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Yummy Chocolate Holiday Splurge!

Filed in Allergies, Gluten, Gluten Sensitivity, Recipes, The Skinny Gut Diet | Posted by Brenda Watson on 12/08/2016


Chocolate Black Bean Brownies - brendawatson.com

Every year the month of December stimulates my “splurge” button – regarding different foods that is. I know I’m not alone. So I’d really like to share with you a chocolate treat I found that manages to be vegan, gluten-free and grain free. It’s even reasonable with regards to sugar content, especially depending on your ingredient choices. I’m going to provide all sorts of substitutions to get your creative juices flowing!

Let’s make some “Flourless Sea Salt Chocolate Squares”. I noticed this easy and interesting recipe first in the December issue of Canada’s Alive magazine, and decided to have some fun with it.

Ingredients

1 – 14 oz can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 – cup coconut oil, melted (better than butter for maintaining your figure)
1 – tsp vanilla extract
2/3 – cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus extra for garnish
1/2 – cup almond meal
1/4 – cup coconut sugar or evaporated cane sugar or a zero-calorie sweetener like Lakanto
1 – Tbsp ground chia seed
1/8 – tsp fine-grain sea salt
1/4 – cup dairy-free dark chocolate chips
1/4 – tsp flaky sea salt or larger granule sea salt, with a bit extra for garnish if desired

Added fun and color on top – candy canes – crushed. Look for canes at your local health food store made with natural cane sugar and vegetable dye. Any extra candy canes can certainly brighten your tree!

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 8” x 8” baking pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang for easy removal.

Pull out your food processor and puree the pinto beans until smooth. Add coconut oil and vanilla. Blend until smooth, and scrape down the sides. Add cocoa powder, almond meal, sweetener of choice, chia seed powder, and fine grain sea salt. Pulse in chocolate chips carefully. Use a thin spatula to smooth the mixture into the pan. An offset spatula may be easiest if you have one in your kitchen. If you’re adding candy canes, now’s the time to crush them and sprinkle them on top before baking.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until edges appear dry. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt while still warm if desired. Cool completely in pan, cover and chill in refrigerator until cold. Remove from the baking pan using the parchment overhang. Slice into 16 squares and garnish with a dusting of additional cocoa powder and flaky sea salt if desired. (I like to make my servings on the small side which discourages overindulgence!)

These may be stored up to a week in an airtight container.
Of course, minimizing the chocolate chips will lower the sugar content, however even preparing the recipe as it is offered, each serving contains right around 2 teaspoons of sugar. While that’s not something that we on Skinny Gut Diet want to consume daily, it’s certainly a reasonable holiday splurge!

Enjoy and happy holiday~

Loving Basil!

Filed in Chronic Disease, Diabetes, Diet, Dietary Fiber, High blood pressure, Inflammation, Mental Health, Recipes | Posted by Brenda Watson on 07/08/2016


Wonderful Basil - brendawatson.com

One of my favorite summer friends is basil. Not the man, the herb! Between the lovely aroma, the list of health benefits, and the delicious taste addition to so many dishes, this green beauty stands tall as a winner on all fronts.

Fairly heat tolerant, we’re able to grow our own basil plants and harvest at will, even here in very hot Florida! Whether you grow your own or find yours at a local farmer’s market, I’d like to offer an interesting harvesting tip.

At some point I’ll bet you’ve placed your basil into the fridge, and fairly soon you noticed that the leaves turned an unsightly black color. To keep this herb fresh and robust, you can make the most of the its wonderful scent and also create a summer bouquet right on your kitchen counter. Trim the stems as you would roses, place them in cold water away from direct sunlight. Change the water daily and your sprigs will last around 5 days.

Varieties of basil abound! Check these out in addition to the classic Genovese:
• Thai basil has a unique flavor of anise
• Lemon basil – extra special for seafood and salads
• Holy basil – pungent flavor
• Spicy cinnamon basil – yes, delicious on desserts!
• Purple basil – especially rich in anthocyanins – the same type of strong anti-oxidants found in blueberries and red cabbage

Okay, I teased you with a list of health benefits. Here you go, 5 great facts about fabulous basil:
1. Is a great source of vitamin K. There have been studies that suggest increasing your vitamin K intake may help guard against diabetes as well as other chronic issues.
2. Contains potent flavonoid antioxidants, which may wield anti-aging properties and possibly even protect against cancer.
3. Contains oils like eugenol and linalool that have strong antibacterial properties. Keep this in mind when cooking chicken and ground meat, making them safer to enjoy.
4. Offers high levels of carotenoids, which studies have shown may actually improve mood, decreasing anxiety as well as balancing cholesterol in the blood. Wow!
5. Along with other herbs adds wonderful flavor to our foods, minimizing the desire for added salt, and indirectly helping to keep blood pressure in check.

I love this fabulous herb in blended green drinks. In this hot weather, my green drinks are the fuel that keeps me going! Not juices, mind you, blended drinks which leave the fiber in the final product! So I wanted to share one of my favorite concoctions with you right here.

To prepare approximately 2 servings. Place the following ingredients in a Ninja or Vitamix;
• 1 inch water
• 1 medium beet
• 3 or 4 basil tops
• 2 handfuls of spinach
• ½ lemon including peel
• 1 small Granny Smith apple
• Handful of ice cubes

Blend — and get ready to feel just great!

Soul Food

Filed in Diet, Gardening, General, Recipes, The Skinny Gut Diet | Posted by Brenda Watson on 07/01/2016


Here on our farm at Vital Planet black-eyed peas abound – perfect makings for my family soul food recipes! We are grateful that they are a flourishing part of our experimental summer crop.

Hot Florida summers aren’t terribly kind to many of our crops, however. Worms found our delicious cucumbers extremely delicious as well, so we’ve removed their tired limbs to the composter. Too hot and too late in the season had our tomatillos without fruit. Yes, in the composter too.

However our black-eyed peas, some lima beans and bush beans are continuing to produce, along with dandelion, baby lettuces, some parsley and arugula, all grown through hydroponic farming. The okra plants, fancy with their gorgeous flowers, are bursting forth mightily. You can almost stand and watch those babies grow! And we’ve even decided to plant some more mature peppers to see what might materialize.

So I decided that it was time for an ole fashioned Southern soul food treat for us all! I shucked black-eyed peas until I was cross-eyed and decided to make my Mama’s Famous Black-Eyed Peas recipe along with Daddy’s Favorite Cake of Cornbread! There wasn’t an evening in my house growing up where that delicious cake wasn’t on the table – not if Mama wanted Daddy to be happy.

I know that black-eyed peas tend to be a New Year’s treat, but since they’re still in growing season, I just had to share these time-tested, beloved Southern recipes with you right here. Please let me know how you like them and remember, on our Skinny Gut Diet, this is a special treat, not regular fare!

soul food peas

My Mama’s Famous Black-eyed Peas

  • Approximately 1/2 – 3 cups dried or fresh shelled black-eyed peas
  • 2 tablespoons bacon fat
  • 4 strips of crisp bacon – crumbled/ham hock or a piece of salt pork
  • 1 small onion – chopped
  • 1 tablespoon garlic – chopped
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper

Sautee chopped onions and garlic in bacon fat.

Add in peas and enough water to just cover the mixture.

Crumble in bacon (or add ham).

Add pepper.

Bring to a hard boil for 10 minutes.

Turn down to simmer for about 40 minutes or until peas are soft.

Add more water if necessary – makes a great gravy!

My Daddy’s Favorite Cake of Cornbread

  • 2 cups – Self rising cornmeal (gluten free/no flour).
  • Follow directions on bag to make batter.
  • I substitute 2 cups of buttermilk for the egg that’s suggested on the package.
  • Few tablespoons of oil.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Put about 1 tablespoon oil in an iron skillet and spread oil around the skillet, including up onto the sides. I used an oil that was a coconut and canola combo.

Pour the batter in the skillet and place on top of stove at low heat. Watch the batter closely!

When bubbles begin to form in the batter, take cornbread cake off stove and put in preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes.

Following this process will create cornbread that is crisp on the bottom as well as the top.

Once done, you’ll want to remove the entire cornbread from the skillet to cool. By the way, butter is delicious on top when warm!

soul food cornbread

Now it’s time to enjoy, and enjoy, and enjoy!

Happy 4th of July! I hope everyone has a pleasant and relaxing long weekend!

Skinny Gut Your Gumbo

Filed in Diet, General, Recipes | Posted by Brenda Watson on 06/17/2016


Amazing Shrimp Gumbo - brendawatson.com

With the Fourth of July just around the corner, our family always starts to plan for picnics and get-togethers. I thought I’d take this opportunity to share a simple and delicious gumbo that is always a crowd pleaser! It’s easy to double or triple this recipe and make a delicious offering for a large group!

Seafood Gumbo

(this recipe can be found in my recent book – Heart of Perfect Health)

Only 1.8 teaspoons of sugar per serving!

Prep – 60 minutes (well worth your time!)

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 2 cups chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped green pepper
  • 1 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning mix or favorite Creole spice blend
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 – 14.5 ounce can low-sodium chopped tomatoes or similar amount raw/chopped
  • 1 pound medium shrimp (30 count) peeled and deveined
  • 1 cup fresh crabmeat
  • 2 tablespoons hot sauce
  • 1 cup sliced fresh or frozen okra (optional, but delicious – and in season!)

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottom 5-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, peppers, garlic, Cajun seasoning, and bay leaves. Sautee for 5 to 7 minutes, until the onions and peppers are softened.

Add the stock and tomatoes with their juices and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 40 minutes.

Add the shrimp, crabmeat, hot sauce, and okra. Return the mixture to a boil, cover, and remove from the heat; let stand for 10 minutes, or until the shrimp turn pink.

Of course, any other seafood you have in your household would be a delicious addition too. More green veggies also only add more nutrients to the fun!

Enjoy!

Egg-ceptionally delicious!

Filed in Diet, Recipes, The Skinny Gut Diet | Posted by Brenda Watson on 01/22/2016


I do editorial reviews monthly for Alive Magazine, a Canadian publication I really appreciate. Today I’d like to share a very creative slow cooker recipe right from this month’s offering  – Issue 399.

Slow cookers are one of my favorite kitchen implements and in the winter, the soups, stews and roasts that can be made are only limited by your imagination. In Skinny Gut Diet we’ve even dubbed the slow cooker as one of our “power tools”. Today I’m offering you a particularly interesting breakfast idea, hopefully one you and yours will enjoy throughout the day.

Egg-Ceptional Slow-Cooked Frittata

Eggs and vegetables – in my mind, that’s a perfect combination for a meal or snack. Add in – “totally easy to prepare” – well, this could be the perfect breakfast, and a great way to keep your blood sugar balanced and your family healthy. Once prepared, this frittata can be made into meal or snack portions and can be safely refrigerated in an airtight container for up to three days (if it lasts that long…) Grab and go – easy and nutritious.

1 tbsp (15 mL) grapeseed or coconut oil

10 large organic eggs

1 ½ tsp (7ml) finely chopped fresh dill or ¾ tsp (4mL) dried dill

2 tbsp (30 mL) Dijon mustard

5 oz (140 g) baby spinach

2 green onions, trimmed and finely chopped

1 cup (250 mL) grated sweet potato

½ cup (125 mL) diced roasted red peppers

½ cup (125 mL) corn kernels, fresh or thawed if frozen

2 oz (56 g) crumbled feta cheese

(truthfully, any veggies you have on hand will be delicious in this – kale, mushrooms, peas, green beans, asparagus – be creative and empty your frig into the slow cooker!)

Grease a 5 quart (4.7L) or 6 quart (5.7L) oval slow cooker with oil.

In large bowl, whisk together eggs, dill, and mustard. Stir in spinach, green onions, sweet potato, roasted red pepper, and corn (or whatever) until well combined. Pour into oiled slow cooker and sprinkle with cheese. Cover with lid and cook on low until frittata is set and cheese is melted, about 2 ½ to 3 hours.

Cut into portions and serve either warm or at room temperature.

Serves 8.

Note – Each serving contains: 178 calories; 10 g protein, 12 g total fat (3 g sat. fat, 0 g trans fat); 8 g total carbohydrates (3 g sugars, 2 g fiber); 280 mg sodium

Here’s to slow and steady cooking on your way to vibrant health!

Summer Kebob Fun!

Filed in Adults, Recipes | Posted by Brenda Watson on 08/14/2015


I love grilled food. I prep it in the kitchen and hand it over to my husband Stan. He then dons his alter-ego of Fabulous Grill Master! Hopefully you have someone in your house who undergoes the same transformation. I have only to wait patiently for a marvelous meal to appear after that.

My single assistant tells me that no husband is required. She assumes the same Grill Master alter-ego herself. Grilling just seems to mean “fun” for everyone!

Two appealing aspects of kebob (also known as kebab) recipes – they’re extremely easy to prepare and most are naturally high in protein while relatively low in carbs. If there’s a place for virtually risk-free experimentation, it seems to be with kebobs. Your wild idea will most likely turn out to be a big hit!

In this particular creation, beyond the base of chicken or shrimp, one mango is shared between 8 servings, giving us the heavenly taste of that summer fruit with very little sugar per person. The avocado provides tasty and healthy really “good” fat.

I hope you like them as much as we do.

 

1 ¼ lb of chicken tenders, cut into chunks or large shrimp, peeled

1 mango, peeled and cubed – approx. 1 inch diameter

2 small avocados cubed into approx. ¾ inch pieces

1 cup cherry tomatoes

Juice of ½ orange

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove grated

1 tsp. chopped parsley

1 tsp lemon zest

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp black pepper

2 tbsp thinly sliced fresh basil

Alternate threading either chicken or shrimp with mango, avocado and tomatoes onto 8 skewers. Whisk together orange juice, oil, garlic, parsley, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Brush some of the liquid mixture on the completed skewers and set aside in the frig for a quick marinate. 15 minutes will do just fine.

Preheat your grill to medium-high and grease the grate. You’ll want to grill your kebobs until your chicken or shrimp are done through. Turn your skewers and baste with more of your liquid mixture at around 3 minutes. It will probably take 6 minutes or so to fully cook your chicken or shrimp, but keep a watchful eye on them in case they’re ready earlier.

Serve your kebobs garnished with basil.

Kebobs and a side salad based in bitter greens like I suggested last week in this refreshing recipe are a great pair. Makes 8 kebobs and one happy group of people!

Summer Salad Treat

Filed in Adults, Cleansing & Detox, Digestive Health, Recipes | Posted by Brenda Watson on 08/07/2015


Is it summer enough for you yet? Here in Florida it’s either hot, or raining, or hot and humid from the recent rain. In the spirit of cooling off, I’m offering a recipe treat this week.

I seem to crave light foods almost exclusively – and easy prep is a must. So salads and more salads are appealing. Adding in bitter greens makes this combination especially valuable as a gentle cleanse for your liver.

And although watermelon is not a low sugar food, how can you go an entire summer without a little taste of the fruit that seems to represent summer itself?

It’s also a great season to find beautifully colored tomatoes that can really dress up this delicious mixture. Artistic vision meets simple nutritious delight!

 

Watermelon and Heirloom Tomato Salad with Yummy Roasted Nuts

1 cup mixture of walnuts, sunflower seeds and pumpkins seeds

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp thinly sliced fresh basil

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar or coconut vinegar

1 garlic clove – pressed or minced

1 tsp raw honey

Pinch of salt and pepper to taste

2 cups of cubed watermelon

3 tomatoes, colors optional, cut in wedges

3 cups arugula

Place nuts on a roasting pan in the oven or toaster oven on ‘broil’ or ‘toast’ – just until you hear the pumpkin seeds pop – usually a little over 5 minutes, depending on your oven. Set them aside to cool.

For dressing, combine oil, basil, vinegar, garlic, honey, salt, and pepper. Mix thoroughly.

Place watermelon, tomatoes, arugula and dressing in a medium-sized bowl and toss together.

Garnish with roasted nuts.

Serves 2 to 3.

Happy Summer!

Blended Drink for Loving Your Liver

Filed in Adults, Cleansing & Detox, Diet, Dietary Fiber, Digestive Health, Liver, Recipes | Posted by Brenda Watson on 06/12/2015


Here comes the summer, and with it, the opportunity to sweat! Of course, when you’re in your business clothes, you may not perceive that as a positive. Maybe if you remember that sweating is one of the most important ways that your body eliminates toxins, it will lessen your dismay at possible perspiration stains on your blouse.

I’ve been writing a lot lately about loving your liver, and suggesting that from time to time you make an effort to cleanse. So I decided to share one of my favorite blended detox drinks here today – one that includes ingredients that will help promote optimal liver function.

 

2 ribs of celery

1 cup chopped green cabbage

1/3 lemon or lime

1 small beet

1 whole Granny Smith apple

A handful of spinach

And/or dandelion greens and/or arugula – these liver supportive greens tend to be more bitter, so add them depending on your “bitter tolerance”

Handful of ice cubes, if desired

 

Place ingredients in Ninja or Vitamix and blend until smooth.

You might even consider adding some flax, chia or soluble acacia fiber to your drink that will increase your fiber intake. During a liver detox as bile flow is stimulated from the liver to the gallbladder to the gut, it’s helpful to provide extra fiber to absorb those released toxins, preventing them from being reabsorbed back to the liver.

Make loving your liver a habit. Believe me, it’s one that will pay off in the long run.

Recipe for a Healthy Liver

Filed in Adults, Cleansing & Detox, Diet, Digestive Health, Inflammation, Liver, Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease - NAFLD, Obesity, Recipes, The Skinny Gut Diet | Posted by Brenda Watson on 06/05/2015


If you happened to catch my newsletter this week, you’ll know that my mind has been on your liver (and mine).

In the grand scheme of health, your liver is one of your very dearest and most important friends, one to maintain an excellent relationship with – every bit as important as your Mom or Dad, spouse/partner or children.

Calling the liver a workhorse is putting it very mildly. In our toxic world, a properly functioning liver may be where the line is drawn between life and death – and it’s certainly critical for a vibrant quality of daily living. In my newsletter I shared with you how it functions and the many implications of dysfunction.

I thought it might be fun to offer you a favorite delicious and easy “liver support” recipe, and then describe for you what it is about the liver reinforcing ingredients that make them super heroes of good health.

Since my eating plan, Skinny Gut Diet, is an 85% plant based program, I’m always looking for yummy salad dressings to dress up the essential and foundational veggies. Here’s a favorite of mine.

 

Anti-Inflammatory Turmeric Sun Dressing

Ingredients:

  • 4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • juice + zest of 2 lemons
  • ¼ avocado
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. ground turmeric
  • a little less than a teaspoon of ground pepper (added by me)
  • 1 Tbsp. raw local honey — (I personally like some stevia or erythritol here)
  • pinch of Himalayan sea salt (to taste)

Directions:

Blend all ingredients in a blender.  Add more avocado if you desire a thicker consistency.

 

And now to describe those ingredient super heroes:

Olive oil – cold-pressed oils (flax and hemp too) support the liver by providing a lipid (good fat) base that sucks up harmful toxins during digestion.

Lemon – contains high amounts of vitamin C, which aids your body into converting toxic materials into substances that can be absorbed by water. By the way, drinking freshly squeezed lemon in the morning helps stimulate your liver.

Avocado – helps your body produce glutathione, a compound that is necessary for the liver to cleanse harmful toxins.

Garlic – activates liver enzymes that help your body flush out toxins. Garlic also contains high amounts of allicin and selenium that aid in liver cleansing.

Turmeric, as mentioned in the name of the dressing, is widely recognized as an anti-inflammatory nutrient. It’s actually the liver’s favorite spice and boosts liver detox by assisting enzymes that actively flush out dietary carcinogens. In order for turmeric to be absorbed into your circulation, it’s helpful to eat it along with pepper in a roughly 8 to 1 ratio.

And of course, pour your liver-loving dressing over your favorite salad, making sure to include leafy greens like arugula, dandelion or spinach. These greens help increase the production and flow of bile, which removes waste from the organs and blood and assists the liver in detoxification.

I think it’s interesting to see specific functions of liver supportive foods. More options are listed here. Come to think of it, the list looks a lot like the shopping guide from Skinny Gut Diet! Come join us in our Facebook Group, and let’s support our livers together.

To Your Health~

Sandi’s Chocolate Pumpkin Treats

Filed in Recipes, The Skinny Gut Diet | Posted by Brenda Watson on 11/25/2014


For a treat that satisfies your sweet tooth without adding on the pounds, these chocolate pumpkin cups are the perfect choice. I keep them on hand for a sweet treat without the sugar.

pumpkin-chocolate-treats

These chocolate cups have only 0.5 teaspoons of sugar (that includes sugar that breaks down from starchy carbohydrates), as calculated using my sugar tracker calculation from my book, The Skinny Gut Diet:

teaspoon-tracker

0.5 teaspoons of sugar per cup
65 minutes to prepare and freeze
Makes 20 cups

Chocolate
1/3 cup coconut cream concentrate (coconut butter)
1/3 cup coconut oil
6 tablespoons cacao powder
1 teaspoon natural, non-caloric sweetener (monk fruit, stevia, etc.)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice

Filling
½ cup pumpkin puree (canned or prepared from fresh pumpkin)
¼ cup nut butter
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Topping
¼ cup coarsely chopped nuts

1. Melt the coconut cream and the coconut oil in a saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat and add the cacao powder, sweetener, vanilla extract, and 1 tablespoon of the pumpkin pie spice. Mix until well blended.
2. Place cupcake liners into a mini muffin pan. Add ½ teaspoon chocolate mixture to each of 20 cups. Place in freezer for about 20 minutes.
3. In a mixing bowl, combine the pumpkin puree, nut butter, and 1 teaspoon pumpkin spice. Place ½ teaspoon of the filling mixture on top of frozen chocolate. Place another ½ teaspoon of chocolate mixture over the filling.
4. Sprinkle with the coarsely chopped nuts, and freeze for 30 minutes or until hardened.