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Health and Nutrition

Can My Symptoms Actually Be a Food Intolerance?

Food intolerances or “sensitivities” can affect you in so many ways.

 

And they’re a lot more common than most people think.

 

I’m not talking about anaphylaxis or immediate allergic reactions that involve an immune response. Those can be serious and life-threatening.  If you have any allergies, you need to steer clear of any traces of foods you are allergic to, and speak with your doctor or pharmacist about emergency medication, if necessary.

 

What I’m talking about, is an intolerance, meaning you do not tolerate a specific food very well and it causes immediate or chronic symptoms anywhere in the body. Symptoms can take hours or even days to show themselves. And symptoms can be located just about anywhere in the body.

 

This is what makes them so tricky to identify.

 

Symptoms of food intolerances

 

There are some common food intolerances that have immediate and terribly painful gastrointestinal symptoms, such as lactose intolerance or celiac disease. These can cause stomach pain, gas, bloating, and/or diarrhea;  symptoms can start immediately after eating lactose or gluten.

 

On the other hand, other more insidious symptoms may not be linked to foods in an obvious way.

 

Symptoms like:

 

  • Chronic muscle or joint pain

 

  • Sweating, or increased heart rate or blood pressure

 

  • Headaches or migraines

 

  • Exhaustion after a good night’s sleep

 

  • Autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s or rheumatoid arthritis

 

  • Rashes or eczema

 

  • Inability to concentrate or feeling like your brain is “foggy”

 

  • Shortness of breath

 

If your body has trouble digesting specific foods, it can affect your hormones, metabolism, or even cause inflammation and result in any of the symptoms listed above. And these can affect any (or all) parts of the body, not just your gastrointestinal system.

 

 

How to prevent these intolerances

 

The main thing you can do is to figure out which foods or drinks you may be reacting to and stop ingesting them.

 

I know, I know…this sounds so simple, and yet it can be SO HARD.

 

The best way to identify your food/drink triggers is to eliminate them.

 

Yup, get rid of those offending foods/drinks. All traces of them, for three full weeks and monitor your symptoms.

 

If things get better, then you need to decide whether it’s worth it to stop ingesting them, or if you want to slowly introduce them back one at a time while still looking out to see if/when symptoms return.

 

Start Here: Two common food intolerances

 

Here are two of the most common triggers of food intolerances:

 

  • Lactose (in dairy – eliminate altogether, or look for a “lactose-free” label – try nut or coconut milk instead).

 

  • Gluten (in wheat, rye, and other common grains – look for a “gluten-free” label – try gluten-free grains like rice, quinoa & gluten-free oats).

 

 

This is by no means a complete list, but it’s a good place to start because lactose intolerance is thought to affect up to 75% of people, while “non-celiac gluten sensitivity” can affect up to 13% of people.

 

So, if you can eliminate all traces of lactose and gluten for three weeks, it can confirm whether either or both of these, are a source of your symptoms.

 

Yes, dairy and grains are a part of many government-recommended food guidelines, but you absolutely can get all of the nutrients you need if you focus on replacing them with nutrient-dense foods.

 

A reliable way to monitor how you feel after eating certain foods is to track it. After every meal or snack, write down the foods you ate, and any symptoms so you can more easily spot trends.

 

And, as mentioned earlier, symptoms may not start immediately following a meal. You may find, for example, that you wake up with a headache the morning after eating bananas.

 

You might be surprised what links you can find if you track your food and symptoms well!

 

IMPORTANT NOTE: When you eliminate something, you need to make sure it’s not hiding in other foods, or the whole point of eliminating it for a few weeks is lost. Restaurant food, packaged foods, and sauces or dressings are notorious for adding ingredients that you’d never think are there. You know that sugar hides in almost everything, but did you also know that wheat is often added to processed meats and soy sauce, and lactose can even be found in some medications or supplements?

 

When in doubt you HAVE to ask the server in a restaurant about hidden ingredients, read labels, and consider cooking from scratch.

 

What if it doesn’t work?

 

If eliminating these two common food intolerances doesn’t work, then you can go one step further to eliminate all dairy (even lactose-free) and all grains (even gluten-free) for three weeks.

 

You may need to see a qualified healthcare practitioner for help, and that’s OK. I don’t want you to continue suffering if you don’t need to!

 

Recipe (dairy-free milk): Homemade Nut/Seed Milk

Makes 3 cups

½ cup raw nuts/seeds (almonds, walnuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds, or sesame seeds)

2 cups water

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

  1. Soak nuts/seeds for about 8 hours (optional, but recommended).
  2. Dump soaking water & rinse nuts/seeds.
  3. Add soaked nuts/seeds and 2 cups water to a high-speed blender and blend on high for about one minute until very smooth.
  4. Strain through a small mesh sieve with 2 layers of cheesecloth. Squeeze if necessary.

Serve & enjoy!

 

Tip: You can double the recipe and store the milk in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 7 days.

 

References:

 

http://www.dietvsdisease.org/11-warning-signs-you-have-a-food-intolerance/

https://authoritynutrition.com/lactose-intolerance-101/

https://authoritynutrition.com/signs-you-are-gluten-intolerant/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/food-sensitivities-health-infographic

Digestive Enzymes

All About Digestive Enzymes

 

Not everyone should be taking digestive enzyme supplements; and not all of them are created equal.

 

I find that many people with digestive issues want to jump straight into using a supplement. And many times I would rather try other strategies first. Not to mention, that some supplements can be harmful if used inappropriately.

 

So, let’s dive into a few of the common digestive enzymes, what they do, and who should NOT take them.

 

What are digestive enzymes?

 

Technically, “enzymes” are compounds that help critical biochemical reactions to happen in your body. These reactions can be anything, from making neurotransmitters like serotonin, to burning food for energy, to breaking down food we eat into smaller pieces that our guts can absorb.

 

Oh, and they all end with “ase”.

 

As I just hinted, “digestive enzymes” are specifically those enzymes we use for digestion. They’re enzymes that our digestive system naturally makes and secretes when we eat.

 

Now, all of the “macronutrients” we eat (carbs, protein & fat) need to be broken down into their individual (smaller) parts so that we can properly absorb and digest them. They’re just too big otherwise, and if we don’t absorb them properly, we can get symptoms of fatigue, malnutrition, digestive distress, or a host of other symptoms.

 

It is these individual (smaller) parts that our body amazingly rearranges and uses to create other larger molecules that our body needs.

 

The most common digestive enzymes you’ll see on product labels are:

 

  • Amylase – Helps to break down starch into its sugars.
  • alpha-Galactosidase – Helps to break down specific “fermentable carbohydrates” into its sugars.
  • Lactase – Helps to break down lactose into its sugars.
  • Protease – Helps to break down protein into its amino acids.
  • Bromelain and/or Papain – Help to break down protein into its amino acids.
  • Lipase – Helps to break down fats into its lipids.

 

Who should consider taking digestive enzymes?

 

I would always recommend that you see a qualified health care practitioner for an expert opinion on whether your issues can be related to digestion, and which, if any, supplements can help you.

 

In general, the most common digestive symptoms that enzymes *may* help with are bloating, cramping, and/or diarrhea. Particularly if it happens after eating certain foods (think lactose-intolerance symptoms after eating dairy).

 

One reason for these symptoms can be that food particles are not broken down properly, and the larger pieces travel further down the digestive tract to the microbiota where those little critters start breaking them down themselves. And this is definitely troublesome for certain people.

 

Don’t get me wrong, a healthy gut microbiota is absolutely essential for good health. And more and more research is showing just how it can affect not only our digestion, but also our immune system, and even our mood.

 

What do I need to know? – Medical conditions

 

Of course, you should read the label of any products you take, and take them as directed, especially if they’re not specifically recommended for you by your health care practitioner who knows your history.

 

Here are two critical things to be aware of:

 

1 – Digestive enzymes that break down carbohydrates into sugars are not recommended for diabetics, or pregnant/breastfeeding women.
This is because taking them breaks down more carbohydrates into sugars than your body normally would; so, anyone at risk of blood sugar issues should take caution.

 

2 – When it comes to enzymes that break down proteins into amino acids, there are a few people who should avoid them because of potential interactions. That is if you have an ulcer, or are taking blood-thinners or anti-inflammatories, or if you’re having surgery.

 

The reason is because the digestive enzymes that break down protein are thought to cause or worsen ulcers, as well as have the ability to “thin” the blood and prevent normal clotting.

 

What do I need to know? – Possible Side effects

 

Using digestive enzyme supplements for a prolonged period of time may well justify an appointment with a knowledgeable practitioner. There may be strategies other than daily supplementation that can serve you better.

 

If you find that your symptoms get worse, or even if they don’t get better, you should probably stop using them.

Allergies are always a possibility, so if you know or suspect you’re allergic, then you should avoid them.

And, as always, keep supplements away from children.

 

Before considering a digestive enzyme supplement

 

You shouldn’t just jump to supplementing with digestive enzymes without a proper diagnosis, or trying a few strategies first.

 

My first recommendation for digestive distress would be to relax more, eat slower, and chew more thoroughly. This helps to break down food and can put less stress on your digestive tract.

 

The second step would be to try eliminating certain troublesome foods from your diet (dairy & gluten, for example) and see if that helps.

 

Conclusion:

 

While many supplements are safe products, they’re not all for everyone.

 

I recommend that you:

  • Read your labels carefully (who should take them, how to take them, when to stop taking them).
  • If you have a medical condition or are taking medications speak with your doctor or pharmacist.
  • If you want expert advice on whether a specific supplement is for you, speak with a qualified health care practitioner.

 

Recipe (food containing bromelain & papain): Tropical (digestive) smoothie

 

Serves 1

 

1 cup pineapple, diced

1 cup papaya, diced

1 banana, chopped

1 cup coconut milk

ice if desired

 

Put all ingredients(except ice) into the blender and blend. Add ice if desired.

 

Serve & enjoy!

 

Tip: The levels of enzymes in whole pineapple and papaya aren’t as concentrated as taking them in a supplement; so if you’re not allergic to these delicious fruits, you can try this smoothie.

 

References:

 

https://www.dietvsdisease.org/digestive-enzyme-supplements/

 

http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/monoReq.do?id=514&lang=eng

 

http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/monoReq.do?id=516&lang=eng

 

http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/monoReq.do?id=196&lang=eng

 

http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/monoReq.do?id=508&lang=eng

 

http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/monoReq.do?id=515&lang=eng

 

Natural Medicines Database, Bromelain, Papain, Retrieved January 21, 2017 from https://naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com

Raw vs. Cooked – Which Contains More Vitamins and Minerals?

Let’s finally put an end to the debate of raw vs. cooked.

 

Of course, in the grand scheme of a well-balanced, nutrient-dense, varied, whole foods diet, the cooked vs. raw debate isn’t that critical for most people.

 

Where this can become a consideration is for vitamin and mineral deficiencies (or “insufficiencies”). These may be due to digestion or absorption issues, or avoidance of certain foods (due to allergies, intolerances, or choice).

 

And I’ll tell you that the answer isn’t as simple as “raw is always better” or “cooked is always better.”  As with most nutrition science, it depends on several factors. Some vitamins are destroyed in cooking, while others become easier to absorb (a.k.a. more “bioavailable”).

 

 

Here is the skinny on vitamins and minerals in raw foods versus cooked foods.

 

Foods to eat raw

 

As a general rule, water soluble nutrients, like vitamin C and the B vitamins, found mostly in fruits and vegetables, are best eaten raw.

 

The reason why is two-fold.

 

First, when these nutrients are heated, they tend to degrade;  this is from any heat, be it steaming, boiling, roasting, or frying. Vitamin C and the B vitamins are a bit more “delicate” and susceptible to heat than many other nutrients.

 

Of course, the obvious way to combat these nutrient losses is to eat foods high vitamin C and B vitamins in their raw form (like in an awesome salad) or to cook them for as short a time as possible (like quickly steaming or blanching).

 

Fun fact: Raw spinach can contain three times the amount of vitamin C as cooked spinach.

 

The second reason why foods high in vitamin C and the B vitamins are best eaten raw is that they’re “water soluble.”  So, guess where the vitamins go when they’re cooked in water?  Yes, they’re dissolved right into the water;  this is particularly true for fruits and veggies that are boiled and poached but even for foods that steamed as well.

 

Of course, if you’re a savvy health nut, you’ll probably keep that liquid to use in your next soup or sauce to preserve those nutrients that are left after cooking. Just don’t overheat it or you may lose what you were aiming to keep.

 

But, how much loss are we talking about?  Well, of course, it ranges but can go from as low as 15%, up to over 50%.

 

In short, the water soluble vitamins like vitamin C and the B vitamins degrade with heat and some of what’s left over after they’re heated dissolves into the cooking water. So be sure to cook your fruits and veggies as little as possible, and keep that cooking water to use in your next recipe.

 

Soaking nuts and seeds

 

Regarding raw nuts and seeds, it may be beneficial to soak them. Soaking nuts and seeds (for several hours at room temperature) allows some of the minerals to become “unlocked” from their chemical structure, so they’re more absorbable.

 

Foods to eat cooked

 

Cooking certain orange and red “beta-carotene rich” veggies (e.g. tomatoes, carrots, & sweet potatoes) can help make this pre-vitamin A compound more absorbable.

 

Fun fact: One study found that absorption of beta-carotene was 6.5 times greater in stir-fried carrots than in raw carrots!

 

Of course, eating your fat-soluble vitamins with a bit of fat will help you to absorb more of them, so that’s one factor to consider.

 

One vegetable that’s best eaten both raw and cooked

 

Spinach!

 

And I’m not just saying this to get everyone to eat it any way possible (although, I would love for this to happen…unless you’re allergic, of course).

 

Spinach contains so many beneficial compounds that it’s great eaten both raw and cooked.

 

Eating raw spinach preserves the water-soluble vitamins C & the B vitamins.

 

Eating spinach cooked allows the pre-vitamin A, as well as some of the minerals like iron to be better absorbed. Not to mention how much spinach reduces in size when it’s cooked, so it’s easier to eat way more cooked spinach than raw spinach.

 

Conclusion:

 

The old nutrition philosophy of making sure you get a lot of nutrient-dense whole foods into your diet holds true. Feel free to mix up how you eat them, whether you prefer raw or cooked just make sure you eat them.

 

Recipe: Sautéed Spinach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic

1 bag baby spinach leaves

1 dash salt

1 dash black pepper

Fresh lemon

 

  1. In a large cast iron pan heat olive oil.
  2. Add garlic and saute for 1 minute.
  3. Add spinach, salt, pepper and toss with garlic and oil.
  4. Cover pan and cook on low for about 2 minutes.
  5. Saute cook spinach for another minute, stirring frequently, until all the spinach is wilted.
  6. Squeeze fresh lemon juice on top.

 

Serve & enjoy!

 

Tip: Enjoying the cooked spinach with the vitamin C in the “raw” lemon juice helps your body absorb more of the iron.

 

References:

 

https://authoritynutrition.com/cooking-nutrient-content/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/10-ways-to-get-the-most-nutrients

Hormones out of whack?

Hormones out of whack?

 

Of course, listen to what your doctor says.

 

And also listen to what your body says.

 

We both know that what you eat and how you move can make a HUGE improvement in some of the symptoms of menopause or hormone imbalance.  Not to mention how common it is for ladies to gain weight at this time of life. (Ugh!)

 

And as we both know eating better and moving more can help you stave off other issues like heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis.

 

What do I specifically recommend to help you “eat better and move more”?

 

 

First – Hydrate:

 

Drink more water.

 

The general consensus is to drink 8-10 glasses per day.  And, if you don’t feel you need that much you definitely need to at least drink enough throughout the day so that you’re not thirsty.

 

I know that’s easy to say but really it’s also easy to do.

 

Try having a full glass first thing in the morning before you eat or drink anything.

 

Don’t like plain water?  Add in some berries or chopped frozen fruit.

 

Prefer tea?  Steep some sliced lemon and/or ginger or your favourite caffeine-free herbal teabag.  This counts toward hydration as well.

 

You can also keep a large bottle or mug beside you all day wherever you work so it’s always easy to grab and have sips throughout the day to make sure you’re not getting thirsty.

 

Second – Bump up your intake of whole plant foods:

 

Things like (yes, you guessed it) vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts and seeds.  We’re going for quantity here.  Try to include them in every meal and even most (if not all) of your snacks.

 

Want another reason to eat more plants?

 

Plant-based diets are associated with fewer hot flashes.  Bonus!

 

Plus, my recipe below is your “no excuse” solution to getting more veggies wherever you go.

 

Third – Don’t forget high-quality protein:

 

While you’re chomping your plant foods don’t forget to include some good quality protein (and healthy fats) from eggs, fish, meat, nuts and seeds (and their butters).

 

With animal foods we’re aiming for quality so try to get organic, wild, and/or pasture-raised if you can.

 

Fourth – Some things you want to cut back on:

 

Reducing and/or eliminating alcohol, caffeine and processed foods can have a tremendous impact on balancing your hormones naturally without the help of pharmaceutical medications.

 

With those increases in hydration, whole plant foods, and quality protein, you simply won’t have as much room for alcohol, caffeine, and processed foods with added salt and sugar.

 

You already know that’s good news, right?

 

Fifth – Move:

 

If you don’t do this already try to move up to 5 hours per week.  You can gradually increase that over time, and believe me, you will thank yourself!

 

To do this, include things like walking (especially outdoors in the sun, if possible), or even some weight-training.

 

You’ve heard the saying that the best exercise is the one you’ll actually do?

 

Well, go ahead and do it. 🙂

 

Sixth – Get enough sleep:

 

I’m talking 7-9 hours per night.  Seriously!

 

Sometimes menopause can bring on (or ramp up) sleep problems.

 

The most important thing to do is set a daily routine where you’re relaxing with no screen-time (computers, tablet, phone, tv) a couple hours before your bedtime.  Electronic devices emit strong blue light which can prevent the release of melatonin, your sleep hormone.  Try reading a book or having a bath.  It’s also important to have dim lights in your surroundings to reduce your exposure to blue light before bed.  Regular indoor lighting is usually blue light.  Ideally you would use amber or red lights, or even be ultra-stylin’ with blue-blocker sunglasses.

 

Seventh – Find great stress relieving activities:

 

Do whatever works for you.  Just make sure you do it regularly as a preventative measure to avoid accumulated stress.

 

Have you tried meditating, deep breathing, or having a warm bath?  What about the newest craze of colouring?

 

Bonus points for using exercise as a form of stress relief.

 

Conclusion:

 

You now have an arsenal of great ideas to stave off those menopause symptoms naturally.

 

Now go ahead and make two of these mason jar salads to eliminate any excuse of not being able to get fresh veggies when you’re out and about.

 

Recipe (Veggie): Mason Jar Salad

Serves 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dressing

3 tablespoons almond butter

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar or lemon juice

1 tablespoon maple syrup

2 teaspoons sesame oil

 

Salad ingredients

½ granny smith apple (diced)

4 radishes (sliced)

2 celery stalks (diced)

4 tablespoons of your favourite nuts or seeds (walnuts, slivered almonds, pumpkin seeds, etc.)

4-6 cups of your favourite greens (spinach, kale, mixed greens, etc.)

 

  1. Add first four ingredients to a small bowl & whisk until smooth.
  2. Add apple to dressing (so it’s covered and won’t brown) and divide between two mason jars.
  3. Layer the radishes, celery, nuts/seeds, and greens on top and seal.
  4. When ready to eat shake up the jar, open and enjoy or pour it into a large bowl to mix more thoroughly.

Tip:  Wide-mouth jars work best for this ah-mazing way to bring veggies with you wherever you go!

 

References:

 

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

https://authoritynutrition.com/11-natural-menopause-tips/

https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/menopause-time-change/what-can-you-do-hot-flashes-and-other-menopausal-symptoms

Chipotle Chicken Sweet Potato Recipie

 

 

 

 

 

 

Servings 6

Ingredients:
3 medium sweet potatoes
1.5 lbs (about 3 smallish) boneless skinless chicken breast
1/4 cups olive oil
3 tablespoon fresh lime juice
3 cloves garlic, minced or grated
3-4 whole chipotle pepper, minced
2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoon cumin
3 teaspoons chili powder
salt and pepper
2-3 cups spinach
5 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated (optional)
Chopped cilantro, for garnish if desired
Greek yogurt, for serving if desired

 

Directions:
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Wash your sweet potatoes and prick all over with a fork. Place in the oven and bake for 50-60 minutes or until fork tender. Place your chicken in a baking dish and rub with a tablespoon of olive oil, salt and peper. Place in the oven with the potatoes and bake for 25 minutes.

Once chicken is cooked, allow to cool and then shred the chicken into a bowl. When the sweet potatoes are done, cut in half and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes.

In a medium-size bowl combine the rest of the olive oil, lime juice, garlic, chipotle peppers, oregano, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Heat a skillet over medium heat and wilt the spinach and then add to the chicken bowl. Toss the spinach and shredded chicken together and set aside.

Turn the oven up to 400 degrees. Scrape the sweet potato out of the peel, leaving a medium size layer of flesh inside with the peel so that it can stand up on its own and place in a baking dish. Brush the skins with with a little of the chipotle sauce and bake for 5-10 muntes until nice and crisp. While the skins bake, mix the spinach, potato flesh, chicken and chipotle sauce together.

Remove skins from the oven and stuff with the chicken mixture and top with shredded cheese if desired. Bake for 10 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the skins are hot and crisp.

Serve with fresh chopped cilantro and greek yogurt if desired. You can even add some guacamole or sliced avocado.

*Yogurt and guacamole not included in Nutritional Information.

**You may want to prep but not bake/crisp up the potatoes until serving if you aren’t eating them all that day.

Three supplements you should be taking if you are over 45

3 Supplements You Should be Taking if You’re Over 45 Years Old

 

Yes, while I always say that it’s better to get your nutrients from food first sometimes supplements are necessary.

 

Unfortunately there are just some all-too-common nutrients that we simply don’t get enough of.  And they’re absolutely critical to optimal health and wellness.  Especially as we age.

 

Here I sifted through the supplements that are available on the market and boiled them down to three that can have the best effect.

 

Supplement #1: Vitamin D

 

If you live in North America chances are you are low in vitamin D.  It’s the “sunshine vitamin” and we just aren’t able to hang out in shorts every day of the year.  Even if we did we’d wisely use a bit of sun protection too.

 

Vitamin D is very important for everyone but especially women over 45.  Want to know why?

 

It helps to protect our bones!

 

Vitamin D helps our body absorb and keep the calcium we get from our food and drinks.  And we all know that calcium is one of the main things our bones are made of.

 

Want to know something funny about vitamin D (but it’s true, I swear)?

 

People who get enough vitamin D tend to fall less frequently.  Especially as we get older.

 

Seriously!

 

Vitamin D can help your bones stay strong and help you fall less.  Win-win!

 

Magnesium

 

Magnesium is an essential mineral needed for over 300 reactions in your body.

 

Yes, 300!

 

As with vitamin D it’s very common for us to simply not get enough.  Not even the 320 mg per day that’s recommended.

 

Low levels of magnesium have been linked to high blood pressure, diabetes, low bone density, and even migraines.

 

Magnesium is found in so many healthy whole foods like beans, nuts, seeds and green leafy vegetables.  In fact, the magnesium element is central to a plant’s chlorophyll – it’s actually what causes green plants to be green!  And most of us just don’t get enough green plants into our bodies on a regular basis.  (You know I have a recipe with green leafies for you below, right?).

 

Magnesium is a very common supplement and is often added to multivitamins.

 

Omega-3s

 

We’ve all heard that we need to get more omega-3 essential fatty acids, right?  They’re good for our hearts, brains, and help to reduce inflammation.

 

These are all good things when it comes to our health and wellness.

 

But not all of us are ready, willing, and able to eat fish three times per week.

 

While fish oil supplements contain the “brain healthy” fats called EPA and DHA, those two are not technically the “essential” fats.  The plant omega-3 known as ALA is essential and that is because our bodies can convert ALA into EPA and DHA when necessary.

 

Omega-3 supplements can be found in forms of flax oil, algae oil, fish oil, or even fish liver oil.

 

Pro Tip:  Fish liver oil (e.g. cod liver oil) also contains vitamin D so check your labels and add the amounts together to know how much vitamin D you’re actually getting.

 

Conclusion:

 

Three supplements to consider now that you’re 45 are: vitamin D, magnesium, and omega-3s.

 

Always read the supplement labels to see if there are warnings that would make them inappropriate for you.  And, of course if you have any medical conditions or take medications or other supplements it’s always a good idea to speak with your doctor before starting anything new. 

 

Salmon Quinoa Buddha Bowl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Serves 2

Ingredients:

4 cups baby spinach

1 cup quinoa (cooked)

1 can wild salmon

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

½ red onion (diced) (optional)

2 tablespoons sesame oil

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

dash salt and pepper

 

Split spinach, quinoa, wild salmon, sesame seeds, and onion (if using) between two bowls.

 

Mix sesame oil, rice vinegar, and lemon juice together and pour on top of prepared Buddha bowls.

 

Add salt and pepper to taste.

 

Serve & Enjoy!

 

Tip:  When looking for canned salmon try to get the ones with the most vitamin D and make sure cans are BPA-free.  Good quality canned fish is usually in the “natural foods” section of many large groceries.

 

References:

 

https://authoritynutrition.com/11-natural-menopause-tips/

https://examine.com/supplements/Vitamin+D/

https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-Consumer/

https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-HealthProfessional/

Five Cholesterol Myths and What to Eat Instead

Five Cholesterol Myths and What to Eat Instead

 

You knew there was a bit of an over-emphasis (border-lining obsession) about cholesterol, right?

 

Before we jump into some myths let’s make sure we’re on the same page when it comes to what exactly cholesterol is.

 

Myth #1: “Cholesterol” is cholesterol

 

While cholesterol is an actual molecule what it is bound to while it’s floating through your blood is what’s more important than just how much of it there is overall.  In fact depending on what it’s combined with can have opposite effects on your arteries and heart.  Yes, opposite!

 

So cholesterol is just one component of a compound that floats around your blood.  These compounds contain cholesterol as well as fats and special proteins called “lipoproteins”.

 

They’re grouped into two main categories:

  • HDL: High Density Lipoprotein (AKA “good” cholesterol) that “cleans up” some of those infamous “arterial plaques” and transports cholesterol back to the liver.
  • LDL: Low Density Lipoprotein (AKA “bad” cholesterol) that transports cholesterol from the liver (and is the kind found to accumulate in arteries and become easily oxidized hence their “badness”).

 

And yes, it’s even more complicated than this.  Each of these categories is further broken down into subcategories which can also be measured in a blood test.

 

So “cholesterol” isn’t simply cholesterol because it has very different effects on your body depending on which other molecules it’s bound to in your blood and what it is actually doing there.

 

Myth #2: Cholesterol is bad

 

Cholesterol is absolutely necessary for your body to produce critical things like vitamin D when your skin is exposed to the sun, your sex hormones (e.g. estrogen and testosterone), as well as bile to help you absorb dietary fats.  Not to mention that it’s incorporated into the membranes of your cells.

 

Talk about an important molecule!

 

The overall amount of cholesterol in your blood (AKA “total cholesterol”) isn’t nearly as important as how much of each kind you have in your blood.

 

While way too much LDL cholesterol as compared with HDL (the LDL:HDL ratio) may be associated with an increased risk of heart disease it is absolutely not the only thing to consider for heart health.

 

Myth #3: Eating cholesterol increases your bad cholesterol

 

Most of the cholesterol in your blood is made by your liver.  It’s actually not from the cholesterol you eat.  Why do you think cholesterol medications block an enzyme in your liver (HMG Co-A reductase, to be exact)?  ‘Cause that’s where it’s made!

 

What you eat still can affect how much cholesterol your liver produces.  After a cholesterol-rich meal your liver doesn’t need to make as much.

 

Myth #4: Your cholesterol should be as low as possible

 

As with almost everything in health and wellness there’s a balance that needs to be maintained.  There are very few extremes that are going to serve you well.

 

People with too-low levels of cholesterol have increased risk of death from other non-heart-related issues like certain types of cancers, as well as suicide.

 

 

 

Myth #5: Drugs are the only way to get a good cholesterol balance

 

Don’t start or stop any medications without talking with your doctor.

 

And while drugs can certainly lower the “bad” LDL cholesterol they don’t seem to be able to raise the “good” HDL cholesterol all that well.

 

Guess what does?

 

Nutrition and exercise, baby!

 

One of the most impactful ways to lower your cholesterol with diet is to eat lots of fruits and veggies.  I mean lots, say up to 10 servings a day.  Every day.

 

Don’t worry the recipe below should help you add at least another salad to your day.

 

You can (should) also exercise, lose weight, stop smoking, and eat better quality fats.  That means fatty fish, avocados and olive oil.  Ditch those over-processed hydrogenated “trans” fats.

 

Summary:

 

The science of cholesterol and heart health is complicated and we’re learning more every day.  You may not need to be as afraid of it as you are.  And there is a lot you can do from a nutrition and lifestyle perspective to improve your cholesterol level.

 

Orange Hemp Seed Dressing (to go with your salad)

Makes about ¾ cup

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup hemp seeds
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled
  • dash salt and/or pepper

 

Instructions:

  • Blend all ingredients together until creamy.
  • Serve on top of your favorite salad and Enjoy!

 

Tip: Store extra in airtight container in the fridge.  Will keep for about a week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References:

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

http://summertomato.com/how-to-raise-your-hdl-cholesterol

https://authoritynutrition.com/top-9-biggest-lies-about-dietary-fat-and-cholesterol/

Waist Size. Does it Matter?

Why Your Waist Circumference Matters 100x More Than What Your Weight

 

You totally want to ditch your scale, don’t you?

 

You may have this weird kind of relationship with your “weight”.

 

I mean, it doesn’t define you (obviously).

 

What you weigh can matter but only to a certain extent.

 

Let’s look at your waist circumference (well…you look at yours and I’ll look at mine).

 

Waist Circumference (AKA “Belly Fat”):

 

Do you remember the fruity body shape descriptions being like an “apple” or a “pear”?  The apple is kinda round around the middle (you know – belly fat-ish, kinda beer belly-ish) and the pear is rounder around the hips/thighs.

 

THAT is what we’re talking about here.

 

Do you know which shape is associated with a higher risk of sleep apnea, blood sugar issues (e.g. insulin resistance and diabetes) and heart issues (high blood pressure, blood fat, and arterial diseases).

 

Yup – that apple!

 

And it’s not because of the subcutaneous (under the skin) fat that you may refer to as a “muffin top”.  The health risk is actually due to the fat inside the abdomen covering the liver, intestines and other organs there.

 

This internal fat is called “visceral fat” and that’s where a lot of the problem actually is.  It’s this “un-pinchable” fat.

 

The reason the visceral fat can be a health issue is because it releases fatty acids, inflammatory compounds, and hormones that can negatively affect your blood fats, blood sugars, and blood pressure.

 

And the apple-shaped people tend to have a lot more of this hidden visceral fat than the pear-shaped people do.

 

So as you can see where your fat is stored is more important that how much you weigh.

 

Am I an apple or a pear?

It’s pretty simple to find out if you’re in the higher risk category or not. The easiest way is to just measure your waist circumference with a measuring tape.  You can do it right now.

 

Women, if your waist is 35” or more you could be considered to have “abdominal obesity” and be in the higher risk category.  Pregnant ladies are exempt, of course.

 

For men the number is 40”.

 

Of course this isn’t a diagnostic tool.  There are lots of risk factors for chronic diseases.  Waist circumference is just one of them.

 

If you have concerns definitely see your doctor.

 

Tips for helping reduce some belly fat:

 

  • Eat more fiber. Fiber can help reduce belly fat in a few ways.  First of all it helps you feel full and also helps to reduce the amount of calories you absorb from your food.  Some examples of high-fiber foods are brussel sprouts, flax and chia seeds, avocado, and blackberries.
  • Add more protein to your day. Protein reduces your appetite and makes you feel fuller longer.  It also has a high TEF (thermic effect of food) compared with fats and carbs and ensures you have enough of the amino acid building blocks for your muscles.
  • Nix added sugars. This means ditch the processed sweetened foods especially those sweet drinks (even 100% pure juice).
  • Move more. Get some aerobic exercise.  Lift some weights.  Walk and take the stairs.  It all adds up.
  • Stress less. Seriously!  Elevated levels in the stress hormone cortisol have been shown to increase appetite and drive abdominal fat.
  • Get more sleep. Try making this a priority and seeing how much better you feel (and look).

 

Recipe (High fiber side dish): Garlic Lemon Roasted Brussel Sprouts

 

Serves 4

 

1 lb brussel sprouts (washed, ends removed, halved)

2-3 cloves of garlic (minced)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

dash salt and pepper

 

Preheat oven to 400F.

 

In a bowl toss sprouts with garlic, oil, and lemon juice.  Spread on a baking tray and season with salt and pepper.

 

Bake for about 15 minutes.  Toss.

 

Bake for another 10 minutes.

 

Serve and Enjoy!

Tip: Brussel sprouts contain the fat-soluble bone-loving vitamin K. You may want to eat them more often.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References:

 

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/research-abdominal-fat-and-risk

 

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/visceral-fat-location

 

http://www.drsharma.ca/inspiring-my-interest-in-visceral-fat

 

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/obesity-prevention-source/obesity-definition/abdominal-obesity/

 

http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/weights-poids/guide-ld-adult/qa-qr-pub-eng.php#a4

 

https://authoritynutrition.com/6-proven-ways-to-lose-belly-fat/

 

https://authoritynutrition.com/20-tips-to-lose-belly-fat/

 

 

Bye Bye Sleeping Through the Night…

Have you said “bye bye” to sleeping through the night?

 

Are you feeling exhausted or “running on stress hormones” all day?

 

Do not fear, I have some great tips (and an amazing recipe) for you!

 

The science of sleep is fascinating, complicated and growing

 

Sleep is this daily thing that we all do and yet we’re just beginning to understand all of the ways it helps us and all of the factors that can affect it.

 

Lack of sleep affects just about everything in your body and mind.  People who get less sleep tend to be at higher risk for so many health issues like diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer; not to mention effects like slower metabolism, weight gain, hormone imbalance, and inflammation.  And don’t forget the impact lack of sleep can have on moods, memory and decision-making skills.

 

Do you know that lack of sleep may even negate the health benefits of your exercise program? (Gasp!)

 

OMG – What aspect of health does sleep not affect???

 

Knowing this it’s easy to see the three main purposes of sleep:

  • To restore our body and mind. Our bodies repair, grow and even “detoxify” our brains while we sleep.
  • To improve our brain’s ability to learn and remember things, technically known as “synaptic plasticity”.
  • To conserve some energy so we’re not just actively “out and about” 24-hours a day, every day.

 

Do you know how much sleep adults need?  It’s less than your growing kids need but you may be surprised that it’s recommended that all adults get 7 – 9 hours a night.  For real!

 

Try not to skimp!

 

(Don’t worry, I have you covered with a bunch of actionable tips below.)

 

Tips for better sleep

 

  • The biggest tip is definitely to try to get yourself into a consistent sleep schedule. Make it a priority and you’re more likely to achieve it.  This means turning off your lights 8 hours before your alarm goes off. I know weekends can easily throw this off but by making sleep a priority for a few weeks your body and mind will adjust and thank you for it.

 

  • Balance your blood sugar throughout the day. You know, eat less refined and processed foods and more whole foods (full of blood-sugar-balancing fiber).  Choose the whole orange instead of the juice (or orange-flavored snack).  Make sure you’re getting some protein every time you eat.

 

  • During the day get some sunshine and exercise. These things tell your body it’s daytime; time for being productive, active and alert.  By doing this during the day it will help you wind down more easily in the evening.

 

  • Cut off your caffeine and added sugar intake after 12pm. Whole foods like fruits and veggies are fine, it’s the “added” sugar we’re minimizing.  Yes, this includes your beloved chai latte.  Both caffeine and added sugar can keep your mind a bit more active than you want it to be come evening. (HINT: I have a great caffeine-free chai latte recipe for you below!).

 

  • Have a relaxing bedtime routine that starts 1 hour before your “lights out” time (that is 8 – 10 hours before your alarm is set to go off). This would include dimming your artificial lights, nixing screen time and perhaps reading an (actual, not “e”) book or having a bath.

 

So how many of these tips can you start implementing today?

 

Recipe (Caffeine-free latte for your afternoon “coffee break”): Caffeine-Free Chai Latte

 

Serves 1-2

 

1 bag of rooibos chai tea (rooibos is naturally caffeine-free)

2 cups of boiling water

1 tablespoon tahini

1 tablespoon almond butter (creamy is preferred)

2 dates (optional)

 

Cover the teabag and dates (if using) with 2 cups of boiling water and steep for a few minutes.

 

Discard the tea bag & place tea, soaked dates, tahini & almond butter into a blender.

 

Blend until creamy.

 

Serve and Enjoy!

 

Tip:  You can try this with other nut or seed butters to see which flavour combination you like the best.  Cashew butter anyone?

 

References:

 

http://www.thepaleomom.com/gotobed/

 

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/hacking-sleep

Men…Losing Strength? This Hormone Can Help

Yes, we’re talking testosterone.  That muscle-building hormone.  But I’m not going to recommend that you take any anabolic steroid hormones or anything like that.

 

I am going to give you two solid tips on how you can boost your testosterone levels naturally with supplements.

 

Tip #1: Get enough zinc

 

Zinc is an essential mineral that helps with a number of processes in your body (it helps over 300 enzymes).  Zinc helps your immune system, helps to produce critical proteins and DNA, and also helps with wound healing.  Enough zinc is necessary to maintain healthy skin and for optimal ability to taste and smell.  Zinc is an antioxidant and can be supplemented to support optimal levels of testosterone because it helps the enzymes that converts cholesterol into testosterone.

 

Zinc is found mostly in red meat, poultry, egg yolks, and shellfish.  Some plants can also provide zinc such as beans and nuts.  The best dietary source is oysters.

 

The daily recommended dose of zinc for men is 11 mg/day (for women it’s 8 mg/day).  Low zinc levels are rare but tend to occur in vegetarians/vegans, athletes, and people who sweat a lot (zinc is lost in sweat).  And low zinc levels have been linked to low testosterone levels.

 

Of course if you don’t get enough zinc in your diet you can always supplement.  Before you do, however, consider a few things:

  • It is possible to get too much zinc so unless your doctor tells you never take more than 40 mg/day. For many people just 5-10 mg/day is enough to prevent deficiency.
  • Zinc supplements can also interact with certain medications so be sure to check with your doctor or pharmacist to find out if zinc supplements are safe for you.
  • Zinc supplements are best taken 2-hours away from any medications (if it’s safe to use it at all while taking those medications) and should be taken with food.

 

Tip #2: Get enough vitamin D

 

Vitamin D, the “sunshine vitamin” is actually the most common nutrient that we in North America just simply don’t get enough of.  Not only is it not very abundant in foods but most places far from the equator don’t get enough sunlight to produce adequate levels year round.

 

Hello winter; goodbye sunshine vitamin.

 

Vitamin D is known to help us absorb calcium from our foods and is also necessary for our immune system, nervous system, and muscular system.  As with zinc if you’re deficient in this nutrient you may experience increased testosterone levels after supplementing.

 

Vitamin D deficiency is most commonly associated with bone conditions such as rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.

 

It is a fat-soluble vitamin and is found in fatty fish, organ meats, and egg yolks.  Unfortunately it isn’t abundant in most other un-fortified foods.

 

The bottom line with vitamin D is that you may need to supplement.  Of course if you’re always outside in the sun or eat fatty fish every day you may be the exception.  You can always ask your doctor to check your blood levels to be sure because vitamin D is another one of those nutrients where more is not always better.

 

Here are a few tips to supplement with vitamin D safely and effectively:

  • Read your labels and don’t overdo it. Never supplement with more than 4,000IU/day unless supervised by your doctor.
  • As with zinc (and most other supplements) you should check with your doctor or pharmacist if you’re taking any medications.
  • Take your vitamin D with some fat to help your body absorb this vitamin. It is often recommended that you take it with the largest meal of the day.
  • Note that vitamin D is also found in cod liver oil, and multivitamins, so you may not need to take it separately (read your labels).

 

Summary:

 

If you aren’t getting enough zinc and/or vitamin D every day your testosterone levels may be a bit low but don’t overdo these two essential nutrients.

 

Recipe (vitamin D and zinc): Honey Sesame Salmon

Serves 4

Ingredients:

2-3 lbs salmon fillets

¼ cup soy sauce, tamari or coconut aminos

¼ cup sesame oil

1 lemon, juiced

2 tablespoons honey or coconut nectar

1” of ginger, shredded or 1 teaspoon ginger powder

1 tablespoon coconut oil

2 tablespoons diced green onions or chives

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Honey Sesame Salmon

Instructions:

Mix soy sauce/tamari/aminos, sesame oil, lemon juice, honey/coconut nectar and ginger together to make a marinade.

Place salmon in a glass dish and cover with marinade.  Let sit for a few hours or overnight.

Heat a large cast iron frying pan over medium heat and add coconut oil.

Place salmon in pan skin side down and cook for 2-3 minutes.

Pour marinade into the pan, lower the heat and cook for 3-5 more minutes or until salmon flakes easily with a fork.

Sprinkle with diced green onions/chives and sesame seeds.

Add some veggies and quinoa, serve and enjoy!

Tip:  Wild salmon can contain up to 4 times the amount of vitamin D as farmed salmon.

 

References:

 

https://examine.com/nutrition/how-can-i-increase-testosterone-naturally/

 

http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/reference/table/ref_elements_tbl-eng.php

 

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

 

https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-Consumer/

 

http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/atReq.do?atid=zinc.mono&lang=eng

 

https://examine.com/supplements/Zinc/

 

https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-Consumer/

 

http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/monoReq.do?id=183&lang=eng

 

https://examine.com/supplements/Vitamin+D/

 

https://authoritynutrition.com/8-ways-to-boost-testosterone/

 

https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show?ndbno=15087&fg=&man=&lfacet=&format=Abridged&count=&max=25&offset=0&sort=c&qlookup=&rptfrm=nl&nutrient1=328&nutrient2=309&nutrient3=&subset=0&totCount=5376&measureby=m

 

https://authoritynutrition.com/9-foods-high-in-vitamin-d/

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