Salt: The Delicious Health-Buster (And What to Use Instead)

Yes, there are lots of different kinds of salt: pink, iodized, kosher, sea, etc. They come from salt mines in the ground, or from evaporating the water out of salt water. What they all have in common is that infamous mineral that I’m going to talk about below: sodium.

In food, salt is used for both flavour, and as a preservative. Salt helps to preserve food by drawing out the water that bacteria and mold need to grow. Hence, preserving the food from spoiling as quickly.

Would you be surprised to know that 75% of our salt intake comes not from the salt shaker? It comes from processed foods. Snacks like chips, pretzels and salted nuts are included here. But so are canned foods, pickled foods, boxed foods, deli meats, restaurant food, and fast food.

Salt vs. Sodium

Salt is actually “sodium chloride.” It’s about 40% sodium and 60% chloride; this means that one teaspoon of salt (5,000 mg) contains about 2,000 mg of sodium.

Sodium itself is not that bad! In fact, it’s an essential mineral and an important electrolyte in the body. It helps with fluid balance, and proper nerve and muscle function.

Too much sodium can is not great! Regularly getting too much sodium can increase your risk of high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, stomach cancer, and kidney stones.

That one teaspoon with about 2,000 mg of sodium is pretty much your entire day’s worth of sodium. People who eat a lot of pre-made, packaged foods tend to eat way too much sodium. In fact, 90% of American adults consume more than 2,300 mg per day. The average intake is closer to 3,400 mg of sodium per day!

If you’re at high risk for those conditions, then you probably shouldn’t have more than just 1,500 mg of sodium each day.

Sodium and high blood pressure

How does salt increase blood pressure? And what does that have to do with it making you thirsty?

Well, there actually is something called “salt-sensitive high blood pressure.” Here’s how it works:

The salt you eat gets absorbed quickly and goes into the blood.

Your body recognizes that the blood is too salty, so more water is added to the blood to dilute it (i.e. with thirst signals to make you drink more fluid). More water in the blood means more fluid your heart needs to pump and more fluid pushing against the walls of your vessels. It also sends more blood to the kidneys so the sodium can be filtered out into the urine.

This is how too much sodium increases your blood pressure. Increased blood pressure also puts a strain on your kidneys and other sensitive vessels, including critical vessels in your brain and heart.

You can counteract this effect by reducing the amount of salt you eat (from both processed foods and the salt shaker). In fact, limiting salt intake has been shown to slightly reduce blood pressure.

Pro Tip: You can reduce high blood pressure by eating more whole foods, and more mineral-rich plant foods.

Conclusion

If you are healthy and eat mostly whole, unprocessed foods, then you probably don’t need to worry about your salt intake. Feel free to add a bit of salt during cooking or at the table for flavour.

If your doctor has told you to reduce your salt or sodium intake, then you can do this by reducing your intake of processed foods, adding less salt to the food you make, and eating more plant-based foods.

Recipe (Low-Sodium Spice Mix): Italian Spice Mix

1 tbsp dried oregano
1 ½ tbsp dried basil
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 tbsp dried thyme
½ tbsp onion powder
½ tbsp garlic powder

Mix all ingredients and place in a sealed container. Sprinkle where you would normally use salt. This is especially good with Italian-style dishes.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Feel free to play around with the ingredients. If you hate oregano, leave it out. If you love garlic, add more.

References:

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-sodium
https://authoritynutrition.com/salt-good-or-bad/

 

 

 

Ketogenic Diet 101

The ketogenic diet is a very low carb, very high-fat diet.

It has recently gained a lot of popularity in the wellness sphere because of some of its health benefits.

A ketogenic diet has been shown to help some people lose weight (yes, even with high fat). It can also help improve certain health conditions, like epilepsy in children.

Read on for some of the lowdown on how it reprograms your metabolism (for “ketosis”), and whether or not it’s something for you to consider.

What is “ketosis?”

Carbs (sugars & starches) are the preferred fuel for your brain and muscles. They use carbs first, whenever they’re available.

This is why maintaining stable blood sugar can affect your attention, mood, and energy level.

However, when very low amounts of carbs are available for fuel, your body starts making compounds known as “ketones.” These are your body’s “backup fuel.” And your body makes them from fat.

Ketogenic literally means “the generation of ketones.”

After a while being on a diet very low in carbs, your blood level of ketones increases. This is the metabolic state known as “ketosis.” It’s the same process that your body goes through if you’ve fasted for 72 hours and depleted your supply of carbs as fuel. That’s the trigger for turning fat into ketones.

Pro Tip: “Ketosis” from a ketogenic diet is not the same thing as the dangerous condition known as “ketoacidosis.”

Ketogenic diet for weight loss

With a high fat intake, it may be surprising to know that studies show that a ketogenic diet is effective for weight loss.

But it’s true!

It can also have better results than low-fat diets. At least one study showed that people lost 2.2 times more weight on a ketogenic diet than those on low-fat or calorie-controlled diets.

How is this possible?

Eating all that fat and protein is filling! It helps release satiety hormones that tell us that we’re full and satisfied, and we don’t need to eat anymore. Many people don’t need to count calories or track food intake, as they do with low-fat or calorie-controlled diets.

So, by eating enough fat and protein to go into “ketosis,” you can actually feel fuller and eat less food overall. Of course, this can help with weight loss.

Ketogenic diet for improved health

Some studies show other health benefits of the ketogenic diet.

As you can imagine, having very low levels of carbs can help reduce blood sugar and insulin issues.

One study showed improved blood triglycerides (fat) and cholesterol numbers. Others show lower blood sugar levels, and even up to 75% improvement in insulin sensitivity.

Several studies show reduced seizures in children who follow a ketogenic diet.

Changing your metabolism has widespread health effects. And this can be beneficial for some people.

How to do the ketogenic diet

Not everyone should go on a ketogenic diet. Make sure you speak with a trained healthcare practitioner before you try it. It can have side effects, including the infamous “keto flu.”

The ketogenic diet involves getting 60-75% of your calories from fat, 20-35% from protein, and just 5% from carbs. Many people find it quite restrictive and are unable to stay on it for a long time.

The foods to focus on for a ketogenic diet are meat, fatty fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, healthy oils, avocados, and low-carb vegetables (cucumber, celery, peppers, zucchini, leafy greens, etc.).

The main thing to avoid are foods that are high in carbs. These include sugary foods and desserts, grains, fruit, legumes, starchy vegetables, alcohol and “diet foods.”

And because of the limits on fruit and starchy vegetables, many people on the ketogenic diet need to take supplements. This is because, in addition to their sugar and starch, fruits and starchy veggies are a great source of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. So, if you’re cutting those foods out, you still need to give your body those nutrients. And often, it means needing supplements.

Conclusion

The ketogenic diet is very popular these days. It can be helpful for weight loss, and other health conditions.

It’s not for everyone, so make sure you check with a knowledgeable practitioner before you begin

Recipe (Ketogenic): Layered chocolate peppermint fat bombs

Serves 6

½ cup coconut oil, melted1 tbsp granulated sweetener (xylitol or monk fruit)¼ tsp peppermint extract2 tbsp cocoa powder, unsweetened

Instructions

Mix the melted coconut oil with the sweetener and peppermint extract.

Pour half the mixture into six cubes of an ice cube tray. This is going to be the white bottom layer.  Place the tray in the fridge to harden.

Add the cocoa powder to the remaining mixture and mix. This is going to be the top brown layer. Pour it on top of the white layer which has set in the fridge.

Place the ice cube tray into the fridge until completely hardened.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: These are (high fat) super-rich desserts. Don’t eat too many if you’re not going full keto.

References:

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/ketogenic-diet
https://authoritynutrition.com/ketogenic-diet-101/
http://neurotrition.ca/blog/going-keto-what-science-saying-3-safe-ways-do-it

Multivitamins: Are They Really a Waste of Money?

Multivitamins are exactly what they sound like: multiple vitamins. They’re supplements that contain several different vitamins in each one. They can also contain several minerals and other ingredients like amino acids or fatty acids. And because there are multiple ingredients, there are low doses of each ingredient.

In fact, they are the most commonly used supplements in the world!

There are 13 vitamins and at least 16 minerals that are essential to health. You need certain amounts of all of these nutrients for optimal health. In fact, nutrient deficiencies can impact reproduction, growth, and regulation of bodily processes.

Lots of people say that if you follow a “balanced diet”, you’ll get enough vitamins and minerals. I personally would love to believe it … but it’s just not true. Many people are eating way too much processed food that is devoid of nutrition. There’s a lot of research that shows many people don’t get enough vitamins and minerals.

How do you know which vitamins and minerals are in your multivitamin? Read the label, and don’t be afraid to ask questions! If there are at least three different vitamins and minerals listed, it’s a multivitamin.

Do multivitamins work?

Multivitamins have been studied a lot.

The quality of the multivitamins studied has not been consistent. Some studies consider any supplements with at least three vitamins to be a “multivitamin”. Most of the time, the multivitamins studied are ones that are very popular and are available everywhere.

So, what exactly do we know about the health benefits of multivitamins?

Here’s a quick summary of the science:

  • Multivitamin use is linked with improved moods. Interestingly, if someone has nutrient deficiencies, they may have mood imbalances. So, if the multivitamin addresses an underlying deficiency, this makes sense.
  • In terms of memory and cognitive performance (ability to think), there seems to be an improvement in people who regularly take multivitamins.
  • In terms of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, there seems to be a slight improvement.
  • In terms of heart disease, the results are mixed. There may be an increase, or a decrease, or no effect on risk of heart attacks.
  • In terms of cancer, there is a slightly reduced risk of certain cancers in men.
  • In terms of mortality (death), there doesn’t seem to be a clear increase or decrease in mortality rates for people who take multivitamins.

All in all, multivitamins aren’t magical “health pills.” They’re not guaranteed to improve your mental or physical health, or help you live longer; but, they do have some health benefits.

Are multivitamins safe?

Just about every study that looked to see if multivitamins were health-promoting, also looked at side effects. They have consistently shown that multivitamins are very safe.

Now, I’m not talking about high-dose supplements. High doses of many nutrients can be harmful. But specifically for multivitamins where there are several nutrients included, all of which are in low doses. Those are safe.

Unless you have a knowledgeable practitioner advise otherwise, you want to stick to the dose on the label. That dose should be safe for most people.

However, there are many times when supplements (not just multivitamins) have been tested and found to contain different ingredients than what’s on the label; this may be different quantities of vitamins or minerals. Sometimes they contain ingredients that are not supposed to be in them at all (like toxins or prescription medicines).

This is why choosing supplements that are licensed, if applicable (like in Canada), and from reputable companies is so important.

Conclusion

Multivitamins are not a way to optimal health. There is limited evidence that they improve health for most people. However, if you are on medications you may be deficient in some vitamins and minerals. Oral contraceptives deplete magnesium and B vitamins for example. Stress, lack of sleep, and poor diet lead to nutritional deficiencies. So there are some benefits.

Since they contain low doses of many different nutrients, they’re also safe (as long as you have a quality product). Of course, taking a multivitamin is not a way to improve a poor diet. I always recommend eating a balanced diet of whole foods. There is plenty of evidence that eating a diet of whole, unprocessed food prevents many diseases.

So try out my superfood salad – It’s like a multivitamin with benefits.

Recipe (Nutrient Dense): Superfood Salad

Serves 2

2 handfuls of greens (e.g. kale, spinach, arugula, etc.)
½ cucumber, chopped
1 avocado, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 carrot, grated
2 handfuls grape tomatoes
2 handfuls of fresh berries
2 broiled salmon fillets (optional)
¼ cup hemp seeds

Salad Dressing:
3 tbsp cider vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp honey or maple syrup
1 dash salt
2 dashes black pepper
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Instructions

Grab two large bowls and put one handful of greens each.

Split all the rest of the fruits and vegetables, placing half in each bowl.

Make the dressing by whisking together the vinegar, mustard, honey/maple syrup, salt, and pepper. Slowly drizzle in olive oil while whisking to emulsify. Pour over salad before serving.

Top with salmon and hemp seeds.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can use grilled shrimp instead of the salmon.

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/do-multivitamins-work/

http://thewellnessbusinesshub.com/yes-nutrient-deficiencies-heres-proof-can/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0022955/

Mindfulness and Meditation…Do They Really Work?

Well…yes, they do really work. The fact is, science shows definite health benefits for people who use mindfulness and meditation.

Before we dive in, let’s just make sure we’re on the same page when we say “mindfulness” and “meditation”.

“Meditation” is the ancient practice of connecting the body and mind to become more self-aware and present. It’s often used to calm the mind, ease stress, and relax the body.

Practicing “mindfulness” is one of the most popular ways to meditate. It’s defined as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally”.

Mindfulness meditation is well studied in terms of its health benefits. I’m going to talk about a few of them below, and refer to it as “mindfulness” for the rest of the post.

The link between mindfulness and health = stress reduction

Have you heard the staggering statistics on how many doctors’ visits are due to stress? Seventy-five to ninety percent!

So, if you ask me, it makes a ton of sense that anything that can reduce stress can reduce health issues too.

Mindfulness reduces inflammation, reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and improves sleep. All of these can have massive effects on your physical and mental health.

I’ll briefly go over the research in three main areas: mood, weight, and gut health. But know that the research on the health benefits of mindfulness is branching into many other exciting new areas too.

Mindfulness for mood

The most immediate health benefit of mindfulness is improved mood.

In one study, people who took an 8-week mindfulness program had greater improvement in symptoms according to the “Hamilton Anxiety Scale”. They were compared with people who took a stress management program that did not include mindfulness. It seems that the mindfulness training was key to lowering symptoms.

Other studies show that mindfulness has similar effects as antidepressant medications for some people with mild to moderate symptoms of depression.

While mindfulness isn’t a full-fledged cure, it can certainly help to improve moods.

Mindfulness for weight

Studies show that people who use mind-body practices, including mindfulness, have lower BMIs (Body Mass Indices).

How can this be?

One way mindfulness is linked with lower weight is due to stress-reduction. Mindfulness can reduce stress-related and emotional overeating. It can also help reduce cravings and binge eating.

Another way it can work for weight is due to “mindful eating”. Mindful eating is a “non-judgmental awareness of physical and emotional sensations associated with eating.” It’s the practice of being more aware of food and the eating process. It’s listening more deeply to how hungry and full you actually are. It’s not allowing yourself to be distracted with other things while you’re eating, like what’s on TV or your smartphone.

People with higher mindfulness scores also reported smaller serving sizes of energy-dense foods. So it seems that more mindful eating = less junk.

Mindfulness about food and eating can have some great benefits for your weight.

Mindfulness for gut health

Recent studies show a link between stress, stress hormones, and changes in gut microbes (your friendly bacteria and other critters that help your digestion).In theory, mindfulness-based stress reduction could be a way to help prevent negative changes in the gut’s microbes.

Also, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) seems to be linked with both stress and problems with gut microbes. In one study, people with IBS who received mindfulness training showed greater reductions in IBS symptoms than the group who received standard medical care.

The research here is just starting to show us the important link between stress, gut health, and how mindfulness can help.

Conclusion

Science is confirming some amazing health benefits of the ancient practice of mindfulness meditation. For moods, weight, gut health, and more.

Do you regularly include it in your life? If so, have you seen benefits? If not, would you consider trying it?

Let me know in the comments below.

Recipe (Relaxing Teas): Relaxing Herbal Teas

There are many relaxing herbal teas that would be great after meditation.

Try any of these by steeping in boiling water:

● Green tea (has a bit of caffeine, or you can choose decaffeinated green tea)
● White tea (also has a bit of caffeine, or you can choose decaffeinated white tea)
● Rooibos tea
● Peppermint tea (or steep fresh peppermint leaves)
● Ginger tea (or steep slices of real ginger)

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can add a touch of honey if desired.

BONUS Guided Meditation “Recipes” (videos, apps & podcasts)

How to Meditate video

How to Meditate in One Minute or Less Every day video

Calm App
https://www.calm.com/

Headspace App (free 10-day trial)
https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app

Daily Meditation Podcast
https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/daily-meditation-podcast/id892107837?mt=2

Hay House Meditations Podcast
https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/hay-house-meditations/id955266444?mt=2

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meditation

https://nccih.nih.gov/health/meditation/overview.htm
https://authoritynutrition.com/mindful-eating-guide/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3341916/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4454654/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26186434

Here’s How to Make Cooking More Fun

If you don’t love cooking, maybe I can help to make it more fun for you?

I know that sometimes I don’t find cooking to be all that fun. I can get into a rut just like everyone else.

So that’s why I’ve listed my best “fun” cooking tips for you.

Fun Cooking Tip #1

Check out new recipes.

Sometimes just seeing the beautiful food photos and reading the recipe can spark some inspiration and fun in your kitchen.

You can head to your local bookstore. Or look up your favourite nutritionists, chefs, bakers, and other online foodies. Maybe do a quick search on Google or Pinterest to see thousands of new ideas.

Perhaps you have some ingredients in your fridge that are just waiting to be eaten.

Pro Tip: Searching through recipes can be so fun and inspiring, and can also end up taking waaaay longer than planned. So, consider setting your timer when you start browsing. The last thing you want is to take too much time looking that you don’t leave enough time for cooking.

Fun Cooking Tip #2

Make grocery shopping fun and inspiring.

When you’re at the grocery store, try something that you haven’t had in a while. Is there a seasonal fruit or vegetable you haven’t had for months? What about a childhood favourite? Did you come across something totally delicious at a restaurant or get-together lately?

Or, browse around the store looking for something you haven’t had before; something that is completely new to you. Be adventurous and fun. Then you can go to tip #1 to find new and inspiring recipes when you get home.

Fun Cooking Tip #3

Keep it simple!

Sometimes when I see a great food picture, I immediately get inspired to make it. But if I look at the ingredients or instructions and they’re too long, I stop. While there are times when I’m inspired and dive into a new great recipe; when I’m not all that inspired, I need to keep things simple.

A few ways to keep things simple are to:
● Search for recipes with 10 or fewer ingredients, and five or fewer instructions;
● Search for recipes that can be made in one pot or pan;
● Buy ingredients that are ready to cook with (pre-washed salad greens, diced squashes, frozen vegetables, etc.)

Fun Cooking Tip #4

Put on some music and invite someone to join you.

Do you have kids that need to learn the critical life skill of cooking? Perhaps your partner would love to join you? What about having a “cooking party” where everyone brings something and pitches in on the process?

Fun Cooking Tip #5

If none of the other tips work for you, invest in some kitchen swag!

Having proper kitchen tools makes cooking so much easier and faster. When’s the last time you sharpened your (our bought yourself a new) knife? Could dicing carrots with a dull knife be draining the fun from cooking? Or is blending a smoothie with a crummy blender, leaving it too chunky to enjoy, making you feel less excited to try new smoothie recipes? I know it does for me.

Conclusion

You know that cooking is key to healthy eating. And, yes, it does get boring from time to time.

Try one (or all) of my fun cooking tips to inspire you to get over to your kitchen and cook yourself some great dishes.

You already know your health will thank you.

Recipe (simple and fun): One Skillet Frittata

Serves 4

8 eggs
¼ cup almond milk, unsweetened
1 tsp olive oil, extra virgin
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 handful baby spinach
1 small zucchini, sliced into thin coins
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 handful cherry tomatoes, halved
1 dash herbs and spice to taste (parsley, sage, paprika, turmeric, etc.)
1 dash salt and pepper

Instructions

Preheat oven to 375F.

Whisk together eggs and almond milk.

Heat an ovenproof skillet (e.g. cast iron) on the stove with the olive oil.

To the hot skillet, add garlic, spinach, and zucchini. Cook for 1-2 minutes until the spinach wilts and the zucchini starts to soften.

Add the tomatoes, herbs, spices, salt, and pepper.

Pour in the eggs.

Place the skillet into the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes, until eggs are set.

Serve and enjoy!

Tip: Feel free to substitute your veggies and use what you have on-hand. Try diced pepper instead of tomatoes, or chopped kale instead of spinach. Have fun with this!

Heartburn – Can I Help it with Foods and Lifestyle?

The odds are that you or someone you know experiences heartburn. Around half of North American adults experience it at least once per month. Somewhere between 10-20% have it at least once per week! Heartburn, also known as reflux, occurs when the strong acid in your stomach creeps up into your esophagus.

It can feel like a burning sensation; hence the name “heartburn”. Other common symptoms include bloating, burping, difficulty swallowing, or a sore throat. Often there is a bitter or sour taste as well. Don’t get me wrong, stomach acid is good! Stomach acid is essential for good health and optimal digestion.

We need the acid in our stomach to protect us against harmful microbes (i.e. bacteria) that lurk in our food and drinks. Stomach acid also helps us break down our food, and digest nutrients. But we need that acid to stay in the stomach, and not get up to our esophagus!

Stomach acid doesn’t usually burn the stomach itself; this is because the stomach is protected by a layer of mucus.

But your esophagus doesn’t have that same protection. It has a valve that is supposed to prevent things from going the wrong way (i.e. keep food, drink, and acid down; not allow it back up). And when your esophagus is exposed to stomach acid too often, it can cause the infamous burning, inflammation, and other potential issues.

I’m going to share a bunch of tips that may help you overcome your heartburn symptoms naturally. Of course, if symptoms last for a long time, or get worse, it’s probably a good idea to see your doctor.

Tip #1 – Foods to eat (and avoid)

You may notice that when you eat or drink certain things, you get heartburn soon afterward. These triggers may be different for everyone; but often include onions, garlic, chocolate, citrus, tomato, mint, spicy foods, greasy foods, coffee, carbonated drinks, or alcohol. If any of these affect you, reduce them or even try cutting them out to see if it makes a difference.

Heartburn might also result from a sneaky food intolerance. Try eliminating grains, dairy, and processed foods for a few weeks and see if that helps.

Now, you may be wondering: “If I eliminate these foods/drinks, then what can I put in their place?”

Try increasing fiber intake. Yes, this means more whole, unprocessed foods, especially veggies! In fact, potatoes may be a great addition to meals if you suffer from heartburn. Try getting at least five servings of veggies every day.

Tip #2 – How and when to eat

Eat slowly. Use meal times to release stress. Chew your food very well. Don’t eat meals that are too big.

And don’t eat too close to bedtime. You want to avoid lying down with a full stomach. We’re talking finishing eating 2-3 hours before lying down, so schedule your dinner or snack with this in mind.

Tip #3 – Lifestyle techniques

Sometimes strenuous exercise can make heartburn symptoms worse. If this happens to you, then focus on low-intensity exercises like walking and cycling.

If symptoms come on as you’re lying down to sleep, try adding a pillow or two so your head is a bit higher than your stomach.

Another interesting tip is to try sleeping on your left side. Lying on your left side works because the valve that prevents the acid from “leaking” into your esophagus is located on the right side of the stomach. So, when you’re lying on your left, the acid is away from that valve.

Conclusion

Heartburn is a very common condition where stomach acid creeps up into the esophagus (where it’s not supposed to be).

If you suffer from symptoms of heartburn, there are many things you can do. There are foods and drinks to avoid and veggies to increase. You can eat slower, chew more thoroughly, and don’t lie down within 2-3 hours of eating. Also, try low-intensity exercise and sleeping on your left side.

Try these simple, natural strategies. They can help prevent or relieve heartburn symptoms for you.

Recipe (Not Too Greasy or Spicy): Baked Potatoes

Serves 4

1 small bag of mini potatoes
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper

Instructions

Scrub potatoes and boil them until they’re soft. How long will depend on their size, so check them by feeling how easily they’re penetrated with a fork or knife.

Drain the water and toss the potatoes with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt & pepper.
Place in a roasting dish at 425F for about 15 minutes.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Don’t have mini potatoes? Use large potatoes or sweet potatoes and chop them to the size of mini potatoes.

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/heartburn-acid-reflux-remedies/

The Real Deal About Artificial Flavours

Let me ask you this: Have you looked at the ingredients on a food label lately? How about a “processed” food label; like famous brands of cookies, cereals, or junky snack foods?

Do you have those ingredients in your house? Do you even know what all of those ingredients are?

There are a ton of artificial, chemical, “junky” ingredients in foods these days. If you see an ingredient called “artificial flavour”, what exactly is it?

For the most part, it’s a secret! Seriously! Big food companies don’t want their proprietary flavours to be known, so they’re allowed to say “artificial flavour” and leave the details out.

That alone gets me upset.

But what makes me more upset is what artificial flavours represent when they’re in your food.

I’m going to give you the real deal below.

Why use “artificial flavours” in a product?

When you make an apple muffin at home, what gives it the apple flavour?

Apples of course! Like real, whole, chopped or shredded apples or applesauce.

But, let’s say you’re a big food company and you’re making thousands of apple muffins every day. In a factory. On an assembly line.

How would you process the huge amount of apples that are to be chopped, grated or made into applesauce? Would you have a separate “Apple Room” where all the apple processing happens? What if one batch is slightly riper, or tastes slightly different from the rest? Will your customers notice a different taste?

Apples are perishable – they go bad. So how would you guarantee the apples won’t go bad? (Remember the saying “it only takes one bad apple to ruin the whole bunch?”).

And what if you can have an apple flavour that tastes better than using real apples? Something that makes people want to keep buying them every week. It’s true – some of the artificial flavours are engineered to give an even better taste than the real food.

Companies will often opt for the easier and more profitable option like artificial flavours.

Artificial flavours last longer and will be virtually identical batch after batch. In our apple muffin example, artificial flavours used to make an apple muffin are ready to go, so you don’t need to peel, cut, or worry about apples going brown, or that they’re not tasting “appley” enough.

Oh, and it’s way cheaper than using real, whole apples.

Pro Tip: If the package says “flavoured” in the description, then the flavour is artificial. For example, “apple muffin” contains at least some apple. But, “apple flavoured muffin” contains artificial flavour and no apple.

Safety of artificial flavours

While there are some flavours banned for use in many countries, other countries allow them.

There is an approved list of flavours that are accepted to be safe, and are used by the food industry. They are considered GRAS, or “generally recognized as safe.”

Even if they are 100% safe to ingest, the mere fact that an artificial flavour is in food makes it an artificial food. It’s not a real, whole food. Having an artificial flavour as an ingredient almost defines that food to be a processed, “food-like product”. Sometimes referred to as “junk”.

Artificial flavours in food indicate that the food, regardless of the marketing, or health claims, is not a healthy choice.

Conclusion

Big food companies use artificial flavours to reduce costs, make the manufacturing process simpler, reduce waste and even enhance flavour way beyond what the natural ingredient would taste like.

They are not added to improve the “healthfulness” or nutrition of the food.

Artificial flavours in the ingredient list indicate that the food is not going to optimize your health. These processed foods are most certainly “junk”.

Don’t buy them. Make this recipe instead.

Recipe (All-natural): Apple Muffins

Serves 12

1 cup quick oats, uncooked
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup cooked quinoa
3 tbsp maple syrup
1 cup chopped apples
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a large bowl, mix the quick oats and cinnamon. Add the quinoa and mix again. Now add maple syrup, apples and eggs, and mix until just combined.

Place 12 muffin liners into a muffin pan. Fill each muffin cup about ⅔ of the way

Place in oven and bake for about 25-30 minutes.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Before baking, sprinkle each muffin with a touch of cinnamon for extra (natural) flavour.

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/9-ways-that-processed-foods-are-killing-people/

https://authoritynutrition.com/junk-foods-chemical-engineers/

http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/labelling/food-labelling-for-industry/common-name/snack-foods/eng/1348251469504/1394902794643

https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/121-a126/

What is the Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load?

Glycemic this and glycemic that. Does it matter?

You’ll notice that they both begin with “glycemic”. That’s one tip that they have to do with sugars and carbs. Not only how much sugar is in foods, but more importantly, how it affects your blood sugar levels.

In general, diets that are high on the glycemic index (GI) and high in glycemic load (GL), tend to increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

FUN FACT: Starches like those in potatoes and grains are digested into sugar; this is because starch is just a bunch of sugars linked together. Digestive enzymes break those bonds so that the sugars become free. Then those sugars affect your body the same way that eating sugary foods do.

Glycemic Index (“how fast”)

The most common of the two terms is the “glycemic index” (GI).

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As the name suggests, it “indexes” (or compares) the effect that different foods have on your blood sugar level. Then each food is given a score from 0 (no effect on blood sugar) to 100 (big effect on blood sugar). Foods that cause a fast increase in blood sugar have a high GI. That is because the sugar in them is quickly processed by your digestive system and absorbed into your blood. They cause a “spike” in your blood sugar.

So, you can probably guess that pure glucose is given a GI rating of 100. On the other hand, chickpeas are right down there at a GI of 10.

Regarding GI: low is anything under 55; moderate is 56-69, and 70+ is considered a high GI food.

Remember, this is a measure of how fast a carbohydrate-containing food is digested and raised your blood sugar. It’s not a measure of the sugar content of the food.

How the carbohydrates in food affect your blood sugar level depend on other components of the food. Things like fiber and protein can slow the release of sugar into the bloodstream, and this can make even a high-sugar food, low on the GI scale.

So, lower GI foods are better at keeping your blood sugar levels stable because they don’t increase your blood sugar level as fast.

FUN FACT: Can you guess which food has a GI of higher than 100? (Think of something super-starchy) White potatoes! They have a GI of 111.

Glycemic Load (“how much”)

The glycemic load is different.

Glycemic load (GL) doesn’t take into account how quickly your blood sugar “spikes”, but it looks at how high that spike is. Basically, how much the food increases your blood sugar.

GL depends on two things. First, how much sugar is actually in the food. Second, how much of the food is typically eaten.

Low GL would be 0-10,  moderate GL would be 10-20, and high GL would 20+.

Example of GL and GI

So, let’s compare average (120 g) servings of bananas and oranges:

Food GI Serving size (g) GL per serving
Banana, average 48 120 11
Oranges, average 45 120 5

Excerpt from: Harvard Health Publications, Glycemic index and glycemic load for 100+ foods

As you can see, the banana and orange have almost the same glycemic index.; this means they both raise your blood sugar in about the same amount of time.

But, the average banana raises the blood sugar twice as high (11) as the orange does (5). So, it contains more overall sugar than the same amount (120 g) of orange.

Of course, this is all relative. A GL of 11 is not high at all. Please keep eating whole fruits. 🙂

 

What does this all mean for your health?

Certain people should be aware of the effects that foods have on their blood sugar. People who have diabetes or pre-diabetes conditions like insulin resistance need to be aware of the glycemic index and glycemic load of foods they are eating regularly.

The GI and GL are just two factors to consider when it comes to blood sugar. Some high GI foods are pretty good for you but if you want to reduce the impact on your blood sugar, have them with a high-fiber or high-protein food.

Conclusion

If you have blood sugar imbalances or diabetes, you should probably be aware of the GI and GL of your food.

If you are at risk of diabetes or heart disease, you might try swapping out some higher GI/GL foods and replacing with lower GI/GL foods.

Oh, and try this low GI recipe I have for you.

Recipe (low GI): Mediterranean Salad

Serves 2

1 cucumber, chopped

½ cup chickpeas drained and rinsed

½ cup black olives

¼ red onion, diced

½ cup cherry tomatoes halved

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp garlic

1 tsp basil

½ tsp oregano

1 dash sea salt

1 dash black pepper

Place first five ingredients together in a bowl.

Add remaining ingredients to a jar (to make the dressing) with a tight-fitting lid and shake vigorously.

Add dressing to salad and gently toss.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Add chopped avocado for even more fiber and healthy fat.

References:

http://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/glycemic_index_and_glycemic_load_for_100_foods
http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/food-beverages/glycemic-index-glycemic-load

The Stress Mess: How It Messes With Your Health

The Stress Mess: How It Messes With Your Health

We all have some level of stress, right?

It may be temporary (acute), or long-term (chronic).

Acute stress usually won’t mess with your health too much. It is your body’s natural reaction to circumstances, and can even be life-saving.

Then, when the “threat” (a.k.a. “stressor”) is gone, the reaction subsides, and all is well.

It’s the chronic stress that’s a problem. You see, your body has specific stress reactions. If these stress reactions are triggered every day or many times a day that can mess with your health.

Stress (and stress hormones) can have a huge impact on your health.

Let’s dive into the “stress mess”.

Mess #1 – Increased risk of heart disease and diabetes

Why save the best for last? Anything that increases the risk for heart disease and diabetes (both serious, chronic conditions) needs to be discussed.

Stress increased the risk for heart disease and diabetes by promoting chronic inflammation, affecting your blood “thickness”, as well as how well your cells respond to insulin.

Mess #2 – Immunity

Did you notice that you get sick more often when you’re stressed? Maybe you get colds, cold sores, or even the flu more frequently when you are stressed?

Well, that’s because stress hormones affect the chemical messengers (cytokines) secreted by immune cells consequently, they are less able to do their jobs effectively.

Mess #3 – “Leaky Gut”

Stress can contribute to leaky gut, otherwise known as “intestinal permeability”. These “leaks” can then allow partially digested food, bacteria or other things to be absorbed into your body.

The stress hormone cortisol can open up tiny holes by loosening the grip your digestive cells have to each other.

Picture this: Have you ever played “red rover”? It’s where a row of children hold hands while one runs at them to try to break through. Think of those hands as the junctions between cells. When they get loose, they allow things to get in that should be passing right through.  Cortisol (produced in excess in chronic stress) is a strong player in red rover!

Mess #4 – Sleep Disruption

Stress and sleep go hand-in-hand, wouldn’t you agree? It’s often difficult to sleep when you have very important (and stressful) things on your mind.

And when you don’t get enough sleep, it affects your energy level, memory, ability to think, and mood.

More and more research is showing just how important sleep is for your health.  Not enough sleep (and too much stress) aren’t doing you any favours.

Stress-busting tips

Reducing stressors in your life is an obvious first step.

Can you:

  • Put less pressure on yourself?
  • Ask for help?
  • Say “no”?
  • Delegate to someone else?
  • Finally, make that decision?

No matter how hard you try, you won’t eliminate stress altogether. So, here are a few things you can try to help reduce its effect on you:

  • Deep breathing
  • Meditation
  • Walk in nature
  • Unplug (read a book, take a bath)
  • Exercise (yoga, tai chi, etc.)
  • Connect with loved ones

Conclusion

Stress is a huge and often underappreciated factor in our health. It can impact your physical body much more than you might realize.

Stress has been shown to increase the risk for heart disease and diabetes, affect your immune system, digestion, and sleep.

There are things you can do to both reduce stressors and also to improve your response to it.

You can ditch that stress mess!

Recipe (relaxing chamomile): Chamomile Peach Iced Tea

Serves 1

1 cup steeped chamomile tea, cooled

1 peach, diced

Place both ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Add ice if desired.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can use fresh or frozen peaches.

References:

https://nccih.nih.gov/health/stress

https://www.thepaleomom.com/stress-undermines-health/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/good-stress-bad-stress

https://www.thepaleomom.com/managing-stress/

Phytic Acid, The Mineral Reducer

Do you soak or sprout your nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes?

Is it to help improve their digestibility? To help increase their nutrition?

Perhaps, it’s to reduce phytic acid?

Phytic acid is naturally present in most nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes; it is the plant’s storage form of the mineral phosphorus and is used as energy when the plant starts to grow.

The highest levels of phytic acid are found in rice bran, wheat bran, wheat germ, almonds, and walnuts.

Phytic acid and minerals

Have you heard of phytic acid being referred to as an “anti-nutrient”?

Phytic acid binds to the minerals iron, zinc, and calcium preventing them from being fully absorbed when eaten; this is why phytic acid is known as a “mineral reducer”.

FUN FACT: Phytic acid’s effects only apply to mineral-containing foods in the current meal. Once digested, there is no mineral reduction in any future meals and there is no impact to the minerals your body has already absorbed.

Phytic acid’s health benefits

Phytic acid isn’t all bad – it has some health benefits too.

It can act as an antioxidant. It can also help reduce your risk of kidney stones, heart disease, and even some cancers.

Because it loves minerals (which are metals), phytic acid in your gut can also bind to any heavy metals (the metals we don’t want too much of) that may have hitched a ride with your food.

How to reduce phytic acid

As you can see, phytic acid shouldn’t be a huge concern, unless your main foods at most meals are nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes. Because many of these are nutritious foods, you probably don’t want to cut all of them completely out of your diet.

Considering both the good and bad properties of phytic acid, you may still want to reduce how much you consume. Maybe you want to increase your mineral intake. If so, here are two popular methods to naturally reduce phytic acid:

  • Soaking – Place nuts, seeds, grains or legumes in a bowl, cover with water and leave overnight. Then drain the water and rinse before eating or preparing.
  • Sprouting – After soaking, draining, and rinsing, place damp nuts, seeds, grains or legumes into a container that’s exposed to the air (like a mason jar with a mesh lid). Every 8 hours or so, re-rinse them and drain the water. Continue doing this for a few days until you see sprouts peeking out.

Why do soaking and sprouting help reduce phytic acid in certain foods? It is because being wet is a “sign” to leave their dormant (dry) state and start a new life.  Enzymes activated during soaking and sprouting deactivate phytic acid to use its energy and stored minerals for the plant as it begins to grow.

Conclusion

Phytic acid has a bad rap as a mineral reducer. It’s found in nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes. Yes, it most definitely prevents absorption of critical minerals like iron, zinc, and calcium, if they’re in your gut at the same time. Phytic acid in food can become a health concern if you are deficient in these minerals, or if your diet is largely based on nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes.

But, if you eat a varied diet, then phytic acid shouldn’t be as much of a concern. In fact, phytic acid does have some health benefits.

If you want to reduce it in your food, you can soak or sprout your nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes.

Recipe (soaked almonds): Almond Vanilla Latte Smoothie

Serves 1
¼ cup almonds, soaked overnight & rinsed
½ cup coconut milk
½ cup strong coffee, cold (or chai tea if you prefer)
½ banana, frozen
1 tsp vanilla extract

Add all ingredients to a blender and blend on high until almonds are smooth.

Add ice, if desired.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: By using soaked almonds, they tend to blend up smoother than hard and crunchy dry almonds do.

References:
https://authoritynutrition.com/phytic-acid-101/
http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-phytates-phytic-acid
https://authoritynutrition.com/how-to-reduce-antinutrients/