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vegan plate

Can Vegan Athletes Become Elite Athletes?

Fact or Fiction: The vegan diet is unlikely to support optimal performance in athletes? 

Fiction! No evidence suggests a nutritionally balanced vegan diet impairs athletic performance (1,2). Google vegan athletes; you’ll find an impressive list of Olympians and elite athletes from many sports (football, basketball, tennis, rowing, etc.). That said, vegans (and vegetarians) could choose a diet that helps them be powerful athletes, but do they?

Some vegans eat too many salads, sweet potatoes & berries (or chips and candy), but not enough beans, nuts, and seeds. They eliminate animal protein but fail to replace it with enough plant protein. Weight-conscious vegan athletes who restrict calories often reduce their intake of protein and other nutrients. Hence, dieting vegan athletes need to be extra vigilant to consume a menu supportive of their needs.

Two keys to thriving on a balanced vegan (and vegetarian) sports diet are to consume:

  1. adequate vitamins and minerals (in particular iron, zinc, calcium, iodine, vitamins D and B-12) as well as omega-3 fats, and
  2. adequate protein from a variety of plant foods that offer a variety of amino acids (the building blocks of protein).

The amino acid leucine is of particular importance for athletes. Leucine is an essential amino acid your body cannot make, so you need to get it from food. Leucine triggers muscles to grow. It also can help prevent the deterioration of muscle with age. When you lift weights, you stimulate the muscles to take up leucine (and other amino acids); this triggers muscular growth. Hence, leucine is a very important component of an athlete’s diet!

The richest sources of leucine are animal foods, such as eggs, milk, fish, and meats. When a meat-eating athlete swaps beef for beans and other plant-proteins (hummus, quinoa, nuts, tofu, etc.), the swap commonly reduces leucine intake by about 50%. Hence, vegan athletes need to pay attention to getting enough high-quality plant-proteins that offer the optimal amount of leucine (about 2.5 grams per meal or snack). That means, vegans want to consistently enjoy soy, beans, legumes, seeds and/or nuts regularly at every meal and snack. Don’t have just oatmeal for breakfast; add soy milk and walnuts.  Don’t snack on just an apple; slather apple slices with peanut butter. Enjoy it with a swig of soy or pea milk instead of almond milk.

This table compares the leucine content of plant and animal foods. Note that when you swap animal-based protein for plant-based protein (such as trade eggs for peanut butter, or dairy milk for soy milk), you’ll likely need to eat more calories of plant-foods to get the same amount of leucine as in animal foods:

Animal food Leucine


Calories Plant food (swap) Leucine


Eggs, 2 large 1.1 155 Peanut butter, 2 Tb 0.5 190
Milk, 8 oz 1.0 120 Soy milk, lowfat 0.5 105
Tuna, 5-oz can 2.3 120 Black beans, 1/2 c 0.7 110
Chicken, 3 oz cooked 2.1 150 Tofu, extra firm, 6 oz 1.4 140
Cheese, 1 oz 0.6 115 Almonds, 3/4 oz. 0.3 120
Beef, 5 oz ckd 3.8 265 Lentils, 1 cup 1.3 225

 How much protein and leucine do you need?

A 150-pound vegan athlete who seriously wants to build muscle should plan to eat about 20 grams of protein with 2.5 grams leucine every 3-4 hours during the day. (If you weigh more or less than 150 pounds, adjust that target accordingly.)  Here’s a sample 1,800-calorie vegan diet (read that, weight reduction diet for most athletes, both male and female) that offers adequate protein at every meal —but not always 2.5 grams leucine. To be a dieting vegan athlete requires some menu planning. Some dieters choose to be “mostly vegan.” This flexibility allows for leucine-rich milk, eggs & fish.

Sample 1,800 calorie Vegan Diet Leucine Protein Calories
B.     2 slices whole wheat toast 0.5 g 10. g 200
         2 tablespoons peanut butter 0.5 8 200
         1 cup soy milk 0.5 7 100
Sn: 1 medium apple trace 0.5 100
L:     Salad: greens plus vegetables 0.3 4 50
         1/2 cup chick peas 0.8 6 100
         1/4 cup sunflower seeds 0.9 12 350
         1 tablespoon oil 100
Sn:   1/3 cup hummus 0.2 3 100
         10 baby carrots trace 0.5 50
D:    1/3 cake tofu 1.1 12 100
         1 cup cooked brown rice 0.4 6 250
         2 cups broccoli


0.5 7 100
Total for the day: 10 76 1,800

Target for the day:


2.5 g /meal





Note: I have not included fake meats such as the Impossible Burger or Beyond Burger in this menu. Those are ultra-processed foods that have a questionable place in any diet. I have also not included almond milk (a poor source of protein) nor supplements with leucine. You want to choose whole foods; they come with a matrix of nutrients that boost protein synthesis and can better invest in your health, recovery and overall well being.

Nancy Clark MS RD counsels both casual & competitive athletes at her Boston-area office (617-795-1875). The new 2019 edition of her best selling Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook is available at www.NancyClarkRD.com, as is info about her popular online workshop.

For additional information about a vegan sports diet:

1) Wirnitzer, K. et al. 2018. Health Status of Female and Male Vegetarian and Vegan Endurance Runners Compared to Omnivores—Results from the NURMI Study (Step 2).  Nutrients 11(1):29  doi: 10.3390/nu11010029 (Free access)

2) Rogerson, D. 2017. Vegan diets: Practical advice for athletes and exercisers. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 14: 36  doi: 10.1186/s12970-017-0192-9 (Free access)


The Naturopathic Chef: Cashew Cream Cheesecake

These vegan and gluten-free cheesecakes taste authentic and provide well-balanced nutrition. Protein from the Cashew Cream, and flavored with sweet summer fruit, this recipe will keep everyone’s blood sugar stable. Enjoy straight from the freezer or allow to thaw at room temp, for an extra creamy treat.


  • 1 cup packed pitted dates*
  • 1 cup raw walnuts, pecans, or almonds


  • 1 1/2 cups raw cashews, quick-soaked*
  • 1 large lemon, juiced (scant 1/4 cup)
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 cup + 2 Tbls coconut milk (see instructions for note)
  • 1/3 cup natural sugar of your choice-agave, maple syrup, honey, coconut palm, fruit juice or fruit
  • 1/4 salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Handy Hints

*If your dates are too dehydrated, soak them in warm water for 10 minutes then drain. Pat dry to prevent
the crust from getting soggy.

*To quick-soak cashews, pour boiling hot water over the cashews, soak for 1 hour uncovered, then drain and use as instructed.

Flavor Ideas

  • 2 Tbls salted natural peanut butter
  • Berries of your choice, blended and strained or decorate with whole berries
  • Caramel sauce

Alternative Crust

  • 3/4 c oats
  • 3/4 c raw almonds
  • 1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbls coconut palm sugar
  • 4 Tbls coconut oil 2 Tbls Earth Balance Vegan Butter, melted

Everything gets blitzed in your food processor. Press into your pan and bake 15 minutes at 350. This crust can be served raw as well.


Date/Nut Crust: Add dates to a food processor and blend until small bits remain and it forms into a ball. Remove and set aside. Next, add nuts and process into a meal. Then add dates back in and blend until a loose dough forms – it should stick together when you squeeze a bit between your fingers. If it’s too dry, add a few more dates through the spout while processing. If too wet, add more almond or walnut meal. (Optional: add a pinch of salt to taste.) Lightly grease a standard, 12 slot muffin tin. Make these in a mini muffin pan, for a popable snack.

To make removing the cheesecakes easier, cut strips of parchment paper and lay them in the slots. This creates little tabs that make it easier to pop out once frozen. Next, scoop a heaping tablespoon of crust into prepared pan and press with fingers or a small glass. The back of a spoon also works to compact your crust. Set in freezer to firm up. If using an alternative crust, bake and cool well before topping with cheesecake filling.

Filling: Add all filling ingredients to a blender and mix until very smooth. For the coconut milk, scoop the “cream” off the top it provides a richer texture. But if yours is already all mixed together, just add it in as is. You don’t need a Vitamix for this recipe, just a quality blender. Taste and adjust flavorings as needed. If adding peanut butter, add to the blender and mix until thoroughly combined. If flavoring with berries or caramel, wait and swirl on top of plain cheesecakes.

Divide filling evenly among the muffin tins. Tap a few times to release any air bubbles, then cover with plastic wrap and freeze until hard – about 5 hours. Once set, remove by lifting the tabs or loosening them with a butter knife. Set them out for 10 minutes before serving to soften. They are good frozen as well. Store in freezer up to one week. This is a great do-ahead, for entertaining.

Phyto Facts

Cashews are a Drupe, just like the Coconut. Packed with minerals, particularly Magnesium and Manganese. These minerals are craving crushers! If you are having a craving for greasy foods, and/or sugar, it is generally due to a deficiency in these minerals. Grab 1/4 cup Cashews, and the craving will generally stop, unless it’s a “head” craving, (i.e., stress, fatigue, loneliness, and boredom).

Cashews are high in B vitamins, another stress manager. Cashews are a good source of Selenium, Copper, and Zinc, these minerals are antioxidant co-factors. This means they help the body produce very powerful antioxidants from the food we eat. Selenium is a co-factor for Glutathione; excellent for keeping our nervous system healthy. This helps prevent such diseases as Parkinsons and ALS, aka Lou Gehrig’s disease. Copper and Zinc are the co-factors to the production of Superoxide Dismutase, a powerful anti-aging antioxidant that also ensures proper growth and function of every bodily system. Cashews protect us from heart disease and with a small amount of Zeaxanthin, our eyes are less likely to develop macular degeneration. Who needs whipped cream, when you can have Cashew Cream!


Affectionately referred to as The Walking Encyclopedia of Human Wellness, Fitness Coach, Strength Competitor and Powerlifting pioneer, Tina “The Medicine Chef” Martini is an internationally recognized Naturopathic Chef and star of the cooking show, Tina’s Ageless Kitchen. Tina’s cooking and lifestyle show has reached millions of food and fitness lovers all over the globe. Over the last 30 years, Tina has assisted celebrities, gold-medal athletes and over-scheduled executives naturally achieve radiant health using The Pyramid of Power: balancing Healthy Nutrition and the healing power of food, with Active Fitness and Body Alignment techniques. Working with those who have late-stage cancer, advanced diabetes, cardiovascular and other illnesses, Tina’s clients are astounded at the ease and speed with which they are able to restore their radiant health. Tina believes that maintaining balance in our diet, physical activity, and in our work and spiritual life is the key to our good health, happiness and overall well being. Visit her website, themedicinechef.com


Sports Nutrition: Carbs in the News

Too many of today’s athletes believe carbohydrates are “bad.” If that’s true, what does the latest sports nutrition research say? The following studies, presented at the American College of Sports Medicine’s 66th Annual Meeting (Orlando FL, May 2019) indicate sports scientists agree that carbohydrates (grains, fruits, veggies; sugars, starches) can be health- and performance-enhancing sport foods. As you may (or may not) know, ACSM is a professional organization for sport science researchers, exercise physiologists, dietitians, doctors, and health-care providers for athletes (www.ACSM.org).  Here are some answers to questions posed by ACSM researchers.

Does sugar cause diabetes?

No. The problem is less about sugar, and more about lack of exercise. Most fit people can enjoy a little sugar without fear of health issues. Muscles in fit bodies burn the sugar for fuel. In unfit bodies, the sugar accumulates in the blood. Fitness reduces the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

In a 6-week training study to boost fitness, 35 middle-aged men with over-weight or obesity did either endurance cycling, weight lifting, or high-intensity interval training. Regardless of the kind of exercise, all types of training improved the bodies’ ability to utilize glucose with less insulin.

These subjects had blood glucose levels within the normal range at the start of the study; their glucose levels improved with exercise. While we need more research to fine-tune the types of exercise that best manage blood glucose, rest assured that living an active lifestyle is a promising way to reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes.

Can natural foods replace ultra-processed commercial sports drinks and foods?

Yes, standard (natural) foods can be fine alternatives to commercial sport fuels. Look no farther than bananas! In a study, trained cyclists who enjoyed bananas (for carbs) plus water (for fluid) during a 46 mile (75 km) bike ride performed just as well as those who consumed a sports drink with an equivalent amount of carbs plus water.

Natural foods offer far more than just fuel; they contain abundant bioactive compounds that have a positive impact on health and performance.  For example, after the ride with bananas, the cyclists had lower levels of oxylipins (bioactive compounds that increase with excessive inflammation) compared to the sports drink ride. Athletes who believe commercial sports foods and fuel are better than standard foods overlook the benefits from the plethora of bioactive compounds found in real foods.

Are potatoes—an easy-to-digest sports fuel—a viable alternative to commercial gels?

Yes. In a study, trained cyclists ate breakfast and soon thereafter competed in a 2-hour cycling challenge that was then followed by a time trial. For fuel, the subjects consumed either potato puree, gels, or water. The results suggest 1) both emptied similarly from the gut, and 2) potatoes are as good as gels for supporting endurance performance.

The cyclists completed the time trial in about 33 minutes when they ate the potato or the gel. This is six minutes faster than with plain water. Any fuel is better than no fuel!

Is fruit juice a healthful choice for athletes?

Yes, fruit juice can be an excellent source of carbohydrate to fuel muscles. Colorful juices (such as grape, cherry, blueberry, orange) also offer anti-inflammatory phytochemicals called polyphenols. In a study, subjects did muscle-damaging exercise and then consumed a post-exercise and a bedtime protein recovery drink that included either pomegranate juice, tart cherry juice, or just sugar. The protein-polyphenol beverages boosted muscle recovery better than the sugar beverage.

Does carbohydrate intake trigger intestinal distress for ultra-marathoners?

Not always. During a 37 mile (60-kilometer) ultra-marathon, 33 runners reported their food and fluid intake. They consumed between 150 to 360 calories (37-90 g carb) per hour, with an average of 240 calories (60 g) per hour. This meets the recommendation for carbohydrate intake during extended exercise (240-360 calories; 60-90 g carb/hour). The majority (73%) of runners reported some type of gut issues. Of those, 20% of the complaints were ranked serious. Interestingly, the GI complaints were not linked to carbohydrate intake or to gut damage. In fact, a higher carbohydrate intake potentially reduced the risk of gut injury. (More research is needed to confirm this.) Unfortunately, runners cannot avoid all factors (such as jostling, dehydration, and nerves) that can trigger intestinal problems.

We know that consuming carb during extended exercise enhances performance, but does it matter if endurance athletes consume a slow-digesting or a fast-digesting carbohydrate prior to extended exercise?

Likely not, but this can depend on how long you are exercising, and how often you want to consume carbohydrate. Well-trained runners consumed 200 calories of carbohydrate in UCAN (slow-digesting) vs. Cytocarb (fast-digesting) prior to a 3-hour moderate run during which they consumed just water. At the end of the run, they did an intense sprint to fatigue. The sprint times were similar, regardless of the type of pre-run fuel.

That said, the slow digesting carb provided a more stable and consistent fuel source that maintained blood glucose concentration during the long run. Hence, endurance athletes want to experiment with a variety of beverages to determine which ones settle best and help them feel good during extended exercise. A slow-digesting carb can help maintain stable blood glucose levels without consuming fuel during the run. Fast-digesting carbs need carbohydrate supplementation throughout the exercise to maintain normal blood glucose.

Concluding comments: These studies indicate carbohydrate can help athletes perform well. To be sure your muscles are fully fueled, include some starchy food (wholesome cereal, grain, bread, etc.) as the foundation of each meal. Consuming carbs from just fruit or veggies will likely leave you with inadequately replenished muscle glycogen. Think twice before choosing a chicken Caesar salad for your recovery meal.

Nancy Clark, MS, RD counsels both casual and competitive athletes at her office in Newton, MA (617-795-1875). Her newly updated Sports Nutrition Guidebook is now available in a new sixth edition. For more information, visit NancyClarkRD.com. For her popular online workshop, visit NutritionSportsExerciseCEUs.com.


To Weigh or Not to Weigh

Do you want to lose weight?

You might be asking should I weigh or not to weigh, that is the question. Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of knowing one’s outrageous weight, or to take arms against a sea of bulges by simply ignoring the scale and trying to eat less and exercise more. For some of us, the scale is a tool. For others, it’s the enemy.

So let’s say your plan is to lose 1lb a Week.

Some health and fitness professionals have made a compelling case for ignoring the scale, saying that measuring one’s percentage of body fat is the most accurate way to track one’s fitness level.

It indicates a healthy body composition, regardless of height and weight. I agree that you should know your body fat as a baseline for fitness.

Here are some body fat guidelines according to the American Council On Exercise

Body Fat Percentage for Women

  • Athlete: 14-20 percent
  • Fit: 21-24 percent
  • Average: 25-31 percent
  • Obese: > 32 percent

Body Fat Percentage for Men

  • Athlete: 6-13 percent
  • Fit: 14-17 percent
  • Average: 18-24 percent
  • Obese: > 25 percent

So why bother weighing yourself at all? When you’re trying to lose weight, it’s important to use any indication you can get that your efforts are paying off. It can take a couple of weeks before you see any difference in body fat. Your weight will change more quickly. Besides, there are relatively inexpensive scales that give you both your actual weight and your percentage of body fat.

My personal prejudice is to weigh yourself at least once every week or two. I do, and I find that facing my weight on a regular basis helps me stay motivated. Believe me, there have been times when I’ve dreaded getting on that scale. But I do it anyway because no matter what it says, I feel relief. I find it liberating. Why? Because now I know where I am and what I need to do next. It helps me maintain a healthy weight.

In my practice, I have helped hundreds of people lose weight. And many of them initially fight me about getting on the scale, and I understand this because I know that terror. Part of the process of losing weight is to prepare oneself to do it. If you are not psychologically ready to lose, stepping on the scale can be a real turnoff and actually deter you from losing weight. But once you’re ready, facing that number can jump-start your weight-loss program and keep you going.

I give my clients a baseline of their body fat percentage and get them to use the scale. Then we set up a diet and exercise plan. You can lose weight by diet alone. But dieting can reduce muscle mass along with fat. This becomes ever more important as we age. We can lose as much as 6 pounds of muscle tissue per decade as we age. And metabolism can slow down as much as 3 percent per decade. You can see that if left unchecked, you’re on a slow boat to obesity. Adding an exercise program may be all you need to turn this process around. Cardio exercise burns calories, and strength training raises your metabolism and builds lean muscle mass while you are losing. Losing about 1 percent body fat a month and one to two pounds a week is considered safe and realistic. Here’s the winning combination. Reduce calorie intake with diet, do cardio most days to burn calories, and strength train at least a couple of days a week to build muscle mass and increase metabolism.

So, I’ve made my case for using the scale as a tool, and I hope you’ll try it when you are ready. Regardless, to be or not to be at a healthy weight should not be in question.

Mirabai Holland MFA, EP-C, CHC is one of the foremost authorities is the health and fitness industry. Her customer top rated exercise videos for Age-Onset health issues like Osteoporosis, Arthritis, Heart Disease, Diabetes & more are available at www.mirabaiholland.com. Mirabai also offers one-on-on Health Coaching on Skype or Phone. Contact her at askmirabai@movingfree.com.


Diet and Weight: A Matter of Health, Not Looks

I Hate Talking About Weight!

Honestly, I don’t really enjoy talking and thinking about weight, mine or anybody else’s. Who does?

It’s a bit ironic given the majority of my research is on diet and obesity. Many of my studies look at how what we eat and drink impacts weight gain and its risk to diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

This article needs to be on my blog, however, since we live in a world with a pandemic obesity crisis. In the United States alone, approximately two-thirds of adults and one-third of kids are overweight or obese. (Many people who are overweight or obese do not recognize it; I encourage you to calculate your body mass index and discuss your weight with your physician if you are uncertain.) As Westernized lifestyles, behaviors, and food gets exported around the globe, so, too, do our obesity rates: According to the International Obesity Task Force, more than 1 billion adults and 200 million children worldwide are currently overweight while an additional 600 million adults and 40-50 million children are obese.

The reason I don’t enjoy talking about weight is because I actually began my research career thinking about how pervasive and destructive the Westernized perception of beauty is in the US (and some other countries, too). We are bombarded with images of women of unrealistic body sizes and shapes with virtually unattainable weights barring chronic food deprivation. It bothers me greatly that we have such a narrow perception of beauty here in the US, and the last thing I want is for my own research—or this blog!—to fuel this grotesque fire.

That’s why I subtitle many of the lectures I give on this topic “A Matter of Health,” just as I’ve named this blog piece. Because my wish is not that overweight individuals hate their body: the current stigma of fat shaming and weight bias is obscene. Yet, the simple medical fact is that excess body fat carries health risks that are essentially avoidable. Still today, it seems many people do not fully recognize the degree to which extra weight impacts their health. For example, type 2 diabetes is essentially a preventable disease for most people and in some cases can be reversed with weight loss. Many cancers have also been associated with obesity. Yet obesity impacts almost all body organs and systems.

And note that the graphic does not adequately capture the psychological pain and suffering that many overweight individuals face due to diminished self-esteem and prejudice in our body-conscious culture. Especially troubling is the social difficulties and bullying some adults and children face due to weight discrimination.

Environment Matters: Individual Food Choices in Context

In my worldview, which is rooted in public health, an individual does not bear complete personal responsibility for his or her health, weight included. We are a product of genetics and our environment, not just our lifestyle. Most of us live in a society that encourages food consumption at every turn, in every place—and much of it unhealthy, I hasten to add. Food cost and accessibility are additional barriers to eating healthfully for some people as well. Individuals are thus part of a larger system that includes family, community, local, state, national, and global factors that impact our health and weight. (This is known as the social-ecological model of public health, in case you were wondering.) Food policies and production practices also influence what reaches individual plates, and these factors must be considered when working to stem the obesity epidemic on a population basis and help individuals manage their own weight at a personal level. (These topics are the subjects of many of my classes and research projects.)

Even so, when all is said and done the decision of what you choose to put in your mouth must ultimately be made by you. My mission is to help you apply the science to your plate delectably, and that includes cooking and eating in a way that promotes healthy weight. And guess what? Those same meals and habits that will keep you free from excess weight are the same ones that will keep you enjoying good health and living longer, too.

For the Record: My Own Weight

My regular readers know that I’m not just your average nutrition scientist given my life-long love affair with food. And a love of food isn’t always conductive to a healthy waistline.

As a teenager I put on more pounds than was healthy for my size. Like all daughters, I blame my mother. (Just kidding. Kind of.) In other words, the culture of sweets and constant desserts around our house when I was growing up certainly didn’t help matters. But I also began working in restaurants when I was fifteen, and every Saturday night in high school I worked from 5pm to 3am, sometimes 4am. Let’s just say snacking on burgers and fries and fried mozzarella weren’t the best choices. I continued working in restaurants for a decade, so was always surrounded by scrumptious food. Sure, I eventually took off that extra adolescent weight, but I, like many of you, gain weight just by looking at chocolate cake. I practice the strategies I preach to you—like keeping your house free of snacks and sweets and practicing healthy holiday eating tips—because they are based on science, and they work. I’ve altered my behavior and lifestyle and my weight has followed suit.

Reprinted with permission from Dr. P.K. Newby. Originally printed on pknewby.com

P.K. Newby, ScD, MPH, MS (“The Nutrition Doctor”), is a scientist, author, and adjunct associate professor at Harvard whose newest book is “Food & Nutrition: What Everyone Needs to Know.”


The Naturopathic Chef: Gluten Free Pizza Crust

This is the pizza crust I developed for my gluten free corporate lunch and learns. I needed a crust that was fast and easy to handle. GF recipes are often unstable and difficult for a novice GF baker to execute. The ground flax seeds and chia slurry give this crust structure and stability, while maintaining a light, airy crispness. It also has the much desired “chew factor” that great Napolotano-style pizza has. Your family will say, “pi’u la pizza per favore!” “More pizza, please!”


  • 1-1 1/2  Cup GF Beer, room temp (Just enough liquid to bring the dough together)
  • 1 tsp Dry Yeast
  • 3 cups GF all purpose flour
  • 1 Tbls Ground Flax seeds
  • 2 tsps Salt
  • 2 1/2 tsps Baking Powder
  • 1/4 cup Olive Oil
  • 2 Tbls Chia Seeds, bloomed in 1/2 cup Water

Prepare two rimmed cookie sheets with parchment lightly sprayed with olive oil

In a small mixing bowl, pour 1 cup of beer in and sprinkle yeast over beer. Set aside. When using a stand mixer, the paddle will give the best results; or use a wooden spoon to mix by hand. Stir flour, flax seeds, salt, and baking powder together. With mixer running, slowly stream in beer/yeast mixture. Add olive oil and chia slurry. All GF dough tends to be sticky. Please, do not over mix, this leads to a tough crust. Lightly coat a large mixing bowl with olive oil. Place dough in a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rest in a warm place for 75-90 minutes. When dough is puffed (it doesn’t rise the same way traditional crust does,) divide in half. Place each piece of dough on the prepared cookie sheets. Brush a small amount of olive oil over the top of each. Cover with plastic wrap and press dough into desired thickness and shape. Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and slide parbaked crusts to a wire cooling rack. From here, crusts can hold at room temperature up to four hours, or when completely cooled, wrap in plastic and then in foil. Freeze up to one month. Remove frozen crusts and top with sauce and other toppings. Bake at 500 degrees for 10-12 minutes using a preheated pizza stone or cookie sheet.

Fresh crust on the day of: One hour before baking, place pizza stone in middle of oven. Heat oven and stone to 500 degrees. Top parbaked crust with sauce and toppings. Slide pizza onto heated stone. Bake as directed above, or until cheese is golden and bubbly.


  • 1 28 oz can San Marzano Tomatoes
  • 2 Tbls Tomato Paste
  • 1 Tbls Basil
  • 1 Tbls Oregano
  • 1 Tbls Thyme
  • 3/4 tsp Red Chili Flakes (Optional, but very traditional)
  • 2 tsps Balsamic Vinegar
  • *This sauce is very herbaceous at this measurement. Decrease to 2 tsps if you don’t want the herbal flavor at the front of the palate

Mix all ingredients in a large saucepan, except vinegar. Cook over medium heat mashing and stirring the tomatoes as the sauce reduces. Cook 30-40 minutes or until moisture is gone and sauce is very thick. Remove from heat and stir in vinegar. Set aside until ready to assemble and bake your masterpiece!

Phyto Facts

Celiacs vs. Coeliac

Most of us have heard of Celiac disease by now with the marked increase in the mainstream population. Most of us, however, have never heard of Coeliac Disease. Coeliac is derived from the Greek word, “koiliakos,” meaning, “to suffer in the bowels.” Grains and other fibrous foods pass through the stomach and upper intestines in their crude form. This causes great pain, acid reflux, and indigestion in general. The inflammation caused from this poor digestion is painful along with the host of other side effects that go along with being Coeliac. But, it is not fatal like Celiac can be. It all comes down to the inability to break down gluten and other plant proteins. Gluten is the general name for the proteins found in grains. The three grains that are highest in gluten are Wheat, Barley and Rye. Other grains such as Kamut, Duram, Spelt, and Farina are cousins of wheat, and can cause irritation and inflammation, particularly in those with Celiac disease. The mass production of wheat has genetic consequences: there is mounting evidence that the genetic modification of our grains is leading to a marked increase in inflammation of the digestive tract and brain, as seen in Autism. Clinical depression, Parkinson’s, ALS, Alzheimer’s/Dementia and the slow output of Leptin (the fat burning hormone) are all being connected to GMO grain in the latest research.


The herbs we’re using are high in Apigenin. I’ve written about the research concerning its powerful effect on ovarian cancer. Apigenin also calms anxiety and is showing promise as a protective agent for strengthening the brain in a fetus. There are many case studies linking a chronically agitated nervous system to clinical depression later in life. Omega-3s and Apigenin are critical to avoiding this in adults and children. Besides our leafy herbs; flowers are very high in this phytonutrient. Specifically, Chamomile tea. Mommies, please check with your OB/GYN to confirm a nightly cup of Chamomile fits with your prescribed regimen. Here’s to babies that sleep through the night!


Lycopene, in the sauce, can slow aging. It is one of the best internal beauty secrets we have. Lycopene also reduces Sun damage by as much as 40%, keeps our hearts healthy and strong, and will someday be the cure for Prostate cancer. Sloan-Kettering is a leader in this technology. It truly is Delicious Medicine.

Affectionately referred to as The Walking Encyclopedia of Human Wellness, Fitness Coach, Strength Competitor and Powerlifting pioneer, Tina “The Medicine Chef” Martini is an internationally recognized Naturopathic Chef and star of the cooking show, Tina’s Ageless Kitchen. Tina’s cooking and lifestyle show has reached millions of food and fitness lovers all over the globe. Over the last 30 years, Tina has assisted celebrities, gold-medal athletes and over-scheduled executives naturally achieve radiant health using The Pyramid of Power: balancing Healthy Nutrition and the healing power of food, with Active Fitness and Body Alignment techniques. Working with those who have late-stage cancer, advanced diabetes, cardiovascular and other illnesses, Tina’s clients are astounded at the ease and speed with which they are able to restore their radiant health. Tina believes that maintaining balance in our diet, physical activity, and in our work and spiritual life is the key to our good health, happiness and overall well being. Visit her website, themedicinechef.com


Tailoring Nutrition to Help Fight Parkinson’s Disease

Good nutritional practices are the groundwork for a healthy and productive life. People with Parkinson’s and their Care Partners have extra challenges to face as they navigate life with this progressive disease that causes tremors, slowness of movement, muscle stiffness and impaired balance. For people with Parkinson’s, healthy eating is another strategy to fight the effects of Parkinson’s.

Like all of us, people with Parkinson’s should strive to eat a balanced diet of carbohydrates, fats, and protein. Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred energy source. Fats – especially healthy unsaturated fats – are also used for energy. Protein contributes to cell growth, repair and maintenance. It is also important to get necessary vitamins and minerals from fruits and vegetables to truly feel your best. Drinking water throughout the day keeps us from becoming dehydrated and helps the entire body to function optimally.

Because People with Parkinson’s already have a progressive disease to manage – it is important to try to keep other chronic diseases at bay. Vitamin E and C are antioxidants that combat free radicals (compounds that injure healthy cells) in the body. It is important that people with Parkinson’s eat plenty of antioxidant containing foods such as blueberries and spinach.

People with Parkinson’s are at a greater risk for osteoporosis and falls – which is why adequate amounts of Vitamin D and Calcium are essential to keep bones strong. The body can create its own Vitamin D from 15 minutes a day of sunlight exposure – or it can be found in foods such as salmon, pork and eggs. Vitamin D is essential for helping calcium be absorbed in the body – calcium being the primary component of bones. Good sources of calcium include yogurt, cheese, kale and spinach.

Protein serves many vital functions in the body, and it is important for People with Parkinson’s to get adequate amounts. Protein rich foods can diminish the effects of some Parkinson’s medications when they are taken together, so taking medications an hour prior to eating can help them to work most efficiently.

Fiber is the bulky, indigestible part of plants that passes through the digestive tract. Fiber absorbs water in the body and helps with regularity. People with Parkinson’s have higher instances of constipation – so eating high fiber foods such as bran cereals, whole wheat bread, beans and broccoli can help relieve this condition.

Sometimes diseases of the eye can occur in People with Parkinson’s. Beta-Carotene is a type of Vitamin A that helps maintain retina function and is found in carrots and sweet potatoes. Leafy green vegetables and egg yolks contain lutein and antioxidants that may lower the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.

Finally, People with Parkinson’s should always be sure to drink enough water. Adequate water consumption helps relieve constipation, prevents dehydration, aids in vitamin absorption in the body, and rids the body of waste.

Always consult your physician if you notice any undesired weight loss, and before you make any changes to your regular eating habits.

Carisa Campanella, BA, AS, is an ACE Health Coach and ACSM Personal Trainer. She is the Program Manager at the Neuro Challenge Foundation for Parkinson’s. Neuro Challenge provides ongoing monthly support groups and educational programs, individualized care advising and community resource referrals to help empower people with Parkinson’s and their caregivers.

A man having question

Sports Nutrition Myths: Busted!

Keeping up with the latest science-based sports nutrition recommendations is a challenge. We are constantly bombarded with media messages touting the next miracle sports food or supplement that will enhance athletic performance, promote fat loss, build muscle, and help you be a super-athlete. At this year’s Annual Meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine (www.acsm.org), a sports nutrition myth-busters session sponsored by the global network of Professionals In Nutrition for Exercise and Sport (www.PINESNutrition.org) featured experts who resolved confusion with science-based research.

MYTH: Protein supplements build bigger muscles.

Protein needs for a 150-pound (68 kg) athlete average about 110 to 150 grams of protein per day. (More precisely, 0.7 to 1.0 g pro/lb. body weight/day; 1.6 to 2.2 g pro/kg./day) Hungry athletes can easily consume this amount from standard meals. Yet, many athletes believe they need extra protein. They consume protein shakes and bars in addition to protein-laden meals. They are unlikely to see any additional benefits from this higher-than-needed protein intake. Resistance exercise is a far more potent way to increase muscle size and strength than any protein supplement.

MYTH: Eating just before bedtime makes an athlete fat. 

While it is true the body responds differently to the same meal eaten at 9:00 a.m., 5:00 pm, or 1:00 a.m., an athlete will not “get fat” by eating at night. The main problem with nighttime eating relates to the ease of over-eating while lounging around and watching TV. When your brain is tired from having made endless decisions all day, you can easily decide to eat more food than required.

That said, bedtime carbohydrates to refuel depleted muscles and bedtime protein to build and repair muscles can optimize recovery after a day of hard training or competing. For bodybuilders and others who want to optimize muscle growth, eating about 40 grams of protein before bed provides an extended flow of amino acids needed to build muscle. (This bedtime snack has not been linked with fat gain). Cottage cheese, anyone?

MYTH: A gluten-free diet cures athletes’ gut problems.

If you have celiac disease (as verified by blood tests), your gut will indeed feel better if you avoid wheat and other gluten-containing foods. However, very few gut issues for non-celiac athletes are related to gluten. FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides and Polyols) are often the culprit. These are types of hard-for-some-people-to-digest carbohydrates found in commonly eaten foods such as wheat, apples, onion, garlic, and milk. For example, the di-saccharide lactose (a kind of sugar found in milk) creates gut turmoil in people who are lactose intolerant. The poorly digested and absorbed lactose creates gas, bloat and diarrhea.

For certain athletes, a low FODMAP diet two or three days before a competition or long training session can help curb intestinal distress. If you live in fear of undesired pit stops, a consultation with your sports dietitian to learn more about a short-term FODMAP reduction diet is worth considering.

MYTH: Athletes should avoid caffeine because of its diuretic effect

With caffeinated beverages, the diuretic effect might be 1.2 ml. excess fluid lost per mg. of caffeine. That means, if you were to drink a small mug  (7 oz./200 ml.) of coffee that contains 125 milligrams of caffeine, you might lose about 150 ml. water through excess urine loss. But you’d still have 50 ml. fluid to hydrate your body—and likely more if you drink coffee regularly. Athletes who regularly consume caffeine habituate and experience less of a diuretic effect. In general, most caffeinated beverages contribute to a positive fluid balance; avoiding them on the basis of their caffeine content is not justified.

MYTH: Athletes should be wary of creatine because it is bad for kidneys.

Creatine is sometimes used by athletes who want to bulk up. It allows muscles to recover faster from, let’s say, lifting weights, so the athlete can do more reps and gain strength. A review of 21 studies that assessed kidney function with creatine doses ranging from 2 to 30 grams a day for up to five and a half years indicates creatine is safe for young healthy athletes as well as for elderly people. Even the most recent studies using sophisticated methods to assess renal function support creatine supplements as being well tolerated and not related to kidney dysfunction.

Reading a nutrition label on food packaging with magnifying glass

MYTH: The vegan diet fails to support optimal performance in athletes.

Without a doubt, vegan athletes can —and do—excel in sport. Just Google vegan athletes; you’ll find an impressive list that includes Olympians and professional athletes from many sports (including football, basketball, tennis, rowing, snowboarding, running, soccer, plus more.)

The key to consuming an effective vegan sports diet is to include adequate leucine, the essential amino acid that triggers muscles to grow. The richest sources of leucine are found in animal foods, such as eggs, dairy, fish, and meats. If you swap animal proteins for plant proteins, you reduce your leucine intake by about 50%. For athletes, consuming 2.5 grams of leucine every 3 to 4 hours during the day optimizes muscular development. This means vegan athletes need to eat adequate nuts, soy foods, lentils, beans and other plant proteins regularly at every meal and snack.

Most athletes can consume adequate leucine, but some don’t because they skip meals and fail to plan a balanced vegan menu. Vegan athletes who are restricting food intake to lose undesired body fat need to be particularly vigilant to consume an effective sports diet. Plan ahead!

Nancy Clark, MS, RD counsels both casual and competitive athletes at her office in Newton, MA (617-795-1875). The newest 6th edition of her best selling Sports Nutrition Guidebook is being released in July 2019. For information about readymade handouts and PowerPoint presentations, visit www.NancyClarkRD.com. For her popular online workshop, see www.NutritionSportsExerciseCEUs.com.