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How do you prepare food in an easy way—a way that also nourishes your body?
Deanna Appleton is a functional medicine practitioner. She has been a friend and colleague of mine for decades—but her knowledge became crucial for me when I picked up a parasite on my travels and it damaged the lining of my gut and resulted in a skin rash all over my body and face.
Deanna helped me heal my body from the inside out. She’s here to share her wealth of knowledge about how to support our body’s miraculous healing power.
In this episode, we make food easy.
You’ll be surprised how much processed food slows down your digestion and creates a toxic build-up in your body. Processed food is such a tease, because short-term it makes you “feel” full and satisfied—but it doesn’t actually provide you with any of the real nutrients that sustain your body’s energy. So, suddenly processing that “food” becomes a heavy load for your body, instead of a nutrient-restoring process.
When you cook your own food, you know exactly what’s going into your body. But sometimes that can feel like too much work and time you don’t have.
Deanna and I talk through food preparation tips, share the essential nutrients your body needs and how the right foods can heal you.
Based on what we’re putting in our bodies, the body is prioritizing wellness with the resources you’re providing to it. The nutrients you put into your body directly relate to how your body feels (in case you hadn’t noticed!).
For example, if your diet were lacking in magnesium—your body wouldn’t have the resources to optimize your muscles. You might experience muscle tension, joint aches and even have trouble relaxing or going to sleep at night.
Let’s talk through each part of your diet, the main meals to the a la carte items and snacks that help you power through. Protein, carbohydrates, fats, starches, and sugars—we’re exploring how your body processes these foods and what it’s telling you about the “fuel” you’re giving it (or not giving it).
HERE’S OUR CONVERSATION:
Doctor Neha Sangwan: So excited to be doing a little after hours extra discussion on food with Deanna Sharon, one of my favorite functional medicine doctors and my doctor. So Deanna, I have a lot of questions for you. So I’m hoping that we can just have this x, this exploration together a discussion between doctors, and hopefully help a lot of people. Welcome.
Deanna Appleton, MD: Thank you, Neha. I’m really excited to do this and share this information with all of the people on our call.
Doctor Neha: Yeah, this is gonna be amazing. So, you know, I think one of the most common things that people ask me is, you know, how do you prepare food in a way that makes the it’s not such a drag and so much work like so it’s easy to cook? What’s your secret?
Doctor Deanna: Okay, well, there’s a couple of things first, is planning. So you want to sit down one day and figure out what you’re going to plan ahead for the week lunch and dinners. And then prepping is also really helpful. So you can do that by roasting a chicken on a Sunday and baking a bunch of vegetables and steaming some sweet potatoes, putting them in the fridge and then just having them ready for you to pull out and reheat. The other thing that I love to do is to have a ready made salad. And the way that I do that is I clean on my lettuce, I put it in my salad spinner, it stays there for days, it’s just gray. And then I’ll cut up a bunch of vegetables that I like celery, radishes, cucumbers, carrots, put them in little small glass, Pyrex tissues, keep them in the refrigerator along with the salad, have my ready made salad. And then you can either buy already made dressings like primal kitchen, which is a great option. I love making my own dressings. So I’ll use something like extra virgin olive oil with lemon, or even like something like flaxseed oil with lime are just great options to just throw on a salad with some salt and spices, whatever spices you like.
Doctor Neha: Great. And how do you feel about apple cider vinegar in salads, dressing, it’s good. So I remember, I used to do one cup of olive oil, two thirds of a cup of apple cider vinegar 1/3 of a cup of liquid amino Braggs. So not soy sauce, because that has gluten in it. But Liquid Amino Brax. And then I would crush like two or three garlic cloves. And that was like my favorite. My favorite salad dressing. So we’ll get that recipe going for people too. So you can you can try a couple of them. Um, so you know, there’s all these ready made, or prepped ways that you can buy food. Like some of them, you know, there’s a whole bunch of names, but like daily harvest, or certain certain brands that are now coming out with these things? How do you know if they’re actually good for you?
Doctor Deanna: Well, I think you know, the best piece of advice is that we want people to eat real food as much as possible. And also, when you cook your own food, you know exactly what you’re putting in your body, which is ideal. Obviously, there are times when that’s just not going to work and you need something that’s ready made or easy to prepare. And so, you know, someone had asked about daily harvest, and I looked into it, and it’s really interesting. I mean, I love their principles regarding regenerative agriculture and organic. And so, you know, I think supporting organizations like that could be great. In this way, you have something quick, easy to make. I mean, I think, you know, ultimately, the idea is that we like eating real food as much as possible cooking at home as much as possible. And if these places like daily harvest allow you to do that, so that you you know, if you don’t have time, it’s a great, great option.
Doctor Neha: Yeah, in the Bay Area. I remember a long time ago, my friend Nona had something called SF cook. And now she’s evolved into you know, soups and all sorts of things for like Whole Foods and things. But this has been going on this is a movement that’s been happening for about 15 years, you know that that companies are really starting to do this. So if you research them I’d say it just sounds like make sure that they have the the principles they’re using align with where you’re headed. So how do you give you know that being said how do you really give your family it gets it gets old after a while. So how do you mix in variety and you know, spices, give it give it some space. How do you do that?
Doctor Deanna: I think eating seasonally eating local, having a lot of color on your plate. So looking at the rainbow of color and trying to pick different colors and make sure that you get those seasonal varieties and seasonal colors on your plate is a great way to add some variety.
Doctor Neha: Great. So, so Deanna, I’m wondering, how do people, you know, on a practical level, maybe just with 10? Or maybe a little more than that ingredients? How do they create a week’s worth of dinners? Just kind of interchanging it like, what
are the rules you use to do that.
Doctor Deanna: So I typically will choose healthy animals sources, the pasture raised chicken that are referred to or pork wild caught fish, grass fed beef, lamb or bison. So those are my protein source, which is making up about a quarter to a third of my plate, the rest of the plate is filled with vegetables. So again, that color adding color to the plate, sweet potatoes and or squash as a healthy complex carb to add to the plate. So make it really simple. It doesn’t need to be, you know, some gourmet meal, but just, you know, I think looking at, at food as fuel is an easy way for us to say, Okay, I don’t need to make this complicated. I can do this easy. I can feed myself really healthy food that tastes great. And you know, it doesn’t need to be a complicated thing.
Doctor Neha: Oh, that’s I mean, I think that’s right. And if somebody’s vegan, right? How are they going to get protein?
Doctor Deanna: Yeah, so particular, a lot of different protein sources, green peas, pea protein, lentils, beans, nuts, seeds. Nut butters, seed butters. There’s all sorts of different price options. rice protein is also something that vegans can use some of the grains like TEF the smaller the grain, the higher the protein content, and the lower the carbohydrate content.
Doctor Neha: like quinoa would have more protein.
Doctor Deanna: Yeah, so as I was just about to say amaranth, and quinoa are are gluten free grains that are going to have higher amounts of protein, then there are also certain vegetables that tend to be higher in protein like broccoli, spinach, artichoke asparagus. Yeah. So there’s, you know, that’s another thing that you can do is just, I remember being at a conference with Joel Fuhrman, who, he’s an amazing, amazing person who does a lot with vegetables. And he said that if you eat a bunch of broccoli, you’re actually can get more that’s a quote, had more protein in that than a, like a one ounce piece of beef. So it’s pretty enlightening to me to hear that information. I think the key is that knowing that if you’re going to eat his vegetables, you have to eat a lot of them. Because obviously, you know, we’re talking a bunch of broccoli versus a little piece of meat. So it’s, it’s about volume when you’re talking about vegetables as a protein source.
Doctor Neha: And, you know, another thought I had was, you know, everything’s keto. Now everything’s like, no carbs. Why do we need carbs? Why are carbs important? And what? What are people missing? Right? If they just stay on a keto diet?
Doctor Deanna: Well, they tell you that I don’t. I don’t think I think the thing that I’m going to say about carbohydrates is that they are a dirty burning fuel in the body. So they create these advanced glycation end products. And so they are a dirty burning fuel. So better fuel sources are protein and fat and actually, you can make carbs from protein and fat. So for people who are doing keto, I think it’s, you know, not important. It’s important not to vilify them and say, Oh, you’re eating the wrong way. I mean, I think that there’s no one size fits all when it comes to food, and that really finding what works for you. And sometimes the keto diet works fantastic. For people other times, you know, they there are people that really need the carbs and so getting those carbs from whole grains and you know, healthy starchy protein. Vegetables is is really a great way. So, you know, I hate to vilify any of the macronutrients, I think they’re important, but some people don’t process carbs as well. And so there especially as we age, we just don’t seem to do it as well. And so it’s okay to have higher protein and fat diet because your body will convert that into carbohydrate if it needs it, or when it needs it.
Doctor Neha: So what’s your take? Right even on natural sugars like organic fruits that have higher fructose like dates or oranges or grapes or watermelon, right? Like are those are those healthy?
Doctor Deanna: Well, the thing that I’ll say about fruit is the amount that you can eat really depends on the state of your health and your liver health. So fructose is the sugar in fruit. And fructose is processed by the liver. So it’s kind of different than, say, eating a piece of bread, which isn’t processed with the liver, because it’s a different kind of sugar. So because we’re inundated with so many toxins in our world today, we our livers are just taxed. And so adding more fuel to the fire with these higher fructose fruits can be really problematic for people. So I recommend one to two servings per day for patients. And for some of my patients, they have really can’t eat any because of their health challenges. It’s just too much for their body to process.
Doctor Neha: Well, one of the things I learned really is because I had a lot of yeast in my system and sugar feeds yeast, I really in order to really get it out even when I was using some, you know, anti fungals to get the yeast out. That wasn’t enough, I had to actually get off all sugar. And so I think it is really a custom, you know, a custom experience for people depending on where they are. So what’s your opinion on kombucha? Speaking of hydration,
Doctor Deanna: yeah. So you know, I’d say for people who deal well with it, it’s fine. Now, unfortunately, a lot of people have trouble breaking down histamine. And so for those people it can can definitely be problematic. Now, you know, easy ways for us to tell if you’re not breaking down histamine. Well, seasonal allergies, asthma, skin rashes, you know, any kind of eczema, allergic type reactions tell us that you’re not breaking down histamine? Well, you eat certain foods, and you get ready years or you you know, develop stomach pain. So, so there are all kinds of clues to this. But yeah, so I think kombucha great for those that tolerate it. But a lot of people don’t because of the in their inability to break down the histamine.
Doctor Neha: Right? So tell me if somebody is vegan and vegetarian, what are they missing by just eating plants.
Doctor Deanna: So as I was mentioning earlier, it’s hard to get enough protein in period. And when I talked about the amount of vegetables that you need to get protein, enough protein in protein is just so important for healing repair, detoxification. So, you know, I think, again, it’s hard for any of us to get enough protein, it becomes harder with the volume of food that you need to eat when you’re eating plants. And then I think, you know, the other thing that I see is a lot of vegans in my practice, tend to eat a lot of processed food, you know, bread, cereal, pasta, even, you know, the seitan, and the tofu and 10. B, these are all processed foods. So again, I think if we can focus on eating real food that comes directly from nature, you’re you’ll get in more of the protein and eat you just need to eat larger amounts of those vegetables to get in enough.
Doctor Neha: And so if they’re dairy free, that’s even more. So how are they going to get protein?
Doctor Deanna: So can we we kind of talked about this a little bit earlier, but green peas, pea protein, lentils, beans, the teff Gan, the smaller grains like quinoa are going to be higher in protein lower in carbohydrates, the nuts and the seeds, not not in seed butters are great options. And then I had sort of started mentioning some of the vegetables with the highest protein, broccoli, spinach, asparagus artichokes, interestingly enough white and sweet potatoes that we tend to think about related to carbs, and then brussel sprouts. And again, you know, I’m gonna say real food. Like if I can get you away from having a chocolate bar or a croissant or you know, sandwiches and have you eating potato meat and nice green vegetable that’s going to be much healthier than you know the processed foods.