You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘health’ tag.

Many of us have had the experience of suffering through a miserable cold only to be brought back to life by someone’s version of grandma’s chicken soup. Grandmothers all over the world make wonderful soups from scratch, and almost all of them start with bone broth, an often forgotten, not-so-secret-formula for supporting optimal health.

chicken bone broth, photo: Kathy McNeely

chicken bone broth, photo: Kathy McNeely

The bones used to make bone broth are the cartilage-containing joints from feet and necks, as well as the large bones (legs, shoulders, etc) that contain marrow. The cartilage we ingest in bone broth activates natural killer cells and macrophages, some of the first lines of defense in the human immune system. The marrow provides the fatty acids needed for to support brain function, growth and to boost immunity (Fallon Morell, 2014, p. 26). Adding spices to bone broth will also help trigger the release of fluid in the mouth, throat, and lungs, helping to thin respiratory mucus making it easier to expel.

Bone broths are packed with nutrition in the form of amino acids and minerals. One of bone broth’s abundant amino acids, glycine, supports the body’s detoxification processes, and is used to synthesize hemoglobin to build blood and bile salts, needed to digest fats. Another amino acid, proline, promotes good skin health, especially when the body’s vitamin C intake is high. While the marrow and cartilage cook, minerals like calcium, magnesium and phosphate and nutrients like glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are released into the broth. These nutrients help to maintain strong bones and to fight inflammation in the body.

Because bone broth is made with connective tissues laden with collagen, when it cools, it congeals into gelatin (McGee, 2007). While most cooked foods are a little harder to digest than raw foods, gelatin is a liquid-attracting colloid; it facilitates digestion by attracting digestive juices to food in the small intestine. Gelatin is also healing for the digestive tract because it contains glutamine, an amino acid that serves as the preferred fuel for the small intestine.


Gelatin from Chicken bone stock. Photo by Kathy McNeely

In her book, Nourishing Broth, Sally Fallon Morell details a long history of research on the healing properties of gelatin going back to the Napoleonic Wars. This research came to a screeching halt in the mid-1900’s when interest shifted toward individual vitamins and minerals. The shift also coincided with a time in history when commercially produced MSG became much more widespread in packaged bouillon cubes and canned soups.

If you are still not convinced of the value of bone broth, consider this, you can make a gallon of super-nutritious bone broth for as little as $5.00. Traditionally, grandma’s great soup recipe began with a bone broth made from bits and scraps because she never let anything go to waste. She would ask the butcher for feet, knuckles, necks and backs because she knew these extras were inexpensive. She saved chicken and turkey carcasses, from making that big Sunday spread and she spent the better part of a day whipping up a huge batch of bone broth to freeze and reuse as a base ingredient for future sauces, gravies and soups.

Read more about the benefits of bone broth:

Fallon Morell, S. (2014). Nourishing broth: An old-fashioned remedy for the modern world (p. 9). Grand Central Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Fallon Morell, S. (2000). Broth is beautiful. The Weston Price Foundation. Retrieved January 25, 2015:

McGee, H. (2007). On food and cooking: The science and lore of the kitchen. Scribner. Kindle Edition. (Kindle Locations 3635-3641).

Nourished Kitchen blog (2014). Traditional foods 101: Bone broth, broth & stocks. Retrieved January 25, 2015:

Over the past couple of months I have been doing food demonstrations educating people on how to increase the benefits of particular foods through cooking techniques. So far I have averaged about one demonstration a month. Each one I put together helps me to gain the supervised hours I need to get my license to practice as a nutrition specialist in the state of Maryland.

Back in July, my classmate Maureen and I led a fermentation workshop. We were able to share what we’ve learned regarding the benefits of eating fermented foods. Participants went home with fermented kefir, sauerkraut, ketchup, and fermented fruit and vegetable drinks known as kvasses.

In August I did a cooking demonstration at the Mt Rainier’s Farmer’s Market. There I tried to emphasize quick and easy recipes that involved many of the vegetables sold at the market. There was quite a bit of interest. I am sure that had nothing to do with the free food samples. To learn more about that day – please go to my YouTube page and see the slide show

September I hosted a canning party  where we canned applesauce and some spicy salsa. Canning is a great option if you have a garden and want to enjoy the fruits of your harvest later in the year.

Just last weekend I gave a workshop at a church in Baltimore on apples – how to serve them fresh and cook them in both savory and sweet dishes. For me, the best part of the workshop was when the 5-year old boy wanted to be the first to try the green smoothie made of kale, ginger, banana and apple, and then he immediately asked for seconds!

I have been lining up engagements throughout October and November. If you know of a group that’s eager to learn, perhaps we can arrange something!

I have been a health and wellness coach part-time since 2009. I was originally drawn to study at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) in 2008 because I noticed trends of how food choices contributed to the state of a person’s health. Working in international policy – I became concerned that some of our worst eating habits in the U.S. were quickly being exported to other countries. From 1999-2005 I traveled quite a bit and I still remember the shock I felt when a Kenyan doctor in Nairobi told me that Kenyans really had no history of heart disease until the appearance of fast food restaurants in the capital. I knew that my advocacy work had to center around education so that people can make good food choices – both for themselves and for the people in their lives. I also believe that the more people know – the more public policy on the national and international levels can be impacted to reflect best practices.

In 2009 I graduated from IIN and began Hearty Nutrition, a part time practice – coaching people on changing their eating habits. I loved seeing people implement small changes that made a big difference in their lives. IIN really gave me a good survey of a lot of dietary theory out there – and gave me a bit of business training to get up and going. As time went on, I read more and found that there are a lot of confusing messages out there that people are trying to decipher. More and more, my clients were asking for detailed information about the chemical impact of food as well as vitamin and mineral deficiencies. I knew that I wanted to understand all these systems and that I simply had to learn more of the science of nutrition.

Most nutrition degrees follow the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) guidelines. I learned quite quickly through my international advocacy work that the USDA has a duel role – to educate on good nutrition and to promote U.S. agriculture (agribusiness) at home and abroad. The truth is that most of the time the USDA tends to do a much better job of promoting agribusiness than it does in educating the public on good nutrition. So – when I began looking for a way to learn the evidence base of my nutritional practice, I wanted to find a place that would give me a more integrated education that includes the USDA basics while exposing me to other ways of thinking. Tai Sophia Institute fit the bill, but at that time Tai only offered herbal medicine and acupuncture classes.

In 2010 I learned that the Tai Sophia Institute was about the launch a MS in Nutrition and Integrative Health program. Tai Sophia’s approach is anchored in a wellness-based philosophy, and at the same time it emphasizes the interrelated physiological, medicinal, psychosocial, cultural, and spiritual roles of food in our lives. I enrolled in the inaugural class in 2011 and once I graduate in August, 2013, I will pursue becoming a Certified Nutrition Specialists through the Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists (CNBS) and will be licensed to practice nutrition in Maryland.

My course work has been around the biochemical, and physiological processes in the body involved in food digestion and absorption. I have also studied nutritional therapies to address disease states and nutritional needs of each stage of the life cycle. At the same time I have had the opportunity to strengthen my counseling skills through peer practice and a supervised student clinic that began February 3, 2013.

You know the old story of the tortoise and the hare – every new year I fancy myself the hare – come January 1, my life is destined for drastic change. Out go the sweets, the coffee, the alcoholic beverages, the wasteful purchases I made in the previous year and in comes the fruit smoothies, the fitness gear, ardent recycling and loads of veggies – all the tools I need to excel at living an enthusiastically healthy, green and virtuous year.

Big changes like the big, fast start the hare had in the famous race, are hard to maintain. If you want proof check out that expensive exercise equipment sitting in the corner and collecting dust since last January. When I look back at my life, I find that the most lasting changes have been the slow and steady ones – not the radical changes I vowed to make overnight.

So below I list seven slow and simple changes that can improve your health, and fitness while contributing to greening our planet. Happy New Year!

  1. Add more laughter. Physiological changes take place when we laugh. We stretch muscles throughout our face and body, our pulse and blood pressure go up, and we breathe faster, sending more oxygen to our tissues. Some researchers believe that laughter may offer some of the same advantages as a workout. Maciej Buchowski, a researcher from Vanderbilt University, conducted a small study in which he measured the amount of calories burned in laughing — 50 calories burned in only 10-15 minutes of laughter.
  2. Drink green tea. Tea contains antioxidants that can help slow down aging and help your cells to regenerate and repair. Teas of all varieties contain high levels of antioxidant polyphenols that can help keep your body healthier and some studies suggest even ward of some cancers. Tea has less caffeine than coffee, and drinking lots of caffeine is hard on your heart and other organs. Tea can provide the pick-me-up of coffee with less caffeine, making you less jittery and helping you get to sleep when you want. Personally, I like to drink tea in the morning – I feel that my breath feels fresher after a cup of tea than it would after a cup of coffee!
  3. Drink more tap water.  Most North Americans walk around somewhat dehydrated – and often mistake thirst for hunger. Hydration, through drinking more water is a positive change that can improve your health; and choosing tap water can have a positive impact on the environment. The energy required to produce and transport plastic bottles could fuel an estimated 1.5 million cars for a year! More often than not, plastic water bottles are not recycled—they end up in landfills, litter roadsides, and pollute waterways and oceans. The bottled water industry sold 8.8 billion gallons of water in 2010, generating nearly $11 billion in profits. Yet the industry is not required to report testing results for its products. Independent studies have shown that some of the most popular brands of bottled water contain pollutants like pharmaceuticals, fertilizer residue and arsenic. Public tap water, on the other hand, is subject to strict safety regulations, and you are paying for it anyway –so drink more! If you have any concerns about your tap water, install a water filter.
  4. Buy local! Instead of relying exclusively on large supermarkets, consider farmers markets and local farms for your produce, eggs, dairy, and meat. Food from these sources is usually fresher and more flavorful, and your money will be going directly to these food producers. Author and consumer advocate Michael Shuman argues that local small businesses are more sustainable because they are often more accountable for their actions, have smaller environmental footprints, and innovate to meet local conditions—providing models for others to learn from.
  5. Go for a ride. Carpooling and using public transportation helps cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, and your gasoline usage. This year I renewed my membership to City Bikes in Washington D.C., a bike sharing programs that allows me to rent a cool red bike for short trips. As long as I keep the bike for under 30 minutes, my one-time a year membership fee pays for it. More time comes at extremely affordable rates. Similar programs exist in other cities, and are in the planning stages in other places. This is a great baby step for my health and for the planet. It takes me about the same time to ride the bike from one stop to the next as it does to ride the metro – it saves me the metro fare and gets me moving at the same time!
  6. Reduce your meat consumption. You don’t have to become a vegetarian or vegan, but the small baby step of substituting one meal day with a vegetarian option can go a long way toward improving your health and that of the planet. In general, meat consumption is higher than the daily recommended amount, so cutting back one meal a week is a great baby step. Meat lacks fiber and other nutrients that have been shown to have cancer-protective properties; it is also high in saturated fat –which contributes to a number of preventable diseases. Livestock production accounts for about 18 percent of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions and accounts for about 23 percent of all global water used in agriculture. Websites such as Meatless Monday  offer numerous vegetarian recipes that are healthy for you and the environment. 
  7. Take 20 minute walks. It turns out that simple, regular walking may provide all the mental and physical health benefits you need. Walking has been proven to lower “bad” cholesterol, raise “good” cholesterol, lower blood pressure, reduce risk of type 2 diabetes, manage weight, and improve mood and energy. And what’s more, walking is convenient and cheap – you don’t need a gym membership or any fancy equipment. It’s good for the environment as well – cutting down on the greenhouse gas emissions your car would be making. Try walking to work, and if you work miles from your home try other strategies – short walks through your neighborhood, parking in the last row of the parking lot when shopping or parking at work. Remember it’s about small steps and every step helps!

I’ve been asked what led me into health coaching because it seems so different from other work I have done. For me it is all a matter of following my heart.  In the mid 80’s and early 90’s my heart inspired me to accompany suffering people in war-torn countries; now that same heart has called me to respond to the unnecessary suffering caused by confusing health and nutrition information in a land of plenty.

Kathy in Chichicastenango, Guatemala 1993

In Guatemala from 91-96 I lived in a rural area among people who had little material wealth and little access to western medicines. What they did have was a deep understanding of the natural world. The elders of the communities I visited could brew a tea from the bark of a specific tree and help a diabetic regulate his blood sugar. Others ground flowers from another bush to treat skin rashes and lesions.

In 1995, my last year of working in Guatemala, I became involved in a medicinal plant project which began by gathering the elders from various communities to share their knowledge with one another and with community health promoters. Knowledge is power – affordable traditional remedies combined with education about simple, everyday things that people could do to prevent disease went a long way to serve people who no doctor, hospital or regimen of western medicine would ever reach.

I found myself fascinated by all I was learning; I often went to bed at night reading my copy of Where There is No Doctor. I was witnessing a very powerful transformation – I watched people take charge of their own health by incorporating new habits and practices into their lives. Nutrition played a vital role, but what seemed even more potent was people recognizing that they themselves had the power to change a lot of variables that could create a positive outcome for themselves and their family members’ health and well-being.

When I returned to the U.S. I found that people often feel very disconnected from knowledge of the natural world and that same kind of control over their health. While fantastic health care is available to those who can afford it, the health care system offers precious little education on disease prevention and easy, affordable actions to support one’s own healing. In Guatemala, while helping resource-poor communities with little access to western health care to expand their tools to stay healthy, I had no idea I was on the cutting edge of health care. Imagine what a different state the health of U.S. citizens would be in if people and communities had the simple knowledge on how to prevent disease. People might not miss as much work; they might avoid expensive hospital stays and young people wouldn’t be sentenced to formerly “adult diseases” like type II diabetes, gout and heart disease.

Nutrition is one of the easiest things to modify to bring about remarkable health benefits. I began noticing in my own diet how certain foods made me feel better than others. When I sought to deepen my knowledge in this area, I learned that most academic dietitian programs are closely tied to the USDA’s (U.S. Department of Agriculture) nutrition standards. When these standards were updated in December 2010 – they told us to “eat less,” without giving a clear picture of what to eat and what to avoid. The USDA has a dual role – it is responsible for promoting U.S. agriculture and setting U.S. nutrition guidelines. Unfortunately for us consumers, the USDA does a much better job of the former, leaving the public with lots of nutritional questions and contradictions.

In trying to find an independent source on nutrition knowledge, I found the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, where I completed a year-long program in 2009 and became a certified health coach recognized by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners.

I now work with individuals investigating how they are nourished – not only by food but by the circumstances of their lives. As I watch people incorporate new practices and healthier choices, I am seeing some remarkable changes including, weight loss, more energy, better sleep and a surge of creativity around making life choices. Mostly I encourage people to follow their hearts in everything they do and to create a life full of the sustenance that truly makes their heart sing!

If you are looking for support in feeling better, truly following your bliss, or if you just want to cut down on medical expenses through making better everyday choices, you may want to talk with me about scheduling a health history consultation. And if you are thinking of a career change – talk to me to learn more about the Institute for Integrative Nutrition training program.

The winter holiday parties are upon us… and in spite of following some good holiday tips to keep us on track with health and nutrition goals – a little eggnog here and some hors d’oeuvres there all seem to add up.  At this point some people just throw in the towel and give up. 2011 is another year – eat, drink and be merry now and January 2 will present an opportunity to get right back on track.

Just remember it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. We are not perfect and one spicy-sugary drink, or a few bites of fatty food cannot bring you down unless you let it. It’s all about balance. And if you are trying to do well 90 percent of the time, you are doing well. Just remember to keep the 10 percent splurge rate to 10 percent. If it soars to 20 percent on any particular day – scale back to 10 and you won’t feel that you’ve thrown out all your good work for the past months. Your body will thank you for not making such a roller coaster out of what it has to process, and you will feel better about living a balanced life. No deprived feelings, just healthy choices.

Good luck! And for more support see my winter holiday season survival tips below. And in January, those in the Washington DC Metropolitan area can join me in a workshop on making resolutions called Make satisfaction in life the focus of your new year!

Health & Nutrition Counseling

An integrative approach to health and nutrition which includes Earth consciousness.


Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 320 other followers