Wine: The Pros and Cons

Drinking Wine

Should you or shouldn’t you?


The Plusses to Drinking Wine:

  • 1-2 glasses of wine per day appear to reduce stress and the effects of chronic inflammation.
  • Red wine contains polyphenols and this can be helpful to combat arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
  • When you drink wine with a meal it makes the meal seem like a special occasion and thus you may eat more slowly (which enhances digestion)
  • It is a better choice than sugary mixed drinks because these mixed drinks contain more sugar and thus spikes insulin.
  • Wine drinkers tend to sip rather than guzzle their beverage which means fewer intakes of alcohol, sugar and calories. 
  • A moderate amount which is equivalent to 5 oz. per day has been shown to lower your risk of heart disease. 
  • Moderate amounts of red wine (1-3 glasses per day, 3-4 times per week) may reduce your risk of dementia, depression, and some cancers. 
  • Good News for you white wine drinkers!  White wine has been shown to have many of the same positive health benefits as red wine. 

Downside to Drinking Wine

  • If you drink alcohol in excessive amounts it can increase your risk for breast cancer, cause brain damage and damage to the liver and other organs
  • Red wine does contain the antioxidant resveratrol that is found in the skin of grapes.  Resveratrol is good for fighting inflammation, heart disease, blood clotting, and cancer.  However the amount of resveratrol in wine is very low and to get the benefits of this powerful antioxidant, you would need to consume several bottles-not a good idea!  Add purple and black grapes to your diet and supplement with resveratrol for heart disease instead. 
  • Those who consume more than 5 oz. of red wine per day have a greater risk of heart disease.  Other studies show that 1-2 glasses of red wine per day can also lower your risk of stroke but more than this amount can increase your risk. 
  • When you start to go beyond moderate amounts of wine, the negative effects outweigh the benefits-for those who drink 2-3 glasses of red wine every day they have increased risk of liver disease, depression, weight gain and diabetes. 
  • Wines are still mostly empty calories that you may consume instead of healthy food choices so be cognizant if wine is replacing food in your diet. 
  • A glass of red wine (5 oz.) contains on average 125 calories.  So if you are consuming say 2 glasses 4 times per week that is 1,000 added calories per week.  It can easily cause the weight to creep on. 

Bottom line

Articles reviewed vary but the consensus seems to be 1-3 glasses of wine per day for 4-5 days per week is considered a moderate, healthy amount to consume to reap benefits. 

This is not meant to encourage you to drink up!  In fact, you can reap many of these health benefits from food alone.  But if you already drink wine, it may be good to know that staying in the moderate range can be supportive for your body.  This means not consuming wine every day but having 2 days off from drinking.

 If you add in other alcoholic beverages then you go from moderate drinking to excessive drinking.  Please be mindful of the amount you consume and it is best to avoid it (even if it does have health benefits) if you have had issues with alcohol in the past. 

Final Thought

While I do not imbibe personally (I have the alcohol flush gene on both sides which explains why I have never enjoyed the effects nor taste of alcohol) I have read about the quality and purity of wines.  What I did not realize is that many are filled with contaminants just like a processed food would be.  So do your homework before purchasing. 

I recently came across a site which does purity testing and has no sugar in its wines.  Check it out for more information on why the quality of your wine is important. 



Carson, T. (10/18/13) The Health Benefits of White Wine.   the-health-benefits-of-white-wine.

Bjarnadottir, A. (nd) Red wine: Good or Bad?

Truesdale, L. (8/16) 9 Secrets to Long Life.



Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition (candidate), author of the E book Tru Foods Depression Free Nutrition Guide; How Food Supplements and herbs can be used to lift your mood and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC believes in food first when addressing the root causes to your health conditions.  For more information, visit her website at

This information is meant for educational purposes only. 

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12 Signs that you are Protein Deficient

12 Signs that you are Protein Deficient


While society would have us think we get more than enough protein in our diet, what I see as a nutrition professional is just the opposite.  Too many are still on the low fat bandwagon and thus are eating a high carb diet. Many start the day with zero grams of protein! 

What would happen if we did not consume protein?

The simple answer is that the body would not function normally without protein and its essential amino acids.  While we can survive just fine by consuming a low carb diet, the same cannot be said for a low protein diet.  Yet, many are doing this without realizing it. 

Most people consume some protein daily and if you miss a few days due to illness you will be fine. However a long term protein deficiency can produce some significant symptoms but it can take up to a year of protein deficiency before these symptoms start to shout out at you. By then you may not be able to connect the dots of your symptoms to an unintentional low protein diet. 

Here is why you need protein and what happens if you are deficient


  • Compromised immune system. Are you picking up every germ that floats by?  Is it taking you longer to recover? 
  • Protein deprived body will grow weaker over time
  • Slow to heal from injury: you need protein to rebuild and heal. 
  • Your hormones, neurotransmitters, hemoglobin and antibodies all need protein to function. 
  • Protein is part of your nails, hair, skin, muscles and joints. 
  • It helps to regulate the pH of your body tissues and fluid
  • You need it to transport nutrients
  • It can be used for energy if necessary.

Bottom Line: protein is more important than we think!

Signs that you are not getting enough protein in your diet


  • Nails: rub your finger across your nails. Do you feel ridges? This can indicate a protein deficiency.  The more ridges you feel and the deeper you feel them, the more deficient you may be.  Also look at the moon shape of the new incoming nail. Can you see it on all nails? If so this indicates adequate protein intake. What if you can see it on some but not all? This indicates some protein deficiency. 
  • Food Cravings: your diet may be instead high carb and low protein which can cause blood sugar spikes and drops which leads you to crave more carbs. Add in protein at each meal to balance out your blood sugar. 
  • Swelling of the feet and ankles: protein plays a role in keeping fluid from accumulating in the tissues especially the feet and ankles. 
  • Hair loss (can also be due to disrupted thyroid function)
  • Brain fog:  While there can be many root causes for brain fog it can also be caused by blood sugar dysregulation which is caused by too many carbs and sugar and too little protein to balance it out. 
  • Slow Wound healing
  • Low libido
  • Loss of muscle tone (are you working out but not seeing results?)
  • Irritability
  • Depression: are you getting the amino acids your neurotransmitters need to function properly?
  • frequent illness
  • Can’t losing weight no matter how hard you try: protein speeds up your metabolism.  You feel more satisfied after consuming a meal with moderate amounts of protein thus less over eating. 

How much Protein do you need?

That depends on a lot of factors such as your age, your weight, your activity level, your current health.  But here are some general guidelines:

  • 0.8 g/kg of body weight for a non-athletic adult.
  • Up to 1.7 g./kg. for performance athletes
  • OR take your ideal weight (not your actual weight as you don’t need protein to fuel excess fat) and multiply that by .5 for a moderate active person, by .8 for an athlete and by .3 if you sit behind a desk all day (sedentary)
  • OR another general guideline is to consume 15 grams of protein at each meal and half that amount at each snack for a total of 60 grams of protein per day for the average person. 

Which groups of people are at greater risk of protein deficiency?


  • Those on chemotherapy or recovering from chemotherapy
  • Infants and children (for example a baby up to 6 months of age needs 2.2g/kg of body weight and at 1-3 years of age the toddler would need 1.8g/kg of body weight.
  • Athletes: you need protein to repair, rebuild and maintain your muscle mass. 
  • Anyone recovering from illness, injury or surgery. Your protein needs will increase during the healing process.
  • The aging: they tend to not consume enough protein and digestion may be compromised due to lower amounts of stomach acid as we age.  The high protein amounts will assist with physical and mental alertness. 
  • Pregnant and nursing moms: protein is crucial for the baby’s growth especially during the second and third trimester.  It is also an important component of breast milk which will optimize the growth and development of the baby.  A pregnant or breastfeeding mom needs 50% more protein than a woman who is not pregnant or breast feeding!

Protein Rich Foods


  • Beef, pork, poultry, eggs, fish, shellfish
  • Whey protein powder (Undenatured, grass fed)
  • Plant based protein powders
  • Nuts, seeds (raw)
  • Beans
  • Whole grains (i.e.: quinoa  not processed flour products)
  • Dairy (raw, organic, grass fed) Try goat milk or sheep milk products!
  • Bee pollen, micro algae, brewer’s yeast
  • bone broth (org.)
  • beef jerky or beef sticks (avoid the processed ones)
  • Protein bars such as Epic bars
  • Canned tuna or canned sardines (I like Wild Planet brand)


Do medications interact with protein?

  • Those taking Allopurinol (xanthine oxidase inhibitor used to prevent gout and to lower blood levels of uric acid in certain people taking drugs for cancer) and on a low protein diet may excrete less of the drug resulting in a 3 fold increase in the time it takes to drug to be removed from the body. 
  • Oral corticosteroids can cause loss of body protein.  Your doctor may recommend a high protein diet while on this medication.  However if you have kidney disease should not consume too much protein


Bauman, E. & Friedlander, J. (2014) Foundations in Nutrition. CA: Bauman College

Gaby, A. (2006) A-Z guide to Drug-Herb-Vitamin Interactions. NY: Three Rivers Press.

Markham, H. (6/22/16) You Asked: What happens if I don’t eat Enough Protein?

Smith, M. (6/16) No-fuss Animal Protein.

Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition (candidate), author of the E book Tru Foods Depression Free Nutrition Guide; How Food Supplements and herbs can be used to lift your mood and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC believes in food first when addressing the root causes to your health conditions.  For more information, visit her website at

As a nutrition professional, Karen Brennan does not treat, cure nor diagnose. This information is for educational purposes only.

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Lemon chicken: An Easy, Healthy Week Night Dinner

Lemon Chicken

Gluten free, dairy free, paleo

(Adapted from

Serves 4

I love this dish-so easy to make for a weeknight dinner and taste so good!  You probably have all the ingredients you need at home. 

lemon chick


  • 4 boneless chicken breast pounded thin (personally I don’t do this-instead I slice my thick chicken breasts so that they are thinner)
  • ¼ c. cornstarch, or potato starch (if using corn starch use non GMO brand)
  • ½ stick grass fed butter or ghee if dairy free
  • 1/3 c. dry white wine
  • 2/3 c. chicken broth (even better-use homemade bone broth)
  • Juice of half a lemon (or bottled pure lemon juice)
  • ½ t. fresh thyme minced (or dried if not fresh on hand)
  • s/p to taste


  1. Dredge chicken into cornstarch and shake away excess
  2. Melt butter in pan over med. Heat and add chicken
  3. Cook 5 min. each side until golden brown
  4. Remove chicken and set aside
  5. In the same pan, add wine, broth, lemon juice, salt, thyme, pepper, and whisk until blended.  Adjust sauce thickness as desired with water or additional cornstarch. 
  6. Bring to boil then return chicken to the pan. Lower heat and cook about 5 minutes
  7. Serve with basmati white rice or cauliflower rice and a salad.

Tip: use the left over in a salad to take to work the next day or slice thinner and wrap in gluten free tortillas with veggies to pack for a school lunch. 

Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition (candidate), author of the E book Tru Foods Depression Free Nutrition Guide; How Food Supplements and herbs can be used to lift your mood and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC believes in food first when addressing the root causes to your health conditions.  For more information, visit her website at

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Easy way to get more vitamin D from your food

Easy tip for the day:

How to get more vitamin D into your diet


If you love mushrooms you are in for a treat!

Not many foods that we consume contain vitamin D.  It is found in foods such as oily fish (how many of you consume sardines on a regular basis?) and small amounts in egg yolk (pasture raised-the deep orange kind) and grass fed butter. 

On top of that we spend most of our time indoors and not exposed to the vitamin D from the sun.  And if we are outside we are usually lathered up in sunscreen.  Also, if your cholesterol levels are too low you won’t be able to reap the benefits of vitamin D from the sun. 

In an experiment using shitake mushrooms sitting outside with gills up getting full sun for 6 hours per day for 2 days found that the vitamin D content in the mushrooms soared from 100 IU/100 grams to 46,000 IU/100 grams! Yes, mushrooms have been shown to be a rare food that can contain large amounts of vitamin D.

Here is a tip:

Take your mushrooms that you just purchased from the store (any kind will suffice) and keep them in a sunny window or outside.  (Studies showed they just had to be exposed to UVA light)

When they sit in the sunlight they act like little solar panels and soak up the sun!

Here is what you do:

Let them sit in the sun for 2 days in an area that they will get roughly 6 hours of sunlight.

If you are letting them sit outside, then cover them at night to avoid moisture from dew.  

Keep the gills exposed to the sunlight.   They will retain this amount of vitamin D for at least a year (not that you are going to wait that long before you eat them!)

And then eat as you normally would!



Gregor, M. (8/1/13) Vitamin D from Mushrooms, Sun, or Supplements?  mushrooms-sun-or-supplements/

Holick, M.F. Vitamin D deficiency.  New England Jounral of Medicine, 2007; 357(3): 266-81.

Stamets, P. (8/6/12) Place Mushrooms in Sunlight to Get Your Vitamin D.

___(4/16) Alternative Medicine. Issue 27.


Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition (candidate), author of the E book Tru Foods Depression Free Nutrition Guide; How Food Supplements and herbs can be used to lift your mood and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC believes in food first when addressing the root causes to your health conditions.  For more information, visit her website at

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B12: Could this be causing your depression?

B12: Could this be the answer to your depression?

steak kabob

As a nutritionist I look for root causes to mental health issues. The response that “It’s a chemical imbalance” does nothing to explain why someone is depressed. Nor does sitting on the couch of a professional for years do anything to help you if your root causes to depression are internal. 

Could your depression be caused by a vitamin deficiency?

Sometimes it could be as simple as a needed nutrient that your body is lacking.  The theory of an imbalance of serotonin in the brain may sound reasonable but it has never been proven. Yet many people, single mindedly, focus on this one possible cause. 

In reality there can be many root causes to depression.  B12 is just one of many that we will explore in this article. 

Why is B12 so important?

B12 plays a central role in the regulation of your neurotransmitters like your dopamine and serotonin.  The role that B12 plays with SAMe may have something to do with depression.  SAMe is found in every cell in the body and is also involved in the breakdown and production of your brain chemicals that are involved in regulating mood.  Not having enough B12 (or enough folate) can reduce your levels of SAMe. 

B12 also plays a role in mitochondrial health.  These power houses are responsible for each cells’ energy production which also plays a role in neurotransmitter signaling in the circuits that help to regulate mood.  So no B12 means poor mitochondrial health. 

Elevated cortisol levels which can be caused by chronic stress (from lifestyle, exercise and/or diet) can impact your moods as well.   High cortisol levels (your fight or flight hormone) can cause oxidative damage to your mitochondria and in turn affect your neurotransmitter signaling.  Nutrients including B12 along with folate, Omega 3’s , vitamin C, zinc and magnesium can protect your cells from this oxidative damage. 

B12 is part of the B complex family/What to supplement with

When looking to add more B12 into your diet it may be best to add in the B complex which includes niacin, folate and B6.  All of these can play a role in mood.  The best way to get your B12 is from organic grass fed meat products. Other sources include fish, cottage cheese and grass fed yogurt. 

However stress depletes our B vitamins so I typically recommend a B complex supplement. Remember training for an event and intense exercise is also stress on the body.  Lack of sleep is too.  

If you are a vegan or vegetarian then consider a B complex and an additional B12 supplement.  In a B complex look for your B6 in the P-5P form, your B12 as methylcobalamin and your Folate as methyl-folate.   Folic acid is synthetic.  Avoid it! Purchase a supplement that has 800 mcg. of folate and 400 mcg. of B12.

While you may need B12 in your diet, a whole foods diet with variety is the best way to achieve balance with your vitamins and minerals.  However, in today’s society sadly it is difficult to get all the nutrients our bodies need from food alone. 

Our soil is depleted, much of our food is weeks old by the time it hits the store shelves and then factor in the processed food, the GMO’s, chronic low stomach acid and our style of rushed eating, and you have the perfect storm for nutrient deficiencies. 


Are your medications causing your B12 deficiency?

pills in hand

Proton Pump inhibitors and histamine 2 receptor antagonists are two classes of drugs that can cause a B12 deficiency. Ask yourself if your depression started or got worse after starting on these medications.  Other drugs that can cause a B12 deficiency include birth control pills and nitric oxide (laughing gas).

So what you may have thought as a brain imbalance may in reality be a nutrient imbalance. All our vitamins and minerals are meant to work in harmony.  This means that excess of any one nutrient can cause an imbalance with others. 

Other symptoms of a B12 deficiency (other than depression)

boy looking out train window

  • constant tiredness
  • pins and needles sensation
  • hair loss
  • numbness in hands/feet
  • palpitations
  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • tremors
  • sore tongue

Causes of B12 Deficiency

basket of veggies

This article does not touch on all the reasons why you may have low B12 so here are some others you may wish to explore further.

  • Vegan or vegetarian diet
  • Low stomach acid (many have low stomach acid not high and we need stomach acid to synthesize our B12). Proton Pumps lower your stomach acid. 
  • Medications
  • High homocysteine levels (B12 is needed for homocysteine metabolism.  B12 deficiency allows for the buildup of homocysteine. High homocysteine is a factor to consider when one has depression)
  • Not getting enough folate with your B12
  • Autoimmune condition
  • Leaky gut syndrome
  • Weight loss surgery
  • Eating disorder
  • Old age (as we age we lose our ability to absorb our B12, as we age we tend to have lower stomach acid levels)

Stay tuned for my next blog post on: B12 testing: Pros and cons of various tests

Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, author of Tru Foods Depression Free Nutrition, Supplement and herb guide and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC believes in addressing the root causes of your health issues with nutrition, supplements and herbs.  For more information, visit her website at





Allen, L. How common is vitamin b-12 deficiency? Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 2009 Feb; 89(2): 693s-6s. doi:

   10.3945/ajcn.2008.26947a. Epub 2008 Dec. 30.

Bauman, E. & Friedlander, J. (2013) Therapeutic Nutrition.  CA: Bauman College

Haas, E. & Levin, B. (2006) Staying Healthy with Nutrition. The complete guide to diet and nutritional

   Medicine.  CA: Celestial Arts.

McTaggarat, L. A Beautiful Mind.  What Doctors won’t tell you.  August 2016 issue.




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Five Servings of Vegetables per day: Here is how to get them in

How to get a days worth of vegetables into one meal!

salad picture

While in a perfect world we would get our veggies in at every meal and snack but the reality is few do.  Here is an example of how to get as many veggies into one meal! 

Salads: the easy way to get your veggie intake

I love salads!  It is the easiest way to get your share of veggies.  Here is what is in the salad in the picture as an example

  • dark leafy greens: I buy a box of mixed organic greens so that I get a variety
  • red onion (the darker color of the red onion versus the white onion means for more phytonutrients. Onions are also prebiotics)
  • asparagus tips (raw asparagus is a prebiotic which is essentially food for your probiotics)
  • cucumber (I buy organic so I can leave the skin on which will provide me with more nutrients)
  • shredded cabbage and carrot blend: I make it easy on myself and buy this in a bag which contains red and green cabbage. 
  • carrots: we have a farmers share for the summer.  Since I know my source I just slice them.  Yup, leave some of the dirt residue on and leave the skin on!
  • pea pods, sugar snap peas: again, we have been getting them from the farmers share.  Off season I buy them in the store. 
  • Dressing: I use a high quality EVOO which adds a rich flavor to my dressing and makes all the difference in the world!  I use this EVOO for mainly raw dishes.  I add in balsamic vinegar, raw minced garlic and fresh herbs. I have herbs growing in pots on my deck so I just cut what I need.  I chop up some basil, rosemary, thyme, cilantro and parsley and toss it all into the dressing. 

And there you have it-one salad and I have just eaten fresh herbs and roughly 11 different veggies.  If I had mushrooms I may have added this in. I grow my own sprouts but didn’t have any ready for this salad.  Sprouts are nutrient dense and contain protein.    I don’t eat many nightshades but otherwise I would have added in chopped pepper and tomatoes. 

The salad in the picture is a bit smaller as most often I put my salad in a large bowl to make it the main portion of my meal.  You can toss in proteins such as steak, seafood or chicken to make it a meal. 

I just wanted to show you that it is not as hard as you think to get all your veggies in one day!


Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, author of the “Tru Foods Depression Free Nutrition Guide.” and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC believes in food first when addressing root causes of your health condition.  For more information, visit her website at

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Got Stress? Anxiety? 11 Herbs that can help!

Stressed? Anxiety?
Fast, Easy and Effective Ways to Reduce Stress and Anxiety

(I have updated this twice-it started out with 8 herbs and is now up to 11 different herbs to try for anxiety)

stressed person
Before I go into detail about the herbs that can help you to manage your stress and anxiety, I do want to point out that diet and lifestyle still need to be addressed.

For years I suffered from anxiety. (Back then it was just called “being very shy”). Thankfully back then doctors weren’t as quick to diagnose and medicate every mental health issue.

But what helped me, (and may help you) is balancing my blood sugar. Back then in my elementary school years, before school, I ate 2 chocolate pop tarts, only a few bites of my lunch usually and then a pretty healthy dinner. By the time I got to high school and college I stopped eating the pop tarts but can’t say my diet was much better.

It wasn’t until I started to eat balanced meals, whole foods and reduce the processed junk that my anxiety diminished. I can’t say I don’t have some situational anxiety from time to time but nothing like what I grew up with!

Use the herbs but while they are helping start making small changes to your diet too! If you need more dietary help for your stress and anxiety just give me a call!

Lifestyle Tips for Reducing Stress and Anxiety

basket of veggies
• Keep blood sugar balanced
• Start the day with a meal high in fat, with moderate protein and low amounts of whole food carbs. (i.e.: eggs, bacon, avocado, with sauté kale or spinach, or a green protein smoothie)

• Minimize or eliminate caffeine (try Teccino or dandy blend tea-taste just like coffee!)

Add in a B complex supplement. (stress depletes us of our B vitamins) Add in an extra B12 if you do not eat red meat
Add in a vitamin C with bioflavonoids, 1,000 mg. per day as stress will also deplete your vitamin C

Add in magnesium. I like magnesium l-threonate (crossed blood brain barrier), ReMag by Carolyn Dean, or Natural Calm magnesium powder to drink before bed time.

• Stress slows down your digestion making you absorb less nutrients so when stressed be sure to slow down, take 3 deep breaths before your meal and chew each bite of food 15-20 times.

• When stressed we tend to eat and work at the same time. Studies have shown that this actually reduces work performance. Take a brain break and eat away from your desk, get some fresh air and talk with a co- worker about something other than work. This will greatly reduce your stress load!

Herbs for Quick Stress relief

ginkgo flower picture
With herbs everyone reacts differently so some may love one herb for stress and another person may not get the same effect. It will be a try and see approach.

Purchase herbs for stress in tincture form (unless noted otherwise) and only get from reputable source such as Herb Pharm, Gaia Herbs or Rose Mountain Herbs or your local trusted herb shop. Try only one herb at a time so you know what is or isn’t working. Make sure the herbs you are using are certified organic.

Herbs in tincture form are more potent if made with alcohol. But if you have issues with alcohol it is still best to opt for the non-alcoholic tinctures. One dropper full of tincture has the alcohol amount that is equal to the amount of alcohol in one banana.
Always talk to your doctor before adding in any herbs as this is for educational purposes only since I am not aware of your medications, heath issues and more.

Gingko Biloba: Choose in extract/tincture form or gingkolide tablets. With tablets, take 160-180 mg. one time daily. It has been shown to be significantly more effective than a placebo for anxiety. It may reverse depression especially in older people on blood pressure medication. Do not use this herb if you have a racing mind at bed time. Also, avoid this herb if you are prone to migraines. I prefer this herb in tincture form. It is known as the herb for memory and concentration.

Kava: This is good to use if you have anxiety. Take 60-120 mg. daily and do not exceed 120 mg. daily. Do not use this herb for children. This herb is known to ground and center you, keeping you relaxed and alert. You can take this herb during the day as it will not make you drowsy. Kava is known to increase the dream state. It is a mood elevator. You can take 2 droppers full at bedtime or a heaping teaspoon in one cup water 2 times per day as a tea. You can mix your Kava with Valerian together at bedtime for improved sleep.

Eleuthero: This is an adaptogenic herb which has been shown to enhance mental performance, concentration and alertness. This is not an actual ginseng but is often called a ginseng because it works in a similar way. It is used for nervous breakdowns and depression. It is used to strengthen the entire system. Adaptogenic herbs help to build resilience to stress. Take any adaptogenic herb for 12 weeks only, then take a week or 2 off and then go back on or switch at that point to a different adaptogenic herb such as Rhodiola. Ashwagandha is also an adaptogenic herb and this one is better taken in the evening. Take only 1/8 of a teaspoon of eleuthero tincture.

Lemon Balm: This plant has anti-depressant effects along with calming, anti-anxiety effects as well. Use it to calm the nerves and to boost mood. Those with ADHD can also benefit from using this herb. Drink lemon balm tea one to three times daily. Use lemon balm tincture, 10-20 drops in water 3-5 times per day for depression, anxiety and tension headaches. Some people add fresh lemon balm leaves to their drinking water. Do not use if you have a hypothyroid condition.

Skullcap: This is good for nervousness, anxiety and stress. It is also useful for those of you with insomnia, especially if it is due to an overactive mind at bedtime. Take one half of a dropper full of tincture before bedtime.

Nettle leaves and seed: This is one of my favorites for body restoration. Nettles are a source of nutrients for all individuals. It is one of the most nourishing plants growing on the land. The leaves and seed offer a wide variety of nutrients. Take a dropper full of nettle leaf tincture 3 times per day or buy organic whole seeds, grind them up and eat 1-3 teaspoons per day.  (you can sprinkle the seeds into smoothies and salads). While this plant is not directly known for its anti-anxiety properties, it is nourishing and balancing and can support the body and give it what it needs during times of stress and anxiety. 

Motherwort: Do not take this herb if you have heavy menses. Otherwise, this is another good herb to use for anxiety. It is not a sedative so can be used during the day. A dose of 10-20 drops can safely be taken as often as every 10 minutes if needed to calm you down, say during a panic attack. Fresh tincture is best and best option as opposed to tea and capsules. Do not use this herb long term if you also have depression. It can relax you to the point of making you feel more depressed and unmotivated. Use it instead for episodic anxiety.

Valerian: This has a different feel to it, a different calming effect as oppose to Kava. It is helpful for anxiety and tension. This herb should be taken only at bedtime or when you know you are not going anywhere! Do not operate any heavy machinery or drive while taking valerian. For some it can give the opposite effect-instead of calming you down, it may increase your anxiety. For that reason, dose low. The same rule that applies to Motherwort applies to Valerian. Use on occasion to aid with sleep but don’t use it all the time during your depressive state. Most people do best using the tincture form instead of capsules. Take 400-900 mg per day of whole valerian or root extract.

Linden: It has been used to calm the nerves and promote rest.  The flowers and leaves are known to have a calming action on the nervous system.  Linden flower tea is very popular in Europe and used to calm the nerves and aid digestion as well. 

Tulsi Tea:  This is also called Holy Basil.  Choose an organic brand and drink 1 to 3 times per day during times of stress. I like the brand Organic India. 

Sage Leaf: Sage promotes a calming sensation to the brain and is good for those who tend to “overthink”.  If you tend to get sweaty palms or produce excess sweat during times of feeling anxious, sage can he helpful for that as well.  Take this in tincture form at one to three droppers per day. 


Balch, P. ( 2012)   Prescription for Herbal Healing.  2nd Edition.  NY: Avery Publishing

Gaby, A.(2006) The Natural Pharmacy. Revised and updated 3rd edition.  NY: Three Rivers Press

Gladstar, R. (2012) Medicinal Herbs. A beginners Guide.  CA: Story Publishing

Hoffman, D. (2003) Medical Herbalism.  VT: Healing Arts Press

Mars, B. (2007) The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine.  CA: Basic Health Publications

Pursell, JJ.  (2015) The Healing Apothecary.  OR: Timber Press. 

Skenderi, G. (2003) Herbal Vade Mecum. NJ: Herbacy Press


Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services LLC believes in supporting the body with food, herbs and supplements to get you feeling your best. For more information visit her site at She is the author of the E book Tru Foods Depression Free Nutrition, Supplement and Herb Guide

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Sugar and its impact it is having on your health

Is Sugar Really that Bad?
Effects of Sugar on the body


By now most of you know to avoid and minimize your sugar intake. But do you really know why it is so important to reduce your sugar consumption?

Reasons why you should Avoid Processed Sugar

• There is a link between a processed food diet and disease-most processed foods are high in refined carbs, void of nutrients, and these carbs convert rapidly into sugar in your blood stream
Sugar is the underlying factor in diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and obesity, not saturated fats like you led to believe
• Healthy weight-some people think that because they are not overweight it is okay to eat as much sugar as they want. Even if you don’t gain weight, sugar will raise triglyceride levels, total cholesterol, and increase blood pressure
Fructose-this is the worst kind of sugar because it has to be metabolized in your liver instead of in your intestines like glucose.
o Your liver turns fructose into liver fat which causes metabolic problems.
o Excess fructose shuts down the part of your brain that tells you when you are full; thus making overeating likely. Your Liver can only handle small quantities of fructose at any given time so excess fructose is stored as body fat instead of being burned as energy.
o When you consume fructose in liquid form such as a soda, the effects not only speed up but are also magnified.
o Fructose is not the preferred energy source for muscles or the brain
• It is more fat producing than glucose: basically fructose will pack on the pounds!
• Elevated insulin levels (caused by consuming too much processed sugar) give cancer tumors a boost by directing cancer cells to consume glucose.
• Some cancers actually contain insulin receptors, harnessing glucose to grow and spread. For these cancers, eating sugar is like putting fuel on the fire.
• If you have cancer it is wise to remove all excess sugar from your diet: do your homework on this subject as hospitals will still give cancer patients foods loaded with sugar. Yes, Ensure ( a common product given to cancer patients) is filled with “crap” ingredients including sugar. Read labels!
Sugar is related to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
o There is still some debate however among neurologists and other medical professionals but research shows that sugar and other high refined carb type foods in excess age the brain and can increase the risk of dementia.
o When you consume sugar in excess, it forms toxic compounds called advanced glycations end products (AGES) Yes, sugar ages you!
o Too much of the fast releasing glucose (which happens when you eat the refined carbs and sugary processed foods) overloads the brain cells which are less capable of handling this overload than the muscle cells. (A high sugar, processed food diet can cause or contribute to depression)
o So the more sugar and refined carbs you eat, the higher your insulin levels will be and then more peaks in your blood sugar levels.
o These swings from high to low in your blood sugar will leave you tired, unable to concentrate and eventually over time it can lead to fading memory.
 Over time your body will become less responsive to its own insulin and will develop insulin resistant which is the precursor to diabetes
 And many are calling Alzheimer’s “type 3” diabetes.

Natural Alternatives

• If trying to eliminate sugar from your diet rather try to reduce your processed sugar intake. If you eliminate sugar completely from your diet you will also be eliminating very healthy choices such as some vegetables and fruits. These are the foods that you do want in your diet! You do need some sugar in your diet to fuel your muscles and keep your brain active. So choose whole foods for your sugar source! Beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, berries, apples and bananas are a few examples.

• Fruit is still the better option than processed food because it contains fiber and other vital nutrients needed for our health. Because of the fiber and additional nutrients, it does not cause the immediate spike in blood sugar that say a donut would that is void of additional nutrients. However it is easy to go overboard on the fruit-2 servings per day only unless you are a very active person!
• Stevia Leaf to use as a sweetener. Not Truvia or Purevia which are processed products and not stevia in its pure form.
• Small amounts of raw honey and pure grade B Maple syrup. Again, small amounts. But these do contain some nutrients. Use these in meals and snacks that are not cooked or cooked below 115 degrees as the heat will destroy the beneficial nutrients in these products.

Benefits of a Sugar Free Lifestyle

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• Just read the “effects of sugar” to know the benefits of a processed sugar free lifestyle
• decreased cancer risk
• improved triglyceride levels
• manage weight/lose weight
• reduce diabetes risk
• healthy brain function
• reduce heart disease risk
• have more energy
• clearer more vibrant skin

Want to know more about how to stop those sugar cravings? Stay tuned for herbs and supplements to help when those cravings hit.

Bauman, E. & Friedlander, J. (2014) Therapeutic Nutrition. Pengrove, CA: Bauman College
Ellison, S. (Set/Oct. 2015) Sugar. Why it sabotages our health., vol. 16, no. 2.
Mercola, J. (7/25/15) Sugar Industry Secretes Exposed.

Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, owner of Tru Foods Nutrition LLC and author of the Tru Foods Depression Free Nutrition Guide E book believes in getting to the root of your health issues instead of symptom management. For more information, visit her site at


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