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‘The Healing Arts of Food’ at Center for Environment

03/22/15 by Guest Writer

by Rebecca Rider

The Center for the Environment at Catawba College presented a cooking demonstration and panel discussion March 19. Titled “The Healing Arts of Food,” the presentation educated the community about how food and health are intertwined. Panel speakers included Dr. Chris Magryta, Nicole Magryta and Dr. Christopher Nagy.

Dr. Chris Magryta is a physician with Salisbury Pediatrics who focuses on integrative medicine and pediatric allergies. Dr. Nagy is an orthopedic surgeon and practitioner of Age Management/Regenerative Medicine. Nicole Magryta is a clinical nutritionist at Salisbury Pediatrics.

Every illness, Magryta said, can be traced back to diet. Specifically, the health of the body depends on the health of the gut. The intestines are the body’s interface with the world, Magryta explained. It’s where nutrients are absorbed and are used to strengthen the body and the immune system. Problems arise when it’s not being fed properly.

“It all starts in your gut,” Nicole Magryta said. “We are only as healthy as what we put in it.”

Magryta and Nagy note that there’s been a rise in what they call Leaky Gut Syndrome—where the intestinal lining breaks down and foreign particles find their way into the gaps. This results in inflammation and food allergies. Panelists hope to cure and prevent cases of leaky gut by showing audience members how to cook foods that are gut-healthy and natural anti-inflammatory.

“These foods are all healing,” Nicole Magryta said. “They all address that problem.”

Many of the recipes are old country remedies: bone broth, sauerkraut and some, like kombucha, have been used to maintain health for thousands of years.

“This is kind of new stuff,” Nagy said. “Though historically it’s what our great-grandparents did, it’s new to us.”

Nicole Magryta started the evening by walking the audience through making bone broth.  Bone broth has been a go-to treatment for generations; the boiling process leeches the marrow from the bones, resulting in a highly nutritious soup base that has anti-inflammatory properties. Traditional bone broth can be made from any kind of meat—chicken, beef, fish. All that’s required is a pot of boiling water and the bones of choice. You can spice things up, she said, by adding vegetables and some seasoning.

Nicole Magryta recommends using bones from organic, grass-fed meat. Toxins that the animal has ingested in its life will accumulate in the fat, which finds its way into the broth. And while traditional bone broth can be boiled for up to 24 hours, if you’re sensitive to MSG it’s better to boil bones for only two to three hours, she said.

Next, Nagy discussed the importance of a diet containing fermented foods. Our gut is a natural greenhouse for bacteria, Nagy said. In a healthy human, these bacteria are beneficial, help with digestion and act as the starting point for our immune system. 

If you consider all the DNA in your body, including the DNA of the bacteria making up your flora, it would be more like “10 percent you and 90 percent bacteria,” Nagy said.

But if we don’t maintain a proper diet, the good bacteria start to die off and are replaced by bad bacteria.  To fix this imbalance, it’s important to eat foods that contain lots of natural good bacteria, or pro-biotics. While you can get pro-biotics from supplements, Nagy said, the cheapest way is to eat fermented foods.

“Every culture pretty much has a fermented food,” he said. 

To give attendees an idea of which foods they could add to their meal plans, Nagy walked through the making kefir, sauerkraut, and kombucha. Kefir and kombucha both require an initial culture that must be purchased or obtained from a friend—much like friendship bread.

Kefir is a form of fermented milk that originated in Russia and Kazakhstan. It’s much more beneficial than store-bought yogurt, which can contain as much as 8 ½ teaspoons of sugar per serving.  Kefir packs a pro-biotic punch and doesn’t contain the sugar—and it’s relatively easy to make. Place the culture, known as “kefir grains,” into a jar with some whole milk and leave it on a counter or in the cupboard—it doesn’t need to be refrigerated. Kefir typically takes18-24 hours to ferment. When it’s done, strain out the grains and drink the result—or use it to make smoothies. The grains can then be reused to make more kefir. It’s good to be quick though; the culture will die if it’s not fed regularly. You can even make flavored kefir with fruit or flavored yogurt—the sugar will feed the fermentation instead of sneaking into your bloodstream.

Sauerkraut is easy to make, as well, and much more beneficial than the store-bought variety, which is often dead, pro-biotically speaking. Take some chopped red cabbage, garlic, turmeric, and ginger, and mix—or “squish,” Nagy said—it all together with some salt and pack it into a jar. Cover with some cabbage leaves, seal it, and let it stand for five-to-20 days. Be sure to pack it well, and to either off-gas it manually every twelve hours or buy an off-gas lid—Nagy recommends the Perfect Pickler. You can add a culture to the sauerkraut or let it ferment naturally.

Next, Dr. Magryta demonstrated how to make ghee. Ghee is clarified butter, meaning that all of the milk protein has been removed. It’s the milk protein that often irritates the gut and causes inflammation and conditions such as lactose intolerance. But ghee has great anti-inflammatory properties and also coats the lining of the gut and provides a protective barrier, allowing it to heal. 

In between demonstrations, panelists answered questions, dispensing dietary advice and resources for attendees. Nicole Magryta said that instead of avoiding fats altogether, it’s important to learn which fats are good for you and which are not.

“We live in a fat-phobic society,” she said.

But fat plays an important role in health. She said that good fats are those found naturally in nuts, avocados and wild-caught salmon. When cooking, avoid canola and vegetable oils, and use coconut oil, olive oil, and lard instead—all three contain fats to make the body healthy. And avoid anything with trans fat, she said.

Panelists said that other gut-healing foods include vegetable fiber and turmeric, which is a natural anti-inflammatory substance.

Changing your diet and making sure you have a healthy gut are the keys to well being, panelists said. In the medical community there is little conversation about root causes of diseases, Magryta said.

Nagy noted that in today’s society, there is often a focus on addressing symptoms with pills. You need to address the root cause, he said; otherwise it’s just killing you in the long run. These three believe you should start with food.  If you suspect something is bothering you, it’s the easiest thing you can fix.

“You don’t need a lab test,” Magryta said. “Just stop eating the food and see what happens.”

Eat properly, control stress, get proper sleep and exercise, and health becomes a lot more manageable—it can heal ongoing medical issues and stop problems before they start. 

“To fix the body, fix the diet,” Nagy said.


Bone Broth

Ingredients: Bones from poultry, fish, beef, lamb, shellfish or whole chicken or whole carcass (remove meat when cooked—about 1 hour)

8-10 cups of water

1-2 Tbsp of lemon juice or vinegar

1-2 tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

2 carrots

1 onion

2 stalks celery

½ c. fresh parsley chopped or 2 tbsp dried parsley

1-2 tsp sage

1-2 tsp rosemary

1-2 tsp thyme

2-3 bay leaves

2 Tbsp raw apple cider vinegar or 1 lemon.


Put all ingredients into pot.  Bring to boil.

Let simmer on low for several hours (4-24) or in crock pot on low.  Remove bones and skim off fat.

Uses for broth:

Use as stock for soup.

Drink as warm beverage

Use as the cooking liquid for vegetables and grains.

Make gravy from the fats.


Ingredients: 1 pound unsalted organic butter.


Using a medium saucepan, heat butter on medium heat.

The butter will melt and then come to a boil.  You will hear the butter snapping and crackling as it boils. 

It will begin to foam at the top. Remove the foam with a spoon and toss it out.

After about 15-20 minutes you will hear the “voice” of the ghee change. It will get quieter. You’ll see the oil become clear rather than cloudy.

Take it off the heat and strain it through cheesecloth or use a metal coffee filter and filter paper. You can wait 15 minutes or do this immediately. It’s hot, so be careful.

Put into a ceramic, glass or stone bowl and cover. This ghee will last for about a year unrefrigerated.

All recipes provided by Liz Lipski, Ph.D., CCN (courtesy of IFM)


The Wahls Protocol: A Radical New Way to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions Using Paleo Principles by Terry Wahls and Eve Adamson

The Inside Tract: Your Good Gut Guide to Great Digestive Health by Gerard E. Mullin

The Autoimmune Solution: Prevent and Reverse the Full Spectrum of Inflammatory Symptoms and Diseases by Amy Myers M.D.

The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from around the World by Sandor Katz

Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats by Sally Fallon

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