MLB Playoff Ballpark Favorite Foods: Homemade Cracker Jacks

If you miss sitting in the stands and watching your favorite team this season, you’re not alone. You can’t replace the sound of fans, the energy and excitement. However, you can make some of your favorite ballpark foods right at home! Imagine the sweet caramel sent homemade cracker jacks. And notes of deep smoked hotdogs that hang in the air. Plus, who could forget nachos, the perfect 7th inning stretch snack as you munch away any game-time anxiety. We miss America’s favorite sport.

As you watch at home you can recreate some of the environment with a few fan favorites starting with Homemade Cracker Jacks. Fresh from the oven, sweet and nutty, there’s nothing like making your own version of this old time snack.

Cracker Jacks combine the smooth taste of caramel along with the salt and nutty flavor of Spanish peanuts. If you are craving something a little sweet you can’t go wrong with this homemade version.

Print Recipe
Homemade Cracker Jacks
Sweet and salty, you'll never go back to the cardboard boxed version!
Homemade Cracker Jacks
Homemade Cracker Jacks
  1. 1. Preheat oven to 200ºF.
  2. 2. Spread popcorn into a 9” x 12” pan. Sprinkle peanuts on top of popcorn. Set pan aside.
  3. 3. Place sugar, dark corn syrup, molasses, corn oil, water and salt in a heavy saucepan and mix.
  4. 4. Turn heat on simmer and stir almost continuously with a wooden spoon. Sugar will melt and mixture will turn into a liquid. Cook, stirring almost continuously, until the mixture is uniform and caramelized in color, syrupy and begins to show small bubbles. Remove from heat before it boils.
  5. 5. Drizzle evenly sauce over popcorn and peanut mixture.
  6. 6. Place pan in the oven and cook for 45 minutes. Stir every 15 minutes while cooking.
  7. 7. Remove from heat, cool and enjoy!
Recipe Notes

* Microwave popcorn - Pop popcorn in the microwave by adding ¼ cup kernels to a large brown paper bag (or microwave safe bowl covered with plastic wrap). Fold the top of the bag over 3 times. Cook on high until popping slows.

Share this Recipe

CrossFit Nutrition is a Scam

If you follow the CrossFit nutrition guidelines, you’ve been scammed by make believe nutrition experts – they aren’t really experts because no nutrition expert would write such nonsense. You remember playing make believe as a kid? Well, CrossFit is still playing. 

CrossFit has so many things wrong with their nutrition manual that they should stick in a fire and let it burn. Here is a snapshot of some of their advice:

Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat. To optimize health and fitness, you will need to measure and record intake, evaluate performance and potentially change intake until the desired results are achieved. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store. Excess intake of high glycemic carbohydrates are the primary cause of nutrition related health issues. They recommend the Zone diet.

The Truth:

How can you eat fruit and no sugar? Unless you are sticking with avocados and olives only. All other fruit has naturally occurring sugar in it.

“Not body fat”? Body fat in healthy levels is essential for health. In the body, fats have several vital roles: hormone production, protecting our organs, serving as a source of energy, reproduction, and helping carry vitamins and other compounds as well as nervous system functioning.

No, you don’t need to measure and record your food intake. In fact, for many ppl, this can be a recipe for disordered eating and a totally wrecked body image. Sometimes recording is helpful, other times it is a disaster. Let a professional guide you. 

High glycemic carbs – they talk about how high glycemic foods (including potatoes) raise insulin which is liked to obesity. The carbohydrate-insulin-obesity hypothesis was disproven by Kevin Hall, PhD about 4 years ago

Another thing they say “If you could not have harvested it out of your own garden or farm and eaten it an hour later, it is not food….If it has a label on it, it is not food… if it is not perishable, it is not food.” This is not practical for many people, it’s costly, nonsense and completely excludes lower income individuals, hard-working single parents who don’t have time to prep meals, people who don’t have access to fresh food, those who don’t want to cook and many others. How about we be a little more inclusive when we preach nutrition? Not to mention you can definitely steer from these guidelines and still improve health. Canning and freezing lock in nutrition value. Many non-perishable foods are a lifesaver for those who don’t have the time, access or desire to cook meals daily. 

Shop the perimeter of the store.
This is advice from about 1990. Let it go. The isles have plenty of healthy foods. 

CrossFit relies on the Zone Diet

But, the Zone Diet is complete garbage. It preaches 40% carbohydrate, 30% fat and 30% protein as a way to control the hormone insulin. “For those eating according to Zone parameters, body fat comes off fast.” There is no research or plausible reason that eating a 40/30/30 diet melts off body fat. Our hormones don’t magically go “oh wait that apple snack is better with nuts on the side to balance it out and for ideal hormone levels.” Again, this “raising insulin = obesity,” model of weight gain was disproven years ago. Insulin alone is not responsible for weight gain.

CrossFit Has Meal Plans, But They Aren’t Good for Muscle

CrossFit has meal plans in “blocks” or units of food. Looking at mine I can eat 2 whole eggs, 2/3 cup cooked oatmeal and 6 almonds for breakfast. That’s about 280 calories which is very little and 17 grams of protein on the high end. At dinner I would be allowed 2 oz. of chicken! 2 freaking ounces! That’s nothing. Given the research on meal patterns and how much protein we should consume in a sitting to maximize muscle growth and repair, this isn’t the best plan to follow if my goal is to build muscle or even keep the muscle I have now. It’s super low calories and contains 2 bite sized snacks (thank God because otherwise I’d be so hungry cardboard may look appetizing).  

They go on to say, “It has nothing to do with genetics. The genetic part is an intolerance to excess amounts of carbohydrate.” Presumably here they mean heart disease based on the context it was written but regardless, it doesn’t matter what they are talking about because it is wrong. No one has an intolerance to the macronutrient carbohydrate. Fructose intolerance yes (which by the way is genetic which again makes this statement completely wrong) but not all carbohydrates! 

Another CF gem: omega 6’s are pro inflammatory and there is an ideal ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fats. This is for another IG and blog topic but omega 6s are not solely pro inflammatory and there is no known ideal ratio of omega 6s to omega 3s. Not to mention what is ideal for one person isn’t necessarily ideal for another person. Like Cabbage Patch Kids, we are all different. And, our dietary needs are different as well.

Do yourself a favor if you love CrossFit – avoid their make-believe nutrition advice. Oh, and have a physical therapist on speed dial. Several have told me CrossFit keeps them in business due to the number of injuries.  

Save Money and Time With Nutritious Comfort Foods

Healthy Homemade Veggie Pizza from Scratch (Gluten Free Version Available!)


After carefully planning out a week’s worth of meals, you head to the store only to be disappointed. The shelves are picked over and there are several items you can’t find. It’s hard enough to shop while on a budget. But, the added stress of going on a wild goose chase to find ingredients can sap even the biggest foodie’s enthusiasm for quarantine cooking. However, I have something that will make your life much easier: canned foods. They deliver on taste, cost, nutrition value and ease of cooking. Canned foods take the stress out of cooking. Plus, they are there and ready when you need them. No mess, no waste. 

Easy Cooking From Scratch

In April my dad wanted pizza for his birthday. He is on a reduced sodium diet so I choose ingredients wisely. Well, my frustration flew through the roof when I went to a very large grocery store only to find all of the jars of tomato sauce left on the shelves were very high in sodium and expensive. After all, it’s a production just to go out. I had a mask, hand sanitizer, Clorox wipes and a coat because the DC area was still in the low 50s in late April. After taking a few deep breathes, I stopped and realized there are other ways.

Substituting Ingredients

Cooking, unlike baking, is very forgiving. You can make ingredient substitutions as needed. This is why I’ve rarely measured when it comes to cooking – I can eyeball what I am adding and ad lib when I feel like it. Plus, I refused to go to another store. And it was then that I came to my senses. My grandma always made her sauces from scratch. I could make one that was both low in sodium and tasted better than anything I could buy. The preparation part would take me less than 5 minutes and there was minimal cleanup. Plus, this pizza would be far lower in sodium than anything you could buy in a restaurant. 

I picked up Red Gold’s no salt added diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano, Swanson’s chicken broth, salt free Italian seasoning, cheese and the ingredients needed to make pizza dough. He loves olives so Musco reduced salt olives were a no brainer and, I added Del Monte leaf spinach (no salt added) so this delicious dinner provided at least a full serving of vegetables. Relying on canned foods was an easy win – they helped me make mealtime simple and stress-free. Plus, cans are the key to making delicious comfort foods – especially the most amazing homemade red sauce. {Jump to Recipes}

Save Cash and Reduce Waste

Two months into COVID-19, fresh produce is still hard to find in many stores. Yet even when it is readily available, I still rely on canned produce. I travel often and having canned foods in my cabinet means I’ll always be able to make a meal without stopping at the grocery store on the way home. That’s huge when you are totally exhausted and cannot imagine a pit-stop after a long trip. Plus, with canned foods I don’t have to worry about food going bad. This is huge because food gone bad is a huge waste of cash. And if COVID-19 has taught us anything, besides handwashing skills of course, it’s to not waste and conserve cash (lessons my dad taught us from a very young age). 

Americans throw out 31 – 41% of the food we purchase. In addition to throwing your hard-earned dollar in the trash, food waste drains the environment. Rotting fruits and vegetables, the top food wasted, uses water and contributes to ethylene gas, methane and CO2 emissions all of which are harmful for our environment. And that pollution in the environment ends up in our water supply, on our crops, on your plate and in your body. There are several steps you can take to load your plate with healthy foods while avoiding waste.

5 Steps to Avoiding Food Waste

  1. Use a shopping list to prevent impulse buys. 
  2. Buy canned foods. Canned produce goes from field to package within 4 hours. Fresh produce takes 24 days from field to store!(1) Plus canned foods have similar, and in some cases better, nutritional profiles as compared to their fresh and frozen counterparts.(2) The “waste” when producing canned foods – including peels, cores and other inedible plant matter, is removed and reused as agricultural feed or compost.(3)
  3. Buy frozen foods. Freezing locks in the nutrition value of the food indefinitely and you can use frozen foods at your convenience. The texture may change. 
  4. Don’t automatically throw food out by the use by date. This is a measure of quality and not food safety. Assess your food for safety (smell your meat, poultry, fish and dairy, make sure fruits and vegetables are not molded).
  5. Freeze fruits and veggies that are about to rot. Separate them on a wax paper lined sheet and freeze them (this step prevents them from freezing together in a large clump). Once frozen you can bag them together (in a tight zippered plastic bag with no extra air in it). 

If you make larger batches of soups, stews and other dishes, freeze half, so you aren’t eating the same leftovers every day. Plus, you’ll have a dish ready to go when you really don’t feel like cooking. This means less impulse buying or less money spent on take-out. Many dishes freeze well. Stews are perfect because the texture doesn’t change much when frozen and reheated. Grain dishes, lasagna, veggie pizzas, burritos, and quiche are among my favorite foods to batch cook and freeze. 

Locking in Sound Nutrition

Feeding your family nutritious and tasty meals is a lot easier when you rely on canned foods. They are an excellent choice for helping you meet your nutrient needs. In fact, research also shows when canned produce is incorporated into diets people tend to eat more fruits and vegetables.(4) This is important because the majority of Americans are not eating recommended amounts of vegetables and fruits.(5) American’s diets are also low in key nutrients including fiber, potassium, calcium and vitamin D.(6) Yet the research shows how canned foods help:

  • Compared to those who don’t use cans, adults and kids who consume canned fruits and vegetables get more energy, dietary fiber, choline and potassium and less fat and saturated fat.(7)
  • Of the top 50 best sources of potassium, eight are canned foods: tomato paste, white beans, clams, chili with beans, great northern beans, spinach, refried beans and tomato sauce.(8)


There are more than 1,500 varieties of canned foods available year-round, providing easy access to a world of ingredients anytime.(9) As we space out our trips to the grocery store, canned foods make it easy – no need to resort to takeout or stress about trying to feed your family.

If you are looking for an easy way to put nutritious meals on the table, stock up on canned foods. There are an unlimited number of dishes you can make with canned foods from meals to desserts and snacks. When food budgets are tight and shopping trips are limited, canned foods are always therefore you as an affordable and shelf-stable option.

I partnered with CansGetYouCooking to create this post and recipe. However, opinions are my own. 


1 Length of Time Qualitative Audit – Duration and Steps in Processing Canned and Fresh Produce. Can Manufacturers Institute, May 2014.

2 Miller SR, Knudson WA. Nutrition and cost comparisons of select canned, frozen and fresh fruits and vegetables. Am J Lifestyle Med 2014;8(6): 430-437.

3 Buzby JC, Wells HF, Hyman J. The estimated amount, value and calories of postharvest food losses at the retail and consumer levels in the United States, EIB-121, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Rsearch Service, February 2014. 

4 Comberford KB. Frequent canned food use is positively associated with nutrient-dense food group consumption and higher nutrient intakes in U.S. children and adults. Nutrients 2015;7(7): 5586-5600.

5 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Adults meeting fruit and vegetable intake recommendations – United States, 2013. Washington DC. 

6 Miller SR, Knudson WA. Nutrition and cost comparisons of select canned, frozen and fresh fruits and vegetables. Am J Lifestyle Med 2014;8(6): 430-437.

7 Freedman MR, Fulgoni VL 3rd. Canned vegetable and fruit consumption is associated with changes in nutrient intake and higher diet quality in children and adults: national health and nutrition examination survey 2001-2010. J Acad Nutr Diet 2016;116(6): 940-8.

8[ Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020. 8th Edition, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, January 2016.

9 Can Central: Everything You Need To Know About Cans. From

Print Recipe
Homemade Veggie Pizza
This is my (better) take on Domino's veggie pizza.
Veggie Pizza
Prep Time 20
Cook Time 30
Passive Time 30
Dough Ingredients
Sauce Ingredients
Topping Ingredients
Prep Time 20
Cook Time 30
Passive Time 30
Dough Ingredients
Sauce Ingredients
Topping Ingredients
Veggie Pizza
  1. Put warm water in a bowl (check temperature).
  2. Mix together yeast and sugar in a separate large bowl.
  3. Pour warm water over yeast. Let bowl sit for 10 minutes until bubbles form and mix gets bigger in the middle (it will look like it is rising up).
    Bubbled yeast
  4. Add olive oil and stir gently.
  5. Add 2 ¼ cups all-purpose or gluten free flour and salt. Continue adding very small amounts of flour, a little at a time, if dough is still very sticky.
  6. Mix with a spoon until thoroughly mixed throughout.
  7. Preheat oven to 450ºF.
  8. Knead dough on a floured surface for 5 minutes.
  9. Once kneaded let rest in a bowl in a warm spot, covered, for 30 minutes.
  10. While dough is resting, make pizza sauce.
  11. After 30 minutes return dough to floured surface and roll out to desired shape.
  12. Spray a pizza pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  13. Place dough on pan.
  14. Place pizza sauce on top of dough
  15. Add canned spinach, canned sliced olives.
Pizza Sauce
  1. Place crushed tomatoes in a pot over medium heat. Add olive oil, Swanson chicken broth and spices. Stir to combine. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 30 minutes stirring occasionally.
    Swanson chicken broth and Red Gold crushed tomatoes
Share this Recipe

Advanced Glycation End Products are Bad for Bone, Cartilage and Tendons

AGEs (advanced glycation end products) can wreck your tendons, bones, cartilage and other tissues. Think of AGEs like a torch lighting your body on fire with inflammation and altering your body’s structures.

AGEs were a blip on the screen in Game Changers yet they weren’t discussed.

How do AGEs Accumulate in the Body?

    1. AGEs are complex compounds formed in food during processing; mainly when foods are heated. Protein and fat rich foods that are broiled, grilled, fried or roasted tend to be highest in AGEs. Low-fat, carbohydrate-rich foods including fruits, vegetables, milk and whole grains are relatively low in AGEs. (see below). We absorb about 10% of the AGEs from foods we eat. Research has not proven (and this would be hard to do) that dietary AGEs cause AGE accumulation in organs and tissues.
    2. Our bodies also produce AGEs (though these are structurally different and more homogenous than the AGEs in foods). High blood sugar, high blood lipids and oxidative stress can all increase AGE accumulation in the body.

How do AGEs Harm Your Body?

AGEs increase oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. Oxidative stress also increases AGEs in the body. AGEs accumulate in tissues including bones, joints and muscle and crosslink proteins (structures) in the body affecting their structure and function. They disrupt bone functioning and affect bone breakdown (a necessary process to get rid of older bone tissue) altering bone remodeling (the process of replacing old bone with new bone). AGEs also accumulate in cartilage (the cushioning between your joints) where they increase stiffness and accelerate cartilage breakdown. AGEs also alter cell signaling and gene expression.

About 2/3 of AGEs remain in the body for 3 days after you eat them. However, diet, AGE structures (the molecular weight) and the community in your gut influence the bioavailability of AGEs in the body. The average person consumes enough AGEs each day to turn on inflammatory pathways. If you eat a lot of fried, grilled or roasted meats, fats and processed foods you may be getting way more than the average person.

Decrease AGEs in the diet and inflammation, oxidative stress and endothelial (lining of blood vessels) dysfunction will decrease. A low AGE diet also improves insulin sensitivity in those with diabetes.

Decreasing AGEs

How do you decrease AGE formation? Cook food on low temperatures with high moisture (use a marinade) and expose them to an acidic solution (lemon juice or vinegar for example). Also, cook for as short of a period of time as possible. Boiling, steaming, poaching, stewing and using a slow cooker are the best cooking methods.


Bone 2002;31:1-7.
Osteoporos Int 2006;17:1514-23.
Proc Natl Acad Sci 2005;1043:474-81.
J Gerontol A Biol Med Sci 2007;62:427-33.
J Am Diet Assoc 2010;110:911-6.
Diabetes Care 2007 Oct; 30(10): 2579-2582.
Advances Nutr 2015;6(4): 461-473.
Nutr Metab 2018;15:72.
Ann NY Acad Sci 2005;1043:474-81.
Biochem Soc Trans 2003;31:1383-5.
Diabetes 1999;48:1308-15.
Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 1997;94:674-9.
Guilbaud A, Niquet-Leridon C, Boulanger E, Tessier FJ. Foods 2016;5, 84.

For Just 15 cents per Egg You are Getting Great Nutrition Value

Eggs are a bargain. For just 15 cents per egg you will get a lot of nutrition value. Check out my instagram post on this topic.


1 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 2015; 8.

2 American Medical Association. Proceedings of the 2017 Annual Meeting of the American Medical Association House of Delegates. 2017; Available from:

3 U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service. Retail prices for beef, pork, poultry cuts, eggs, and dairy products.

4 Coleman-Jensen, A., et al. Household Food Security in the United States in 2017. 2018.

5 Wallace, T.C., A Comprehensive Review of Eggs, Choline, and Lutein on Cognition Across the Life-span. J Am Coll Nutr, 2018. 37(4): p. 269-285.

6 Mares, J., Lutein and Zeaxanthin Isomers in Eye Health and Disease. Annu Rev Nutr, 2016. 36: p. 571-602.\

7 Seddon, J.M., et al., Dietary carotenoids, vitamins A, C, and E, and advanced age-related macular degeneration. Eye Disease Case-Control Study Group. JAMA 1994. 272(18): p. 1413-20.

8 Wallace, T.C. and V.L. Fulgoni, Usual Choline Intakes Are Associated with Egg and Protein Food Consumption in the United States. Nutrients, 2017. 9(8).

9 Johnson, E.J., Role of lutein and zeaxanthin in visual and cognitive function throughout the lifespan. Nutr Rev, 2014. 72(9): p. 605-12.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. FoodData Central. 2019; Available from:

U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service. Retail prices for beef, pork, poultry cuts, eggs, and dairy products. Available from:

Coleman-Jensen, A., et al. Household Food Security in the United States in 2017. 2018; Available from:


The Health Benefits of Collagen for Skin, Bones, and Muscles

Thanks to Life Extension for sponsoring this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Collagen is a structural protein that keeps skin looking young, bones and tendons healthy and ligaments strong. You can support collagen production in the body by consuming a good-quality collagen peptide supplement along with a healthy, nutrient-rich diet. Let’s explore:

What does Collagen do in the Body?

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body. Collagen is an important structural component in skin, bone, tendons and ligaments where its strength helps resist tension. This makes collagen important for strong, younger looking skin that doesn’t sag, healthy bones and tendons and stiff ligaments. Collagen is also found in lymphatic, cardiovascular, liver, lung, spleen and intestinal tissue where it is part of the structural framework.(1)
Though an important component in the body, collagen levels decrease with age due to both a decrease in collagen production and increase in collagen breakdown. In fact, adults can lose up to 1% of collagen each year!(2) This loss is probably most dramatically seen in skin tissue where the skin starts to sag and lose volume.

Improving Collagen Production

The body can make collagen by combining amino acids from protein-rich foods such as eggs, dairy, soy and beef. Vitamin C is necessary for collagen synthesis and stabilization.(3) Also, the mineral copper is critical for the enzymatic steps necessary to make collagen.(4)

Vitamin C rich foods include citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruit), tomatoes, bell peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and potatoes.

Citrus Fruit

Copper rich foods include sesame seeds, oysters, cashew nuts, pink or red lentils, sunflower seeds, radishes, kidney beans, walnuts, Brazil nuts and chestnuts.

The protein we consume is broken down in the body into amino acids, which are used as needed. Therefore, we can eat eggs or beef and the amino acids in both foods can help build collagen. Though it may seem as if it doesn’t matter what type of protein is consumed as long as we get enough of the right type of amino acids, collagen is a unique protein supplement, unlike any other protein.

Collagen is loaded with a unique sequence of amino acids that are the building blocks of collagen in the body. These amino acids include glycine, lysine, hydroxyproline and hydroxylysine. No other protein or combination of proteins compares to collagen. Also, as we age our body becomes less efficient at relying on single amino acids from different protein sources to make collagen.

While collagen supplements can support collagen production, not all collagen supplements are the same. Due to smaller particle size, collagen peptides are absorbed directly into the small intestine, improving absorption. Collagen peptides also reduce the activity of an enzyme called metalloproteinase 2, an enzyme that breaks down collagen.(5)

How Collagen Supports Bone Integrity

Though we often think of calcium and vitamin D for their roles in bone mineral density (vitamin D is needed to help bring calcium into bones while calcium helps strengthen bone), approximately one-third of bone tissue is protein. Type 1 collagen is a major component of bone tissue and is surrounded by calcium and phosphate, which help form mineralized (hard) bone.(6,7)

It is important to build bone during adolescence and early teenage years – the peak bone building years. Though bone turnover happens throughout life where old bone tissue is replaced by new bone tissue, by the early 30s a person stops building bone density. At this point moving forward throughout life bone density can only decrease. Therefore, it is important to build and maintain peak bone density.

Tips for building strong, healthy bones:

    1. Take collagen peptides
    2. Engage in resistance training at least 2 times a week, preferably 3-4 times per week. This will help build up collagen in bone tissue making bones stronger.
    3. Consume sufficient amounts of calcium to ensure peak bone mineral density. Adults and children > 4 years of age need 1300 mg of calcium daily. Calcium rich foods include dairy (cheese, milk, yogurt, kefir), fatty fish, fortified orange juice. Leafy greens and other vegetable sources of calcium contain far less of this mineral compared to dairy foods.
    4. Consume enough vitamin D. Vitamin D helps promote calcium absorption. Adults and children > 4 years of age need 600 mg of vitamin D daily. Food sources of vitamin D include fatty fishes, egg yolks, cheese, fortified orange juice, and fortified milk. Some yogurts are also fortified.
    5. Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables for bone health – lycopene rich produce like watermelon, tomatoes, pink grapefruit, bell peppers, and papaya, as well as beta cryptoxanthin rich orange colored fruits and vegetables such as squash (including pumpkin), bell peppers, tangerines, oranges, and carrots. Lycopene has been shown to support bone health.(8) Beta cryptoxanthin has a protective effect on bone tissue.(9)

In addition to its role in bone, collagen can improve tendon health and ligament strength. For more information including how to take collagen for healthy tendons and ligaments, click here.

Improving Muscle Function with Collagen

Muscle is important throughout the lifespan. Muscle enables us to not only work out but also engage in activities of daily living including lifting a child, lifting groceries or opening a jar of food. The top thing we can do to build muscle is engage in resistance training (strength training): any activity that forces the muscles to contract against resistance. In addition to resistance training, a healthy diet helps build muscle.

Just like collagen production decreasing with age, muscle mass also declines with normal age. Inactivity and poor protein or calorie intake can all affect muscle health.(10)

Though muscle is built with complete proteins, those containing all essential amino acids, collagen has a role in muscle as well. Collagen supports the endomysium, the layer of connective tissue that covers individual muscle cells. Collagen adds structure to this connective tissue and improves muscle functioning by support muscle fiber absorption and muscle contraction.(11)

How can you support healthy muscle functioning?

  1. Supplement with collagen peptides
  2. Consume high quality, complete proteins at least 3 times a day at mealtime. A complete protein has all essential amino acids. All animal proteins are complete as is soy. Plant proteins, other than soy, must be combined to make a complete protein.
  3. Exercise and include resistance training in your program at least 2 days per week, preferably 3-4 days per week. Plus, switch up your exercises so you aren’t always doing the same thing day after day.

How Does Collagen Support Youthful Skin?

Have you wondered why skin changes throughout the lifespan? Young children have a clear canvas typically uniform in color. With normal age, skin thins, and loses moisture.

Skin layers

The second layer skin tissue, the dermis, is composed of collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid. Collagen provides strength and structure to the skin while elastin provides elasticity. As we age, collagen production declines by about 1% per year and skin starts to sag.2 Skin that has been exposed to environmental exposure has decreased collagen content likely due to greater collagen breakdown. In aged skin, collagen also looks disorganized.(12)

In addition to a decline in collagen production with age, there is also an increase in enzymatic breakdown of collagen, increased glycation and increased transdermal water loss. All of these factors contribute to older looking skin.

In addition to collagen, hyaluronic acid helps skin retain healthy moisture. In fact, 50% of the body’s hyaluronic acid is found in the skin where it is an essential component of the structurally important space between cells throughout the body. Supplementing with hyaluronic acid helps stimulate HA synthesis, restoring youthful levels of this essential compound and encouraging healthy skin hydration. Hyaluronic acid is relatively rare in foods though it is found in organ meats, bone broth and collagen.(13) Luckily, both collagen and hyaluronic acid are in Life Extension’s Gummy Science™ Youthful Collagen gummies which have zero added sugar, so you get all the skin-nourishing goodness without ingredients you don’t want! Gummy Science™ Youthful Collagen gummies contain clinically studied dosages of 2500 mg of VERISOL® Bioactive Collagen Peptides® and 120 mg of hyaluronic acid. These gummies support healthy skin hydration, smooth the appearance of wrinkles and support skin elasticity.

VERISOL® collagen is an ultra-bioavailable form of type 1 collagen that is absorbed as both free amino acids and as intact collagen peptides that are transported directly to your thirsty skin. VERISOL® collagen stimulates the formation of new collagen, as well as elastin, a molecule in your skin that helps keep it smooth and supple.

Compared to placebo, VERISOL® collagen showed considerable improvement in skin elasticity levels after just 4-8 weeks of once-daily supplementation.(14) VERISOL® collagen also produced a dramatic 20% reduction in the volume and appearance of eye wrinkles after just 8 weeks (compared to placebo).(15)

There are several things you can do to support the texture of skin:

  1. Consume a collagen peptide supplement to support collagen synthesis and modulate enzymatic breakdown of collagen. Consuming collagen peptides will result in skin that looks more youthful.
  2. Consume a hyaluronic acid supplement for healthy skin moisture. Life Extension’s Gummy Science™ Youthful Collagen gummies make it easy to get both collagen and hyaluronic acid.
  3. Use a good quality, broad-spectrum sunscreen every day (even in the winter) to help minimize environmental exposure.
  4. Consume a diet rich in fruits and vegetables to help maintain youthful skin.(16) Be sure to focus on vitamin C-and copper-rich foods.
  5. Watch sugar intake. Excess sugar binds to collagen in a reaction called glycation. This can affect the structure and function of collagen.

Collagen is an important structural protein in bone, tendons, ligaments, muscle and skin health. Though you can find collagen in food sources like bone broth, collagen peptide supplements are more easily absorbed than other forms of collagen. A healthy, plant-based diet is also critical for collagen formation and decreasing collagen breakdown in the body. In particular, a diet containing plenty of vitamin C-rich foods as well as copper-rich foods supports collagen synthesis in the body. Also, along with collagen, calcium, vitamin D and other bone building nutrients, food sources of lycopene and beta cryptoxanthin (found in many fruits and vegetables) support healthy bone. Lastly, staying well hydrated and well rested will improve skin texture.

VERISOL® and Bioactive Collagen Peptides® are registered trademarks of GELITA AG. 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. 




1 Shuster S, Black MM, McVitie E. The influence of age and sex on skin thickness, skin collagen and density. Br J Dermatol 1975; 93(6):639-43

2 Peterkofsky B. Ascorbate requirement for hydroxylation and secretion of procollagen: relationship to inhibition of collagen synthesis in scurvy. Am J Clin Nutr 1991;54(6 Suppl):1135S-1140S.

3 Borkow G. Using Copper to Improve the Well-Being of the Skin. Curr Chem Biol 2014; 8(2): 89–102.

4 Shoulders MD, Raines RT. Collagen structure and stability. Annu Rev Biochem 2009; 78: 929–958.

5 Zague V, de Freitas V, da Costa Rosa M, de Castro GA, Jaeger RG, Machado-Santelli GM. Collagen hydrolysate intake increases skin collagen expression and suppresses matrix metalloproteinase 2 activity. J Med Food 2011;14(6): 618-24.

6 Tzaphlidou M. Bone Architecture: Collagen Structure and Calcium/Phosphorus Maps. J Biol Phys 2008; 34(1-2): 39–49.

7 Ritchie RO, Buehler MJ, Hansma P. Plasticity and toughness in bone. Physics Today 2009;41-46.

8 Sahni S, Hannan MT, Blumberg J, Cupples LA, Kiel DK, Tucker KL. Protective Effect of Total Carotenoid and Lycopene Intake on the Risk of Hip Fracture: A 17-Year Follow-Up From the Framingham Osteoporosis Study. J Bone Miner Res 2009; 24(6): 1086–1094.

9 Yamaguchi M. Role of carotenoid β-cryptoxanthin in bone homeostasis. J Biomed Sci 2012; 19(1): 36.

10 Bone Health and Osteoporosis. A Report of the Surgeon General. Office of the Surgeon General (US). Rockville (MD): Office of the Surgeon General (US); 2004.

11 Gillies AR, Lieber RL. Structure and Function of the Skeletal Muscle Extracellular Matrix. Muscle Nerve 2011; 44(3): 318–331.

12 Ganceviciene R, Liakou AI, Theodoridis A, Makrantonaki E, Zouboulis CC. Skin anti-aging strategies. Dermatoendocrinol 2012; 4(3): 308–319.

13 Kawada C, Yoshida T, Yoshida H, Matsuoka R1, Sakamoto W, Odanaka W, Sato T, Yamasaki T, Kanemitsu T, Masuda Y, Urushibata O. Ingested hyaluronan moisturizes dry skin. Nutr J 2014;13:70.

14 Proksch E, Segger D, Degwert J, Schunck M, Zague V, Oesser S. Oral supplementation of specific collagen peptides has beneficial effects on human skin physiology: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Skin Pharmacol Physiol 2014;27(1):47-55.

15 Proksch E, Schunck M, Zague V, Segger D, Degwert J, Oesser S. Oral intake of specific bioactive collagen peptides reduces skin wrinkles and increases dermal matrix synthesis. Skin Pharmacol Physiol 2014;27(3):113-9.

16 Mekić S, Jacobs LC, Hamer MA, Ikram MA, Schoufour JD, Gunn DA, Kiefte-de Jong JC, Nijsten T. A healthy diet in women is associated with less facial wrinkles in a large Dutch population-based cohort. J Am Acad Dermatol 2019;80(5):1358-1363.


Are Greens Powders Worth the Money?

There is little to no evidence that greens powders are important for good health. But, this doesn’t mean they are worthless. Before you take anything, ask yourself, “what do I hope to achieve by taking this and, is there a better alternative?” If you don’t eat greens, figure out a way to eat them (check out the last paragraph here). If you are really stubborn and refuse to eat greens, a greens powder might make a difference. There’s little to no good research to tell us it will help you. But, it might help and it probably won’t hurt (unless you are on a blood thinner that warrants eating consistent intake of vitamin K rich foods). If you love your greens supplement, try mixing some into meat patties when you are grilling or cooking (read on to find out why).

Health Benefits of Leafy Greens

Leafy greens are good for us. They are packed with vitamins and minerals as well as plant-based compounds that protect our body from harm. Leafy greens are part of the MIND Diet, a diet associated with better brain health and lowered risk of Alzheimer’s disease compared to the DASH diet or a Mediterranean style diet. As part of the MIND diet, eat at least 6 servings of greens per week. (1) A diet high in green leafy and cruciferous vegetables significantly reduces the incidence of several types of cardiovascular disease (diseases of the heart and blood vessels). (2) Greater intake of fruits and vegetables is related to lowered risk of cognitive impairment, lowered risk of a number of types of cancer and lowered risk of death from all causes. (3, 4, 5, 6)

Greens Supplements

Greens supplements contain some vitamins and minerals (all of which you can get elsewhere). Some contain fiber, others do not. For most greens powders on the market we don’t know if the beneficial compounds in greens are actually found in the finished product. While greens contain antioxidants and other plant compounds that are important for good health, some of these are destroyed upon exposure to high heat and processing. At times cooking (boiling and steaming) improves the antioxidant content of vegetables (7). But, we don’t know if this holds true for greens supplements.

I found one good study on dried powders (a wide variety of veggies including beets, broccoli, carrots, celery and more were used) that found several different powders (the kind used by food scientists) improved oxidative stability of turkey patties while decreasing the formation of potentially toxic compounds formed during cooking. In this study the greens powders used clearly contained bioactive compounds that can positively impact human health. (8)

Here’s how to add more leafy greens to your diet:

  • Freeze greens that are about to go bad and blend them and shakes. Very sweet fruits such as mango (I use frozen mango), pears and apples will overpower the bitterness in some greens.
  • Blend leafy greens into red tomato sauce or other sauces
  • Coat your favorite leafy green such as kale with olive oil and a little salt and pepper and bake at 350°F for 15 minutes.
  • Blend them into pesto.
  • Incorporate leafy greens in your favorite bowl.
  • Pile pizza with leafy greens.
  • Add greens to sandwiches and wraps
  • Add greens to soups (cut finely).
  • Use greens in stir fry dishes (bok choy is a favorite here).
  • Massage curly kale with olive oil (yes, massage with your hands) and add a little salt. You won’t believe how good this is!
  • Cut greens into fine strips and add to pasta dishes.
  • Make a meal from a baked potato with cheese or cottage cheese, leafy greens and nuts or seeds
  • Use lettuce wraps instead of bread.
  • Add greens to your omelets, burgers, casserole, pie (dinner pie not dessert pie) and meatloaf.


1 Alzheimers Dement 2015;11(9): 1015-1022.
2 JRSM Cardiovasc Dis 2016 Jan-Dec, 5: 204 8004016661435.
3 Front Aging Neurosci. 2017; 9: 18.
4 Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 May;83(5):1126-34.
5 Ann Oncol. 2016 Jan;27(1):81-96.
6 BMJ. 2014 Jul 29;349:g4490
7 J. Agric. Food Chem., 2008, 56 (1), pp 139–147
8 Nutrients. 2013 Apr; 5(4): 1241–1252.

Collagen for Strong Tendons and Ligaments

collagen for stronger tendons and ligamentsCollagen (or gelatin) + a good source of vitamin C can make your tendons and ligaments stronger. This may help you return to play faster. Take this combination 60 minutes before activity. It takes 30 – 60 minutes for the amino acids in collagen (namely proline, glycine, lysine, hydroxyproline, and hydroxylysine, which are building blocks of collagen, the primary protein in ligaments, tendons and bone) to peak in your bloodstream. This way they will peak right when the pumping action of joints (from physical activity or physical therapy) delivers blood and therefore nutrients including these amino acids and vitamin C to your tissue. You need vitamin C to build collagen. A glass of juice or an orange delivers plenty of vitamin C. You don’t need a supplement. Large doses of vitamin C are not beneficial for muscle and can delay the process of building new proteins in muscle after resistance training.

Building Healthy Tendons

Training with fast, explosive movements builds stiffer tendons. Stiff tendons make athletes explosive (I think of it like a pogo stick; anyone else play on these when they were kids?). Tendons connect a soft tissue, muscle, to a hard tissue, bone. Therefore, tendons must be more pliable near the muscle and stiffer as they get closer to the bone. Stiffer tendons have more molecular crosslinks connecting collagen to fibrils. This ability to stretch near the muscle helps protect the muscle from injury by absorbing shock. Tendons that are too stiff are more likely to be injured (think of an old rubber band that is stiff, pull it too much and it may break).

If you have a tendon injury, your physical therapist or strength coach might have you do slow movements (eccentric movements – lengthening the muscle, like the downward phase of a biceps curl; isometric holds). These movements increase collagen content but decrease collagen crosslinking in the part of the tendon closest to the muscle making it more pliable and therefore less prone to injury. Take collagen / gelatin + a source of vitamin C beforehand to further benefit collagen production in tendons.

Building Healthy Ligaments

Ligaments connect bone to bone. They need to be stiff to resist injury. Collagen synthesis in ligaments (and bone) is maximized by intermittent bouts of up to 10 minutes of activity separated by 6 or more hours of rest. Your physical therapist or rehab specialist may have you performing < 10-minute bouts of activity targeting the injured tendon or ligament separated by 6 hours before another bout. Be sure to take collagen or gelatin + a source of vitamin C 30 minutes to 1 hour beforehand to improve collagen synthesis even more.

There are huge differences in a person’s response to collagen hydrolysate and gelatin. Expect more coming out soon from Keith Barr about this.

Heating destroys vitamin C so, jello won’t do the trick (unless you already have a sufficient amount of vitamin C in your body).

Vegan? Try soy but, you need a lot more to get higher doses of these amino acids (around 58 grams of soy protein has the same proline and glycine as 15 grams of gelatin).

Interesting tidbits: Lack of physical activity makes tendons stiff. An athlete with a boot on his leg may feel very explosive once that boot comes off. In women, when estrogen is high during the menstrual cycle there is decreased crosslinking of collagen in ligaments leading to decreased stiffness of ligaments and greater chance of ligament rupture (ACLs etc.).

Am J Clin Nutr 2017;105(1):136-143.
Sports Med 2017;47(Suppl 1):5-11.

Why You Should Eat a Plant-based Diet & How to Get Started

Watercress salsa with bean chipsThis post is sponsored by B&W Quality Growers, the world’s largest grower and marketer of watercress.

Eating a plant-based diet will improve your health. Plant-based diets are associated with lower rates of heart disease, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, and better cognition (1,2,3,4).  Data from vegetarians suggests plant-based diets might also be associated with a longer lifespan (5).  If you love dairy or meat, you don’t have to give up either to benefit from a plant-based diet. But you will benefit from adding more plant-foods, particularly leafy greens like watercress for a healthy body and mind.

Fortified with more than 18 essential vitamins and minerals, watercress is the healthiest leafy vegetable on the planet as it is high in water content, a naturally low calorie and low-fat food. It’s also one of the most nutrient-dense vegetables in the world, earning perfect score on the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI) nutrient density scale.

What is Plant-Based?

Plant-based means the bulk of your diet comes from plants. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains and legumes (beans, peas, lentils and more) are the staples of a plant-based diet.

Eating plant-based does not mean you never eat dairy, eggs, meat, fish, or poultry. However, these foods do not make up the bulk of your diet when you are eating plant-based.

How does a Plant-Based Diet Lower Disease Risk?

Plant foods are all not only full of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates protein and healthy fats but they are also full of fiber and phytonutrients. Most Americans get half the fiber they need each day for good health. In addition to helping support digestion and preventing constipation, fiber feeds the good bacteria in our gut. The health of our gut depends on the diversity and type of bacteria that live there. Also, most of our immune system is in our gut making gut health important for immune health and, because of the gut brain axis (the gut and brain talk to each other), brain health. Gut health is quickly becoming a hot topic as scientists learn more about the importance of gut health every day.

How to Make Your Diet Plant-Based:

1. Eat More Leafy Greens

As part of the MIND diet, leafy greens are linked to a lower rate of cognitive decline. Watercress is a cruciferous vegetable, which are generally known as cancer-fighters due to their high levels of phytochemicals known as isothiocyanates. A growing body of evidence suggests watercress earns its “superleaf” title because it may help prevent the spread of cancer cells (6,7). Plus, it is a good source of vitamin A, an essential vitamin necessary for normal vision, skin health, and maintaining immune function (2). Watercress is also high in the antioxidant vitamin C, which protects the body against free radicals. Vitamin C also supports the normal function of blood vessels, healing of wounds, iron absorption, and neurological function (3).

– Try my favorite snack: watercress salsa along with lentil or bean chips.

– Spread avocado mash on a piece of higher fiber toast (my favorite one is made from almond and sweet potato flour) and top it with watercress, feta and a drizzle of balsamic glaze.

– Make broad bean or garbanzo bean chips.

– Dip celery or carrots in peanut, almond or another nut butter.

– Make my favorite salad: Watercress, pear, fig and goat cheese salad.

2. Try different forms of plant-based foods.

There are many forms and ways to cook each plant-food!
– Lentil or bean pastas are a fantastic substitute for regular pasta.
– Split pea soup vs. peas.

– Brussels sprouts cooked with turkey neck vs. roasted and crispy.

– Top cauliflower with avocado oil and parmesan cheese and roast it.

– Boil red potatoes and add olive oil and dill after cooking.

3. Make your dessert fruit and nut-based.

Fruit is available all year long. From watermelon in the summer to pumpkin in the Fall, there are many ways to enjoy fruits for dessert. I like pairing plain Greek yogurt with berries or grapes and a sprinkle of granola.

4. Add greens to your smoothie.

Use greens like watercress to enhance your favorite fruit smoothie. This is the perfect way to get more greens in your diet. My favorite smoothie includes 8 oz. 100% orange juice, a handful of frozen watercress (any time I can’t use a fruit or vegetable in a timely manner I freeze it), frozen mango, ginger and vanilla or unflavored whey protein powder (an amount that contains 30 grams of protein).

5. Add vegetables to your main dishes.

– Chopped mushrooms and onions work well in beef or turkey patties.

– Add veggies to your kabobs. Try grilled veggie and meat (or tofu, which is made from soybeans!) kabobs.

– Top your pizza with sliced tomatoes, broccoli, onions, peppers and mushrooms.

– Chili is a great staple for the winter and naturally loaded with beans and diced tomatoes.

Print Recipe
Watercress Veggie Salsa
  1. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Serve immediately with tortilla chips.
Share this Recipe


1 McMacken M, Shah S. A plant-based diet for the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes. J Geriatr Cardiol 2017;14(5): 342-354.

2 Kahleova H et al. Cardio-Metabolic Benefits of Plant-Based Diets. Nutrients 2017;9(8): 848.

3 Lanou AJ, Svenson B. Reduced cancer risk in vegetarians: an analysis of recent reports. Cancer Mang Res 2011;3: 1- 8.

4 Hardman RJ. Adherence to a Mediterranean-Style Diet and Effects on Cognition in Adults: A Qualitative Evaluation and Systematic Review of Longitudinal and Prospective Trials. Front Nutr 2016;3: 22.

5 Orlich MJ. Vegetarian Dietary Patterns and Mortality in Adventist Health Study 2. JAMA Intern Med 2013; 173(13): 1230-1238.

6 Gill IR et al. Watercress supplementation in diet reduces lymphocyte DNA damage and alters blood antioxidant status in healthy adults. Am J Clin Nutr 2007;85(2): 504-510.

7 Boyd LA et al. Assessment of the anti-genotoxic, anti-proliferative, and anti-metastatic potential of crude watercress extract in human colon cancer cells. Nutr Cancer 2006;55(2): 232-41.


Are NSAIDs Safe for Cartilage and Health?

NSAIDsNSAIDs can help decrease inflammation and pain from musculoskeletal injuries, menstrual cramps, rheumatoid arthritis and more. However, they come with some major potential side effects.

NSAIDs can Destroy Cartilage

NSAIDs (non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen (Advil) and indomethacin may speed up the breakdown of cartilage in osteoarthritic joints. They might also inhibit tissue repair. But, not all studies show NSAIDs damage cartilage. It may depend on the specific NSAID. The best study I’ve seen to date (and also published in a very reputable journal) found older adults (a group that commonly has osteoarthritis) who used NSAIDs including diclofenac, ibuprofen, naproxen, ketoprofen and piroxican for an extended period of time had higher risk of cartilage defects and nonsignificant loss of cartilage compared to nonusers.

Osteoarthritis is very common (athletes, older adults, those who are overweight, those who have been very active their whole life) and is “wear and tear” arthritis; symptoms include joint pain and stiffness.

If you have mild osteoarthritis look for other solutions including curcumin, glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, and boswella serrata AKBA.

NSAIDs Can Lead to Major Side Effects:

In most cases the increase in risk is statistically significant but very small (see below in blue).

  • Increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Risk increases even with short term use (1 week) and increases more with higher doses of NSAIDs used for a longer period of time.

The increase in risk is about 20 – 50% higher if using NSAIDs vs. not using them. What does this mean? If you take NSAIDs the risk of heart attack is about 1% per year. 

Aspirin does not increase risk.

  • Heart attack and stroke risk is greatest in those who already have heart disease though people without heart disease are at risk.

“Patients treated w/ NSAIDs following a first heart attack were more likely to die in the first year after the heart attack compared to those not treated with NSAIDs” (FDA).

  • Increased risk of a bleeding ulcer in the stomach or intestines. Bleeding often comes without symptoms. Bleeding could lead to death. Risk increases in those who drink alcohol, smoke, take corticosteroids and anticoagulants, those who are older and people in poor health.
  • Kidney damage
  • Liver damage; very low risk
  • Anemia; when used for a prolonged time due to wearing of the stomach lining and therefore decreased absorption of iron and / or an increase in bleeding.
  • High blood pressure
  • Central nervous system issues headache, fatigue
  • Asthma attacks in those with asthma
  • Risk of bleeding
  • Hives

Safer Use of NSAIDs

Lower your risk of harmful side effects from NSAIDs by doing the following:

  • Take the lowest effective dose.
  • Take your NSAID for the shortest possible time.
  • Don’t take more than one NSAID at a time!
  • Find other solutions for pain (see my previous and upcoming posts, especially on Instagram).
  • If you notice any other symptoms including black tar like poop, skin rashes, stomach pain, yellow skin or eyes, nausea, feeling tired, swelling or vomiting, call your doctor ASAP.
  • Call 911 ASAP if you experience any heart attack, stroke or allergy symptoms including but not limited to shortness of breath, pain in chest, arm or neck; difficulty speaking, headache, blurred vision, droopy face, swelling in throat or face.

Tylenol may be a better option though it can cause liver damage if taken in doses > 4 g per day

NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) might be okay for very short-term use if you have:

  • No bleeding history
  • You are well hydrated, healthy and without renal issues.

Types of NSAIDs:

There are many different NSAIDs on the market and each one has a generic name and sometimes several trade names.

Types of NSAIDs

















Keep in mind, NSAIDs are not a long-term solution to pain. Also, most NSAID safety data is not from athletes.

Br J Clin Pharmacol 2010;69(6):689-700.
Ther Clin Risk Manag 2015;11:1061-1075.
Eur J Rheumatol Inflamm 1993;13(1):7-16.
J Prolotherapy 2010;(2)1:305-322.
Arthritis Rheum 2005(52):3137-3142.
Inflammation 2002;26:139-142.
Am J Med 2009;122(9):836-842.
World J Gastroenterol 2010;16(45):5651–5661.