The tradition of baking and sharing holiday cookies is one that my family enjoys. Of course, I like to make our treats as healthy as possible. I have special memories of the delicious cookies that my mother made at Christmas, and I’ve updated her recipe, making it with healthy ingredients. It’s our favorite holiday cookie recipe, and I’d like to share it with you.

Cookies

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups ground pecans: I use a wooden rolling pin to crush the pecans
  • 2 cups flour: I use a combination of 1 cup organic oat flour (freshly ground from organic whole oat groats), ½ cup coconut flour, and ½ cup sprouted spelt flour. (If you prefer a less crumbly cookie, substitute kamut flour for the oat flour.)
  • ¼ tsp. sea salt
  • ½ cup dried maple syrup powder
  • ½ cup organic salt-free butter
  • ½ cup coconut oil
  • 2 tsp. high quality vanilla extract

For sprinkling on cookies:

  • 1 teaspoon dried maple syrup powder
  • 1 tsp. coconut milk powder (optional)
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon

Instructions:

  1. Soften butter and mix with coconut oil and vanilla.
  2. Sift dry ingredients (flour, salt, and ½ cup of maple syrup powder) and add to wet ingredients.
  3. Fold in the crushed pecans.
  4. Chill for at least 30 minutes, but longer is better.
  5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  6. Roll the dough into little balls and arrange on a lightly greased cookie sheet.
  7. Cook for 5 minutes, remove from oven and sprinkle with a mix of 1 tsp. of maple sugar, 1 tsp. coconut milk powder (optional) and 1 tsp. cinnamon.
  8. Lower oven to 350 degrees F and bake another 5-7 minutes until golden.

We hope you enjoy these scrumptious, healthy cookies as much as we do. Happy Holidays from our family to yours!

— Donnie

 


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be the light

In the midst of the busyness and celebration of the holidays, let us all as a collective pause to shine forth with loving kindness and goodness.

Be the Light

The Winter Solstice marks the longest night of the year, and the gradual but noticeable shift toward the light. Bonfires, candles, and twinkling holiday lights remind us of how even a small light illuminates the darkness.

“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”Mother Teresa 

Be the Light 

At this time of festivity, let us draw inspiration from the Christmas Psalms, and “Be the Light” that shines forth into the world.

A Trilogy of Christmas Psalms: “Sing to the Lord a New Song” (Psalm 96); “God Reigns! Earth Rejoices” (Psalm 97); “Joy to the World” (Psalm 98).

Be the Light

The ancient hymn “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” is sung during Advent and on Christmas Day. Believed to have originated with a community of fifth-century Jewish Christians, the hymn was perhaps part of their Hanukkah festival. The text contains many elements of the Hanukkah celebration, with remembrance of wandering in the wilderness, darkness and death, but also the celebration of light.

“Dispel the shadows of the night and turn our darkness into light. Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel shall come to you, O Israel. O come, O King of nations, bind in one the hearts of all mankind.”

Be the Light

At this sacred time, I wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, and Joyous Solstice, and a New Year blessed with love, light, peace, and wellbeing. Let us pray for one another that we may all “Be the light.”

— Donnie

 

 


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In my observation, far too many people today are merely surviving instead of thriving. I attribute most of the erosion of well being—including the growing prevalence of chronic, degenerative diseases—to the increased stressors of contemporary society. Although the role of stress in disease has long been recognized, it is now more fully understood through the advances of scientific research.

Perhaps the biggest breakthrough in cancer has been the discovery of the relationship between the sympathetic nervous system and cancer growth and reoccurrence. This was first detected though observational research showing a strong association between cancer patients on beta-blockers and a reduction in reoccurrence rates, a slowing of cancer growth, and decreased angiogenesis. 1-6 Researchers studying the relationship of vagal nerve activity (measured through heart rate variability) and the neuro-modulation of tumors found improved overall survival rate in cancer patients when the parasympathetic nervous system (the system responsible for calming the body) is activated.7

These are exciting discoveries, and support my life’s work on the importance of using herbal adaptogens and nervines to help the body adapt to physical and emotional stressors. Neither disease nor treatment of disease, including natural approaches through health optimization, can be described in a linear reductionist model, which is what almost everyone attempts to do. It is the collective effect of the perturbations in multiple underlying networks that result in the symptoms of disease, thus effective treatment should be directed at strengthening and harmonizing all systems of the organism.

Because modern medicine and specifically pharmaceutical medications do not offer permanent solutions, we must support our innate life force in building resilience. I feel more strongly than ever before that adaptogenic formulations, together with nervine formulations, are the most important supplemental support for protection against chronic disease and the promotion of optimal health and a long life.

A Practical Approach to Supporting Optimal Health

In my clinical practice, which now spans three decades, my main goal is to provide comprehensive gentle medicine that lends a helping hand to the Life Force in building and sustaining an optimal state of wellbeing. The following three objectives are the foundation of the medical model (Mederi Care) and the foundational adaptogenic formulas I have created:

  • Build robustness and resilience
  • Enhance auto-regulation
  • Enhance auto-organization

Everything within us and around us is interconnected. Interconnectedness, within, is achieved through networks on many levels, across cells, tissues, and organs (these types of networks are called multi-scale networks).

The entire biological system can be viewed as a nested network within networks within networks with the overall control acting like a Global Autoregulation Network.

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Supporting the innate Life Force and the body’s capacity for self-healing by using the least invasive treatment possible yields a system-wide benefit, optimizing and restoring the body’s self-healing abilities and minimizing side effects. Supporting the Life Force includes:

  • Enhancing anabolic restoration and systemic energy, harmony and efficiency
  • Expanding adaptive capacity
  • Building protective capacity

Supporting the Adaptive Capacity
All living systems have the intrinsic ability to respond, to counteract, and to adapt to external and internal sources of disturbance. Homeodynamics, one of the basic concepts of functional medicine, states that as human beings, we are an integral part of our environment rather than creatures that merely adapt to our environment. The body maintains biochemical individuality through continual physiologic and metabolic processes. A crucial component of the homeodynamic space is the stress response, by virtue of which a living system senses disturbance and initiates a series of events for maintenance, repair, adaptation, remodeling and survival.9 As we age, there tends to be progressive shrinkage of the homeodynamic space!

Adaptogenic formulas enhance dynamic stability through auto-regulation and organization.

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A Graphic Representation of Adaptive Homeostasis

Shown here, in addition to the normal or physiological range, are both positive and negative adaptive ranges that can be transiently induced via signal transduction pathways in response to sub-toxic, non-damaging stimuli. For example, when organisms are exposed to a diet rich in amino acids, they turn off production of amino acid synthetases, thus decreasing the capacity to synthesize amino acids. This is a case of negative homeostasis. Restoration of a ‘normal’ diet reverses the transient decrease in capacity and restores function in the normal homeostatic range.

How Mild Stress Can Have Positive Effects

Although unrelenting stress is never beneficial, not all stress is bad. In a process known as hormesis, exposure to mild stress triggers cellular responses with biologically beneficial effects. Single or multiple exposures to low doses of otherwise harmful agents, such as irradiation, food limitation, heat stress, hypergravity, reactive oxygen species, and other free radicals has a variety of anti-aging and longevity-extending hormetic effects. A result of hormetic amplification is an increase in the homeodynamic space of a living system, with enhanced innate defense capacity and a reduced load of damaged macromolecules.

Hormetic strengthening of the homeodynamic space provides wider margins for metabolic fluctuation, stress tolerance, adaptation and survival.10-12

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The diagram above shows the four common types of dose-response relationships that have been identified.

  • The top left (linear) is the one we are most familiar with, where starting from a ‘zero’ dose, there is a linear relationship between increasing dose and the observed response.
  • In the right top (threshold) corner, we know that sometimes there is no response until a certain threshold is reached, followed by a linear relationship. Sometimes there is a lag phase until a response is observed.
  • As shown on the bottom two curves, what we are discovering is that in many cases the dose response relationship at low doses does not follow either a linear or threshold model but shows different responses over zones of high doses compared to low doses.
  • This dose-response relationship can be either J shaped (bottom left) or inverted U shaped (bottom right) depending on what is being measured and the model it is being measured in.13

To be continued…


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I rarely question any food that much of the world has been using for thousands of years. Eventually, science confirms the health benefits of foods and medicines of traditional cultures, and I believe that holds true for coconut. However, a food that is used liberally in one culture does not necessarily mean that the health benefits transfer to other cultures—we must take into consideration climate, other dietary factors, genetics, and lifestyle.

Coconut halves with shell on a dark background. Top view with copyspace

Coconut (Cocos nucifera L.) grows near the equator, and is a staple for people who live in areas that are hot and sunny all year round. All parts of the coconut tree are used in the daily life of people in traditional coconut growing areas, and the coconut itself (which is actually a fruit, nut, and seed) is especially valued for its nutritional and medicinal benefits. Coconuts offer coconut water, coconut flesh, coconut milk, and coconut oil produced from the kernel. The shell, husk, and leaves are also used for creating a variety of household and decorative items.

As beneficial as coconuts and coconut oil appear to be for people living in a hot, tropical climate, coconut is not appropriate as a dietary staple for someone living in a cold climate. Coconut oil is 92 percent saturated, and is liquid in the tropics but a solid fat in northern climes. (There’s a botanical reason—the increased saturation of the oil helps to maintain stiffness in the plant leaves. Foods in different climate zones have different fatty acid profiles to help them adapt and thrive.) Because coconut oil is so highly saturated, it is very stable in hot weather and when used for cooking at higher temperatures, unlike polyunsaturated fats, which oxidize at high temperatures.

I do not recommend heavy use of coconut oil or other coconut foods for daily use or as a “health supplement”, unless you live in the tropics and adopt the traditional lifestyle of the cultures that live there. Nature is our best teacher, and the healthiest approach is to eat foods that grow in our climate because those best meet our needs. At the same time, I believe that it is beneficial to vary our diets according to the season, as well as eating in accordance with our genetic heritage, locale, and climate. For example, I recommend coconut in the summer, and walnuts in the fall—but always, I advise moderation.

Why is Coconut Controversial?

Much of the confusion and negative press about coconut relates to its saturated fat content. It’s true that coconut oil is extremely high in saturated fats—almost 90 percent of its fatty acids are saturated. But as I have stated on many occasions, it is refined oxidative polyunsaturated trans-fats that are problematic, not saturated fats.

In the 1950’s, coconut oil was frequently used in America for frying and baking. It was excellent for both purposes (and highly stable), but the popularity of coconut oil came to a sudden halt when studies reported that saturated fats cause high triglyceride levels. The conclusion was that saturated fats raise cholesterol levels, and the U.S. Government adopted new dietary guidelines stating that all saturated fats, including coconut oil, contribute to heart disease and strongly recommended that these fats be avoided.

Unfortunately, partially hydrogenated vegetable shortenings took the place of coconut oil, with disastrous health effects that have come to light in recent years. The trans fats contained in partially hydrogenated fats have been clearly linked to cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other degenerative diseases, and the government now recommends that we avoid trans fats—a recommendation that I wholeheartedly agree with.

It’s important to note that the type of saturated fat contained in coconut oil is different from that found in meat or dairy products. Whereas most saturated fats are comprised of long-chain fatty acids, coconut oil is unusually rich in short and medium chain fatty acids. Shorter chain length allows fatty acids to be metabolized without use of the carnitine transport system. This means the fatty acids in coconut go directly to the liver, where they are used as an immediate source of energy, or are transformed into ketones, which may be beneficial in brain and nervous system disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Additional Health Benefits of Coconut

The coconut kernel and young coconut water have numerous medicinal properties, including antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, antiparasitic, antidermatophytic, antioxidant, hypoglycemic, hepatoprotective, and immunostimulant. Coconut water and coconut kernel also contain numerous health supportive microminerals and nutrients. For these reasons, in Indian classics, the coconut palm is referred to as ‘Kalpavriksha’ (the all giving tree).1

Studies show that coconut has antioxidant properties; reduces inflammation; protects liver function during chemotherapy; and in certain forms, even improves lipid profiles (despite its high saturated fat content).

Lauric acid, the major fatty acid in coconut fat, has significant antiviral, antibacterial and antiprotozoal properties, while caprilic acid is widely known as an antifungal agent.

Drinking fresh coconut milk, particularly from the young green coconut, is an excellent way to prevent both dysentery and dehydration when traveling in tropical countries.

The health benefits of coconut are substantial. However, as with most things, I believe in practicing moderation when consuming coconut milk, coconut oil, and other coconut products.

I use (and recommend) extra virgin olive oil for low to medium heat cooking and for salad dressing. For high heat cooking, and often for baking, I use coconut oil. In my morning smoothies, I add 1-2 ounces of coconut milk or coconut milk powder, and coconut water. I occasionally use high-oleic sunflower oil in cooking if a light, neutral flavor is most appropriate.

Recent Published Scientific Studies Supporting the Health Benefits of Coconut

  • Antioxidant and Stress Protective Properties of Coconut Oil

Medium-chain fatty acids have been shown to have antidepressant effects. However, this effect had not been studied in virgin coconut oil (VCO), which is rich in polyphenols and medium-chain fatty acids. In a 2015 study, researchers found that laboratory mice treated with VCO exhibited higher levels of brain antioxidants and reduced physiological stress (measured by serum cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose, and corticosterone levels) when subjected to a forced swim test and cold temperatures. The results suggest the potential value of VCO as an antistress functional oil.2

  • VirginCoconut OilProtects Against Chemotherapy (Methotrexate)-Induced Liver Damage

Methotrexate (MTX) is a chemotherapy drug used to treat cancer of the breast, skin, head and neck, or lung. It is also used to treat severe psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis. The drug can cause life-threatening side effects, including liver damage. In a laboratory study, researchers found that supplementing with virgin coconut oil (VCO) prior to methotrexate administration lessened liver injury and oxidative stress, evidenced by significant improvements in serum liver markers, hepatic antioxidant enzymes and malondialdehyde, a lipid peroxidation marker. The researchers suggest that the findings may have beneficial application in the management of hepatotoxicity associated with MTX cancer therapy.3

  • Coconut Oil: Body Composition, Lipids, and Inflammatory Markers in Postmenopausal Women

A number of studies indicate that including coconut oil in the diet can alter body composition in a beneficial way, helping people lose weight and particularly, aiding in reducing abdominal fat.

Researchers studied postmenopausal women who consumed either 30 mL of virgin coconut oil (VCO) or safflower oil (SO) to determine the effects on blood lipids. They found that although VCO raised total cholesterol, it also increased protective high-density lipoprotein levels (HDL). The researchers concluded that women who wish to use coconut oil in their diets can do so safely.4

  • Coconut Oil and Cardiovascular Health

Coconut oil has been heavily promoted in the popular press as being beneficial for cardiovascular health. The results of this scientific review support my assertion that the most healthful way to use coconut is in moderation.

Twenty-one research papers were identified for inclusion in the review: 8 clinical trials and 13 observational studies. The majority examined the effect of coconut oil or coconut products on serum lipid profiles. Coconut oil generally raised total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol to a greater extent than cis unsaturated plant oils, but to a lesser extent than butter. The effect of coconut consumption on the ratio of total cholesterol to high-density lipoprotein cholesterol was often not examined.

Observational evidence suggests that consumption of coconut flesh or squeezed coconut in the context of traditional dietary patterns does not lead to adverse cardiovascular outcomes. However, due to large differences in dietary and lifestyle patterns, these findings cannot be applied to a typical Western diet. Overall, the weight of the evidence from intervention studies to date suggests that replacing coconut oil with unsaturated fats would alter blood lipid profiles in a manner consistent with a reduction in risk factors for cardiovascular disease.5

  • Coconut Flakes Improve Lipid Profiles

In contrast to coconut oil, coconut flakes have been shown to improve serum cholesterol levels. In a clinical study, researchers investigated the effects of coconut flakes on 21 subjects with moderately raised serum cholesterol (ranging from 259 to 283 mg/dL).

Researchers tested corn flakes as the control food, oat bran flakes as the reference food, and corn flakes containing 15% and 25% dietary fiber made from coconut flakes. Results showed a significant reduction in serum total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol for all test foods, with the exception of corn flakes.

Serum triglycerides were significantly reduced for all test foods.

Coconut flour is a good source of both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber, and both types of fiber may have an important role in the reduction of serum cholesterol.6

  • Coconut Oil and Alzheimer’s Disease

Medium chain triglycerides are a direct source of cellular energy, and some studies indicate that coconut oil can be a nonpharmacological alternative to the neuronal death that occurs in Alzheimer patients.

In a recent study, researchers evaluated the effectiveness of coconut oil in the development of Alzheimer’s dementia. Participants were given 40/ml day of extra virgin coconut oil, and results were evaluated using cognitive testing and compared to a control group. The findings indicated that subjects taking the coconut oil showed an improvement in cognitive status. Those benefiting the most were women, those without type-2 diabetes, and those with more severe disease.7

~Two of My Favorite Recipes Using Coconut~

Coconut-Lime Broiled Tempeh

unnamedI created this recipe several years ago, and our family enjoys it at least a couple of times a month. Toasted sesame oil adds a rich, nutty flavor, while   coconut oil, lime, and cilantro add and Indonesian flair to the dish. This is delicious served over steamed brown basmati or black rice. Serves 4.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients

Marinade:

  • Juice from 2 limes, freshly squeezed
  • 1 tsp. fresh grated lime peel
  • 2 tbsp. toasted sesame seed oil
  • 2 tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1-2 tbsp. tamari
  • 2-3 minced cloves garlic
  • 1-2 tbsp. fresh sliced ginger
  • 1 tbsp. maple syrup
  • Dash of ground pepper (black and/or crushed red pepper)
  • Optional: 1-2 tsp. Za’atar, 1 tsp. dried cumin powder
  • 1 12-ounce package tempeh

Vegetables:

  • 3 medium zucchini, sliced
  • 2 cups shitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 red pepper, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 large sliced onion
  • 1 sliced carrot
  • Garnish: fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

Additional Seasoning Added at End of Baking Time:

  • 2-4 oz coconut milk
  • 1-2 tsp. red curry paste

 Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients (through tempeh) in a glass baking dish, cover, and marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
  2. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  3. Transfer tempeh, vegetables, and sauce to heavy broiling pan. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes.
  4. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. At end of baking time, add coconut milk and curry paste and finish by broiling for 10 minutes.
  5. Serve over black or brown rice and garnish with fresh cilantro.

Easy Coconut Whipped Cream

An easy, dairy-free alternative to traditional whipped cream! Author: Detoxinista.com

Dairy-Free-Coconut-Whipped-Cream21

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients

  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk, chilled (cream only)
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Chill the can of coconut milk in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.
  2. Chill a pint glass canning jar for at least 10 minutes in the freezer. Remove the chilled can of coconut milk from the refrigerator.
  3. Open the can of coconut milk and scoop the thickened cream into the chilled canning jar. Reserve the remaining coconut liquid for a smoothie.
  4. Add the pure maple syrup and vanilla extract to the heavy coconut cream, then screw the lid onto the canning jar. Shake vigorously for 3-5 minutes, until the cream is thickened and fluffy in texture.
  5. Serve immediately over your favorite fruit or dessert.

References

  1. DebMandal M1Mandal S. Coconut (Cocos nucifera L.: Arecaceae): in healthpromotion and disease prevention. Asian Pac J Trop Med. 2011 Mar;4(3):241-7. doi: 10.1016/S1995-7645(11)60078-3. Epub 2011 Apr 12.
  2. Swee Keong Yeap, Boon Kee Beh, Norlaily Mohd Ali, etc. Antistress and antioxidant effects of virgin coconut oil in vivo, Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine. 2015 9: 39-42.
  3. Famurewa AC, Ufebe OG, Egedigwe CA, et al. Virgin coconut oilsupplementation attenuates acute chemotherapy hepatotoxicity induced by anticancer drug methotrexate via inhibition of oxidative stress in rats. Biomed Pharmacother. 2017 Mar;87:437-442. doi: 10.1016/j.biopha.2016.12.123. Epub 2017 Jan 6.
  4. Harris M, Hutchins A, Fryda L. The Impact of Virgin Coconut Oiland High-Oleic Safflower Oil on Body Composition, Lipids, and Inflammatory Markers in Postmenopausal Women. J Med Food. 2017 Apr;20(4):345-351. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2016.0114. Epub 2017 Mar 9.
  5. Eyres L, Eyres M, Chisholm A, Brown R. Coconut oil consumption and cardiovascular risk factors in humans, Nutr Rev. 2016 Apr;74(4):267-80, doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuw002
  6. Trinidad TP, Loyola AS, Mallillin AC, et al. The cholesterol-lowering effect of coconut flakes in humans with moderately raised serum cholesterol. J Med Food.  2004 Summer;7(2):136-40.
  7. Hu Yang I, De la Rubia Ortí JE, Selvi Sabater P, et al. Coconut Oil: Non-Alternative Drug Treatment Against Alheimer’s Disease. Nutr Hosp. 2015 Dec 1;32(6):2822-7. doi: 10.3305/nh.2015.32.6.9707.

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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 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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