I was recently asked by Barlean’s to give a speech at the national Vitamin Shoppe convention in Orlando, FL. The focus of my speech was to share with the Vitamin Shoppe managers and executives how I cleaned up my diet and altered my dietary fat intake after being diagnosed with MS (multiple sclerosis) in 1998. I also shared how I made adding omega-3 fats to my diet tasty, convenient and family-friendly too.
A Whole Foods Change
As I stated in my speech, the biggest change I made to my diet was adopting a whole foods diet.
A whole foods diet is a diet based on eating foods in their most natural, unrefined and nutrient-dense state (such as corn instead of corn flakes, steel cut oats instead of instant oatmeal, apples instead of a commercially packaged applesauce that is made without apple skins, etc.) However, in addition to eating whole foods, changing the types of fat I eat has been an essential component to optimizing my whole foods diet…and my health.
Decrease Inflammation, Improve Health & Lose Weight with Healthy Fats
The types of fats you eat play a tremendous role in the level of overall inflammation in your body. In general, the more inflamed you are the worse your symptoms of inflammatory conditions such as MS, fibromyalgia, asthma, allergies, etc. will be. Inflammation also increases CRP levels and has been associated with heart disease.
Also, the more inflamed your body is the more difficult it is to lose weight. In fact, remarkable research links obesity to inflammation…being overweight promotes inflammation and inflammation promotes obesity in a terrible, vicious cycle. Anything that causes inflammation can make you gain weight and any weight you gain can cause more inflammation.
The good news is, altering the types of fats you eat can dramatically decrease inflammation, help you lose weight …and help you feel better if you have an inflammatory condition. Decreasing inflammation can even help improve your appearance and give your skin a healthy glow.
The good, anti-inflammatory fats I increased in my diet were the omega-3 fats in the form of EPA & DHA from fish and EPA & DHA supplements plus vegan sources of omega-3’s in the form of LNA from flax, walnuts and chia seeds. I also added more plant-based monounsaturated fats from nuts, seeds, olives and olive oil.
Additionally, I eliminated pro-inflammatory omega-6 fats in the form of processed vegetable oil (such as “pure” vegetable oil, corn oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, etc.). These oils are empty caloriess.
I also dramatically reduced my consumption of animal foods including animal-based saturated fat from butter, beef, eggs, dairy, etc. Even though coconut oil does contain saturated fat it is a plant-based saturated fat and is biochemically completely different than the saturated fat in butter or beef, so I still eat coconut oil. Click the link to read more about how the saturated fat in coconut oil is not harmful and can actually be helfpul! Please note it is very important you choose only the highest quality extra-virgin coconut oil (such as Barlean’s Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil) because studies do show refined coconut oil, just like refined vegetable oil, can be harmful.
Even though I don’t eat a lot of animal foods I make sure to buy only the highest quality, grass-fed animals because I know grass-fed beef and pastured chicken have more omega-3 and less pro-inflammatory omega-6 fat than grain-fed animals (grass-fed also has more antioxidants.)
And finally, I completely eliminated toxic trans fats from my diet. Even the U.S. National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine, the organization responsible for advising the U.S. government on health policy, has said there is absolutely no safe level of intake for trans fats!
Clean Cuisine Power Bites with Barlean’s Flax & Coconut Oil
In changing my diet I also had to change the way I cooked. As I mentioned in my speech at the Vitamin Shoppe conference, Barlean’s product have been a part of my dietary “clean-up” for over a decade. I have tons of recipes on the Clean Cuisine website and also in the various books I’ve written with my husband, Andy, that include Barlean’s Flaxseeds, Flax Oil and Coconut Oil. For the Vitamin Shoppe conference I created a special recipe called Lemony Ginger Coconut Power Bites using Barlean’s Forti-Flax and Barlean’s Extra Virgin Coconut OIl (In case you are wondering, “Power Bites” are like mini power bars—perfect for an afternoon pick-me up or pre or post workout snack!)
Actually, I did not create the Power Bites all by myself! In fact, when I found out Barlean’s wanted me to make them it was the day before I was scheduled to leave for California on a 2-week family vacation. Luckily, my good friend Cherie Fromsen stepped in to totally save the day. Cherie and I consulted back and forth over countless emails and phone calls as she tried to tweak the recipe for the “Power Bites” and get it just right. The “Power Bites” had to be decided on and over 1,500 of them had to be made before I got back from California…and before I could even taste-test them!
Although it was a lot of work to get the recipe just right, the Power Bites were a HUGE hit at the Vitamin Shoppe Conference…I truly cannot thank Cherie enough for tweaking them to perfection. And as far as power bar Power Bites go, they are about as close to “perfection” as you can get in both taste AND nutrition….
Power Bite Nutrition
At the conference I printed the recipe for the Power Bites and distributed it to hundreds of Vitamin Shoppe managers; they were just amazed that something so healthy could truly be so tasty. We had a lot of requests to package them for resale! Here are a few of the things that make the Power Bites so healthy….
- No refined sugar (sweetness is from organic dates)
- Rich in omega-3’s (thanks to Barlean’s flaxseeds)
- Contains easily digested MCT’s (from Barlean’s coconut oil)
- Rich in fiber
- Rich in antioxidants
- Vegan / Dairy-Free
- Rich in disease-fighting phytonutrients
- Rich in plant-protein
Ok, ok! On with the Power Bite recipe…
Note: Power Bites taste best when eaten frozen, straight from the freezer (not to worry, they are absolutely not too hard to bite into.) The Power Bites will crumble rather easily if left at room temperature for an extended period of time…but even crumbled they taste amazing as a topping over fresh fruit or steel cut oatmeal. Bites
- 2 cups raw macadamia nuts
- ½ cup Barlean’s Forti-Flax
- ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1 cup organic pitted dates
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon unrefined sea salt
- 1 tablespoon Barlean’s Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
- 1 teaspoon pure lemon extract plus 1/4 teaspoon
- 2 tablespoons agave
- ½ cup shredded coconut
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees
- Place macadamia nuts, Forti-Flax and shredded coconut in a food processor. Pulse to combine until ingredients are crumb-like. Add the dates, ginger and salt; pulse several more times, about 10 seconds (note: the more you pulse the stickier it gets.) Set macadamia mixture aside.
- In a small saucepan, melt the coconut oil over very low heat. Remove coconut oil from the stove and stir in pure lemon extract.
- Add coconut oil to the food processor with the macadamia mixture. Pulse until ingredients form a coarse paste.
- Roll mixture into heaping tablespoon-full size balls and place them on a cookie sheet; using the back of a spoon lightly press down on each ball to flatten a bit. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, mix together the coconut topping; agave nectar plus ½ cup shredded coconut. Spread coconut-agave mixture on top of the flattened coconut bites.
- Bake Power Bites at 400 degrees for 6 to 8 min or until lightly brown. Remove and set aside to cool. Chill in freezer for 1 hour. Serve cold.