Showing posts with label healthy eating. Show all posts
Showing posts with label healthy eating. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Bioavailability: Using the Food We Eat In the Body We Have (Part Two)

By Mary Brighton, M.S., RDN
Integrative Nutritionist

“It has been shown as proof positive that carefully prepared chocolate is as healthful a food as it is pleasant; that it is nourishing and easily digested... that it is above all helpful to people who must do a great deal of mental work.” Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin Physiology of Taste, 1825

Welcome to Part Two Bioavailability: Using the Food We Eat in the Body We Have – How the Preparation of Food and Combining Nutrients Can Influence the Bioavailability of Food.

Part One is about the importance of digestion and absorption to obtain and use nutrients in the foods we eat - the bioavailability of food (click here to read Part One). In this sense ‘bioavailability’ refers to the degree nutrients are available based on a person’s digestion and absorption mechanisms. But did you know that the nutrients in our meals can also have varying degrees of bioavailability depending on how food is prepared, whether eaten raw or combined with other foods? For example, vitamins and minerals in leafy greens like spinach, chard and kale are more or less bioavailable depending on whether they are eaten cooked or raw. In some instances, cooking ‘transforms’ that food so we obtain more from it. Cooking can also destroy key nutrients, especially when high heat is involved. What is the general rule? As Michael Pollan says, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly Plants.” And I will add “Food needs to taste good to be enjoyed.” Variety, creativity, freshness and using a combination of different preparation and ingredients can increase the nutrition and pleasure we get from our meals.

If you are not sure what methods are the best, read my top 10 tips on food preparation and ingredient combinations, and then call for an appointment at 732-994-7855. I like to talk about our “Food is Medicine” philosophy and how to get the most nutrition from every bite you eat.

My Top Ten Ways to Get the Most Nutrients from Your Food:

1. Don’t boil or overcook any vegetable. High heat destroys water-soluble vitamins especially those in green vegetables. In general, steaming is the preferred method of cooking vegetables.

2. Eat locally sourced produce. Fruits and vegetables begin to lose their nutrients when they are separated from their soil or root nutrient source soon after harvest. Buy local, eat quickly.

3. Match vitamin C foods like citrus and tomatoes with iron-rich plant foods like lentils and other legumes. When these ‘friends’ are together in the same meal, iron is better absorbed. This tip is especially important for vegetarians who rely on non-heme plant sources like lentils and other legumes for iron.

4. Soak dried beans before cooking. Beans contain phytic acid which is considered a beneficial anti-nutrient because phytic acids functions both as an antioxidant, but it also limits absorption of key minerals like iron and zinc. My advice: soak beans 12-36 hours in water, rinse them at least once to remove phytic acid. Keep your diet diverse, eat a variety of plants, nuts and grains in a plant forward eating plan. For vegetarians who need iron from legumes, soaking beans is an important step to maintaining adequate iron stores.

5. Store food correctly. Heat, light and oxygen destroy nutrients. Eat produce quickly or store in refrigerator. Keep food away from direct sunlight and enjoy cut fruit as you cut it, as soon as the fruit is exposed to oxygen it starts to lose vitamins.

6. Crushing, cutting or chopping vegetables maximizes nutrient bioavailability and release beneficial compounds. Some micro and phytonutrients are liberated by the physical act of damage to the cell walls of plants. Allium foods like garlic and onion emit protective compounds and help micronutrient bioavailability when they are broken by a knife or mortar. The physical act of chewing food also helps to increase the bioavailability because the food is broken down and is better digested.

7. Cook tomatoes. Tomatoes contain lycopene, a carotenoid and powerful antioxidant that protects against degenerative disease. Cooked tomatoes contain significant more lycopene than raw tomatoes. By adding a healthy fat like olive oil to tomatoes lycopene is even more bioavailable because of pairing ‘like with like’ and better absorption thru the small intestinal barrier.

8. Pairing like with like increases bioavailability. Fat is unique because it is carried differently thru the intestinal wall than proteins or carbohydrates. Fat soluble vitamins and phytonutrients like carotenoids and lycopene, need ‘like with like’ to increase bioavailability. Fat must be present for the fat soluble vitamins and phytonutrients to be absorbed and carried thru the body in the lymph system. As an example, a green salad topped with tomatoes and carrots needs a healthy fat salad dressing to use the phytonutrients present in the salad.

9. Cooking or citric acid denatures proteins. Heat or acid denatures (breaks apart) proteins, rearranging them and allowing them to unfold. The exposed protein chains are more easily digested and bioavailable than raw proteins.

10. Chose frozen vegetables and fruits as an alternate for fresh. In non-growing seasons or just to have on hand for a quick meal, frozen vegetables are a viable go-to meal option because they are frozen quickly after harvest and retain much of their nutrients.

Call Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine at 732-263-7999 or visit to learn more about us.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Your Body is a Garden

By Marissa Winters, MA, RDN
Integrative Nutritionist

Gardens are not made by singing ‘Oh, how beautiful,’ and sitting in the shade” ~ Rudyard Kipling

The body is often described as a machine. We say the heart is a pump; the kidneys and liver are filters. If a part wears out, for example, a knee or a hips, we replace it. The mechanistic point of view sees each of us as made of individual units. Many of us take an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach, waiting until a health challenge arises before we consider adjusting our diet or activity.
This perspective does us a disservice. We are not machines. We are more like gardens.  Gardens are composed of different parts, all with their function, but all contributing to the health of the whole.  If a part of the garden is out of synch, the whole garden is affected. If the soil is missing nutrients, the plants are unable to reach their full beauty. Gardeners know that keeping the components of the garden in balance supports the whole system. Sometimes things must be added; sometimes things must be pruned away. But always, the whole garden is considered.

Gardens also operate within the cycles of nature. There are times to prepare the ground, and times to trim back the bushes. No garden could thrive if it tried to do every part of the cycle at the same time. Being aware of what part of the cycle you are in can help focus your attention and actions to have the best result with the least effort.

The benefits of working with an integrative health practitioner is the broader focus on all critical aspects of your life – mind, body, and spirit. Integrative practitioners help you see what is supporting and what is undermining you, and the team works with you to drill down to the root cause, not just manage symptoms.

Now is the time to start working on the garden that is your life.  How will you nurture yourself? What will you do to care for your garden? Be realistic; be honest with what you are able to implement within the boundaries of your other responsibilities. What things do you want to encourage to take root? What things need to be curtailed? This is your garden, you get to decide what you want to grow. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Bioavailability: Using the Food We Eat In the Body We Have (Part One)

By Mary Brighton, M.S., RDN
Integrative Nutritionist

“Food is all those substances which, submitted to the action of the stomach, can be assimilated or changed into life by digestion, and can thus repair the losses which the human body suffers through the act of living.” Jean Brillat-Savarin

My last blog post ,“Tell Me What You Eat and I Will Tell You Who You Are”, focused on food and water and the importance of mindfulness and making meals a sacred part of your day.

But good nutrition isn’t only about taking time for meals and eating healthy foods. There are two critical next steps: digesting and absorbing the food you eat. This *bioavailability* of food depends on that delicate process to “use the food we eat in the body we have.”

You have to use the foods you eat efficiently with the biological needs of your body both in how your body uses foods but also how foods we eat are nutrient-available for the body it enters! In other words, we cannot assume just because we open our mouth to eat a healthy diet that we use all the nutrients present in those foods. Digestion and absorption of nutrients is incredibly complex but is so critical for good health and overall wellbeing.

How do we know if our bodies are *bioavailable* and using food efficiently? The main area where most digestion and absorption of nutrients takes place is the small intestine, so problems in this area of the body puts you at risk for nutrition-related and other health issues. Chronic constipation, diarrhea, bloating, gas or frothy stools are a body’s signal that something is going wrong in your gut.

Furthermore, a poor diet lacking fruits, vegetables and variety of whole foods, chronic stress, trauma, and overuse of certain medications can put the gut area at risk for dysbiosis, an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the intestinal flora. This leads to increased risk of inflammation in the gut and other health problems.

Here at Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine, we look at a whole body approach, and support a Five Pillar approach (Purpose, Activity, Nutrition, Sleep and Resilience) to improve and optimize your health. We realize that an imbalance in one of these pillars can influence digestion and absorption of nutrients. We address this in our nutrition and health assessments and support you to be the best health shape you can be, one bite at a time!

In Part Two of Bioavailability: Using the Food We Eat in the Body We Have—how preparation of food and combining certain nutrients can influence the bioavailability of that food.

To meet with one of our nutritionists and learn more, call 732-263-7999. We are currently taking appointments in our Jackson and Old Bridge offices.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Managing Resistance to Change

By Marissa Winters, MA, RDN
Integrative Nutritionist

“What you resist, persists” -Ancient Wisdom Tradition proverb

Change can be hard, really hard. Even when you are very motivated, it can be difficult to stop doing those things you do that keep you stuck. Here are some strategies which can help when your inner saboteur comes out:

1. Remember change is a process. It is learning and practicing new responses to the same old conditions and circumstances.

2.  Shift your focus. Instead of telling your “story”, become an observer. What is really going on here? For example, if you decide you want a brownie even though you have committed to avoiding sugar in your goal of living a healthier life, say so. What is going on is,I want a brownie. It’s not that I have no willpower, and this always happens, and I was so motivated and now there’s this brownie! Instead, stop, take a breath, observe what is happening, and then, proceed. Put some distance between yourself and your trigger. This may require stepping away from the situation for a brief time.

3. Remind yourself of the value or feeling you are bringing into your life. “I want to have more energy,” or “I want to feel confident in my clothes”. Now you have a benchmark against which to measure if the action you are considering will bring you closer to your desires.

4. Ride the urge. When faced with a craving, it is easy to forget that like all things, cravings end. When you’re in the ocean, and a big wave comes at you, what do you do? If you stand your ground, you’re likely to get knocked around.

Instead, you go under the wave and let the rough surf pass over. When faced with a craving, simply notice the sensations you are feeling. You may feel uncomfortable, but you don’t need to do anything. It will pass. Cravings crest, just like waves, and then subside, just like waves.

This is more effective than trying to use your willpower to fight the urge. Some research indicates we have the equivalent of about 15 minutes worth of willpower, and the more it’s challenged, the faster it wears down. Resistance is not an effective strategy. Instead, take a pause, honestly state what you are feeling, and remind yourself of your goals. These steps allow you to take action, rather than react to challenging situations.

Our team in the Integrative Health & Medicine practice can support you with tools and techniques to keep you heading in the direction you really want to go. Call 732-994-7855 to make an appointment with me directly!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Tell Me What You Eat and I Will Tell You Who You Are

By Mary Brighton, M.S., RDN
Integrative Nutritionist 

You have probably heard the adage “You are what you eat,” but did you know this proverb came from France? In 1825, the French gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin published this now celebrated quote in his masterpiece book Physiology of Taste: “Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es” which translates to "Tell me what you eat and I will tell you who you are." The French still take their food seriously and this “you are what you eat” theme still holds true today, in France, in America and worldwide.

What you may not know is that how you eat has an influence on your health. Mr. Brillat-Savarin knew this too, and if you delve into his “meal process adds to life’s happiness” attitude you will see trends that we incorporate here at Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine. Mindful thinking and eating, living with a purpose, and life enjoyment are interrelated with food and meals. What better way to feel part of a social relationship than sharing a meal around a table? And is there nothing better to wind down from a busy day than enjoying a home-cooked meal? The meal process is as important as what foods you put into your body. Eating mindfully and with pleasure can help your whole body and overall health.

Here are a few ideas to add mindfulness around your meals: turn off screens, sit around a table, light a candle and dim the lights. Take a moment to feel gratitude for the positive parts of your day and sip and savor your dishes. Even the simplest foods can be pleasurable if we have a mindful attitude. Enjoy the meal process, just as Mr. Brillant-Savarin said, "The pleasure of the table belongs to all ages, to all conditions, to all countries, and to all areas; it mingles with all other pleasures, and remains at last to console us for their departure.”

To learn more about nutrition and our Five Pillars of Health & Wellness, contact me at 732.994.7855 or visit our website at

Friday, July 21, 2017

Making the Most of Your Farmers Market Trip

It’s summer in New Jersey – banner planes are flying over the beach, pools are filled with the sounds of happy children and local farmers markets are in full swing. While shopping at your local farmers market is a great way to find fresh, local produce for you and your family, it can be a confusing experience. Here are some shopping tips and tidbits to help you get informed before you buy.

What does organic mean?

Many local farms boast that their food is organic. In the U.S. that means the crops were grown without the use of synthetic pesticides, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), petroleum-based fertilizers or sewage-based fertilizers.

“Livestock can be organic too,” says Emma Stafford, RN, APN-C, ACHPN, APHN-BC, Integrative Nurse Practitioner with Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine. “That means any livestock raised for meat, eggs and dairy products must have access to the outdoors and be given organic feed. They also may not be given antibiotics, growth hormones or any animal by-products.”

What’s the benefit of buying organic?

Organic produce has fewer pesticides and is often fresher because it doesn’t contain the preservatives that allow it to last longer. Also, organic farming tends to be better for the environment.

What to buy?

While buying fresh, organic fruits and vegetables are always a healthy choice, you might be surprised at the other healthy options often available at your farmers market:

Raw Honey 

Raw honey contains many benefits. It’s free from additives and can be used as a natural cough syrup.

“Local honey can also help if you suffer from allergies by making you less sensitive to your local pollen and easing your symptoms,” says Stafford.

Lastly, raw honey is a prebiotic, helping increase the levels of good bacteria in your digestive tract.


Juicing helps you absorb all the nutrients in vegetables and can help hide the taste of some less desirable vegetables, exposing your family to a wider variety of produce.

Hackensack Meridian Health’s Farmers Markets
Hackensack Meridian Health is sponsoring farmers markets throughout New Jersey this season. Find the farmers market near you and check out our healthy recipes:

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

An Integrative Approach to Clean Eating - Part 2

Nicole Cerillo, RD, LDN
Integrative Medicine Nutritionist

In my last post I discussed the health benefits of clean eating. You can find that post here.

In this post, I’ll share some rules to help guide you as you continue your clean eating journey.

12 Rules for 21 Days of “Clean Eating”

1. If you mess up—that’s okay! You will succeed the second, or even the third time. You will however, have to start over at day 1 each time you don’t eat something “clean” until you complete 21 full days consecutively.

2. Become a master label reader. Reading labels can be overwhelming and can look like you are reading another language. Whenever you can’t pronounce a word or it sounds like a science experiment—steer clear. Many of those long words you can pronounce are hidden toxins, chemicals, additives, and pesticides used to enrich and preserve packaged foods.

3. Eat 5-6 times per day. Eating throughout the day promotes healthy eating habits, prevents overeating later in the day, promotes optimal brain and hormone health, and maintains energy levels throughout the day. Our body loves consistency and the times we eat should be intentional and balanced.

4. Cut out ALL sugar…completely! Stay away from anything that ends in an “ose” (maltose, glucose, fructose, sucrose, etc). These are all hidden forms of sugar. This also includes sugar substitutes such as Splenda and all sugar alcohols such as Erythritrol and Xylitol (even the natural varieties).

5. Don’t panic! Just go organic. This should really be rule #1 and should probably be an entire blog post on its own (to be continued…). When we switch to a primarily organic diet as much as possible, we naturally avoid the potential for toxin buildup that can be rooted to many complications and is a precursor to so many evolving health conditions.

6. Drink enough pure water every day. Pure filtered water helps remove impurities from our body, helps maintain hydration for our cells, increases energy, and helps eliminate toxins. If you divide your body weight in half, you should aim to drink that many ounces of water per day.

7. Cut out all processed food. To make this really simple, just avoid anything you see in a package and try to shop around the perimeter of the grocery store where you can buy fresh vegetables, eggs, fruits, poultry, etc.

8. Watch your fats. This is a two-part rule. Avoid the bad and eat more of the good! Avoid safflower, sunflower, canola, soybean, peanut, corn, and cottonseed oils. Increase your consumption of healthy saturated fats such as olive, coconut, avocado, hemp, almond, macadamia nut, and flax oils.

9. Go Green. A clean diet also means a clean lifestyle. Remove environmental toxins and switch to organic and natural cleaners, detergents, fragrance, soups, lotions, cosmetics, and anything else that may contain toxins that touch your skin or that you can breathe in.

10. Kick coffee to the curb. Coffee consumption is one of the most controversial topics we come across. Removing coffee from your diet completely for 21 days will have tremendous benefits for your body. You will be able to reset your tolerance to caffeine as well as stop your dependence on the daily ritual.

11. Practice mindful “Clean Eating.” Eating mindfully can change your life. This means eating in a peaceful environment without loud noise or distraction. Eat at a table with your family rather than on a couch with the TV on. Focus on eating mindfully by really tasting and savoring each bite of food, chewing your food slowly, and taking mini breaks during your meal to rest your fork. Most importantly, pray or meditate before eating and take a few moments to stop and recognize the gift of nutrients on your plate that will promote health to your body.

12. Get cooking. Have fun with it! This is a time for you to expand your pallet, try new foods, develop new cooking habits, test new recipes, and enhance skills in the kitchen.

Now that we’ve covered the basics and guidelines to clean eating we can get into the important details on exactly WHAT to eat for 21 days. Stay tuned for the next blog post! 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017


By Lori Knutson, RN, BSN, HNB-BC
Administrative Director
Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine

Contemplating one's life purpose is perhaps the biggest conversation we can have with ourselves. Or is it? For some, knowing their sense of purpose seems innate in that they have felt "called" to a certain life or vocation. For others, this becomes the source of much challenge, in some cases to the point of feeling lost which can lead to depression. According to the World Health Organization, "Depression is a significant contributor to the global burden of disease and affects people in all communities across the world. Today, depression is estimated to affect 350 million people. The World Mental Health Survey conducted in 17 countries found that on average about 1 in 20 people reported having an episode of depression in the previous year." (WHO 2012).

So, "Purpose" may in fact be the most fundamental aspect of health and well-being. Our Care Model at Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine is based on Five Pillars of Health & Wellness: Nutrition, Activity, Sleep, Resilience, and Purpose. Each pillar does not hold equal weight in importance when we take into account the WHO's focus on depression and its direct correlation to loss of purpose and meaning. When a person lacks a sense of purpose or meaning in their life it becomes more challenging to have the focus or energy to manage their stress, eat healthy, get adequate sleep, or have the motivation to be active. Purpose is what gives life meaning. It’s your reason for being; it’s what gets you up in the morning. Purpose is what provides the nourishment to persevere when things get tough.

If you struggle with defining your sense of purpose, there is another way to approach this most critical aspect to your health and well being. Rather than thinking about “having a purpose” think about "living purposefully." As Annie Dillard, American author, stated, "How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives." One way to do this is by taking time to give gratitude for your life. This doesn’t mean being grateful for just the big things in life, but more importantly the daily things like having people in your life that support you, having the means to live the life you live, and the opportunities you have each day. The other way to live purposefully is to make an effort every day to do something for someone else. The feelings that arise in you just from taking the action to live purposefully will begin to feed your sense of purpose and meaning. Mahatma Gandhi reminds us, "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others."

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A Patient Perspective

By Christina Lebron
System Analyst, Hackensack Meridian Health
Patient, Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine

As a Systems Analyst for Hackensack Meridian Health, the first time I walked through the doors of Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine, I had the privilege of implementing their practice on Electronic Medical Records (EMR).  The EMR was such an important part of their success because it was taking all the ways they care for their patients and translating that into a system that would electronically do what the paper chart does.
Throughout the next couple of weeks I was able to learn and gather information from each of the staff to help them be successful for their grand opening in July. Although this started as a just another project at work I soon realized the genuine dedication for the overall care of their patients’ health. “There was something different about this place”, I said.

At the time, my son was going through a very difficult time nutritionally and we couldn’t figure out why he was getting so sick. The staff at Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine took the time to speak to me about ways I could begin to implement change in our eating habits, eliminating certain foods and changing our lifestyle as a whole. I was so touched that I decided to become a patient myself.

From the moment you walk in the door, you get a real sense of how your visit will be. Emma Stafford, the Nurse Practitioner, was so thorough in getting to the bottom of the issues I was dealing with in my health and spent time making sure she didn’t miss a beat. Her concern for me was touching and warm in so many ways. Suzannah Sabin, the Health Coach, was such an important part of my journey because I was able to tap into some of the underlying issues that I didn’t know were affecting me. We set goals which I can say helped me take a big step in the right direction. I discovered a lot about myself during our sessions. I then journeyed on to meet with Nicole Cerillo, the Nutritionist. Nicole has a special calling for what she does as she recognizes that eating habits and nutrition isn’t just about the food but rather the overall well-being of the person both physically and spiritually. In fact, Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine is committed to focusing on 5 pillars: Nutrition, Purpose, Resilience, Sleep and Activity. The entire staff implements this care model to every patient they see. I can certainly say they all left a big imprint on me.

It was an honor to work with Lori Knutson, the Administrative Director, and the entire staff. They are truly dedicated and passionate clinicians. I always make sure I refer all my friends and family so they too can experience the life-changing care model that I believe is the future. I am still on my journey to becoming the best me I can be, but you can bet I will make sure Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine will a part of that journey. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Committing to Clean Eating

By Nicole Cerillo, RD, LDN
Integrative Medicine Nutritionist

With the new year quickly approaching, a common goal and resolution for many people is to commit to starting a new diet program or exercise routine. In fact, studies show that the #1 New Year’s resolution in America is to lose weight. While these resolutions are great ways to improve your heath, it can be very difficult to stick to this daunting commitment.  According to a new University of Scranton study in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, only a mere 8% of people are actually successful in following through with their resolutions. In fact, most people quit completely by Valentine’s Day -- which means after 6 weeks most people will give up or lose their momentum.

Instead of going for the gold and reaching for the stars next year, I want to encourage you to try something a little different to set yourself up for the win after the holidays! I want YOU to beat the statistics and be one of the 8% that actually follows through.

What if I told you all you have to do is just commit to 21 days of clean eating?

I believe that if you can commit to something and make a change for 21 days, you have developed new habits that will be easier for you to stick to and maintain long term. Maybe you won’t want to continue everything 100% after the 3 weeks, but many of those habits you developed during that time will carry over naturally. In 21 days you can reset your body to work its best using natural and whole foods. You will learn a lot about yourself, your diet habits, and the way your body processes and uses food. You will change the way you think about the quality of your food and you will WANT to make healthier choice for the long-term because it is sustainable. It will become a lifestyle—not just another fad diet that you quit before Valentine’s Day.

Here are 12 benefits you may experience starting a 21 day clean diet and lifestyle:

1. It will introduce you to new foods, flavors, and nutrients you aren’t used to enjoying
2. You will generally feel better, build up your immune system, and won’t get sick as often
3. You may recognize a possible food intolerance or sensitivity and improve symptoms
4. You can boost your metabolism and your energy will increase
5. Your brain and mind will be clear and sharp and you will feel more focused and alert throughout the day
6. Your sleep will improve
7. You can see a decrease in anxiety and depression
8. Your mood will improve and hormones will balance
9. Cholesterol, blood sugar, and lipid profiles may improve
10. You can maintain a healthy weight or even lose weight
11. You can rid your body of toxic buildup that can be a root cause in so many diseases and conditions
12. Your beauty will shine! Your hair and nails will grow strong and your complexion and skin will clear up and glow

Stay tuned for my next blog post in January with more details about how to start a clean eating protocol for you and your family next year.

Interested in this post and committing yourself to clean eating? Don’t do it alone and don’t wait! Grab your best friend, make an appointment, and get the motivation and coaching you need to get ahead and succeed next year! YOU are worth it and your body (and mind) will thank you!

Source for study: University of Scranton. Journal of Clinical Psychology