We hear so much about the negative effects of sugar—from obesity to tooth decay to cancer—it might surprise you to learn that sugar has some unique beneficial properties. It’s important to understand that not all sugars are created equal. If you want to reap the health benefits of sugar, it must be truly unrefined raw sugar.


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I’m often asked what I consider to be the healthiest diet. Through decades of nutritional research and experimentation, I’m convinced that a diet of primarily organic, plant-based Mediterranean foods—including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, eggs, dairy products (cow, goat and sheep milk derived) and healthy fats (mostly olive oil), with fish and seafood playing a key role as a main protein source—is by far the best diet for long term health. The term “pesca-flexa-vegetarian” comes closest to describing the diet that my family and I eat.


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In my last post, I broadly discussed the exciting field of epigenetics, which is radically changing the landscape of what we’ve long believed about genetics and biological destiny. Emerging research shows that food and herbs may be the most important factors in our genetic well-being, directly affecting our health, disease risk, and longevity.

As a clinical herbalist, I find the relationship between herbs and epigenetics particularly compelling. A large body of research shows that a wide array of botanical compounds work in a variety of ways to maintain health at the cellular level, and offer great promise in improving our molecular expression, protecting against cellular stressors and aging by normalizing gene behavior. We cannot change the genes we have, but we can positively alter the fate and behavior of our genes by supplying them with beneficial herbal and dietary compounds.


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The science of epigenetics is turning what we’ve long held true about biological destiny upside down. Although it remains true that our DNA—our genetic code—provides the blueprint for our physiological makeup, researchers have discovered that there’s something extra controlling our genes—and food and herbs may in fact be the most important factors in our genetic well-being.

That extra “something” controlling our genes is the epigenome, the cellular material that sits on top of the genome (the complete set of genetic material present in a cell or organism). While epigenomes do not alter the genetic code, they direct genes to switch on (becoming active) or off (becoming dormant) through a variety of biological mechanisms. This intriguing finding means that your genetic heritage is not the primary determinant of your health, disease risk, or longevity.


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I believe zinc deficiency might be the number one overlooked health concern facing our aging population. Zinc is an essential trace element found in every cell of your body, where it plays an important role in cellular structure, function, and metabolism. A multi-tasking mineral, zinc is required for metabolic health, immune response, reproductive health, and numerous biochemical functions. Zinc also helps preserve DNA integrity, is vital for more than 2000 transcription factors, is necessary for the production of brain neurotransmitters, and functions as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent.


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