Author Archives: Sharon Wegner, Nutritional Coach

  • Great Reasons to Love Garlic

    Garlic, also known as Allium sativum, has been around for centuries. Legend says it was found in Egyptian pyramids and ancient Greek temples as an offering to the Gods. And Hippocrates, considered the father of Western medicine, was said to have used garlic to treat cancerous tumors, pneumonia, digestive disorders, as a diuretic and for infections.

    Both cherished and sought for its healing powers, garlic is still being promoted as a health food with numerous therapeutic benefits. Raw, crushed garlic is both antibacterial and antiviral due to the presence of allicin, which has been shown to kill more than 20 types of bacteria.

    Garlic is also known to have cardiovascular benefits because it helps lower blood triglycerides and total cholesterol. The compound diallyl disulphide-oxide, found in heated or cooked garlic, has also been shown to lower serum cholesterol by preventing clotting in the arteries.

    Garlic’s antioxidant vitamins and sulfur-containing compounds help protect against oxidative stress and inflammation, which can stimulate the body to fight carcinogens and may even aid in preventing certain types of cancer, such as stomach cancer. Garlic's sulfur compounds have also been shown to regulate blood sugar metabolism, detoxify the liver and stimulate blood circulation. (Explore Pharmaca's garlic supplements now!)

    Cooking with garlic
    Let’s start with the basics:

    • Store in a cool, dark place (though not a refrigerator); garlic can be kept for several weeks.
    • Cooking garlic decreases the strength of its flavor, making it much milder than raw garlic. For a mild flavor, add whole cloves to food while it cooks or marinates, and then remove before serving (although I personally can’t imagine removing the garlic once is has become soft, creamy and delicious!). When sautéing garlic, be careful not to cook it too long at a high temperature, as it will brown very quickly and become bitter and unusable.  
    • The more finely garlic is chopped, the stronger its flavor will be.
    • Remove garlic odor from your hands by rubbing them with salt or lemon juice and then washing them with soap.
    • Get rid of garlic breath by chewing on a bit of fresh parsley (or better yet, make sure everyone near you has eaten their fair share of garlic, too!)

    Simple ways to add garlic into your diet:

    • Flavor soups, stews and casseroles
    • Roast with meats, fish, poultry and vegetables
    • Chop finely and add raw to salad dressings
    • Bake whole heads until softened and spread on bread

    Quick and Easy Hummus Recipe


    • 1 16 oz can of chickpeas or garbanzo beans
    • 1/4 cup liquid from can of chickpeas
    • Juice from 1 or 2 lemons*
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons tahini paste (sesame seed paste)
    • 1-2 cloves raw garlic, crushed*
    • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil


    Drain chickpeas, reserving the liquid and a few whole chickpeas for garnish. Combine remaining ingredients in blender or food processor. Blend for 2 minutes on low and then add the reserved liquid until thoroughly mixed and smooth.

    Place in serving bowl, and create a shallow well in the center of the hummus.

    Add a small amount (1-2 tablespoons) of olive oil in the well and garnish with parsley and the reserved whole chick peas.

    Hummus can be served immediately or covered and refrigerated. Hummus can be used for dipping with fresh or toasted pita, sliced vegetables or as a spread for sandwiches or wraps.

    *The amount of garlic and lemon juice can be adjusted according to your personal taste. If you are new to using raw garlic, you may want to start with just one clove, as the flavor can become stronger as the hummus sits.


    Add a dash of red chili pepper or cayenne pepper for a spicier hummus
    Top with roasted red bell peppers or finely chopped green olives
    Add cooked, chopped spinach for added iron

    Sharon Wegner is a Certified Holistic Health Coach, Nutritional Consultant and member of the American Association of Drugless Practitioners. Sharon teaches her clients how to make healthier food and lifestyle choices by creating simple and sustainable changes. She shares her passion for cooking with her clients by teaching them how to make fresh and delicious REAL food. For more healthy recipes and to find out more about her work visit her at Essentials for Healthy Living blog.

    Creative Commons License photo credit: jasleen_kaur

  • Coconut: Packed with Healthy Benefits

    What is this nut that’s so hard to crack? Coconut is cropping up everywhere these days—coconut water, coconut flour, shredded coconut, coconut milk, coconut oil, coconut cream. When I was a young girl we’d shake them to check for water inside (an indication of a good coconut, according to my mom). The next task was actually getting the hairy orb open so we could drink the water and carefully pry the meat out.

    I’ve always thought of coconuts as a special treat, but in the islands of the South Pacific, coconuts have long been a staple food item. While doing research on the benefits of this mysterious “nut,” I found that the people of Polynesia have been consuming coconuts for centuries, and their population is amazingly healthy—free of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and arthritis.

    Now it’s true that coconut contains saturated fat, and it’s fair to say that most people are concerned about consuming too much saturated fat for fear of increasing their cholesterol and triglyceride (fats) numbers, along with the potential for heart disease.

    But coconut doesn’t contain just any saturated fat—it contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) and medium-chain lauric, capric and caprylic fatty acids, which are associated with many health benefits. In fact, medium-chain fatty acids (MFCAs) have long been used in hospitals to treat critically ill patients who have malabsorption and digestive problems, as well as in premature infants (MCFAs provide many of the same nutrients as human breast milk). In fact, coconut water is still a primary ingredient in infant formulas.

    Let’s look at some of the other benefits of coconut.

    Metabolism: A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that medium-chain fatty acids were three times more effective at raising metabolism than long-chain fatty acids. This is for two reasons: First, MCFAs do not circulate into the bloodstream. Instead, they are sent directly to the liver, where they are immediately converted into energy. Second, they don’t raise blood sugar. And it has been reported that coconut oil can actually help to control sugar cravings.

    Candida: The medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil have been shown to destroy Candida, a condition of yeast overgrowth in the body that triggers symptoms of weight gain, carbohydrate cravings and fatigue. Additionally, coconut oil slows the digestion of food, which helps you feel more satiated after a meal. The added bonus is that coconut oil has no carbohydrates or sugar—another reason coconut oil can help with weight loss and is a good alternative for diabetics.

    Digestion: The saturated fats present in coconut oil have anti-microbial, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties and help in dealing with bacteria, fungi, parasites, etc., that can cause digestive problems. MCFA molecules are smaller, and require less energy and fewer enzymes to break down for digestion, which reduces strain on the pancreas and digestive system. Coconut oil also helps in the absorption of other nutrients such as fat-soluble vitamins, minerals and amino acids, which can be beneficial for people who suffer from gallbladder disease, pancreatitis, Crohn’s disease and diabetes.

    Cholesterol: Coconut oil contains about 50% lauric acid, which has been shown to help increase HDL (healthy cholesterol) and does not lead to increased levels of LDL (unhealthy cholesterol). As such, the saturated fats found in coconut oil are clearly not the same as those found in animal fat—the difference is in the length of the fatty acids.

    5 easy ways to make coconut part of your healthy lifestyle

    If you’re thinking about incorporating some of this “healthy” saturated fat into your lifestyle, here are some ideas to make it quick and easy.

    Replace other cooking oils with coconut oil. I would start out by using half of the amount that you would normally use. If you don’t care for the flavor or smell of coconut, look for oil that says it’s odorless and tasteless. It’s great for cooking vegetables, eggs, meats and fish—even baking.

    Add a tablespoon to hot cereal
    along with some raw walnuts or almonds, a drizzle of agave nectar and some fresh berries for a heart-healthy breakfast.

    Coconut oil is a fantastic moisturizer and hair conditioner. Keep a jar of coconut oil in the bathroom and use it as a moisturizer after a warm bath or shower. It’s also great on dry heels and elbows. If you suffer from dandruff, apply a small amount to your scalp, massage it in and leave on for about 15 minutes (or even overnight), then wash your hair as you normally would.

    Try using coconut in smoothies, soups, dressings, cakes, cookies, sauces, cereals or pancakes. Coconut products are relatively easy to find—look for coconut water or milk, coconut flour, shredded or flaked coconut, coconut cream or butter, and coconut sugar.

    Use it as a deodorant. OK, you might think this one is a stretch, but consider the fact that coconut oil is anti-microbial, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial. If you’ve been searching for a healthy alternative to conventional deodorant, give coconut oil a try. I’ve been applying odorless coconut oil as a deodorant for about four months and so far, knock on wood, no complaints from my co-workers at Pharmaca.

    Pharmaca carries several types of coconut oil from Jarrow Formulas and Nature’s Way, as well as a variety of coconut waters, both plain and flavored.

    Sharon Wegner is a Certified Holistic Health Coach, Nutritional Consultant and member of the American Association of Drugless Practitioners. Sharon teaches her clients how to make healthier food and lifestyle choices by creating simple and sustainable changes. She shares her passion for cooking with her clients by teaching them how to make fresh and delicious REAL food. You can find out more about her work at her Essentials for Healthy Living blog.

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