Spark Notes for "Improving your health 101"

Spark Notes for "Improving your health 101"

Jodi Ledley had debilitating migraines. Once she learned to avoid MSG (and other excitotoxins like it), she found herself on the path to healing. For years, she's eaten only at home. There, she has been able to control the quality of the food and avoid the additives that caused the neurological disruption that triggered her migraines. 

Sticky tip: Chipotle is one of the few fast/casual places Jodi found where you can enjoy a meal that is MSG- and GMO-free! (By the way, I don’t have stock in that company, so I do not benefit from your eating there! But Jodi mentioned it, so I thought I'd pass the tip along.)

The "x" factors that impact your health

The "x" factors that impact your health

For vibrant health, we must attend to our spirit/mind/emotions—what I call the “x” factors that impact our wellbeing.  To nourish this part of us, we need to do things that fill us, lift us up, bring contentment or make us feel vibrant and alive.

Chewing the fat with Chris Masterjohn

In the movie, "Little Miss Sunshine" Steve Carrell's character, Frank, pointedly yells at his niece, "Fat makes you fat." He was trying to shame the young girl into changing her order at a diner. For decades, the U.S. government was sending Americans the same message--warning us to steer clear of fat, and practically shaming us for craving it. They said it was linked to heart disease. So the public heeded the warning, but health issues--obesity, chronic conditions, and, yes, heart disease--continued to rise despite compliance with the recommendations. In recent years, the government and even the conventional medical community has begun to pivot, actually recommending that we eat fats for our well-being. But which are the best fats? And how much should we be eating?

Enter Chris Masterjohn, assistant professor of Health and Nutrition Sciences at Brooklyn College in New York. Chris has a  PhD in Nutritional Sciences and is a brilliant person to discuss such a topic. And so we did, on the Wise Traditions podcast. Yes, we chewed the fat...about fat! Give a listen to episode #28: Fat does a body good.


Here are some of the things you'll learn.

  • how fat helps your body run
  • moving from fear of fat toward freedom
  • how to eat to fuel your body's needs
  • how to figure out what diet (and percentage of fat) will work best for your particular body
  • what sources of fats have been eaten over the course of human history
  • how our diet has shifted away from animal fats to oils like soybean, canola, sunflower, safflower, corn, and cottonseed
  • how this shift may be the cause of many of modern diseases
  • the difference between saturated, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated fats
  • the definition of essential fatty acids
  • the role of cholesterol (and what numbers could be a red flag)
  • a recommendation for a certain type of health care practitioner

Chris concluded our conversation with a surprising suggestion for what to do to achieve optimal health. (To learn more from Chris, check out "The Daily Lipid"  or follow him on social media @chrismasterjohn.)

As we wrapped up our talk, I walked away with some new insights and with a conviction that was stronger than ever:  fat does many things for us, but it most certainly does NOT make us fat, no matter what the movies (or other media) may tell us!

*** Hilda Labrada Gore is a health coach and the host of the Wise Traditions podcast (found on iTunes, Stitcher and at She is also the DC chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation.

The inside scoop on wellness

Starting the Wise Traditions podcast has been an adventure. I knew I wanted to help spread the message of the benefits of whole, real, nutrient-dense foods. That, after all, is the mission of the Weston A. Price Foundation, the group sponsoring the podcast. Their goal is to educate the public about healthy traditions and the science behind the foods that have helped cultures survive and thrive through millennia. DSC_0006

What I didn’t bargain for was that I would be getting an education in the process, myself. I loved sitting down with the authors, doctors, scientists, farmers, etc., who came on the show. Each individual was well spoken, entertaining, and brilliant. I was getting something out of every single conversation.

And then it dawned on me—I wasn't just educating John Q. Public, out there “somewhere,” in the distance—I was, in fact, educating myself! Below are some of the truths I’ve gleaned, after months of sitting at the feet of top health and wellness experts. I consider these truths to be the “inside scoop” on wellness.

  1. Outset. I’m just at the outset; they are waaaay down the pike! Yup, I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn. Oh, I studied to be a health coach, and I am a chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation, all right. But these people have spent decades in their field (sometimes, yes, literally in a field!) so they have a really good idea of what’s best for our bodies, in theory and in practice.
  2. Opposing views. Even the experts say we shouldn’t trust the experts. Almost every guest on the show has urged me (and the listener) to keep seeking, keep reading, keep educating myself. (It was a farmer who gave me the longest list of recommended books!) I have taken their challenge seriously. In fact, I am purposely seeking out opposing views to those shared by my guests, to discover the truth, as best I can, for myself.
  3. Overwhelmed. Our bodies are overwhelmed. Incidences of cancer, chronic diseases, mental illness, and the like, are on the rise. (I didn’t need them to tell me this. I could see that for myself, just by reading the headlines.) What I did learn from them is that our world is increasingly toxic and that there are ways to help our bodies cope.
  4. Organic is best. Processed, artificial, man-made, imitation, preservative-laden foodstuffs (that pass for food in our supermarkets) are part of the toxic soup that our bodies cannot process. These foodstuffs are cheaper, but remember this: bargain foods are no bargain for our bodies. They mess with our physical and mental capabilities.


  5. Opt out. Opting out of the commercial, big-box, packaged food industry is a great place to start. Each guest has emphasized the importance of turning toward a more, natural, real food diet. Avoid the chains (supermarket, fast food, restaurants) that literally encumber us. While you are still free to move, take steps off the regular food grid. Look for real food whenever possible. Connect with farmers. Learn to grow or, at least, cook your own food. It's critical for your health and the health of your loved ones.

Oh, the things I’ve learned! Have you been learning, too? Comment below so we can educate each other! I look forward to more great conversations, both on and off the air.

Drum roll, please!

FullSizeRender-3 As you can tell, I am thrilled to be at the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) conference in Anaheim right now!  This is the group that sent me to Kenya last summer. I love the emphasis they have! The WAPF folks are the ones who talk about:

  • eating real, whole foods like our ancestors did
  • avoiding packaged, processed foods full of artificial flavorings, colorings, and        partially-hydrogenated oils
  • enjoying natural fats (praise the lard)
  • including in your day-to-day meals fermented foods like pickles, curtido, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha
  • sipping bone broths
  • drinking raw(some) milk

These are foods that have nourished people for millennia. They keep our bodies functioning at their optimal level, strengthening the immune system, and helping us avoid all sorts of diseases and chronic issues. The WAPF principles (learning from the wisdom of generations past) are not a diet, per se. Thank goodness, because I shudder when I think of diets. Especially when I think about how the first three letters of the word are d-i-e. Nope, the principles just point to delicious, sustaining, life-giving, health-preserving foods. It's not about deprivation, but about what you can eat. And what you CAN eat just happens to taste AMAZING. Yes, I am gushing (though, it's actually more like drooling right now!)

Check out the pics below for a glimpse of what it's been like here at the conference this week!




Kelp facial (don't ask)

This could make showering more fun than ever!


Our bag of "swag" had salt and roasted sesame seeds in it!

Foodies know this woman as the "Food Renegade"

Sandrine Love just wrote a children's book about Weston Price and his discoveries

The Foundation has asked me to host their weekly podcast come January! I'm so excited! It's going to be called Wise Traditions and it will feature conversations with nutrition experts, doctors, authors, and regular people like you and me who have seen improvements in their life and health since incorporating the WAPF principles.

Already at the conference, I've had the privilege of speaking with Charlotte Smith, a woman whose son had eczema. She sought out raw milk for his healing (and it worked, by the way). Now she owns her own  micro dairy in Oregon! I spoke with Dr. Cowan, a holistic physician, who advocates healthy skepticism when it comes to our health information. "Don't believe anybody. Don't believe me," he added.  And I spoke with Sandra Van Gilder, a woman who pursued a career in physical therapy because she felt like an 80 year-old when she was in her 20's due to exercise injuries and inflammation. Now she can move about and run without hindrances.

I'm so eager to tell you about our conversations, but I think it'd be better if you hear what they have to say for yourselves! So, stay tuned for details on how to access and subscribe to the podcast! This is going to be simply a fabulous opportunity to learn, in brief 30-minute segments, how to make changes that will benefit you for a lifetime!

This is Hilda Labrada Gore, signing off, on behalf of the Wise Traditions podcast. Eat well, be well!

Microgreens: proving that good things come in small packages

"Good things come in small packages," my third grade teacher told me. She was always trying to make me feel better about being one of the smallest kids in my class. "Yeah, but so does poison," my adult friends have since teased. Snide remarks aside, I've recently discovered that among the MANY good things that come in small packages is a tiny green     superfood known as microgreens! Farmer Ed and some of my WAPF chapter friends

Here is how I first came across them. I was shopping at Whole Foods one day and they were passing out samples. Depending on my level of hunger when I go shopping, I either scrounge around for the familiar black bowls and sampling tables, or I simply walk on by. On this particular day, my level was high, so I made a beeline for the table stocked with these baby sunflower greens. They looked more substantial than sprouts I'd seen in the past and they tasted delicious. I was intrigued enough to keep their flier and contact the farmer a few weeks later.

The next thing I knew the farmer came to my house! When he walked in the door, I began fawning all over him as if he were the King of Genovia. The farmer, Ed Huling, came to my home because I was hosting a Weston Price chapter meeting. During the gathering, he told us his back story. He was having health struggles some years ago that led him to ask himself, "What if what I'm eating is impacting my health?" It was a simple question that was about to change his life. He began to choose more carefully what he was putting in his body--opting for organic and nutrient-dense food. These changes led to other questions such as "What if the quality of the soil a plant is grown in affects its nutrient content?" With the approval and supervision of the U.S.           Department of Agriculture, he began to conduct experiments to see if his premise was correct. He grew some crops in soil that was organic and full of minerals. Other crops he grew in depleted, inorganic soil. What he found was that, yes, indeed, the soil that was rich in minerals produced more flavorful and more nutritious crops.

Microgreens in their nutrient-rich soil

As he regained his health, Ed realized that he wanted to put wheels on what he discovered. And so he became an organic farmer, establishing"new day farms" in Bealton, Virginia, in 2002. His objective was to use mineral-rich soil to grow crops with peak nutrient density and exceptional flavor for his customers. His crop of choice? Microgreens---baby greens less than 2 weeks old! The very thing I tried that day in Whole Foods. Yes, I thought they were yummy at the time, but I was also taken by their nutritional density. They contain 4 to 40 times the concentration of nutrients as the full-grown plant (according to a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 2012). So (warning: farm pun ahead) we can reap the benefit of one pound of beets, for example, by eating a small, single serving of beet microgreens! These mini-plants are just teeming with good stuff: vitamins C, E, K, beta-carotene, phytonutrients and antioxidants!

Add a few tomatoes, vinegar and oil...and voila, a fantastic, nutritious side to any meal!

I'm convinced that if Popeye had known about these babies back in the day, he wouldn't have needed to carry around his clunky cans of spinach! For more info on microgreens, see this recent article on the npr website. And to learn more about those cultivated on new day farms, and where you can buy them,      follow @newdayfarms on Twitter. Or check out their Facebook page.

These microgreens are local, delicious, nutritious, and organic. And tiny. Yup, my third grade teacher was right.

6 degrees of separation: why where you get your food matters

The theory of "six degrees of separation" is based on the idea that people are only 6 steps away from each other, i.e. you can connect any two people in the world by association. Take me and the President, for an example. My daughter went to a White House dinner a few years ago and hugged Michele Obama. And Michele is Barack's wife. That's three degrees of separation! (Who knew we were that close?!) There's also a fun twist on this game where you work to link an actor to Kevin Bacon. You win the game by coming up with the shortest link between the two.  Bacon It might be helpful to think of our relationship to food in terms of this paradigm, too. How many degrees of separation are between us and the place where our food originated?

Think back to your algebra class (or was it geometry? I was never a math whiz.) Regardless, everyone knows that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. When we buy from a chain grocery store, food gets to our table in a circuitous and convoluted route (think: Billy in the Family Circus cartoons). It's the opposite of a straight line.

Let's imagine the journey some green beans might take, for example. A farmer in Wisconsin decides to plant them because he or she knows that people love them and that green beans love them back. Green beans are chock-full of good things for us, including vitamins A and B, omega-3 fatty acids, and calcium! The beans are picked and then taken to a factory where they are cleaned, sliced, diced, and processed. Days pass. They may sit in a temperature-controlled warehouse, or they may be immediately canned or frozen. Sooner or later, they are shipped to stores across the country where they wait to be purchased. Eventually they make their way to our homes. Degrees of separation: 6+

Contrast this with buying green beans from a farmers market or finding them in a box of produce from a CSA. They are grown close by, harvested, and brought to you. You may actually meet the very person who picked or planted the beans himself. Degree of separation: 1 (It would be "0" if you grew them yourself.)

Why do the degrees of separation matter on the food front? First and foremost, it's about freshness. Something is lost in the translation/transportation. Studies show that nutrient content is diminished,  the more time that elapses between harvest and consumption. This means that we get less vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, etc. , the further removed we are from the source. That's why we should seek out ways to get food at its freshest, most nutritious peak.


Second, it's about relationships. It's wonderful to know exactly who is behind the food you are eating. Commercials that show farmers picking the tomatoes that go into your salsa are trying to send that same message. These are the people that grow your food, they seem to say. But chances are good that that "farmer" is just a C-list actor. Nothing beats being able to actually meet the people who've planted, tended, and harvested your food. It's amazing to be able to look them in the eye, ask them questions, see the pride they have in their product. And thank them.

Third, it's about accountability.  If something goes wrong (something is missing from your box of produce, the yogurt is watery, etc.), you can talk to the farmer or grower. There is less confusion and obfuscation when you buy local. If something goes wrong in the large-scale production process we mentioned earlier, it's harder to pinpoint where the problem lies and who is to blame. To cite a recent example, you may decide to stop buying Sabra hummus because of Listeria concerns, but those same chickpeas may be in found in other products that you are still buying, unawares. Locally, If food is good, you'll keep buying from the same farms. If it's bad, you'll stop. You've got a direct line to the source. It's simple and clearcut.

Fourth, it's about saving energy. I love blueberries year round. But they're not in season year round. When I buy blueberries from Chile in the winter, it's good for me (well, kind of) but it's not good for our environment. Think of all the fuel spent flying them to our country and then transporting  them via truck to DC! Those blueberries were more of a luxury than I ever realized.

blueberry_basketThese are some of the reasons that drive the local food movement, farmers markets, and CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture programs). When we minimize the degrees of separation from our food source, we ALL win!  Don't you agree?