Savor Health

A grain is a hard, dry seed, making them a durable and transportable staple food.

Grains are full of nutrients, including dietary fiber, B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and folate), and minerals (iron, magnesium, and selenium).

  • Fiber helps reduce your risk of heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
  • Fiber makes you feel full and is important for proper bowel function.
  • B vitamins help your metabolism and are essential for a healthy nervous system.
  • Folate helps the body form red blood cells and reduces the risk of types of birth defects.
  • Iron reduces the risk of anemia.
  • Magnesium helps build bones and release energy from muscles.
  • Selenium is an anti-oxidant and important for your immune system.

Grain products include foods made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, or other cereal grains. Common examples are bread, pasta, oatmeal, breakfast cereal, tortillas, and grits.


Whole grains versus Refined Grains

Whole grains contain the whole grain kernel. Common whole grains are bulgur, oatmeal, brown rice, chia, rye, barley, and whole-wheat flour.

Refined grains have been milled, removing the bran and the germ. This improves their texture and increases shelf life, but dramatically reduces nutrition. Refined grains are missing the dietary fiber, iron, and B vitamins that make whole grains so good for you. Many refined grains are enriched, meaning vitamins are added back after processing.

Common refined grains are white flour, white bread, and white rice.


What’s the paleo diet?

The paleo diet is based on foods people believe were available to humans during the Paleolithic age. There are many different variations of the diet, but generally it focuses on eating vegetables, fruits, nuts, roots, and meats (including organ meats) while excluding dairy products, grains, sugar, legumes, salt, and alcohol.

The paleo diet is not for vegetarians or vegans. Meat and fish can also quickly send your grocery bill through the roof.

You can learn more about the paleolithic diet on Scientific American and the Mayo Clinic.


The Claims

Claim: Grains contain phytates

Phytates (also known as phytic acid) are compounds found in grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. Phytates are able to bind to certain vitamins and minerals, preventing key nutrient absorption, specifically iron, zinc, manganese and calcium. However, only small amounts of micronutrients are usually blocked and most people consume adequate vitamins/minerals to make up for losses. In addition, soaking, sprouting and cooking grains reduce phytic acid content.


Claim: Our ancestors did not eat grains

Little is known about the diet of Paleolithic humans, but it seems likely that they did eat wild grains and legumes. Archaeological evidence suggests humans developed tools, like the mortar and pestle, to do so in the Upper Paleolithic era. Humans are highly adaptable and the digestive abilities of modern humans are different from paleolithic humans.

However, modern diet-related diseases like heart disease were not prevalent until the Industrial era when grains were refined, salty foods, fried foods, and processed oils were eaten and used regularly. It is as this point that the population got away from eating fresh fruits and vegetables and relied more on these processed foods, which is the most likely cause of the negative health consequences.

Cutting out processed foods and eating lots of lean protein will make you feel full quickly, leading to weight loss and better health. However, the paleo diet carries a risk of deficiencies, like vitamin D and calcium, and toxins from so much fish. The same benefits can be had, more safely, from the Mediterranean diet.


Claim: Grains cause insulin resistance and inflammation

Grains themselves are not the cause of insulin resistance and inflammation. Eating too much food leads to “belly” fat and development of both. When excess fat is deposited in the abdominal region, fat is almost always also deposited in the liver and the pancreas, negatively affecting cholesterol levels and insulin output.

Studies show that with just a 10% overall weight loss, diabetes can be reversed, proving that it is not a single food group causing insulin resistance, but rather overall poor eating habits leading to overweight/obesity. We know that “belly” fat is not just flab or inactive tissue. It is active tissue that constant secretes inflammatory markers that negatively impact health.


Claim: Grains are GMOs

Many plants are genetically modified to defend against pests and increase the amount of crops produced so that we can feed the population. The long term health implications of eating GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, are unknown, but the theory is that our bodies may not recognize the food and create an immune attack against it, resulting in various autoimmune disorders like thyroid issues, celiac disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

For those looking to decrease GMO or pesticide consumption, buying organic products can automatically reduce GMOs in the diet. Further, ancient grains like kamut, eikorn wheat, teff and quinoa are most similar to their historical selves and are great options to include in the variety of grains that you eat.

For more information on genetically modified wheat, check out an excellent (free to watch) documentary on the subject by the CBC, The War on Wheat.


Health benefits of unrefined grains

The USDA current recommends that men and women 31 and above eat between 5 and 7 ounces of whole grains daily. However this could vary with physical activity levels. Here are some health benefits to whole grains:

  • Prebiotics – Non-digestible carbohydrates, like those found in 100% whole grains serve as prebiotics, or food for the healthy bacteria in our guts. This bacteria improves our mood and immune system and strengthens the integrity of our digestive system
  • Roughage for detoxification and hormone balance – Grains contain 2 kinds of fibers: insoluble fiber and soluble fiber. Insoluble fiber increases the transit time in our gastrointestinal tract and therefore reduces exposure to potentials toxins. Soluble fiber binds to excess cholesterol and removes it from the body. Both types of fiber help promote regularity and satiety.
  • Decreases risk for certain cancers – Studies show that intake of whole grains is associated with decreased risk of colorectal, gastric, breast, prostate and cervical cancers.


8 tips for choosing the best grains

  1. Make sure the whole grain is the first ingredient. The list should not say refined or enriched. Foods that are multi-grain, stone ground, or bran usually aren’t whole grains.
  2. Don’t trust color, as the brown could be from molasses or other ingredients.
  3. Not all grain products are high in fiber, but most are. There should be at least 3 grams of fiber per serving.
  4. Choose foods without added sugars like sucrose, high-fructose corm syrup, honey, malt syrup, maple syrup, or molasses.
  5. Watch out for sodium. Most salt in our diet comes from packaged foods. Choose foods with less than 140 mg of sodium per serving.
  6. Typically a serving of grains is anywhere from ½ cup to 1 cup. Small serving sizes can be used to hide large amounts of sugar and calories. Eating too much of any food isn’t healthy.
  7. When buying brown rice, choose those that are grown in California, India or Pakistan to minimize arsenic consumption. Other ancient grains like quinoa, millet, faro and buckwheat have negligible amounts of arsenic as well.
  8. Choose organic if concerned about GMOs and/or pesticides.


Getting more whole grains

It’s easy to add more whole foods to your diet by tweaking the grains you eat. It’s also an inexpensive way to make your meal plan healthier.

  • Substitute whole grains for refined grains.
  • Start your day with overnight oats, chia pudding, or muesli and yogurt.
  • Make quinoa, brown rice, bulgur, or farro salads for easy take-to-work lunches.
  • Try barley in soups.
  • Choose cookie recipes with whole-grain flour or oatmeal.
  • Popcorn is a great snack, just don’t go overboard with the salt and butter. Old Bay is a popular — and flavorful — popcorn topping.

Don’t try to do all of these things at once, since variety is the spice of life — you don’t need to live entirely off grains.

Just because you may not be following the paleo diet doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some of the recipes it’s made popular. Spiralizing veggies and substituting them for pasta is delicious, as are foods made from coconut and almond flours.

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Susan started Savor Health after losing a close friend to a brain tumor and, through that experience, becoming aware of the significant unmet nutritional needs of people with cancer.  Struck by the fact that her friend was told “nutrition doesn’t matter” and “eat whatever you want,” Susan read the evidence-based literature on the subject, interviewed oncologists, oncology nurses and oncology dietitians, as well as patients and caregivers, and found that, in fact, nutrition does matter in oncology. Armed with solid scientific evidence supporting the clinical and quality of life benefits of proper nutrition, Susan left Wall Street and created Savor Health, an AI-based provider of personalized and clinically appropriate nutrition solutions for cancer patients, their caregivers and health enterprises. Susan brings to Savor Health over 25 years of industry experience in healthcare and business as well as expertise in strategy, finance and management.

Susan is an outspoken and tireless advocate for cancer patients receiving proper nutrition and nutrition support before, during and after treatment. She strongly believes that the U. S. healthcare system requires new innovation to transform it into a more holistic and integrated system of care whereby multiple disciplines coordinate care together for the benefit of the whole patient. As part of this, her goal is for nutrition to be an integral component of such an integrated cancer care delivery system.  Susan’s commitment to the field of oncology extends beyond Savor Health to volunteer work at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in pediatrics and as a runner for Fred’s Team to raise money for research at Memorial Sloan Kettering. Susan participated in the Cancer Moonshot in June of 2016 where she was a breakout session group “igniter” tasked with starting and leading discussion. Susan’s first book, the Meals to Heal Cancer Cookbook, was published in March 2016.

In addition to her role as CEO of Savor Health, Susan speaks nationally about the importance of ensuring proper nutrition in the cancer patient and on topics including leadership and startups. She has been a speaker at the Harvard Medical School’s Career Advancement and Leadership Skills for Women in Healthcare, ESMO World Congress on GI Cancer, BioPharm America, AARP Live @50+, Lake Nona Impact Forum, and IIR ePharma Summit.

Prior to starting Savor Health, Susan had a successful career on Wall Street as a healthcare services investment banker working at prestigious firms including Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, Wasserstein Perella and Robertson Stephens. Susan earned a B.A. from Duke University and M.B.A. from the University of Virginia’s Darden Graduate School of Business.

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Marissa Buchan is a registered dietitian, with advanced practice certifications in Oncology Nutrition (CSO) and Clinical Research (CCRP). She received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Duke University, and Master’s of Science degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University. Marissa worked for 10 years at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in both the clinical research and nutrition departments.  In addition to counseling patients before, during, and after cancer therapy, she spearheaded nutrition-research efforts for the bone marrow transplant service. She has co-authored over 20 articles and has a particular interest in the role of nutrition on the intestinal microbiota and its impact on patient outcomes. When Marissa’s not wearing her lab coat, she’s in her apron whipping up healthy and delicious recipes that you can find on her blog, Get Off Your Tush and Cook.

Marissa is Chief Operating Officer of Savor Health where she leads operations working with the technology, clinical, and business development teams and management. Prior to assuming the role of COO in March 2020, Marissa was Vice President, Clinical Research and Operations at Savor Health where she worked closely with Savor Health’s Chief Medical Advisor, Scientific Advisory Board, and Clinical Operations Team to evaluate, design and conduct clinical research.  She also counsels patients on oncology nutrition issues and contributes to the Company website’s clinical content.

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Dr. DeFrance has a unique background including clinical interventional cardiologist, chief medical officer, educator, outcomes researcher and entrepreneur. He has expertise in Lifestyle medicine in which he was board certified in 2020 and is highly interested in the prevention and reversal of chronic disease. Dr. DeFrance also has expertise in appropriate utilization of technology in medicine, healthcare economics, value-based metrics, and educational design and delivery. He worked as Chief Medical Officer for HealthHelp, one of the largest specialty benefit managers in the US, and led large teams of healthcare professionals in writing evidence based appropriate care guidelines and rule sets which improve the quality and safety of medicine for over 20 million people in the US while also creating sustained savings in healthcare. He has also designed clinical decision support systems that are currently in use helping to improve patient care.

In 2018 Dr. DeFrance founded MedMentor Education, a company that provides state of the art CME content using the latest in eLearning science and online delivery platforms. Dr. DeFrance is also the founder and President of Digimedica, a consulting and educational design and delivery company for healthcare professionals, hospitals, and universities. He is passionate about creating systems to optimize knowledge transfer and has won numerous awards for teaching excellence during his career. He is an expert in cardiovascular CT imaging and has taught more than 3,000 physicians how to perform and interpret cardiac CT nationally and internationally and has lectured extensively on this subject.

Dr. DeFrance has a stellar reputation in the medical field and continues work to improve the quality and safety of patient care in the US.

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Alyson is a registered nurse and is certified in oncology nursing (OCN) through the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS). She also has her certification as an ONS Biotherapy and Chemotherapy Provider. Alyson studied nursing at Thomas Jefferson University where she obtained her Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN). Since starting her nursing career in 2004, Alyson has had a strong dedication and commitment to oncology patients. She has worked inpatient specializing in Bone Marrow and Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Transplantation. Alyson currently works in outpatient oncology at the North Shore-LIJ Monter Cancer Center. Alyson is part of the clinical team at Savor Health where she counsels patients on oncology and oncology nutrition issues and contributes to website and other Savor Health content.

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Chelsey is a Registered Dietitian and Board Certified Specialist in Oncology nutrition (CSO). She completed her Dietetic Internship at Northwell Health, received her BS in Dietetics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and her MS in Nutrition at Stony Brook University’s School of Medicine. Chelsey works as an outpatient dietitian at Mount Sinai covering all of the downtown cancer services at Mount Sinai Beth Israel and Philips Ambulatory Care Center. Chelsey works with patients and families before, during and after treatment to optimize their nutrition through dietary counseling and support. Chelsey has experience counseling clients with a variety of diagnoses including breast cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, head & neck cancer, and more. Chelsey also enjoys sharing nutrition knowledge with her peers by running a monthly Employee Wellness program that showcases healthy topics, recipes and food demos.

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Michelle is a Registered Dietitian specializing in oncology. She works as a clinical dietitian at an ambulatory cancer center in New York City and is a consultant for Savor Health. She is passionate about educating oncology patients on the importance of nutrition during their fight against cancer and helping them to optimize their nutrition through all phases of treatment. Michelle received her Bachelor of Science degree in dietetics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her Master of Science degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University.

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Denise Sievering is a Registered Dietitian who is board certified in Oncology Nutrition as well as Nutrition Support. A fluent Spanish speaker, Denise joined the Savor Health team to support Spanish speaking cancer patients and to continue to expand the Platform’s nutritional strategies and recommendations in Spanish. Denise holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Rutgers University, and completed her internship at New York Presbyterian Hospital (NYP). Denise started her career as a registered dietitian at NYP-Columbia University Medical Center, primarily covering inpatient Oncology units. Denise also holds a Master of Arts degree in Mental Health Counseling from New York University, and incorporates her advanced training in motivational interviewing and empathic listening in her patient encounters, particularly those whose lives have been forever changed by a cancer diagnosis. A New Jersey native, Denise now resides in sunny San Diego, CA where she works as a part-time outpatient Oncology dietitian at Scripps Health-MD Anderson Cancer Center, and also works as an inpatient dietitian at Kaiser Permanente. In her spare time, Denise can be found at a mom-and-pop taco shop, one of the many local craft breweries, and exploring her new city of San Diego with her husband and her rescue pup, Ripley.

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Karen is a Registered Dietitian, Board Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition and registered in New York as a Certified Dietitian Nutritionist. Fluent in Spanish, Karen joined the Savor Health team to support Spanish speaking cancer patients and to continue to expand the Platform’s nutritional strategies and recommendations in Spanish. Karen received her Bachelor of Science degree from Ithaca College and her Master of Science degree from Hunter College. She works as an outpatient oncology dietitian in New York. Karen often works with local community centers to host nutrition programs for cancer survivors and their families, leading classes on how to live healthier lifestyles throughout their continuum of care. The American Institute of Cancer Research selected to showcase one of her many programs at their conference in 2019. Karen has written for and lent commentary to various publications and truly enjoys teaching people how to eat better. She loves to cook and strongly feels that healthy food doesn’t have to taste bad.

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Allie is a Registered Dietitian and a Certified Specialist in Oncology (CSO). She joins Savor in 2023, bringing years of experience from the John Theurer Cancer Center in New Jersey, where she worked with patients with a variety of cancers. Her goal is to help people feel their best, both mentally and physically, when physical health challenges arise. She believes in the power of nutrition ever since the impact it made on her athletic career as a volleyball player during college. Allie graduated with her Bachelor of Science degree from University of Maryland-Baltimore County and has her Master’s degree in Human Nutrition from the University of Wisconsin Stout. She enjoys travelling, enjoying different cuisines, cooking, and hiking and other outdoor activities with her family and dog.

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Julia Penberg is a seasoned healthcare professional with more than 30 years of experience focusing on maximizing operational excellence, leading clinical program development and building strong cross-functional teams. Her previous roles include overseeing the performance of clinical managers and nurse practitioners across multiple markets within United Healthcare-Optum’s Medicare Advantage and dual-eligible special needs populations, payer outreach and program development at Mayo Clinic, ground level specialty hospital development and direct patient care as a family and dermatology nurse practitioner. Julia volunteered as an operating room nurse and nurse practitioner on several mission trips to Romania and was a support group leader for the Kansas City chapter of the International Myeloma Foundation. Her motivation throughout her career has been with wellness promotion, disease risk modification and ensuring the best patient experience across the health continuum. Ms. Penberg received an MBA from the University of Dallas; a MS in Nursing from the University of Kansas and a BS in Nursing from the University of Texas-Austin. She is board certified as a Family Nurse Practitioner.

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Rachel is a Registered Dietitian and Board Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition (“CSO”). She joined NYP-Columbia as the outpatient oncology dietitian in 2020 after working at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center for two years. Rachel completed her dietetic internship through Keene State College in 2017. She is pursuing an MS in Integrative Nutrition at Stony Brook University and has a BS in Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise from Virginia Tech. Rachel provides nutrition counseling to all types of oncology patients and helps them understand the mental and physical benefits of nutrition as an ally in their fight against cancer. In her free time she enjoys slow meals with family and friends, Pilates, and tending to her fire escape garden.

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Allie Werner is a Registered Dietitian at Fresenius Kidney Care where she provides medical nutrition therapy diet counseling to patients on Dialysis. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in nutrition from Indiana University and completed her Master’s Degree and dietetic internship at Loyola University Chicago. In her free time she enjoys spending time with friends and family, checking out the amazing food scene in downtown Chicago, and exercising on her Peloton bike.

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Immersed in the tech world for a decade, I've coded, led teams, and honed my skills in architecture and design. As a tech enthusiast, I've seamlessly woven through full-stack projects, fusing my love for code with the art of leadership.

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Mohit is a full-stack developer with expertise in Python and JavaScript, known for his efficient coding and ability to deliver scalable software solutions. His technical contributions are highlighted on GitHub and Stack Overflow, demonstrating his commitment to the tech community and problem-solving skills. With a solid educational foundation and a diverse project portfolio, Mohit excels at navigating complex challenges and is well-equipped to contribute to dynamic software projects.

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Rayna McCann is a Registered Dietitian and Board Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition. She is a Registered Yoga Teacher and yoga4cancer certified. She received her BS in Nutrition at Penn State University and her MS from Stony Brook University. For work, Rayna wears many hats in the world of nutrition and worked for years in clinical settings focusing on oncology nutrition. She is also an Adjunct Professor and passionate about inspiring the future of dietitians. Throughout her career, she has received awards recognizing her dedication to patient safety and her contributions to improving malnutrition awareness. In 2022, Rayna was proud to accept the ‘Dietitian of the Year’ award through the Long Island Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Rayna has co-authored abstracts for poster presentations within the American Institute for Cancer Research conference, as well as, the Nutrition and Dietetics Food and Nutrition Conference Expo and subsequent publication. She has enjoyed authoring articles, including an article for The Cure magazine regarding Multiple Myeloma and nutrition. When Rayna is not participating in nutrition related activities, she is dedicated to dog rescue.

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