Metagenomics

Food choices matter. Gut bacteria can change in a few days

depending on whether you eat more protein, fat, or carbs.

Meta what?

Meta = beyond 

Genome = the genetic material of an organism

Metagenomics is the study of genetic material sampled directly from the environment. This study includes the internal environment of human beings, which can be classified by enterotype

Entero = relating to the intestines 

Researchers in an international consortium including Jeroen Raes of the Flanders Institute in Belgium used human poop samples to classify people into three categories of enterotypes, or bacterial ecosystems.

Three primary enterotype categories recur in the findings of this past decade: Bacteroides, Prevotella, and Ruminococcus.

That's correct! We are all ecosystems.

Of all the DNA we carry around, only a small percentage of it is human. The other DNA belongs to the billions of microbes that live in our gut, among other places. Many are bacteria that take advantage of the protection and food we offer them while making vitamins and digestive enzymes that are essential to the smooth functioning of our body and mind.

Each of these three bacterial ecosystems does things slightly differently. The Bacteroides ecosystem consists largely of bacteria that get energy by fermenting sugars and proteins. The Prevotella ecosystem contains a lot of microbes that digest proteins in the mucus lining of the gut. Ruminococcus, the most common type, prefer both gut mucus proteins and simple sugar.

In addition to their different food preferences, these enterotype groups also have different output profiles. The Bacteroides type makes quite a few vitamins, including C and H, while Prevotella is good at making folic acid and vitamin B1.

Although scientists are not yet sure whether the place we live or the food we eat classifies our gut's microbiome, research is starting to reveal that common traits, such as body mass index, can be markers for enterotypes.

The testing is still very expensive, but I imagine that researchers will make it more widely available and affordable in years to come. If you would like to participate in the Earth Microbiome Project, you can have your have your internal bacteria analyzed, both for public research purposes and for your own knowledge.

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Alternatively, by noticing what you eat and how you digest it, you are more likely to be able to identify your enterotype. Keep a food journal that includes information about the consistency, frequency and type of your stool. Try it for a week.

Please be in touch with questions: lisa[at]harmonizedcookery.com

Heirloom Wheat

Can an Heirloom Grain Help Resolve Wheat Allergies?

According to research conducted on the ongoing hybridization of wheat and its effects on human digestion, "we have scientific evidence that indeed, gluten sensitivity not only exists, but is very different from celiac disease." Alessio Fasano, medical director at the University of Maryland’s Center for Celiac Research, explains that wheat sensitivity is on the rise in the United States. One reason may be the continued breeding of wheat to increase production, making it genetically divergent from the wheat consumed two generations ago.

While the gluten-free products industry grows by millions each year, Vermont grain farmers like Ben Gleason continue to cultivate heirloom grains and artisan bakers tirelessly produce crunchy, hearty loaves from them. Cyrus Pringle, named after an Addison County farmer, is a hearty winter wheat strand that has not been hybridized since its initial cultivation in the mid 1800’s.

Could wheat-sensitive people digest Cyrus Pringle bread baked with a traditional French sourdough at Red Hen Baking? Randy George, the bakery’s founder and owner, has high hopes. The Gleasons’ grains are carefully monitored and ground in a stone mill on site to ensure freshness. Jack Lazor of Butterworks Farm is so passionate about small-scale heirloom grain production that he wrote a book about it, which was released by Chelsea Green in 2013. in his 33 years of grain growing, Lazor realizes that “true wealth comes from the ability to feed ourselves from the land.”

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Healthy Grocery Shopping

Writing and sticking to your grocery list is essential to make sure you’re loading up your cart with healthy food choices. Break down your list into staple items that fit into five basic categories:

Fresh produce. While it’s good to have a list of staples, be sure to choose a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.Frozen fruits and vegetables can be a good way to add variety when fresh produce isn't in season.


Proteins. Focus on variety and keep fat content in mind. Look for ground beef or turkey that's at least 93 percent fat-free and grass-fed The omega 3 fatty acids is grass provide nourishment, both for animals and for the humans who eat them. Lean turkey and skinless chicken are all great options for your weekly list.Grass-fed local eggs and wild caught sardines are another way to add variety to your proteins. Dairy products also include protein and fat. Choose a good quality source of butter and cheese.

Whole grains. Create a list of different whole grains for the week. Staples can include brown rice, millet, buckwheat groats, and oatmeal. Try to buy in bulk if possible! Check which grains are highest in protein and include those every other week, too. For example, substitute millet for amaranth. If buying whole-grain sourdough bread or whole-wheat pasta, check the labels: Stick to choices that have more than 3 grams of fiber per serving, part of a daily goal of 25 to 35 grams of fiber. 

Fats. You do need some fats in your diet — it's simply a matter of choosing healthy fats and limiting them to an appropriate amount. Options can include natural peanut, almond, and cashew butters. Avocados, nuts and seeds, and olive oil are also good staples for your grocery shopping list. These provide mono- and polyunsaturated fats, which are more easily metabolized without increased cholesterol storage.

Foods to Avoid

Sodium: Opt for low-sodium soup when you can, and ask for low-sodium lunch meats at your deli counter. You can still eat foods with sodium. Just be sure your product doesn't have more than 300 milligrams of sodium per serving.

Condiments: Look for a vinaigrette or oil-based salad dressing instead of a creamy one. You can also try topping your favorite sandwiches with mustard, which is generally a healthier condiment choice.

High Fructose Corn Syrup: Also known as invert corn syrup. Sodas, candy bars, cakes, cookies, pastries and even energy/granola bars are loaded with sugar and calories, so it’s best to avoid them.

Remember to enjoy everything in moderation. Having a good understanding of healthy and unhealthy foods means you’ll make the most of every grocery shopping trip.


Thanks to Dr. Andrew Weil for this inspiration.

Spice Blends and Ingredient Substitutions

By popular request, here are some ideas to change how you cook!

Spice blends from Navdanya, Vandana Shiva's organic seed farm in Northern India:

Savory Masala:
Mixture of ground ginger, cumin, coriander, fenugreek, turmeric and fennel

Garam Masala:Mixture of 1 tsp. cardamom seeds, 1 Tbs. cumin seed, 1 Tbs. coriander seed, 2 tsp. black peppercorns, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. cloves, and 1 tsp. nutmeg

Substitution ideas:

Ingredient: WHEAT FLOUR
Substitute: spelt flour (wheat-free) or half oat flour and half millet flour (gluten-free)

Ingredient: BUTTER
Substitute: Clarified butter, coconut oil, half and half clarified butter and olive oil

Ingredient: EGGS
Substitute: 1 mashed banana or 1/4 cup applesauce per egg (best for baked goods); 1 Tbs. agar flakes whisked into 1 Tbs. water and chilled for 5 minutes (for an egg white substitute), 1 Tbs. ground flaxseeds simmered in 3 Tbs. boiling water for 2 minutes.

Ingredient: OIL IN BAKED GOODS
Substitute: Applesauce, puréed bananas, puréed cooked prunes

Ingredient: COOKING OIL
Substitute: Vegetable stock, wine, vinegar

Ingredient: CREAM IN SOUP
Substitute: Vinegar or citrus juice thickened with puréed roasted red peppers, carrots, onions, garlic

New Year, Healthy Eating

Would you like to reach your wellness goals in the new year?

Do you need help navigating the waters of food choices and fad diets?

With this step-by-step program, you will lose weight and learn healthy habits that last a lifetime.


A healthy diet is essential to achieving and maintaining well-being.

This simple program includes:

Recipes: Taste good health with delicious recipes that are easy to prepare and highlight food as medicine.

Updates: Receive customized advice based on your health assessment.

Tools: Gain tips to stay healthy and keep eating well for life.

Resources: Read articles written by food experts that relate to your wellness goals.

"Lisa's Healthy Eating Program gave me personalized content, including information on how to cook and eat better, reduce stress, breathe, and more! Her simple, weekly guide helped me implement changes at my pace and maintain the new way of being. Thank you!" Christie W.


Food Allergens

Food is such an emotional topic in our lives. We need it to live, we feel good, bad, or somewhere in between when we eat it, and its nutrients, or lack thereof, deeply impact the well-being of all living beings, including the planet.

I believe that cooking my own food is a radical and revolutionary act. I try to grow some of my own food, too, which requires a profound lifestyle shift. It is neither the way of convenience nor of instant gratification.

The more I research processed food, the more I realize its potentially harmful health impacts. Here are my latest findings.

In summary:
Read the labels on packaged foods.
Try to cook more of your own, additive-free food.

The details:

Xantham Gum:
A polysaccharide secreted by the bacterium Xanthomonas campestris 
used as a food thickening agent and a stabilizer. It is produced by the fermentation of glucose, sucrose, or lactose. It may be derived from a variety of sources that are common allergens, such as corn, wheat, dairy, or soy. Anyone with known sensitivities or allergies to these foods is advised to avoid it

Tapioca Starch:
This root vegetable is native to Brazil and spread throughout the South American continent by way of Portuguese and Spanish explorers. It is now cultivated worldwide. In Brazil, the cassava plant is call mandioca while its starch is called tapioca. The name tapioca is derived from the word tipi'óka, the name for this starch in the local Tupí language. This Tupí word refers to the process by which the starch is made edible. Today, the commercial process of extracting starch from cassava root is highly chemical and requires class 3 solvents akin to rubbing alcohol. Over time, the residues of this starch can affect overall health, both of the human body and of the groundwater surrounding processing plants. 
What questions do you have about other strange and mysterious ingredients? Email me at lisa[at]harmonizedcookery.com and I will research them for you.


Genetically Modified Organisms

Based on research by two scientists, UC Berkeley’s Ignacio Chapela and former Scotland Rowett Research Institute researcher and plant genetic modification expert, Arpad Pusztai, the health effects of genetically modified organisms (GMOS) are questionable.

Click this link to read Pusztai's controversial research on the potential threats of GMOs.

According to Chapela and Pusztai's studies, when a transgene functions in a new cell, it may produce different proteins than the ones intended. They may be harmful, but there’s no way to know without scientific testing. Even if the protein is exactly the same, there are still problems.

Arpad Pusztai and other scientists were shocked at their results of animals fed GM foods. His results were cited above. Other independent studies showed stunted growth, impaired immune systems, bleeding stomachs, abnormal and potentially precancerous cell growth in the intestines, impaired blood cell development, and more.

To read an article about the potential threats of GMO foods, visit Mother Earth News.