Antioxidants are just that: they fight (anti) oxidation.

The chemical process of oxidation is like rusting metal. A molecule loses electrons and creates the infamous free radicals. Oxidation is also the reason why apples, bananas, and avocados go brown when the skin is broken, and they’re exposed to air – they’re getting oxidized.

Free radicals in the body cause inflammation and can contribute to diseases like cancers, diabetes, and heart disease (to name a few). So, the antidote to oxidation is the antioxidant. Vitamins like vitamins A, C, and E are examples of antioxidants. So are other compounds in foods like carotenoids and phenols. These compounds sacrifice their electrons to stop the oxidation process; this why squirting some lemon juice on your sliced apples, bananas and avocados slows down the browning process.

But don’t think that all oxidation in the body is bad. It’s not. Your body naturally oxidizes compounds all the time when it’s doing healthy things like metabolizing nutrients or exercising.

As with many things in life and health, the key is maintaining a good balance. In this case, as the balance between oxidation and antioxidation.

We can throw off that balance with exposure to too much alcohol, smoking, or environmental pollutants. Even over-exercising or too much sun exposure can create too much oxidation.

The best sources of antioxidants to combat this effect are nutritious whole foods, like colourful fresh produce, e.g., blueberries, purple cabbage, etc. In fact, the more colourful and darker the plant is, the higher levels of antioxidants it usually has. Chemicals that give the plants their deep colours are often the antioxidants themselves.

Antioxidants in food

Let me list out a bunch of antioxidants and the foods they’re found in:

  • Vitamin A – Found in liver, dark leafy greens (e.g., kale), orange fruits and veggies (e.g., mangoes, carrots & squashes)
  • Vitamin C – Found in bell peppers, citrus, berries, and leafy greens
  • Vitamin E – Found in leafy greens, nuts (e.g., walnuts), and seeds (e.g., sunflowers)
  • Carotenoids (e.g., beta-carotene, lycopene, etc.) – Found in tomatoes, carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, and salmon
  • Phenols – Found in green tea, black tea, coffee, cocoa, red wine, and berries

Blueberries are probably one of the most studied antioxidant foods. They contain a range of phytochemicals (i.e., plant chemical) compounds and are very high in anthocyanins (the blue-colored compound).

The antioxidant capacity can be measured in a laboratory; this is called the “oxygen radical absorption capacity,” or “ORAC.” And blueberries have one of the highest ORAC levels.

FUN FACT: Some studies estimate that the highest source of antioxidants in the average American is not from berries, it’s from coffee! Can you imagine how much healthier people can be if they added a few more servings of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables to their days?

Antioxidant Foods vs. Supplements

While antioxidant supplements have been tested, their results haven’t been as good as many hoped. Compared with eating a nutrient-dense antioxidant-rich colorful array of plants, antioxidants supplements have fallen short.

Many studies of antioxidant supplements haven’t shown any benefit against heart disease, cancer, or other diseases. And these are diseases that are known to be reduced in people who eat a lot of foods that are naturally full of antioxidants.

In fact, too much of any individual antioxidant, like when overdoing supplements, can be harmful. Too much vitamin A is linked to an increased risk of hip fractures and prostate cancer. Too much beta-carotene increases the risk of lung cancer in smokers. Too much vitamin E increases the risk of prostate cancer, lung infections, heart failure, and even death.

One of the reasons why we think that antioxidant foods work oh-so-much better than antioxidant supplements is because of synergy. The concept of synergy means that by taking one component out of healthful food (i.e., the antioxidant), it loses the effect it has when combined with all the other healthy components it came with from nature. This is the difference between eating a whole orange and taking a vitamin C supplement. The orange is going to have more than just vitamin C, and many of those compounds will work together for overall health better than just isolating one and having higher-than-normal doses of it.

Conclusion

There are antioxidant vitamins (A, C & E) and other antioxidants like carotenoids and polyphenols. They’re highest in colorful fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some meats, tea, coffee, and cocoa.

You can’t replace a diet full of nutrient-dense antioxidant-rich whole foods with supplements. So stick with the foods.

Which antioxidant-rich foods and drinks are your favorites? Let me know in the comments below.

Recipe (Antioxidant-rich): Blueberry Smoothie

Serves 2

1 handful baby spinach leaves
1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
1 banana
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 dash cinnamon

Directions

Place all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Use any greens you have on hand in place of the spinach, if you wish.

References:

https://www.precisionnutrition.com/encyclopedia/food/antioxidants

https://www.precisionnutrition.com/soreness-and-blueberries

https://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-coffee

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/supplements-a-scorecard

https://examine.com/nutrition/4-science-based-superfoods-you-should-be-eating/

https://www.health.harvard.edu/family-health-guide/swan-song-for-antioxidant-supplements-the

 

 

 

 

There are so many things that can go wrong with the skin: dryness, redness, blemishes, etc.

Healthy skin is a reflection of internal health. There are many creams and cosmetics to put on top of your skin. But, there are also lots of things you can do to nurture and nourish your skin to better health from the inside.

How better to do this than with food?

Your skin needs many nutrients: water, essential fats, vitamins, and amino acids. Here are five foods (and drinks and lifestyle tips) I highly recommend if your goal is healthier-looking skin. As a bonus, I have included a short list of some key foods to consider avoiding.

Let’s dive in.

Skin Food #1 – Water

No doubt hydration is key for healthy-looking skin! Water and other hydrating fluids are great to help your skin stay moist and supple.

And for a bit of an extra anti-inflammatory hydrating boost, try boosting your water with anti-inflammatory green tea (sugar-free if possible).

Skin Food #2 – Fish

Fish contains many nutrients important for skin health – omega-3s, and vitamins A and D to name a few.

Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory to help cool the flames of inflammation. Vitamin A can help with blemishes and dryness, while vitamin D helps with skin tone.

Skin Food #3 – Bell peppers, citrus, and broccoli

Collagen is one of the most abundant proteins in our body. It’s also known to help our skin stay firm and supple.

Vitamin C is necessary for your body to make collagen. So foods rich in vitamin C are great for your skin. Cue: bell peppers, citrus, and broccoli.

FUN FACT: Overcooking vitamin C-rich foods can destroy some of the skin-supporting vitamins. So, try having these lightly steamed or raw for maximum vitamin C levels.

Skin Food #4 – Bone broth

Homemade bone broth contains a lot of the amino acid glycine. Glycine is another essential component of the skin protein collagen.

Glycine helps speed the healing of the skin and the gut. Win-win.

Skin “Food” #5 – Sleep more & stress less

I know these aren’t exactly foods, but they’re an important part of naturally great skin. When we don’t sleep enough, or stress too much our body flips on systems that affect our whole body… including our skin.

Stress hormones can increase inflammation and lead to not-so-healthy-looking skin. Prioritize sleep and stress management, and you can see results in your life, and in your skin.

Watch out for these foods

Some foods are allergenic or inflammatory. These can cause all sorts of issues in your body, including affecting your skin.

It’s hard to come up with one list of inflammatory or allergenic foods for everyone. Each person is biochemically unique, so you may have to go through this and see what applies to you. There are a few common allergens that may be a good bet to eliminate from your diet.

The first is processed foods. These are pretty much not-so-good for everyone. And they can affect your health in so many ways, including how your skin looks & feels. Try ditching pre-packaged and fast foods in favor of whole foods as much as possible. Not just for your skin, for your whole body (and mind).

The second is gluten. While only a small number of people have serious reactions to gluten (i.e., celiac disease), many more people are intolerant of it. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and a few other grains. Many people have had several health concerns, including skin issues, clear up after eliminating gluten from their diets.

Third, in line is dairy. It could be a hormonal response or even an insulin response. We don’t quite know why, but many people who cut out dairy report better skin

Conclusion

Skin health is not just about what you put on your skin, but what your skin gets from the inside too. There are lots of important nutrients and foods to help support healthy skin. This also means, that there are lots of foods that can affect your skin in negative ways as well.

Hydrating, eating nutrient-dense whole foods, and avoiding common allergenic and inflammatory foods might make all the difference for you.

Do you have an awesome recipe or tips for people to eat more of these “skin-healthifying” foods? Let me know in the comments below.

Recipe (Omega-3 vitamin C rich): Not Your Typical Salmon Salad

Serves 2

4 cups baby spinach (or mixed greens)
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 cup cherry tomatoes
½ large cucumber, chopped
8 oz smoked salmon, or 1 can salmon, roughly chopped
A drizzle of your favorite (gluten-free, dairy-free) dressing

Instructions

Place 2 cups of greens into each of 2 bowls.

Top with veggies and salmon.

Drizzle with dressing.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Serve with a large mug of green tea for an extra skin-supporting bonus.

References:

https://www.thepaleomom.com/beautiful-skin/

https://www.thepaleomom.com/overcoming-medical-dogma-eczema/

https://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-acne-nutrition

https://www.healthline.com/health/4-best-vitamins-for-skin#VitaminD2

https://chriskresser.com/nutrition-for-healthy-skin-part-1/

https://www.healthline.com/health/ways-to-boost-collagen

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/collagen

 

Contact Irene

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Pre”biotics?

Yes! They’re the food that we feed our probiotics, the friendly gut microbes that are oh so important for good health.

Our gut microbes are alive, and they need to eat too. Their favourite foods are called “prebiotics” and include dietary fibre and resistant starch. The same fibre that keeps us feeling full slows down digestion and provides roughage that keeps us regular. Resistant starch helps promote healthy blood lipids. Both of types of prebiotics (fibre and resistant starch) are linked with many health benefits.

Technically-speaking, a prebiotic has three qualities:

  • It needs to be undigested and reach the colon intact;
  • It needs to be digested by our gut microbes; and,
  • It needs to stimulate our health-promoting good gut microbes.

Now that we know what prebiotics are let’s dive into their health benefits.

Health benefits of prebiotics

Prebiotic fibre helps keep us regular by bulking up our poop. It gives it substance and form, so it’s not too runny or liquid. In fact, more fibre is often recommended to help with symptoms of diarrhea. Prebiotic fibre used to be thought of like a broom that sweeps food through our guts, but we’re learning more about its health benefits beyond this role.

For example, prebiotics can also help to maintain normal bowel structure and function, and even enhance blood flow to the cells of the colon.

Those are some of the health benefits of prebiotics themselves. But we get even more health benefits when our friendly gut microbes eat and digest them.

For one thing, our gut microbes use prebiotics to make short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). These SCFAs (e.g., butyrate) can feed the cells of our colon to keep them healthy. SCFAs also inhibit the growth of bad gut microbes, and can even increase mineral (e.g., calcium and magnesium) absorption. These effects are all linked to the slight acidity caused by the acids in those SCFAs.

Dietary fibre also binds to healthful phytonutrients (phyto = plant). These phytonutrients are lost when the fibre is removed from the food. But, when we eat the prebiotic fibre, our gut microbes release these phytonutrients so we can absorb and use them.

Where to get prebiotics

Dietary fibre and resistant starch are the main sources of prebiotics.

Prebiotic fibre is found mostly in plants; both fruits and vegetables.

Resistant starch is any starch (a type of carbohydrate) that goes through most of our digestive tract without being digested. It’s not broken down by our digestive enzymes because it’s “resistant”… until it gets to our gut microbes in the colon. Resistant starch is found in starchy foods like whole grains and potatoes.

One of the big differences between fibre and resistant starch is that all of the fibre we eat is undigestible. All of it reaches our colons. Resistant starch, on the other hand, is just a small percent of the starch we eat. Most starch is digested and absorbed along our digestive tract, and that part is not considered to be prebiotic. Only the small amount of starch that is resistant to digestion and makes it down to the colon to feed our probiotics is prebiotic.

Prebiotic fibre is found in fibrous fruits and vegetables. It’s essentially what’s removed when we make juice – the pulp. It’s one of the reasons why eating whole fruits and vegetables is more healthful than replacing them with juice.

Here are some great sources of dietary fibre:

  • Onions
  • Asparagus
  • Bananas
  • Berries
  • Pears

Resistant starch is found in:

  • Whole grains (e.g. oats)
  • Potatoes
  • Cornmeal
  • Seeds
  • Legumes
  • Green bananas

Starches can be made resistant by cooking and cooling these foods before eating them. The cooling process allows the starches to re-shape themselves into a structure that is harder to digest (i.e., more resistant).

Conclusion

Prebiotics are fibre and resistant starches that feed our gut microbes. And when we feed our gut microbes, they help keep our gut healthy and have other health benefits too.

Do you ever juice your amazingly healthy fruits and vegetables and have a ton of leftover pulp? What do you do with it? I have a great recipe for using that oh so healthy prebiotic fibre in a delicious way.

Recipe (Juice pulp): Brownies

Serves 12

Instructions

¾ cup cocoa powder, unsweetened (prebiotic)
3 tbsp coconut flour (prebiotic)
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 eggs
2 cups juice pulp, firmly packed (prebiotic)
½ cup coconut oil, melted
½ cup maple syrup

Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8”x8” baking tray with parchment paper.

Add cocoa powder, coconut flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt to a large bowl. Stir to combine.

Whisk eggs, pulp, oil and maple syrup.

Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir to combine well. Use a spatula to scrape the batter into the baking dish.

Bake for 30 mins until the top is firm and edges just start to pull away from the dish.

Allow the brownies to cool.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: I like to blend the wet ingredients in my blender to make cleanup easier.

References:

http://neurotrition.ca/blog/your-gut-bugs-what-they-eat-and-7-ways-feed-them

https://nutritionfacts.org/video/juicing-removes-more-than-just-fiber/

https://nutritionfacts.org/video/resistant-starch-colon-cancer/

https://extension.psu.edu/prebiotics-how-to-feed-your-good-bacteria

https://www.monash.edu/medicine/ccs/gastroenterology/prebiotic/faq

https://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-fibre

 

 

 

 

 

So much of health is all about habits and actions, but where do these all stem from? What if we don’t have to make as many changes as we think we do? What if there was one powerful thing that makes a lot of difference?

That thing is the mindset.

Mindset is sometimes called “the story we tell ourselves.” It’s our attitude toward things in our life. And we have control over our mindset.

And research is showing that it may be far more powerful than we thought.

Very interesting health mindset study

Here’s a quick story about a fascinating study.

Researchers at Stanford University looked at a bunch of people’s health and wellness lifestyle habits, as well as health markers.

What they found was that the people who thought they were a lot less active had a higher risk of death than the general public. And, they also had up to 71% higher risk of death than people who thought they were more active. Even if they actually weren’t less active!

How is this even possible that people who simply thought they were less active had higher risks, even if it wasn’t true?

There are a couple of ideas why. One is that maybe if we feel like we’re less active, it may make us feel more stressed. And stress isn’t good for our mental or physical health. Second, there may be a bit of a mind-body connection where the body embodies what the mind visualizes.

Researchers don’t know why, but what matters is that there is a good mindset. So, let me give you a couple of strategies to boost your mindset for health.

Health mindset strategy 1 – Aim for good enough.

Almost no one eats perfectly seven days a week. It’s inevitable that obsessing over the quality and quantity of everything we eat or drink isn’t necessarily a great mindset to have.

It can bring on binging, shame, and guilt – none of these are great ways to get healthy. We want to get healthier by making better choices and building better habits. And these are usually best done incrementally – one step at a time.

So, instead of having a black and white approach where everything is good or bad, why not try aiming for good enough to empower ourselves to make better choices, instead of perfect choices.

Health mindset strategy 2 – Stop making tradeoffs

When you try to earn a gluttonous weekend by eating clean during the week, you’re making a tradeoff. You’re telling yourself that, as long as you’re good most of the week, you can go wild on the weekend.

And that’s not awesome because the mindset is jumping from one extreme to the other. You’re controlling what you do all week, and possibly thinking about how to indulge over the weekend. Just live as though you’re trying to do well every single day. Like you care about your health and wellness. You’re doing your best, and that’s good enough.

Conclusion

Mindset for health can be a powerful tool for better physical health. There’s a proven mind-body connection that research can measure.

Thinking positively, and dropping the black/white and good/bad labels, can help you reach your health goals.

How is your mindset for health? Which of these tips resonate with you the most? How are you going to implement them in your life? Let me know in the comments below.

Recipe (Morning mindset refresher): Chia Lemon Water

Serves 1

1 tbsp chia seeds

½ lemon, sliced

water

Instructions:

Add the chia seeds & lemon to your favorite water bottle. Fill to the with water.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Shake before drinking.

References:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/mind-over-matter-how-fit-you-think-you-are-versus-actual-fitness-2017081412282

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/making-health-decisions-mindsets-numbers-and-stories-201112123946

https://www.precisionnutrition.com/weekend-overeating

 

 

 

 

 

In a nutshell, intermittent fasting is just that: fasting intermittently.

It’s limiting calorie intake during certain hours/day or days/week. It’s more of an eating pattern than a diet. It limits when to eat, and not so much what to eat. And that’s part of it’s appeal to people who don’t want to count calories or use their food log to track everything.

Some would say that it’s a more natural way to eat because humans evolved without refrigerators, drive-throughs, or 24-hour convenience stores. We now have access to food (including junk food) all day long, so eating several meals per day plus snacks may be less natural than fasting from time to time.

There are lots of variations on this theme. They include:

  • 16/8 which is 16 hours of fasting, and eating only within the other 8 hours (often 1:00 pm. – 9:00 p.m.);
  • 5:2 days of fasting, where you eat regularly for five days of the week, then take in just 500-600 calories/day for the other two (non-consecutive) days

Is intermittent fasting effective for weight loss?

Intermittent fasting can help to lose weight because it can help you to eat fewer calories, and burn more calories too.

Lots of people say they have success with it. But what do the studies say?

According to one review study, intermittent fasting helped people to lose 3-8% of their weight over 3-24 weeks.  In this study, people also lost 4-7% of their waist circumference (i.e., belly fat).

Another study of 100 people with obesity showed that after a year, the people who fasted on alternate days lost more weight than people who didn’t change their eating pattern. But, (and here’s where it’s interesting) they didn’t lose any more weight than those on a calorie-restricted diet. Out of the people who were to follow the intermittent fasting protocol, 38% of them dropped out.

Sticking with a diet is one of the keys to weight loss success. So, if you can’t stay with a weight-loss diet, you’re less likely to lose the weight and keep it off.

Before you consider intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting is not for everyone. People who are underweight, or have eating disorders shouldn’t fast. Neither should women who are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or are breastfeeding.

Certain medical conditions can be worsened with longer periods of fasting. Also, people taking certain medications can be prone to side effects with intermittent fasting as well.

One of the reasons people drop out of the intermittent fasting eating pattern is that it’s hard to stick with the fasting part. They eat more than allowed (low-level of) calories when they’re supposed to be fasting. And when they finish fasting, they may overindulge due to the reaction of the appetite hormones and hunger drive while fasting. None of these will help with weight loss.

Also, the hours and days of fasting can be very difficult. So having strong social support will be key to those intermittent periods of fasting. Sticking to a (healthy, nutrient-dense) weight loss diet is the key to success, and intermittent fasting can be difficult for many people to stick with.

Conclusion

Intermittent fasting is a weight-loss trend that seems to work for some people. It can help to lose weight and reduce belly fat. But, it isn’t safe for everyone. Many people should not try intermittent fasting because it can be risky. It can also be difficult to stick with.

For the best chance of long-term weight loss success, finding a diet, you can stick with is key.

What about you – Have you or someone you know tried intermittent fasting? What were the results? Let me know in the comments below.

For a free ebook on Holiday Weight Gain, preventing and effectively losing pounds gained click below. 

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/intermittent-fasting-guide/

https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/not-so-fast-pros-and-cons-of-the-newest-diet-trend

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting a common cold doesn’t have to be so… common. There are things you can do naturally to make getting sick less likely.

But, if you do happen to get sick, there are things you can also do to help support your body to fight it off.

Good hand hygiene and overall healthy habits can reduce your risk of getting sick in the first place. And good nutrition can help your immune system fight off a cold quicker. Imagine your germ-fighting immune cells all hungry and tired, versus them being nourished and full of energy.

And that’s what this post is all about.

First I’ll give you some tips to reduce your risk of getting sick in the first place. Then, I’ll let you in on some of my strategies to recover from that cold you may still get from time to time.

Natural tips to reduce your risk of sickness

Here are some great ideas to incorporate into your daily life to reduce your risk of getting sick.

1 – Wash your hands. A lot. I am sure that during the current season you are all aware of this golden rule.Your hands can trap and transport all kinds of microbes that cause sickness. And I’m not just talking about colds here, but lots of different germs.

NOTE: Antibacterial soap is not recommended! Not only is it no more effective than regular soap and water, but it can contribute to antibiotic resistance.

2 – Get enough nutrients. I know this is way oversimplified, but I would be remiss to exclude it. Every cell in your body, including your immune cells, needs enough of all the essential nutrients. The more nutrition you have, the better and stronger you will be, especially with vitamins A, C, and E. Vitamin A-rich foods include carrots, sweet potato, and organ meats. Vitamin C-rich foods include bell peppers and citrus. Vitamin E-rich foods include nuts, seeds, and leafy greens.

3 – Probiotic foods. Helping our health-promoting gut microbes with more of their probiotic friends is in order here to help keep the immune system strong. Try 1-2 servings/day of fermented foods and drinks like sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, kefir, and kombucha.one of my favorite sources is Ultra Flora by Metagenics.

4 – Prebiotic foods. Feeding those friendly gut microbes their favorite foods can help them to grow and flourish. They love fibrous foods like onions, asparagus, berries, bananas, sweet potatoes, whole grains, and seeds. Aim for 2-3 servings/day.

5 – Get enough sleep. Did you know that our immune system cycles with our circadian system? When we sleep our immune cells produce antibodies to fight infections. Try to get at least 7 hours every single night, even when you’re feeling great.

Natural tips to recover from that sickness

When you do get an infection, not only do you need more nutrients to fight it off, but your body also has a harder time absorbing and using the nutrients you take in. Sometimes this is because of reduced hunger, sometimes due to gastrointestinal reasons. Either way, nourishing your body is even more important. When you do get sick, make sure you are implementing tips 1-5 plus the tips below that are crucial for getting over a common cold.

6 – Drink lots of fluids. Being sick can be dehydrating. Fluids like water, chicken soup, and green tea are warm, hydrating comfort drinks. Chicken soup is a source of electrolytes, especially if homemade from a real chicken with lots of vegetables. Green tea has been shown to boost some of our immune cells, and this can help to better fight off the invading germ.

7 – Rest and recover. When your body is fighting an infection, it’s busy working hard for your health. Give it a break and relax while you’re feeling under the weather.

8 – supplements that I have found help patients are Zinc, Vitamin D, and Vitamin C.

Conclusion

There are lots of things we can do to stay healthy and reduce infections naturally. Washing your hands is a proven way to reduce your risk. And staying healthy in all other ways helps a lot. Getting enough nutrition, eating probiotic and prebiotic foods, and getting enough sleep are key year-round.

If you do get sick, keep up all of your good habits above, and make sure to add some warm, healthy fluids, and extra rest.

What do you do when you get sick? Let me know in the comments below.

Recipe (Throat soothing): Honey Lemon Ginger Cough Drops

½ cup honey
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp freshly grated ginger root

Instructions

Put ingredients into a small saucepan.

Stir frequently until it becomes foamy. Be careful because the honey can burn easily.

Remove from heat and continue to stir until the foam reduces.

Put the saucepan back on the heat.

Repeat this until a candy thermometer reads 300F.

Drop a bit into a glass of ice water. If the mixture forms a hard, crunchy ball, it’s ready! If not, keep stirring and heating for another minute or two and try with the ice water again.

Once a hard ball forms from a drop into the ice water, let the saucepan cool until the foam has reduced.

Drizzle the candy into a candy mold or onto oiled parchment paper.

Let cool at room temperature until the cough drops are hard.

Pop-out of the mold or break into pieces, and store in an airtight container.

Tip: You can sprinkle them with vitamin C powder to keep them from sticking together.

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References:

https://www.precisionnutrition.com/what-to-eat-when-sick

https://www.thepaleomom.com/natural-approaches-to-cold-flu-season/

http://nutritionfacts.org/video/preventing-the-common-cold-with-probiotics/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9dExiRwh-DQ

http://www.who.int/gpsc/clean_hands_protection/en/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vitamin what? K?

Yup!

Why’d they skipped vitamins F, G, H, I & J?

Great question!

That’s because the “K” stands for “koagulation” which is the Danish spelling for “coagulation.” Vitamin K is the vitamin that helps the blood to clot or coagulates. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what this amazing, underappreciated vitamin does for our bodies.

It’s one of the four fat-soluble vitamins: Vitamins A, D, E & K.

Let me tell you about all those functions this little powerhouse does for us. Then I’ll list out some vitamin-K rich foods.

Once you read this post, you can consider yourself officially in the know about this little-known vitamin.

Vitamin K’s amazing functions

As I mentioned earlier, the “K” stands for the vitamin’s ability to help clot our blood. And this is a critical life-saving measure to prevent blood loss from cuts and scrapes.

Vitamin K also works hand-in-hand with calcium in the blood. It helps to shuttle the calcium to our bones and teeth where we need it. This reduces our risk of fractures and cavities. Having too much calcium in our blood can lead to kidney stones and hardened arteries (atherosclerosis), so vitamin K helps to reduce our risks of those too.

It also helps with insulin. Not only is vitamin K critical for making insulin, but also to keep your cells sensitive to it. This means that vitamin K can help you better regulate your blood sugar levels.

Vitamin K has a few other functions too. It can help to regulate your sex hormones. In men, it helps to maintain good levels of testosterone. In women with PCOS, it helps to reduce certain hormones.

Finally, vitamin K can help protect against cancer by switching off cancer genes.

It’s a pretty amazing and versatile vitamin.

What to eat to get vitamin K

There are two main types of vitamin K: K1 and K2.

The type depends on which foods you eat. Vitamin K1 is found in plants; while vitamin K2 is found in animal foods and fermented plants.

Vitamin K1 supports blood clotting (remember “koagulation?”). Vitamin K1 is found mostly in cruciferous vegetables (e.g., as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts), dark leafy greens (e.g., spinach, collard greens, parsley, and Swiss chard), as well as asparagus.

Vitamin K2 also supports blood clotting and had additional health benefits.   Bone mineralization and effects on cancer genes and sex hormones are primarily from the K2 version. Vitamin K2 is found in egg yolk, cheese, butter, meat, and fermented foods like sauerkraut. Two of the best sources of vitamin K2 are natto (fermented soy) and goose liver.

Since vitamin K is one of the four fat-soluble vitamins, it’s best to eat it with a bit of fat. This helps to increase absorption from the food into your body.

If you do want to supplement, make sure you follow the label directions. Some of the cautions include the fact that Vitamin K can interact with several types of medications, so make sure it’s right for you before taking it.

Conclusion

Vitamins K1 and K2 are essential fat-soluble vitamins. They help our blood to clot, our bones to get strong, and regulate our sex hormones, just to name a few.

Vitamin K1 is found in green veggies, like cruciferous and leaves. K2 is found in egg yolks, meat, cheeses, and fermented foods.

I hope you now feel like you’re in the know about this amazing (but not-so-well-known) vitamin. Did you learn something new? Did you want to add something I missed?

Let me know in the comments below.

Recipe (Vitamin K2-rich): Natto

2 cups dried soybeans, rinsed (choose organic)

6 cups of water

1 package natto starter culture (or leftover natto from the last batch)

Instructions

Soak soybeans overnight in 6 cups of water.

Drain soaking water. Place beans in freshwater to boil until soft (up to 9 hours).

NOTE: Because we’re going to be fermenting, the recipe from here on needs to use only sterilized equipment and pre-boiled water.

Drain soft soybeans and place them in a pot with a natto starter culture (per directions on the culture package). Gently stir.

Place beans/culture mixture in a thin layer in as many casserole dishes or baking trays as necessary.

Cover each with sterilized cheesecloth and place the lid on top.

Place covered dishes in oven or dehydrator set for 100F for about 24 hours. The culture should eventually grow to look like a white film around the soybeans.

Let cool. Remove cheesecloth and refrigerate (or freeze).

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: If you save some of the natto, you can use it as your starter culture for future batches.

References:

https://chrismasterjohnphd.com/2016/12/09/the-ultimate-vitamin-k2-resource/

https://chriskresser.com/vitamin-k2-the-missing-nutrient/

https://www.thepaleomom.com/wiki/vitamin-k/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in your neck that releases hormones. Thyroid hormones help your body regulate a few things – not a big deal – just the metabolism of ALL cells. And this is critical for maintaining healthy body weight and having the energy to live your life.

(Yes, your thyroid IS a big deal!)

It’s estimated that at least 3.7% of US adults have an underactive thyroid.

When you don’t have enough thyroid hormone, it’s called hypothyroidism. This can result in the slowing down of your metabolism and cause difficulty losing weight; and even weight gain. Some of the other symptoms can include fatigue, forgetfulness, dry hair and skin, constipation, muscle cramping, and feeling cold.

An underactive thyroid can be diagnosed from a blood test from your health professional.

How does the thyroid become underactive?

There are many reasons why your thyroid may become underactive. The most common is autoimmunity, where the immune cells attack other cells in the body. In this case, the cells of the thyroid gland.

It can also be the result of low levels of iodine, which is an essential mineral. Combining that with high levels of goitrogens (food substances that inhibit iodine from getting into thyroid) and you can be at risk for an iodine deficiency.

PRO TIP: Iodine-deficiency is not very common in the developed world, so supplements are likely not necessary, and may exacerbate certain thyroid issues. Check with your healthcare professional before taking supplements, and always read the label.

Foods and nutrients for your thyroid

Enough iodine from food – Iodine is naturally found in fish and seafood. Other foods that contain iodine are navy beans, potatoes, and eggs. Sometimes levels of natural iodine depend on the amount of iodine in the soil. Iodine is also added (i.e., fortified) to some foods.

PRO TIP: During pregnancy and breastfeeding iodine requirements increase by up to 60%, so pay attention to eat enough iodine-containing foods.

Enough selenium from food – Some people recommend selenium (another essential mineral) to support the thyroid. A recent review of several clinical studies showed that there is not enough evidence to recommend selenium supplements to people with certain thyroid conditions. Because of this, it’s best to stick with selenium-rich foods like Brazil nuts, mushrooms, meat, and fish.

Reduce goitrogens – Goitrogens are plant-estrogens that prevent the iodine in your blood from getting into your thyroid where it’s needed to make thyroid hormones. Goitrogens themselves are not that powerful, unless they’re eaten excessively, or are combined with a diet already low in iodine. They are found in “cruciferous” foods such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and kale. Goitrogens can be deactivated by cooking the foods they’re found in. Because these cruciferous vegetables are very nutritious, you may choose to cook them instead of eliminating them altogether.

Enough protein – One of the common symptoms of thyroid issues is the inability to lose weight. If this is the case, one thing you can eat more of is protein. Protein has a “thermogenic effect” because your body has to spend energy metabolizing protein; this means that calorie-for-calorie, carbs will promote weight gain more than protein will.

Gluten-free – Try going gluten-free. There is evidence of a link between underactive thyroid and gluten sensitivity. There may be a “cross-reactivity” where the immune cells that are sensitized to gluten can attack the thyroid cells by mistake; this is essentially how autoimmunity works and can affect more than just your thyroid. You might request getting tested for celiac disease if you are experiencing thyroid issues.

Lifestyle upgrade – Weight gain and difficulty losing weight are very common when it comes to thyroid issues. In this case, it’s important to get enough regular exercise, enough quality sleep, and reduce stress.

Conclusion

If you have concerns about your thyroid, then ask to be tested. That along with testing for celiac disease can help to confirm your best plan to move forward in good health.

Foods to support your thyroid include iodine- and selenium-containing foods, cooked cruciferous foods, and gluten-free foods. Don’t forget to eat enough protein to help boost your metabolism. Also, consider reducing the amount of raw cruciferous foods you eat.

Supplementing with iodine or selenium should be done with a health professional’s advice.

And regular exercise, quality sleep, and stress-reduction are all part of the holistic approach to supporting your thyroid.

Do you or someone you know have concerns about your thyroid? What diet and lifestyle factors have you gotten the most benefit from? Let me know in the comments below.

Recipe (thyroid-supporting): Shrimp and Veggie Stir-Fry

Serves 4

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 lb fresh Brussels sprouts, halved
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
1/4 tsp  salt
½ pound shrimp, fresh or defrosted

Sauce:1 tsp honey2 tbsp coconut aminos or tamari (gluten-free soy sauce alternative)2 cloves garlic, minced2 dashes cayenne pepper, optional

Instructions

Heat wok or large skillet with oil.

2 Add Brussels sprouts and fry until they’re golden (4-5 minutes).

In a bowl, make the sauce by combining the honey, aminos/tamari, garlic, and cayenne, if using.

Add mushrooms and salt and fry for 1-2 minutes.

Add shrimp and fry until they’re cooked and turn pink.

Add sauce to skillet. Toss and cook until heated through.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Serve on a bed of cooked rice or quinoa.

References:

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-thyroid

https://www.dietvsdisease.org/the-best-diet-for-an-underactive-thyroid/

http://www.who.int/elena/titles/iodine_pregnancy/en/

https://www.dietvsdisease.org/meal-plan-for-hypothyroidism-and-weight-loss/

https://www.dietvsdisease.org/meal-plan-for-hypothyroidism-and-weight-loss-week-2/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re reading this, you likely are or are considering going dairy-free. You may have an intolerance, have been told to eliminate dairy, or just want to have less of it.

Either way, dairy is not an essential nutrient, and there are lots of things you can have instead.

These include not just milk, but also yogurt, butter, parmesan, and even pudding and ice cream!

Dairy-free products are becoming more and more popular. Nowadays you can easily find them in the grocery store. But read your labels! Some contain way too much sugar, or other ingredients you may not want to eat or drink.

I’ve put together some simple recipes to make delicious dairy-free foods right in your kitchen.

Go ahead and try my dairy substitutes.

 

Delicious dairy-free milk
Dairy-free milk is so easy to make and flavour yourself. You can make milk out of just about any nut or seed. You can even make alternative milk out of grains like rice, oats, or quinoa. And you can flavour them too.

It just takes a high-powered blender, some water, and cheesecloth to filter out any remaining bits.

For flavouring, you can add a pinch of cinnamon, cardamom, or vanilla extract. You can also sweeten your milk with soaked dates, maple syrup, or honey.

To make a super-simple dairy-free milk just soak ½ cup of almonds, coconut, or even hemp seeds for a few hours (if you have the time). Soaking is optional, but it makes the blending process easier and the final milk creamier. Then drain the soaking water, rinse, and add to a blender with 2 cups of fresh water. Blend on high until smooth (about 1 minute). Add your flavourings, if desired. Then strain through a nut milk bag, fine mesh strainer, or a few layers of cheesecloth.

If you want to make a dairy-free cream, just blend your nuts, seeds and/or grains with 1 cup of water instead of 2 for a thicker, creamier, dairy-free milk.


Delicious dairy-free yogurt
Technically, with the right yogurt starter probiotic culture, you can make yogurt out of any dairy-free milk. The most common one to ferment into yogurt is coconut milk. But you can use almond milk or other nut or seed milk.

The trick here is with the fermentation. Follow the instructions on the label of the yogurt starter culture, and enjoy delicious dairy-free yogurt in a few days.


Delicious dairy-free butter alternatives
Nut and seed butter is a fabulous substitute for dairy butter. Plus, they have the bonus of fibre, protein, and other nutrients that real butter doesn’t have.

Have you tried coconut oil? It’s a great dairy-free substitute for butter. You can fry with it, or even bake with it. You can even use it to pop popping corn in a pot on your stove.

I love the mild flavour of coconut oil in anything I bake with bananas. It tastes better than butter anyway.


Delicious dairy-free parmesan
If you haven’t tried nutritional yeast, you will be pleasantly surprised at how much it tastes like grated parmesan. Plus, it contains some B vitamins as well.

It’s a salty, cheesy, flaky powder that you can use wherever you want to add a pop of savoury flavour to any dish.

TIP: After you’ve popped your popcorn, sprinkle it with a bit of nutritional yeast for a salty, cheesy flavour.


Delicious dairy-free puddings
Did you know you can make a delicious and thick pudding without dairy? That’s right; the plant kingdom has some natural thickeners that are full of fibre.

You can make a chocolate pudding with avocado. Take one whole avocado and blend it up with ¼ cup cocoa powder, ¼ cup dairy-free milk, 1 tsp vanilla extract, and honey or maple syrup to taste. Then add dairy-free milk to thin if desired.

For chocolate chia pudding, use ⅓ cup chia seeds and place in food processor with 1.5 cups dairy-free milk. Wait for 5-10 minutes until the seeds soak up the liquid. Then add ¼ cup cocoa powder, tsp vanilla extract, and honey or maple syrup to taste. Blend into a smooth pudding.


Delicious dairy-free ice cream

N’ice cream is another delicious dessert made with frozen bananas. I’ve included the recipe for this below.


Conclusion

Dairy-free is easy! Making delicious dairy-free yogurt, milk, butter, parmesan flavour, and even pudding and ice cream is simple.

Are you going to try any of these recipes? Do you have a great one to share as well?

Let me know in the comments below.

 

Recipe (dairy-free): Chocolate Almond N’ice Cream

Serves 2

2 bananas, chopped and frozen

1 tbsp cocoa powder, unsweetened

2 tbsp almond butter, unsweetened

 

Instructions

1 – Add chopped frozen bananas to a food processor. Pulse or lightly blend until almost smooth.

2 – Add cocoa powder and nut butter. Pulse or lightly blend until mixed.

Serve immediately & enjoy!

Tip: Try different nut and/or seed butter. Or instead of cocoa powder and/or seed butter, use just the bananas with a ½ cup of frozen berries. The recipe combinations are endless.

 

References:

https://www.thepaleomom.com/the-great-dairy-debate/

https://www.thepaleomom.com/5-easy-swaps-favorite-dairy-products/

http://www.healthline.com/nutrition/dairy-substitutes

https://yumuniverse.com/plant-powerful-dairy-free-milk/

 

Inflammation. It’s not just for health headlines.

It’s a fact.

Scientists are measuring levels of inflammation in our bodies and finding that it can be pretty bad for our health; this is especially true when it’s chronic (i.e. lasts a long time).

Inflammation has been linked to obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes, just to name a few.

But, instead of writing all about what it is, how it’s measured, and where it comes from; why don’t I focus on some foods packed with anti-inflammatory antioxidants that are proven to help reduce it?

Here are my top anti-inflammatory food recommendations:

Anti-inflammatory Food #1: Berries, Grapes, and Cherries

Why save the best for last? Perhaps the most amazingly delicious anti-inflammatory foods are a sweet favourite of yours?

Berries, grapes, and cherries are packed with fiber, and antioxidant vitamins (e.g. vitamin C) and minerals (e.g. manganese).

Oh, and did I forget to mention their phytochemicals (phyto=plant)? Yes, many antioxidants such as “anthocyanins” and “resveratrol”  are found in these small and delicious fruits.

In fact, berries, grapes, and cherries may be the best dietary sources of these amazingly healthy compounds.

Anti-inflammatory Food #2: Broccoli and Peppers

Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable that contains the antioxidant “sulforaphane.” This anti-inflammatory compound is associated with reduced risk of heart disease and cancer.

Bell peppers, on the other hand, are one of the best sources of the antioxidants vitamin C and quercetin.

Just make sure to choose red peppers over the other colours.  Peppers that are any other colour are not fully ripe and won’t have the same anti-inflammatory effect.

I pack these two super-healthy vegetables together in this week’s recipe (see below).

Anti-inflammatory Food #3: Healthy Fats (avocado, olive oil, fatty fish)

Fat can be terribly inflammatory (hello: “trans” fats), neutral (hello: saturated fats), or anti-inflammatory (hello: “omega-3s), this is why choosing the right fats is so important for your health.

The best anti-inflammatory fats are the unsaturated ones, including omega-3s. These are linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.

Opt for fresh avocados, extra virgin olive oil, small fish (e.g. sardines and mackerel), and wild fish (e.g. salmon). Oh and don’t forget the omega-3 seeds like chia, hemp, and flax.

Anti-inflammatory Food #4: Green Tea

Green tea contains the anti-inflammatory compound called “epigallocatechin-3-gallate”, otherwise known as EGCG.

EGCG is linked to reduced risk of heart disease, certain cancers, obesity, and Alzheimer’s.

Drinking steeped green tea is great, but have you tried matcha green tea? It’s thought to contain even higher levels of antioxidants than regular green tea.

Anti-inflammatory Food #5 – Turmeric

Would a list of anti-inflammatory foods be complete without the amazing spice turmeric?

Turmeric contains the antioxidant curcumin.

This compound has been shown to reduce the pain of arthritis, as well as have anti-cancer and anti-diabetes properties.

I’ve added it to the broccoli and pepper recipe below for a 1-2-3 punch, to kick that inflammation.

Anti-inflammatory Food #6: Dark Chocolate

Ok, ok. This *may* be slightly more decadent than my #1 pick of berries, grapes, and cherries.

Dark chocolate, with at least 70% cocoa is packed with anti-inflammatory antioxidants (namely “flavonols”). These reduce the risk of heart disease by keeping your arteries healthy. They’ve even been shown to prevent “neuroinflammation” (inflammation of the brain and nerves). Reducing neuro-inflammation may help with long-term memory, and reduce the risk of dementia and stroke.

Make sure you avoid the sugary “candy bars.” You already know those aren’t going to be anti-inflammatory!

Conclusion

There are just so many amazingly delicious and nutritious anti-inflammatory foods you can choose. They range from colourful berries, vegetables, and spices, to healthy fats, and even cocoa.

You have so many reasons to add anti-inflammatory foods to your diet to get your daily dose of “anti-inflammation.”

Recipe (Broccoli, Pepper, Turmeric): Anti-inflammatory Quinoa

Serves 2

¾ cup dry quinoa (pre-rinsed)

2 tbsp coconut oil

1 medium onion, diced

1 bell pepper, chopped

1 dash salt

½ tbsp turmeric1 dash black pepper

2 cups broccoli, chopped

In a saucepan place 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add the quinoa and simmer until the water is absorbed (about 10-15 minutes).

Melt coconut oil in a skillet. Add diced onions, turmeric, pepper and salt, and lightly sauté for a few minutes.

Add broccoli and lightly sauté for 5-6 minutes, until it becomes softened.

Add the cooked quinoa and stir everything together.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Add some cayenne pepper or curry spice for an extra spicy kick.

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/13-anti-inflammatory-foods/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4717884/
https://authoritynutrition.com/top-10-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-green-tea/
https://authoritynutrition.com/matcha-green-tea/
http://neurotrition.ca/blog/brain-food-essentials-cacao
http://leesaklich.com/foods-vs-supps/foods-vs-supplements-the-turmeric-edition/