Agave or agave nectar (or syrup) is a sweet substance, similar in taste and texture as honey, just a little sweeter with a thinner consistency. Agave nectar is made up primarily of glucose and fructose and is considered a lower glycemic sweetener. It is a great honey substitute for vegans, but due to the high fructose content, it may not be good for those with metabolic syndrome or diabetes.

Amaranth is a gluten-free seed grain raised around the world, primarily in Asia, North and South America. Amaranth is high in complete protein, especially the amino acid lysine. Amaranth has a nutty flavor and is great cooked up as a breakfast cereal or side dish and the flour makes a great addition to any gluten-free baking mix.

Antioxidants are chemical substances that help protect the body from the adverse effects of oxygen. While it is true that oxygen is an essential energy source for our cells, unstable oxygen can actually be toxic and damaging to our bodies. Unstable oxygen is what we have in free radicals. Free radicals are formed as a result of factors like excess exposure to the sun, cigarette smoke and air pollution, excess alcohol, and even x-rays. Free radicals can damage the body’s cells and DNA, and interrupt the normal ability to reproduce healthy cells. Antioxidants fight back against free radical damage, which is why they are essential for almost everyone. We can find antioxidants within the body or we can find them in the foods we eat or supplements we take. Green tea is one example a beverage that contains naturally occurring antioxidants.

Curry is best classified as a variety of spices that often includes curry leaves, turmeric, coriander, cumin, and red pepper – but the combination of spices can vary considerably depending on the type of cuisine. Curry powder is available commercially, as is curry paste. The bright yellow color of curry powder is due to turmeric, which is known as a powerful anti-inflammatory agent.

Edamame is soybeans, still in their pods. They are usually boiled or steamed before eating and sprinkled lightly with sea salt. Edamame is found in most grocery stores and Asian markets in the frozen food section. It may also be found near the prepared food section, especially if the grocer offers sushi.

Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) are necessary fats that humans cannot synthesize, and must be obtained through diet. EFAs are long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids derived from linolenic, linoleic, and oleic acids. EFAs support the cardiovascular, reproductive, immune, and nervous systems. Flaxseed oil has the highest linolenic content of any food. Flaxseeds, flaxseed meal, hempseed oil, hempseeds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts, sesame seeds, avocados, some dark leafy green vegetables (kale, spinach, purslane, mustard greens, collards, etc.), canola oil (cold-pressed and unrefined), soybean oil, wheat germ oil, salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, albacore tuna, are all examples of foods containing EFAs.

Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that moves through the digestive tract basically unchanged. Fiber helps us feel more full and more satisfied because it slows digestion and absorption so that sugar (glucose) enters the bloodstream more slowly. There are two main types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and has a positive effect in the body including lowering bad cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Insoluble fiber cannot be dissolved in water and helps with regularity/elimination. Adults would do well to eat at least 28 grams of fiber daily.

Free range is a marketing term used to describe a method of raising livestock where the animals are permitted to roam freely as opposed to being contained. It may also imply other meanings including grass fed, humanely raised, or pasture raised. It is assumed that free range meats and eggs come from animals allowed to graze on grasses, rather than corn fed.

Gluten is a starchy wheat protein, made from the proteins gliadin and glutenin, present in many grass grains including wheat, rye, barley, kamut, and spelt. It is estimated that approximately 1% of the United States population has an adverse immune (autoimmune) response to gluten, labeled celiac disease. When individuals with celiac disease eat foods that contain gluten, damage can occur in the small intestine. This can then lead to malabsorption of essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, which then can cause other health problems.

Glycemic Index (GI) is a ranking (0 to 100) of foods according to their effect on blood glucose levels. High GI foods (ranking of 70 and above) are quickly digested and can result in wacky blood sugar fluctuations. Low GI foods (55 and under) are digested and absorbed more slowly and have been shown to be beneficial to people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Low GI foods also help with weight management and appetite control. Examples of low GI foods include dark green leafy vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, kale), onions, carrots, peas, cherries, plums, grapefruit, peaches, apples, pears, coconut, grapes, berries, whole milk, yogurt, legumes, brown rice, wheat tortillas, buckwheat, new potatoes, sweet potatoes, whole grain pasta, rolled oats, oat bran, nuts, and seeds.

Greek-Style Yogurt is a thicker, creamier, richer style of yogurt that has higher protein content than most regular style yogurts.

Greens or Powdered Greens are generally a powdered form of phytonutrients made from foods like fruits, vegetables, seaweeds, herbs, and/or grasses. Nutritional information and taste can vary considerably between greens products. Look for greens that do not contain artificial sweeteners, colors, or flavoring agents.

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is a sweetener to avoid. It is a highly refined sugar that the body doesn’t metabolize very well. HFCS is added to a wide array of foods ranging from sweets to condiments. It has been linked to increased rates of obesity. HFCS is made by milling corn to produce corn starch, which is made into corn syrup, which is roughly total glucose, and then changing the glucose into fructose through an additional process. It is often added to foods you wouldn’t suspect, so please read labels.

Phytonutrients are chemical-like compounds found in plants that have shown promise in disease prevention. They can be further classified into different antioxidant groupings including flavonoids, carotenoids, isoflavones, lignans, saponins, and indoles.

Polyphenols are chemical compounds found in certain foods that may be beneficial to our health. Polyphenols have antioxidant activity that may help reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers. Food sources include tea, red wine and grapes, berries, cocoa, walnuts, pomegranates, peanuts, prunes, raisins, blueberries, kale, strawberries, spinach, raspberries, Brussels sprouts, plums, broccoli, beets, oranges, red grapes, red bell peppers, cherries.

Whey Protein Powder is typically available in/as three major forms: concentrate, isolate, and hydrolysate. It is a very well digested protein. Whey protein concentrate contains a fairly low level of fat and cholesterol, lactose, carbohydrate, and can fluctuate considerably in protein content. Whey protein isolate has typically had the fat and lactose removed. Isolates have a higher percentage of protein by weight. Whey protein hydrolysates are the most easily absorbed and least allergenic varieties of whey protein. Both whey protein concentrate and isolate have a milky flavor, while the hydrolysate form has a more bitter taste.

Whey protein contains branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), which are used to build and fuel muscles. Whey protein contains amino acids like cysteine and glutamine, which can be used to synthesize glutathione in the body. Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant that may help protect against certain types of cancer.

Soy protein is a popular protein choice among vegans. Soy protein isolate comes from defatted soy flour which has had most of the non-protein components, fats and carbohydrates removed. It contains roughly 90% protein by weight. Because of this, it has a neutral flavor and will cause less flatulence due to bacterial fermentation. Soy protein concentrate preserves much of the fiber of the original soybean, and contains about 70% protein.

Both whey and soy protein powders are widely available at most grocery stores and natural food stores. Other forms of protein powder that are available but sometimes more difficult to find, include hemp protein, brown rice protein (and sprouted rice protein), pea protein, and egg white protein.

Quinoa is a higher protein “ancient” seed-grain, naturally gluten-free, and really not a grain or a seed, but rather a fruit. There is a natural, bitter saponin residue that coats the seeds so the quinoa needs to be well-rinsed prior to cooking. Quinoa (pronounced Keen-wah), is a relative of spinach and Swiss chard. It is high in complete protein, magnesium, manganese, iron, tryptophan and fiber.

Tamari is Japanese soy sauce made using traditional brewing methods. It tastes basically the same as soy sauce. We always use San-J Organic Wheat-Free Reduced Sodium Tamari that is a certified gluten-free product.

Teff is a tiny little nutty grain that is high in protein, calcium, and iron. It is found in the form of flour or as a whole grain and is naturally gluten-free.

Tempeh is a soy food made from partially cooked and fermented soybeans. It has high protein content and can be marinated, stir fried, baked, or stewed.

Tofu, also known as bean curd, originated in China and is made by coagulating soy milk. Tofu is a decent source of protein, is high in iron, and usually a good source of magnesium and calcium, depending on how it was processed.

Trans Fats may occur naturally in meat and dairy products, but they are also produced during the process of hydrogenation of oils. Partially hydrogenated oils add shelf life to processed foods, but they also increase the risk or coronary heart disease and metabolic syndrome. Avoid as much as possible.

Tryptophan is an amino acid found in poultry, red meat, eggs, chocolate, oats, dates, mangoes, dried dates, milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, red fish, chickpeas, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and peanuts. Tryptophan has been used as a sleep aid and as anti-depressant in mild depression and seasonal affective disorder.

Download a PDF of How to Eat and “Get Your Awesome On!” (you can also learn about the preferred foods in the plan, portion control and snacks). To get started, click here to see the first week’s meal plan and recipes or download a PDF: Meal Plan and Recipes – Week 1