How Giving Up Sugar Changed My Life

How Giving Up Sugar Changed My Life


I first gave up eating sugar the summer between sophomore and junior year in high school. It was 1976, and healthy eating was still reserved for hippies and weirdos. But I didn’t need to worry about school, gym class or track practice, so I took the summer off from sugar. I didn’t give up meat, poultry, or even McDonalds – just sugar.

My diet consisted of home-cooked meals, grilled cheese sandwiches, and McDonald’s burgers minus sugary soda. So I still ate bad stuff in the form of junk food burgers and fries, but for some reason I was only concerned about getting rid of sugar. I probably got the idea from some weird, underground health food book I bought at the mall.

I gave up the obvious sugary foods like cookies, cakes, candy, regular soda and sweet tea. The only real sugar I got may have been in Dannon yogurt. In these days, yogurt came in a large container, with fruit at the bottom and little or no added sugar (not sure which) and no artificial flavoring or coloring. As the years went by, there was less plain yogurt in the mix and more sweeteners.

Diet soda became my go-to drink instead of regular soda. In the 1970s, no one really knew how harmful artificial sweeteners could be. (The focus was on saving calories.)

I lost weight, my face full of acne turned into an occasional pimple, and instead of lazing around the house I wrote my first novel, which has now been lost to history (and that’s probably a good thing!)

One day, I ordered a regular Coke and almost gagged from the sweetness of it. Unfortunately, when I went back to school for junior year, I got back into my bad habits.



Three years ago, I restricted my sugar consumption to practically nil for good. Well, better later than never. I would eat healthier during certain times of my life than others. (When I was happy at my job, I ate decently. When I had stress on the job, I resorted to emotional eating and lots of Ben and Jerry’s while watching TV.) I’ve given up fast-food this time, too.

Once or twice a week, I’ll have a Danish or blueberry muffin with my morning coffee. I’ll drink a homemade smoothie, Ovaltine, cocoa, water, green tea and fruit juice – alcohol and soda are only for special occasions.

A few times a year I’ll splurge on ice cream or Mexican coke (Coca Cola, not the other stuff).  And I don’t give up pumpkin pie at Christmas or Thanksgiving. Otherwise, I have little desire to eat sugary treats. When I see fancy frosted cupcakes or cookies at my favorite childhood bakery back home and buy one for old time’s sake, I eat one and I’m done. Normal, everyday cake and cookies are way too sweet for me to splurge on them like I used to, but an occasional indulgence is fine.

So it’s not about staying away from sugar forever; it’s about restricting intake to a bare minimum.

I think more clearly since I’ve given up sugar, and am less prone to depression and anxiety. I make better decisions, and can concentrate better despite having more work. Physically, I sleep better and have more energy. Some of this may have to do with the fact that I’m older and wiser, but I think the lack of sugar in my diet has a lot do with it.

Tips for a (Mostly) Sugar-Free Diet

Restrict cookies, candy, pies, cakes to an occasional treat. Read ingredient labels on canned fruits, chicken nuggets, baked beans and other processed foods for added sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. Learn about healthy food brands.

Every day, eat a combination of low and high sugar fruits. Figs, pomegranates, and mangoes contain the most natural sugar, but it’s highly unlikely you’ll be snacking on those all day. Watch out for grapes, bananas, and apples instead, and that includes overusing them as smoothie ingredients.  You need to eat some natural sugar every day, and it’s best to get it from fruits, dairy products, whole-wheat or multi-grain bread, sweet potatoes, and beets.

Don’t rely on counting calories to lose or maintain your weight. If you eat 1200 calories a day worth of cookies and potato chips, you won’t get all the nutrients you need and be more tempted to overeat. Concentrate on the proper mix of food groups and nutrients -protein, healthy fats, carbs, and important vitamins and minerals. Make sure you get enough B vitamins, magnesium, Vitamin C, etc., from the foods you eat. You don’t have to get a master’s degree in nutrition, but become familiar with what you need and what healthy foods contain those nutrients.

Some people need of more of a particular vitamin more than other nutrients. When I was a kid I got B-12 shots every week and had to take iron pills, or horse pills, as I called ‘em. They were hard to swallow, and if I spit them out and tried swallowing them again, the coating came off and I felt like I was swallowing a bullet. Just be glad you live in the world of advanced pharmaceuticals. I bet what you buy at Walgreen’s in 2017 is five times as strong as the prescription pills I took in 1973.

So when you decide to eat a healthier, sugar-free diet, look at a few things.

Substitutes for table sugar (spices, honey, stevia)
Healthy snacks (seeds, nuts, fruits, multi-grain crackers)
Replacing soda with sugar and sweetener-free beverages
Quick recipes  made with whole foods

You will need to spend more time shopping, planning and preparing meals. It won’t be as easy to grab a meal at a restaurant unless you go to an eatery with healthy choices, but it will be worth it in the long-term.

(If you’re really strapped for time consider a healthy meal delivery service.)

How Much Sugar Do You Really Need?

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends adults consume no more than six teaspoons of sugar a day, which includes table sugar and natural sugar from fruits and other foods.

Sticking to that recommendation can be tough if you eat a normal American diet

A small bottle of flavored seltzer water has seven teaspoons of sugar! Seven teaspoons in that small bottle! If you drink two bottles of seltzer, eat processed food for dinner (which may have sugar hidden in the ingredient list) and dessert, you could easily have four times the recommended daily amount.

Learning how to minimize sugar is easy. Avoid soda (both sugar and diet). Studies have shown drinking diet soda can lead to increased body mass index and higher risk of cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. Drink coffee black or with a bit of milk or creamer. Avoid using aspartame in coffee or tea – use honey or stevia. (Stevia is generally considered safe in leaf or tincture form only.)

Here are some of the benefits of a reduced-sugar diet:

Better Dental Health

It’s much easier to brush and floss when there are healthy foods from between your teeth, too. Caramels, milk chocolate, and sugar-laden drinks rot your teeth and discolor them quicker than other foods.

Reduced Cravings

Candies and similar foods don’t contain protein, water or vitamins needed for a healthy body, and have no nutritional value. When you eat sugary foods, the body has to metabolize them by using B vitamins, potassium, and other nutrients.

When you eat lots of sugar, it depletes the nutrients you already have in your body and doesn’t add any new ones. You can develop a sugar addiction and crave more and more. We often joke about chocoholics, but when it happens in real-life, it’s not quite as funny.

Balanced meals help keep blood sugar steady and reduce cravings for sugar and other junk food. Eat whole, unprocessed foods. Write a master grocery list filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, spices, whole grains, organic beef and poultry, seafood and dairy products. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, double up on the fruits, veggies and whole grains.


Better Brainpower

Studies show that eating too much sugar can impair memory and even reduce brain volume. These problems can increase the chance of developing Alzheimer’s or dementia. More than two sugary drinks per day can age the brain by two years, according to one study. Limit sugar consumption to preserve your mental clarity and reduce your chance of dementia.

Renewed Energy

Sugar gives you a temporary energy rush, but the crash is imminent. Eating sugar makes your body release insulin, which produces tryptophan (the same substance you get after eating turkey). Tryptophan, an amino acid, is then converted into the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin calms you down, but it also leaves you sleepy, which can cause problems if you have a busy day or a long drive ahead of you.

To stay energetic, eat refined sugar sparingly, but remember you need to eat a variety of healthy foods as well. Stock up on spinach, kale, bananas, and other magnesium-rich foods to keep muscles working properly. Beef, chicken, turkey, milk, cheese, and soy are full of Vitamin B12.  Get Vitamin D from going out in the sunshine at least 10 minutes a day and eat fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, etc.) or egg yolks.

Other common vitamin deficiencies include iodine, iron, calcium, and Vitamin A. It’s much better to eat real food containing these nutrients than make up for a poor diet by taking supplements. Taking too much of some supplements, like iron, can be dangerous.

Reduced Risk of Depression, ADHD and Other Diseases

Consuming too much sugar has been linked with depression, hyperactivity and inability to concentrate. A study on depression and sugar consumption showed that men who consumed 67 grams or more of sugar a day were more likely to be depressed than men who consumed 40 grams or less.  Why does excess sugar consumption cause depression? Scientists think it may be due to inflammation or increased dopamine in the body. Sugary foods may be as addictive as cocaine and lead to mood disorders in individuals who overindulge.

Have you reduced your sugar intake? If so, what health changes have you noticed? Let us know in the comments below.


Pumpkin is More than a Halloween Decoration – It’s One of the Most Nutritious Fruits You Can Eat


If you’re like most people you encounter pumpkins three times a year. You –

  • Carve a Jack ‘o’ Lantern for Halloween and throw it out on Nov. 1
  • Buy a pumpkin pie from the bakery or the frozen food section of the supermarket for  Thanksgiving dinner
  • Buy pumpkin spice latte in the fall because it’s a modern, seasonal coffee rite

Ok, maybe you get pumpkin spice candles, too – or pumpkin-scented soaps. If you leave your yearly pumpkin consumption to these run-of-mill engagements, you’re missing out on a flavorful and nutritious post-Thanksgiving treat.

Pumpkin is More Than a Seasonal Oddity – It’s Good for Your Health

One of the most nutrient-dense fruits you can eat, pumpkin has:

 Potassium, which has been shown to lower blood pressure and protect against Alzheimer’s and dementia

It’s packed with dietary fiber to aid digestion and suppress your appetite by making you feel full longer

A serving of pumpkin has 17% of the DRV of Vitamin C, and no cholesterol, fat or sodium.

It has one of the highest levels of Vitamin A of any food – a 100 gram (3.5 ounce) serving of pumpkin puree boasts 246% of the daily allowance of Vitamin A. This sight-boosting antioxidant keeps your skin looking young and helps prevent lung cancer.

The orange pigment in pumpkin is called beta-carotene. It’s linked with Vitamin A for eye health, along with bell peppers, spinach and other colorful fruits and veggies. Beta-carotene helps you retain cognitive function as you age. Along with lycopene, another colorful antioxidant found in grapefruit, it’s been shown to neutralize cancer-causing free radicals.

NOTE:  Too much Vitamin A is toxic, so you don’t need to take a supplement if you eat lots of fruits and veggies with beta carotene and Vitamin A.

Few people consider pumpkin as a fruit to use year-round since pumpkin season only lasts October through December. Include this fruit in your cooking by using canned pumpkin the rest of the year. Look for sugar and syrup-free brands from Trader Joe’s  or Farmer’s Market 

You can make pumpkin pie or drink pumpkin smoothies any time of year. And don’t neglect pumpkin seeds!


Save Those Pumpkin Seeds- They’re Just as Nutritious as the Puree

Trade in potato chips or Cheetos for the antioxidant-rich, salt-free crunch of pumpkin seeds. A quarter cup of pumpkin seeds has 180 calories, and lots of wound-healing zinc. It also contains  74% percent of the DRV of manganese for strong bones and protection against cancer, plus sizable amounts of protein and iron.

And a quarter-cup of seeds has 48 % of the DRV of magnesium. Pumpkin seeds offer more magnesium than the DRV in Swiss chard, fish,  spinach or soybeans. Magnesium is essential for keeping your nervous system and muscles working properly.

Magnesium deficiency is a serious issue in the U.S., with over 80 percent of Americans not getting enough of this mineral in their diets. Lack of magnesium causes anxiety, muscle weakness, cramps, heart problems, dizziness and close to a dozen other ailments A handful of pumpkin seeds, alone or in trail mix, goes a long way toward alleviating magnesium deficiency.

If you’re having trouble sleeping, 3.5 ounces of pumpkin seeds have 600 mgs of tryptophan, the same relaxing amino acid found in turkey. Forego sleeping pills, and eat some pumpkin seeds. (Cheese, cherry juice and chamomile tea are other snooze-inducing foods.)

How to Buy Fresh Pumpkins for Cooking

 If you want to use puree straight from the pumpkin instead of a can, smaller pumpkins contain sweeter puree, the kind you use in pies, smoothies or muffins. Uncut pumpkins last up to two months in a cool, dry pantry.


How to Make Pumpkin Smoothies and Other Treats 

Instead of taking chances on pumpkin spice drinks from McDonalds or Starbucks, make your own at home where you have control over the ingredients.  The same goes for pumpkin pies made from scratch at home. It takes a little longer to prepare, but you have control over the amount of sugar and salt that goes in the recipe.

 Combine pumpkin puree or canned pumpkin with yogurt, coca powder, cinnamon and flaxseeds in the blender for a delicious smoothie.

 Add fresh or canned pumpkin, cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice to steel-cut oatmeal for a heart fall or winter breakfast.

Try this low-fat smoothie with banana, vanilla yogurt, and pumpkin pie spice  or add brewed, chilled coffee to make a coffee smoothie

Making your own pumpkin spice coffee is easy. Mix freshly ground coffee and pumpkin pie spice. Brew as usual in a drip coffeemaker

For lunch or a side dish at dinner, add pureed pumpkin to tortilla soup or vegetable soup.

And finally, make your own pumpkin spice latte by mixing brewed coffee, pumpkin puree and vanilla almond milk in a saucepan with pumpkin pie spice and stevia. See the details here


Add pumpkin to your list of fresh fruits and vegetables on your master grocery list. The more you have to choose from, the more satisfied you’ll be with your healthy diet, especially if you’re a new convert.



Reversing Five Years of Tinnitus with Silence and Good Food


I’d gotten ringing in the ears after concerts before – it would last a day and disappear. This time was different. I was at a concert at the House of Blues, and it was sheer torture.

Through the magic of the internet, I’d hooked up with a group of music-loving women my age. The self-appointed leader of the group loved to stand by the front of the stage at every concert, a half-inch from the stage monitors. Everyone else followed suit.

We weren’t kids; we were women in our mid-40s. I never thought much about the damage such close proximity could do to my hearing. I wore cotton balls or cheap earplugs from the Rite-Aid half the time. The other half I didn’t wear any ear protection.

After all, I wasn’t a musician playing onstage every night. The front row concert jaunts took place an average of once a month. How much damage could they do?

After the headlining band had been onstage for about 20 minutes, I slunk out of the show, partly because my ears hurt, partly due to other annoyances.  If you’ve ever been to a general admission rock concert, you know the wackos duke it out with the loyal fans in the first few rows by the stage. Most of the time, the wackos win – the drunks, the obnoxious brawlers, the idiots slinging past you to go to the concession stand or bathroom five times during the show. I don’t quite remember which tactic drove me away, but I retreated to the bar, the back of the house and finally to a cab home.

When I got ready for bed, that’s when I noticed it. The half ringing, half washing machine agitator whooshing in my ears. I assumed it was temporary tinnitus caused by being too close to the stage, and it would fade in a few days. (Later, I found out the whooshing was pulsatile tinnitus, which can be related to hypertension and blood flow problems.)

It lasted five years.


When I stopped going to concerts and clubs (a few years later!), the ringing and whooshing disappeared after about a year of diminishing in-ear noise. Occasionally, it would boot up at night, but it was nowhere near as irritating as it had been when I went to shows every week. During this time, I stopped drinking alcohol and eating fatty and junk food. Abstinence from noise and eating better did the trick. My ear was healed.


What Causes Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is a ringing, buzzing or whooshing sound in one or both ears. Over 50 million Americans suffer from some form of tinnitus. It has several causes, including:

Medical Conditions
Sinus Pressure
Head, Neck or Dental Issues

 Tinnitus can be temporary or chronic. Patients may suffer from two different types of tinnitus, like I did. This doesn’t necessarily mean the tinnitus is more severe than a single-diagnosis tinnitus.


What You Can Do to Reduce or Get Rid of Tinnitus

 See your doctor and follow his or her guidelines. It’s important to determine what caused the tinnitus (repeated exposure to loud music or machinery? High blood pressure?) and treat or eliminate that.

The food you eat affects your mental and physical health, including whether or not you develop tinnitus. A healthy diet may not guarantee you’ll avoid tinnitus, but it will increase your chances of retaining good hearing.


Tinnitus-Causing Foods

All of the these ingredients are found in fast food and junk food, so avoiding McDonald’s, the $1 Chinese Food Buffet and KFC will help you avoid tinnitus or accelerate healing it.



 Caffeine is a neural exciter. It wakes you up and gives you energy, but drinking too much coffee boosts your blood pressure and reduces blood flow. Don’t overindulge in Starbucks or energy drinks. Try drinking green tea or herbal tea occasionally to cut down on caffeine intake.


 Too much sugar causes dental problems and harms gums, leading to high blood pressure and heart disease.

Trans fats

 Excess salt and trans fat are other causes of hypertension and heart problems. Hypertension and heart problems affect blood flow and tinnitus may be one of the symptoms.


 MSG exacerbates neurotransmitter activity, making you perceive the tinnitus as getting louder. Check any processed or packaged food you buy for MSG on the ingredient label, since this preservative is used in many snack foods and frozen foods.

 Aspartame and Artificial Sweeteners

If you have tinnitus and drink lots of diet soda (or put artificial sweeteners in your coffee or tea), stop drinking the soda and using the sweeteners for a few weeks, and see if your tinnitus improves.  Aspartame works on excitatory neurotransmitters in the brain, damaging the nervous system and causing tinnitus. Use honey to sweeten tea instead of artificial sweeteners or sugar, and get your sweets fix from fresh fruits.


Healthy Foods to Reduce Tinnitus

Eating a healthy diet won’t cure tinnitus, but it will reduce the underlying symptoms causing it. Replace processed foods with organically grown fruits and vegetables, and use plenty of anti-inflammatory spices and herbs to flavor food. Anti-inflammatory spices help fight cell-damaging free radicals and keep the blood in vessels near your ear flowing smoothly, reducing the chance of tinnitus.


Choose from the following foods and spices to improve overall health and avoid tinnitus:

Garlic, Turmeric and Other Spices Containing Antioxidants
Vitamin C Rich Fruits Including Strawberries, Blueberries, Lemons/Limes and Apples
Sunflower Seeds, Salmon and Other Foods Rich in Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Foods with Vitamin B12 – Pork, Cheese, Eggs, Shellfish, Red Meat, Tuna, Salmon and Fortified Cereals

 Vitamin B12 may be the most important of the anti-tinnitus foods, as this vitamin has been found to protect the myelin sheath around auditory cells in a UK study. 

 The best way to keep your hearing ring free and whoosh-free? Minimize your time around loud noise, keep tabs on your blood pressure, wear ear protection and eat a healthy diet containing plenty of Vitamin B12, Omega 3s and antioxidants.

American Tinnitus Association








Don’t Count Calories – Use a Master Grocery List Instead


If trying to lose weight the conventional way hasn’t worked for you, stop counting calories and put your calculator away. Create a healthy master grocery list instead. Using a master grocery list makes shopping easier – and more fun. You don’t have to write a new grocery list every week unless you want to do it. Pick and choose the foods you want for the week from an abundance of healthy choices.


Even after you’ve kept the weight off, choose foods from your master list and even throw in a treat once in awhile. How often is up to you- but it’s better to keep sugary treats and processed foods out permanently or eat them once a month or a few times a year. That’s what I do. I’ll have ice cream once a month, and an occasional Dunkin’ Donut or pastry.

I have memories of visiting Albertson’s Bakery, buying and eating a pack of cherry turnovers in one day. It added a tummy bulge and ruined my teeth. If I ate one turnover a month, I wouldn’t have had those repercussions.

Sweets aren’t the only foods you should have once in awhile. You might love getting salads and meats from the deli, but even though they’re freshly made and not packaged, they may still contain too much sugar, salt and other forbidden ingredients and be packed with empty calories. You can eat anything you want as a treat now and then, unless you have a medical condition or prefer to stay a 100% clean eater at all times.



Cocoa and Dark Chocolate

Here’s some good news. You can eat healthy without giving up chocolate. Now the bad news – you’ll still need to give up milk chocolate and other high-sugar, processed confections. Snack on dark chocolate with at least 70% cacao. We’re talking about those fancy chocolate bars for sale at the checkout of Trader Joe’s and other good-for-you grocery stores.

Replace artificial, microwavable drinks like Instant Hot Chocolate Mix with Hershey’s 100% cacao powder instead. It’s all natural, has no sugar or preservatives, and boasts plenty of polyphenol antioxidants.  Natural cocoa is an excellent source of:


  • Magnesium
  • Zinc
  • Iron
  • Potassium
  • Calcium
  • Protein
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5 and B9

If you’re used to milk chocolate, unsweetened cocoa will taste bitter the first time you drink it, but it won’t take long to get used to it.


If you tend to put fresh veggies in the fridge and forget about them, frozen or canned vegetables keep longer and are still good for you. (Just check ingredients before buying.) Frozen vegetables are better than canned when it comes to additives. Fresh vegetables are the healthiest choice, but if they’re too expensive for you or they go bad before you have time to eat them, frozen and canned vegetables are better than no veggies.

Good veggies include:

  • Cauliflower
  • Spinach
  • Corn
  • Carrots
  • Tomatoes
  • Onions
  • Green Peppers
  • Asparagus
  • Lettuce
  • White Potatoes
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Kale
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Garlic


Vary your side dishes and salads by sampling exotic veggies. Oriental eggplant, tomatillo, baby pak choy, Spanish poblanos (peppers) and aji dulce are a few of the in-demand ethic vegetables you can find today. Include more yams and sweet potatoes in your diet – they contain lots of Vitamin A, biotin, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, potassium and Vitamin B5!









 Choose from the usual suspects (and there are a lot more of them than you realize).


  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Bananas
  • Pears
  • Apples
  • Oranges
  • Lemons and Limes
  • Grapes
  • Melons
  • Blackberries


You can also look into a wide selection of out of the ordinary fruits and vegetables to keep things interesting. Try mangos, papaya, tangerines, persimmons, avocados, plantains, lemongrass, guava and yucca. If you live in New York, Los Angeles or another large city, you’ll have no problem finding these and many other unusual goodies. You can even buy them online through

 Grains and Breads


For grains and breads, there’s a whole world out there once you move past Wonder Bread. Choose from whole wheat and multigrain bread, quinoa, buckwheat, barley, steel cut oats, groat, brown rice, millet, teff and bulgur. Check health food stores and online retailers for groat, teff and other lesser-publicized grains, and brush up on your baking skills.

Make more sandwiches with sourdough bead. It’s a probiotic food containing beneficial live bacteria. Other probiotics include yogurt, sauerkraut, miso soup, sour pickles and kefir.  Probiotics aid your digestion, and studies have shown they have natural anti-depressant qualities.



Buy organic unsalted butter, lowfat milk, organic eggs, plain, unflavored yogurt (add your own fruit), and real cheese (not the packaged, sliced kind). If you’re lactose-intolerant or have other issues drinking cow’s milk, try almond, coconut, soy or rice milk. Coconut milk is the closest to cow’s milk in texture and fat content.


 Get rid of all the salt and sugar in your kitchen, except for a small amount you may need for recipes. It will be easy to develop a taste for these vitamin and antioxidant-packed alternatives –


  • Ginger
  • Turmeric
  • Black Pepper
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Paprika
  • Mint
  • Parsley
  • Pure Vanilla
  • Cinnamon
  • Honey
  • Red Wine Vinegar
  • Apple Cider Vinegar



Add nuts to plain yogurt, main dishes and salad for more crunch and more nutrients. Nuts are high in fiber, Vitamin E, polyphenol antioxidants and magnesium.

Stock up on unsalted peanuts, pecans, pistachio nuts, Macadamia nuts, walnuts, Brazil nuts, almonds and cashews.




Keep pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds and chia seeds on hand to add to salads, main dishes and desserts. Bring some with you to work to snack on instead of candy and chips.


Save money and get more protein by buying beans, in bulk or canned.  There are dozens of beans you can buy to fix burritos, tacos, soups, side dishes and main dishes. They include:


  • Kidney Beans
  • Soybeans
  • Lentils
  • Split Peas
  • White Beans
  • Lima Beans
  • Black-eyed Peas
  • Pinto Beans
  • Black Beans
  • Yellow Beans


Baked beans and peanut butter aren’t as protein-packed as the beans listed above, but they’re healthier than lots of other foods. Always keep a jar of organic, non-GMO peanut butter in your cabinet to make sandwiches or spread on bagels or crackers. Read more about the health benefits of beans at The Bean Institute. 





Lean Meat, Poultry and Fish

Choose organic meats and buy fresh from the butcher when possible. Avoid cheap “priced to sell” packaged meats, hot dogs (unless they’re turkey or chicken franks) and cured luncheon meats like pimento loaf. (Although you probably avoid pimento loaf already.)


  • Lean red meat with little marbling
  • Wild caught salmon
  • Skinless turkey and chicken breast
  • Sardines
  • Mackerel
  • Fresh or water-packed tuna
  • Pork chops (plenty of Vitamin B12)




Instead of mayonnaise or butter, add one or more of the following to dishes, salads or sandwiches. Use extra virgin olive oil when cooking.

  • Salsa
  • Olive Oil
  • Cholula Hot Sauce – Made with arbol and piquin peppers and spices
  • Sriracha Chili Sauce – Made with red chili and garlic
  • Hummus – a traditional Middle Eastern paste made of ground chickpeas, sesame seeds, olive oil, lemon, and garlic
  • Pesto – an Italian topping made of crushed garlic, pine nuts, coarse salt, basil leaves, Parmesan cheese and sheep’s milk cheese , blended with olive oil.



 Replace soda (diet and regular) with healthier choices, including that zero-calorie, hydrating stand-by, water.  Use a pitcher with a filter to store cleaned-up tap water at home, and pour the water into reusable plastic bottles. You don’t need to waste money buying bottled water at the store several times a day.

If you like coffee, you can still drink a few cups a day. Cut down on sugar and elaborate coffee drinks from Starbucks and other chains for a healthier java fix. Coffee, when consumed in moderation, protects against liver disease and reduces the risk of diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.

Choose from the following beverages to increase Vitamin C, antioxidants and other nutrients in your diet while quenching your thirst.


  • Green Tea
  • Black Tea
  • Herbal Tea
  • Fruit Juice
  • Smoothies
  • Vegetable Juice
  • Kombucha


How to Cook

Steam, boil, broil, sauté, stir-fry, roast, pressure cook or microwave meat and produce – or put them in a crockpot. Most cooking methods are fine except for regular frying.

Fried foods clog arteries and increase your risk of heart disease. They inflame joints, leading to arthritis. Regular consumption of fried foods causes weight gain that contributes to diabetes and high blood pressure. Instead of high-calorie, artery-clogging fried chicken, eat roast chicken with garlic sauce.

About 95 percent of your diet should consist of whole, fresh foods, the kind your grandparents and great-grandparents ate. You don’t need to be a vegan or vegetarian to be healthy, but if that’s what you prefer, you’ll need to take supplements to make up for lack of Vitamin B12, which is only available naturally through animal products.

A note – Not all packaged foods are bad. Read ingredient lists on boxes, bags and cartons. Choose products made with natural, non-GMO ingredients.


Stay Active to Make the Most of Clean Eating

You’ll achieve better results from eating healthy if you have an active lifestyle and try to reduce (or at least control) daily stress. Exercise, positive thinking, meditation, fresh air and sunshine are necessary to keep your energy flowing. You don’t need to run a marathon or even go to the gym everyday to fulfill your activity quota. Walk more, do yoga, do stretches at your desk during break and take the stairs instead of the elevator. Stay active consistently and it will add up

Kids in the 1960s-1980s were a lot skinnier than kids today, even though they ate McDonald’s and junk food. Why was that? They played outside after school, ate home cooked dinners at night, and spent Sundays at Grandma’s for an even bigger, home-cooked meal, featuring lots of food, but no additives or preservatives. They brought packed lunches to school and drank milk or juice with it, not soda. There wasn’t time to eat too much junk food. Mom and Grandma had other plans.

Avoid the temptation to get back into old eating habits by keeping only whole, fresh foods in your kitchen.  This makes it harder to go back to old eating habits and overindulge in processed or sugary foods. When you do eat processed or sugary foods again, you’ll really taste the difference and won’t eat as much. Eating clean foods makes you feel (and look) better.

What are some foods on your master grocery list? Let us know in the comments.



An Accidental Natural Treatment for High Blood Pressure – Garlic and Cayenne Pepper Mashed Potatoes


Garlic mashed potatoes are a popular side dish, and if you make a pot at home you’ll be a lot better off than ordering at restaurants where you never know what questionable ingredients are mixed in with the good ones. Garlic is good for your blood pressure and heart health, so it’s possible to overlook its pungent aroma. But there’s a type of mashed potato even better for your blood pressure than garlic mashed potatoes – and spicier too.

Garlic and cayenne pepper mashed potatoes.

I sampled this by accident one night when my boyfriend decided to add random spices to the mashed potatoes. We had a baggie of powdered cayenne pepper from Albertson’s and a few cloves of garlic on hand. All (or most) of these items were added to a big pot of mashed potatoes.

The potatoes tasted so good we scarfed them up. I wanted to finish the entire plate, but I was 3/4th of the way through when I started sweating from the overabundance of garlic and cayenne pepper. If I’d had high blood pressure before dinner, I certainly didn’t have it now! And I felt happy-woozy, almost high. So did my boyfriend. I’m not kidding! The “hangover” lasted til the next morning for both of us. The takeaway from this experience? Garlic, cayenne pepper and other healthy spices really work and should be handled with care. (After doing some research, I found many supplement manufacturers sell garlic and cayenne pepper capsules.)


 This wooziness was a result of too much of a good thing. Don’t try this at home – just add a small amount of cayenne pepper or garlic to food if you’re improvising, and follow recipes exactly. WARNING: Garlic and cayenne pepper are blood thinners and may make blood-thinning medications and aspirin stronger, increasing the risk of bleeding.

 There are a few formal recipes for foods containing cayenne pepper and garlic. Try Spicy Garlic Shrimp to pique your appetite.

Facts about Garlic

Creating bad breath and contraindications re blood thinning medications aside, there’s a lot to love about this vegetable. Yes, garlic is  officially classified as a vegetable belonging to the onion family. Most people think of it as a spice or flavoring because it’s not eaten alone. Garlic (Allium sativum) is packed with nutrients despite its small size. An ounce of fresh garlic contains manganese, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, fiber and selenium. The most important nutrient, allicin, is a strong natural regulator of blood pressure.

Fresh garlic delivers more benefits than garlic supplements, so stick to the real thing. If you must take a supplement, read reviews from other users to ensure you buy a product made with real garlic.


Garlic Health Benefits

 Garlic is an everyday ingredient in Italian, Chinese, Indian and Thai cooking. It enhances the flavor of risotto, chicken marsala, Chinese-style barbecued spareribs and other dishes. It tastes great, and can be used as a home remedy for everything from colds and allergies to arthritis.


  • Got a stuffy nose or chest congestion? Sip on some garlic-chicken broth to dissolve the phlegm in days instead of weeks.  Better yet, eat garlic-infused foods regularly to stave off colds and flus.


  • Allicin, allyl cysteine, allyl disulfide and alliin, the potent antioxidants in garlic, may protect against Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. By destroying free radicals and keeping oxidative stress at a minimum, garlic keeps cognitive function  sharp as you age.


  • The antioxidants in garlic reduce symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and promote bone health. A substance in garlic called diallyl disulfide protects cartilage from damage, and helps joints to move better.


Cayenne Pepper Health Benefits

Cayenne pepper lowers blood pressure, bad LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Add a dash to scrambled eggs, salads, soups and main dishes to spice things up while keeping your cardiovascular system running efficiently. Trendy culinary ideas include Chicken Tortilla Soup.

Like garlic, cayenne pepper offers over a dozen other health benefits to keep you strong and inflammation-free the natural way.


  • Cayenne pepper breaks up congestion in the nose, throat and chest, putting an end to pesky colds sooner. Add a pinch of cayenne pepper to hot lemon tea and drink liberally. Prescription allergy medicine and over the counter decongestants dry you out and make you feel woozy; cayenne pepper gets rid of mucus without the side effects of Benadryl and other medications.


  • If you suffer from migraines, capsaicin, the active ingredient in cayenne pepper, has been found to exhaust the pain-signaling neurotransmitter Substance P.  Add cayenne pepper powder (or chopped up cayenne peppers) to meals and shakes to prevent migraines or lessen the pain if you already have a headache.


  • Cayenne pepper revs up your metabolism and burns fat. If you’re looking for a safe, natural appetite suppressant, use more cayenne pepper in food or add it to your morning smoothie.


garlic-1808_640Adding garlic and cayenne pepper to your diet (together or separately) aids your day-to-day health and their anti-inflammatory properties reduce your chances of developing cancer. If you are on any medication (even over-the-counter medicine), check with your doctor before making cayenne pepper or garlic a regular part of your diet.


Green Tea for Better Health and Fresher Breath


No food or beverage is a miracle worker, but green tea comes close. With a host of powerful antioxidants, a moderate amount of caffeine, and traces of theobromine and theophyline, two natural stimulants, this tea provides maximum health benefits and zero calories per cup.

I discovered green tea by accident a few years ago. Not for weight loss or as a replacement for coffee, but as a panacea for bad dental health.  I’d had a tooth pulled and just come back from the dentist, so the usual brushing and flossing was out of the question.  And dried blood in the mouth doesn’t smell very good.  Even the cat backed away from me!

After doing some internet sleuthing, and discovered green tea improved your breath and neutralized bacteria in your mouth. There are even green tea mouthwashes from Colgate, Listerine and my favorite, Therabreath. You don’t need to buy green tea mouthwash to keep your breathe fresh – brewing green tea at home will give you a cleaner mouth, more energy and other benefits.


Green tea (Camellia sinesis) has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese and Indian medicine. Highly regarded as a natural diuretic and stimulant, it’s also been used to heal wounds faster, improve digestion and lower blood pressure.

The health benefits of green tea seem too good to be true, but I can vouch for several of them.

 More Energy

Green tea has less caffeine than coffee, but its other components make up for that.  It gives you energy in a low-key, relaxed way. I started drinking green tea daily about two and a half years ago, and I can’t remember the last time I felt sluggish.

 A Healthier Mouth

 An Egyptian study showed subjects who rinsed their mouths with green tea for five minutes had reduced amounts of acid and bacteria. Drinking green tea may also guard against gum disease and banish microbes that cause bad breath. I haven’t had any cavities since making green tea my beverage of choice, although may also have a lot to do with changing my diet. (I rarely eat sugary foods or drink alcohol now.)

 Better Immunity 

Catechins (a type of antioxidant) in green tea may kill flu viruses. A cup or two of tea a day (sans milk, which can clog up your respiratory system and weaken the catechins) strengthens your immune system to protect you from common colds and the flu. And if you do catch a cold, you’ll bounce back faster.

 Reduced Appetite

 If you want to cut your appetite naturally, without resorting to diet pills, drink green tea. A Japanese study concluded catechins in green tea reduced body fatweight and waist circumference in subjects who consumed the tea over a 12 week period. I can agree with these findings. I don’t get hunger pangs for comfort food since I’ve added 2-4 cups of green tea to my daily routine.

Green tea is a thermogenic, aka a natural, fat-burning substance. Drink a few cups of green tea a day and add other thermogenic foods to your diet to stay thinner by eating well. Turkey breast, chicken breast, fish, whole-wheat bread, cayenne pepper and turmeric are just a few foods that provide essential nutrients while helping you burn fat and stunting your appetite.


 Green Tea Vs. Matcha Green Tea

How does green tea differ from black tea? It’s not fermented, which gives the leaves more inflammation-fighting antioxidants. If you drink black tea, you’ll still experience increased energy, a better mood, and other antioxidant benefits, they just won’t be as powerful as the benefits from green tea.

Matcha green tea is even better for you than regular green tea. It’s a powder made from ground tea leaves. Tea leaves are infused into hot water, then thrown away to make regular bagged green tea. When you drink matcha green tea, you’re consuming whole tea leaves, not just brewed, steeped tea. You’ll get more antioxidants, and as much caffeine as in a cup of brewed coffee (70-140 mg). The best matcha tea brands usually come from Japan.


Why Is Green Tea So Healthy?

Two of the components in green tea provide innumerable health benefits.

EGCG, (Epigallocatechin gallate) is a powerful polyphenol antioxidant. It destroys free radicals to prevent inflammation and disease. An average cup of green tea contains 25-86 mg of EGCG.

The amino acid L-Theanine, relieves stress without making you sleepy, and it may aid the cardiovascular system and help prevent cancer. A non-essential amino acid, it’s not needed to make protein, but it offers strong anti-anxiety effects and helps produce dopamine in the brain.

Green Tea Protects Against Cancer and Heart Disease

Research has shown green tea protects against diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer and other chronic diseases.


A Korean study concluded drinking 3 cups of green tea a day reduces stroke risk.  The study consisted of subjects with non-traumatic acute hemorrhagic stroke and no stroke history and control groups matched by age and gender from ages 30-84.


Green tea helps prevent several types of cancer. The polyphenols in green tea have been shown to prevent the growth of cancer cells in the esophagus and the lungs. Studies indicate drinking green tea reduces the chance of developing pancreatic cancer. Women who drank matcha green tea or black tea had a lower risk of developing bladder cancer. Men with bladder cancer who drank green tea had a better survival rate than those who didn’t, according to a Chinese study. Another Chinese study showed women under 50 who drank 3 or more cups of green tea a day were less likely to develop breast cancer.


Green tea helps people with diabetes regulate their blood sugar levels. The catechins in green tea keep waistlines svelte, preventing the obesity that contributes to Type 2 diabetes.

High Cholesterol 

 Green tea raises good (HDL) cholesterol, according to study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Good cholesterol removes artery-clogging bad (LDL) cholesterol from the body. A high HDL cholesterol level reduces your chance of heart attack and stroke.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)   

Many people suffering from IBS can’t drink carbonated soda, alcohol or coffee without stomach upset. Green tea is a good substitute since it’s bubble-free and contains a moderate amount of caffeine.               


CATGE, one of the lesser-known but still potent chemicals in green tea, was shown to reduce the likelihood of Alzheimer’s disease. Studies have also showed EGCG prevents the development of Alzheimer’s in mice. Green tea promotes better brain function, keeping mental clarity strong and guarding against dementia.



Any kind of green tea contains these antioxidants, but like other teas, the more expensive brands are better. You’ll reap benefits from all types of green tea except the rock-bottom, 99 cents store brands. I sometimes buy Trader Joe’s or the generic brand from Albertsons, and they pep me up fine. For maximum impact, buy Bigelow Green Tea with Lemon.  It packs a great punch better than any other bagged green teas I’ve tasted, and the lemon is from lemon peel, not lemongrass. Drinking green tea with lemon improves its antioxidant power. Add a lemon wedge to plain, hot green tea for an extra buzz and extra health benefits.

FYI: Bigelow Green Tea with Lemon contains non-GMO soy lecithin. If you want to avoid soy, check another green tea.

Drink green tea without sugar or honey, for the full, calorie-free effect.The polyphenols in green tea give it a bitter taste, which may take some getting used to if you’re a sugar junkie. Once you’re introduced to it, iced green tea is one of the most refreshing drinks you can sip on a hot, humid summer day.


Does green tea have a downside? There aren’t any serious contraindications, but if you’re sensitive to caffeine, you should avoid drinking too many cups as it can cause insomnia, dizziness and anxiety. Some people experience stomach upset after drinking green tea. Eat a snack or meal before drinking to prevent this.

Green tea may interfere with iron absorption. If you drink lots of green tea, it’s a good idea to take an iron supplement daily. Drinking green tea shortly after eating an iron-rich meal (red meat, spinach, kale) or taking an iron supplement will reduce green tea’s antioxidant benefits. Avoid consuming iron-rich foods and green tea during the same meal to get more nutritional benefits.

If you take medication or have any chronic health issues, ask your doctor if there are any contraindications to drinking green tea.

Adding green tea to your diet may not cure all your ills, but it will definitely give you more pep, fight bad breath and whittle down your appetite.


Do you drink green tea? If so, have you noticed any health benefits since you started drinking it? Let us know in the comment section!