Bembu Tips for Your Health & Happiness Mon, 13 Feb 2017 13:38:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 How To Improve Posture With These 8 Simple Exercises Mon, 13 Feb 2017 13:38:13 +0000 Didn’t your mother ever tell you to sit or stand up straight? Well, whatever her motivation, it was good advice, because, it doesn’t just make you look better, it also has some serious health benefits for the body and mind. And it works as a preventative health technique in some ways as well. But if […]

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Didn’t your mother ever tell you to sit or stand up straight? Well, whatever her motivation, it was good advice, because, it doesn’t just make you look better, it also has some serious health benefits for the body and mind. And it works as a preventative health technique in some ways as well. But if you work in an office or at a desk, then chances are your posture will have suffered over the years. If you are slouched over your phone, tablet or computer right now, then this article is for you!

Good posture is a lot more important than you may think. Find out why, and how to improve it with these 8 exercises...


The Importance Of Good Posture

Good posture opens your airways, keeping your respiratory system functioning properly. It protects your back and bones, strengthens the shoulders and spines and makes you look and feel better overall.

Good posture allows you to breathe properly. With an open chest and straight back, your lungs are able to take in a lot more air than they can if you’re slouched or hunched over. This will allow you to increase your oxygen intake, which, of course, is essential for circulation, energy levels and even the health of your skin. By breathing properly and opening the chest, your concentration will improve. That’s because the brain requires 20% of the oxygen we breathe in, despite it only taking up about 2% of the body’s mass.

Good posture also protects your back. People with bad posture increase their risk of slipped discs, back aches and pains, pressure in the chest, and poor blood circulation. Standing correctly, on the other hand, minimizes these risks because it is in line with the way the body was designed to stand or sit.

The Modern Office Worker

For a few decades, a large portion of western jobs have entailed sitting at a desk for 40 to 60 hours a week. This has led to slouching, hunching, snacking, little movement throughout the day, and all sorts of poor health outcomes as a result. In general, that office culture is terrible for our bodies. It causes a lack of circulation, bad posture, less energy, and sometimes weight gain.

There have been steps taken in recent years to improve office health, including healthy snack options in canteens, adjustable standing desks, and short breaks throughout the day to stretch and move around. Some corporate people have even taken to ‘walking meetings’, which involves going for a stroll to talk business.

Sore back

How To Stand With Good Posture

It does take practice and toning to maintain good posture if you have gotten out of the habit of it. But it can easily be learnt and corrected. Generally, if you work on maintaining good posture at all times, you will train your body to do it naturally. Try to think about it if you are waiting in a line or walking to the shop. Your shoulders should be back and down so that your chest feels open, stretching across your collarbone. However, your lower ribs shouldn’t be puffed out, so lightly engage your core to protect your lower back. Tilt your tailbone very subtly downwards, lengthening the spine and correcting any major curve in the back. If you are standing still, plant both feet on the ground (don’t lean on one leg), and line your hips up underneath your shoulders with the back of your head in line with your spine. Don’t let your neck tilt forward or backwards.


Exercises To Improve Posture

These exercises will help strengthen postural muscles to improve your posture naturally. Some of them can even be done at work every couple of hours to get you away from your usual position hunched over a desk or computer.

Heart Opener

This is a particularly beneficial pose to practice at work. You can simple stand up next to your desk and do a few rounds of these chest and shoulder blade stretches every few hours. Stand with a straight back, shoulders back and down and tailbone tucked in. Keep your core slightly firmed to avoid collapsing into your lower back. On an inhale, open your chest, spreading across your collarbone and clasp your hands behind your back. Lift your hands up behind you as far as you can, without tilting forward and squeeze your shoulder blades towards each other. On an exhale, round your back, bringing your arms in front of you and clasp your hands, pulling forward to stretch along your upper back and shoulder blades. Continue moving with the breath for a round of about 10 or 20, as many times throughout the day as you can manage!

Chest opener

Cow Face Pose

This pose involves the legs as well, but we’re going to ignore that part for the sake of this post, since we’re focusing on posture. If you want to try it with the legs, you can follow instructions here. So, you can sit either in kneeling pose (vajrasana), sitting your buttocks on your heels, or in easy pose, cross-legged. Next, extend your left arm up towards the sky with your palm facing forward and bend the elbow, bringing your left hand to your spine. Extend the right arm to the side, palm facing down, and then internally rotate the palm so that it is facing behind you. Bend your right elbow and bring your right hand up the center of your back. Turn your forearm into the hollow of your low back. Roll both shoulders back and down, but don’t arch too much in the spine so that you are collapsing into your lower back. Keep your core engaged to avoid this. Reach your left elbow upwards and your right elbow downwards, while keeping your shoulders relatively even. Don’t allow your elbows to drift outwards – the top one should be beside your head, and the bottom one beside your oblique. Firm your shoulder blades, drawing them together and down your back. (This may sound odd and confusing but if you attempt it, you’ll understand how it works!) Hold the pose for 10 to 15 long breaths and release for a few breaths. Then repeat swapping arms.

Cow face pose

Plank Pose

This pose is less directly focused on improving posture, but what it does is strengthen muscles that support good posture. That includes your shoulders and core. If you are moving into plank from a standing pose, you can start by moving into a forward fold, and then step one foot back and then the other. Your weight should be resting on the balls of your feet and on your hands. Your heels should be pushing towards the back of the room. Make sure your wrists are directly underneath your shoulders and your back is straight. Don’t let your buttocks droop down or lift upwards. Your core should be firm, helping to support your body and spine. Make sure you are not rounding your upper back. To ensure you are not doing this, lift your shoulders upwards and sink your shoulder blades down. Hold the pose for at least a few breaths, increasing the length of the pose over time as you gain more strength.


Cobra Pose

From plank pose, gently lower your knees to the ground and slowly bring your torso to the mat, keeping your elbows by your sides. Release your toes so that the tops of your feet are on the mat or ground and stretch your legs back. Place your hands, fingers spread, on the mat underneath your shoulders. Keeping your elbows by your sides, press the tops of your feet and thighs firmly into the mat and begin straightening your arms and lifting your chest off the floor on an inhale. Move slowly and go to a height that is comfortable for your lower back – your elbows can be bent or straight. Keep your buttocks firm, but not completely hard, and lift your pubis towards your naval. Release your shoulders back and down away from your ears, but don’t push your ribs forward too much, because that would put excess strain on your lower back. Ensure you are distributing the backbend evenly along the whole spine, not collapsing into the lower back. Hold for a few breaths and then ease your body back down to the ground.

Cobra pose

Camel Pose

If you are moving straight into camel pose from cobra, you can sequence by moving through tabletop pose, then lifting your upper body up so that you’re sitting on your knees. Camel pose is particularly beneficial for office workers because it is a strong backbend that completely stretches the front of your body, including your chest, abdominal muscles, pelvis, psoas and thighs. At the same time, it strengthens your back muscles, improving posture. If you are kneeling, lift your buttocks up away from your heels so that you’re forming an L-shape. Slightly rotate your thighs inwards and firm your glutes, but don’t engage them fully. Draw your pelvis slightly forward and lengthen your tailbone towards the ground so that you don’t collapse into your lower back when you move into the pose.

Press your shins and feet into the floor and rest your hands on your lower back when you move into the pose. Press your shins and feet into the floor and rest your hands on your lower back with your fingers pointing down. On an inhale, lift your chest up and out, pressing your shoulder blades down your back ribs. Start to lean back, keeping your tailbone and shoulder blades firm. If this feels like enough of a stretch along the front of your body, you can hold the pose here, but if you’re a bit more flexible and experienced, you can move into full camel pose by carefully placing your hands on your heels one at a time, moving deeper into the backbend. Lift your pelvis out, stretching your thighs even more, and make sure you are not collapsing into your lower back. If the pose feels alright, you can release your head back, stretching along the throat. Hold for five breaths, and when you are ready to release, firm your thighs and release one hand, rolling your head and body around the other side and lifting back up.

Camel pose

Pyramid Pose

After camel pose, you can move into child’s pose (instructions below) to release the back and then move into a standing pose. From mountain pose, step your left leg back about one leg’s length, with your toes pointing forward, but on a slight angle outwards. Your right foot should be pointing forward. Micro-bend your right knee to avoid locking the joint and lightly firm your left inner thigh. Both hips should be pointing forward, with your shoulders directly above them. On an inhale, lengthen your spine and start to move your chest forward over your left leg. As you exhale, continue folding, moving your fingertips to the ground initially, and release your head and neck down towards your leg. If you feel balanced enough, you can lift back up on an inhale, keeping your core engaged, and then clasp your hands behind your back. Repeat the move back down, but lift up with your hand, squeezing your shoulder blades together, really working your postural muscles. This time, hold the pose for about five breaths before lifting back up. Repeat on the other side.

Pyramid pose

Bow Pose

This is another particularly strong backbend that really strengthens back muscles and improves posture while stretching the entire front of the body, like camel pose. Start on your belly and take hold of your ankles. Make sure your knees are no wider than hip-distance apart. On an inhale, lift your feet, thighs and chest up, making sure your knees don’t drift outwards. Remember to breathe while holding this pose. You can gently rock forward and back, trying to lift a little more off the mat with every inhale. Again, it’s good to move into child’s pose to release the back after a strong pose like this one.

Bow pose

Reverse Plank Pose

If you are an office worker with poor posture, then you are going to hate this pose the first few times you do it! It’s a real test on some of those important postural muscles, but it’s extremely beneficial for the whole body. Reverse plank stretches the front of the body from the ankles, along the thighs, groin, abs, along the front of the shoulders, all the way to the throat. At the same time, it strengthens your wrists, triceps and buttocks.

Start by sitting in staff pose, with your legs extended out and your back straight. Slightly rotate your thighs inwards, pointing your big toes in and heels out, and press the palms of your hands into the floor behind your buttocks with your fingers pointing towards your back. If this is too much on your shoulders, you can turn your fingers out to the sides a little, and work towards moving them back over time. Bend your elbows and rotate your upper arms inward, widening your elbows. Lift your buttocks off the ground, followed by your chest, and point your toes down. Straighten your elbows as you continue to lift, and try not to hold your shoulders too close to your ears. Try to keep your scapulas (front of your shoulders) wide so that they don’t compress your flow of breath. Hold the pose for about five breaths and build up to longer over time.

Reverse plank

Child’s Pose

It’s important when doing these heart opener and shoulder/upper back strengthening poses that you release the back and stretch the shoulders and shoulder blades afterwards. You should always practice child’s pose after bow pose or camel pose, because it releases the tightness in the back and relaxes the muscles, decompressing the spine. Start in tabletop with your wrists underneath your shoulders and knees underneath your hips. On an exhale, sit back onto your heels. Your torso should rest on your thighs, or in between them for wide-angle child’s pose. Make sure your arms are stretched out in front of you to create more space along the back and sides of your body, and rest your forehead on the mat. You should feel a stretch along your back and between your shoulder blades. Stay here for a few breaths and allow yourself to relax. You can then send you arms backwards, either side of your body to rest and relax your shoulders even more.

Child's pose

Pigeon Pose

Stress and tight hips can actually have an impact on more than just that direct area. It can affect the way you walk, and can cause incorrect posture. So, even though this pose doesn’t directly impact postural muscles, it may still be important for your posture. Not only is pigeon an incredibly powerful hip stretching pose, but it can also relieve built-up tension and stress. Because these deep large muscles are often kept mobile in seated or standing positions, and clenched when we tense up, this pose can cause an extremely strong sensation in the area that can, at first, be quite uncomfortable and intense. However, over time, the sensation will become more relieving than painful. If you are inexperienced, you can begin by using props to support yourself.

Pigeon pose

Start in tabletop position with your hands shoulder-distance apart. Bring your right leg forward, placing your knee just behind your right hand and your ankle behind your left hand. Don’t force your ankle to go right up to your wrist, if it’s on a diagonal towards your groin, that is fine. Your left leg and hip should be facing the ground. Use your back toes to lift the leg and slowly work it backwards so that it is straight on the mat, until you feel a deep stretch along the hip and buttocks muscles of the front leg. Take a few breaths and relax into the pose. If this is enough of a stretch, remain with your hands on the mat and your chest up. Otherwise, you can lower your upper body towards the mat, leaning on your forearms, or resting your arms on the ground in front of you and placing your forehead on the floor. Take your time in this pose – if you can stay in it for a few minutes, the muscles will relax more and the stretch will be more beneficial. Repeat with the other leg.


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The Top 7 Proven Benefits Of Manuka Honey Tue, 07 Feb 2017 18:44:56 +0000 Touted as a natural medicine to cure just about all ailments, Manuka honey certainly has a powerful reputation. But does it live up to the hype? We take a look at the nutritional profile of Manuka honey, and delve into its proven health benefits…   What Is Manuka Honey? This dark, thick honey is produced […]

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Touted as a natural medicine to cure just about all ailments, Manuka honey certainly has a powerful reputation. But does it live up to the hype? We take a look at the nutritional profile of Manuka honey, and delve into its proven health benefits…

Manuka honey is all the rage right now, but what are the actual scientifically proven benefits?


What Is Manuka Honey?

This dark, thick honey is produced by bees that pollinate the Manuka bush, native to New Zealand. Honey is produced by bees during a series of digestion and regugitation processes, and concentrated through a dehydration process inside the beehive. It comes from the nectar the bees collect from local flower pollen.

Honey has a particularly complex chemical composition that varies, depending on its botanical source. It has been reported to contain about 200 substances. It has a subtle sweet smell and thick but runny substance. However, because honey is made from the pollen of local plants, the color and nutritional value varies in different areas. It can come in different colors, with Manuka being a medium-dark variety.


It takes about 60,000 bees, traveling about 55,000 miles and feeding from more than 2 million flowers, to gather enough nectar for one pound of honey. Once gathered, bees store the nectar in their stomachs, where it mixes with ezymes. That is then regurgitated into another bee’s mouth and repeated until the nectar becomes partially digested. The substance is then transferred into a honeycomb at the beehive.

Honey has a long medicinal history, from the ancient Egyptians who used it to dress wounds, to the Greeks and Romans, who used it to heal digestive diseases.


Nutritional Value (1 Tablespoon)

Calories – 60
Total Fat – 0g
Cholesterol – 0mg
Potassium – 0mg
Carbohydrates – 17g
Sugar – 16g
Protein – 0g

Regular raw honey has long been famous for its incredible nutritional profile and immune boosting powers, and Manuka honey has all that and more. Most raw unfiltered honey has amino acids, B vitamins, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, sodium and zinc. Darker varieties of honey, like Manuka, tend to be richer in those nutrients. In fact, Manuka honey can have up to four times the nutritional value of regular flower honeys (particularly the lighter-colored ones, like orange blossom). This is known as the Unique Manuka Factor.


Benefits Of Manuka Honey

Claims have been made that Manuka honey can cure just about everything, but studies are still relatively limited. Here are some of the proven health benefits of the thick dark honey variety.

1. Manuka Honey Has Antibacterial Qualities

In fact, all darker varieties of honey tend to have more antioxidants and antibacterial quality than lighter varieties. Manuka honey is well-known for its dihydroxyacetone content, which is found in high concentrations of Manuka flower nectar, which turns into methylglyoxal. These flowers come from New Zealand, and you can get different grades of Manuka honey, which comes under the Unique Manuka Factor scale. This antibacterial, antibiotic component is actually found in most types of honey, but not in such large quantities as Manuka. However, not all Manuka honey contains these significant antibacterial levels. To be considered potent enough to have an impact, the honey needs to have a rating of 10 UMF or more. When marketed at that level or above, it is considered ‘active’.


2. Manuka Honey Can Relieve Sore Throats In Children

The use of honey for soothing a sore throat has been around for centuries, but is it just an old wives’ tale? Well, no, according to several studies. Mainstream cough medicines have been found to have certain side effects, and in some cases, they’ve been ineffective. Some studies have concluded that honey is a more beneficial treatment for improving sleep for children with coughs. So far, these studies have looked at honey in general, which includes Manuka, but is not limited to Manuka. So far, no studies have compared different honeys to find out which may be the most beneficial. However, one study found that honey was a better alternative to two common cough medicines for children. And another found that it reduced cough symptoms and aided sleep even more than pharmaceutical cough treatment. However, honey should never be used as a cough treatment in infants under one year, because there is a risk of botulism, which is a rare but potentially fatal illness caused by a toxin, produced by bacterium.


3. Manuka Honey Can Aid Wound Healing

Manuka honey is probably most famous for its topical use in the treatment of wounds, burns and skin ulcers. It is known as Medihoney, and has been approved by the FDA since 2007. Manuka honey works by stimulating healing because of its pH content, which leans towards acidic. It helps the healing process while soothing the wound.

Wound healing

4. Manuka Honey May Have Anti-Inflammatory Abilities

Potent Manuka honey has been found to have anti-inflammatory properties. It reduces inflammation and pain when topically applied to a wound. And in 2010, the National Cancer Institute’s scientific steering committee approved a proposal for the use of Manuka honey to reduce inflammation of the esophagus in chemotherapy patients.

Manuka honeycomb

5. Manuka Honey May Be Effective In Preventing Gingivitis

Preliminary and pilot studies have concluded that Manuka honey may be a potential therapeutic treatment for gingivitis and periodontal diseases. The reason for its use in fighting the inflammation is its ability to reduce the buildup of plaque. Manuka honey has powerful antimicrobial properties, and researchers found that chewing or sucking a Manuka honey product decreased plaque by 35% and led to a 35% reduction in bleeding caused by gingivitis.

Manuka honey

6. Manuka Honey Is A Natural Sugar Substitute

We all know by now how dangerous too much sugar can be. The refined stuff is some of the worst, and when you eat a lot of refined carbohydrates as well, like refined white flour, that turns into sugar in the body also. There are a lot of natural sugar substitutes, which are, of course, healthier than refined sugar. However, they still contain glucose or other sugars and can still be harmful if over-consumed. Honey may be slightly less harmful than refined sugar, but it still has a high sugar content – half of which is fructose – and should be consumed in moderation. Manuka honey, in particular, has plenty of vitamins minerals and an abundance of antioxidants, making it much more beneficial than sugar, but when added as a sweetener, it should still be used sparingly to minimize ‘sugar’ intake.


7. Manuka Honey Can Improve Cholesterol

High levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. According to several studies, honey can actually improve cholesterol levels. It reduces total and LDL cholesterol while raising HDL (good) cholesterol. One study looked at honey compared to table sugar in 55 diabetic patients. Researchers found that LDL cholesterol was reduced by 5.8% and HDL was increased by 3.3% when consuming the honey instead of sugar. As a result, the participants eating honey also lost 1.3% more weight than those consuming sugar. Having said all that, however, the science on honey and diabetes is somewhat mixed. Some studies have actually found honey can increase blood sugar levels, although, not as much as refined sugar.


How To Use Manuka Honey

So, now that we’ve looked at some specific benefits of Manuka honey, how do you use it? Well, that really depends on what you are using it for…

Consume It Raw

If you are eating Manuka honey, it is better to consume it raw, rather than cook with it. That’s because it is an ‘active’ ingredient, and the nutrients and healing qualities it possesses can be reduced if cooked. You can drizzle some on porridge or yogurt and fruit, or add it to a breakfast smoothie. However, if you are using honey as a sugar substitute in baking, go for a different dark variety, because Manuka is quite expensive, so you should keep it to use as a raw option.

A raw ingredient example is healthy icing. If you make a natural banana muffin with oats, honey, nuts and chia seeds, you can then use the more expensive Manuka honey as a sweetener in the icing. Try cacao powder, Manuka honey, vanilla extract and macadamia, hazelnut or almond butter for a nutty, chocolatey frosting. You can also use it as your sweetener in raw protein balls, energy bites or raw vegan ‘cheese’cake.

Yogurt honey

Apply It Topically

The most well-known medicinal use of Manuka honey is in topical form, applied to wounds, burns and skin ulcers. Being a natural treatment, there are fewer risks of side effects and allergic reactions when applied topically. It also has a soothing sensation rather than a burning sensation, like some topical creams.

Risks Of Over-Consumption

Honey is high in sugar content, half of which is fructose. Like many natural sugar substitutes (agave nectar and maple syrup, for example), honey should not be consumed in large amounts because of the amount of sugar in it. It has more health benefits than refined sugar, and is therefore a better sweetener option, but it should be used sparingly. Western diets include far too much sugar, calories and low-fiber carbohydrates. Sugar, in particular, needs to be cut down on, whether you’re getting it from refined sugar, or a substitute like honey.

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What Is The Whole30 Diet? Benefits + Recipes! Wed, 25 Jan 2017 21:35:23 +0000 Do you suffer from digestive issues and severe bloating? Have you broken up with the scale and there’s no reconciliation in sight? Are you chronically fatigued? What about skin issues? Do you deal with body aches and pains that aren’t related to an injury? While all of these symptoms take a huge toll on the […]

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Do you suffer from digestive issues and severe bloating? Have you broken up with the scale and there’s no reconciliation in sight? Are you chronically fatigued? What about skin issues? Do you deal with body aches and pains that aren’t related to an injury? While all of these symptoms take a huge toll on the body, they have another key thing in common — they’re all directly related to your diet. If the symptoms I just mentioned sound familiar, you may want to give the Whole30 Diet plan a try.

Find out why people around the globe are buzzing about the Whole30 Diet, if/how you can benefit, and recipes that are bound to please!


The History

Whole30 is an eating plan that was developed by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig, a husband-and-wife team, back in 2009. The dynamic duo have backgrounds in sports nutrition and physical therapy. With their program, they help people to reset their bodies and minds (i.e. a person’s relationship with food). Since its launch, the Whole30 community has grown in leaps and bounds, with their websites currently serving more than 1.5 million visitors a month.

So What Is Whole30?

To put it simply, you can think of Whole30 as a cross between Paleo and the Elimination Diet. It’s often compared to the Paleolithic way of eating (AKA the caveman diet) because of the type of foods the diet consists of, and the Elimination Diet because it’s a plan that lasts for 30 days and is viewed as the ultimate “reset.”

Once you begin the month-long eating plan, you will fill your plate with nourishing vegetables, some fruit, meat, seafood, nuts, and seeds. On the flip side, you completely eliminate all of the “bad stuff” that’s been linked to inflammation, poor gut health, and hormone imbalance. That means:

  1. Say Goodbye To Sugar. Along with refined sugar and artificial sweeteners, you are also not allowed to indulge in natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, agave, coconut sugar, stevia, etc. The only exception here is fresh fruit juices.
  2. Grains Have Gotta Go. Not only are gluten-laden grains like wheat, rye, and barley off limits, but healthy grains like quinoa are a no-no too. You will also need to keep rice and corn products off your plate (So, yes, it’s stricter than the Paleo diet)!
  3. Ditch Dairy. With the exception of clarified butter or ghee, all cow, goat, or sheep products are off limits.
  4. Let Go Of Legumes. When you’re on the Whole30 Diet you cannot eat any lentils or beans. That includes black, white, red, navy, lima, and most others you can think of. I say “most others” because there is an exception for green beans and sugar snap peas. One legume that the Whole30 creators did not make an exception for, though, is peanuts. That’s right, you can’t eat peanut butter when you are following this program.
  5. Adiós Alcohol. You can still go to happy hour to chat with your friends and co-workers, you just can’t take advantage of any of the alcoholic drink deals when you’re there. And don’t try to sneak any wine or booze into your cooking either. Even though a lot of it will get burned off, it’s still considered cheating.
  6. MSG and Sulfates. Reading labels is always important, but it’s crucial when you are following this month-long plan. In fact, if you’re following Whole30 it’s better to avoid any processed foods and just reach for the items that don’t have an ingredient list — like fresh vegetables, fruits, meats, kinds of seafood, nuts, and seeds.

Tracking Your Progress

Unlike many popular diets and eating plans, there are no weigh-ins. In fact, you aren’t even allowed to step on a scale at all during the 30 day period. Wait … what?! So how will you track your progress? Measuring? Nope! You aren’t allowed to whip out the measuring tape and start tightly wrapping it around your waist, arms, and thighs either. Instead, you will track your progress by how you feel.

The point here is psychological.

Whole30 is so much more than a weight loss program. Sure, if you follow the eating plan then you will likely shed pounds, but that’s not the only reason someone should try it. Rather, as I mentioned earlier, it’s meant to improve both physical and mental health, creating a healthy relationship with food that will hopefully last a lifetime.

10 Benefits of Whole30

A clean diet can do wonders for a person’s health and this reset program boasts many benefits, such as:

1) Improved Gut Health

The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates once said, “All disease begins in the gut.” Now we know, centuries later, Hippocrates was right. Our gut is loaded with bacteria (about 100 trillion bacteria live inside of us) that affect our whole body. Researchers link this vital organ to everything from digestive health and immunity, to mood and skin condition. There’s only one problem — many of us are killing our good gut bacteria, and our health is suffering as a result. Some of the top gut killers include sugar, gluten, GMOs, and pesticides. By eliminating these foods from our diet, we allow the bacteria (AKA probiotics) to flourish!

2) Improved Digestion

Our digestion is directly linked to our diet. By ridding our breakfast, lunch and dinner plates of processed junk that lead to gas, bloating, and constipation, you should begin to experience regular and healthy bowels. Some people who have tried the Whole30 program even report an improvement in their acid reflux symptoms.

3) Balance Hormones

Have you ever blamed mood swings or food cravings on your hormones? If so, don’t feel guilty because it’s not just an “excuse.” It’s actually scientifically proven that when our hormones are out of whack, so are we. By purging your body of refined carbohydrates and bad fats that negatively impact our hormones, you allow your body to heal and realign. Additionally, by feeding your body the right nutrients, you are helping your hormones thrive. Here are a couple of examples:

  • Adiponectin is a hormone that regulates glucose levels, breaks down fatty acids, enhances muscle’s ability to use carbohydrates as energy, boosts metabolism, and increases the rate at which the body breaks down fat. To help your body produce more adiponectin, you’ll want to introduce some magnesium-rich foods into your daily meals. Some magnesium-rich foods include spinach, pumpkin seeds, almonds, avocados, and figs.
  • Insulin is an important hormone that’s produced in the pancreas and affects the entire body. It allows glucose from food to enter your body’s cells and be broken down to produce energy, which is essential for your cells to work properly. Insulin also plays an important role in helping your body recover from intense workouts and maintain proper blood sugar levels. To avoid insulin resistance, cut back on bread and baked goods that are loaded with carbohydrates. Instead, aim to get your carbs from fresh fruits and vegetables.

These are just two of the many hormones the Whole30 diet can help balance.

4) Better Sleep

When you feed your body a clean diet that’s loaded with vitamins, minerals, and other key nutrients, it also has a direct effect on sleep quality. The creators of Whole30 claim their eating plan will help you fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and wake up easier. The claim of diet improving sleep isn’t a new one. In fact, many scientific studies have found this to be true.

5) More Energy

Once you get past the first few days (the time where your body is detoxing itself and adjusting) the Hartwig’s claim you will have more energy. When you think about it, this makes a lot of sense. Processed carbohydrates and unhealthy fats do nothing but weigh us down. After a short blood-sugar spike, these foods leave us feeling bloated, sluggish, and ready for a nap. On the flip side, a big bowl of nourishing greens and lean proteins supercharges the body. The foods you eat on Whole30 are designed to nourish your body and mind, preparing you to take on the day ahead.

6) Joint Pain Relief

Joint pain is extremely common. One of the main causes is inflammation to the cushioning pads around the joints. That’s why diet is extremely important for people who suffer from osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout. Certain foods — ones that are high in refined carbohydrates and unhealthy fats — trigger inflammation and can make the pain worse. Through the Whole30 plan, inflammation-causing foods are completely stripped from your life and replaced with nutrient-dense ingredients that have been proven to fight inflammation.

7) Improved Skin Condition

If you’ve ever wanted to improve the quality of your skin, the first thing you probably did was march yourself down to the drug store and begin looking through all of the various creams and cleansers. Sure, some of those products will help. But if you really want to clear up your skin once and for all, you must get to the root of the problem. Many skin issues, such as acne, are inflammatory conditions that can be vastly improved through diet. Like I mentioned in number six, during the Whole30 plan, all of those inflammation-causing foods (like sugar) will be weeded out of your diet and replaced with nutrient-dense ingredients that have been proven to help the skin repair and defend itself.

Additionally, breakouts and poor skin are often a sign of food sensitivities and allergies. By eliminating and avoiding food groups such as gluten and dairy, you are removing the potential allergen.

If you begin the Whole30 diet and notice that your skin is actually doing worse, hang in there. Once your body detoxes itself and pushes out what it needs to, you should see improvement.

8) Uncover Food Intolerances

Similar to the Elimination Diet, Whole30 can also help a person detect food allergies or intolerances. That’s because, once the month is over, you’re supposed to slowly re-introduce the various food groups that you had eliminated back into your diet. If you re-introduce wheat into your diet and immediately fall back into old digestive issues, for example, you will know you have an issue with gluten or grains. The same can be said for dairy.

9) Helps Manage and Improve Pre-Existing Diseases

It’s no secret that food is powerful medicine. Many people who have tried Whole30 report improvements to their asthma, diabetes, various autoimmune disorders, and chronic migraines.

10) Crush Your Emotional Attachment To Food

When taking the Whole30 challenge, there is no calorie counting or scale obsessing. You aren’t supposed to use approved foods to create healthified donuts, muffins, and cakes. You’re just focusing on nourishing your body with clean foods and learning to enjoy the healthier options available to you. This process is meant to improve your relationship with food and get you craving the feeling of healthy over the taste of junk.

 Whole30 Recipes

To get you through Whole30, it’s important to plan your meals ahead of time and seek support either through a Whole30 online community or a friend.

Breakfast Recipes

Zoodle Breakfast Bowl – Sure, you can simply have eggs for breakfast when you’re on Whole30. But if you’re looking for something a bit more fun, try this breakfast bowl that features zucchini noodles coated in an avocado sauce, an egg, and diced up sweet potato.

Monkey Salad – This salad is nothing more than a sliced up banana with blueberries, cashews, almond butter, and cinnamon. It will take you just minutes to throw together and is bound to please your taste buds.

Green Shakshuka With Shaved Brussels Sprouts and Spinach – This spin on traditional shakshuka puts nutrient-dense super veggies on display. Topped with a protein-packed egg, this breakfast meal will keep you feeling full for hours.

Lunch/ Dinner Recipes

Taco Salad – Traditional tacos are loaded with questionable bases and sauces then wrapped in a processed shell, which means you can’t stop through Taco Bell when you’re on the Whole30 plan. However, simply cooking some ground beef in spices and laying it on top of a robust plate of veggies is filling and approved.

Carmalized Onion Spaghetti Squash – This dish is oozing with flavors, but it’s nothing more than a pot of veggies. One bite of this dish that uses onions, spaghetti squash, mushrooms, and kale, and you may not feel the need to eat traditional pasta ever again!

Cashew Satay Spiralized Veggie Stirfry – Stirfries are delicious, healthy, and super easy to make. This dish is loaded with vitamin-rich veggies, and while the recipe creator has not included any meat, if you are looking for something a bit heavier you can always toss some chicken or beef into the mix.

Snack Ideas

Following the Whole30 mentality, why not embrace the beauty of simplicity by snacking on whole foods? Enjoy a small bowl of blueberries, a banana, or a sliced apple. Munch on plain nuts and seeds for a little crunch. Or, dehydrate your favorite veggies (like kale) to give you a chip-like texture?

Is Whole30 Right For You?

Let’s get real – trying to eat the Whole30 way for more than 30 days isn’t very realistic. As humans, we need to indulge from time to time in order to feel satisfied. If we’re constantly depriving ourselves of treats, we’re more likely to cave in and take up a permanent residence in Pizza Land. I’m a huge believer in the 90/10 rule (eating clean foods 90 percent of the time and indulging the other 10 percent). With that said, Whole30 is a wonderful way to press the reset button and you can do anything for 30 days! According to the creators, this eating plan isn’t hard. They say: “Beating cancer is hard. Having a baby is hard. Losing a parent is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard.”

If you suffer from a medical condition, before beginning Whole30, it’s a good idea to consult with your doctor.

The post What Is The Whole30 Diet? Benefits + Recipes! appeared first on Bembu.

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The Top 6 Surprising Health Benefits Of Watermelon (+ Quenching Smoothie Recipes) Mon, 23 Jan 2017 16:20:23 +0000 Considering it just tastes like sugary water, it’s a pleasant surprise to learn that there are actually a number of health benefits of watermelon. The pretty pink melon is full of vitamins, antioxidants and electrolytes while being low in calories and fat. It can help with digestion, and even benefit eye health and heart health… […]

The post The Top 6 Surprising Health Benefits Of Watermelon (+ Quenching Smoothie Recipes) appeared first on Bembu.

Considering it just tastes like sugary water, it’s a pleasant surprise to learn that there are actually a number of health benefits of watermelon. The pretty pink melon is full of vitamins, antioxidants and electrolytes while being low in calories and fat. It can help with digestion, and even benefit eye health and heart health…

Watermelon is a surprisingly healthy fruit, and comes with a number of impressive health benefits...


What Is Watermelon?

As the name suggests, watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) is mainly water. Up to 92%, in fact! As well as helping to rehydrate the body, the refreshing fruit is soaked full of nutrients. The sweet, juicy red-pink melon is believed to have originated in the Kalahari Desert in Africa. The first recorded watermelon harvest is found in Egyptian hieroglyphics, about 5,000 years ago. Watermelon made its way along the Mediterranean Sea and ended up in China by the 10th century. China is now the largest producer of watermelons in the world. The US is ranked fifth globally in watermelon production. Florida, Texas, California, Georgia and Arizona produce the most across the nation. They most likely arrived in the US with African slaves.

Watermelon harvest

Watermelon is related to the cucumber, pumpkin and squash. There are between 200 and 300 varieties grown in the US and Mexio, but only about 50 are popular. By weight, they are the most consumed melon in the US, ahead of cantaloupe and honeydew. Despite the unpopularity of it, even the rind can be eaten, meaning all parts of the melon are edible.

Most watermelons have seeds, but seedless ones are available. They are a sterile hybrid, created by crossing male pollen with a female watermelon flower, both with specific chromosomes per cell. When the hybrid melon matures, the little white seeds inside contain 33 chromosomes, which renders it sterile.

Nutritional Information (1 Cup/150g)

watermelon nutrition

Calories – 46
Total Fat – 0g
Cholesterol – 0mg
Sodium – 2mg
Total Carbohydrates – 12g
Dietary Fiber – 1g
Sugar – 10g
Protein – 1g
Vitamin A – 18% of RDI
Vitamin C – 21% of RDI
Calcium – 1% of RDI
Iron – 2% of RDI
Magnesium – 4% of RDI
Potassium – 5% of RDI


Health Benefits Of Watermelon

Watermelon is 92% water, but also has plenty of nutritional value. It contains healthy amounts of vitamins A and C, as well as beneficial antioxidants and amino acids. All of that while being low in calories and fat free! Let’s take a look at the specific health benefits watermelon can offer…

1. Watermelon Replenishes Hydration

Talk about an all-natural food to rehydrate the body, especially if you feel like you need some sugar and vitamins along with water. Watermelon is pretty close to 100% water, but, importantly, the juice is full of beneficial electrolytes. While drinking water is the most important way to keep you hydrated, eating foods with a high water content can also help. Because watermelon also has a hit of fiber, it can keep you hydrated and feeling full. It means you’re eating a decent volume of food with few calories. The electrolytes found in watermelon may even help prevent heat stroke.

eating watermelon

2. Watermelon Encourages Healthy Digestion

Watermelon contains a small amount of fiber and lots of water, which are both important for healthy digestive function. The combination keeps you regular. The water helps move food and waste through the digestive tract and fiber provides bulk for your stool. Fruits and vegetables that are rich in fiber and water can promote regular bowel movement.


3. Watermelon Is Heart Healthy

An animal study conducted by Purdue University and University of Kentucky in 2012 found that watermelon may be beneficial to heart health. The study looked at the role of citrulline, a compound found in watermelon. Researchers concluded the amino acid may play a role in promoting cardiovascular health.

There are also several other nutrients in watermelon that have specific benefits for the heart. A 2014 study found that the high levels of lycopene found in watermelon may lower cholesterol and blood pressure. It was also found to help prevent oxidative damage to cholesterol. Lycopene is a chemical that occurs naturally in some fruits and vegetables, giving them their red color, like tomatoes. Obese postmenopausal women were found to benefit from lycopene in another study. Researchers found it may help reduce the stiffness and thickness of artery walls.

heart health

4. Watermelon Has Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Watermelon contains anti-inflammatory antioxidants, including lycopene and vitamin C. They may help reduce inflammation and oxidative damage. Lycopene works as an inhibitor for certain inflammatory processes and as an antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals. A 2015 study looked at supplementing an unhealthy diet with watermelon powder in laboratory rats. Researchers found the subjects that ate the powder developed lower levels of C-reactive protein (which is a marker for inflammation), and less oxidative stress when compared to the control group. Inflammation can promote chronic diseases, so it is important to keep it at bay. Choline is also found in watermelon, which can help reduce chronic inflammation.

watermelon slices

5. Watermelon May Reduce Muscle Pain

The amino acid citrulline in watermelon may aid muscle recovery. A 2013 study looked at the bio-availability of the amino acid from consuming the fruit. Athletes were separated into three groups. The first group was given plain watermelon juice before exercise. The second was given watermelon juice mixed with citrulline. And the third group was given a straight citrulline drink. Both watermelon juice drinks helped reduce the recovery heart rate and muscle soreness after 24 hours. Interestingly, they were more effective than the citrulline on its own. Researchers believe citrulline absorption is more effective when consumed as a component of watermelon.

pressed watermelon

6. Watermelon May Benefit Eye Health

The lycopene in watermelon helps reduce the risk of oxidative damage and inflammation. Lycopene is also found in parts of the eye. Consuming lycopene through watermelon may prevent macular degeneration brought on by age. It may also prevent age-related macular degeneration from worsening. The disease is caused by the thinning of a macula layer of retina, resulting in a gradual decrease in vision.

watermelon salad

But, Beware…

Watermelon consumption can be extremely beneficial when eaten in appropriate daily portions. However, an overconsumption of fruit each day can create problems. Potassium and lycopene are very healthy, but too much can be problematic. Taking in more than 30mg of lycopene in a 24-hour period can bring on nausea, indigestion, bloating, and diarrhea.

Potassium is generally okay for most people, and very beneficial to a certain degree. However, people with too much potassium in their blood, or hyperkalemia, should limit their intake to less than 140mg per day. And, of course, the obvious reason not to overconsume fruit is because of the sugar content. Although the sugar in watermelon is naturally-occurring, it is still not good to consume too much sugar daily.

Fruit platter

Watermelon Recipes

You can go ahead and just chop or slice your watermelon up and enjoy it as it is. But, you can also get creative and try it in these healthy watermelon beverages…

Smoothie Recipes

Hydrating Watermelon Smoothie With Raspberry & Cucumber – This low-calorie, low sugar smoothie combines watermelon, raspberry, cucumber, mint and ice for the ultimate hydrating drink. It is ideal for a hot day before or after a workout.

Green Or Pink Watermelon Smoothie – This video blogging family gives you two watermelon recipe options – green or pink. The green one has spinach in it, along with vanilla coconut milk and watermelon. The pink version includes rice milk, vanilla extract and watermelon. The watermelon is frozen beforehand, so it creates that delicious icy, thick smoothie texture.

Watermelon & Dark Fruit Smoothie – It couldn’t get any simpler than this! Simply add watermelon and frozen dark berries together and blend. It’s icy, thick, sweet and refreshing, while being 100% natural. You can buy a frozen dark fruit blend or simply make your own. Try blackberries, blueberries, cherries and raspberries, or whatever is in season.

Creamy Watermelon & Honey Smoothie – This is a pretty ice pink smoothie that is sweet and tasty, while being refreshing and filling. The recipe calls for watermelon, Greek yogurt, banana, honey and chia seeds. Simple but effective, and a great breakfast option.

Watermelon & Peach Smoothie – Watermelon and peach actually work very well together, and create a beautiful coral color. This smoothie is made with 100 natural ingredients and is packed full of vitamins and minerals. It is perfect for a pre or post-workout snack. The recipe includes watermelon, peach, coconut milk, ice and mint.

Watermelon Popsicle Recipe

Watermelon Gelatin Popsicles – This isn’t quite a beverage, but it is like a frozen juice! These popsicles are ideal for hot days, especially after exercise or work. They are gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free and paleo-friendly. The recipe calls for watermelon, gelatin, coconut milk and either lime, kiwi or green melon for decoration.

Watermelon popsicles

Take Home Message

Watermelon is not the first fruit you’d think of when you’re considering healthy options. It really just tastes like sugary water, which is delicious and replenishing, but not necessarily what you’d think would be healthy. So it’s a nice surprise to find out that it is actually very healthy!

Watermelon provides a number of healthy nutrients, including lycopene and vitamin C, and helps the body absorb them. Water is the main component, making it extremely hydrating. At the same time, it is low in calories and low in fat. Watermelon is a great fruit to eat on its own, or add to a smoothie. It’s ideal for a pre or post-workout snack, or as a refreshment on hot days when you might sweat a lot.

The post The Top 6 Surprising Health Benefits Of Watermelon (+ Quenching Smoothie Recipes) appeared first on Bembu.

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Low-FODMAP Diet: Everything You Need to Know Thu, 19 Jan 2017 16:18:04 +0000 The first time I mentioned FODMAPs to a patient; he stared at me blankly and then said ‘Uh, nope I’m not really into fancy navigation systems.’ That was funny in a sad way. After all, FODMAPs are very trendy in the health and wellness world, but people who would benefit the most from understanding the […]

The post Low-FODMAP Diet: Everything You Need to Know appeared first on Bembu.

The first time I mentioned FODMAPs to a patient; he stared at me blankly and then said ‘Uh, nope I’m not really into fancy navigation systems.’ That was funny in a sad way. After all, FODMAPs are very trendy in the health and wellness world, but people who would benefit the most from understanding the FODMAP science have never even heard of them…

You see, FODMAPs have absolutely nothing to do with any device whatsoever. They’re actually foods we commonly eat. So why would someone consider trying a low-FODMAP diet?

Well, let’s say, you (or someone you know) suffer from irritating digestive or IBS symptoms. If there were a natural strategy that could help reduce these debilitating symptoms, wouldn’t you want to know more about it?

In this article, I’ll cover the fundamentals of FODMAPs, the art of the low-FODMAP diet and how to use the science to improve your digestion (after consulting your physician).

Could these commonly consumed foods be behind your digestive or IBS symptoms?

What exactly are FODMAPs?

In a nutshell, FODMAPs are short-chain carbohydrates that are partially absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract where they are rapidly fermented. FODMAPs stand for ‘fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols’ – saccharides simply mean sugar.

To understand the low-FODMAP diet, we’ll need to cover some basic biochemistry. But don’t worry; I’ll keep it short and sweet (no pun intended).


‘Mono’ means ‘one’ – so monosaccharides are molecules with only one sugar. The monosaccharide of interest when it comes to digestion is fructose or the sugar found in fruits.

A food is considered a high FODMAP food if it contains more than:

  • 5g of fructose in excess of glucose per 100g serving.
  • 3g of fructose per serving.

Other monosaccharides include glucose and galactose.

carbohydrates on the low-FODMAP diet


‘Di’ means ‘two’ – as you must have guessed, disaccharides have two sugar molecules. The disaccharide that causes the most digestive issues is lactose or the sugar present in milk and dairy products. Lactose consists of one glucose molecule attached to one galactose molecule.

The other disaccharides are:

  • Sucrose or table sugar which consists of one glucose molecule attached to one fructose molecule.
  • Maltose, also known as ‘malt sugar’, is present in the starch that we get from tubers and grains. It consists of two glucose molecules attached together.

Oligosaccharides and Polysaccharides

‘Oligo’ means ‘few’ and ‘poly’ means ‘many’. As such, oligosaccharides refer to carbohydrates containing three to ten sugar molecules attached together whereas polysaccharides are those long chains of carbohydrates with 11 to 15 sugars bonded together.

Oligosaccharides are divided into two categories namely the prebiotics fructans and galactans which act as food for bacteria. Any food that contains more than 0.2g of fructan per serving is considered a high-FODMAP food.



In the FODMAP context, fructans can refer to both oligosaccharides and polysaccharides. Short-chain fructans are better known as fructo-oligosaccharides, or FOS, whereas inulin is a longer-chain fructan (polysaccharide). Both FOS and inulin exist naturally in vegetables and grains.


Those are sugar alcohols such as:

  • Maltitol
  • Mannitol
  • Sorbitol
  • Xylitol

In general, humans absorb these sugar alcohols poorly  – this is why products containing polyols will often carry a warning message saying that the product may cause digestive upset or diarrhea.

Take home message: FODMAPS are highly fermentable carbohydrates that are the most likely to cause digestive distress. These include:
  • Fructose (monosaccharide)
  • Lactose (disaccharide)
  • Fructans (these include the oligosaccharide FOS and the polysaccharide inulin)
  • Galactans (oligosaccharides)
  • Sugar alcohols (polyols)

Should you care about FODMAPs?

Do you suffer from any of the following?

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Celiac disease
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Recurrent digestive issues such as bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation or gas
  • Heartburn

If despite eating a real food diet (one that is free from processed foods and industrial oils), you answered yes to any of the above questions, you may want to try a low-FODMAP diet for a while.

The same goes for individuals who have never had any digestive problems but end up constipated while transitioning to a Paleo diet.

What makes FODMAPs problematic?

While FODMAPs are usually well tolerated by healthy individuals, issues crop up when the body has trouble absorbing these saccharides. These carbohydrates end up being excessively fermented by bacteria in the intestines and can cause digestive mayhem in susceptible people.

lactose low-FODMAP diet

You see, in order to absorb FODMAPs, the body must break down (digest) disaccharides and polysaccharides into monosaccharides. If (for reasons covered below) the body is unable to digest these FODMAPs, bacteria naturally present in the intestines will gladly take over the job.

It is important to understand that bacteria will easily, and rapidly, ferment FODMAPs since these are short-chain carbohydrates. And when these bacteria have ‘access’ to disaccharides or oligosaccharides, they will produce enzymes to break down these molecules into monosaccharides so that they can feed on them. This fermentation process produces gas.

That’s not all: when carbohydrates ‘sit’ in the intestines, they draw water in – this is called an osmotic effect. And this effect is enhanced by the small size of the carbohydrates.

Now, the excess gas caused by fermentation and the excess water induced by the osmotic effect distend the lumen of the intestine. This swelling triggers the symptoms of flatulence, belching, bloating, constipation and/or diarrhea, nausea, acid reflux, pain or discomfort as well as fatigue.

The following video illustrates how FODMAPs can affect our digestion.

How does bacterial fermentation affect motility?

When bacteria eat our food, they produce the following gasses:

  • Methane which causes constipation by interacting with the nervous system in the intestinal wall.
  • Hydrogen which promotes diarrhea. The exact mechanism behind this is currently unknown.

Moreover, bacteria also produce short-chain fatty acids during their ‘feast’ – these can also increase motility.

Take home message: FODMAPs can cause problems in susceptible individuals because some bacteria are rude! They eat OUR food and then fart in our intestines… Plus they also possess a strong osmotic (drawing water) effect.

Why would anyone react to FODMAPs?

One of the underlying cause is carbohydrate malabsorption. This malabsorption occurs when carbohydrates bypass digestion in the small intestine and are left in the lumen (the inside space) of the small intestine or the large intestine. As explained earlier, this will cause excess gas and osmosis.

What causes carbohydrate malabsorption?

Issues with carbohydrate absorption can be linked to:

  • A lack of enzyme

    – That’s the case with the fructans and the galactans: unlike bacteria, we do not produce enzymes to digest these oligosaccharides. So, the bacteria will eat these oligosaccharides and produce gas.

  • Insufficient brush-border enzyme production – Brush-border enzymes refer to digestive substances that are embedded in the microvilli, finger-like projections in the intestine. A damaged intestinal lining (as in celiac disease or in small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) or genetics (such as primary lactose intolerance) can lead to a decreased production of these enzymes. For instance, individuals who do not produce enough of the enzyme lactase will react to products that contain lactose.

  • Issues with transporters

    These transporters act as ‘doors’ that allow molecules such as fructose to cross the lining of the intestines and enter the circulation (that is, they are absorbed). In some individuals, the transporters are not working normally. For instance, they may get saturated easily (the ‘door’ is too small for all the fructose to go through). Or some people may have too few transporters. Any issue with the transporters means that the fructose will not be absorbed properly and will be left stranded in the lumen of the intestine where bacteria will feast on it.

  • The size of the substance

    Polyols are too large to be effectively absorbed so they stay in the intestines where they cause an osmotic effect that results in diarrhea.

  • Very fast transit

    If for some reason, the food you eat moves very rapidly through your digestive tract, it won’t have the chance to be broken down. When this happens, the food is rapidly delivered to the large intestine making the bacteria there very happy.

Note: It is worth noting that individuals with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) who also have a reduction in brush-border enzymes will often be unable to digest all disaccharides and most of the polysaccharides. However, this is not covered by the low-FODMAP diet. So, if you suspect you have SIBO, you may want to work with a qualified healthcare professional to come up with a dietary protocol that is better suited to your condition.

Take home message: Anything that causes carbohydrates to stay in the intestinal lumen instead of being absorbed will lead to carbohydrate malabsorption.

Who would be the most affected by carbohydrate malabsorption?

Individuals with some sort of functional gastrointestinal conditions such as IBS or the symptoms of IBS will often have a hard time absorbing carbohydrates. These people are more likely to suffer from luminal distention (swelling of the lumen or inside space of the intestines) compared to healthy individuals.

One important point here is that people with these gastrointestinal conditions often suffer from visceral hypersensitivity which is NOT within conscious control. What this means is that their nervous system and intestines will react more to this swelling causing physical pain which a healthy individual wouldn’t feel.

Do FODMAPs affect everyone?

Yes and no. You see, everyone will react to the oligosaccharides (fructans and galactans) and polyols. Even healthy individuals. However, compared to individuals with functional gastrointestinal conditions, those who are healthy will react to much, much higher doses.

I’m sure, you’ve probably met people who don’t normally have digestive problems but end up with diarrhea or loose stools after consuming lots of prunes. Well, that’s because they’re reacting to the polyols in the fruit.

On the other hand, only specific individuals will react to mono- and disaccharides for reasons explained earlier.

FODMAP testing

You can determine whether you react to fructose, lactose and sorbitol by doing a hydrogen breath test which is typically recommended in cases of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. However, instead of using glucose or galactose, you’ll be given a fructose-, lactose- or sorbitol-containing solution to drink.

Since humans do not produce hydrogen or methane, high levels of methane, or hydrogen or both can only indicate that bacteria have fermented the fructose, lactose or sorbitol. The test will also help you determine how much fructose, lactose or sorbitol you can tolerate.

To determine whether you react to fructans, galactans and mannitol, I recommend an elimination diet protocol.

So now that you know what FODMAPs are and why they can cause trouble, let’s move to the low-FODMAP diet.

Low-FODMAP diet: Evidence-based or just another fad?

Many clinical trials indicate that the low-FODMAP diet can successfully reduce digestive symptoms, especially among those with IBS. For instance, in one small 3-week study, individuals with or without IBS were randomly given a low-FODMAP diet (the research group) or a standard Australian diet (the control group). The low-FODMAP diet contained less than 0.5g of FODMAPs per meal. The participants were asked to rate their daily symptoms on a 0 – 100 scale. At the end of the study, the average score of the research group was 22.8 – IBS patients who consumed a regular diet scored an average of 44.9. That’s a 50% reduction in digestive symptoms such as bloating, gas and abdominal pain after just 3 weeks on a low-FODMAP diet!

What is a low-FODMAP diet?

As the name suggests, the low-FODMAP diet revolves around reducing specific carbohydrates (high FODMAP foods and, in some cases, moderate FODMAP foods) that appear to cause problems for people. It doesn’t have anything to do with dietary proteins and fats.

The lists below are not exhaustive so make sure to ‘listen’ to your body and read the ingredient list when appropriate. You may also want to try the low FODMAP smartphone app of Monash University which is the most reliable source of information on the FODMAP content of foods. It is available for both iPhone and Android users.

High FODMAP foods – Avoid

Vegetables (FODMAP in high amounts)

  • Artichoke (fructose)
  • Asparagus (4 spears, fructose)
  • Avocado and guacamole (more than 1/8 slice of a whole avocado; polyol) *
  • Cabbage (fructans)
  • Cauliflower
  • Jerusalem artichoke (fructans)
  • Leeks (fructans)
  • Okra (fructans)
  • Onions (fructans)
  • Shallot (fructans)
  • Snow peas (fructans and polyols)
  • Sugar snap peas (fructose)
  • Raddichio (fructans)
  • Tomato sauces and paste (fructose and fructans)

* 1/8 of a whole avocado is low in FODMAP and is usually well tolerated.

All legumes and pulses (fructans and galactans)


  • Rye (fructans)
  • Wheat-containing breads (fructans)
  • Wheat-based cereals (fructans)
  • Wheat pasta (fructans)


Fruits (FODMAP in high amounts)

  • Apples (fructose and polyol)
  • Apricots (polyols)
  • Blackberries (polyol)
  • Cherries (fructose and polyol)
  • Dried fruits (fructose)
  • Fruit juices (fructose)
  • Grapes (more than 15 per serving; fructose)
  • Mango (fructose)
  • Nectarines (polyol)
  • Pears (fructose and polyol)
  • Persimmon (polyol)
  • Plum (polyol)
  • Watermelon (fructose and polyol)

Nuts (FODMAP in high amounts)

  • Almonds (fructans)
  • Hazelnuts (fructans)
  • Pistachios (fructans)

Dairy (FODMAP in high amounts)             

  • Soft unripened cheese like mascarpone, ricotta and cream cheese (lactose)
  • Milk (lactose)
  • Yogurt (lactose and, if sweetened, fructose or sugar alcohols)

Sweeteners (FODMAP in high amounts)

  • Agave syrup (fructose)
  • Artificial sweeteners (polyol)
  • High-fructose corn syrup (fructose)
  • Honey (fructose)
  • Sugar-free foods (polyols)

Drinks and alcoholic beverages (FODMAP in high amounts)

  • Beer (some contain mannitol; gluten)
  • Coconut water (250ml serving; polyol and moderate amounts of fructans)
  • Fruit juices
  • Port wines
  • Sweeter wines
  • Sodas

Hot beverages

  • Chai tea, strong
  • Chamomile tea
  • Fennel tea
  • Herbal tea, strong (especially the fruit-based ones with chicory root)
  • Oolong tea

Food supplements, medications, seasonings

Talk to your pharmacist before taking any medication or supplement.

  • Carob powder (2 heaped teaspoons)
  • Chicory (fructans)
  • Fructo-oligosaccharide (fructans) and prebiotics (often fructans)
  • Inulin
  • Onion and garlic powder (fructans)
  • Sugar alcohols (sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, isomalt)
  • Thickeners and stabilizers like gums and carrageenan


Moderate FODMAP foods – Eat with caution

If you choose to eat any of the following foods, make sure to watch how much you consume in one sitting and closely monitor your symptoms.


  • Beetroot (fructans)
  • Broccoli (fructans)
  • Brussels sprouts (fructans)
  • Butternut squash (fructans)
  • Celery (polyol)
  • Fennel bulb (fructans)
  • Green peas (fructans)
  • Mushrooms (polyol)
  • Sauerkraut (fructans)


  • Banana, unripe
  • Grapes (10 to 15 per serving; fructose)
  • Longan (polyol)
  • Lychee (polyol)
  • Rambutan (polyol)


  • Aged cheese (lactose)


  • Black tea leaves (1 bag, strong)
  • Dandelion tea, strong

Nuts and seeds

  • Most nut and nut butters like cashews, macadamia, pecan, pine nuts, walnuts
  • Most seeds and seed butters such as pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds


Note: 1/2 cup (37g) of desiccated (dried, shredded) coconut contains moderate amounts of FODMAPs. If you’re still in the elimination phase, stick to 1/4 cup (18g) per serving – this is considered to be low FODMAP.

Safe foods – Low FODMAPs

You are a unique individual. And you know yourself better than anyone else. So, if you are sure that any of the following foods is problematic for you, just avoid it. Even if it is on the ‘safe’ list.

For instance, I have a few patients with gut dysbiosis and eczema (an autoimmune condition) who just cannot tolerate tomatoes which are nightshades.

Vegetables (maximum amount that is usually well tolerated)

  • Alfalfa
  • Bamboo shoots
  • Bean sprouts
  • Bell peppers
  • Bok choy
  • Carrots
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Chives
  • Cucumber
  • Eggplant
  • Endive
  • Ginger
  • Green beans
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Olives
  • Parsnip
  • Pickles (without added sugar)
  • Seaweed
  • Spinach
  • Spring onion (green part only)
  • Zucchini

Fruits (maximum amount that is usually well tolerated)

  • Avocado (one 1/8 slice of a whole avocado)
  • Banana (1 medium, ripe)
  • Banana, dried (10 chips)
  • Blueberries (20 berries)
  • Cantaloupe (1/2 cup)


Drinks (maximum amount that is usually well tolerated)

  • Black tea leaves (250ml serving, weak)
  • Carob powder (1 heaped teaspoon)
  • Chai tea (250ml serving, weak)
  • Cocoa powder (3 heaped teaspoons)
  • Coconut water (100ml serving)
  • Dandelion tea (250ml serving, weak)
  • Espresso (single or double shot)
  • Peppermint tea (250ml serving, weak) [may exacerbate acid reflux in susceptible individuals]
  • White tea leaves (250ml serving)

Note: Coffee can irritate the gut even in moderate amounts. As such, I strongly advise my patients to avoid coffee and caffeine-containing beverages during the elimination phase.

Is the low-FODMAP diet a lifelong one?

No, the low-FODMAP diet isn’t a life sentence – isn’t that a relief?

Monash University advises patients to try a strict low-FODMAP diet for 2 to 6 weeks. However, from professional experience, I have noticed that 2 weeks is way too short. The diet is quite complex and people typically need more than two weeks to stop accidentally consuming foods high in FODMAPs.

I usually advise patients to stay on a low-FODMAP diet for a minimum of 6 to 8 weeks – the duration of the diet will depend on how extensive the symptoms are and how they subside on the diet.

In some cases, a hydrogen breath test can identify which specific FODMAP are problematic for you. You may then need to follow the low-FODMAP diet for 3 to 4 weeks only.

How does the low-FODMAP diet work?

In a nutshell, the diet can be broadly categorized as follows:

  • Stage 1: This is the elimination phase in which you will be strictly excluding all high FODMAP and moderate FODMAP foods from your diet.
  • Stage 2: During the reintroduction phase, you will start including one high-FODMAP food at a time for one week to see what triggers your symptoms. Some individuals choose to reintroduce one specific FODMAP at a time instead of one food at a time – for instance, foods containing fructose are reintroduced instead of reintroducing only, let’s say, grapes. However, from professional experience, I have noticed that the ‘one food at a time approach’, albeit more tedious, can make it easier to identify problematic foods.
  • Stage 3: I like to call this the personalization phase. Once you’re done with the reintroduction phase, you’ll know which foods you can eat and which ones you would be better off avoiding. Well, at least until the root cause of your intolerance has been holistically addressed.

But why isn’t sucrose on the FODMAP list?

Sucrose (table sugar) consists of one glucose molecule bonded to one fructose molecule. So, you would think that someone who reacts to fructose will also react to sucrose. But that’s not the case. You see, the body has issues absorbing fructose when it is present in higher amounts than glucose (such as high-fructose corn syrup) or when you’ve eaten an excessive amount. Since the glucose and fructose content of sucrose is pretty much equal, the fructose in sucrose is absorbed to about 85% efficiency. The fructose kinds of ‘hops a ride’ with the glucose as the latter attaches to transporters.

No-cook zucchini noodles with pesto

Tips to get the most out of the low-FODMAP diet

1. Eliminate gluten-containing products

Gluten is a protein and, therefore, not a FODMAP. This being said, in one study, IBS patients who reintroduced gluten after the elimination phase reported considerably worse symptoms.

2. Choose your probiotics wisely

Avoid those that contain FOS, GOS, inulin and other ingredients that are on either the high-FODMAP or the moderate-FODMAP list. You also want to avoid those that contain cellulose (see below).

3. Remember that not all fiber supplements were created equal

Gums (guar, locust bean, xanthan), pectin and cellulose are not related to FODMAPs. However, even these non-FODMAP ingredients can be fermented in our gut which means that can cause gastrointestinal issues in some individuals.

4. Keep in mind that fructans are water-soluble but not fat-soluble

Many of my patients who are on a low-FODMAP diet ask me if it’s okay to add chopped onions and garlic to soups and stews if they remove these pieces before eating. Well, since onions and garlic are rich in fructans and these are water soluble, this strategy will not work – the fructans will leech in the water. A better strategy would be to saute the onions and garlic in coconut oil and removing the pieces before adding the other ingredients since fructans are not fat-soluble and will therefore not leech in the oil.

5. Some low-FODMAP foods need portion control

  • Zucchini becomes high FODMAP for fructans if you consume 100g per serving – keep your serving low-FODMAP by sticking to 66g (1/2 cup) per serving.
  • Blueberries: A 28g serve is low FODMAP whereas a 60g serve is high FODMAP for fructans.
  • Bok choy: A 1 cup serve is low FODMAP; a 1 1/4 cup serve is high FODMAP for sorbitol
  • Canned tomatoes: 1/2 cup (90g) is low FODMAP; 1 cup (180g) is high FODMAP for fructose. To make tomato-based sauces go further, try adding some chicken stock.
  • Chia seeds: 2 tablespoons are low FODMAP; 4 tablespoons are high FODMAP.
  • Green beans: 86g is low FODMAP; 120g is high FODMAP.
  • Green peppers are higher in FODMAPs than the red ones. So if you need to use more than 1/2 cup (52g) of peppers, use red peppers instead of green ones.

 Now I’d like to hear from you: have you ever tried a low-FODMAP diet? Are there any tips you’d like to share?

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28 Healthy Cookie Recipes To Satisfy Your Craving! Mon, 16 Jan 2017 16:38:30 +0000 Whether it’s a crunchy oat cookie or a gooey peanut butter flavor you’re after, we have a recipe listed here to suit every hankering. From rich dark chocolate to tangy ginger, these delicious but healthy recipes will curb your cookie cravings…   Oat Cookies Healthy Oatmeal Raisin Breakfast Cookies – This easy oatmeal cookie recipe […]

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Whether it’s a crunchy oat cookie or a gooey peanut butter flavor you’re after, we have a recipe listed here to suit every hankering. From rich dark chocolate to tangy ginger, these delicious but healthy recipes will curb your cookie cravings…

Don't give up cookies if you're trying to eat healthier - bake healthy ones instead!


Oat Cookies

Healthy Oatmeal Raisin Breakfast Cookies – This easy oatmeal cookie recipe makes delicious chewy cookies that are healthy enough to enjoy for breakfast. They have no butter, refined flour or sugar, and are only 82 calories. The recipe calls for oats, whole wheat flour, baking powder and cinnamon. Add to that coconut oil, egg, vanilla extract, maple syrup, milk and raisins. But make sure you buy 100% maple syrup, not the maple-flavored stuff, which is packed full of added sugar!

Honey & Oat Cookies – If you’re a fan of crispy, sweet cookies, then these honey and oat delights are sure to please! The ingredients work perfectly together, with a little tang from the ginger and earthiness from the cinnamon. The recipe calls for rolled oats, spelt flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, vanilla powder, coconut oil, honey, non-dairy milk and ginger. You can also add in raisins, chocolate chips and sliced almonds if you want to change it up a bit.

Honey oat cookies

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies – These are gluten-free, vegan and nut-free (for those with a nut allergy). Ingredients include flax eggs, oats, baking soda, cinnamon and maple syrup. You will also need vegan butter, unsweetened applesauce, vanilla extract and raisins. Again, make sure you get 100% maple syrup!

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Orange Chocolate Chip Protein Cookies – It’s hard to find a better flavor pairing than orange and chocolate. These soft gluten-free, butter-free cookies are bursting with those flavors and are made with healthy, natural ingredients! They include protein powder, oats, flaxseed, baking soda, coconut sugar, coconut oil, egg, orange zest and chocolate chips.

Orange chocolate chip cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bites – Possibly the simplest, quickest chocolate chip cookie recipe you will find. And it’s paleo and gluten-free, made with totally natural ingredients! The recipe calls for almond flour, maple syrup or honey, chocolate chips (good quality dark ones), coconut oil or butter, salt, baking soda and vanilla.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies – These are healthy and delicious! The recipe calls for unsalted Finlandia butter, dark brown sugar, salt, egg, vanilla extract, flour and baking soda. Add to that rolled oats, bittersweet chocolate chips, granulated sugar and cinnamon.

oatmeal choc chip cookies

Vegetable-Based Cookies

Frosted Vegan Pumpkin Cookies – Pumpkin is one of the tastiest and healthiest dessert ingredients around! They are embedded in American tradition, from pumpkin pies to Halloween decorations. So, when you get a tasty but healthy cookie option, you can’t go wrong! This recipe calls for flax egg, coconut oil, sugar (you can substitute for coconut sugar). You will also need pumpkin puree, vanilla, flour (go for whole wheat), baking powder, pumpkin pie spice and salt. The frosting is made with powdered sugar, non-dairy milk (try almond or coconut), coconut oil and vanilla extract.

Pumpkin cookies

Nut & Seed-Based Cookies

Peanut Butter Banana Breakfast Cookies – It’s always a win when you find a cookie recipe that is not only super easy to whip up, but also healthy enough to eat for breakfast! These cookies are made with oats, bananas, peanut butter, chocolate chips, dried fruit, cinnamon and salt. It’s always better to find 100% peanut butter instead of the regular breakfast spread brands. And good quality dark chocolate chips are better than milk or poor quality. You can even substitute for cacao nibs if you want some extra health benefits.

Sesame Energy Bites – These are made with oats, honey, sesame spread, coconut shavings, dried blueberries, chocolate chips and vanilla. Make sure to choose good quality dark chocolate chips. Apart from having to sit in the refrigerator for one hour, they are extremely quick and handy to whip up! Plus, as the name suggests, they are packed full of anything. A great option for a healthy snack on busy days.

Sesame Energy Bites

Peanut Butter Protein Snickerdoodles – Fudgy and thick, these beautiful round cookies are to die for if you’re a peanut butter fan! They are made with ground almonds, tapioca flour, coconut sugar, cinnamon whey protein powder, peanut butter powder, cinnamon and baking soda. You will also need peanut butter (they mention a brand, but any 100% stuff is good), unsweetened applesauce, egg, honey and vanilla extract.

Chocolate Cookies

Gluten-Free Texas Sheet Cake Cookies – These cookies are tender, sweet, fluffy, soft, rich and chocolatey… what more could you want!? Oh yeah, easy to make as well! The cookies are made with peanut butter (make sure it’s 100%). Add to that butter and brown sugar (you can always halve sugar quantities when home baking). Then add egg, vanilla extract, baking powder, gluten-free powder and semi-sweet chocolate chips. The icing is made with peanut butter, cocoa powder, honey and vanilla extract.

Texas sheet cookie

Double Chocolate Banana Cookies – Bananas are a really handy ingredient for healthy cookie recipes because they add a soft, moist texture. At the same time, they reduce the need for certain unhealthy baking ingredients. This recipe calls for almond meal, coconut flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, chocolate baking powder, banana, coconut oil, egg and chocolate chips.

Double Chocolate Fudge Sea Salt Cookies – Chocolate and salt – it’s one of those unlikely matches that was discovered a few years ago by confectioners. But there’s no reason that decadent flavor can’t be converted into a healthy option! These cookies are made with coconut oil, Greek yogurt, coconut sugar, vanilla extract and eggs. Add to that coffee, cocoa powder, baking soda, course sea salt, whole wheat flour and chocolate chips.

fudge sea salt cookies

Fudgy Peppermint Mocha Cookies – Love coffee? Love chocolate? Love peppermint? Love them even more when they are all together? This is for you then! It is a healthy option, but is rich in those heavenly flavors, and only 89 calories! Dry ingredients include whole wheat flour or gluten-free flour, cocoa powder, cornstarch, baking powder and salt. Wet ingredients include butter, milk, coffee, egg whites, peppermint extract, coconut sugar and dark chocolate chips.

Red Velvet Crinkle Cookies – These could also be called ‘little balls of heaven’. They look and taste incredibly beautiful and festive, with a deep red interior and white powdered exterior. The recipe calls for flour, butter and sugar (you can use coconut sugar or stevia, or simply halve the sugar quantity). Add to that cocoa powder, eggs, baking powder, salt, natural red food coloring, vanilla extract and powdered sugar for coating.

Triple Chocolate Flourless Crinkle Cookies – If you’re looking for a delicious, decadent dessert with no flour or refined sugar, then these are for you! The recipe calls for medjool dates, cacao powder, baking powder, chocolate chips, vanilla extract and non-dairy milk (try almond or hazelnut). They are sure to curb your chocolate craving while packing you full of nutrients.

Ginger Cookies

Secretly Healthy Low-Carb Gingerbread Cookies – These are so tasty, you won’t even know they are healthy. They are the ultimate bring-to-work snack for morning or afternoon tea. The recipe calls for dairy-free butter, coconut sugar, honey, egg and ground almonds. You will also need coconut flour, baking soda and powder, cornflour, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cinnamon and salt.

Gingerbread cookies

Vegan Gingerbread Cookies – Ginger is one of those delicious healthy ingredients that work perfectly in sweet recipes! This vegan cookie option is naturally sweet, packed full of flavor and the ideal cozy snack. It is made with whole wheat flour, coconut sugar, cane sugar, molasses, flax egg, coconut oil, ginger, ground cloves, cinnamon, salt, vanilla extract and baking powder.

Vegan Gingerbread Biscotti – This vegan, lentil and walnut gingerbread biscotti is packing a serious nutritional punch! It is just as crunchy and flavorful as traditional biscotti. But it is made healthier with the lentil puree. The recipe calls for lentils, coconut oil, vegan mayo, cane sugar and molasses. Add to that vanilla, unbleached spelt flour, baking powder, salt, ground ginger, cloves, allspice and walnuts.

Gingerbread Men – More gingerbread cookies because we know there are plenty of gingerbread fans out there! This time, they come in the festive shape of gingerbread men, but are much healthier than traditional recipes. They are made with applesauce, maple syrup, molasses and vanilla extract. Add to that whole wheat flour, unbleached flour, baking powder and soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and salt.

gingerbread men

Festive Cookies

Last-Minute Christmas Sandwich Cookies – Okay, so it’s not Christmas all-year-round, but who says you can’t enjoy these festive treats any time of the year? They are no-bake and look similar to Oreos, with a creamy center between two chocolate biscuits. The cookies are made with hazelnuts, medjool dates, raw cacao and coconut flour. The filling is made with coconut milk, agave nectar, cranberries, Indian wheat flour and nutmeg.

Healthy Matcha Green Tea Almond Shortbread Cookies – Matcha is the highest quality green tea around, and comes in the form of a powder. That means you are consuming the whole leaf, rather than the steeped liquid in green tea. So, if you really can’t stand the taste, then putting it in food is a clever and effective way of sneaking it into your body! Matcha boosts metabolism, is full of antioxidants and is great for detoxing. This recipe also calls for oat flour, sweetener, baking powder, coconut oil, unsweetened almond milk, vanilla extract, natural butter flavor, stevia extract and almond extract.

Low-Carb Pecan Shortbread Cookies – This melt-in-your-mouth shortbread takes less than 20 minutes to mix together and bake. It is low-carb, rich and buttery, but suitable for people on a diabetic, ketogenic, Atkins or low-carb diet. The recipe includes butter, almond flour, stevia, vanilla extract, baking soda, salt and pecans.

pecan shortbread

Fruit-Flavored Cookies

Cherry & Almond Breakfast Cookies – Cherry and almond is one of those classic flavor pairings that create delicate, instagram-worthy desserts. This recipe comes with a number of healthy ingredients, full of fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals. They include flaxseed, ground almonds, oats, sliced almonds, walnut pieces, pumpkin seeds and baking soda. Add to that chia seeds, salt, coconut oil, maple syrup (100%), almond extract and dried cherries.

Orange Cranberry Cookie Sandwiches – These cute little ‘stars’ are vegan and gluten-free, and made with all natural ingredients. For the orange cookies, you’ll need gluten-free flour, coconut sugar, maple syrup, salt,  baking powder, orange juice, orange zest and coconut oil. For the cranberry cashew cream, you’ll need cashews, coconut oil, maple syrup, nut milk and cranberry powder.

orange cranberry cookies

And Some More, Just In Case That Wasn’t Enough!

Healthy Vegan Snickerdoodles – This recipe calls for oat flour, baking soda and powder, salt, coconut sugar, ground cinnamon, vanilla extract, unsweetened almond milk and coconut oil. Just like traditional snickerdoodles, but made with healthier, natural ingredients!

Raw Vegan Marzipan Cookies – These raw cookies are incredibly quick and easy to whip up if you feel like a sweet snack. They are made with almonds, rolled oats, dates, coconut oil, coconut nectar or maple syrup and almond extract. Again, always make sure to choose 100% pure maple syrup.

marzipan cookies

Gluten-Free Soft Molasses Cookies – These are crunchy and delicious, with that irresistible rich sweet flavor of molasses and spices. Ingredients include sprouted pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, almond flour, coconut flour, tapioca starch, ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, coconut oil, molasses and water.

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7 Butter Substitutes For Baking (+ Swaps For Spreads) Tue, 10 Jan 2017 17:43:58 +0000 If you opened up your refrigerator right now, how many sticks of butter would you find? Chances are, at least a few. Whether you use the popular dairy product as a spread, pop a teaspoon or so in a frying pan when cooking, or add it to your homemade cookies, cupcakes, and pies, it seems the […]

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If you opened up your refrigerator right now, how many sticks of butter would you find? Chances are, at least a few. Whether you use the popular dairy product as a spread, pop a teaspoon or so in a frying pan when cooking, or add it to your homemade cookies, cupcakes, and pies, it seems the popularity of butter just continues to soar. While butter is considered okay to consume in moderate amounts, it’s easy to over-do it. So if you’re trying to avoid butter, or just cut back on the fatty ingredient, these seven butter substitutes may just become your new kitchen staples.

There are several reasons people cut back on, or completely eliminate, butter from their diet. See the top butter substitutes and how you can use them!

Why Many People Avoid Butter

There are several reasons why people cut back on, or completely eliminate, butter from their diet:

It’s Very High In Fat and Cholesterol

Made from milk fat, butter is about 80 percent fat (the rest is water). While it contains a fairly moderate amount of monounsaturated fat (about 25%) along with ruminant trans fat (around 2.3%), the one that turns a lot of people off is saturated fat. Butter is about 70 percent saturated fat, a type that top health organizations (including The American Heart Association) and doctors have warned us to stay away from for decades. Since 1953 when a man named Dr. Ancel Keys published a study that compared saturated fat intake to heart disease mortality, we’ve been told that saturated fats can lead to heart disease. After extensive research, though, we now know that the controversial type of fat isn’t the evil we once thought it was.

It’s High In Calories

Along with being high in fat, butter also has a lot of calories. In fact, just one tablespoon of butter contains about 100 calories. If that doesn’t seem like all that much to you, take a minute to think about how much butter you actually consume in a day. Do you use a little in the morning to grease the frying pan for your eggs? How much do you slather on top of your accompanying slice of toast? What about lunch and dinner? Did you cook your food with butter and then add some additional pats to the top of your cooked food? Did you indulge in a pastry, cookie, or another type of baked good during the day? If so, you probably had a little more butter than you even thought. Trust me, all of those calories add up!


It’s Not That Nutritious

Sure, butter does contain some vitamins – such as A, D, E, and K – along with trace minerals. However, given the high calorie and fat content, it’s really not that nutritious.

It Contains Lactose

So far, the reasons I’ve mentioned have been elective. These next two, on the other hand, are medical necessities. If you suffer from a mild form of lactose intolerance then you may be able to eat a small amount of butter and tolerate it just fine. However, if you have a severe case of lactose intolerance then even a small amount could lead to stomach upset. Symptoms can include belching, bloating, gas, stomach cramps, diarrhea, indigestion, and fat in the stool.

Milk Allergen

If you have a milk allergy then it’s also important to tread carefully with butter. That’s because butter contains a small amount of casein, a protein found in milk that some people’s bodies can’t tolerate. Casein intolerance symptoms are similar to lactose intolerance symptoms.

Butter Substitutes For Baking

Rather than just skipping over butter when baking, you will need to find a good replacement. That’s because, whether you realize it or not, butter is a key component to making our baked goods taste amazing. It’s a leavening agent that helps make our treats light and fluffy. Along with the texture, butter also adds to the overall flavor of a dish. So if you just leave the butter out, you may wind up with a dry and bland piece of yuck! Instead, try these great butter swaps:

1) Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is truly nature’s miracle. Researchers say it benefits weight loss, improves digestion, works wonders for oral health, wards off infections, has antibacterial/antiviral/antimicrobial properties, and may help fight cancer. While coconut oil is also high in fat, it’s packed with vitamins, minerals, and other key nutrients.

In baking, you can substitute butter for coconut oil at a 1:1 ratio. That means, if your recipe calls for 1/4 cup of butter, you would simply use 1/4 cup of coconut oil instead.

While coconut oil won’t do a heck of a lot to the texture, it may slightly change the flavor of your baked goods. Whether that’s a positive or a negative thing, all depends on your taste preferences. The first time I baked a cake with coconut oil I became obsessed with the slightly coconut flavor. I personally love it, but everyone is different. So give it a try and see what you think!


2) Olive Oil

Here at Bembu, we refer to olive oil as liquid gold! That’s because the popular oil extracted from olives is packed with antioxidants, key vitamins, and minerals. It’s been known to benefit heart health, mental health, and our skin and hair!

You can swap out butter with olive oil at a 3:4 ratio, meaning you will simply use 3/4 cup of olive oil for every cup of butter called for in a recipe. Just keep in mind, though, that olive oil cannot be used to replace butter in every recipe. Since it’s a liquid, it’s not good for frostings, creams, and something like an angel food cake.

When purchasing olive oil there are two main things you want to look for. For one – make sure it’s extra virgin. This refers to the grade of oil. Many cheap oils are loaded with chemicals and/or are diluted. Second — make sure to get “cold pressed.” This refers to the extraction process. When heat is used to extract oil from olives some of the nutrients are destroyed.


3) Applesauce

Applesauce works as another wholesome butter swap. It gives your baked foods the needed liquid but doesn’t drive up the calorie or fat content. Made from apples, applesauce is actually a wonderful ingredient to add to your baked masterpieces since it’s rich in nutrients that will help keep you healthy!

Swap at a 1:1 ratio. I recommend using an all-natural applesauce that doesn’t have any added sugar, so it doesn’t bump up the sweetness factor of your cake (or whatever it is you’re making). However, if you’re baking a fall-inspired treat, it may be fun to experiment with a cinnamon flavored applesauce.


4) Pumpkin Pureé

You don’t have to bake pumpkin pie or another fall treat to sneak some pumpkin pureé into your baked goods. Surprisingly, it won’t change the flavor of your treat. It will simply slash the calories and fat without destroying the taste or texture.

Use 3/4 cup of 100% pure pumpkin pureé for every cup of butter called for in a recipe.

Here’s a little trick: Buy a boxed cake mix, mix it with one can of pumpkin pureé, and follow the baking temp/time instructions. Trust me, it’s easy and way better for you than traditional store-bought cakes. You can even pour your batter into mini muffin tins to make perfect portion sized treats.


5) Avocado

Avocados are referred to as a “superfood.” They’re among the most nutrient-dense fruits on earth, touting a long list of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Plus, they’re loaded with protein, fiber, and fat. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), avocados contain around 29 grams of good-for-you fat. Along with the many ways avocados benefit our health, they also benefit our baking!

You can simply swap out butter for pureed avocado at a 1:1 ratio. While the avocado shouldn’t change the flavor of your treat, it may change the color. So a word of advice, use avocados when making something chocolate. The dark-colored ingredients will help cover up the potential green tint!


6) Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt not only contains healthy fats that can benefit your body in many ways, it’s also high in protein. Protein is essential for muscle growth, brain function, a healthy heart, strong bones, and weight management. So why not turn a low-protein cupcake into a protein powerhouse?!

You can substitute butter for plain full-fat yogurt at a 1:1 ratio.

7) Nut Butters

Nut butters, like peanut and almond butters, are a great butter replacement. They are high in protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. Just a quick note, swapping traditional butter out for a nut butter may slightly change the taste and texture. The nutty flavor may peek through and the feel of your treat may be a bit more dense. Like I mentioned with coconut oil, it’s all a matter of preference. So try it out and see what you think!

You can substitute butter in a recipe for nut butter at a 1:1 ratio.

Butter Substitutes For Spreads

Love smearing a little butter on top of your morning toast? Why not try one of these healthier alternatives instead? I mentioned some of these swaps above in the baking section, but they work well as spreads too!


  • Coconut Oil
  • Olive Oil
  • Nut Butters (Peanut, Almond, Hazlenut, etc.)
  • Avocado
  • Hummus
  • Ricotta
  • Cottage Cheese
  • All-Natural Jams, Jellies, and Preserves
  • Pesto

What Not To Use As A Substitute

For many years, people viewed margarine as the perfect butter substitute. One reason is because it looks, feels, and acts very similar to butter (although they do vary in taste). Additionally, people used to think it was a whole lot healthier than butter. We now know that isn’t the case. You see, margarine is highly processed. It’s a dairy-free replacement that’s made from inflammation-causing vegetable oils, colorants, and a number of questionable artificial ingredients. Since margarine’s main ingredient (vegetable oil) is solid at room temperature, it’s often hydrogenated. That’s what gives it its solid butter-like consistency. The hydrogenation process also turns some of those already not-so-good-for-you vegetable oils into trans fats. As I hinted at earlier, not all fats are created equal and this is the type that you want to stay away from.

Check out this video comparing butter and hydrogen to get a better understanding of the hydrogenation process. Plus, you’ll see why not all margarine products are the same!

With any food that you buy at your local grocery store, it’s extremely important to read labels and get a good feel for exactly what’s inside. In general, though, when you’re searching for the best butter substitute for baking and spreads, try to stick with the ones mentioned above!

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Get Bendy With These 8 Yoga Poses For Flexibility Sat, 07 Jan 2017 17:47:32 +0000 Asanas, or the physical side of yoga, focus on many, many things, including balance, strength, concentration, stability, breath and relaxation. They also focus on, and improve, flexibility. Here are 8 beginners’ yoga poses that increase flexibility.   But Yoga Is For Flexible People, Right? Myth: You have to be flexible to practice yoga. Reality: Yoga […]

The post Get Bendy With These 8 Yoga Poses For Flexibility appeared first on Bembu.

Asanas, or the physical side of yoga, focus on many, many things, including balance, strength, concentration, stability, breath and relaxation. They also focus on, and improve, flexibility. Here are 8 beginners’ yoga poses that increase flexibility.


But Yoga Is For Flexible People, Right?

Myth: You have to be flexible to practice yoga. Reality: Yoga is for EVERY body.

You don’t have to be slim, flexible, strong or particularly coordinated to start yoga. In fact, when trying yoga out for the first time, people tend to either be naturally flexible or naturally strong. It is rare that someone trying it out for the first time would be able to hold crow pose for a long period of time and then twist themselves into a pretzel pose. Over time, a yoga practice develops and increases flexibility and strength.

Yoga is non-judgmental, non-competitive and never completely mastered. In other words, you will be a yoga student your whole life. There are always more levels, deeper poses and different ways of practicing yoga. And you will naturally continue to build upon your flexibility as you practice, as well as your strength, balance and concentration.

Yoga flexibility

Yoga For Flexibility

These poses are great to practice on their own or as part of a sequence. Over time, they will help release tight muscles, benefit your nervous system, and increase flexibility.

Seated Twist

Even simply sitting cross-legged and twisting is a great start to building flexibility, if you are particularly stiff or inflexible. Twisting from the core stretches the back and spine, relieving stiffness in the body and even the hips if you are cross-legged.

Start in staff pose, sitting up straight with your legs crossed. Inhale and raise your arms above your head, lengthening your spine. As you exhale, twist from the core to the right, placing your left hand on your right knee and right hand behind you. Inhale and lengthen your spine a bit more, then exhale and twist a little deeper. Stay there for three breaths and then move back to neutral. Repeat on the other side. If sitting with your legs crossed is too difficult to begin with, you can straighten your legs and cross one over the other, twisting with your opposite elbow on the outside of your bend knee.


Bound Angle

If you have tight hips or are inflexible around the groin and inner thighs, then spending a bit of time in bound angle is a great way to release that whole area. This pose can be performed in three different ways – each with slightly different benefits. But all three options help with flexibility around that target area.

Bound angle

Start sitting up straight with your legs out in front of you, in staff pose again. Fold your knees out to open your hips, and place the soles of your feet together. Hold your ankles or clasp your fingers together around the outside of your feet. Bring your heels in as close to your groin as you can. Your legs should make a diamond shape. Make sure your back is straight, not curved. Start to gently flap your knees up and down like a butterfly to help release any tension you may be holding. You can also try swaying from side-to-side, gently pressing your elbow into your inner thigh to carefully encourage it closer to the ground.

If you can, move your chest towards the ground, leading with your heart to get a deeper stretch around the hips. Stretch your arms out in front and rest your forehead and chest over your feet and on the mat.

Hip opener

Reclined Bound Angle

For reclined bound angle pose, start by lying on your back with your knees bent. Slowly release your knees apart towards the ground and place the soles of your feet together. Make sure you’re not straining the insides of your thighs and groin. You can place blocks underneath your hips to reduce any extreme tension. Rest your hands either out to the sides with your palms facing up, or rest your hands on your belly. You can add a bolster under your spine to open your chest and rest here for as long as you like. This is a popular restorative pose.

Forward Bend

This is one of those go-to stretches that people think of when talking about flexibility. ‘I can’t do yoga – I can’t even touch my toes’, is a common statement heard by yoga teachers. The aim, however, is not to touch your toes. It is to stretch the muscles in the backs of your legs and release the spine. Whether that means your hands get as far as your thighs or down to the ground is irrelevant. Having said that, though, the more you practice, the closer you will get to the ground! The most important thing to remember here is not to force it. This is something that takes time and practice.

Tight muscles

Forward bends can be done standing up or seated. If you are standing, start in mountain pose with your big toes touching and about an inch of space between your heels to slightly rotate your thighs inward. On an inhale, lift your arms up above your head, opening your chest and looking up. Make sure your knees are lifted and your core is engaged to protect your back. Release your shoulder blades down your back.

On an exhale, fold forward from your waist, leading with your chest, and keep your backs straight. Keep a bend in your knees if your legs are tight, and if you are comfortable enough to straighten them, make sure you still have a micro-bend in them (don’t lock the knee joints). Allow your spine and neck to lengthen, and release your head towards the floor. Your hands can rest on your thighs, shins, on the ground, around your ankles, or you can hug around the back of your knees. Stay here for five to 10 breaths.

Forward bend

Seated Version

If you are practicing a seated forward bend, start in staff pose with your torso and back straight and your legs out in front of you. Point your toes to the sky, lengthening the backs of your legs. Inhale and open your chest, looking up. Lean forward on an exhale, leading with your chest again. Slide your hands along your legs. Either hold the bottoms of your feet, or rest your hands on your thighs or shins, releasing your head, and lengthening your spine and neck. This is where a yoga strap can come in handy. If you have one, loop it around your feet and walk your hands down the strap as you exhale. Hold the pose for five to 10 breaths.

Seated forward bend

Wide-Legged Forward Fold

This one still stretches the backs of your legs and decompresses the spine, but it also works again on opening the hips and stretching the inner thighs and groin. Have a yoga block ready in front of you.

Start by standing with your legs wide in an upside-down ‘V’ shape. Slightly pigeon-toe your feet to internally rotate your thighs. Place your hands on your hips and life your collarbone and chest upwards to lengthen your torso on an inhale. As you exhale, slowly fold forward, keeping your core strong and engaged and your back straight, leading with your chest. Once you are halfway down, with a flat back, release your hands from your hips and place them either on the block in front of you, or directly on the mat if you can reach. Keep your core and back strong and on each exhale, try to fold a little deeper, moving the crown of your head towards the ground, releasing your spine.

Wide-legged forward bend

Camel Pose

Strengthening the muscles around your back and abdomen will support you as you stretch deeper and increase your flexibility. Camel pose is a fantastic back bend that works all those muscles along the spine, as well as your postural muscles. At the same time, it stretches your chest, abdominal muscles, pelvis, psoas and thighs. That makes it a particularly beneficial pose for increasing flexibility along the front of your body if you are particularly stiff or inflexible in any of those areas.

Start by kneeling on the floor with your knees hip-distance apart. Lift your buttocks away from your heels so that you are kneeling in an L-shape. Slightly rotate your thighs inwards and firm your glutes, but don’t engage them fully. Draw your pelvis slightly forward and lengthen your tailbone towards the ground so that you don’t collapse into your lower back when you move into the pose. Press your shins and feet into the floor and rest your hands on your lower back with your fingers pointing down. On an inhale, life your chest up and out, pressing your shoulder blades down your back ribs. Start to lean back, keeping your tailbone and shoulder blades firm. If this feels like enough of a stretch along the front of your body, you can hold the pose here.


Work Towards…

Once you are a bit more flexible and experienced, you can move into full camel. To do this, carefully place your hands on your heels, one at a time, moving deeper into the back bend. Lift your pelvis out, increasing the back bend and stretching your thighs even more. Make sure you are not collapsing into your lower back. If that feels alright, you can release your head back, stretching along the throat. Hold for five breaths, and when you are ready to release the pose, firm your thighs and release one hand, rolling your head and body around the other side and lifting back up.

Camel pose

Child’s Pose

Child’s pose is a very restorative pose that is a great accompaniment to deep back bends like camel, because it releases the back and decompresses the spine. It is also a very restorative pose that is great for relieving the back and neck. At the same time, it can help increase flexibility around the knees, hips, groin and thighs.

Start in tabletop position with your wrists underneath your shoulders and knees underneath your hips. As you exhale, sit back onto your heels. Your torso should rest on your thighs, or in between them for wide-angle child’s pose. Make sure your arms are stretched out in front of you to create more space along the back and sides of your body. Rest your forehead on the mat. You should feel a nice stretch and release along your back and between your shoulder blades. Stay here for a few breaths, allowing yourself to relax into the pose. You can then send your arms backwards, either side of your body and relax your shoulders.

Child's pose

Bridge Pose

This gentle restorative pose is both a back bend and heart opener, and is also considered a minor inversion. This mix of opening the chest and heart cavity, as well as changing the direction of blood flow, calms anxiety and releases any stored emotions. It also helps you work on flexibility around your shoulders, chest, abdomen, psoas and thighs.

Lie on the floor with your knees bent and feet planted on the mat. Make sure your fingertips can brush your heels and your legs are hip-distance apart. As you exhale, press your feet into the ground and slowly lift your tailbone, lower back, middle back and upper back towards the ceiling. Tuck your shoulders towards each other underneath your back and clasp your hands together below your buttocks. You should feel open across the chest and strong in the back. Take long, slow breaths in this pose and watch your belly expanding with each inhale and contracting with each exhale.

Bridge pose

Universal Spinal Twist

This is a fantastic restorative pose that relaxes the body, stretches the hips, glutes and outer thighs, and releases the back. It’s great for releasing tension in the hips and back, as well as increasing flexibility in that area.

Start on your back and bend your right knee on an inhale. Open your arms out to either site, palms facing down. Gently drop your right knee to the left on an exhale, twisting from the hips and spine. Keep both shoulders on the mat and turn your gaze towards the right. You should feel a fairly deep stretch around your right hip and glute, and around your spine. At the same time, your chest should feel open. Stay in this restful pose for at least 10 breaths on each side.

Spinal twist

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23 Fun & Creative Snacks For Under 100 Calories Mon, 02 Jan 2017 18:52:09 +0000 We’re not all about calorie counting at, but when you’re looking for a snack, it’s a great idea to keep the calories to a minimum. And more importantly, make them healthy low calorie snacks. Here are some of our favorite snack and dessert recipes that come in under 100 calories…   Should You Be […]

The post 23 Fun & Creative Snacks For Under 100 Calories appeared first on Bembu.

We’re not all about calorie counting at, but when you’re looking for a snack, it’s a great idea to keep the calories to a minimum. And more importantly, make them healthy low calorie snacks. Here are some of our favorite snack and dessert recipes that come in under 100 calories…

Try these low calorie snacks to reduce your daily intake!


Should You Be Counting Calories?

This is a tricky area because it works for some people, but others get it totally wrong. If you focus on calories and not nutrients and balance in food, then you will most likely end up with deficiencies somewhere. Before we impose a blanket ban on calorie counting, however, there are some benefits to it, if you are doing it right. The problem is, most people don’t get it right. It is extremely difficult to understand how many calories and what sorts of calories you are consuming. If you are doing it wrong, it can be detrimental to your weight loss regime, and your overall health and energy.

A study of obese people on a ‘low calorie diet’ in the US found that participants did not lose weight because they under-reported their energy intake and overestimated their physical activity. Like fad dieting, calorie counting can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food, or a food obsession. And, if people are looking only at the calories they are consuming, instead of choosing food for its nutritional value, it often results in an unhealthy, unbalanced diet.

snacks under 100 calories

So Why Bother With ‘Low Calorie’ Snacks?

The important thing to note here is that, if you are trying to lose weight or keep weight off, you do need to be mindful of your calorie intake. That doesn’t mean counting them necessarily. Instead it means choosing low calorie options where possible. And snacks are a great place to focus. If you are a ‘snacker’, you don’t want to be consuming mountains of your daily calories through those in-between meal bites. Choosing low calorie snacks lessens your calorie intake throughout the day, which minimizes your overall calorie intake. Similarly, it is important to choose healthy low calorie snacks. That way, you will not be consuming bad calories, like, for example, sugary, processed, refined food that can lead to a blood sugar spike. That, in turn, can lead to sugar cravings and binging during the remainder of the day.

healthy snacks

Healthy Low Calorie Snacks (For Under 100 Calories!)

Here are 23 of our favorite sweets and snacks for under 100 calories…

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Healthy Gluten-Free Double Chocolate Chip Cookies – You can’t beat a chocolate chip cookie when you’re craving a chewy, sweet snack with a coffee at break time. The problem is, traditional chocolate chip cookies are packed full of sugar and refined flour, as well as a fair few calories! This option comes with the added bonus of being double chocolate. It is made with gluten-free flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, cornstarch, vanilla, honey, peanut butter (choose 100% stuff), unsweetened applesauce and mini chocolate chips. Choose good quality dark chocolate chips!

Low Fat Chocolate Chip Cookies – This low calorie take on a classic break-time favorite trades in some traditionally unhealthy, refined ingredients for some slightly healthier ones! The recipe calls for flour (you can always trade all-purpose flour with whole wheat for some added fiber), baking soda, coconut sugar, granulated sugar, whipped butter, egg whites, vanilla extract, almond milk and semi-sweet chocolate chips.

choc chip cookies

Oatmeal Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies (With Flax) – These chewy, sweet cookies are just as tasty as sugar, refined floury chocolate chip cookies, but with ingredients that are full of nutrients, like fiber, vitamins and minerals. The recipe calls for whole wheat flour, ground flaxseed, oats, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, butter, light brown sugar, egg, vanilla extract and dark chocolate chips.

Other Cookies

Healthy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies – These low sugar cookies will curb any cookie craving, with a nutritious mix of healthy ingredients. The recipe calls for oat flour, oats, baking powder, cinnamon, coconut sugar, coconut oil, vanilla, milk and raisins. They come in at 81 calories per cookie.

oatmeal raisin cookies

Healthy Nut, Carrot & Raisin Cookies – These nutrient-rich cookies curb a sweet craving, while packing you full of healthy ingredients, including nuts, carrots, oats, cinnamon, nutmeg, egg, applesauce and coconut oil. There’s no sweetener added (the carrots and apples do the trick) and no refined sugar! They have 83 calories, just over 5 grams of fat, 8 grams of carbohydrates, just over 2 grams of sugar, 81mg of sodium, 1.5 grams of cholesterol and 14mg of cholesterol.

nut carrot raisin cookies

Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Cookie Buttons – These cute little cookies come with 94 calories each and make a tasty little snack when you’re in the mood for a small sweet treat! They are made with sorghum flour, coconut flour, brown rice flour, baking powder, butter, peanut butter (go for 100%), maple sugar, egg, vanilla extract and dark chocolate.

Skinny Sugar Cookies – There’s sugar in the title of these tasty Christmas-inspired cookies, but there is actually no refined sugar in the ingredients. These cookies each have 98 calories, less than 4 grams of fat, 14.2 grams of carbohydrates, less than 5 grams of sugar, 1.4 grams of fiber and 16 grams of protein. They are made with whole wheat flour, baking powder, coconut oil, maple syrup, vanilla extract, butter extract and cinnamon.

sugar cookies


Gluten-Free Cinnamon Apple Pancakes – These delicious, moist pancakes are made with gluten-free baking flour, baking powder and soda, sugar, eggs, unsweetened almond milk, apple cider vinegar, vanilla extract, ground cinnamon, and apple. One pancake equals 90 calories. They also come with 2 grams of fat, 31mg of cholesterol, 67mg of sodium, 18 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 5 grams of sugar and 3 grams of protein.


Fresh Corn And Mango Salad – This fresh, tasty salad is a great low calorie snack option if you are not craving a sweet or dessert. It calls for corn, mangoes, yellow bell pepper, orange bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, chili, red onion, cilantro, rice vinegar, lime zest, lime juice and avocado oil or olive oil. One serving equals just under 78 calories, with less than 3 grams of fat, 2 grams of fiber, just over 7 grams of sugar and no cholesterol.

mango salad


Flourless Blueberry Banana Blender Muffins – There’s nothing better than blending a batter to save time and dishes! These moist, delicious little bites are made with banana, egg, almond butter, honey, vanilla, baking soda and powder, and blueberries. One muffin comes with 75 calories, no refined sugar, no refined flour and plenty of nutrients!

Brownies & Bites

Pumpkin Pie Fudge – You can’t beat fudge for a delicious, indulgent coffee break snack! This one not only has the scrumptious flavor of pumpkin pie, but also comes in at just 93 calories. But be aware that it also comes with a decent kick of sugar, so enjoy in moderation. Other than sugar, the recipe includes butter, evaporated milk, pumpkin puree and corn syrup. Dry ingredients include pumpkin pie spice, white chocolate chips, marshmallow fluff and vanilla.

pumpkin pie fudge

Coconut Rum Energy Balls – These are a fantastic low calorie Christmas option when you are in the mood for a good rum ball! They take just 10 minutes to prepare. The recipe calls for almonds, ground almonds or coconut flour, shredded coconut, protein powder, raisins, rum extract, cinnamon, nut butter, honey or maple syrup and vanilla.

The Ultimate One-Minute Protein Brownie – This delicious, rich but fluffy, protein-packed brownie takes just one minute to whip up. It is naturally gluten-free and can be vegan. One serving comes in at 150 calories, which means you can easily serve yourself a slightly smaller size (it’s rich, so you don’t need a regular serving size), and bring it down to 100 calories or under! The recipe includes protein powder, coconut flour, sweetener of choice (try stevia powder), baking powder and cocoa powder. It also calls for an egg (or flax egg for vegan option), nut milk (try almond or hazelnut), and dairy-free chocolate chips and peanut butter chips.

Zucchini Brownies – These indulgent-looking brownies are rich, moist and secretly healthy! They are packed full of fiber and other powerful nutrients. The recipe calls for zucchini, brown sugar, unsweetened applesauce, eggs, vanilla and oat flour. Add to that cocoa powder, baking soda and powder and cinnamon, and you’re done!


37 Calorie Brownies – Now we’re getting serious, with some rich, moist, delicious chocolately brownies that come with just 37 calories! They take less than 30 minutes to prepare. Ingredients include Greek yogurt, milk, cocoa powder and rolled oats. They also call for Truvia (natural stevia-based sweetener), egg and baking powder.

Samoa Banana Bites – Made with bananas, caramel, cocoa powder, coconut oil, agave syrup, coconut flakes and salt, these yummy little snack bites are quick and easy to make. They come with 93 calories, 12.5 grams of carbohydrates, 5.3 grams of fat, 5 grams of protein, 1.8 grams of fiber and 8.7 grams of sugar.

Fruity Treats

Skinny Peach Pie Popsicles – These popsicles are made with peaches, soy milk (or nut milk of your choice) and graham crackers. They make delicious, energizing, cooling post-workout snacks, especially in summer.


Baked Peaches With Cherries & Pecans – This fancy-looking snack or dessert is enough to impress any dinner guest and comes in at just 70 calories. One serving also has 12 grams of carbohydrates, 11 grams of sugar, 0mg of sodium and 1 gram of protein. However, there are no refined carbs in it, or refined sugar. The recipe calls for peaches, cherries, pecans, cinnamon, nutmeg and honey.

Berry Wine Sherbet – This creative beautifully-colored iced treat is perfect for a hot summer’s day. It is quick and easy to whip up (as long as you leave time for it to freeze!). The recipe calls for dry red wine, sugar, fresh blackberries, lemon juice and milk.


Skinny Tropical Pudding Cups – If you’re a fan of tropical-flavored desserts or sweet treats, then these pudding cups are for you! Coming in at 75 calories per serving, with less than 2 grams of fat and 14.5 grams of carbohydrates, they have some light, refreshing ingredients that will satisfy your sweet craving. The cups are made with milk, sugar-free, fat-free instant vanilla pudding mix, coconut extract, rum extract, lime juice, pineapple juice, fat-free whipped topping and chocolate macadamia nut cookies.

Raspberry Cheesecake Popsicles – These pretty popsicles make a delicious dessert-inspired summer treat. They come with just 93 calories each, and plenty of tasty ingredients! The recipe calls for fresh raspberries, water, cream cheese, milk, vanilla extract and sugar.

raspberry cheesecake popsicles


Healthy One-Minute Vanilla Cake – This light, fluffy, moist vanilla cake takes just one minute to throw together and microwave! It is low calorie, gluten-free, with vegan, high protein and paleo versions on the blog. Not only that, but if you don’t have a microwave, or prefer not to use a microwave, there’s an oven version too. The recipe calls for coconut flour, ground almonds, cinnamon, baking powder, granulated sweetener (try stevia), egg white or flax egg, dairy-free milk and sprinkles.

Pumpkin Cake – Dubbed ‘single gal’ pumpkin cake, this gluten-free, paleo friendly, vegan, refined sugar-free treat can be whipped up in just three minutes. It is made with coconut flour, pumpkin puree, cinnamon, vanilla extract, maple syrup, unsweetened vanilla almond milk, Truvia, and nut butter or coconut butter as frosting. It comes with 86 calories, 3 grams of fat, 12 grams of carbohydrates, 64mg of sodium, 2 grams of sugar and 3 grams of protein.

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Histamine Intolerance: How to Address the Root Cause Wed, 28 Dec 2016 16:22:32 +0000 Do you start itching when you eat cured meat? What about random headaches you can’t figure out? Or perhaps your tongue gets all swollen when you eat bananas? If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, let me assure you that it’s not ‘all in your head’: you could have a histamine intolerance. Or […]

The post Histamine Intolerance: How to Address the Root Cause appeared first on Bembu.

Do you start itching when you eat cured meat? What about random headaches you can’t figure out? Or perhaps your tongue gets all swollen when you eat bananas?

If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, let me assure you that it’s not ‘all in your head’: you could have a histamine intolerance. Or more precisely a ‘mast cell activation disorder’. I’ve experienced histamine intolerance first hand, which is why I wrote this article. So I know how annoying and troubling the symptoms can be.

But the good news is that you can get better. Read on to find out everything you need to know about histamine intolerance and what you can do to address the root cause of your symptoms.

Bugged by histamine intolerance? Find out how to naturally get rid of your symptoms.

What is histamine?

What comes to your mind when you think of histamine? Allergies and a stuffy nose during seasonal changes? Or perhaps the redness and painful swelling caused by a mosquito bite or a bee sting? Well, these symptoms occur due to the release of histamine, an organic nitrogen compound that causes an immediate inflammatory response.

Many of us see histamine as an irritating bad guy that causes allergies. But the truth is that histamine is a normal physiological response that acts as a red flag to alert the body of any potential attacker.

Moreover, histamine also works as a:

  • Neurotransmitter which communicates important messages between the brain and various parts of the body.
  • Component of stomach acid which helps the body extracts nutrients from the food you eat.

Immune system meets Invader – a real life story

The production of histamine is very complex but in a nutshell, here’s how that goes:
1. An invader (such as pollen, dust particles or an insect’s venom) enters the body.

2. The immune system encounters the invader and trigger mast cells, white blood cells that act as the sentinels of our innate immune system.

3. The mast cells quickly notify the body by releasing histamine from secretory granules (storage sacs).

4. The histamine produced triggers the release of other immune cells and also dilates capillaries – small blood vessels. This swelling makes the capillaries more permeable to those immune cells, allowing them to quickly find the invader and attack it.

5. Usually, once the invader has been ‘apprehended’, the body releases two main enzymes. These include namely histamine N-methyltransferase (HMT or HNMT) and diamine oxidase (DAO). HMT and DAO break down the histamine produced into N4-methylhistamine and imidazole acetaldehyde respectively. These reactions inactivate the histamine thus preventing its accumulation in the blood.

For most people, this usually marks the end of the story. However, as discussed below, for some individuals, histamine can be a much greater issue.

Good to know: Bacteria in our guts also produce histamine. Plus, some of the foods we eat contain histamine. And to make things more confusing, some foods can trigger the release of histamine.

HFCS and goutHistamine intolerance – Not your typical food intolerance

Let me start by saying that, just like ‘adrenal fatigue’, ‘histamine intolerance’ is a collection of symptoms and not a diagnosis. This is why many conventional practitioners will tell you that histamine intolerance does not exist.

A mast cell activation disorder (MCAD) is currently the most accurate diagnosis of what patients with ‘histamine intolerance’ are suffering from. However, since not many individuals know about MCAD, I’ll be using the term ‘histamine intolerance’ in this article.

As mentioned earlier, mast cells act as the guards of the immune system. Therefore, in an attempt to maintain a normal environment within the body, these cells react to changes in the environment or insults to the body. They do so by releasing molecules such as histamine. For optimal body function, we need these mast cells and the molecules they release. Besides their role in allergies, mast cells are involved in:

  • The production of new blood cells
  • Wound healing
  • Immune tolerance development
  • Maintenance of the blood-brain barrier function
  • Protection against pathogens

However, in the case of MCAD, problems occur when these cells function abnormally, leading to histamine intolerance. MCAD has also been linked to:

  • Skin conditions
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Male infertility
  • Autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis
  • Bladder pain syndrome
Good to know: Although MCAD can be ‘in your genes’, different members of the same family can present with very different symptoms.

Why would someone have issues with histamine?

By now, you will have realized that the problem isn’t with the histamine. So why would histamine be so problematic for some individuals?

Well, based on current research, it appears that some individuals produce too much histamine whilst others are unable to break down histamine.

Why would a person make too much histamine?

1. Overactive mast cells (mast cell activation syndrome). This can be caused by:

Toxicity of heavy metals like aluminum and mercury

– Infections or gut dysbiosis

–  Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS) – individuals who are particularly sensitive to molds, are more likely to be constantly activating their mast cells. That’s because these individuals would be less able to clear out mycotoxins (poisons released by toxic molds) from their bodies.

4. Mastocytosis, a rare genetic condition caused by an excess of genetically altered mast cells.

3. Too many gut bacteria that produce histamine.

Why would a person have trouble breaking down histamine?

Unfortunately, there are numerous possibilities. For instance, a person may suffer from:

  • A deficiency of histamine N-methyltransferase (HMT or HNMT)
  • Impaired efficiency of DAO due to genetic mutations in the DAO gene. These mutations are more common among Caucasians.
  • Reduced activity of HMT due to micronutrient deficiencies which can affect the methylation pathway through which HMT deactivates histamine
  • Low levels of bacteria that degrade histamine
  • MTHFR mutation – No, it’s not a swear word (although it sure looks like one!): MTHFR actually stands for methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase. This involves a defect in the genes related to the methylation pathway. Individuals who are homozygous for MAO can be more sensitive to histamine. [A 23andMe gene profile run through Genetic Genie or MTHFR Support can help you determine this.]

Some individuals may also be deficient in diamine oxidase (DAO). This deficiency can be caused by:

  • A genetic issue with DAO production (more common in people of Asian origin)
  • Gluten intolerance
  • Increased intestinal permeability (very common among individuals on a standard Western diet)
  • Inflammation

The following drugs can also interfere with DAO levels in the body:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin or ibuprofen
  • Antihistamines like Zyrtec, Allegra and Benadryl
  • Histamine (H2) blockers like Tagamet, Zantac, Pepcid
  • Antidepressants like Cymbalta, Effexor, Prozac, Zoloft
  • Immune modulators like Plaquenil
  • Antiarrhythmics like metoprolol

Why does the degree of histamine sensitivity vary so much?

That’s a question I get asked all the time. Some may say that a person suffering from poor health or poor lifestyle habits is more likely to be more histamine intolerant. While it is true that health status does determine sensitivity, the issue is much more complex.

For instance, one could have a MAO mutation coupled with ineffective methylation and trouble breaking down histamine once it is produced. Plus, they could have overactivated mast cells that lead to histamine overproduction. And all this could happen even if that person is eating a real food diet and practicing a healthy lifestyle.

So, there are cases where there is a constellation of issues. As such, these people may need to always be careful with foods rich in histamine.

Good to know: If you must talk to your doctor about histamine intolerance, use the term ‘mast cell activation disorder’ instead. Otherwise, she/he might look at you like you have two heads.

Common symptoms of histamine intolerance

Symptoms will vary considerably (from irritating to life-threatening) between individuals depending on which body systems are affected:

  • Eyes – Redness, itching, burning, watery
  • Nose – Runny, itching, sneezing, seasonal allergies
  • Mouth – Swelling, itching
  • Skin – Swelling, rashes, itching, hives (can be localized or all over the body)
  • Throat – Swelling or ‘throat tightening’
  • Lungs – Coughing, wheezing
  • Digestive tract – Heartburn, indigestion, reflux, cramps, diarrhea
  • Vascular – Headaches, fatigue, confusion, irritability, symptoms resembling those of anxiety or panic attack, loss of consciousness unexplained by other causes
  • Cardiovascular – Drop in blood pressure (especially when you stand up quickly), chest pain, increased heart rate or ‘racing heart’
Take-home message: Since all human tissues contain mast cells and almost every cell has a mast cell receptor, MCAD can affect any organ system, making detection quite difficult.

Now that you know what histamine intolerance is, let’s talk about how to test for it.

Testing for histamine intolerance

1. Elimination / Reintroduction diet: Start by eliminating foods rich in histamine, those that release histamine as well as DAO blocking drinks (see below) for at least 30 days. Then, work with a qualified healthcare practitioner to reintroduce foods one at a time.

2. Blood tests: Test for both histamine and DAO levels. Moreover, you can also run a serum tryptase test to assess mast cell activation syndrome.

Usually, a high histamine to DAO ratio would indicate that your:

  • Dietary intake of histamine is too high (if you’re on a normal diet)
  • Body is over-producing histamine (due to gut dysbiosis) on a low-histamine diet
  • Body isn’t producing enough DAO levels.

But if your DAO levels are very low and you have normal histamine levels, then that could indicate a genetic deficiency of DAO.

3. DAO supplements: If you are unable to test your histamine and DAO levels, you could do a ‘DAO supplement trial’. You just have to eat a low histamine diet and take a DAO supplement at each meal. If your symptoms improve, this could indicate that you have low DAO levels.

Histamine-free and low histamine diet

If you do a Google search for ‘histamine intolerance’, you’ll come across the ‘histamine-free’ or ‘low histamine’ diet, a VERY long list of foods to avoid. I have to admit that just glossing through foods to avoid on a low histamine diet can be quite distressing. Netherveless, this diet is an important part of treatment as it can help you tone down some of your symptoms and finally get relief.

Let’s have a look at foods which naturally contain histamine, those that release histamine and those that inhibit DAO.

beer gout

Histamine-rich foods

As the name suggests, these foods contain histamine. The biggest offenders are usually any type of fermented foods – during fermentation, the bacteria produce histamine. Leftover meat can also be problematic since microbial action increases histamine levels as the meat sits. Slow cooked foods like bone broth or crockpot recipes will also be high in histamine.

  • All fermented alcoholic beverages especially wine (white and red), beer, champagne, sherry and all other alcoholic drinks – even if the alcohol has been cooked off
  • Cured meats including bacon, dried cured sausages, hot dogs, luncheon meats, pepperoni and salami
  • Pork
  • Smoked or canned seafood and seafood that has been improperly handled or stored for too long
  • Certain fish like anchovies, bonito, butterfly kingfish, dried milkfish, herring, mackerel, mahi-mahi, marlin, pilchards, saury, scads, smooth-tailed trevally
  • Tuna and sardines – the amount of histamine varies between different species with some containing no histamine at all
  • Fish paste (like anchovy paste), fish paste and shrimp paste
  • Fermented foods like kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, yogurt, fermented sausages, fermented ham, vinegar, soy sauce and any fermented soy product
  • Vinegar-containing foods such as mayonnaise, pickles, and preserved olives
  • Soured-foods like buttermilk, soured bread, sour cream, and sour milk
  • Dried fruits like apricots, dates, figs, raisins, prunes
  • Most citrus fruits
  • Nuts like cashews and walnuts
  • Peanuts
  • Cheeses like Camembert, cheddar, Emmental, Gouda, Harzer (German sour milk cheese), Parmesan, Swiss cheese and Tilsit or Tilsiter cheese
  • Avocados
  • Coffee
  • Eggplant
  • Pineapples
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes and ketchup
Did you know? The average histamine content of the above foods can vary between 2mg/kg to 400mg/kg! Fruits are usually lower in histamine compared to cured meats, pork, and sausage which win the award for foods highest in histamine.

Histamine-releasing foods

The following foods do not contain histamines. However, when ingested, they can trigger mast cells to release histamine.

  • Alcohol
  • Bananas
  • Chocolate
  • Cocoa
  • Cow’s milk
  • Crustaceans
  • Licorice root
  • Nuts
  • Papaya
  • Pineapple
  • Pork
  • Shellfish
  • Tomatoes
  • Wheat germ
  • Various artificial preservatives and dyes

 DAO-Blocking beverages

As the name suggests, in susceptible individuals, the following drinks can inhibit DAO’s activity when consumed

  • Alcohol
  • Black tea
  • Green tea
  • Mate tea
  • Energy drinks

That’s a long list of foods but, don’t worry, once you’ve addressed the root cause of your histamine intolerance, you’ll probably be able to start enjoying them again.

So what can you eat?

As a rule of thumb, when it comes to histamine intolerance, remember to eat the freshest foods you have access to:

  • Freshly cooked poultry, meat and game
  • Cooked eggs
  • Fresh produce excluding avocado, eggplant, spinach, tomatoes
  • Dairy substitutes like coconut or almond milk
  • Extra virgin olive oil and virgin coconut oil
  • Herbal teas
  • Certified gluten-free rice, quinoa, buckwheat and amaranth – avoid these if you have an autoimmune condition or a lot of inflammation in your body (this would be indicated by high ESR and/or CRP levels on blood tests)
  • Freshly caught fish – the video below will walk you through how to select the freshest fish

Do you really need to address your root cause?

Short answer: Definitely!

Because do you think you could follow a low-histamine diet for life? If yes, that’s impressive! However, be forewarned: not this only can this diet be very overwhelming, but it may not be very useful in the long run if you don’t address the underlying cause.

Why? For two main reasons:

  1. A low-histamine diet with supplemental DAO will only help reduce the amount of histamine that you’re consuming. It will do nothing to modify the amount produced by your mast cells within your body.
  1. No two individuals with histamine intolerance will react to the same foods. For instance, my dad gets hives when he eats spinach but no reaction whatsoever when he eats eggplants, unlike my older brother who reacts strongly to eggplants. In other words, if you avoid all foods that contain histamine, you will probably be missing out on foods you may actually tolerate well.

Plus, to make things more complicated, the histamine content of foods will vary depending on:

  • How they’ve been handled
  • Processing methods
  • The type of bacteria that has been used in fermentation

This is one of the reasons why you won’t find histamine content on labels.

Why not simply follow conventional treatments?

Conventional treatments involve drugs that focus on blocking the action of mast cell mediators like histamine. It is true that they can give you much-needed relief but these short-term solutions can have unwanted side effects.

This is why I strongly advise addressing the root cause of your histamine intolerance. While this will not be a quick fix, this approach can help you reverse your condition.

So, how can you treat histamine intolerance?

1. Heal your gut!

If you’ve read my previous articles, you’re probably thinking ‘Whoa, what a broken record!’ But the importance of a healthy gut cannot be over-emphasized. You see, histamine intolerance indicates both a damaged gut (increased intestinal permeability) as well as an overgrowth of bad bacteria and too few beneficial ones (dysbiosis).

To heal your gut, avoid:

  • Gluten-containing foods
  • Grains
  • Vegetable oils (like canola oil, cottonseed oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil and soybean oil)
  • Sugar
  • Processed foods.

You can also try probiotics but adhere closely to these two guidelines:

  • Avoid probiotics that produce histamine – these can worsen your symptoms. Hello chaos if they start colonizing your gut! These probiotics include Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Lactobacillus casei and Lactobacillus delbrueckii. These strains are often found in most dairy products which is why I strongly discourage consumption of fermented dairy products if you have histamine intolerance.
  • Try probiotic strains that degrade histamine – these should improve your symptoms. Lactobacillus plantarum and Bifidobacterium infantis are good choices. Or you could try soil-based organisms.

2. Give your liver some love

Remember HMT, the other enzyme that breaks down histamine? Well, it is active in the liver. If your liver is unhealthy, the efficiency of HMT will decline. So, to keep your liver healthy, you want to:

  • Avoid sugar and high fructose corn syrup
  • Choose healthy fats (such as coconut oil) instead of refined, industrial seed oils
  • Select nutrient-packed carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes
  • Eat a colorful diet to get enough polyphenols
  • Be active throughout the day to use up your liver glycogen stores
  • Avoid alcohol – this includes wine – since it is one of the major inhibitors of DAO

3. Take care of any existing infections

As mentioned earlier, parasites and infections can over-activate mast cells. Your doctor can work with you to assess your comprehensive stool test analysis and identify what might be bugging you.

3. Take care of any existing infections

This test will help determine if you are suffering from heavy metal toxicity. Once you get the test’s results, try chelating agents (under the guidance of a qualified healthcare professional) to get rid of these metals. It is also a wise idea to have a trained dentist safely remove any old mercury fillings you may have. This can reduce the burden of mercury on your body.

Lifestyle changes to improve histamine intolerance

1. Get enough quality sleep

Activation of mast cells tends to be similar to circadian rhythms. As such, hit the hay early and get enough sleep (about seven to eight consecutive hours at night) is essential. You also want to avoid blue light from electronic devices at night. This being said, if you really need to use such devices at night, install f.lux on your laptop or Mac or twilight on your smartphone. Moreover, take care of your circadian hygiene by getting enough sunlight exposure on a daily basis, whenever that’s possible.

2. Manage your stress levels

When you’re stressed (physically or physiologically), your body releases corticotropin hormone. This hormone ‘startle’ mast cells, causing them to release mediators such as histamine. Hence, this is why many individuals will see symptoms worsen during periods of stress. You may also want to try some supplemental magnesium. But be sure to know how to select the right magnesium supplement for you.

Nutrients to include

1. Resistant starches

These include unripened green bananas – these are great in smoothies or fried in coconut oil to make chips. But make sure to avoid raw potato starch which may worsen your symptoms. That’s because lectins, naturally occurring substances in potatoes, can provoke mast cells to release histamine.

2. Get plenty of nutrients that can help stabilize your mast cells

Here’s what I typically use in my practice:

  • Bromelain (natural anti-histamine)
  • Butterbur
  • Ginger
  • Holy basil
  • Nettle tea
  • Nigella sativa
  • Peppermint
  • Pine bark extract (natural anti-histamine)
  • Quercetin (natural anti-histamine)
  • Selenium
  • Thyme
  • Turmeric
  • Vitamin C from amla berries or camu-camu

Have you experienced histamine intolerance? If so, what was your underlying issue and what did you do to address that?


The post Histamine Intolerance: How to Address the Root Cause appeared first on Bembu.

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