Nutritional yeast

What is it?

Nutritional yeast is vegetarian, vegan, sugar free, gluten free, and dairy free.

“Nutritional yeast is produced from a single-celled organism, Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, which is grown, harvested, washed, and dried with heat to deactivate it. Nutritional yeast is an excellent source of protein and vitamins, especially B-complex vitamins, and it is a complete protein.”

“Nutritional yeast is also an excellent source of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, chromium, selenium, and other minerals as well as 18 amino acids, protein, folic acid, biotin, and other vitamins.”

“It is deactivated yeast – meaning it’s not going to grow and get frothy, or make bread rise – and it’s known for it’s cheesy, nutty, and sometimes creamy flavor. It’s free of sugar, dairy, and gluten…”

How is it used?

“Vegans and vegetarians use this in place of cheese in many recipes, as a topping for popcorn, and as a way to get additional vitamins in their diet.”

“For a great-tasting nutritious snack, sprinkle it liberally over hot popcorn.   Use it as a seasoning for salads, vegetables, potatoes, rice, sauces, gravies, soups, casseroles, sandwiches, and spreads.  Sprinkle it over spaghetti and other pasta, pizza, or other dishes as a healthful replacement for grated cheese.”

“And don’t worry about the yeast fermenting in your gut. It’s deactivated, so it will not give you the bloat.”


Dairy-free Avocado Cashew Creamy Dip

Spicy and Cheesy Kale Chips

Celery Root “Cheese” Sauce

Tangy Marinade/Dressing

Cashew Cheese and Pomegranate Filled Acorn Squash

Cauliflower Crust Pizza



Why haven’t humans evolved beyond gluten sensitivity?

I’ve done a lot of reading about gluten sensitivity, and because there’s so much research and data on both sides of the gluten is ok/gluten is the devil fence, it seems to me I just need to go with my gut (pun intended) and believe the research that seems more legit to me. Therefore, I have limited my gluten intake for about 2 years now, and while I haven’t been perfectly gluten-free, I have gone for short stints with no gluten, and I honestly don’t think I am gluten-sensitive. I still see, from a logical if not physical perspective, the benefits of avoiding gluten, so I still avoid it, much to the irritation of my spouse. His argument has repeatedly been, “If gluten is a real problem, why haven’t humans evolved to process gluten properly?” I have not been able to answer that question to my satisfaction, so here we are.

This article from Doctor Auer gives a quick history of grains in human diets, from ancient Egypt to present day, possibly correlating with the rise of osteoporosis, diabetes, and later cancer and various degenerative diseases. Modern production methods strip out most of the grains’ nutrients, add chemicals, and leave behind naturally occurring toxins that cause gut inflammation. To sum up:

We must remember that evolutionarily speaking, we have been around for almost two million years, but we have only been eating grains for a few thousand. As such, our bodies have not had the time to adapt to this “new” food in our diet. Furthermore, modern farming, harvesting, and processing methods have stripped grains of their nutritional integrity, decreasing their digestibility, and making them highly toxic and inflammatory food to our bodies.

Here’s more, from Science 2.0:

“Only for the past ten thousand years have we had wheat-based foods in our diets, which in evolutionary terms makes wheat almost a novel food. If you put that in context to the 2.5 millions years that mankind has been on earth, it makes sense that our bodies are still adapting to this food, and more specifically, the gluten that it contains.”

But the best answers come from this Paleo Mom article. She explains the role of evolutionary pressure, or factors that reduce reproductive success, in adaptation, and states that while humans have had enough time to adapt to grains, there has not been sufficient evolutionary pressure to do so, because health issues related to grain consumption do not generally affect reproduction rates. (There’s an interesting reader comment at the bottom about gut flora that’s worth researching, but not for this post.)

So the answer I will give to Spouse and anyone else is: Humans are adapting to process grains, but have not yet fully adapted because eating grains does not interfere with reproduction enough to select out grain-intolerant genes at a high rate.

How to get your first (or tenth) pull-up

Here are some tips compiled from various exercise gurus I have had the fortune to work with over the last couple years. Several friends have asked for these notes, so I thought I’d make them available here. Enjoy!

General rules

  • Install a pull up bar at home to be able to practice. Be able to stand on the ground or on a stable chair with your chin above the bar.
  • Work on your pull ups every other or every two days. Everyday is too often; your muscles need recovery time.
  • You can practice as many times as you want on pull up day–but not at all on off days.
  • Fight on the way down rather than just letting go–the negative-resistance builds muscles too.
  • Mix up grips (regular and reverse/chin up), widths (hands close together or farther apart), commando (one hand ahead of the other, palms facing).
  • Keep a log of your progress to keep you motivated.

To do your first pull up

  1. Pretend you can do a pull up. So much of this is mental!
  2. Use a stool or chair to help you get your chin over the bar. Rest as lightly as possible on the chair.
  3. Do as many assisted pull ups as you can, and then work on hang time–flexed arm hang as long as you can, and then just hang from the bar.
  4. Try scapular pull ups: hang from the bar and squeeze your shoulder blades together and down as hard as you can. Hold for 2 counts, and release. Repeat in sets of 10.
  5. Try hanging rows: suspend handles from your pull up bar and position your body beneath the bar in a plank, at an angle, holding the handles. Pull your chest to the handles, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Repeat in sets of 10, and to increase the difficulty, decrease the angle of your body to the floor, so that you’re lifting a larger percentage of your body weight.

Suggested workouts

Workout #1: Max set with negatives

  1. Do a max set of pull ups, rest, repeat until you can’t do any at all.
  2. Then get on a chair, get your chin over the bar, and do 10 negative-resistance reps.
  3. Finally, hang as long as possible.

Workout #2: Pyramid with negatives

  1. Pyramid: 1 pull up; shake it out. 2 reverse-grip pull ups; shake it out. Repeat to failure. At failure, come back down the pyramid.
  2. Then get on a chair, get your chin over the bar, and do 10 negative-resistance reps.
  3. Finally, hang as long as possible.

Workout #3: Just Twenty

20 pull ups, however you can get there.

Acetaminophen vs alcohol

I had a drinking event come up while I was on a NyQuil / DayQuil regimen, and I knew I wasn’t supposed to combine the alcohol with the acetaminophen, but I didn’t know why. Here’s why:

Acetaminophen is metabolized in the liver, where it is generally converted to harmless substances and flushed out of the body. When the amount of acetaminophen the liver needs to process is excessive, however, the regular pathway for metabolization is overwhelmed, and a secondary pathway is used, via the CYP2E1 enzyme. This pathway also happens to be the one used by the liver to metabolize alcohol. When breaking up acetaminophen, the CYP2E1 enzyme creates a small amount of a toxic compound called NAPQI as a byproduct. NAPQI is normally rendered harmless by naturally-occurring glutathione molecules.

Alcohol interferes with acetaminophen metabolism by increasing the activity of the CYP2E1 enzyme, so that it processes more acetaminophen, resulting in a larger quantity of NAPQI. If the amount of glutathione present cannot neutralize the NAPQI, the excess of toxins, called hepatotoxicity, can lead to liver damage.

Moral: don’t exceed the recommended daily dose of acetaminophen or drink more than the recommended number of drinks while taking the medicine. Read the labels!


Coconut oil for everyone

I use coconut oil for oil-based cooking almost exclusively nowadays, and people keep asking me why. Here are some of the wonders of coconut oil:

Coconut oil is high in saturated fat. Isn’t that bad? Maybe not. Not all fats are created equal, and coconut oil has many health benefits. From

  • Supports healthy metabolism
  • Supports thyroid function
  • Supports heart health
  • Strengthens the immune system
  • Assists in fat loss
  • Improves digestion
  • Improves skin appearance and elasticity
  • Helps treat Candida and yeast infections
  • Improves cholesterol levels
  • Assists in killing off viruses
  • Helps kill bacteria
  • Relieves symptoms of diabetes
  • Has proven anti-tumor effects

(Be sure to use virgin coconut oil, which hasn’t been hydrogenated.)

This doctor ditched all other cooking oils and uses coconut oil exclusively, citing studies and the omega-3-omega-6 ratio. Check out these recipes if you need convincing about the fabulousness of coconut oil:

And this blog is full of recipes and resources for Paleo eating.

Please share your favorite coconut oil discoveries with me!

What is melatonin, exactly?

What is melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by the body in response to darkness. A control center in the hypothalamus handles signaling related to processes that make us feel sleepy or awake, and when it’s dark (and only when it’s dark), the control center tells the pineal gland to produce melatonin. Natural melatonin production decreases with age, and people who have trouble sleeping are typically low in melatonin.

Should I take a melatonin supplement?

Study results are mixed regarding the effectiveness of melatonin as a sleep aid, and for its use in the treatment of all sorts of other physical and mental issues. It’s recommended that if you try it, you use it as a short-term supplement, for up to two months. The most common side effects are daytime sleepiness, dizziness, and headaches; there have been no reports of overdoses or toxicity.

Warnings: Melatonin could interfere with lots of different medications, so talk to your doctor if you’re medicating. It is the only hormone approved for sale in the US, and it is sold as a supplement, so it’s not regulated. Choose commercial supplements made in a lab, as those made from animal sources could contain contaminants.