Category Archives: Nutrition

Kombucha!

Many people have heard of Kombucha but what is it?  It’s a beverage produced by fermenting sweet tea with a culture of yeast and bacteria.   Mmmmmmm Kombucha…..it may not sound very appetizing but it’s actually quite delicious.  I have to admit though that it is a bit of an acquired taste.  But it’s worth getting used to and I’m going to tell you why!

Benefits of Kombucha

  1. It improves digestion.

Kombucha is packed with probiotics.  Probiotics help to balance the good bacteria in your gut.  When good bacteria are in check you’re able to absorb and digest nutrients better.

  1. A great source of antioxidants.

Antioxidants fight free radicals in your body.  Free radicals are a by-product of cellular metabolism that actually damage your cells.  Kombucha, especially when made from green tea, seems to have powerful antioxidant effects on the liver.  Unfortunately there are no human studies done on this but rat studies show promising results.

  1. Boosts your immune system.

Kombucha is a natural antibiotic due to the fermentation process.  One of the by-products of the fermentation process is acetic acid.  Acetic acid creates a kind of sterile environment which inhibits the growth of unhealthy bacteria.  Unlike pharmaceutical antibiotics, Kombucha also contains probiotics.  This means it kills the bad bacteria while building up the good bacteria in your gut!

  1. Kombucha is loaded with C and B vitamins.

Vitamin C helps increase the strength of your immune system, reduce the risk of cardio vascular disease and plays an important part in eye health.  Vitamin B helps curb sugar cravings, eases stress levels and helps with memory.

  1. Helps protect your joints.

Kombucha contains natural occurring glucosamine!  Glucosamine is involved in building tendons, ligaments, cartilage and synovial fluid which is the fluid that surrounds the joint.

Try Kombucha!

So there you have it!  If you haven’t tried Kombucha I highly recommend that you do!

Electrolytes

What are electrolytes?  Electrolytes are minerals that dissolve into particles that can carry an electrical charge in your body.

Electrolytes are responsible for your heart working properly, muscle contractions, they stimulate nerve impulses and they influence the movement of fluids in and out of your cells.   Another super important thing they do is regulate the acid-base balance in your body.

Electrolytes

Important electrolytes that a lot of people are familiar with are sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium and phosphate.  But did you know that baking soda consists of two electrolytes?

Baking Soda

Baking soda consists of sodium which plays a vital role in the body.  The other component of baking soda is bicarbonate which helps neutralize acids in your body.  It does contain a lot of sodium though so if you have a condition that makes it necessary to limit sodium talk to your doctor before using baking soda as an electrolyte.

A Closer Look At Baking Soda

  • Sodium

Sodium plays a role in muscle contraction and nerve impulses but it’s main function is to control the amounts of fluid in your body including blood volume.  When you consume too much sodium your kidneys hold onto fluids rather than eliminating them through urine.  This increases blood volume which raise blood pressure.  Too much sodium is not ideal but if your sodium level is too low it can cause problems too.  Low blood sodium can cause weakness, fatigue, headache, nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps or spasms, confusion and irritability.  If you lose too much sodium too quickly it can cause loss of consciousness, seizures and coma.

  • Bicarbonate

Bicarbonate buffers acids in your body to keep your body from being too acidic.  Your body strives to maintain a slightly alkaline PH but bad diet and stress can cause the PH level to become acidic and disease thrives in an acidic environment.  Because bicarbonate is able to buffer acid it also aids in muscle performance by neutralizing the acids that build up during prolonged activity.

Make Your Own Electrolyte Drink

Mix ½ tsp sea salt, ½ tsp baking soda and 2 tbsp agave nectar or raw honey or pure maple syrup into a litre of water.  Drink as needed.

Just remember that just because some is good it doesn’t mean that more is better.  Too much sodium can cause an increase in blood pressure so if you’re pregnant or have high blood pressure make sure you talk to your doctor first.

Nutrition Myths!

There is a ton of information out there on nutrition.  A lot of it is contradictory and has been causing mass confusion.  Let’s look at some of the more common nutrition myths and find out the truth!

5 Common Nutrition Myths

  1. Avoid salt to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Did you know that there isn’t any good scientific study to support this claim?  It is true that lowering your salt intake can cause a moderate decrease in blood pressure but it doesn’t have any effect on heart attack or stroke risk.  The exception of course is if you happen to have a medical condition such as salt-sensitive hypertension.  For the average healthy person salt is not an issue and it’s actually needed in your diet.  Just make sure you’re using a good sea salt and not table salt. The process that makes table salt look the way it does uses toxic chemicals.  Did you know that most table salt has sugar added to it?

  1. Egg yolks increase your cholesterol.

We’ve all heard that egg yolks are high in cholesterol.  Did you know that dietary cholesterol has very little effect on cholesterol in the blood for the majority of people?  Studies have shown that whole eggs actually raise our good cholesterol.  Eggs are one of the most nutritious foods you can eat and almost all the nutrients are found in the yolk.

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule.  Some studies have found an increase in heart attack risk in diabetics who eat eggs.  Also if you’re genetically predisposed to having high cholesterol you may need to limit you consumption of eggs.

  1. Coffee is bad for you.

Did you know that coffee is the biggest source of antioxidants in the Western diet?  Coffee drinkers also have a lower risk of developing such things as type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and depression.

Stick to 2-3 cups/day and buy organic beans that you grind right before use.

  1. A high protein diet strains the kidneys and increases your risk for kidney disease.

If your kidneys are healthy, a high protein diet will not cause harm to them.  Numerous studies done on athletes who consume a high protein diet have shown that it doesn’t harm the kidneys.  If you have pre-existing kidney issues you do have to be careful with how much protein you consume, but if you have healthy kidneys a high protein diet is safe.

  1. Low fat foods are good for helping you control your weight.

When you take a natural food and remove the fat the result is terrible texture and taste.  Food manufacturers fixed this by adding a bunch of sugar to these foods.  Excess sugar is incredibly harmful!  Fat that’s found naturally in foods is good for you, just watch your portion sizes.

Don’t Believe Everything You Hear

The diet industry is a multi-billion dollar industry and unfortunately the manufacturers care more about your money than your health.  When you read the latest nutrition article look for who sponsored the article and ask yourself what they might gain from you believing what they’re saying.

When in doubt go for natural whole foods and learn to listen to your body.

Intermittent Fasting

I’ve never tried intermittent fasting (aka IF) but I have a few friends who have and they love it.  Recently a friend asked me about it and I couldn’t really tell her anything because I don’t really know too much about it so I looked it up to see what I could learn and share with you.

What Is Intermittent Fasting?

Basically, IF is just cycling between periods of eating and periods of fasting.  We all fast while we’re sleeping and IF can be as simple as extending that period of fasting.  For example, you could eat your last meal by 8pm and then skip breakfast the next day and eat your lunch at 12pm.  This works out to an 8 hour eating period followed by a 16 hour fasting period.  This seems to be one of the more popular ways of doing IF.

No food is allowed while fasting, but you can have water, tea or coffee.  You can also take supplements as long as they don’t have any calories.

Why Practice Intermittent Fasting?

Humans have been fasting for thousands of years.  Whether it was due to food shortage, religious reasons, due to illness or for weight loss fasting is nothing new.  Your body adapts quite well to fasting and will change bodily processes in order for you to thrive during periods of famine.

Some things that happen when your fast are:

  • Significant reductions in blood sugar.
  • Significant reductions in insulin level.
  • Drastic increase in human growth hormone.

Some benefits of fasting include:

Types of Intermittent Fasting

There’s more than one way to practice IF.  Most people seem to prefer the 16/8 method.  Fast for 16 hours and then have an 8 hour window to eat.  People tend to consume the same amount of calories but their body gets 16 hours of not having to break down and digest food.

Another popular method is the 5/2 method.  For 5 days, you eat normal and then for 2 days you eat only about 500-600 calories.

Then there’s the eat-stop-eat method.  For this one you pick one or two days a week where you don’t eat anything between dinner on day one and dinner on day two, ie a 24 hour fast.

My Take On It

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of fasting but that’s coming from my own personal experiences so if you want to try it do it.  I have friends who swear by it and research has shown some benefits.  The only instance where I would advise against it is if you have a history of eating disorders as fasting could be a trigger for some people.

As always, I stand by the notion that everyone is different and what works for some might not work for all.  If you’re curious talk to someone who can guide you so you can do it properly.  There are tons of Facebook groups if you don’t know anyone to ask.

Reasons To Eat Healthy And Exercise

Too many people don’t exercise enough, or in some cases at all.  Too many people are not eating healthy whole foods.  Are you one of them?  For a lot of people the thought of exercising and eating healthy doesn’t appeal to them.  For some reason exercise and healthy eating have a very negative connotation for a lot of people.  Maybe all they need are really good reasons to eat healthy and exercise.

Some Great Reasons To Eat Healthy And Exercise

If you’re looking for a great reason to eat healthy and exercise see if any of these reasons speak to you.

  1. Look better.

For many this is the motivating factor to start eating healthy and exercising.  It shouldn’t be the only reason but if it motivates you to start, use that motivation!  Eating healthy and exercising will help you to get to a healthy weight and will even help make your skin look better.  It also gives you a feeling of confidence that shines through making you even more attractive!

  1. Be there for your kids and grand kids.

Look after your health now so you can live a long and mobile life that you can enjoy with your kids and grand kids.  How great would it be to be able to take your grand kids out and not have to worry about whether or not you can keep  up with them.  You want to be able to give your all to your kids and grand kids so take care of your health now.

  1. Save money on medical bills.

You may feel healthy enough now, but if you’re not taking proper care of yourself your health will deteriorate.  Once your health deteriorates you’ll be forced to use costly medications just to be able to function properly.  By eating healthy and exercising now you may be able to avoid medications later.

  1. Feel excited about your life.

When you eat healthy and exercise you’ll have more energy and a better outlook on life.  Instead of living your life simply to make it through another day you could be living with passion and actually feel excited about your future.

  1. Better sex.

Exercise helps keep your blood pressure healthy and helps to regulate hormones.  Both those things will improve your sex life.  A study done at Boston University found that a daily 2 mile walk for men greatly improved their performance in bed.  Eating healthy helps boost circulation which will lead to better sex.

It’s Not Hard So Do It!

Eating healthy and exercising is not hard.  All it takes is a bit of planning and some effort.  For all the payoffs you experience don’t you think it’s worth it?

Reasons To Eat Healthy That Are Not Weight Related

For many people the main motivation behind eating healthy is to lose weight.  This instantly makes you think deprivation which is why a lot of people have a negative feeling toward eating healthy.  The good news?  It’s possible to eat healthy and enjoy what you’re eating.  But a thought shift needs to happen – don’t put yourself on a healthy ‘diet’ just for the sole reason of losing weight.  Take  a look at some of these great reasons to eat healthy that are not weight related.

Reasons To Eat Healthy That Are Not Weight Related

  1. Eating healthy saves you money in the long run.

Unfortunately junk food is super cheap so it can be tempting to save a few bucks by stocking up on processed foods.  A study was done that showed that produce and lean meats add about $1.50/day to your grocery budget, but it also noted that when you include the cost savings from preventing illness (ie obesity, type 2 diabetes etc) you actually end up saving about $2.71/day in the long run.  Eat healthy now and come out ahead with both your healthy and finances.

  1. Eating healthy reduces cravings for junk food.

Cravings typically happen when you don’t get all the nutrients your body needs which causes low energy.  When you eat healthy your body gets the nutrients it needs so it doesn’t drive you to keep eating.  Junk food might fill you up momentarily but once your brain realizes that your body hasn’t gotten all the nutrients it needs and energy is running low it’ll drive you to seek out more food.  Typically it’ll drive you to eat food that’s high in calories and sugar looking or the fastest delivery of energy.

  1. Eating healthy helps with potential muscle soreness after a workout.

According to several studies, what you eat after your workout will determine how quickly and how well your muscles recover.  The biggest factor is getting enough protein after your workout.  Protein provides the amino acids (building blocks) you need to repair and build muscle.  For maximum results try drinking a shake with a good amount of protein and some healthy carbs right after your next workout.

  1. Eating healthy helps with clear skin.

What you put in your body will directly affect your skin.  If you suffer from acne try removing sugar, dairy and processed grains and see if it clears up.  Try removing one at a time to see if a single one is what’s causing the problem.  Drinking enough water is another way to clear up your skin.

  1. Eating healthy can amp up your sex drive!

Researchers have found that eating certain healthy spices can actually increase sex drive and performance in both males and females.  The next time you’re out shopping for spices pick up some saffron and ginger to use in the dinner you make for you and your partner and see where the night takes you.  Stay away from alcohol though.  While it might increase your desire, it will most likely hamper your performance.

Reap The Benefits Of Eating Healthy

There are a lot of delicious healthy foods out there and you absolutely can find ones that you love.  If you’ve been eating junk for a while you’ll need to give your taste buds a chance to recover from the ill effects of overly flavoured frankenfood but once they do you’ll never want to go back to eating crap and feeling like crap.  Try it!

How Hormones Affect Your Weight Part 3

In my last post I talked about 3 more hormones that will affect your weight when they’re out of balance.  They were leptin, ghrelin and neuropeptide Y.  Today I’ll tell you about 3 more hormones that affect your weight and what you can do to get them back in balance.

Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 (GLP-1)

Glucagon-like peptide-1 (or GLP-1) is released from the intestine in response to food intake.  It makes you feel full and also plays a key role in keeping your blood sugar levels stable.  Strict dieting can result in a decrease of GLP-1.

What to do:

  • Eat your protein.

Getting the right amount of protein has been shown to increase GLP-1 levels so make sure you’re eating enough.

  • Use a high-quality probiotic.

You need a high-quality probiotic to keep your intestinal flora in balance.  If your intestinal flora is out of balance you can’t absorb nutrients properly.   Probiotic supplementation seems to increase levels of GLP-1.

  • Eat anti-inflammatory foods.

Chronic inflammation seems to be linked to decreased levels of GLP-1 so make sure to eat anti-inflammatory foods such as salmon, leafy greens, blueberries and garlic.

Cholecystokinin (CCK)

CCK is produced in your gut after a meal.  It’s role is to help with digestion and reduce appetite.  When levels of CCK are low you don’t get that same feeling of fullness which can lead to overeating.

What to do:

  • Protein!

Eating enough protein seems to be a common theme when it comes to hormonal balance so be sure you’re eating protein with every meal and get about 20-30% of your total calories from protein.

  • Healthy fats.

Healthy fats such as olive oil trigger the release of CCK so be sure to include healthy fats in your diet.

  • Fibre

Eating fibre has been shown to increase CCK so be sure to eat lots of vegetables and a moderate amount of fruit and unprocessed grains (if you can tolerate them).

Peptide YY (PYY)

Peptide YY is also produced by the gut in response to food intake and helps to regulate appetite.  Higher calorie foods will cause your gut to release more PYY and therefore let you know when you’ve eaten enough.

What to do:

  • Eat your protein and fibre.

Protein and fibre have been shown to increase PYY.

  • Eat a lower carb diet.

Elevated blood sugar may impair PPY’s effects so stick to a lower carb diet and eat natural and minimally processed carbs and avoid processed and sugary foods.

Find Balance

Your hormones work together to keep you both physically and mentally healthy.  Eat a healthy and balanced diet of protein, healthy fats, fibre and unprocessed carbs and be sure to exercise regularly to keep everything in check!

How Hormones Affect Your Weight Part 2

In my last post I talked about 3 hormones that will affect your weight when they’re out of balance.  They were insulin, cortisol and estrogen.  Today I’ll tell you about 3 more hormones that affect your weight and what you can do to get them back in balance.

Leptin

Leptin is produced by your fat cells and it’s the hormone that tells you when you’re full.  It tells your brain that you have enough fat in storage so you don’t need to eat anymore.

Interestingly, overweight and obese people actually have a lot of leptin circulating in their blood stream – up to 4 times as much!  You’d think then that when these levels become high it would signal these individuals to eat less and they’d lose weight.  Unfortunately, what’s happened is the cells have become leptin resistant.  The brain doesn’t get the signal that the body no longer needs to store more fat so it drives the person to eat more.  One potential cause of leptin resistance is chronically elevated levels of insulin.

Here’s another side of it.  When you do lose weight, leptin levels drop off which means your brain isn’t getting the signal when you’ve eaten enough which is why it can be hard to keep weight off long term.  Not impossible, just a bit challenging.

What to do:

  • Avoid inflammatory foods and eat more anti-inflammatory foods.

Inflammatory foods include anything with sugar, anything processed and all junk food.  Anti-inflammatory foods include fatty fish, vegetables and fruits.

Even just moderate activity can help improve leptin sensitivity.

  • Get the sleep you need.

Have you ever noticed that when you’re tired you tend to crave food and it’s usually junk food?  When you don’t get enough sleep (7-9 hours) leptin levels drop off and your appetite increases.

Ghrelin

When your stomach is empty it releases ghrelin which sends the message to your brain that it’s time to eat.  Ghrelin levels are at their highest when your stomach is empty and at their lowest about an hour after eating.

Studies have shown that in overweight and obese people ghrelin only decreases a small amount after they’ve eaten.  This means that the brain is still getting signals to keep eating even when the person has had enough food, which will lead to overeating.

What to do:

  • Cut the sugar!

Sugar and high fructose corn syrup can impair ghrelin response after eating.

  • Eat more protein!

Be sure to have protein with every meal, especially breakfast.  Protein reduces ghrelin levels so your brain gets the signal that you’ve eaten enough and can stop.

Neuropeptide Y (NPY)

Neuropeptide Y, or NPY is produced by cells in your brain and nervous system and it stimulates appetite particularly for carbs.  NPY levels are highest during periods of food deprivation or fasting which is why you get such strong cravings for carbs when you’re trying to follow a super low-calorie diet.  NPY is also elevated during times of stress.

What to do:

  • Avoid crash diets and if you’re going to fast don’t do it for too long.

Those super low-calorie diets never work long term so don’t waste your time with them.  As for fasting, animal studies have shown that fasting for more than 24 hours can dramatically increase NPY levels

  • Eat the appropriate amount of protein.

Eating too little protein has been shown to increase NPY levels leading to hunger and increased food intake.

  • Take care of the good bacteria in your gut.

Be sure to include a high quality pro-biotic in your diet and eat plenty of soluble fibre to keep the good bacteria in your gut happy.  You can buy probiotics in capsule form or drink a high quality shake such as Shakeology which contains both pre and probiotics.

Part 3

In part 3 of this series I’ll be talking about glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), cholecystokinin (CCK) and peptide YY (PYY).

Stay tuned!

How Hormones Affect Your Weight

Did you know that your hormones could be to blame for your weight gain and/or stubborn fat that you just can’t seem to get rid of?  Let’s look at how hormones affect your weight.

The First 3

In this part of this series I’m going to talk about 3 hormones that you’re probably quite familiar with.  These are insulin, cortisol and estrogen.

1.  Insulin

Insulin is the hormone that shuttles blood sugar into cells to either be used as energy or to be stored for later.  It also tells fat cells to store fat and prevents stored fat from being broken down.

When you eat, your blood sugar rises and insulin is released to take that sugar to where it needs to go.  Problems occur when your blood sugar is chronically high from eating a diet high in refined carbs and fast food causing your body to produce large amounts of insulin, leading to your cells becoming insulin resistant.  When cells become insulin resistant health problems such as obesity and type 2 diabetes can occur.

What to do:
  • Cut out or minimize sugar.

First thing you need to do is look at how much sugar you are consuming.  Sugar can be in things you wouldn’t expect such as bread, canned soups, condiments and salad dressings.  Read labels carefully.

  • Cut down on carbs and stick to minimally processed ones.

Eating a low carb diet can help.  When eating carbs stick to vegetables and a moderate amount of fruit and when eating grains look for minimally processed ones such as brown rice, quinoa and steel cut oats.

  • Increase protein and make sure you’re eating healthy natural fats.

Protein and healthy fats will help fill you up more and help to reduce cravings.  Omega 3 fats such as those found in fatty fish actually help lower fasting insulin levels.

  • Exercise 3-6 days per week.

When you do cardio your body uses glucose (blood sugar) for energy.  Muscles also use glucose so having more muscle means your body is using more of the glucose in your blood.  A healthy balance of cardio and strength training is ideal for keeping insulin levels normal.

2.  Cortisol

You probably know cortisol as the stress hormone.  When you’re stressed your cortisol levels go up and this can lead to overeating a weight gain.

A stressful lifestyle will lead to elevated cortisol levels as will super strict diets.

What to do:
  • Eat a balanced diet.

Make sure you’re eating a balance of healthy carbs, protein and healthy fats.  Avoid processed foods and fast foods and avoid super low calorie diets.  Super low calorie diets may seem to work but it signals the body to release more cortisol so in the long run it’ll backfire on you.

  • Learn to relax.

Everyday have at least a few minutes to yourself to relax.  You could use this time to meditate, read a good book or visit with your pets.  Take the time to break away from the usual stresses of life to give yourself a chance to reset.

  • Listen to music.

Music has an amazing ability to calm you down and make you happy.  Put together a playlist of all your favourite songs and listen to it on the commute to and from work, or while you’re working out, or while you’re cleaning – anytime you can listen to music do it.

  • Get enough sleep.

Sleep deprivation is very stressful on your body and will definitely lead to elevated cortisol levels.  Try to get 7-9 hours a night.  Plan a bed time ritual that gets your mind and body ready for sleep and do your best to go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday.

3.  Estrogen

Estrogen is the female sex hormone but men have some estrogen as well.  In proper balance, it’s fine but when estrogen levels are too high, which is known as estrogen dominance, it causes toxic fat gain in the form of visceral fat (belly fat).

What to do:
  • Add some good stuff to your diet.

Eat plenty of fibre to help reduce estrogen levels.  Also include lots of cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower.

  • Exercise

Exercise helps to reduce estrogen levels in both pre and postmenopausal women.

Part 2

In part 2 of this series I’ll be talking about leptin, ghrelin and neuropeptide Y (NPY).

Stay tuned!

Hummus!

I LOVE hummus!  When I first tried it I assumed it must have some unhealthy ingredients in it since it tasted SO good.  Thankfully I was wrong 🙂

Benefits Of Hummus

The other day Jenn Miller shared her blog post with me.  It’s all about the benefits of hummus and it includes some amazing recipes.

Some of the benefits of include:

  • High in plant based protein.
  • High in iron – I didn’t realize that chick peas and tahini are both good sources of iron!
  • Helps lower cholesterol.
  • Rich in various vitamins and minerals.
  • Helps with weight loss.

Those are just a few and she includes some really amazing sounding recipes that I for one will for sure be trying.

You Have To Try It!

If you’re looking for a delicious snack you have to try hummus!  My favourite way to eat it is as a dip for vegetables and fruit.  It’s amazing with grapes!  Check out Jenn’s article here.