically changed when people do shift work. This has been linked to poor mental performance and an increase in major diseases, both directly and indirectly.

But despite how easy it is to mess up your sleep, it’s also super easy to get back on track! Here are some tips to get better sleep:

  • Try not to expose yourself to bright lights before bed – even though electricity is a necessary part of modern life, human bodies have not caught up yet and are still “programmed” to go to sleep and wake up with the sun. An easy way to do this is to buy amber bulbs to use before bed to block blue, harsh light.
  • Don’t drink caffeine after lunch – Although caffeine is able to be used to boost focus and performance, it is a stimulant nonetheless and will aid in you not being able to fall asleep. Some people can handle caffeine closer to bedtime than others, so after lunch is merely a suggestion, and you should try to figure out what works for your body.
  • Create a bedtime routine – If you try to get to bed at the same time and wake up at generally the same time every day, you will find yourself feeling more rested and less tired throughout the day. You can also add things like reading a book, drinking a cup of tea, turning off electronics, or eating a small snack to this routine as well.
  • Keep your bed a sacred space – Never work where you sleep, because your bed should be a special place for you to recharge and rest. Even a semi-stressful experience like work should be kept away from your bed so you do not associate the two things.

Sleep is incredibly important, and there is much more you can do than this to feel more rested. If you want to learn what these things are, please contact Flourish Integrative Health at or 415.721.2990.

How to Bring out the Hidden Health Benefits of Garlic

Not only does garlic keep vampires at bay and taste delicious; it’s also a superfood with many health benefits. Garlic is a very nutritious ingredient with very low calories and other nutrients that make it the beneficial, powerful healer that it is. Both as a supplement and a fresh plant, garlic is a natural medicinal ingredient that can boost your health and strengthen your immune function. It is very important to prepare it correctly, however, to reap the maximum benefits from this wonderful superfood.

Why Chopping Garlic is Important
The latest scientific research tells us that slicing, chopping, mincing, or pressing garlic before cooking will enhance its health-promoting benefits. A sulfur-based compound called alliin and an enzyme called alliinase are separated in the garlic’s cell structure when it is whole. Cutting garlic ruptures the cells and releases these elements, allowing them to come in contact and form a powerful new compound called allicin, which not only adds to the number of garlic’s health-promoting benefits but is also the culprit behind its pungent aroma and gives garlic its bite.
By chopping garlic more finely, more allicin may be produced. Pressing garlic or mincing it into a smooth paste will give you the strongest flavor and may also result in an increased amount of allicin. So, the next time you chop, mince, or press your garlic, you will know that the more pungent the smell, the better it probably is for your health.

Why You Should let Garlic Sit for 5-10 Minutes
To get the most health benefits from garlic, let it sit for a minimum of 5 minutes, optimally 10 minutes, after cutting and before eating or cooking. Waiting 5-10 minutes allows the health-promoting allicin to form. If you do not let it sit, allicin is never formed, so it is worth the wait.

How Cooking Affects the Nutrients in Garlic
Heating garlic without letting it sit has been found to deactivate the enzyme that is responsible for the formation of allicin. However, if you have allowed your garlic to sit for 5-10 minutes, you can cook it on low or medium heat for a short period of time (up to 15 minutes) without destroying the allicin. This is because letting it sit not only ensures the maximum synthesis of the allicin, but also makes it more stable and resistant to the heat of cooking.
Research on garlic reinforces the validity of this practice. When crushed garlic was heated, its ability to inhibit cancer development in animals was blocked; yet, when the researchers allowed the crushed garlic to sit for 10 minutes before heating, its anticancer activity was preserved.

Cooking for:
5-15 minutes: minimal loss of nutrients
15-30 minutes: moderate loss of nutrients
45+ minutes: substantial loss of nutrients

*Taken from: The World’s Healthiest Foods by George Mateljan

If you would like to learn more about functional medicine or how to incorporate it into your life, please contact Flourish Integrative Health at or 415.721.2990.

Wait, Isn’t Fruit Good for me?

Throughout most people’s whole lives, everyone has been told to “eat your fruits and vegetables.” If you are a parent, you may even say this to your kids. But fruits and vegetables, from a nutritional standpoint, are completely different from one another.

Because of modern advancements, the way people eat fruit has changed. When the main route of transportation was walking or other slow methods, people were not able to get fruit from out of their own areas, and they also were only able to eat fruit that was in season where they lived. This is especially true of people that lived in areas that had dramatic seasonal changes in the weather, and people were not able to eat fruit year round, so they would eat much more during the warmer months and pack on some extra body fat, and then be able to burn it over the winter when food was scarcer. We now know that this creates relatively consistent blood sugar levels, leading to better hormonal and physical heath.

Fructose is the main sugar in fruit. It is also found in sweet potatoes and other root vegetables. Mostly absorbed in the small intestine and digested in the liver, fructose does not create an increase in insulin or leptin, hormones involved in weight maintenance and long-term energy. When natural fructose from fruit is combined with high fructose in other areas of our diets, like processed foods and high fructose corn starch, it has been linked to obesity, hyperlipidemia, metabolic syndromes, diabetes and insulin resistance. There was even a study that found that people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and people with elevated uric acid levels suffered from lower baseline energy. This was measured by ATP levels in the liver. The study also found that when these people ate high-fructose diets, their liver ATP lowered even further, which could cause fibrosis or liver injury.

You may have heard fruit be referred to as “nature’s candy”, and it truly is and should be treated as such. As is the case with many other foods, fruit is not inherently bad for you, but consumed in overwhelming quantities, it can be detrimental to your health (those with preexisting metabolic diseases or syndromes, even more so). Another factor that can influence the health effects of eating fruit is the quality of the fruit you are eating. As a rule, you should always buy organic fruit. Also, locally grown fruit is always better than fruit that has crossed a few state lines to get to the produce section. Here are a few more tips to eat fruit the right way:

  • Try to only eat 1-2 servings of fruit per day, and eat lots of vegetables too!
  • If you juice your fruits or make smoothies, try to make them 80-90% vegetables and only 10-20% fruit.
  • Avoid high fructose corn starch and syrup at all costs!

If you would like to learn more about functional medicine or how to incorporate it into your life, please contact Flourish Integrative Health at or 415.721.2990.