Wellness Blog

HWNC strives to maintain information flow to those interested in improving health, needing special dietary information, and more. This page is dedicated to serving that need. Short articles on specific topics, emerging research results, recipes, wellness and stress management tips, and more will be found at this location.

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Sweet Potato Almond Butter Muffins

Posted on October 28, 2017 at 8:20 PM

1 flax egg substitute

3/4 cup sweet potato puree

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 Tablespoons canola oil (or melted coconut oil)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 cup flour (can use gluten-free mix)

1/2 cup oat flour (ground from rolled oats)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup almond butter


1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line muffin tin with paper liners.

2) Prepare flax egg in a large mixing bowl and let set for a few minutes.

3) Add sweet potato puree, brown sugar, oil, and vanilla extract and mix. Then add almond milk and stir once more.

4) Carefully combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon and oat flour. Stir until just combined.

5) Spoon batter into muffin tins until filled almost to the top. Then drop about 1 teaspoon almond butter onto the center of each muffin and gently swirl around with a toothpick or knife.

6) Bake for 20-22 minutes (or more) until golden brown and a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let rest in tins for 5 minutes. Then transfer to a cooling rack to let cool completely.

7) Cool completely or they will not come off the wrapper well. Store in an air-tight container and refrigerate to ensure freshness. Will keep in the freezer for up to a few weeks.

Per muffin: 195 calories; 8.5g fat, 6.8g sugar, 2g fiber, 3.9g protein, 208mg sodium.

High Protein Snacks for Health

Posted on October 28, 2017 at 8:15 PM

Are you a prone to snacking? If so, don’t feel alone. National dietary surveys show 90% of adults, 83% of adolescents, and 97% of children snack daily. Make those snacks work toward improving your health! Many benefits have been found in choosing high protein snacks over other snacking options. Several studies show this choice in snacking increases satiety and may help in weight management. However, the benefits do not stop here.

Additional research shows connections between high-protein snacks and stabilized blood glucose. A protein based mid-morning snack has the ability to stop high/low drops in blood sugar between breakfast and lunch, or lunch and dinner. This leads to better insulin response in the body and balanced energy throughout the day.

The American Journal of Hypertension reports a connection between protein intakes and high blood pressure. Research published in this journal shows people with higher over-all protein intakes also experience lower blood pressure. Making this yet another good reason to use snacking as an opportunity to boost your over-all daily protein.

Are you physically active or perhaps an athlete (weekend or otherwise)? Then the importance of protein is not news to you. Protein plays a vital role is muscle mass, strength, and endurance. High protein snacks and protein shakes after exertion is mainstay for a peak performance.

What types of snacks will provide the greatest benefit? That will depend on each individual and personal activity levels. However, here are some generalized suggestions. For those without lactose intolerance, Greek yogurt (17g), or cottage cheese (12g) provides a good protein boost. Nut butters (8g) when combined with a complex carbohydrate (cracker) can offer a healthy protein boost and extend energy.

A simple choice could be a small amount of nuts. Of course it should not be overlooked that a small piece of meat is also a good protein choice. If you are a non-meat eater then look to a small serving of beans or lentils. In a hurry and needing to keep it simple? Then choose a high protein bar. Many of these bars contain as much as 25g of protein. Please note: look at the labels on protein bars carefully. May also contain high amounts of sugar or sugar alcohols.

Let’s face it. We all snack at one time or another. The next time the urge strikes, reach for something high in protein rather than sugar or salt. The health benefits are greater and you will feel more satisfied!

Swaps for Egg Allergy

Posted on October 28, 2017 at 8:10 PM

Egg allergies are on the rise. Typically, children under the age of 5 are more sensitive to the proteins found in egg whites. However, a continued sensitivity after age five may be an egg allergy. Many times it is the chicken feed causing the sensitivity (corn), but if you are suffering egg allergy it affects many foods beyond the egg itself.

Eggs are found in many prepackaged foods. Mayonnaise, “just add water” mixes, pizza dough, and some pasta are examples of hidden eggs. Other places are bagels that receive an egg wash, and breading found on fried foods. Sometimes eggs are used as a binding agent. Meatloaf, meatballs, lentil loaf and other similar foods all use egg as a binder to hold the finished item in a solid form. Unfortunately, many vegetarian packaged products (burgers, etc.) also use egg as a binder. If you are eating a plant based diet and have egg allergy look for products marked vegan. Vegan products do not contain eggs.

Eggs serve several purposes in recipes. These include leavening, binding, and providing structure or texture in finished products. There are several substitutes for eggs that will still produce a satisfying end result.

If you are not opposed to the added banana flavor, the one ripe banana can replace one egg. Best recipes to use bananas in are cookies, sweet breads, and cakes, especially pancakes. Roughly one ripe, mashed banana equals one egg. Bananas add moisture, which can increase the denseness of the cookie or cake.

One-quarter cup of applesauce can replace one egg. The best recipes in which to use applesauce are those that don't require significant structural support such as cookies or brownies. The end product will have a slight apple taste, be moist and airy. Applesauce is added with the other wet ingredients.

A personal favorite is the use of ground flax seeds to replace eggs. Mix one tablespoon of ground flaxseeds with three tablespoons of water with a fork or whisk and let sit for 20 minutes. The mixture will turn gelatinous, with a texture similar to egg whites. Flax offers additional omega-3s along with binding, leavening, structure and texture in your finished products. If you are looing for an all-purpose substitute for eggs, then flaxseeds are a great choice.

Healthy Fall Foods

Posted on October 28, 2017 at 8:10 PM

Fall is upon us! Along with the beauty of the season comes an onslaught of health issues. Fall allergy reactions may stem from hay fever, molds, and the dry pollen circulating in the air. If you are prone to allergies here are a few tips to enjoy the season without the inconvenience of sniffles and sneezes.

First and foremost, feed your immune system! One of the best ways to avoid illness is to boost your immune system. Look at the fall harvest of foods. Winter squash, late bell peppers, pumpkin, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and even hot peppers offer nutrients to fight allergies and infections. Choose vegetables and fruits with high vitamin C content but low sugar.

Many people instinctively reach for oranges at the first sign of distress. While they are a source of vitamin C, the sugar content limits the positive effect. Recent studies have found sugar causes an inflammatory response in the body. When you are suffering allergies, fever, and illness in general, it is the inflammatory response you are attempting to quiet.

When looking at the fall harvest think orange. Vegetables and fruit with a deep orange hue are packed with vitamin A and C along with many minerals needed to strengthen white cell production. For many of the same reasons, include green leafy vegetables as well.

Another fall food with the ability to fight back is mushrooms. Mushrooms increase the production and activity of white blood cells. Most importantly, compounds within the mushroom make these immunity cells more aggressive. Mushrooms contain beta-glucans. The compound supports natural killer cells, macrophages, and neutrophils¬¬¬— vital components of the immune system.

Another white cell benefactor is fish. While we think mostly about the omega content of fish, it also contains selenium. Selenium assists white blood cells in developing cytokines. Cytokines are instrumental in removing flu viruses from the body. Back to the omegas, the reduced inflammatory responses open the respiratory system airflow. Thereby, reducing lung infections such as colds and respiratory illness.

A crucial part of fighting the illness fall/winter has to offer is getting enough rest. Autumn is the gateway into a busy and often stressful time of the year. Reduced rest enables the lurking viruses and bacteria to take hold at the most inconvenient time! Try this recipe filled with health enhancing ingredients.

Coffee for Weight Loss

Posted on July 5, 2017 at 1:20 AM

Over the last several days I have heard many news story teasers about using coffee to loose weight. This stems from research conducted on obese mice, more on that in a moment.

Caffeine has been used as the stimulant additive in many over-the-counter weight loss products. This is nothing new, as it has been available for decades. Various weight loss pills rely on high caffeine to bring about reduced appetite leading to weight loss. In some cases, the products were removed from the marketplace due to the negative health effects of too much caffeine. Sadly, many all-natural weight loss products also followed this pattern— using botanicals containing caffeine.

Present day… Recently released research has once again indicated a link between caffeine and weight loss. In the journal “Nature Communications” researchers showed obese mice fed caffeine and a high fat diet experienced reduced appetite, improved energy, and weight loss. The caffeine was able to reduce the effects of circulating adenosine and adenosine receptor (A1R) linked to obesity.

The headline coffee suggesting the next “quick-fix” for those overweight is misleading. Yes, the mice lost weight. However, the amount of caffeine ingested was extremely high…the equivalent for a human of nearly 30 cups of coffee daily!

The exact formula was 60 mg of caffeine for each kg of body weight. So, a 150-pound person would need to consume roughly 27 cups of coffee daily to achieve weight loss. (60mg x 68kg = 4,080mg caffeine divided by 150mg for cup of coffee)

Caffeine toxicity can cause tremendous health damage and in high enough amounts dealth. The amount suggested in the study is under toxic levels per pound of body weight. However, each person will have a differing tolerance level. Even without the risk of fatality, there are still GI tract, neurological, cardiovascular and other issues that can result with high caffeine intakes.

When it comes to weight loss the best approach is looking at your dietary choices first and your activity levels next. This is the best method to ensure weight loss that is retained while minimizing harm to the body.

Dianna Richardson, ND July 2017

Reference: Wu, L. et al. Caffeine inhibits hypothalamic A1R to excite oxytocin neuron and ameliorate dietary obesity in mice. Nature Communication. 8, 15904 doi: 10.1038/ncomms15904 (2017)

Food in the Spotlight

Posted on July 5, 2017 at 1:15 AM

For those in cancer treatment, food during and after treatment plays an essential role in recovery. Changes in appetite, energy and food preferences can make it challenging to choose healthy foods needed to restore vitality. At assist in these issues here are a few suggestions.

Flavor-building is a technique layers different tastes to tailor change making healthy food more appealing. Tame overly sweet tastes with a touch of lemon, dash of bitters, or Worcestershire sauce. While spices enhance the flavor of foods and stimulate appetite, too spicy can be a determent. Add avocado, olive oil, nut butter, or butter will tone down spiciness.

If your taste buds have gone away (temporarily), the use textures and colors to make healthy foods more appealing. For example, a simple chicken breast will have more appeal when dressed up on a plate with a bright sweet potato and green vegetables. Likewise, rice or other white/bland color foods will become more desirable when dressed with tomatoes, colored peppers, fruit, etc. Remember to combine soft and bits of crunchy foods for the texture contrasts.

Take advantage of using different cooking techniques. Oven roasting vegetables will enhance flavors and bring out natural sweetness. If roasting vegetables use the oven to bake fruit sprinkled with cinnamon for times softer textures are preferred.

No-bake energy balls not only serve as a good nutritionally dense snack, but can help on days appetite is waning. The old standby of nut butter and apples or veggies is another simple option providing needed nutrients.

For days when food is lacking all appeal, bulk up a smoothie. Vegetables, fruit, protein powder are often staples in the smoothie arena. Don’t overlook the health benefits of tofu, nuts, seeds, sea vegetables and other options. The bottom line is your nutritional intakes play a role in helping your body fight cancer, as well as recoup after the battle. Working with a professional versed in the special needs of cancer patients will also help you meet your new health goals.

Dianna Richardson, ND July 2017

NSAIDS, Heart attack & Stroke

Posted on July 5, 2017 at 1:15 AM

NSAIDS…Heart Attack & Stroke

In the last couple of years we have heard many concerns surrounding NSAID (non-steroidal inflammatory drugs). Recently, a group of medical professionals sought to distinguish fact from fiction surrounding claims of NSAID use dangers. The quest was to determine what dosage and duration was linked to elevated risk for myocardial infarction (MI) —heart attack— and stroke. Was someone taking an NSAID for a headache a higher risk? Did that risk increase or stay the same is the drug was taken daily for a period of time? Importantly, did the dosage of the drug have an impact on risk factors?

A review of 82 studies that included 446,763 patients aged 40 to 79 years old. Of those patients, 61,460 had an MI. Increased risk for heart attack was associated with the use of all NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naproxen, and rofecoxib*) used in the studies and began immediately after exposure — often within 1 to 7 days.

The researchers found the higher the dosage of NSAIDs, regardless of which one used, was associated with high risk for MI. A 50% increase in risk was noted over 8 to 30 days following use among patients taking higher doses of NSAIDS. High dose was defined as follows 1200 mg daily of ibuprofen, 750 mg daily of naproxen, and greater than 25 mg daily of rofecoxib*. This increased risk for heart attack did not continue to increase under longer durations. Please note these same risks occurred for patients without any history of heart disease.

Currently, ibuprofen (Advil/Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve) are considered the main go to over-the-counter pain relievers for musculoskeletal injury and inflammation. Unfortunately, many people are unknowingly placing themselves at risk for more serious problems when dosing at higher amounts. Under these circumstances it may be a better choice to pursue physical therapy, acupuncture, yoga, and other natural avenues to address chronic pain. Carefully weigh your pain against the risk of MI before reaching for the bottle.

*rofecoxib is generic for Vioxx that was removed from the marketplace several years ago. It had been prescribed for some of the patients included in this research review. Thus it is included in these findings.

Dianna Richardson, ND July 2017


Bally, Michèle, et al. “Risk of Acute Myocardial Infarction with NSAIDs in Real World Use: Bayesian Meta-Analysis of Individual Patient Data.” BMJ. 2017;357: j1909. doi: 10.1136/bmj.j1909

Non-Aspirin Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs): Drug Safety Communication — FDA Strengthens Warning of Increased Chance of Heart Attack or Stroke. US Food & Drug Administration. Updated July 09, 2015. Available at: https://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/SafetyInformation/SafetyAlertsforHumanMedicalProducts/

Figs for Constipation

Posted on July 5, 2017 at 1:10 AM

Americans spend over $2 billion a year on laxatives to deal with constipation. Between 24% to almost 50% suffer with chronic constipation. For those relying on laxatives and stool softeners, foods to improve digestive health may be a better choice. A new study has added figs to the list of effective foods to aid intestinal health and relieve constipation.

Figs are grown all over the world. Approximately 99% of the U.S. crop in grown in California. Figs have a unique, sweet taste; a chewy texture with an added crunchiness in their seeds. Most often figs are dried creating a sweet and nutritious item that can be enjoyed throughout the year. Figs are high in natural simple sugars, minerals, fiber, and flavonoids.

Historically, figs have served as a laxative. An Added benefit is the ability to nourish and tone the intestines. Recent studies have shown fig consumption lead to increases in the production of mucin that lines the intestines, as well as improved intestinal contractions that propel food through the intestines. Addition of figs also shortened the time fecal material stayed in the colon. Science showed the figs had a pronounced prebiotic effect.

Fig research was conducted on people suffering functional constipation. Functional constipation is defined when people experience reduced stool frequency (e.g., less than 3 bowel movements a week), hard stools, and difficulty or straining passing stools. Functional constipation is different from the irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The abdominal discomfort or pain, and a change in stool frequency or consistency characteristic of IBS are missing.

The colon transit time for fecal movement was reduced from 63 hours to 38 hours. Stool consistency was improved, as stool was softer with fig consumption. Results show eating approximately 3 figs per day results in significant improvement in bowel function in patients suffering from chronic constipation.

Dianna Richardson, ND © 2017


Baek HI, Ha KC, Kim HM, et al (2016). Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of Ficus carica paste for the management of functional constipation. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition 25(3):487-96.

Grilled Lime Chicken with Watermelon Salsa

Posted on March 24, 2017 at 6:20 PM

Grilled Lime Chicken with Watermelon Salsa—serves 6

2 cups chopped, seeded watermelon

1/2 cup chopped cucumber

1/2 cup chopped orange or yellow sweet pepper

1/2 of an ear fresh sweet corn, kernels cut from cob

2 tablespoons snipped fresh cilantro

1 -2 fresh jalapeno chile pepper(s), stemmed, seeded, and chopped

1 tablespoon finely chopped red onion

1 teaspoon finely shredded lime peel

1/4 cup lime juice

1 teaspoon packed brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (about 2 pounds total)

1 teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning

1 tablespoon vegetable oil


For salsa, in a medium bowl combine watermelon, cucumber, sweet pepper, corn, cilantro, chile pepper(s), and onion.

In a small bowl combine 1/2 teaspoon of the lime peel, 2 tablespoons of the lime juice, the brown sugar, salt, and crushed red pepper; add to watermelon mixture and toss to coat. Cover and chill for 1 hour to let flavors combine.

Sprinkle chicken with lemon-pepper seasoning. In a small bowl combine the remaining 1/2 teaspoon lime peel, the remaining 2 tablespoons lime juice, and the oil. For a charcoal or gas grill, grill chicken on the rack of a covered grill directly over medium heat for 12 to 15 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink (170 degrees F), turning once halfway through grilling time and brushing with the oil mixture during the last 2 minutes of grilling. Serve chicken with salsa.

PER SERVING: 226 cal., 6 g total fat (1 g sat. fat), 97 mg cholesterol, 422 mg sodium, 9 g carb. (1 g fiber, 5 g sugars), 33 g protein

Herb & Spice Brown Rice Balls

Posted on March 24, 2017 at 6:15 PM

Herb & Spice Brown Rice Balls —serves 8 (3 balls each)

2 cups Jasmine brown rice

3 garlic cloves, roasted and minced

1 Tbsp. + 1/2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided

1 egg

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, minced

1 dash salt

1 dash pepper

1/4 tsp. onion powder

1/2 tsp. cumin

1/2 cup regular or gluten-free bread crumbs

1/4 tsp. smoked paprika


Cook rice per package instructions.

To roast garlic, place unpeeled heads of garlic in a tin foil bundle, drizzle with ½ teaspoon oil and wrap tightly. Roast in 350-degree oven for 30-40 minutes, or until soft when pressed. (Note: if you’re tight on time, mince the garlic and sauté with parsley and olive oil over medium heat.)

In large bowl, mix cooked brown rice, egg and Parmesan cheese. Add parsley, salt, pepper, onion powder, and cumin. Roll mixture into small balls. Mix breadcrumbs and smoked paprika in another bowl. Roll the rice balls in the breadcrumbs mixture to coat. Heat remaining oil in a skillet over medium-low heat and cook the rice balls, turning to brown them on all the sides, about 15-20 minutes.

Per serving: 240 calories, 5 g total fat (1.5 g. saturated fat), 41 g carbohydrate, 7 g protein, 2 g fiber, 150 mg sodium.