Weekend Reading, 1.26.14

by Gena on January 26, 2014

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I’m hoping that my continuing streak of absentee/generally useless blogger behavior can be offset somewhat by the fact that the five recipes in tonight’s weekend reading happen to look particularly great. All of them have been pinned and put onto my “must make” list–whenever, that is, I get my culinary creativity back. This week featured a fairly monotonous parade of packed lunches and simple dinners, interrupted by a short lived but nasty cold that is thankfully retreating. But I can feast with my eyes, and so can you.

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Let’s start with breakfast. Sandy (the Reluctant Entertainer) has created a terrific toasted vegan quinoa granola with currants and coconut.

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Also in the breakfast vein, Heather’s chai protein oatmeal is both beautiful and looks incredibly filling. Another hit from Yumuniverse.

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Someplace in between breakfast and dessert is Gina’s gorgeous, exotic black rice pudding.

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As usual, Susan is creating gorgeous food over at Rawmazing. This time, it’s beet and avocado salad with macadamia cheese. What an appetizer!

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And finally, this masala cauli-fried rice looks like an incredible, innovative, vegetable entree. (I haven’t stir fried cauliflower rice, but I’ve been curious!)

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1. I thought this article on healthy eating on a budget from David and Luise of Green Kitchen Stories was fantastic: practical, actionable, and mindful.

2. Yet more research in favor of the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. This article details a new study of 1,100 post-menopausal female subjects. It determined that women who had higher amounts of fatty acids in their red blood cell membranes also had greater brain volume–specifically, greater volume in the hippocampus, which is an area of the brain associated with learning and memory (not surprisingly, the hippocampus is the part of the brain most associated with Alzheimer’s disease). (1)

The article goes on to state the importance of dietary intake of omega-3s, and it notes that those who eat less fish should consider supplementation, since it can be difficult for the body to convert omega-3 fatty acids from plant sources (often known as ALAs, or alpha linolenic acids) into DHA and EPA (Docosahexaenoic acid and Eicosapentaenoic acid), which are the fatty acids associated with brain health. It doesn’t mention vegan supplement options, so I thought I’d mention the Deva DHA supplement, which I like, the Flora supplement (also good), or the Ovega supplement (new to me but looks pretty good). DHA supplementation for vegans isn’t considered a necessity, as B-12 supplementation is, but a number of vegan health professionals consider it to be advisable.

toast-2 Photograph courtesy of Pacific Standard Magazine.

3. A profile of the artisanal toast trend that is so much more. When he discovered that artisanal toast was a thing, the author writes,

I had two reactions…First, of course, I rolled my eyes. How silly; how twee; how perfectly San Francisco, this toast. And second, despite myself, I felt a little thrill of discovery. How many weeks would it be, I wondered, before artisanal toast made it to Brooklyn, or Chicago, or Los Angeles? How long before an article appears in Slate telling people all across America that they’re making toast all wrong? How long before the backlash sets in?

For whatever reason, I felt compelled to go looking for the origins of the fancy toast trend. How does such a thing get started? What determines how far it goes?

Where it goes is to a coffee shop called Trouble in San Francisco. And from that point forward, the article becomes a touching, inspiring profile of Trouble’s owner, a 34-year-old woman named Giulietta Carrelli. Carrelli suffers from schizoaffective disorder, a mental health condition that combines symptoms of schizophrenia and bipolarity. Throughout her life, she has suffered from episodes that felt, to her, like a “kind of death,” which often included wandering, hearing voices, or–perhaps worst of all–an inability to identify herself. Part of why she has been drawn to working in coffee shops is that they create a community in which she is recognizable:

she began assiduously cultivating a network of friends she could count on for help when she was in trouble—a word she uses frequently to refer to her psychotic episodes—while being careful not to overtax any individual’s generosity.

Carrelli also found safety in simply being well-known—in attracting as many acquaintances as possible. That’s why, she tells me, she had always worked in coffee shops. When she is feeling well, Carrelli is a swashbuckling presence, charismatic and disarmingly curious about people. “She will always make a friend wherever she is,” says Noelle Olivo, a San Francisco escrow and title agent who was a regular customer at Farley’s and later gave Carrelli a place to stay for a couple of months. “People are taken aback by her, but she reaches out.”

Trouble, apparently, serves three things: coffee, young Thai coconut (which Carrelli nearly subsisted on at one point in her life) and cinnamon toast, her quintessential childhood comfort food. Beyond this, the article isn’t really about food, exactly…but of course it is. It’s about the ways in which people can find a sense of belonging in the world, which so often do involve the breaking of bread. I found it inspiring, and recommend checking it out.

4. An important article about night eating syndrome. In many ways it’s also an article about the difficulties of classifying and defining eating disorders, and I thought that my readers might find it interesting. The article ends with a note that health care practitioners should be able to recognize symptoms of the disorder; I’m glad that more attention is being given to ED awareness in the health care community.

5. One of my readers asked me to address an article that I’m sure many of you have seen by now. It’s an op-ed entitled “Kale? Juicing? Trouble Ahead?” The author, a self professed health fanatic, describes her recent hypothyroidism diagnosis, and how it compelled her to call into question many of the things she formerly presumed to be healthy. When she got her diagnosis, she writes,

I looked up the condition on the Internet and found a list of foods to avoid. Kale, which I juiced every morning, tops the list, followed by broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and collard greens — the cruciferous vegetables I consumed in large quantities because they are thought to prevent cancer, which runs in my family. And flax — as in the seeds — high in omega 3’s, that I sprinkled on cereal and blended in strawberry almond milk smoothies. Also forbidden: almonds and strawberries, not to mention soy, peaches, peanuts, corn, radishes, rutabaga and spinach.

As if that isn’t enough, there’s more bad news ahead:

I went to the dentist, who said I had five cavities and asked if I snacked on candy and sodas all day long. I was insulted. Indignant. What did he take me for? No, I answered. I don’t eat sugar and drink only fresh vegetable juices — no longer kale, of course, but carrot and celery, which I’m still allowed. And filtered water with lemon.

“You’d be better off with chocolate and cola,” he said. Apparently the natural sugars in fruit and vegetable juices can cause decay, and lemon, though high in vitamin C and bioflavonoids which may prevent cancer, had eroded the enamel that protected my teeth.

So, a couple things. To start, yes, it’s true that cruciferous vegetables, flax, soy, almonds, and a number of other foods are thought to be problematic for those with hypothyroidism. This is because they contain compounds called glucosinolates which, when broken down through digestion, may either interfere with thyroid hormone synthesis or compete with iodine for uptake by the thyroid gland (iodine is crucial to thyroid health). (2) People with hypothyroidism are often cautioned to limit crucifers, but it’s worth noting that cruciferous vegetables rarely seem to be a direct cause of hypothyroidism. Extremely high intakes have been shown to cause hypothyroid symptoms in animal studies, but I read about only one reported case of this phenomenon in humans: an 88-year-old woman who developed severe hypothyroidism after eating between 1 and 1.5 kilograms of raw bok choy daily for months. (3)

So, in spite of the fact that the author was clearly consuming a lot of raw kale, it’s hard to say if her zeal for healthy eating (embodied in kale juice) actually made her sick. Moderate cruciferous vegetable consumption isn’t a problem for people with normally functioning thyroids. WBUR also covered the Times op-ed, and they interviewed Teresa Fung, Sc.D., M.S.. an adjunct professor of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health who said, “normal, reasonable amounts of eating should not be a problem. A regular person [with no thyroid issues] who eats several servings of cruciferous vegetables a week should not have problems…It’s the dose that makes a poison.” 1.5 kilograms or raw crucifers a day is a good example of such a dose.

It’s also worth pointing out that a huge number of factors can cause hypothyroidism: genetics, certain medications, or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which is an autoimmune disease. Diet isn’t necessarily the cause, or even a cause. In some ways, the author’s immediate assumption that diet caused or exacerbated the problem is a part of the same fixation on controlling health entirely through food that she seems to be gently satirizing.

While I can’t really speak to the tooth enamel issue, I can say that I don’t think this article is much cause for panic about kale salad, or green juices. Kale is still a superfood, still a wonderful source of micronutrients, and it’s still a worthy addition to your diet. As the WBUR coverage notes, cooking cruciferous vegetables decreases some of the compounds that can be problematic for the thyroid, so eating cooked kale in addition to kale salad is very helpful here. So too is getting adequate iodine and selenium in your diet. But even moderate amounts of raw kale (kale salad, kale juice, kale-slaw, kale chips) should be OK in the absence of outstanding thyroid problems.

What I do think the article points to is the danger of extremism, of consuming any food in tremendous excess (even a healthful one). In nutrition work, I often see people who have gotten into food “prisons,” in which they only feel safe eating a very limited number of foods. Heck, I lived through such a phase myself, back when I was deep into raw foods and the idea of “detox,” and greens, avocado, and lemon made up the majority of my diet. All healthy things, but they were filling up too much space, and it was because I had unfounded fears of so many other foods. This was no way to live. Aside from missing out on a wide variety of healthy ingredients, I was also overdoing it on the few ingredients I didn’t fear.

To be very clear, I don’t think that the author of this article is describing such a fear-based scenario. But I think she’s talking about the imbalance that can result when one glorifies certain foods a little too much (or vilifies them too much). I think she’s also describing how easily our understanding of what’s healthy can be turned upside down–a phenomenon that anyone who takes interest in nutrition watches again, and again. For this reason, I think it’s a good cautionary tale–not so much about kale as about balance.

Enjoy the reading.

xo

1. Pottala JV, Yaffe K, Robinson JG, Espeland MA, Wallace R, Harris WS. Higher RBC EPA + DHA corresponds with larger total brain and hippocampal volumes: WHIMS-MRI Study. Neurology. 2014 Jan 22. [Epub ahead of print]

2. Fenwick GR, Heaney RK, Mullin WJ. Glucosinolates and their breakdown products in food and food plants. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 1983;18(2):123-201.

3. Chu M, Seltzer TF. Myxedema coma induced by ingestion of raw bok choy. N Engl J Med. 2010;362(20):1945-1946.

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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Ilana January 26, 2014 at 10:40 pm

I hadn’t read that article on crucifers but it’s something I’ve been considering myself recently because I’ve suspected myself to be thyroid condition symptomatic, because it runs in my family and I’ve been experiencing fun things like fatigues and night sweats (for a while) but unable to confirm due to lack of health insurance (until recently). I’ve as yet been kind of reluctant to experiment because I freaking love my kale so much but I’m wondering if I have time to play and evaluate how I feel in response to a different sort of vegan diet that doesn’t incorporate an obscene amount of kale, broccoli, and cabbage (although I’m not quite sure what I’d eat otherwise). Waiting for some blood test results regarding my hormone levels anyway then I’ll re-evaluate where I am.

PS- last friday I graduated from yoga school at Laughing Lotus as a 500 Hour registered yoga teacher :) When you coming to visit us!?

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Gena January 27, 2014 at 8:01 am

SOON. Potentially next week or two soon. I’m so proud of you!!!

As for the thyroid, definitely don’t assume that the family pattern is destiny, but since it’s there, it’s good for you to be mindful and keep an eye on symptoms. Again, people who don’t yet show symptoms aren’t really cautioned against crucifers, so I think you have space to enjoy them as desired, but I totally agree that it’s easy to consume them heavily as a vegan. Variety is so, so important. Hope you figure out the symptoms!

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Heather @ The Soulful Spoon January 26, 2014 at 11:46 pm

This was a fantastic post Gena, thank you for sharing it! Full of great reads and recipes, for sure! Also, I agree with you 100% on the thyroid issue. Surprisingly, I found the only food that’s ever upset my thyroid was processed soy, which I used to eat a lot of as an early vegetarian. Now that I eat a clean, whole foods organic diet, I don’t suffer high thyroid at all, even with lots of green vegetables, juices, salads and smoothies. I believe with liberal use of coconut, nuts, seeds, and plenty of a variety of greens and vegetables, not just ones linked to a low thyroid, a person is well able to maintain a healthy thyroid on a clean, plant-based diet. Thanks for this post ! I found three new blogs to love based on these recipes, and can’t believe I didn’t know about them sooner.

I hope you’re having a great weekend, and thank you for all the hard work and research you put into your blog<3

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Gena January 27, 2014 at 7:59 am

Heather, thank you for always leaving such engaged, informative, and thoughtful comments. <3

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Kait January 26, 2014 at 11:49 pm

I hadn’t seen the article but yay for more awareness about the thyroid issue. I haven’t brought myself to give up the foods with goitrogens because I love them too much (and other reasons related to not having food rules) but I do try to limit my intake a bit and switched to experimenting with different greens in my daily smoothies (e.g. romaine, chard, etc). I don’t know if its made a difference but I am interested in exploring the issue more extensively for my own self. I’m more worried about finding a good balance for my life, budget, and hormones (for my thyroid and my darn adult-onset acne).

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Gena January 27, 2014 at 7:58 am

Absolutely, Kait. As someone who is all too prone to picking kale at the expense of other greens, I agree! Chard, collards, romaine, arugula–variety is is really important.

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Amanda January 27, 2014 at 12:21 am

I was diagnosed with NES in college by someone at the Stanford Sleep Clinic (in reaction to my anorexia), and my reaction to him was basically “f*** you.” It’s such a hard thing to deal with because there’s no pill for it, and sometimes counseling doesn’t help, either.

Even after returning to a normal body weight, it took me years to really have control over what I ate at night. I mostly sleep through the night now or just get up and have a normal-type midnight snack (like a banana), but I can relate to the sense of not being able to sleep without a snack, and the urgency described in the article.

What I found most frightening in college was when, at its worst, I just couldn’t control what I ate. It was never a pie or anything like that, but most people just don’t understand that not controlling what you put in your mouth is SCARY. I never wanted to go to sleep. I didn’t want to eat during the day because I didn want to gain weight, so I created this horribly vicious cycle.

Even though I still get up and have a banana sometimes…good grief, it’s a banana. I am so grateful not to have to be at that part of my life anymore. My heart goes out to everyone suffering from NES.

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Gena January 27, 2014 at 7:57 am

Thank you so much for sharing your story, Amanda. It’s important for more folks to hear about it from those who have experienced it, and learn that they’re not alone. <3

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Amanda January 27, 2014 at 11:35 am

In full disclosure, I woke up last night and ate a bunch of calcium chews (yes, the delicious gummy ones) and some of the chocolate I had planned to eat later today. My husband and I have a system of locking sweets up usually, since having them out makes me worry I’ll eat them at night. This was just a reminder that, I suspect, I’ll always be vulnerable to little bouts of night eating. It’s NBD, though. It wasn’t a whole pie, like the poor Ambien folks have to deal with. :)

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Brittany Leigh January 27, 2014 at 1:44 am

I loving each week reading this! Please never stop! =)

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Gena January 27, 2014 at 7:57 am

Aww. Thanks Brittany. I love putting these together!

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janet @ the taste space January 27, 2014 at 7:58 am

Hey Gena,

I thought you may be interested that tooth decay and a raw food diet have been described before: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9831783
With vegetarians (not raw foodies), they have been shown to have great oral health but more decayed teeth:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23714722

I definitely think it is something to think about some more! Love to hear your thoughts… there isn’t much literature out there

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Gena January 27, 2014 at 8:04 am

Hey Janet! I always anticipate eagerly your responses to weekend reading :-)

I’ve seen the studies on raw foodies (disturbing to say the least–kind of like the studies on amenorrhea and raw foodism). I’ll totally consider a post on the larger issue of tooth decay and vegetarian diet — thanks for suggesting.

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janet @ the taste space January 27, 2014 at 8:19 am

No prob. You are too kind. :) I think the amenorrhea issue would be a great issue to highlight too. I’ve seen people post how they love the raw food diet because they lost their period and who the heck wants it? GAH!!

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Lia @ Luscious Living January 27, 2014 at 10:42 am

I do love the reading that you share. Always great information to put out there for the community. I had also been sent along that kale juicing article by a confused client who loved juicing, and wrote a bit about it as well. I came to the same conclusion, that balance is the key. Variety, colors, changes, in all aspects of life keeps us vibrant and healthy. Switching things up is almost always a great idea in diet, lifestyle, way of thinking, etc.

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Elizabeth January 27, 2014 at 11:04 am

I started researching the internet and drop by your blog in my quest of being vegan. Lots of useful information here. Just bookmarked, need to read them all.!

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Jennifer James January 27, 2014 at 12:03 pm

Great articles! I’m happy to have recently found your blog. I especially like the coverage of the crucifer article. Having been 90-100% raw and 100% vegan for many years now, it’s been interesting watching the circulation around the article. I’m a big fan of juicing and a big fan of rawfood, but I’m an even bigger fan of moderation and balance, which I believe is the key to everything.

Due to having Lyme disease, my crucifer intake is almost none because of the sulfur content which is dangerous for people with my disease, however, for your average healthy person, crucifers in moderation are an important part of nutrition. But, as my disease taught me quickly, it’s important, no matter what your diet is, to keep rotating the types of foods you use in your dishes. If fact, I think the only thing I consistently eat is an avocado nearly everyday.

And I’ll just keep my fingers crossed that the dentists who marvel at my teeth that eat almost only rawfood, will keep marveling at my teeth for many many years to come. So far, doing great on that front.

Thanks for the article!

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the delicate place (@Misathemeb) January 27, 2014 at 12:24 pm

ah this is why it is so critical to rotate your greens and veggies! too much of anything is never a good thing. it’s easy to get in a slump especially when you like something but the oxalates in those dark crucifers are high!

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Jenni January 27, 2014 at 12:53 pm

I clocked on the “Kale? Juicing? Trouble Ahead?” article and read it before going back to your page and reading what you wrote about it, and I have the same thoughts. When I read it, I wasn’t thinking, “Oh crap, I’m going to make myself sick from eating kale.” I was thinking, “This just goes to show that eating healthily isn’t the cure all in life.” I actually really loved the ending, whens she took a swig of milk and ate a Twinkie. Not because I believe milk and Twinkies are a good way to add balance to an otherwise healthy diet (haha!) but because of exactly what you mentioned about food prisons. Sometimes we lock ourselves up, when what’s on the other side of the bars isn’t really the most dangerous thing in the world.

I’m currently in the hospital for an infection that entered my body through a simple BLISTER of all things. Yeah…thanks, brand new Nikes. I’m in here with an IV in my arm, getting dosed with heavy duty antibiotics. I’ve always been one to talk about the downsides of antibiotics and traditional medicine, but as soon as I saw that red line creeping up my calf (the infection spreading through my body) I was like…give me the strongest s*@# you’ve got! Eating healthily, taking super foods, exercising, opting for natural medication–it’s all fine and dandy, but it doesn’t prevent EVERYTHING. And sometimes (like with fluoride toothpaste and the antibiotics I’m currently being administered), we need to loosen our grips a little bit. A prison is no place to be, especially when stepping outside of it can possibly save us.

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Jenni January 27, 2014 at 12:53 pm

*clicked on, not clocked on

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Jenni January 27, 2014 at 12:55 pm

ugh, also meant to say conventional medicine instead of traditional medicine. i should probably edit my long comments BEFORE posting them.

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Angela @ Canned Time January 27, 2014 at 4:07 pm

Love Green Kitchen Stories (just wish they’d go full-Vegan) and I love promoting how to eat as healthily as possible for a little cost as possible. I spend less now on my monthly groceries than I ever did prior to leaving meat and dairy behind. People just need to educate themselves away from what the news tells them is ‘healthy’ mostly, and then use those ‘smarts’ to buy fresh, practical items. I feel so good if I can use an item for 2 or 3 different meals. I know it takes more time than running through a drive through, but it is definitely as way of life once you make the changes to eat smart. Love David and Luise, thanks for sharing with us ♥

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Catherine @ Chocolate & Vegetables January 27, 2014 at 4:14 pm

That beet and avocado salad–so pretty! I’m going to have to check it out.

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Gina January 28, 2014 at 5:21 am

Wow! Thank you so much for including me in this list! I love reading this post each week! And could not believe I am actually in it! You are awesome! Much love, Gina

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Amy January 28, 2014 at 9:21 am

Interesting coverage of the NYT article- thanks for doing it (sorry, I am just seeing this now). I have no problem (in fact, wholeheartedly agree) with the author pointing out and making fun of our fixation with “safe, healthy foods” like kale- I remind myself daily to lighten up and be easier on myself. I was perplexed by the fluoride bit though- is she swallowing her toothpaste? If so, stop. Problem solved.

My biggest annoyance with the article was that I fear people may not grasp the subtle sarcasm of her message. I saw a bunch of people on facebook posting it and saying things like “I guess vegetables aren’t good for you after all!” and things like that. If there’s one thing America does not need, it’s another excuse for people to keep eating crap. Unfortunately, I feel the author did a disservice in this way based on the overall gist of the reactions I observed to the article.

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Christine (The Raw Project) January 28, 2014 at 11:44 am

Wonderfully informative reading list, thanks. Great recipes, especially the oatmeal – that could make a great dinner too. :-)

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Alex @ Kenzie Life January 28, 2014 at 11:47 am

As usual, such insightful thoughts, Gena! I read that same article about the problems of juicing. My best friend’s dad is a doctor and he emailed it to me, knowing that I eat a mostly vegan diet and I’m the only responsible for giving both of his sons green juice when they come over :) We had an interesting conversation about it because I thought the article missed a few key counterpoints. I think that anything in excess isn’t a great idea and I know that I’ve been working on balance in my diet (letting myself have “unhealthy” foods from time to time and not freaking out about it). There’s a time for kale and there’s also a time for french fries, at least in my opinion.

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Carissa January 30, 2014 at 4:04 pm

Thanks for always finding such insightful weekend reading for us! I love that you take the time to share your viewpoint, too. The thyroid issue is near and dear to my heart since I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism 3 years ago. I’ve done a considerable amount of research and am always frustrated to hear about many of my favorite foods that supposedly could be the cause of it. I came to the same conclusion about a varied diet that you did. So many of the foods that are pin pointed as bad for the thyroid are full of nutrients. Articles never seem to point out how many processed junk foods could also be causing health issues, which I think is frustrating. Thanks again for your insights!

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Gena January 31, 2014 at 8:53 am

Thanks Carissa! That’s a really great point re: processed junk foods, and something that I think the article left out.

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